2024-07-16

Numbers 70 through 75

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Diving into genre today: science fiction, historical romance, mystery, food writing, criticism, nostalgia—All the greats. Let's dive in.

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070) Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth by A. O. Scott, finished June 17

I heard about this book when it came out in 2016—on Fresh Air, maybe—and was intrigued so when it came up in a recent search for another book, I grabbed it.

I'm shocked I read the whole thing, to be honest. I read about half in one sitting, alone in an empty football stadium, waiting for a high-school graduation to begin. So that got me some momentum. I thought after that I might skim the rest, reading in full the Q&A portions only. But then last night I was on a long train ride and running out of things to read so I just kept going. And now it's finished.

It's astonishing how he manages to say the same things over and over again without ever repeating himself for 268 pages. His main rhetorical device is to contradict the last thing he said and then to argue that both both are true and neither. Honestly, it's kind of a drag. But he keeps finding new ways to say the same thing (and then to once again disagree with himself) and, somehow, sure enough: I read all 268 pages.

Who is this book for? That's a fabulous question. But I suppose we are an educated people and all of us are critics, so everybody? But really. Who finds criticism a vocation? But few of us. So I guess it's a number actually much closer to nobody.

And thus you see what he has done to me.

thirteen days

 

071) Alice, Let's Eat by Calvin Trillin, finished June 20

I first read this book in 2000 on the recommendation of my cousin the Spook. Lady Steed and I were living with him and his wife before we found our first apartment. It was an excellent recommendation. I've read Trillin since (mostly in The New Yorker but also here) but this is my first return to that first beloved taste.

(This is the edition I read this time, from 1979.)

Anyway, it's still utterly delightful. Good food and a good marriage. Really. What else could one possibly ask of life?

I should add this is the perfect keep-in-the-car book. Easy to dip into and out of as you wait for someone. Ideal.

some months


072) My Lovely Vigil Keeping by Carla Kelly, finished June 21

I've been hearing about Carla Kelly for some time, and this book in particular. When I finally purchased it, I accidentally sent it to my mother who read it and loved it. Then I got it back, then I kept losing it or letting library books interrupt it. It was never my "walking book" or my "bedside book" or one of those categories that get constant progress, but it was a patient book and its characters and situations are so clear and so real that it was never hard to pick up where I left off.

If you know but one thing about this book, it's probably the historical event it's inspired by. But that event doesn't occur until more than 400 pages into a 431-page novel. In other words, while I recommend reading the book, I do not recommend reading the back of the book before you begin. Live your life unknowing just as the people in the book do.

Our hero is Della, sort of a reverse orphan-who-is-secretly-a-princess. Which is to say she is the illegitimate daughter of a miner and a Greek woman (who would barely count as white at the time—if she did at all) who left her an orphan with embarrassingly curly hair. She is raised by rich relations and so the world thinks she is a child of privilege who does things like go to school and get a job our of some peculiar eccentricity, rather than desperate need.

Besides her economic needs, the cruel neglect causes her to run back to the mines, taking a job as a schoolteacher for miners' children need in the Utah mountains. This is a romance and options abound for Della, but only one man can help her excavate her buried shames in order to find her own wonderful self.

It's a lovely, fun, and funny book, and it had me teary-eyed for the entire finale. I now understand the book's lofty reputation and encourage you too to seek it out.

about a year, probably more


073) Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre, finished July 9

I picked this up on Ursula's recommendation and because I was intrigued by a character whose gender is never identified by the text. The lack of gendered pronouns is smoothly done and if she hadn't pointed it out, I doubt I would have noticed.

The novel is episodic in nature and occasionally drops in plot points only to abandon them and leave you feeling a bit wondering why they even showed up (the cat in the cave, for instance), but the story overall is enjoyable and exciting and Snake is an excellent protagonist. (In short, I agree with OSC.) The sex wasn't as wild and frequent as Ursula led me to expect. I've never quite adopted the opinion that it's theoretically possible to develop a culture with utterly casual attitudes toward sex (and although I can't find them now, I've read several articles recently about the attitude toward sex in Gen Z tending to agree), but it's still a valuable possibility for fiction to consider.

Anyway, it won the Nebula AND the Hugo AND the Locus and while that kind of surprises me and seems like a relic of his era, the book HAS aged well all the same and I enjoyed reading it. It's out of print though and largely gone from libraries almost fifty years on from its hardback release, so good luck finding one. Crazy no one's leapt on its publication rights.

more than two weeks

 

074) The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne, finished July 11

I picked this up on Raymond Chandler's "recommendation" and am quite glad I did. The sleuth and his pal are cheery company (not for nothing does this edition quote Wodehouse saying, "I love his writing") and, while I too notched a couple of Chandler's complaints, my only real problem with the story (treating it as airy entertainment rather than literahtoor) was the penultimate chapter in which the culprit writes a lengthy confession. (Which reminds me: Chandler gives the whole thing away. Luckily, enough time passed before I read the novel myself that I had forgotten everything.)

The novel is such that the leaps made by the sleuth delight while the larger pieces of the puzzle fall into place without requiring his explaining them to us. It's that kind of mystery.

about three days


075) Best. Movie. Year. Ever. How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery, finished July 16

Another book I grabbed from the library intending to skim, reading about the movies that most interested me (you can see what he covers here), then returning mostly unread, but I started it postlibrary, sitting in the park while my daughter swung, and then I just kept going.

I should start by rolling my eyes at the let's-sell-books-with-controversy title. While I think Raferty believes the claim, he hardly proves it. Almost every reason he gives he contradicts elsewhere in the book or simply fails to hold up under consideration. The most persuasive version of his best-ever claim is in an interview he did with producer Brad Simpson: "I thought it was the beginning, but it was actually the peak." Granted, without all the other quotations and movie titles surrounding it, less persuasive. But yeah. Maybe it was. Who knows. As writer Richard Curtis said, " Madrigals were huge in the fifteenth century."

Both those quotations get to what's really great about this book though and that is the numerous and voluminous interviews Raftery did with people involved with every element of filmmaking. It's fabulous. As a series of oral histories of movies that were made in 1999, this book is truly excellent. But I guess Some Cool Movies from 1999 wasn't going to move as much copy.

Anyway, it's a terrific book. If it didn't waste the occasional work trying to justify it's title, I might not have any complaints at all. If you're into this stuff, consider Best. Movie. Year. Ever. highly recommended. Even with that title

almost exactly a week to the hour


PREVIOUSLY THIS YEAR


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 2024 × 10 = Bette Davis being Bette Davis

001) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 1
002) The Complete Peanuts: 1977 – 1978 by Charles M. Schulz , finished January 6
003) The Sandman: The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman et al, finished January 10
004) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 17
005) Touched by Walter Mosley, finished January 19
006) Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever by Matt Singer, finished January 20
007) Evergreen Ape: The Story of Bigfoot by David Norman Lewis, finished January 24
008) What Falls Away by Karin Anderson, finished February 1
009) Peanuts Jubilee: My Life and Art with Charlie Brown and Others by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 3
010) Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished February 3


 A few of my favorite things

011) Roaming by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, finished February 3
012) The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, February 9
013) Things in the Basement by Ben Hatke, February 10
014) A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz by Stephen J. Lind, finished February 10
015) 1st Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction by Joseph M. Spencer, finished February 10
016) Dendo by Brittany Long Olsen, finished February 11
017) The Ten Winners of the 2023 Whiting Awards, finished February 12
018) The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life edited by Andrew Blaune, finished February 17
019) Do Not Disturb Any Further by John Callahan, finished February 17
020) Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke, finished circa February 19
021) 2nd Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction by Terryl Givens, February 24

 

Let's start with the untimely deaths

022) The Life and Death of King John by William Shakespeare, finished February 28
022) Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke, finished February 29
023) Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez, finished March 4
024) Millay by Edna St. Vincent Millay, finished March
025, 026) The Life and Death of King John by William Shakespeare, finished March 6, 8
027) Murder Book by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, finished March 11
028) A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
029) The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby, finished March 15
030) Karen's Roller Skates by Ann M. Martin and Katy Farina, finished March 18

 

Four comics could hardly be more different

031) The Sandman: The Wake by Neil Gaiman et al, finished March 18
032) The World of Edena by Mœbius, finished March 23
033) Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller, the Man Who Created Nancy by Bill Griffith, finished March 23
034) Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished March 23

 

Jacob says be nice and read comics

035) Jacob: A Brief Theological Introduction by Deidre Nicole Green, finished March 24
036) Starter Villain by John Scalzi, finished March 27
037) Mister Invincible: Local Hero by Pascal Jousselin, finished March 30
038) The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, finished March 30
039) Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh, finished April 1
040) The Super Hero's Journey by Patrick McDonnell, finished April 5  

 

Eleven books closer to death

041) The Stranger Beside Me: Updated Twentieth Anniversary Edition by Ann Rule, finished April 9
042) Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy, finished April 13
043) Enos, Jarom, Omni: a brief theological introduction by Sharon J. Harris, finished April 25
044) The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, finished April 27 
045,046,049) The Mysteries by Bill Watterson and John Kascht, finished April 29, 30; May 3
047) The Children's Bach by Helen Garner, finished April 30
048) No. 1 with a Bullet by Sehman/Corona/Hickman/Wands, finished May 2
050) Over Seventy by P. G. Wodehouse, finished May 7
051) The Happy Shop by Brittany Long Olsen, finished May 16
052) Shades of Fear, finished May 21
053) Love Poems in Quarantine by Sarah Ruhl, finished May 21

 

And a vibrator makes it five dozen.....

054) The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt, finished May 25
055) Mosiah: A Brief Theological Introduction by James E. Faulconer, finished May 26
056) Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirstin Bakis
057) 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 1
058) Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary by Timothy Snyder, finished June 4
059) Dead Man's Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 6
060) The Next Room, or the vibrator play by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 8

 

And with Ursula, 69

061) The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty, finished June 10
062) Blood of the Virgin by Sammy Harkham, finished June 11
063) Mulysses by Øyvind Torseter, finished June 11
064) Between the River and the Bridge by Craig Ferguson, finished June 12
065) Cranky Chicken by Katherine Battersby, finished June 12
066) Mile End Kids Stories by Isabelle Arsenault, finished June 12
067) Tiny Titans: Field Trippin' by author, finished June 14
068) Brief Theological Introductions: Alma 1–29 by Kylie Nielson Turley, finished June 16
069) Words Are My Matter: Writings on Life and Books by Ursula K. Le Guin, finished June 16

2024-07-11

Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody?

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Do you remember back when it was likely that none of your friends had seen your favorite short film? Even deep into the YouTube era, it was unlikely that you would get to share with someone your love of “Rejected“ or “Six Shooter“ or “Peluca“ unless they had the same obscure (possibly semi-legal) dvd (or, a few years earlier, when it was, say, Bill Plympton, vhs). Those movies weren’t even old. Just . . . how were you supposed to watch them?

All of which is to say, hallelujah, you can go to YouTube right now and watch “Are You the Favorite Person of Anybody” in the way we couldn’t’ve when it was filmed. So do it. Please. Even though the quality is, as the kids say, mid.


Did you notice how it’s basically in realtime? Pretty neat.

Anyway, I love this movie. I think about it pretty regularly. It’s simple. It’s provocative. “Provocative” in the sense that it “provokes” you to think. I should know. I’ve shown it to hundreds of students. It’s provocative.

And it’s about heartbreak. Which is what we’re about this month, right?

Let’s talk about the characters in this film. I’ll refer to them by actor’s name since the characters don’t get names. And we’ll discuss how each one shows off a different kind of heartbreakage.

You’ve watched the movie by now, right?

Okay. Let’s go.

 

MIRANDA JULY

Miranda July wrote this film while shooting Me and You and Everyone We Know, and when there was a break in the action on that set, she took a few people to spend, I don’t know, an hour? to shoot this.1 She also plays the person to first take the survey.

The question throws her at first, but once she has an answer, she’s delighted to share it: “I am,” she says, as bold as Jehovah himself. And whose favorite person is she? Her ex-girlfriend’s. Miranda’s so happy! She’s “very confident”!

Until that very confidence is questioned, and eventually downgraded to “You think so.” Which she then gives a cheerful “Yeah!” to but, as she walks away, arms crossed, she’s no long the proud god of favorites proclaiming I AM. She’s merely someone who thinks so. Time has passed. Love has become exlove. And if she is her ex’s favorite person, how long can it possibly last?

Miranda shows us that the intimacy of being favorite is fleeting. And possibly never even was, outside of our own ego.

 

MIKE WHITE

Mike White has such a distinctive voice. If he was a radio man, doing guest stints on The Baby Snooks Show and Fibber McGee and Molly, I’m not sure we could know it any better. At this point, I’d only seen him in School of Rock and Orange County,2 but I knew his weary eyes and crackling voice. Something about that voice of his is just so vulnerable. Hopeful and hopeless, all at once. And when he takes off his chunky headphones to answer this question—

Incidentally, Mike White is not credited as having done anything for Me and You and Everyone We Know. Which feels appropriate.

Mike, like Miranda, has someone in his life that could be called “girlfriend.” No ex prefix for him, but he is very certain that he is no one’s—including his girlfriend’s—favorite person. The surveyor cannot dissuade him from certainty. No matter how worriedly he doublechecks.

Now, as he told Miranda, “some very prominent people are not anyone’s favorite,” but someone as vulnerable-voiced as Mike White being satisfied with not being anyone’s favorite person breaks our hearts, and we have to believe his must break as well. Don’t let us be sad for you, Mike! Sure, maybe she’s really close to her mother, but you might be her favorite! Ask her! and if not today, surely someday!

There’s something about taking breakfast fruit for your girlfriend that makes us imagine their relationship is far enough along they live together, they serious conversations about the future, they are . . . each other’s favorite person.

But he’s not her favorite. And even if he really truly is okay with that, our heart breaks for him. Because, me and you, we do not want that for ourselves.

 

CHUY CHÁVEZ

Chuy Chávez was Me and You and Everyone You Know’s cinematographer; he hasn’t done a lot of acting (and he’s directed photography on every movie he’s acted in). Based on his bag’s nicely padded shoulder strap, he may be off to take direct some photography right now. And he doesn’t have time for this nonsense. Even if he’s not sure what sort of nonsense it is. Yes, he doesn’t quite understand and, no, he’s not about to take the time to understand. This is not his native culture and trying to figure out the angle of this weird guy standing there, holding papers, asking random questions? Not worth it.

Chuy’s a guy who’s been put in awkward situation after awkward situation, perhaps for his entire American life. Even if you seem nice, he can’t take the chance. He’s been burned before.

 

JOHN C. REILLY

Who is this guy?3 What does he want? Why is he asking this question? Is he his wife’s favorite person? Is she his? He’s standing on a narrow residential street. Not the best place to ask as many people as possible (though pedestrians do keep walking past, perfectly spaced, three per four minutes). At film’s end, the way he looks off. . . . What the heck is he doing? What is he hoping for? What’s it all about?

This survey is not scientifically built. This is not how it’s done. The guy’s an amateur. Both in the nonprofessional sense but also, maybe, in the just-for-the-love-of-it sense. He just wants to know. Why he wants to know or, once he does know, what he’ll do with his results are impossible to discern. He watches Chuy walk off and, what? What then? I suppose he’ll wait for someone else.

He only gives oranges to the fellow who is confident he is no one’s favorite. Take three. You’d be doing us a favor. But what is he doing? What is he hoping to accomplish? Does he have any purpose in this world? What meaning does he hope this stupid quest will provide him? Couldn’t he get more joy just giving oranges to strangers? Do gifted oranges become any more significant when you give them to the unfavorited? Is this supposed to be making you happy, John? Are you delusional?

 

YOU, THE VIEWER

As I mentioned up-top, I’ve shows this film to hundreds of students. Sometimes I let them talk to their neighbors about it. Sometimes we talk about it as a class. Sometimes I ask them to write about it. Or perhaps about their own favorite person. Or whether they are anyone’s favorite person. Or whether that matters. Or what it means about yourself, to be confident that you are (or are not).

Those latter questions are, perhaps, unkind to spring on teenagers. They’re upset enough about poor Mike White who is not his girlfriend’s favorite person (my comment about her mother makes sense to them but is not comforting). It’s so much easier to feel for Mike, than to look inward. It’s easier to grapple with whether it’s okay to laugh at Miranda. Or to sympathize with Chuy. Or wonder what John’s deal is. Than to look at your own relationships and wonder if it’s okay, today, to (perhaps) not be the favorite person of anyone.

So is this our goal in life? Just to be someone else’s favorite? And if so, what if we fail? Or what if they move on to another favorite? Who am I if I am not your favorite person? What’s it all about?

Do you want an orange?

 


[1] Dir. Miguel Arteta, who gets a “very special thinks” in the concurrent feature’s credits.

[2] Well, and Swingers, but I think we could survey you and me and everyone we know without finding a single person who remembers seeing him in Swingers.

[3] He’s not in Me and You, I can tell you that much.

2024-06-30

Jejune no more.

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We lost the last week to camping but we fit in some fine specimens before the wilderness devoured us.

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HOME
library dvd
Happy Gilmore (1996)

I didn't realize until it just appeared in this movie that "It's Only Just Begun" is about a newlywed couple*. I am really bad at lyrics, man. I've known that song my whole life. I've heard The Carpenters sing it so many time and I've probably heard Grant Lee Buffalo sing it even more.

Speaking of, it's a little disappointing that when the segued from The Carpenters into a rock number, then didn't crunchy up the Grant Lee Buffalo version. I like their straight version, but man do they do crunchy well.

The 14yrold wanted to watch an Adam Sandler movie not quite knowing what to expect. I chose this one as being actually funny and not deeply terrible. He liked it. The 16yrold liked it. Even Lady Steed liked it who had never seen it before (and never cared for Adam Sandler). Even though I last saw it with her dad around the time she and I were married. "Only just begun" you might say.


ELSEWHERE
Disney+
The Muppet Movie (1979)

Life's like a movie. Write your own ending.

Keep believing.

Keep pretending.

Only bummed to find out too late that it would be back in theaters LAST NIGHT, hours after I showed my class the first half. Seeing it in theaters was one of my greatest movie experiences.


ELSEWHERE
our dvd
Jurassic Park (1993)

I mean.

It's perfect.









ELSEWHERE
HBO Max
Diego Maradona (2019)

Not all movies are for all people.

I thought the constraints the director chose were great. Telling the story entirely through extant footage. Neat.

But I don't know this guy. I didn't recognize his name. I've never successfully managed to care about soccer. And while the story was interesting and some of the sport was exciting to watch, the filmmaker was either assuming I knew more than I do or he just didn't always successfully patch around the gaps in the narrative or he just failed to guess what I would want to know next. For instance, after the illegal Hand of God goal and the astonishing Goal of the Century goal, all the film tells us is that Argentina wins. Not the final score. Which matters. If they won by one then that illegal goal was a very big deal. If they won by, say, three then it's no more than a curious footnote. But the film doesn't bother with the final score. And I don't know the reason.

Later, an entire ten years of Maradona's life—covering the time between an arrest and an appearance on a talk show—disappears in a single cut. What happened in those ten years?

The film is full of stuff like that.

But I think the film's biggest failure is it thinks it's a tragedy. But it's just sad. It can't be a tragedy because it did nothing to make me think that the lead is a great man. And so his fall, ipso facto, cannot be tragic. Merely sad.

The film proves he's good at his sport and that other people think he's a god among men, but it never allows us to think that. So unless you bring that feeling to the film with you, where's the tragedy?


HOME
Wikipedia
A Florida Enchantment (1914)

At first I thought this film was just kind of boring, a drag, with some embarrassing blackface to boot. But it got more and more interesting as time went on. In short, Lillian finds some magic seeds that swap the sex of whoever eats them. She eats one and becomes a man, instantly crasser, courser, ruder, and kissing the ladies. Many twists occur. Some of which are embarrassing. Some of which are startling. Some of which are excellent storytelling. Others of which rely on cheap laughs found in heteronormativity and the sort of low expectations of humanity bad movies always rely on. And in the end, alas alas, it was all a dream. That's what disappointed me most, but what you gonna do.

One of the things that perplexed me is that her (his?) fiance is rendered the bad guy. And until he (by then, she) dies, Lillian/Lawrence seems fine with anything terrible that happens to him.

As a 110yrold work on gender and sexuality, it's fascinating. As a work of entertainment, it's adequate. But I can't really call it terrific or anything. Still. It's only 93 minutes long, so...?


HOME
Link+ dvd
Advise & Consent (1962)

I saw this film recommended as one of the great political film a couple times in as many days, and then I saw it on a list of one of the greatest Mormon movies. I get seeing it as a great political film—it deals with some aspects of politics I've rarely seen on screen and nothing about what will happen next is every obvious—but how it is a Mormon film? I don't think any of the primary creators were LDS. I suppose it's because one of the main characters is the senator from Utah. It's not clear he's Mormon but his name is Brigham and he's from Utah, so I guess we should assume? The first "beatnik" (scare quotes intentional to avoid spoiler) he meets says, Oh, Utah, Mormons, This is the place, et cetera. He has an undershirt on, but it mysteriously disappears when he takes off his collared shirt. Anyway, it all feels like a stretch.

Anyway, I liked it. It's steadily paced and filled with people who are mostly but not entirely good. They all have their own motivations and reasons and personal tragedies. It's not thrilling. I'm not about to push it on you, but if you like DC behind the scenes, it's one to check out.

Besides! That cast!


HOME
Disney+
The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh (1977)

Three featurettes made into one feature. Absolutely wonderful, of course, but as an adult I kept noticing bits of nonsense regarding such things and buoyancy and geography.

I'm ashamed.

I mean. It's the probable impossible. That's what cartoons are all about.




ELSEWHERE
Kanopy
Seven Chances (1925)

The 7yrold and I chose this for our train watch. Although it's aged poorly, racially, (although, as in College the actual black characters have dignity) this one strikes me as exceedingly worthy of a modern remake. This sort of high-concept nonsense is in short supply!

Just as Buster and his business partner think they're headed to jail for poor money management, he receives word that he'll inherit $7million if he's married by 7pm on his 27th birthday. Or, in other words, today.

Luckily there is a girl he loves but he's been too shy to say I love you before the money comes in, so he screws that up. And before long there is an army of brides chasing him. There are constant laugh-out-loud gags and plenty of fun ways to update the story.

Let's do it!


ELSEWHERE
Hoopla
The Oath (2023)

What a fascinating movie. So many bad ideas, so many visual and story cliches, so many laugh-out-loud weirdnesses. But they're seasoned with a spattering of genuinely interesting ideas. Sometimes you can see the actors are genuinely good at what they do. And you have to wonder what they can do under other circumstances. I mean—even the writer/director/star might be better directed by someone else. Someone who, among other things, didn't really really need you to see how swole he got for the role.

But yeah. People are right. Overall, it's bad. For instance, the film covers at least a year—probably well over two—and it takes that entire time for the world's best tracker to find our heros. But then it only takes, like, a day for her to get back home and bring a war party back. Plus, although this is supposed to be upstate New York (1500 years ago), in all that time, the seasons never change.

I get a lot of the flaws probably have to do with the budget. But not all of them.

Still. It wasn't as terrible as I anticipated. Though I really have no idea who the audience was for this. Hope it finds it!

And if that's you, can you please explain Billy Zane's accent to me?

[Further thoughts as they occurred to me on Letterboxd.]


THEATER
Cinemark Century
Hilltop 16
Inside Out 2 (2024)

I really like the beginning. I really like the ending. Although I didn't quite believe the last shot. (Which, incidentally, was lifted from Monsters, Inc. where it worked perfectly.) I really like Riley's journey. The part I'm less sure about is the journey our original emotions take. The geography and the travail don't quite match up and don't make sense. The voices that were swapped out kept Not Feeling Right

That said, although the main part of the plot is subpar, the rest of the movie is great and I certainly spent a lot of tears.

I am quite curious how other people reacted though. Please share.


HOME
library dvd
L.A. Confidential (1997)

The year is 1997. Everyone who loves movies agrees that L.A. Confidential is the best movie of the year. Buuuuuut, everyone also loves Titanic so much that they aren't that upset that it's a lock to win all the awards that really, in a just world, would go to L.A. Confidential. Me, I came home from my mission between the two movies' releases and have never seen either. Until today.

This is a dark movie, friends. It's a neonoir; its most obvious forebear is Chinatown. And I think we can say it's just as complex and interesting and well acted. It even gives us a happier ending. But I think there's only room for one in our collective memory. And this doesn't have a catchline as strong as "It's Chinatown, Jake" (it comes closest with "Rollo Tomassi" but the funny-name-in-a-Kevin-Spacey-movie slot's already taken by Keyser Söse) and that's why you never see L.A. Confidential memes.

Glad I finally saw it.

Weirdly, it doesn't excite me to see Titanic, though.


HOME
Link+ dvd
Mad Max (1979)

Wife and son were utterly mystified that this movie made money and spawned a franchise. I liked it more, but I do agree that it's hard to see how one man's lifetime allows you to get from here to Fury Road.

(Incidentally, does anyone know if this Goose is the namesake of Top Gun's Goose?)



HOME
Link+ dvd
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Near-identical in shape to film one but more compelling. Son shouted out something like "No!" or "I hate these movies!" when it ended where it did.

I think the lesson may be either don't start with Fury Road or recognize that for the young, start and end there?






HOME
Link+ dvd
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

This one has a much more complex world and storyline. It does have a couple nonsensible bits (how did the monkey find him? does this methane math actually work?) but it's interesting and fun and Tina Turner is the easiest person to understand in any of these movies. Happily ("happily?") the kids are more Riddley Walker than Lord of the Flies. The pilot should've looked less like the one from the last movie.

This point excellent: "The truly unique thing about the Mad Max franchise is how Max is less a character than a mythic figure, and how each film is less an entry in a continuing story and more a retelling of the myth of Max, with the details getting more extravagant and incredible as time goes on."



2024-06-16

And with Ursula, 69

.

I can't believe I made the same terrible joke twice in a row either.

Unfollow me, for sure.

.

061) The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty, finished June 10

This is a fascinating book. On the one hand, it's a 184-page fairy tale set in the antebellum American South near the then-western border. Every page reads like a fairy tale or a folktale, with a vague sense of magic and spin and the impossible. Amazing things happen and everything is a lie. It's charming and wonderful.

It's also not as timeless as that might make it sound. For instance, I couldn't really teach this to modern highschoolers. They could deal with the violence okay and maaaaybe even the sex. Maybe. The racial elements would be no bueno. In short, while the characters hate most of the people of their own race, the Indians are basically cunning animals and the slaves are nothing but markers of economic prosperity.

And while the book is clearly intended to be satirical, it's maybe not satirical about the things Gen Z would find most deserving of satire.

Or possibly I don't know how to read the book, either. I've never read Eudora Welty before and my reading of Southern writers is not all that deep. She's clearly playing into a tradition but I don't know that I know the rules of the games such that I can understand how she is breaking them.

But it was fun to read!

couple weeks


062) Blood of the Virgin by Sammy Harkham, finished June 11

This is one of those graphic novels that ends up near the teen section but really really should not be.

It's the 70s and we're in Tinseltown. The grimy, d-level, nontinselly part. Our hero is a film editor of cheap horror flicks who aspires to write and direct excellent versions of the same. He's an Iraqi Jew married to an Ashkenazi by means of New Zealand. The story is largely about their parallel journeys. They're frustrated by the grind. They each cheat on one another. They get tired of their shared banality. But it's better than any other banality. But the story also jumps through time. We see the wife's mother's passage through the Holocaust. We see another Hollywood guy find his way from a crap ranch job in Arizona to stardom and an accompanying bitterness. No one ends up happy here.

I liked the book but it's not clear to me what it's about. It seems to be more interested in the milieu of dirty Hollywood. We glimpse a lot of people who feel real and interesting. The art and pacing take their time. We get to see emotions burn slowly in both settings and human interactions. We watch people self-destruct in a variety of ways. But we also see them reach out for something greater. But is artistic integrity at all worth it? Can a marriage possibly survive?

I dunno, man.

a few days
 

063) Mulysses by Øyvind Torseter, finished June 11

I haven't heard of this famed Norwegian creator of children's book, so I don't know if this is typical. And while I get it as a children's book, that's not how I would shelve it. This is for grownups, imo. It's about a guy who, as the book begins, learns his apartment building is being torn down. All his stuff has been moved into storage and he'll need five thousand dollars to redeem it or they'll destroy it. As time goes on, this fairy tale-ish work features lost loves and capitalism and unremarked-upon smoldering looks.

His art strikes me as a cross between Quentin Blake and Annie Poon (and perhaps Saul Steinberg), although the weird mix of animal features scattered through the human characters is hard to reckon with.

Anyway. It's a fun adventure. And I hope the potential romance both starts and lasts. A lot of sexual tension built up on that boat.

one sitting
 

064) Between the River and the Bridge by Craig Ferguson, finished June 12

I went looking for this book because of Jeff Goldblum's comments thereon (hidden in here somewhere). And happy to say it was time well spent.

It does have some flaws. For instance, there are some comic bits that probably should have been axed as too tangential. And the Hollywood satire stuff gets a but too broad at times (in this way, but never as bad).

But at the end you've had a true experience. A literary experience. By which I mean you've definitely experienced something. But it's really hard to say just what it means. It requires some pondering. And it feels worthy of the pondering.

The book was given a deeply erroneous cover. A cover that says, "Hey! I'm a funny book by a popular professional funnyman!" And while that is true and probably moved some copies, it's a much deeper and stranger book than the cover implies. Plus, the cover shows one of the final scenes of the book as acted out by someone in a completely different book. Why??

Yes, the book is highly comic, but that's hardly how we'd reduce, I don't know, Vonnegut or Heller, is it? Maybe they did at the time. I don't know. I wasn't there.

The book's ideas would be easy to list out but they would not be easy to summarize. For instance, this book is deeply interested in religion and it would be easy to proclaim it happily atheistic. Except . . . were I to start summarizing the events you would quickly become skeptical of that claim. As a character asks, would the existence of an afterlife prove there is a god? Perhaps now. But it's evocative all the same.

The book follows four male main characters, though I would argue that a fifth character, a woman, is just as important. Perhaps more important than some. The chronology is a bit scrambled but until the pieces start fitting together, you might not even notice.

It's an elegant book with three embedded short stories.

Anyway, I really liked it. I suspect I will keep thinking about it for a long time.

Also, it has more alcohol, other drugs, and sex, than I've encountered in one single volume in some time. So no. There is no way I would teach this to highschoolers. Thank you for asking.

a small number of weeks like maybe three
 

065) Cranky Chicken by Katherine Battersby, finished June 12

I get why the 7yrold likes it. She's been reading bits of it to us for days.

not long


066) Mile End Kids Stories by Isabelle Arsenault, finished June 12

Three stories collected in one volume. Charming stuff.

one sitting


067) Tiny Titans: Field Trippin' by author, finished June 14

I still like it even though the schtick long ago got old.

two days several months apart.


068) Brief Theological Introductions: Alma 1–29 by Kylie Nielson Turley, finished June 16

Kylie knocked this one out of the park. Largely what I hope for in these books is to have them defamiliarized for me, to have new ways to approach them when I return myself, and to have a couple succinct ideas that can easily be shared with others. This book's loaded with them.


For instance, I'm now convinced that Alma probably thirty or so when the angel appeared, Nehor likely believed Alma would let him off, the Ammonihahites' violence was tailored specifically to mock Alma and he never quite recovered, that Mormon probably quotes Abish directly, and more. It's like Cracked Rear View or What's Going On—they might as well have called it Greatest Hits to start with.

Plus, Kylie's exploration of Alma's (and his people's) trauma, and her analysis of his psalm (yes) moved me nearly to tears.

It's not too late to jump on this train, folks! We're doing this part of Alma right now!

two weeks but mostly today


069) Words Are My Matter: Writings on Life and Books by Ursula K. Le Guin, finished June 16

First, a disclaimer. I'm not certain I read every essay. And a few I skimmed more than read.

It's a terrific collection. It's only real weakness is that sometimes Le Guin makes the same point in similar ways. As the pieces were originally appearing, those similarities would have been separated my months or even years for a reader. Not so in a single volume.

But she's a brilliant thinker and a generous host. The essay about her childhood home alone is worth the price of entry.

a few weeks


PREVIOUSLY THIS YEAR


===========================================================

 2024 × 10 = Bette Davis being Bette Davis

001) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 1
002) The Complete Peanuts: 1977 – 1978 by Charles M. Schulz , finished January 6
003) The Sandman: The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman et al, finished January 10
004) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 17
005) Touched by Walter Mosley, finished January 19
006) Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever by Matt Singer, finished January 20
007) Evergreen Ape: The Story of Bigfoot by David Norman Lewis, finished January 24
008) What Falls Away by Karin Anderson, finished February 1
009) Peanuts Jubilee: My Life and Art with Charlie Brown and Others by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 3
010) Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished February 3


 A few of my favorite things

011) Roaming by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, finished February 3
012) The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, February 9
013) Things in the Basement by Ben Hatke, February 10
014) A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz by Stephen J. Lind, finished February 10
015) 1st Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction by Joseph M. Spencer, finished February 10
016) Dendo by Brittany Long Olsen, finished February 11
017) The Ten Winners of the 2023 Whiting Awards, finished February 12
018) The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life edited by Andrew Blaune, finished February 17
019) Do Not Disturb Any Further by John Callahan, finished February 17
020) Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke, finished circa February 19
021) 2nd Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction by Terryl Givens, February 24

 

Let's start with the untimely deaths

022) The Life and Death of King John by William Shakespeare, finished February 28
022) Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke, finished February 29
023) Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez, finished March 4
024) Millay by Edna St. Vincent Millay, finished March
025, 026) The Life and Death of King John by William Shakespeare, finished March 6, 8
027) Murder Book by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, finished March 11
028) A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
029) The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby, finished March 15
030) Karen's Roller Skates by Ann M. Martin and Katy Farina, finished March 18

 

Four comics could hardly be more different

031) The Sandman: The Wake by Neil Gaiman et al, finished March 18
032) The World of Edena by Mœbius, finished March 23
033) Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller, the Man Who Created Nancy by Bill Griffith, finished March 23
034) Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished March 23

 

Jacob says be nice and read comics

035) Jacob: A Brief Theological Introduction by Deidre Nicole Green, finished March 24
036) Starter Villain by John Scalzi, finished March 27
037) Mister Invincible: Local Hero by Pascal Jousselin, finished March 30
038) The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, finished March 30
039) Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh, finished April 1
040) The Super Hero's Journey by Patrick McDonnell, finished April 5  

 

Eleven books closer to death

041) The Stranger Beside Me: Updated Twentieth Anniversary Edition by Ann Rule, finished April 9
042) Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy, finished April 13
043) Enos, Jarom, Omni: a brief theological introduction by Sharon J. Harris, finished April 25
044) The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, finished April 27 
045,046,049) The Mysteries by Bill Watterson and John Kascht, finished April 29, 30; May 3
047) The Children's Bach by Helen Garner, finished April 30
048) No. 1 with a Bullet by Sehman/Corona/Hickman/Wands, finished May 2
050) Over Seventy by P. G. Wodehouse, finished May 7
051) The Happy Shop by Brittany Long Olsen, finished May 16
052) Shades of Fear, finished May 21
053) Love Poems in Quarantine by Sarah Ruhl, finished May 21

 

And a vibrator makes it five dozen.....

054) The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt, finished May 25
055) Mosiah: A Brief Theological Introduction by James E. Faulconer, finished May 26
056) Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirstin Bakis
057) 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 1
058) Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary by Timothy Snyder, finished June 4
059) Dead Man's Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 6
060) The Next Room, or the vibrator play by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 8

 

2024-06-08

And a vibrator makes it five dozen.....

.

I've been reading so many clever women lately! That, and James Faulcolner.

Based on the people I know who count him as a mentor, I suspect he's pleased with the company.

.

054) The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt, finished May 25

I've been looking for the review that led me to this book and I am not having success. Regardless, there was a review [UPDATE: found it] and it led me to this book which I have now read.

It's part of a series of books intended to be read in an afternoon. Which I guess is the 2020s less threatening word for "novella."

Anyway, I almost put it down early on (and may have if I wasn't sitting on a bench with nothing else to read) as it was all about rich people and the way they do things and honestly, it would take real effort to care less. But then it became something more interesting. And as our 17yrold protagonist moves through her own plot rather than merely recounting her past she becomes something rather heroic. And succeeds at doing something I suppose every writers has wished to do.

The author's note talks about the artiste's need to make her work beautiful, even if that artiste is a writer. Illustration and layout etc matter. But honestly the Storybook NDs are kinda ugly. They do have great art (but why this painting, I could not say) but otherwise they feel rather . . . patchworky. Rather like the outfit the editor wears to lunch in The English Understand Wool.

Regardless, I will now be on the lookout for their distinctive covers. The novella—excuse me—the afternoon book is long overdue for a great revival. I love that someone is being intentional about publishing them.

one sitting


055) Mosiah: A Brief Theological Introduction by James E. Faulconer, finished May 26

Most of the books in this series try to find a framework to which all the pieces of the book under discussion may be hung. At the end, you have a coherent whole-book understanding. It's been great.

While chapter one of this book talks about the format and shape and why of Mosiah, the later chapters discuss only chapters 1 and 4 and 15 without trying to generalize them to the whole. And not even the entirety of those three chapters are covered—only five verses are covered of 15!

But this is exactly what I should have anticipated from a Faulconer book. He is the author of the Made Harder series (OT, NT, BofM, D&C) which I greatly admire. (I'd wanted to write similar books myself, but hey—let the expert do it.) In those volumes, all he does is ask questions about individual verses. No answers. All exercises left for the reader. And in this book on Mosiah he demonstrates just how much exercise may be taken, done properly.

A side effect is that this "brief introduction" while the same length as the other books manages to go into much greater depth and is therefore a much more challenging read. This is not the volume to give a skeptical uncle who's not sure theology is for them. This is a heavy lift.

And while I greatly appreciated the analysis of 15:1–5, there's no simple way to distill it into a Sunday School comment. If someone wants to understand what Faulconer has to say about Jesus being the Father and the Son, they just need to read his chapter five themselves.

In other words, smart stuff I'm not likely to retain without multiple rereads that . . . I probably won't do. But at this moment, I am a much smarter Mormon!

about a month

 

056) Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirstin Bakis

I remembered the original cover of this book when I read about the author's second novel, just out now, more than twenty years later. My library didn't have it but I proposed they get a copy and they did. And now I have read it and . . . 

I'm underwhelmed.

I get the appeal of walking talking dogs and assembled text and eavesdropping glamour and the sense of magic, but the nature of the text (letters, journal entries, an opera---glued together by our fictional author's memoirs) strikes me as lazy. And I know that's because I personally find it an easier way to make a text, which makes me allergic, and is very unfair, but there you have it.

I kept almost not picking it back up. If it weren't so short, I probably would not have finished it.

perhaps three weeks


057) 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 1

I liked her short poems but I like her short essays even more. She has very smart and interesting and worth-listening-to things to say about the intersections at life and art and whatnot. I added over half a dozen quotations from this book to Wikiquote including this one:

I found that life intruding on writing was, in fact, life. And that tempting as it may be for a writer who is also a parent, one must not think of life as an intrusion. At the end of the day, writing has very little to do with writing and much to do with life. And life, my definition, is not an intrusion.

If that sounds like someone you might want to hear more from, do.

Highly recommended.

about ten days


058) Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary by Timothy Snyder, finished June 4

This is by the author of On Tyranny. It is similarly short and packaged in the same small, square giftbooky form.

In some ways it's a more serious read. On Tyranny consisted of twenty snacksized "lessons." Our Malady is more sustained: only four much longer lessons. But they are wise and they are important.

I wish all our politicians would read this book.

Instead, I'm certain that we will forget the pandemic as quickly as possible and just keep paying more to die younger in the name of freedom.

But aren't we more free when we are more healthy? Why should freedom be defined by the amount of money flowing to our oligarchs?

The book was published in 2020 so Snyder had no idea just how bad things would get. Sometimes he almost comes off as naive, even though he has passed through death and understands politics and has intensely clear sight and the ability to explain what he sees to those of us who don't realize things could be different.

His rage might make it difficult for him to convert those thoroughly convinced things are just as they should be but . . . do those people actually exist? Don't all of us have at least a spot of rage aimed at our healthcare system buried somewhere inside us?

one school year


059) Dead Man's Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 6

Having read her poems and essays (see above) I checked out the two plays my library has.

This one's terrific. A man dies in a cafe and, when she answers his ringing phone, a woman sitting nearby gets pulled into his life. There's lots of fun metaphysics and such. And, as promised in one of those essays, the stage directions are not in parentheses. Also, they are quite delightful. I loved her notes to the director that followed the play.

one day

 

060) The Next Room, or the vibrator play by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 8

I liked the last play but this one is incredible. No wonder it won a Tony. It debuted here in Berkeley when we lived here. Wish we'd gone!

Anyway, yes, it does involve vibrators and medical orgasms and suchlike that probably never happened, but ultimately such persnicketiness is not the point of art. And this play captures a lot of wonderfully true things. Most of which are really left up to the actors and it's actors who will make this all real. But hey. It's good on the page, too.

 two days




PREVIOUSLY THIS YEAR


===========================================================

 2024 × 10 = Bette Davis being Bette Davis

001) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 1
002) The Complete Peanuts: 1977 – 1978 by Charles M. Schulz , finished January 6
003) The Sandman: The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman et al, finished January 10
004) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 17
005) Touched by Walter Mosley, finished January 19
006) Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever by Matt Singer, finished January 20
007) Evergreen Ape: The Story of Bigfoot by David Norman Lewis, finished January 24
008) What Falls Away by Karin Anderson, finished February 1
009) Peanuts Jubilee: My Life and Art with Charlie Brown and Others by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 3
010) Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished February 3


 A few of my favorite things

011) Roaming by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, finished February 3
012) The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, February 9
013) Things in the Basement by Ben Hatke, February 10
014) A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz by Stephen J. Lind, finished February 10
015) 1st Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction by Joseph M. Spencer, finished February 10
016) Dendo by Brittany Long Olsen, finished February 11
017) The Ten Winners of the 2023 Whiting Awards, finished February 12
018) The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life edited by Andrew Blaune, finished February 17
019) Do Not Disturb Any Further by John Callahan, finished February 17
020) Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke, finished circa February 19
021) 2nd Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction by Terryl Givens, February 24

 

Let's start with the untimely deaths

022) The Life and Death of King John by William Shakespeare, finished February 28
022) Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke, finished February 29
023) Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez, finished March 4
024) Millay by Edna St. Vincent Millay, finished March
025, 026) The Life and Death of King John by William Shakespeare, finished March 6, 8
027) Murder Book by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, finished March 11
028) A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
029) The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby, finished March 15
030) Karen's Roller Skates by Ann M. Martin and Katy Farina, finished March 18

 

Four comics could hardly be more different

031) The Sandman: The Wake by Neil Gaiman et al, finished March 18
032) The World of Edena by Mœbius, finished March 23
033) Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller, the Man Who Created Nancy by Bill Griffith, finished March 23
034) Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished March 23

 

Jacob says be nice and read comics

035) Jacob: A Brief Theological Introduction by Deidre Nicole Green, finished March 24
036) Starter Villain by John Scalzi, finished March 27
037) Mister Invincible: Local Hero by Pascal Jousselin, finished March 30
038) The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, finished March 30
039) Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh, finished April 1
040) The Super Hero's Journey by Patrick McDonnell, finished April 5  

 

Eleven books closer to death

041) The Stranger Beside Me: Updated Twentieth Anniversary Edition by Ann Rule, finished April 9
042) Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy, finished April 13
043) Enos, Jarom, Omni: a brief theological introduction by Sharon J. Harris, finished April 25
044) The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, finished April 27 
045,046,049) The Mysteries by Bill Watterson and John Kascht, finished April 29, 30; May 3
047) The Children's Bach by Helen Garner, finished April 30
048) No. 1 with a Bullet by Sehman/Corona/Hickman/Wands, finished May 2
050) Over Seventy by P. G. Wodehouse, finished May 7
051) The Happy Shop by Brittany Long Olsen, finished May 16
052) Shades of Fear, finished May 21
053) Love Poems in Quarantine by Sarah Ruhl, finished May 21

 

2024-05-31

Maybe movies, maybe films

.

May is always a good month. It's the month AP English Literature and Composition turns into AP Writing about Film (if CollegeBoard doesn't like this, then they can tell my school to end classes after AP testing). So I'm guaranteed a few good things packed into whatever's getting watched anyway. You can probably guess which are which.

Plus, we went to theaters to watch to underperformers that were actually really great and which each make strong argument for a stunt-team Oscar. Rumor has it that's finally happening. If this is the year, expect them both to get nominated.

And now: On with the show.

.

HOME
Prime Video
Hunting the Northern Godard (2013)

Small town ennui, Quebec style. The film tries to play with visual lanugage in an interesting way but it mostly comes off as revealing the lowness of the budget. The lead is beautiful and the mom is an incredible actor. Otherwise, meh.

Wildly, I recognized the pub band. I thougth I was wrong because in the movie they were Les Tragédiens, but I was right. It was Les Breastfeeders.

Please deliver my hipster cred directly to the door.


HOME
Internet Archive
The Arizona Express (1924)

I found this via Bluesky recommendation and boy oh boy was she right. This movie's incredible! It made me laugh and gasp and I could never guess where it was headed next. It's one of the most edge-of-my-seat thrillfests I've seen recently. Plus it amnages to be classic typical 1920s boilerplate at parts and really cool shots and amazing action sequences later. The murder scene was very cool and [SPOILER REDACTED] and [SPOILER REDACTED] and [SPOILER REDACTED] were topnotch film- and stuntwork.

My main complaint from a hundred years later is that all the women look the same. They have 1920s brunette bobs with dramatic eye makeup and teenytiny cupidbow lips. It wasn't until the good girl dressed like the bad girl (turning her into Some Like It Hot Tony Curtis) that I was able to pick up on the differences of class and morality that the clothing was supposed to be projecting.

I was riveted, people. Riveted.


THEATER
Rialto Elmwood
Hundreds of Beavers (2022)

I just heard of this movie. Its slow crawl through theaterspace happens to have it in town these past two weekends. Some of the kids really wanted to see it but "not tonight" which is fine because it was only convenient at the Elmwood which is an old theater diced into four tiny theaters with too-thin walls. Also, it's more expensive. We don't go there very often. But it seems like once a year they're the only place with the movie y'wanna see.

Anyway, the movie is wild and fun and surprising. It doesn't draw on silent comedy alone, but also video games (from Frogger to Lemmings) (and beyond), Orson Welles, you name it. It gets existential. It gets horror. It goes all over the place. It's been called "a hilarious slapstick comedy in the vein [of] Looney Tunes and Adult Swim cartoon[s]," and that seems about right.

Don't know how you'd manage it, but if you can get a full theater to see it in (ours had six people), I think you'll laugh your head off. We merely laughed a lot.


THEATER
Hilltop Cinemark
The Fall Guy (2024)

Look: I'm not here to argue this movie is great or important or whatever. But it was pure fun, a great ride, a joy factory. And that counts for a lot. We need escapism that's quality and this movie delivers. I loved it.

And it may actually prove important for one reason. It makes the argument, and well, that stunt teams deserve Oscars. Everyone seems to feel that Oscar may finally be about to happen. I don't see how The Fall Guy can do anything but accelerate that.

(Also, Metalstorm looks terrible.)

(Also, I want that neon suit.)


HOME
library dvd
The Nice Guys (2016)

It keeps getting brought up and since we watched Ryan Gosling doing action and being funny in The Fall Guys it seemed time to finally finally watch it.

And it was fun stuff. With lots of sex, violence, and alcohol, to boot. If you're into those sorts of things.

The dramatic irony of the villain's motivation fell a bit flat for me, but otherwise the film felt very true to me. And the party was straight out of the era. (One of the scarier badguys may have even been modeled after the fellow from that older movie.)


ELSEWHERE × 2
our dvd
Pride & Prejudice (2005)

I love this movie. And it holds up so well.

How do I know?

Because teenagers love this movie as well.

QED, baby.





ELSEWHERE × 2
our dvd
Frankenstein (1931)

I love it.

It has precious little to do with the book.

This viewing, however, I had some breakthroughs in my own long-gestating adaptation (not that the world needs another). I'm already about halfway through a treatment.





ELSEWHERE
Prime Video
Love & Friendship (2016)

Not sure I loved it as much as before but perhaps that's simply because high-school students tend not to laugh when they think something's funny.

💀







ELSEWHERE
Prime Video
Paterson (2016)

Split this into two days. After day one I wasn't so sure about it. By the film's conclusion however I'd come around. The scene with the Japanese tourist was wonderful.

I think the best poem was the girl's. I'm not sure if that was intentional.

But the slow rotation of daily life. And the important question of how art fits in. And how art's importance is realized. These things are addressed with a measured lovely calm.


HOME
library dvd
Simon of the Desert (1965)

First, I didn't expect Luis Buñuel to be so coherent. While I won't deny the term surreal, it moved from point to point from beginning to end. I was startled by how it ended—or perhaps by when it ended—bit otherwise it made sense.

And for a guy who made atheism such a key part of his identity, for all its satrical tinge it seems to be saying things worth saying and from a place of, even if bemused, understanding.



HOME
library dvd
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

It's possible to know all the reasons why a movie changed the game and still not quite understand it. I take it this violence was worse than what had gone before and I guess I can see the counterculture vibes and undercurrent of optimistic nihilism and certainly the look is cool. But it's hard to believe it was as huge and important as it was, even if I see echos in movies near and far.

So I went back and read Roger Ebert's review. He was a young guy then and he was one of the few contemporary critics who predicted Bonnie and Clyde's position in movie history. And reading his analysis, I'm convinced.

It is a good movie. Maybe a great movie.

And it's saying something we still need to hear.


HOME
Paramount+
Days of Heaven (1978)

I came in with so many misconceptions. I thought this was the Wild West. And I also thought it was Badlands. And that Richard Gere wasn't in it. None of that is true.

Although it continued on past where I thought it would end (twice, overall this has a pretty straightforward plot. But it pauses to take in the beauty of the landscape both at large and in microcosm. And the images are so powerful that it feels like it's a fully s*y*m*b*o*l*i*c as a less plotty film like The Tree of Life.

I really wanted people to be a tad more clever. A tad better at lying. Or at being honest. Or at thinking ahead. Or recognizing what moment they're in.

But I suppose real life isn't like that.

And then the locusts come.

Anyway. I loved it. So when I say it felt as long as Tree of Life, I mean that in the best way possible.


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Paramount+
Tropic Thunder (2008)

I remember reading a review in one of the altweekly's that were still nice and thick when this movie came out. It was the first of years and years of praise. It's generally considered one of the best comedies of the new century. Smart and hilarious.

Now, Ben Stiller can be a skilled director but this movie really suffered from me having watched Every Frame's Edgar Wright video earlier today. Now, Tropic Thunder isn't as bad as the examples cited in that vid but it doesn't really use the medium for comedy that much. And the second half largely turns into an '80s action film. Oh. Which reminds me of another Every Frame. Why can't a movie be both funny and action-packed? I bet Ben would do a better job today.

Anyway, I lauched a few times in the first ten minutes and once in the last ten minutes. But . . . it's not that funny a movie. I guess it scratched an itch or something in 2008 but I don't think generations that missed it in theaters will be that impressed.

A lot of ink has been spilled about Robert Downey, Jr. in blackface and Ben Still in "full retard" (mostly favorable) but I think favorable because the film comments on both of these and uses them to make fun of actors. But I've only ever heard positive takes on Tom Cruise's comic turn. But he is in full animalistic Semite costume and that's just who is character is in this movie. How have I never heard about this? I thought he was just bald but it's much, much more than this. Elizabethan nose and red-wig updated for the 2000s.

But the main thing is I didn't think it was funny. Sixteen years people have been talking up this movie. Cannot meet the hype.


ELSEWHERE
our dvd
Spirited Away (2001)

Did you know the Disney dvd has two separate English-language subtitle tracks?










ELSEWHERE
our dvd
The Iron Giant (1999)

Tear report: fewer this year. None actually left my eyes.











ELSEWHERE
Tubi
Freaks (1932)

Honestly, I don't think it's that great a movie. But I do appreciate the humanity it gives the freaks themselves, even if, perhaps, that's not the "right" answer. The siamese twins and the armless woman are simply presented as beautiful women, albeit with a twist. Frieda is the very picture of dignity throughout.

It's possible that audiences have matured enough that now we can identify with people once intended only to be looked at, but I have to believe that's what Browning had in mind all along. He was a circus guy. Not every normie hates the freaks. I think he knew what he was doing. It doesn't reflect well on the contemporary audience that the film was so upsetting it was pulled from theaters.


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our dvd
It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

Don's touring the movie now, doing Q&As. I'm bummed the SF show was sold out by the time I heard about. I wish I could have gone.









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Tubi
Grendel Grendel Grendel (1981)

John Gardner's beloved novel turned into this strange thing. (The Wikipedia article includes the phrase "Because of its limited appeal.") The character design reminds me a bit of Sixties animation like Yellow Submarine. The colorblocking reminds me of the first draft of a digital animation or perhaps the back of the cel. It has needless songs like an 80s featurelength toy commercial (aka Care Bears or My Little Pony). It has 70s philosophizing characters. It has occasional bloody violence and a bit of full-frontal nudity (thank you, only human female) but otherwise feels like it's aimed at children.

The movie's been largely forgotten (consider the length of the Wikipedia article or that zero screenshots are available on the IMDb page or that there is no critic score on Rotten Tomatoes) so I'm not certain how I came to put it on my to-watch list. (I had it narrowed down to this, Birds of Prey or Rashamon; I suspect I chose wrongly...)

I don't regret watching it. It's an interesting experiment. But I'm not surprised that it proved a dead end in the evolution of animation.


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library dvd
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

I suppose a movie can only blow you away by exploding your expectations but once, but even in our living room this is an amazing experience. And then we stayed up over another hour, well past midnight, watching half the special features, because the boys wanted to know more about how.

I love that. Movies are amazing.

Give stunt folk their own Oscar!


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our dvd
Pride and Prejudice (2003)

The 7yrold picked this out and . . . did not like it. The 14yrold also watched and found it . . . varied in quality.

I last watched the first half when I showed it to a class, gosh, over eight years ago? They didn't want to finish it the second day.

It's entirely possible it's been 18+ years since we last watched it. And if I can see it's not quite the gem I once thought it was, I still enjoy it. And the amount of nostalgia it inspired in me and Lady Steed would get it a pass even if it were terrible, which it is not. It has a number of perfect moments (use of color, character, quotable lines). Not for no reason did I once imagine Andrew Black making a Byuck movie.

It's also exquisitely 2003 in music and fashion and Provo. I mean. I was there. You can see my apartment in one shot. I would know.


THEATER
Cinemark Century
Hilltop 16
Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

So I loved it. But I'm not sure it quite works without having seen Fury Road. And I thinkn George Miller knows that since the credits are intercut with major plot points from Fury Road, which is the true end of Furiosa's journey.

That said, the worldbuilding is good. The villain is good. The two actors playing Furiosa are good. The new relationships are good. The action is good.

In fact, I could praise all those elements to high heavens. My only real complaints are surprising ones (why did they use cg on someone climbing a wall or getting on a horse?). In short, I liked the movie a lot. But if I hadn't just watched Fury Road, I think it would have been much less satisfying.

But really: two excellent Furiosas. Excellent stakes. Excellent dilemmas. Great movie.

Just no Fury Road.


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Tubi
Moonstruck (1987)

I like how this movie is about mature people and mature relationships. That said, the suddenness and impulsiveness of the main relationship is confusing. And thus I'm not quite sure why I find this movie so deeply satisfying. But I do.

Also, parts of it are wonderfully funny.





ELSEWHERE
Kanopy
L'Age D'Or (1930)

Like a lot of famous-for-being-shocking works of art, is it?

I mean, there are some startling images and some silly stuff, but that's all par for Surrealism. Maybe we're too far away? But Un Chien Andalou came out first and was wildly popular. And then this one was banned for decades. Why?

I know the historical answers. But it's still mysterious.

Showing it to a room of high-school seniors was instructive. Some hated it. Some were bored. Some were startled. Some were confused.

But I don't think any of them were quote-offended-unquote.

UPDATE: I just read all their write-ups and yes. Plenty were offended. 100% hate rate. A couple called for it to be banned again. So maybe I'm just jaded from too much time in the Surrealist swimming pool.


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Tubi
The Kid (1921)

In my opinion? It's the least of Chaplin's features (keeping in mind I haven't seen The Circus or Limelight), but it is still charming and wonderful and, important when considering which to show a kid, only an hour and costars a brilliant child (of whom Chaplin said he was his favorite costar).

That said, perhaps a bit too sentimental to be the first you show teenagers.



ELSEWHERE
Kanopy
Lady Bird (2017)

It's a beautiful movie.

And not the same movie to each watcher.

Your age does make for very different experiences.

I'm not surprised teenagers love it entirely and hate it deeply. But I'm glad the ratio seems to be about 5:1.




ELSEWHERE
YouTube
Disney Channel's Theme: A History Mystery (2022)

I've been looking forward to the new Jim Henson documentary that drops today, so when I saw a Slate headline saying that the ultimate Henson doc was already extant and made for YouTube, I wanted to watch it. Weirdly, Slate didn't link to it. So I went to the YouTuber's channel and, for some reason I can't explain, I watched this one instead. I don't even know that four-note mnemonic! I'm too old to have watched Disney Channel in the Oughts!

But I did love watching Kevin Perjurer (unfortunate surname for a documentarian) track down lead after lead. It's a solid example of what "doing research" is like.

I've seen a couple shorter Defunctland videos before. Maybe I'll make space for more feature-length ones too. Certainly, there are topics that interest me more than this one.