2024-05-21

Eleven books closer to death

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I'm astonished to realize that this list includes an Australian classic as well as Ted Bundy. Not because I'm surprised I read these things or because I have forgotten that I did, but holy smokes. Those books feel so, so long ago. And, I mean, it has been forty-plus days. I suppose the Bible would tell me that's a long time. So maybe it's okay to feel that it is.

One side effect of making these posts (since 2007!) is that I might be measuring time—my life—in books.

There are worse ways, I'm certain. Better to throw books into the darkness.

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041) The Stranger Beside Me: Updated Twentieth Anniversary Edition by Ann Rule, finished April 9

I picked this up because of Murder Book (#27). The Stranger Beside Me was the first true-crime book she reads and it's arguably the book that created the modern ideal for true crime. First published in 1980, then updated in 1986, 1989, and (the one I read) 2000. Those editions add 82 pages.

Ted Bundy is the first criminal I remember hearing about. Circa 1986, I remember a woman I knew and trusted speaking with absolute hate and venom, hoping that Ted Bundy would die. I remember how I felt, hearing this.

I don't remember his actual, successful execution, even though I was reading the newspaper by then.

Ann Rule received a contract from Norton to write about the disappearing women in Washington long before Ted Bundy was identified. But after she had already come to know him as they worked a crisis hotline together. The awkward and ethically suspect position this put her in as her reporting and this book turned her into a phenomenon is a fascinating subtext to consider.

I'm not sure it's possible to live in America over the decades I have and not know the general shape of Bundy's story. But Ann Rule's telling is very human. It's as much a memoir of her believing in him to being ready for him to fry.

We only have so much patience for monsters.

perhaps three weeks


042) Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy, finished April 13

I like that this is a comics memoir of a hijab-wearing American girl. But I didn't really like the art (I didn't like the Extra Credits-like floating hands, but issues with perspective and the like just felt sloppy) and I didn't feel like it had much depth. It's great for 12-year-olds but I don't think it's apt to appeal to anyone older. Which is a shame because I think the Muslim American voice is an important one, right now. In most of the country, they are seen as indelibly foreign no matter what. And since we're all accusing everyone else of failing to be properly American, those who are most in that situation surely have something to teach us.

as I stood


043) Enos, Jarom, Omni: a brief theological introduction by Sharon J. Harris, finished April 25

This is split into three parts, one for each book. Sensibly, really. To start at the end, I wasn't really sold by most of the analysis and argument for Omni, but the conclusion, combining Latter-day Saint notions of Jesus and family into one great whole, was excellent.

Jarom was my favorite. The thesis that most intrigues was that Jarom lives in the middle. We live in the middle. The Church is established. The finale is (likely) far away. We're muddling around in the in-between, living our lives best we can. We live in the short books. And this elevates Jarom's demure silence from the least interesting portion of the Book of Mormon to something deeply personal and relevant.

As for Enos, she made some points about its chronology I hadn't thought much about, but the highlight is her exploration of the concept of self-emptying. That's worth checking out. It provides a new way to make Enos a path forward.

a month

 

044) The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, finished April 27

This story of North Korea won the Pulitzer a decade ago and keeps coming up as a book people remember and were glad they read.

I feel the same. I'm certain I will remember parts of this book a long, long time. These details and images from a real dystopia (mixed accuracy but all so real in context) are not easily shaken off.

The novel's structure is curious. The first part, much shorter, runs like a proper novel. The second and much longer half weaves three kinds of storytelling together from which you see different things through different lenses and thus the reader has to assemble them.

I'll admit part of the reason I took so long to pick this up is because it's a novel about Korea by a guy named Adam Johnson. But I was one over.

Seems to matter that Kim Jong Il died just as the book was released.

Anyway, it's all the worst parts of Nineteen Eighty-four rendered not just believable but contemporary. You'll believe it is happening Right Now.

maybe three weeks

 

045,046,049) The Mysteries by Bill Watterson and John Kascht, finished April 29, 30; May 3

I'm leading a discussion on this for the faculty book club this week so I thought I'd try to fit in daily rereads. I kinda love this book but I'm still not sure how I want to think about it. The turn it takes is remarkable.

a few minutes per

 

047) The Children's Bach by Helen Garner, finished April 30

I was more interested in Monkey Grip but this is the one my library had. When it arrived, I wasn't even going to take it home but then I saw how short it was so I decided to give it a shot.

Garner's voice is calm and melodic. She flits through time without worrying to much about us keeping up. She's like a more reasonable Weetzie Bat. And the people are likable normal people who find themselves genuinely sucking in truly awful ways.

I get why people love it but I don't feel compelled to recommend it to anyone.

two days

 

048) No. 1 with a Bullet by Sehman/Corona/Hickman/Wands, finished May 2

At the end of this graphic novel you'll find a series of interviews with women who are writers, cosplayers, lawyers, gamers, etc. The interviews reveal powerful women who have bumped into the awful ways men treat women. It's worth mentioning these interviews don't come off as preachy or anything. It's just the way it is.

The comic is about a women who was filmed having sex without her knowledge. The video leaks and now the world has come down on her. There's violence and mystery and startling imagery. It's near-future fiction (by which I mean like three years from now) and there's stalkers and LSD and Johnny Cash quotations (an excellent choice, incidentally) and dirtbag lawyers and good cops and crummy friends and ambiguous lovers. It's a fine entertainment and, like the interviews, it explores heavy and important issues without telling you what to think. Not that you won't arrive at the correct conclusions, but it lets you find them all on your own.

Most of the story I felt we were falling into some artsy cliches, but by the end it's revealed to be doing interesting things with those elements. The ambiguities at the end do seem a little overdone. It's not a perfect book. But a worthy read.

about a week


050) Over Seventy by P. G. Wodehouse, finished May 7

This sorta autobiography was a brief and gratifying read. Made me laugh many times. There were three spots where a word choice was made to allow casual racists to laugh in superiority which was offputting, and the world-these-days parts are very 1950s, but otherwise the book has aged well.

The conceit is somebody from some little newspaper wrote to ask him a couple questions for a column about folks over seventy and Wodehouse rambles and tangents his way through answering them all.

I tracked the book down because I heard it had an essay about footnotes. This is not strictly true. The foreword is about why the book doesn't have footnotes. But perhaps that is the same thing.

a couple weeks


051) The Happy Shop by Brittany Long Olsen, finished May 16

This is kind of a perfect Brittany book: sincere, fantastical, emotive, short.

one day then a few weeks then another day


052) Shades of Fear, finished May 21

Look, the bad news is this isn't a very good book. I don't regret backing it, but the end project is not that great.

But the fact is these kinds of anthologies fill a very important role is giving comics makers a chance to flex their muscles and discover what works. And a lot of really cool stuff is happening in these stories. They're all short enough that they end up not quite coherent, but all of them pull of at least one really cool moment with the art. Permission to experiment—before an audience—is what any young artists needs. And I suppose middle-aged schmucks like myself should be paying them to do so

So, as I said, no regrets.

But nothing here quite takes flight.

I sure hope they keep trying.

a couple weeks but really two or three days

 

053) Love Poems in Quarantine by Sarah Ruhl, finished May 21

I haven't actually finished a book of poems brought home from the library in quite a while. I don't know why this one made it over the finish line other than I liked the poems.

That they are all very short certainly did not hurt. (I am, after all, the founder of Quatrain.Fish.) Some of these poems are wonderful. Some are . . . not. But the average quality is high enough (and the average length short enough) to carry us through. That I remember very well the first year of covid certainly is a bonus.

What I'm most impressed by is Ruhl's ability to fit a meaningful volta in the smallest spaces. Well done, ma'am! But the little moments with children and dogs, sex and isolation, ring true. Plus, there's a goodly dose of humor. We appreciate that, don't we, folks?

a week, maybe



PREVIOUSLY THIS YEAR

2024-05-13

It would be politically and morally reprehensible to force all conservatives into one party and all liberals into another.

 

This is so alien to my entire adult life as an American. It’s so far away that even though I like much of what is said in this article, I’m not sure I even fully comprehend it.

What are political parties fighting over if not politics? Is it just a matter of inheriting party from your parents? Which political machine has the best cupcakes? Your feelings on Strom Thurmond?

It’s weird to know so much about this history and yet to read this half-century-old essay and to find it utterly perplexing.

Yet the predictions of this article seem to have largely come true.

How, one is compelled to ask, does one undo this alignment? Dr. Durham, tell us!

2024-05-01

April Film She Will

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Ten movies in thirty days. What endurance! What exceptional fortitude!

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THEATER
Rialto Cerrito
Dune: Part Two (2024)

So I liked this much more than Part One. Granted, it's easier to have swifter pacing when more stuff is happening, but still. It's a more fun movie. And while a lot of new characters are introduced, you get a good sense of them. Though it's wild how a character can appear and be gone so quickly in something as short as a really long movie. (I'm thinking of Austin Butler's monster here.) But as a whole, the movie does extremely well making us feel like time is passing, passing. And Zendaya was put to good use here. The characters are asked to make astonishing leaps of development and her character's more subtle parallel-but-opposite development is what gives the movie most of its heart.

While I'd like to give the actors most of the credit for the movie's visual success, the effects deserve props as well. To make wormriding not only work on the screen but make sense is a real feat. So well done, yall.

The movie also makes me excited for Dune: Messiah. Maybe I'll have to read it? Seems like the movie probably won't be here for five years, after all....


HOME
our dvd
Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

The girl wanted to watch this on recommendation of Son #3 who is away to Santa Cruz with a friend's family. Amazingly, she made it through the movie. She's exceedingly sensitive, but she made it. As the movie went on and got more scary, she managed it better. Peculiar.

Hanging with Gen Zers as I always am, it's easy to read this film as superqueer, supertrans, but it's also an argument that everything is queer, everything is trans. What's more trans than changing from a young person to an old person, after all? And, with a spot of luck, we all make that transition.

Anyway, I love this movie. It's so intriguing. Someday I want to understand all its details. But I know that's not the point. And might, in fact, be antithetical to the point. So few things ask us to accept the mystery. And isn't mystery our path? I think it probably is. I think it probably is,


HOME
library dvd
The Prestige (2006)

2006 was a very poor year for us so even though I was high on Nolan's Batman, we didn't see this movie. Years passed. And now I have. And you know what? Not worth the wait. Spoiler alert going forward. But the moment I figured out it was all real (telegraphed from the first shot of the film), the whole thing was obvious. A couple details still had to be cleared up but the whole thing unspooled. Fallon's terrible wig didn't help.

Frankly, although the realness of Tesla's magic irritates, once you see how Borden's tricks work they're even less believable. And cheapened by the actual magic. Although the plot holds together, the world falls apart.

Anyway. I didn't really like it.


HOME
Paramount+
The King of Comedy (1982)

With the clock on Paramount+ ticking, I picked this off the list of to-watches and watched it. And . . . it was very strange. It was good. Like . . . After Hours only from the perspective of the mad people surrounding the hero of that movie. Robert De Niro was nuts but he was easier to feel for than Sandra Bernhard was uninterruptingly unsettling.

People broadly remarked that this film was one of the inspirations for Joker and that's very easy to see. It's hardly a carbon copy (gotta get that Taxi Driver in there too) but the intersections are many and various. And honestly, I think the overlap made this all the more stressful a movie to watch.

One important difference (assuming I remember Joker correctly) is that this film lets us into the leads madness much more quickly. (Though that he is actually mad and not just imaginative takes a while to become clear.) It also ends more ambiguously.

Also, does anyone know if the woman standing next to Scorsese in that one scene is Thelma Schoonmaker?

I should also mention I've never liked Jerry Lewis more. The secret is he barely does anything. He's good at subtle as it ends up.


ELSEWHERE
Hoopla
The Illusionist (2006)

I read the story this was based on early summer 2004 when it was published in Zoetrope: All-Story, back when I was subscribed. I really liked it and looked forward to the upcoming movie (why Zoetrope reprinted it). I don't remember much the story anymore (mostly its poetic voice) so I can't talk to it as an adaptation (though it felt accurate enough).

The movie came out the same year as The Prestige (see above). The Illusionist came out fifty days earlier and was vastly less popular. We were deeply poor and I was torn between the one I'd been looking forward to and the one made by the guy who'd just made that great new Batman movie. So I've been meaning to watch them back-to-back ever since. I've finally (almost) done it.

My perception is that The Prestige has become Chris Nolan's underappreciated masterpiece and The Illusionist has been forgotten. I will grant the former finer craftsmanship. Particularly The Illusionist's opening and closing sequences, less well aged VFX, and the sex scene (which I think may have been less an artistic way to get racy and keep the PG-13 but a metaphor for the slight-of-hand to come). But that said, The Illusionist is a better watch. I still saw the twist coming but it wasn't obvious to me how it would work (and I wish they hadn't bothered the weak attempt at Paul Giamatti's figuring it out). Also, the twist obeyed the rules of a magician movie, after making me think it had not. Which is exactly how a magician movie should work. As explained very clearly in The Prestige. (Don't let me get started on The Prestige again. I have more complaints but I don't wanna make'm.)

Anyway, I'm 18 years late to the conversation, but although The Prestige is more finely crafted visually, in the end that pizzazz comes off like an empty boast. The Illusionist actually delivers.

(And both might fall apart if you think too closely. So just enjoy the rides. I hope you love both.)

Note: They both use Ricky Jay as well. Wild how duos like this just happen.


HOME
Hoopla
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

This has been on my to-watch list for decades. And I think I've conflated it with another silent classic. In this one, Ryan Gosling's been cheating on Drew Barrymore but in a sudden switcheroo of symbolism, the city ends up being good for their marriage. Murnau is up to his regular tricks though this is a more restrained/relaistic work than Nosferatu or Metropolis.

It's astonishing so much story was backed into sub one hundred minutes. I'll be watching it again soon.

I didn't know as I was watching it that the sound was all part of the film so I guess I need to repent of thinking that it was a bit presumptuous at parts.

Of course, I've been wanting to watch this since high school because this film won the Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Picture, an award only given the first year. Presumably equivalent to Best Picture (then Outstanding Picture), but Best Picture was, that year, more like the proposed Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film, while Unique and Artistic Picture was more like the platonic Best Picture winner of today. If you see what I mean.

Anyway. Still haven't seen Wings either.


HOME
Tubi
The Suicide Squad (2021)

James Gunn makes good movies. This one is very funny with real human connections and gives Margot Robbie an Oscar-clip speech that is utterly insane. It attaches itself to a dozen other stories and does so with utter seriousness and friendly mockery all at once. He makes fun of the full-cast-walking-toward-the-camera scene twice to different effects. The film is much more bloody than my own tastes prefer, but it is a marvelous entertainment.


HOME
Kanopy
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021)

The little girl and I watched this together. It's faux cinema verite, quiet and slow. It takes a looong time to pay off. Basically the entire movie. And yet she was deeply into it from go. And even though we kept getting interrupted and it took us three days to finsh it, she was never opposed to returning. Even asked for it. I'm impressed, honestly. If I'd known it was like this, I'm not sure I would have proposed it. (After seeing the trailers for it, Monsters Inc., Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Anastasia, she picked this one. I think because it seemed the least scary? Still. Kids will watch more than we sometimes give them credit for.

Anyway, it is very charming.


HOME
Hoopla
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Ah. It's not what I expected because I was thinking of The Last Laugh. Which I still need to see. And he didn't direct Metropolis. That was Fritz Lang. Egad. I should trust my memory a little less.

Anyway, I think I might have enjoyed it more the second time. I've heard the movie called a simple fable, but no. It's not. The city is both a source or terrors and joys. And The Man's redemption doesn't quell his inherent violence. And he buries his face in both women's bellies but it means entirely different things. And she serves him bread and he serves her bread but neither time does anyone partake. But when the wine arrives? Ah, then they partake. And so on. It's complicated and strange.


HOME
library dvd

Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

I can't remember where I read about the remarkable story of SIxto Rodriguez, but I do know that it turned into me getting his album posthaste and now seeing the doc. Which is a wonderful journey and I highly recommend it. I am left with some questions that count as spoilers:

Does he have no nonwhite South African fans?

What about Australia?

What the heck is up with the money?

Incidentally, the dvd's two short films provide some more context to other things (and raise more questions) but in short, check out his music and watch the movie. It's beautiful.




2024-04-25

Unfinished Books from the past (which was worse) and the future (which may be better)

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Hyoo. Library books! You just don't own them. And other people want to read them.

Let's start with the past.

Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World by Tom Holland (not this one)

This was recommended to me by a friend of mine and the time I've spent in this book has been time well spent. Essentially, it explains how the truly terrible world of the past became the world of science and enlightenment today. The secret? Christianity.

This isn't a great secret or anything but it feels like it has been largely forgotten and certainly most of us don't think about the process of Christianity making our reality with the kind of detail, insight, and splendid writing Holland does over 500-page book.

Anyway, I do want to finish reading it. I'll have to get it again before we start the New Testament again. The number of fascinating details and stellar insights per page is unbeatable. And I'm only on page 84, learning thing about Galatea I never did know.

The ancient world, in short, suuuuuucked. (But this we knew already.)

Anyway, get yourself a copy and we can read together late 2028.

And now for the future.

Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth by Ingrid Robeyns


 

Robeyns is the leading thinking re Limitarianism and this is her new book for the popular audience (but you don't have to go popular). The short version of Limitarianism is that there are limits to how rich individuals should be. Most folks find this pretty commonsensical and large percentages of the wealthy do work to divest themselves of their overabundance. But our system continues to create wealthy people. And not just billionaires but lots of lots of decamillionaires whom she also targets.

The argument is self-evident but self-evidence is insufficient to convince people who do not want to believe the sun is out when the sun is out. And so there's plenty of research and thought and argument and persuasion and cetera herein. It's good stuff. And the library bought it on my recommendation. But now other people want to read it. So I'm returning it.

I may return to it because I would like to have its arguments fully in my brain and available to me, but I also feel like the info in Poverty, by America might be more immediately useful so maybe I'll finally crack that first. We'll see.

Regardless, as someone born into this world created by Christian thought—with our beliefs in the value of the individual, the responsibilities we have to one another, and rational thinking—I fully endorse Limitarianism and commend it to you all.


2024-04-05

Jacob says be nice and read comics

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035) Jacob: A Brief Theological Introduction by Deidre Nicole Green, finished March 24

A couple of Deidre's most important observations about Jacob that I hadn't seen as thoroughly as she explain them in this book:

• salvation is social
• we should learn from those we look down upon
• or, in other words, despising those we despise prevents us from receiving the revelations God would give us through them
• "...life is full of ambiguity, and...human existence, even for the faithful, is [often] characterized by the uncertainty and sorrow of Holy Saturday rather than the reassurance and rejoicing of Easter Sunday"
• "failure to take at face value the overarching theme of equality and justice in scripture in order to justify selfish whims is destructive not only to one's individual soul but also to an entire society"
• "while men can take away women's sexual agency, no one can take away another person's chastity because it is determined by consent"
• salvation is consensual; Christ will never force you

Anyway, terrific book.

a month


036) Starter Villain by John Scalzi, finished March 27

I've read one Scalzi book before and quite enjoyed it. This too was pure potato chips, but what potato ships! A guy inherits his uncle's supervillain business and is thrown right into a mess of villainy. There are superintelligent cats and powerful lasers (inadvertently paid for by the USDA) and more more more.

 
One thing I found interesting is that our first-person protag is a lot like the pov protags from comedic invisible-man novels like The Invisible Saint and Memoirs of an Invisible Man. A hapless but likable fellow put into impossible circumstances that come weighted with a lot of moral uncertainty. The first thid of the book felt like it was making more or less the same comedic beats. I'm happy to say that the protag develops into more of a Saint than a Memoirs sort of fellow. In other words, you won't mind spending 262 pages with him.

By no means Great Literature, but a certain entry into Fun Literature. Maybe I'll check out Kaiju Preservation Society next.

weekish


037) Mister Invincible: Local Hero by Pascal Jousselin, finished March 30

I love this book so much! I love the way it plays with the comics form to reimagine the superhero genre.

Here's an example:

Best recommendation I've ever gotten from a first-grader and his younger brothers!

Mostly the translation is terrific, but there are a couple moments that are confused, particularly when Mister Invincible visits America and half the characters are supposed to be speaking English.

But that's a minor complains about an utter joy.

two or three nonsequential days


038) The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, finished March 30

When this book was released a decade and a half ago, I deeply wanted to read it. But it was a little trickier to find than anticipated and I eventually forgot. Until recently when I heard a replay of the editors' interview promoting it and when on the hunt again (it's the most recent episode—and may always be so, alas). It's still hard to find, but I managed.

And it was worth the journey. Lovingly reproduced in all their dotty glory, it's a mix of pagelong gag strips and longer stories and packed full of favorite artists known from comics and elsewhere like P. D. Eastman, Jack Cole, Harvey Kurtzman, Carl Banks and more more more.

I'm not just disappointed this huge (expensive) book wasn't a giant bestseller. Because that disappointment gets to why we haven't see another dozen volumes by now. Alas, alas, alas.

a few weeks


039) Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh, finished April 1

Look. I'm just going to be spoiling things left and right, mkay?

Mkay.

I saw this book recently at my local used-book store (and I don't think I made the connection to a book I'd recently read). I decided not to buy it (but don't feel bad; I spent $20 bucks there that trip and $20 more the next day) but to get it at the library.

It played a few games I found irritating. I'm kinda over the DC CHARACTER BUT THEY'RE A KID phenomenon, and Harley does come off as too quirky for this attempt at adjacent-to-realism, but she's still a charming character and she works.

What also works is making Joker a high-school student. I mean—of course someone who spews that nonsense is going to be a self-important high-school boy. Of course.

And I like that by the end, Joker isn't Harley's love interest but her arch-rival. That shows promise.

And while I hate Jokers with known backstories, the great thing about a catalogue like DC's is you can do anything with it. It's sorta like working in the public domain except the suits can shut you down whenever they feel like it. But they're bright enough to usually know that flexibility of mythos is a big part of what makes this stuff work.

I like the characters. The drag queens are real. Ivy is real. The Joker design is terrific. Harley is almost unpleasantly cute. It's fun! And it sets things up for a new version of Gotham and Batman, etc. As far as I can tell, no sequel has appeared in the last five years (alas).

My only real complaint is that this Harley has no education. But I guess no reason to give notes if there's no chance for more. C'est la DC.

saturday and monday


040) The Super Hero's Journey by Patrick McDonnell, finished April 5

What a strange book this is. Original pages and panels from 1960s Marvel comics shuffled with McDonnell's idiosyncratic art. It's a cool experiment. I didn't really love it, but I'm glad it exists. And I'd love to see more experiments along the same lines.

two days


 


PREVIOUSLY THIS YEAR

2024-03-31

Hup two three film

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It's weird. I feel like I never watch movies. That I averaged one every three days feels impossible. Impossible! And yet somehow I did.

Maybe I don't understand how time works?

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ELSEWHERE
Netflix
Rustin (2023)

I hadn't heard of Bayard Rustin in such a way that his name would stick with me until reading this article from a recent New Yorker. I was amazed and delighted and I wanted to share the word. So I built a Rustin unit for my sophomores. Unfortunately, it didn't go so well. I made some strategic errors. I should have, for instance, started with the movie rather than culminating with it. Live and learn.

The movie's great. I'm not sure it'll be a classic or anything and it has a couple minor missteps, but the steps it takes well—it's like watching the Nicholas brothers dance.

I also appreciate that it's not shaped like a typical civil-rights biopic. Although I do wish it had been less bouncy with the timeline. Today's students are not all media-literate to follow that sort of filmplay. Although we can probably blame their distraction, as well.

Adam Gopnick, in the essay linked to above, says, "Lives worth remembering tend to have one central episode." And that Rustin's is bringing into existence the March on Washington. And maybe he's right. And maybe it's best if a biopic focus on that one central episode. But, on the other hand, lives are large. And ending is that day (save a couple sentences thrown on the screen) almost felt like a disservice to me.

Anyway, Colman Domingo deserves his Oscar nod. With very little screentime, Jeffrey Wright makes an astonishing and ambivalent villain. (What a year he's had!) And while Chris Rock was distracting at first, he came to own his role. Shoutouts to the less famous people who rocked their roles as well. Sorry for not looking up your names.


HOME
library dvd
@ in the Mood for Love (2001)

This is a making-of documentary, but it's done with so much artistry it's almost like an alternate version of the original film. In fact, learning how they just shot and shot and shot for over a year without a truly coherent plan is a) inspiring (make a movie the way I write a book!) and covet-inducing (so many other possibilities for these characters I'd love to see!). In short, it's kinda reminded of Everything Everywhere All at Once in that it was sorta like watching a dozen different films made from the same footage all at once. Each of those movies might exist on another timeline. Who knows.


HOME
YouTube
The Barber of Little Rock (2023)

This'll probably be the last of the Oscar noms I see before the awards (incidentally, don't miss Raymond Chandler's brutal essay thereon). It's a documentary short (but long enough to qualify as a feature here). It's an inspiring look at what's possible when someone just cares enough to act. I feel a bit ashamed at my minimal ambitions to make the world better, really. Here's this guy figuring out how to bring money into the long-ppushed-down Black neighborhoods of Little Rock, helping people start businesses and get their lives running. It's a beautiful and abashing look at something people like me can too easily ignore. Even when I'm thinking about it all the time.


HOME
library dvd
Bachelor Mother (1939)

So I haven't checked her discography but I think this is my first Ginger Roger film. And I have never seen David Niven so young. That was reason enough, but I picked it up because a friend recommended it.

It's the story of a young women who is misunderstood to be the mother of an orphaned baby and then bullied into becoming its mother. It has a lot of RKO crosspromotion with Donald Duck (who gets an excellent credit at the end) and a satisfying happy ending with plenty of laughs along the way. But it's also a frustrating look at how a women are pushed around and not listened to.

It's a silly little studio picture but it largely holds up as entertaining in 2024. Once you get over how young David Niven is. (Who knew he was ever younger than this!)

And the baby is excellent.


HOME
Hoopla
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

When this movie came out I couldn't get excited about seeing it. For a couple reasons. One, if I didn't like it, apparently I would be a bad person. And second, I didn't think I'd like it. A movie about the Aboriginal experience with Kenneth Branaugh as the main character? That didn't seem right.

I'm glad to say he's not the main character but I still didn't really like it. I appreciate the importance of the story and I liked its fidelity, but it's surprising to me that this was directed by such an experienced hand. I had a hard time following the geography and the passing of time. And those two things are largely what the film is about.

The kids the film revolves around did good work. The tracker was perhaps the most interesting character—even though the writing was minimal, his acting was subtle and sublime.


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Next Goal Wins (2023)

While there are a couple of wonderful moments, how did this happen? Taika's much too innovative a filmmaker to make this casually assembled series of filmmaking cliches. I don't just mean sport-movies cliches, but also character cliches and shot cliches and editing cliches. It's so weird! He's better than this!

Now, look: the good moments are good enough that the movie's not a waste of time. And if you love movies that supply beats when you expect them and your responses can pavlov themselves, good for you. But Taika's better than this.


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Robin Hood (1973)

I've read many times (perhaps most strongly here) that this movie marked the end of good Disney. Both inside and outside Disney, lots of people dismissed the story, the anthropomorphic characters, and pretty much everything else as evidence that the brand was dead.

Anyone who was a small child in 1973 (or younger) however tends to count this as one of their favorites.

I don't know when I last saw it [apparently not since 2013 when I started doing this] but it was interesting to watch this alongside Errol Flynn. I watched the first half of Flynn first and I was struck by how much Disney had lifted. And then, during the first half of Disney, how dumb it was. But then I saw the second half of Disney first and I was completely invested, as always. I'm now supercurious how the last half of Flynn will feel.

Incidentally, the most praised song of Robin Hood, "Love," while a solid song, can't be better than third-best in the film. I guess the tendency of picking the love ballad as your winner goes way back.


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The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Absolutely thrilling and in the most fun way. In many ways, this movie is like a cartoon. Only bad guys die, everything is clothed in bright colors to announce their identity. And it's worth mentioning that although I like this romance, the actual cartoon's romance is the more believable.

Does it hold up to its reputation as one of the greatest films ever made in terms of fun to watch? That's hard to answer. I think it would for children. For teens who only know how to read films made in the last few years, maybe less so. But the swordplay was incredible. I don't think I've seen anything half so good in a film made in my lifetime.

The charm of Errol Flynn is intense as well. I'm not sure who the modern equivalent is. Cary Elwes obviously is channeling him in The Princess Bride; Paul Rudd and Robert Downey Jr. have vaguely moved in that direction. But he's sui generis, for sure.


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Inside Man (2006)

This is like the first seen of Dark Knight or the explosively violent scene in Heat or the climax of Ocean's Eleven stretched out for an entire movie. The heist is almost the entire runtime.

But it's not quite what it seems. And just what it actually is is never clear. It takes time for it to come together. As any good heist should. But the stakes are never quite what we think, simultaneously both much worse and far less worse, depending on the angle at which you examine it. Smart movie.

This is only my fifth Spike Lee movie and my first straight thriller. His chops apply to this corner of filmmakig. Sure, a lot of that is the script and the editing, but man. Excellent work, Mr Lee.

Incidentally, this is one of the films I've finally gotten around to watching thanks to their appearance on Framed. I'm not keeping up, but I'm knocking a few out. (Although I haven't seen most of them, I'm at 550/550.)


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Dune: Part One (2021)

I mean. It was good. But it's my third favorite Villeneuve film of the three I've seen. Coulda been twenty to thirty minutes shorter in the first three quarters. I wasn't a huge fan of the sound mixing. Visually it was great, though not quite as great as it thinks it is. The acting made good use of familiar faces and voices. Largely. Zendaya only got a couple lines and I wasn't quite sold on her delivery.

But still. It came together at the end and I had a good time. So, you know, it was good.




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