2018-07-12

And Monsters Make Fifty
a whole buncha books

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036) Bad Kitty Camp Daze by Nick Bruel, finished May 24

Nick Bruel is, for my money, one of the best comic writers now working. He's hilarious! I laugh while I read the Bad Kitty books!

They don't take long at all to read. Pick one up and marvel at their use of narrator or irony or characterization. Just do it.

a brief moment


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037) I'm Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris, finished May 24

This is another bit of for-kids comedy that I, an adult, loved. Loved. I wouldn't say it's "better" or "worse" than Shel Silverstein, but it's in that tradition without feeling like a beholden knockoff. This is original stuff, excellently executed, with illustrations by Lane Smith. Lane Smith!

The variety of cleverness in this book is vast, so even if you don't like each poem, you will certainly find ones you do. Also watch for an utterly original take on the concrete poem. And some genuinely sweet poems to leaven the comedy, including the beautiful "The World's Best Offer" and "Under My Dragon's Wing."

I do not, however, understand the page-numbering gag. I suspect that is an inside joke.
two days about a week apart


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038) The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua, finished May 30

I love this book.

It was exciting and funny---a feast for the eyes and the mind. The most enjoyable foot- and endnotes I've read in many a long year (arguably even better than Cuppy's, who used them more as factual punchlines than chatty firesides).

Padua has written a history book skeleton clothed in the flesh of one of the most rollicking works of steampunk joy I've ever read. She's set up clearly navigable lines between fact and fiction; she introduces fascinating people I've never heard of and only thought I knew.

Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage demonstrate a remarkable and admirable working relationship and a keen friendship---and all while being of different sexes.

In short, I love this book. And any kid, girl or boy, who is (or should be) interested in math or engineering or feats of the mind should have it placed in their hands. Like, now.

To give you a flavor, here's the intro lifted from the book's website:

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039) Princess Leia by Mark Waid et al, finished May 30


I asked the library to provide me this on the strength of Vader Down and it's post-story advert for this book.

It's not as good.

But it was an enjoyable enough read.

It takes place right after A New Hope as Leia sets off on a personal mission to collect surviving Alderaanians before the Empire can, as a matter of principle, wipe them out. It's a nice mix of idealism and violence. Leia's final speech is a bit chintzy, but, to my surprise, when it was repeated, I was moved. I'm such a sucker.
weekish


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040) Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral, finished June 12

I like the idea of a book told entirely through ephemera. Selfies and IMs, etc. That's fine. Might have been nice if the story itself were less of a cliche. Young prodigy! Boy next door just arrived from abroad! Forbidden love! Disapproving parents! Artists acting out! Mysterious disappearance! Who's really mad?

You know.
in-store


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041) Everything You Need to Know About a Mission by Ralph Thomas, finished June 13

I heard about this book from Mike Laughead with whom I did our Kickstarter. He had just bought a copy but for him it was a return to something he had loved long ago. I'd never heard of it before.

I mostly liked it. Some stuff feels aged---or at least, seems pre-Raising the Bar, but maybe my experiences were unusual? The only part that really bothered me was the Sister jokes. These are the sorts of stereotypes that irritated me as a missionary too, and thanks to the changing dialogue over sexism, now I know why. It's not just that it's unfair and unkind and stupid. It's that it's men making these jokes. Sisters should have the chance to make jokes about sisters. (Now they do. Too bad you missed the Kickstarter.)

Anyway, gripes about datedness aside, I'll let me kids read this. Anything that normalizes missionary work is positive. But Dendo's still the standard.
day+


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042) The Invisibles by Grant Morrison et al, finished June 14

I'm assuming this did not sell well and that's why it ended when it did. The other possibility is that Morrison realized he had no idea where he was going with this. The Invisibles themselves ever quite come together or make sense. The series is at its strongest when it's telling short stories essentially disconnected from the philosophically bloated main throughline.


Oh wait. I just looked it up. It keeps going beyond this collection.

I don't think I'll read on.
weekish


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043) The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe, finished June 15

This is a beautifully written book. Both Lady Steed and I picked it up and turned to the first page only to be immediately hooked. This is the preview off Amazon (click to enlarge):


It's a terrific story, as good as its writing. And the next two stories are just as enrapturing, though I am embarrassed to admit I did not realize until well into story number three that these stories were all connected, taking place on the same two planets. Embarrassing. But nothing about the format of the book made me think that would be the case!


This edition includes an insightful afterward that points out thematic similarities between the stories and heightening the ambiguity.

In short, this is a nuanced, intelligent, beautiful, challenging, troubling, wonderful novel. It's evidence of science fiction's capacity for excellence. Hand it to any naysaying friends.
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044) Material Volume 1 by Ales Kot & Will Tempest & al., finished June 23

Each spread is a piece of one story. One's about a college professor (sometimes in his classroom, sometimes engaging with his computer, sometimes engaging with his daughter); one's about a black kid in Chicago who's spent time at Homan Square. A man recently returned from an in-error stint Guantanamo Bay. An actress looking to make a comeback. The story (if you want to call it that) flips back and forth between these different stories which as just as simple as I've suggested but also much more complicated. There is no satisfactory resolution to any of them, though the fourth chapter, which ends the collection, can pass as a series of ending in the lit-mag sense.

It does say Volume 1 in big bold letters on the cover, so I could assume more volumes were intended. But I can see no evidence that more are forthcoming.

I'm glad it took me a while from finishing the comics to finishing the book. The work has settled into my mind and I find it more satisfying now that when I initially finished it.

My favorite part, however, are the four essays at the end of the volume. (I assume one per original comic book?) These, written by Fiona Duncan, Jarett Kobek, Sarah Nicole Prickett, and Bijan Stephen are jewels of the essay art dealing with topics tangential (or key) to the stories of the comics. Also, shoutout to Spencer Ackerman's introduction with colored the way I read the comics, probably for the better.

In short, thought-provoking. Whether it's as smart as it thinks it is, I'm unsure, but the thoughts were worth having and the company was good.

week or more


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045) Love & Misadventure by Lang Leav, finished June 30

So I recently tried to read a Rupi Kaur book. It was ... hard to read. Not so much because its about rape and abuse and people treating women badly but because it just didn't have much to say about such things. So unrelenting awfulness without artistry to give it form? No thanks.

Which I know is easy for me to say. And I'm not knocking people who love Kaur's work. She's clearly saying stuff that needs to be said, but it's just a moderately refined version of what we sometimes sniff and dismiss as high-school poetry. Big emotions and tiny metaphors. You probably know what I mean. (You probably wrote some yourself. In high school.)

This is kind of the problem with Love & Misadventure as well, although---for all the falling in love (almost always paired with an inevitable breakup), Leav's work has some charm. Some prettiness. Some efforts to play with language.

The poetry is much like her paintings---beautiful barely pubescent girls being sexy adult women.

This collection came out five years ago and she hasn't stopped. Her most recent came out just this year. I'm curious is her work has done some growing up in this half decade....
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046) The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins, finished July 7

Moments of Billy Collins brilliance, but also a few moments that seem like they've been sitting in his book of clever ideas for sometime and he just decided he might as well get the poem over with. But I say this as a fan. It's a bit of a parental thing, perhaps, too. When I first started writing poems that weren't terrible, they had a strong Billy Collince influence (obvious example), and he's one of the few writers whose voice I hear when I read their work. And so I come to a Billy Collins book expecting every poem to be a home run. Or at least an amusing bloop single, and that's not fair.

That said, to repeat, this collection does have a few moments of brilliance. And I don't begrudge the man the occasional copout for a joke. That's one of the lines he's been pushing his entire career. Take a classic like "The Lanyard": it's only a couple rewrites away from being damn fine standup. Yet instead it's a beloved poem that makes people cry.

This collection has a couple throughlines that make the poet's age apparent. A lot of stuff about time---it passing, how much is gone, appreciating the now, looking forward. Stuff about family (including two poems about imaginary siblings to fill the hole now that the parents are gone). More than enough ars poetica, including some grumpyoldman pieces.

He's earned it.
about a week


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047) Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier Vol. 1: The Man On The Wall by Ales Kos, finished July 7

Having been intrigued by Material (above), I went to the library site and put one of his Kot's mainstream works on hold. "Mainstream" might be a stretch. The panel design, the art, the story---none of this is easy to just step into and understand. It's complex---in part because of how it builds on Marvel lore, but also because it's just trying to do a lot. Multiple dimensions, fighting artistic styles, a character who knows he's a character, you name it.

It was fine.
one evening


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048) Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman edited by Tony Barnstone & Michelle Mitchell-Foust, finished July 10 (twelve days)

049) Poems Dead and Undead edited by Tony Barnstone & Michelle Mitchell-Foust, finished July 10(twelve days)

First, props to the Everyman Pocket Library for having such great-looking, little, carryable, delightful books.

Here's a nice set of sonnets that are on facing pages in the Monster book:


I like both of these very much.

You'll note that one of these sonneteers is also one of the volumes' editors. Only one from him per book, which is true, if I'm not mistaken, of every included poet excepting Shakespeare who was doubled up both times.

Both books are arranged sensibly into three sections. The first two sections are clearly defined, and the third is kind of a hodgepodge of poems that often could have been included in either book. The final poems in both books is a fun send off (respectively, Seuss and Silverstein).

I'm curious what their editorial process was like. For instance, how did they find the poets in their early twenties, some of whose included work is apparently showing up here for the first time? My assumption is that they're friends of the editors (matching my assumption that the other Barnstone is a brother to an editor), but I don't know.

That said, I delighted in the range of poems---all over the world and back thousands of years (the oldest poem, a 4000+ Egyptian work, was excellent in translation), with some perfect poppings up of classics ("Second Coming"), unexected but in retrospect obvious choices from classic authors ("The Conqueror Worm") and some excellent work I've never seen anthologized before by well known writers ("The Witch of Coos").

All in all, much enjoyed.


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050) Mary's Monster by Lita Judge, finished July 11

This is a biography in verse of Mary Shelley. Much of the "verse" is actually just prose with linebreaks, but the poems do occasionally rise to the name. The images are striking and often excellent, even if all the characters have the same face. That negative positivity aside, it's a terrific book. The prologue made we worry we were in for another YAy blehfest, but it didn't take long for the book to rise above that opener. And yes, sure, sometimes I couldn't tell a new character apart from the old characters, but overall, this is lovely---and it helped me finetune some of the detail's of Mary's life I sort of knew, made some astute observations (the book was published anonymously, drawing a nice line between author and creature), and taught me some things I did not know (it was Mary's stewardship that assured Percy's place in the firmament). Here's one of my favorite spreads:


At times Judge borrows from classic works of art. My favorite was Mary holding the creature ala another Mary holding her Son, but here's another:


Mary is a fascinating person, from her high ideals and stupid adolescence and impossibilities (don't worry---losing her virginity on her mother's grave is here although none of the sex is at all graphic) to her groundedness and grief and survival. Maybe her wild life is why she's starting to get to much attention (not so many gothic castles in Jane Austen's life story), but no question she deserves it.

But maybe we should all try reading another of her books? Y'think?
today


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2018-07-11

Unfinished book: Vivian Maier: A Photographer's Life and Afterlife by Pamela Bannos, professor of photography at Northwestern University

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[I'm not returning this book to the library yet, so it's feasible I'll go back and read the first three chapters and the chunks I skipped.]

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Let's start with a quotation from the author's note:

As I carefully tried to reconstruct Maier's scattered archive, my goal was always to recognize and give Maier agency within her own story. Here, as in my previous work, I sought to locate and reveal "hidden truths," in the process showing how changing stories and masked intentions can obscure history. In an age where truthfulness seems increasingly under attack, this objective seems all the more critical to me.

Essentially, since her discovery and death (which happened in that order, although almost simultaneously) this deliberately private woman has had her work, life, and legacy explained by a bunch of men with sufficient free time and funds to recreate her as a cultural phenomenon. Which she deserves, but this book took the time to really try to see her. The level of detectiving that went into this is impressive. THIS is the real first draft of history. (My complaints about the movie, which I liked, were valid and in fact not complainy enough. My enjoyment of the book holds steady.)

If you have any interest in Maier or her work, this is the right book to read. The story's gotten much more full, rich, and complicated since last you checked in on it.

2018-07-09

Jean-Claude Van Johnson

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I've never seen a Van Damme film so I have no idea but maybe this is typical of his work. But I doubt it.

The first thing to know is that old Van Damme has the face of old Buster Keaton. And this show makes use of that stoneface to terrific effect. This is a hilarious show shot like a serious drama at times and like a top-shelf action films at other times. I don't know if Van Damme ever had the chance to act like this film lets him, but here he is dramatic and comedic in rapid succession and simultaneously.

Who knew?

[I was going to go into more detail, but I'm not sure I care enough after all. Just watch it for yourself. But before you start, what's the only reason to own a weather-control device?]


Oh: And JCVJ the most brilliantly deadpan solution to a time paradox of all time.

2018-06-30

June 2018's Feature Filmery

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ELSEWHERE
Rushmore (1998)

This will never not be wonderful. How can humor keep working time after time after time. How can it get more effective? Those are remarkable facts, and I don't know how to learn from them. Guess I'll just keep watching.





ELSEWHERE
Thank You for Smoking (2005)

(Note: Peter Thiel and Elon Musk helped pay for this movie.)

(Note: I had no idea in 2005 we were still reading newspapers on screens that looked like scans of the paper. That can't be right, can it?)

I watched this because it is more than one person I trust's beloved film. It held up. It's solid satire and it refuses redemption. Sure, I wanted redemption, but if falseness is all you've ever been true to, how can I ask you to betray it?

HOME
Ant-Man (2015)

I missed much of the birthday party movie being a parent and working in the kitchen or putting the baby down, but I was stuck by something I hadn't realized before. Maybe it's just because I recently rewatched 2001 and Interstellar, but Ant-Man too has One of Those Scenes: 2001, Interstellar, Ant-Man.

Ant-Man's has the virtue of being the shortest.

(Insert your own unnecessary joke here.)

HOME
Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977)

Frankly, I was too harsh on the new Peanuts movie. Where it broke with the comics, it was in line with the films. Which, for all their charms (which I'll get too) are largely nonsense. Although Christmas and Halloween are masterpieces and several others range from good to very good, much of the animation just ... isn't that great. (For examples of mistakes, see "You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown"* or "Someday You'll Find Her, Charlie Brown" or "It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown.") That said, although this full-lengther has plenty of flaws (Peanuts should feasibly exist without parents; this world cannot; the geology/climate is utter nonsense; overreliance on the bully trope; Snoopy owns a motorcycle), it has redeeming qualities as well: The democracy shtick is funny. The throwbacks to earlier films (Thanksgiving, Christmas) largely pay off. Some of the art is beautiful (special shoutout to the backgrounds under the final credits).

That last point gets to one more thing I would like to say about Peanuts animation. Some people knock it for being cheap. That misses the point. All art works within constraints. The question is what is done within them. Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson did amazing things on their small budgets. And if all ten million films and tv specials weren't wonderful, so what? How many works of permanent beauty must we demand from one team?

They delivered a plurality and that is more than most of us will manage.

HOME
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

When I first saw this movie, I was disappointed it didn't live up to the philosophical and political promises of the trailer. It's been a while since I've seen the trailer, so I worry less about that now. Although it's still a good action movie, I do wish the camera was a little more stable. C'mon. Have confidence in your actors and stuntmen. There are a couple characters who were clearly meant to return who either have not, have just barely, or I don't remember. Bucky felt less random this time. Um. I guess that's it.

THEATER
Isle of Dogs (2018)

It's as beautiful as any Wes Anderson film and not loving it on first viewing doesn't really mean much (eg, The Royal Tenenbaums which is utterly wonderful), but I suspect this is not a great movie. Great elements? Yes. Certainly. But ... flawed.

For instance, not a single cat gets a role. They are just accessories for evil (not a typo). The interesting things attempted with language are a bit confused and contradictory---Fox's conversation with the wolf in Fantastic Mr Fox manages more with this theme in thirty seconds. Et cetera.

It's a wonderful film visually and auditorially, but not all the characters work and the story requires an utter love of dogs to function. I hope it improves on repeated views---I think the jokes will only get more wonderful---but the film as a whole? I kinda doubt it. Sad face.

[UPDATE: I just realized this may sound rather harsh. Only for a Wes Anderson film, friends. Only for a Wes Anderson film.]

THEATER
Incredibles 2 (2018)

Brad Bird has done it again. This film is one of the best superhero films ever made, just like its predecessor. And it builds smartly on what's come before---both The Incredibles and "Jack-Jack Attack." It's hard to say after one viewing if some elements are as strong as they should be (for instance, the transparency of the villain), but the plain-ol' superhero aspects are terrific. Fresh new powers, creative sequences---Frozone gets so much more (and cooler) stuff to do this go-round. New favorite character: Voyd. Not just because her power is cool and used in an awesome way but because she's so vulnerable and in need of a mentor---and then becomes a mentor-to-be at the end.

But the real wonder of the movie is, as before, the representation of a real family. The Parrs are as believable a fictional family as any other in film history. And their conflicts and worries and fears and reconciliations are, therefore, among the most meaningful in film history. Come for the explosions. Stay for family council.

HOME
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

It's loud and aggressive and violent. But it does a few things well. For instance, the farm scene (which Whedon had to fight for) might have been my favorite part of my first viewing. And while most of my complaints that time are still largely true, having seen Infinity War, this film holds together much better now. I see the connections more clearly which made the experience more pleasant.

The cg in that first battle is still jarringly bad however. I'm not walking that back.

It's interesting rewatching a film like this---a film I never really intended to rewatch---now that the rest of my family is catching up. Marvel really is planning these out well, weaving a tapestry. Which is a deliberate metaphor. The visuals also draw on the baroque and medieval illustration and other unexpected referenes. They don't want to waste our time.

THEATER
Incredibles 2 (2018)

I got to take the kids! Lucky Daddy!

The movie's great this go-round as well. My only complaint is a holdover: SPOILER ALERTS NOW

The baddy dismissing one victim as deserving unearned jailtime because he was surly and the pizza was cold. Weak. She should feel more justified. He should beat his girlfriend or something. (Also, as a nice irony, she accuses her brother of conflating superheroes and their parents while she does the same thing. It's some well formed antithesis.)

I still love Voyd. I figure Disney's salivating over the idea of a tv show featuring these new characters. When it happens, I hope it's done right.

THEATER
Ocean's 8 (2018)

Before anything else, after the movie, one of the (all positive) comments I heard from the exiting audience was this: "Omigosh! It's part of a series! I want to see all of them! It was SO GOOD!" So maybe our take comes from knowing the 2001 film so, so well. (Worth noting: Ocean's 12 and 13 are also pedestrian.)

Lady Steed and I spent the drive home talking about everything wrong with this movie. And there's a lot to complain about. To me, the #1 issue was the uninspired editing, but what demands the most immediate attention is the waste of an excellent cast. This cast is so good! And I probably won't remember a year from now that Cate Blanchette was even in it. How can you waste Cate Blanchette????

None of the characters have much to live from. With the exception of Helena Bonham Carter, not one of the leads has sufficient backstory to be interesting. To go back to Cate Blanchette for a moment (don't ask me her character's name, I have no idea), what has she got? A cool punk style and ... that's it? Mindy Kaling is totally and utterly wasted. Her line "Oui" is her only laughline in the film. How can you underuse a comedic talent like Mindy Kaling? Rihanna's character almost got an interesting backstory when her sister showed up, but the film blew that as well.

The problem is the writing, mostly, but also costuming and etc. When you have that many characters, you have to make them individuals instantly. Rusty has food. Bernie Mac smiles. The computer guy has tics. The Mormon twins have sibling rivalry. Ocean's 8 didn't do this nearly as well.

The music and editing should work hand in hand. They only occasionally remember that they are what make an Ocean's movie sing.

I could go on. Our list is MUCH longer than just the above.

For instance! (Sorry, not stopping.) The villain in 2001 was a casino. Easy to root against. Here? A jeweler. I don't root for jewelers, but they're no casinos. (Plus: they're girls so they have to steal jewels? Come on.) Not to mention they Big Surprise at the end (a cheat and a yawn) that they also robbed nations of their art. Jewels are morally ambiguous, sure, but 8 fails to make that work. Why couldn't they be Nazi jewels? At least that laziness would have worked in favor of your protagonists. Sigh.

And the James Corden character at the end---probably the best-written character and most interesting per minute, but a) why is he a man? and b) he shows up when the movie told it was over---then it wasn't over---it just kept going. And it's asking a lot of even the best-written character in the film to carry a film that's supposed to be over just so you can have a couple unnecessary twists at the end.

Another thing that made 2001 such a success was unexpected choices like having these newly-rich cans unable to spend a penny of their ill-gotten gains. It's little choices like that that reveal the bold hand of an artist at the wheel.

In the end, what we have here is the failure of competence. Nothing is a disaster, but nothing's that impressive either. And pulling off perfection ala 2001 ain't easy to do. It's just sad to see it fall so very, very flat.

HOME
Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Yep. We were right. Except for the lazy Danny/Rusty/Linus/Tess bit of misdirection, this is pretty much a perfect film. Everything works.

It's just ... smart. And that's what Ocean's 8 lacks.








Previous films watched


2018
jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2018-06-28

Proud Daddy

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The Big O just completed what will, in all likelihood, be his last-ever Little League game (he's going on a weeklong backcountry backpacking trip and missing the rest of the All-Star Tournament; if they win, he could be back for the NorCals then on to the West and the Little League World Series!). He pitched great. Eight up eight down, then a comebacker that hurt his catching hand. After four more outs (and no additional runners), he was moved to right field to give his bruised hand a break.

In the first inning, he took a bases-loaded ball four to walk in the first (and only necessary) run. The mercy rule ended the game halfway through the fifth inning, 14–0.

(He did bat once, after his injury, and his coach had him lay down his first bunt of the year. He almost beat the throw, but not quite.)

I was thinking about it, and since the post-season began, the Big O's pitching has been exemplary. The post-season is the three-game series to win his league, the Tournament of Champions, and the all-star series. The first series his team went 2–1; the second, 2–1; this one, so far, 3–1. In games O has started, his teams have gone 7–1. When he did not pitch, they were 0–2. Wow.

Keep it alive, kids! He'll be back all healed and filthy in just one week!

As an addendum, some words from his coach.

Not the top player in any tool, but in the 90th percentile on all of them.
A curveball no player on any team can see.
By far the best overall player in the league.
A really good kid.

2018-05-31

May 2018's Feature Filmery

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ELSEWHERE
Boy and the World (2013)

I think this movie was even better the second time. I was a tad worried that, knowing the ending, would make the film a bit sloggy, but not so! The beauty and charm hold off, and knowing that it's a film about time, gave me much more to think about as the movie proceeded. Whether, ultimately, it is a recursion or a memory doesn't lessen its inherent value.


HOME
The Little Mermaid (1989)

I think more than twenty years have passed since I last saw The Little Mermaid. Doesn't mean I don't still know all the words to the songs, of course. Except that first one. No memory of that song.

The film holds up better than I expected. It's also curiously liminal---it's easy to see how the DNA of the early Disney films is passing through Ariel on its way to the more recent movies.

Also, I remember reading a newspaper column by Herb somebody back in the day, about how the movie was designed for kids who all saw themselves in Ariel, whereas he saw himself in Triton. I've long awaited the time this was my experience.

And now it is.

The most surprising aspect to this watching was that both Ariel and Triton are, though deeply flawed, easy to understand. And Triton in particular is a good father. Yes, he loses his temper etc etc but he's conflicted about his failures and agonizes over how to parent better. That's the best I can do too.

ELSEWHERE
William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996)

I've taught freshmen my whole career and so I've seen this movie at least once every year since 2007-8 (and only missed one year since 2005-6). Next year I'm not teaching freshmen ... and I'm going to miss it. I really love this film. I've seen it at least twenty times. So I suspect I'm pretty qualified when I say: it holds up to repeat viewings.


HOME
My Dinner with Andre (1981)

I only became of this movie through Community---that episode is years old now is years old now, and we're only now just watching it. (This Key & Peele sketch is also years old.)

Anyway, it is as advertized---except for Wallace Shawn coming to and leaving from the restaurant over credits, this is one long restaurant conversation. The most interesting thing visually was what was happening just behind them---which was waiters walking past or the presence/absence of Andre's reflection depending on the angle. Even the food was sadly neglected.

But that's not the point. The point is the conversastion. Which is compelling, but it spends the first hour being compelling not because it is conversation but because Andre is spinning some weeeird stories. That gives the basis for later conversation, but it's a pretty long set-up. Also, we never learn just why they met in the first place. Regardless, some moving and challenging things come out of the conversation at the end, and I can see how watching this movie two or three times could really affect your thinking on many topics---probably, though not necessarily, for the better.

I'm glad this movie exists. Rare is the person I will push it upon.

(Incidentally, the bluray's apparently been cleaned up but Criterion's dvd is super grainy with sudden mid-take lighting changes.)

ELSEWHERE
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Knowing what I was in for this time, I was much better able to enjoy the film. Parts that had seemed interminable the first go-round did not feel that was at all the second time. And honestly, the whole thing was just more compelling. I don't love it, but I would watch it again, certainly.



ELSEWHERE
Get Out (2017)

Like all good movies, rewatching is a new experience. This view, the experience was one of uncovering layers and complexities that hadn't been visible the first time around. Which, in a way, moved me from Chris's perspective to the Armitages'. Not that I suddenly became a coconspirator, but that I was able to see through them from the beginning.

Now that it's been pointed out to me that Catherine Keener is also in Being John Malkovich, I really have to rewatch that movie. I'm told the similarities between it and Get Out are more than even I remember.

ELSEWHERE
Romeo Is Bleeding (2015)

This is the first time I've seen it since its premiere, and it holds up. It may not be as IMMEDIATE as it is not hours old and I'm not sitting with family of the deceased, but it's still terrific. First time I've been able to show it to students. I hope it hit them more than they, most of them, were willing to admit....



ELSEWHERE
Interstellar (2014)

I don't know if it was the crap speakers I was using, but the dialogue is way too difficult to understand in this film. And it matters. More than it did in its grandpa, 2001. That said, great movie. I think I like it better as a response to grandpa (THEY are US) than in isolation. Wish I'd seen it on IMAX....




ELSEWHERE
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

First time with this movie! Certainly some parts have not aged well and people who hate earnest stuff will never stop hating this movie, but overall, I liked it. It's a bit weird how much Jo looks like photos of my mom in high school, but that only distracts me occasionally. There's a great scene which I'm going to start showing as part of my Fences---I guess you could call it the son's response to the father's rant.

But people aren't wrong when they say the real stars of the show are Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. I didn't realize it until the very end, but as Tracy gives his final monologue in a completely naturalistic way, the reason it's a powerful moment in film is because of Katherine Hepburn's acting in the middle distance. She's the emotional core of the scene that forms the film's emotional core. It's remarkable.

ELSEWHERE
Mulan (1998)

I haven't seen this movie since it was young, and it didn't make a good impression on me at the time. I still don't care for the music (not even the suddenly-80s synth warrior-suiting-up moment or 98°'s final hurrah), and the list of problems the film has is ... long. Here are a few of the big, recurring ones:
humor, not funny
humor, inappropriate
incoherent sense of scale
more generally, the balance of cartoon logic with attempted realism
That said, the movie's major emotional marks hit for me. Especially the father/daughter moments at the beginning and end. So I guess it's not so bad.

One curious thing about the film now (I'm not sure what I thought about this back in the 20th century) is the mix of hand-drawn and computer. I mean---I know the movie had no cels and so, in a way, it was all CGI, but bits and pieces are clearly computer modeled and executed. I'm not judging the balance from a 2018 perspective, but, historically speaking, it is certainly interesting.

ELSEWHERE
WALL·E (2008)

Sweet and lovely and simple. I know it cost almost $200 million to make and a gazillion man- and 'puter-hours, but it works because it is sweet and lovely and simple.

And, like Interstellar, it's a beautiful response to 2001 arguing that we can be something wonderful now.

On the other hand, optimistic closing-credits sequence notwithstanding, will those Axiom people really save the Earth? That might be so optimistic it breaks even this glorified reality. But: we are left with hope. And that's all that's ever lit the way.

ELSEWHERE
The Stepford Wives (1975)

Lady Steed and I saw this film shortly after we were married, lying in bed in our crummy first apartment, watching it on the little tv/vcr combo she'd brought into our marriage.

The most terrifying moment of the movie for me---the most lasting horror---were the breasts at the end. More than anything else, that made me question my own goodness, made me tremble in the thought that I too might be a Stepford husband, willing to trade in all that is good and wonderful for something shallow and agreeable.

The notion's haunted me ever since. This is the first time I've seen the movie sense, and although I am older and more comfortable in my own soul, it's still effective. We should all be asked such uncomfortable questions. We, none of us, should be satisfied with our own goodness.

(Also, I love those opening credits. So much.)

HOME
The Andromeda Strain (1971)

Read the book, watch the movie. The latter part wouldn't have happened if, in reading about the film, it wasn't made to sound like a forgotten masterpiece. And it does hold up well. A very stylish movie, for one thing. And its influences make sense. Such deep focus! (The director edited Citizen Kane.) Cool design and effects! (The effects chief worked on 2001.) But it also has its own distinct personality, deriving from the excellent actors playing the four scientists (notably Kate Reid) and the use of split screens. It's a cool movie.

Lady Steed, having not read the book, was unprepared for the baby and thus distressed by its every appearance---and by its absence.

(One funny thing: the movie's rated G but it says right in the advertising maybe it shouldn't be. And the fact that this movie was rated G just goes to show how weird and changeable the ratings system is.)

For those who don't know, a satellite comes down infected with a deadly disease from elsewhere. Although science fiction, it's intended to be fully plausible---most of the tech was either new or nearby. And the movie does hold up. It's easy to see how it affected the films that followed, even if it is not as well remembered today as others. Worth finding.

HOME
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

This is charming, but it's not hard to tell that it was a cheap flick to build funds for the floundering Disney company. Does't mean I don't like it! Especially the Sleepy Hollow half. Although: I'll take weasels any day. For sure.






HOME
The Beguiled (2017)

I think my first awareness of this movie was driving past a theater with that, erm, beguiling poster. I ended up driving past it several times, finally figured out the title, then started reading about it. Wasn't able to see it until now, however. Worth the wait.

Ghostless Southern Gothic done right. I just watched the trailer for the 1971 adaptation to try and get a sense of how it would work from the male's perspective and ... pretty sure this is a better movie.

Cinematography and staging a wonderfully heightened; the acting is reasonably naturalistic; the world is enfolding.

I have not seen enough of Sofia Coppola's movies. (One I loved, one I found overrated, this is the third.)

ELSEWHERE
Spirited Away (2001)

This is still a beautiful film. And so compelling I can't distract myself for long from the primary action in order to enjoy all the details Miyazaki buried throughout. It's a very generous film. It always has more to give.






ELSEWHERE
The Iron Giant (1999)

Never can tell how a film will hit you on any given day. If I remember correctly, last time I was concerned because I wasn't as affected as usual. This time---even with the dvd glitching and causing me stress for the rest of the audience---I was almost overwhelmed for pretty much the entire final act.

What a movie!

How long till Incredibles 2 comes out---?


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