2018 February Feature Filmery


The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

I was enthralled with the trailer when it came out---largely because of the Woody Harrelson's character (who was my single favorite part of the film; I would watch his movie twice)---then forgot all about it. This is, the words of a seventeen-year-old student of mind, too real. It's too much real about being seventeen. It's a lot of real. And while it's not my real, I felt more connected to it than, say Boyhood or Dazed and Confused. So I guess I like Kelly Fremon Craig more than Linkletter? Maybe. At least when it comes to kids. Or I just empathize more with this hero's failures. Who knows.

Help! (1965)

My kids had this one when I got home. I didn't intend to watch it with them but ... it's really good. The more I see it, the more convinced I am its satirical critique of late-stage British colonialism is ... just great. Some of the race stuff is embraced but enough of it is undercut--- I'm about ready to write a paper about how ahead of its time it is in terms of such things. I think it's using the tools of, for instance, what we now call whitewashing to mock it. Not the words they would have used at the time, of course, but I have evidence. In other news, the movie is filled with great shots (especially in the musical sequences), and, I just noticed for the first time that much of the score is orchestrations of older Beatles song. Too bad that stuff's not on a cd somewhere. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

The Incredibles (2004)

Unquestionably one of the greatest s-uperhero movies. Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man moveis came first (both of which are good and one of which is excellent) and the okay X-Men movies had started, but Batman Begins was a year away and Iron Man was four years off still. This, imho, is still the standard. There have been excellent entries to the genre since 2004, but nothing inarguably superior. Long live the Incredibles.

Love & Friendship (2016) x2

This movie is brilliant. It shines with bright humor and charm and even the wicked characters are delightful. I don't know what percentage of the sentences were lifted from Lady Susan, but they are all exquisitely Austenian. If you need a laugh, watch this. If you want a bigger laugh, watch it twice.

Wonderstruck (2017)

Todd Haynes, methinks, should not direct children. Also, there are a goodly number of dumb flaws (doors left unlocked, contact left unmade) that could have been explained without clunk. If it had just been me and my wife watching this, I would have called it a waste of time. But we watched it with our 14yrold and I think it was a great push toward artistic film for him. He thought it was pretty great. And I don't mean to knock the film, but it really felt like Haynes spent the entire process congratulating himself for making a masterpiece. It was good and it was ambitious, but it would have done well to loosen up a bit, take itself a bit less seriously. And it was slooowwww until the leads finally met. Cut twenty-plus minutes and breathe a bit more and you've got quite the movie on your hands.

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)

I missed the middle of the film when I was out picking up a kid from baseball practice, but I saw enough to stand by my decade-and-a-half-old assessment: it's funny. We were going through old dvds and wondered why we even bought this one doubting it could be all that great, but the kids saw it and wanted to watch it and we finally let them. Lady Steed, I assumed, skipped a couple bits in the middle, but this is a pretty funny movie. Dumb? Yes. Ridiculous? Yes. Absurd? Yep. Stupid? Sure, but funny. Not a movie any right-minded critic could promote, but it's funny with bits of hilarity. And even when it's merely stupid, it's an inspired stupidity. I'm not ashamed.

Lady Bird (2017)

Saoirse Ronan is amazing in this film. She's so great. She's 100% American and absolutely a high-school student. Next, Greta Gerwig. I've been a fan for a while, but watching a show that is entirely hers? Well, I can't wait for the next one. Anyway, this is one of the finest lifeslices I've seen in a while. The kids, the parents, the connections. And hey---2002 was pretty much still the '90s, wasn't it? Without 9/11 would we even be able to tell the difference? Sorry, I let the screener start over and so I'm watching instead of analyzing or anything intelligent like that. Also, I don't feel like risking getting too personal. Now and then I realize I have some ghosts from high school still haunting me. But it's nice to see them turned into art.

Sylvio (2017)

Twenty minutes into Lady Bird, we switched over to watching the last half of Sylvio, begun the night before. And:

Post-irony. If you're looking for it, here it is. A guy in a gorilla suit. That's the whole movie. But it finds an honest and beautiful sincerity. By the end of the movie, all the irony is washed away.

I thought the mask was just a plastic mold, but I'm wondering if it wasn't actually clay. Sylvio's stoic demeanor seemed to take on real pathos at the end, but maybe that was just lighting ... or making me believe.

I know it didn't start with Napoleon Dynamite (exhibit a), but I think Napoleon's success made it possible to see a home for these outsider, offbeat characters living in a world slightly out-of-sync with our own, behind chronologically and yet entirely now, to be the protagonists of great movies. You know. Although it looks more like something in the Oscar-bait tradition, I think Lady Bird just might qualify as one of these characters as well. She's much closer to reality-reality, but that's a bit misleading. Sylvio may seem farther from our world, but his fictionality is the roadway through our defenses. The same is true of Lady Bird. Her angle of attack is just a little less absurd. Anyway. Coupla good movies here....

Iron Man (2008)

Haven't seen it since theaters ten years ago. It holds up pretty well. All the Marvel DNA is there. Some things (post-credits bits) have been finetuned, and it's surprising how much the effects have already aged---at moments I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie---but it's still a good ride. Amazing how much this film has spawned in just ten years....

Toy Story (1995)

The younger boys claimed not to remember this film. And they didn't. So instead of some other classic film, tonight we watched this one. It's a great film. Buddy movie, yes, but at times horror, heist---it does it all. I'm still sad I missed it in theaters. (It came out when I was in the MTC.) Even though the animation has aged, this is a film for the ages.

Chan Is Missing (1982)

This is cinema verite to the max. These sets are clearly not sets---they're real homes and offices. And that reality makes it possible to forget, for long stretches, that this is fiction. It feels so real. This is Chinatown, circa 1980. I don't think I've seen a Wayne Wang film before, and I don't know if this is typical of his work, but the best comparison I can make is to Robert Altman. Natural, flowing dialogue, folks talking over each other, etc etc. I also like the noir effects---voiceover, chiaroscuro, paranoia. And I like the pure mystery. Like City of Glass or Mr. White's Confession or The Colorado Kid, mystery in Chan Is Missing isn't something to be defeated. Mystery is its own reason. And, done well, I find that very satisfying.

Black Panther (2018)

I can't say much about this movie that hasn't been said, and I don't know that anything I can say is that important. So just a few things I haven't heard said just this way. 1) It's nice to see someone paying attention to details. Even the subtitle font was intentional. (And not Papyrus!) 2) I really wanted to see this opening weekend with an appreciative African-American audience. I wish I had. 3) I know this is fantasy and wish-fulfillment, but I felt the desire for this world pouring from the screen. I can't imagine what it's like to either take that dream back into the sunlight---or to watch it dissipate there. 4) Kinda cool to see scenes in both Oakland and Pusan.

Pom Poko (1994)

Watching a Ghibli film for the first time is always exciting. Although I knew the gist of this one's plot, I didn't expect the documentary feel or the voiceover or runtime (about two hours). What I did expect was to be shown something unexpected. The elements of the unexpected that fit more into my expected unexpecteds include the plurality of protagonists, the whimsy, the generous imagery, the surreality, and weird Japanese stuff you would never see in an American movie like shape-shifting scrota. Fitting into simply expected, put the strong environmental message, though, frankly, it's rather a downer. For all the dancing and fun the film ends on, it's not exactly a Hurrah, humans! sort of conclusion.

The film automatically started with the dub, so that's what we watched. It was fine, but I suspect that much of the film's humor and nuance was lost. I'm not saying the subtitles would be that much better, but a film this grounded in its own culture will always lose something. That so much remains just goes to show how rich the film is.

Previous films watched

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







Consumption and Creation


*walk to podium*
*eat one into microphone*

So once upon a time there was a guy named Jonah who didn’t want to be a missionary so he hopped on a boat and then into the ocean where a fish swallowed him up and then spat him back out so he went ahead and did the missionary thing and was a super successful one which irritated him so he went and sat in the sun and complained to God that he is waaaay too merciful and these people should have just been destroyed.

Man. SunChips are really good. I really like them. How in the world do they make something so tasty? Let’s check out the ingredients, shall we?

*read the first couple*

One thing you’ll notice as we go through the list is that SunChips no longer use any pig enzymes. Not that it ever said “pig” on the package—I think it fell under “Natural Flavors.”

*read the rest*

Pretty good list.

*eat another chip*

Now one thing about everything on this list? Dead. Even the cheese, if we’re talking its microorganisms. Dead corn, dead wheat, dead parsley. All dead.

Or look at what I’m wearing. This shirt is a cotton/poly blend. The cotton died a few years ago. Polyester is made of oil, which is just cotton that died a few million years ago. And my pants are dead hemp. Talk to Rob and John if you want to know more about hemp. He’s the expert.

The point is: we can’t live without the dead. There is no life without consuming the dead. And there’s nothing to consume without creation. And everything created will die. Even these larger molecules we’re made of are just the viscera of exploded stars.

Anyway. Jonah.

He’s pouting and says,

C’mon, God. This is why I didn’t want to come. You’re always forgiving people who should be destroyed. What kind of God are you, anyway?

So Jonah goes off to sulk. But the spot he picks is hot and sunny and he’s probably eating whatever awful substitute people had for SunChips 3000 years ago and he is not comfortable.

While he’s sitting there, God grows a tree over him which, depending on the translation, either had nice broad leaves or a giant gourd to block the sun. The gourd’s funnier, so we’re going with that.

The tree’s blocking the sun with this giant gourd, and Jonah starts feeling more comfortable, maybe even happy. Then God sends a worm which kills the tree and shrivels the gourd and there’s Jonah, back in the hot sun and mis er a ble.

Why are you angry about the tree, Jonah?

Why shouldn’t I be angry? I should just die, that’s what I should do.

Jonah. You didn’t plant this tree or water it. It was my tree. And if I can change my mind about a tree, why can’t I change my mind about a hundred twenty thousand people who don’t know right from wrong? To say nothing of all their innocent cattle.

That’s really what God says. Innocent people, innocent cows.

But there’s precedent for this concern. When God covenanted with Noah not to flood the earth again, he didn’t just covenant with Noah. He covenanted with every living creature. All flesh he had created, he covenanted with.

As Latter-day Saints, we believe that Jesus was the one who “did” creation. He created this world. And, with our creator’s death, we are recreated.

*point to sacrament*

There, under that cloth, lies our Savior’s body, broken and blessed. We have consumed it. And thus we live.

This world we’ve been given is complex and beautiful. And that complexity and beauty is based on everything that comes before.

*hold up SunChips*

Dead wheat, dead corn, dead parsley.

The snack-science geniuses who invented SunChips had, as raw materials, the dead.

We only live by eating the dead.

We will only live again by eating his body and drinking his blood.

But God made a covenant with all living things that never more will there be a flood to destroy the earth. What can we learn from that?

Hang on.

You know that scripture in the D&C that is sometimes quoted by people who, I assume, are more ignorant than wicked, to prove that we can just destroy everything and it’s cool?

For the earth is full,
and there is enough and to spare;
yea, I prepared all things,
and have given unto the children of men
to be agents unto themselves.

The earth is full and there is enough and to spare.

But: do you know what comes before this verse? After?

I, the Lord … built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.

And it is my purpose to provide for my saints …

But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.

That’s what comes before. And here’s what comes after:

(so there’s enough and to spare and we are agents unto ourselves)

Therefore, if any [of you] shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not … unto the poor and the needy, [you] shall, with the wicked, lift up [your] eyes in hell, being in torment.

That’s pretty serious. I mean—we don’t even believe in hell! and yet God will send you there if the enough and to spare is not taken from the rich and given to the poor. There is enough and to spare only when our consumption is wise.

Remember what the Earth says, in Enoch’s vision?

Wo, wo is me, the mother of men;
I am pained, I am weary,
because of the wickedness of my children.

To consume is to live, and we cannot consume without killing. But there is enough and to spare for us and the poor and the innocent cattle and every living thing, if we use our agency to care for this world as her creator cares for us—if we do not kill more than is necessary for us to live.

Can I talk about Shakespeare for a moment?

This week, it was revealed that Shakespeare lifted topics and even some wording from a guy named George North, a guy who doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Richard III’s famous winter-of-our-discontent soliloquy is a riff on something this North guy wrote.

But this shouldn’t shock us, of course. Shakespeare also stole from Plutarch and Holinshed—both dead. And we all steal from Shakespeare. I mean, c’mon, even Disney eats the dead. The Lion King is Hamlet and even a dummy like Gaston can quote Macbeth.

We create from matter unorganized.

Dead wheat, dead corn, dead parsley.

For most of the two weeks I was preparing this talk, I was just keeping my eyes open, trying to see the relationship between consumption and creation in the world around me.

And this talk is created out of what I’ve consumed.

Which includes the Old Testament,
the New Testament,
the Doctrine and Covenants,
the Pearl of Great Price,
three Shakespeare plays,
two Disney movies,
and this delicious bag of chips that’s been sitting in our car for over a month, presumably just waiting for the opportunity to become an object lesson.

Then I sat down and figured out how to turn what I had consumed into something new ‖ and beautiful.

We create from matter unorganized.

Dead wheat, dead corn, dead parsley.

We only live by eating the dead.

*point to sacrament table*

We only live again by eating his body and drinking his blood.

The body and blood of he who created us.

Worms may destroy this body,
yet in my flesh
                           shall I see God.
O death, where is thy sting?

I believe absolutely that we were put on this earth to recognize our dead with gratitude, and to turn them into something new ‖ and beautiful.

And that we were put on this earth to accept our Savior’s death and thus become, ourselves, something new ‖ and beautiful.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen.

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