Not so many movies in September 2018


Murder by Death (1976)

First, it's remarkable how closely Clue follows this template and that I can't remember having heard of them together before. I found the film because it's a Neil Simon I hadn't heard before and he, well, he just died.

The gimmick is the worlds greatest detectives---a Sam Spade, a British Nick & Nora, a Miss Marples, a Hercule Poirot, a Charlie Chan---are pulled together into a gloomy country estate and there ends up being a murder to be solved. The greatest thing about this movie has to be its cast: David Niven, Alec Guiness, Maggie Smith, Elsa Lanchester---it goes on and on. Peter Sellers as the Chinese detective is grating now, but it makes some logical sense as, I imagine, Charlie Chan was probably always done in yellowface. Though I'm not sure the movie is really mocking that....

Some very funny moments, a very meta ending, a scene that lets Guiness shine---worth watching once, to be sure. I doubt I'll feel much need to revisit it.

The Little Hours (2017)

First, I know very little about the Decameron. Mostly that it exists and when it came to exist and how niftily early that date is. I have no idea how this movie is as an adaptation.

Second, although I know little about 1970s Italian exploitation films, I could see the references starting right from the opening credits. And so the eventual sex and witchery should not have surprised me. Probably it would not have earlier in the film, but the deadpan, modern comedic phrasing of the film, pushed me far away from exploitation expectations.

The trailer, in other words, is honest.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) x2

This is a movie I love and have seen many times---though not recently, and not since Sullivan's Travels. So it was fun to see with that in mind and notice echoes such as the theater scene.

One nice thing about watching it twice back to back* was, for viewing two, now all the music was back in my head and I could sing along.

Other small observations and questions:

What's with all the butterflies?

I'd noticed the Greek-ruins column before, but in the restaurant, there is a Greek bust. Homer?

When the cyclops says the word "psychology," he emphasizes it in a way to make one imagine he might be about to say cyclops. I don't think I'd noticed that before.

The clips of movie they see in the theater feel so familiar to me now I was sure I had seen the film. Not so.

Such a great movie.

The Lost Express (1925)

I read about Helen Holmes and the The Hazards of Helen series in The New Yorker and I've been meaning to check her out ever since.

The plot was about a half-baked as expected (and some weird cultural things that have changed a bit in the last century), but I'm only disappointed that this feature did not include anything truly crazy/amazing in the stunts department. C'mon, Helen!

A Boy and His Dog (1975)

This movie made a splash in science-fiction circles a bit before I was born, but most folks don't remember it anymore---like Andromeda Strain it was lost in the wave of films that followed over the next ten years (Star Wars, E.T., Mad Max, etc). These days, I think, those who have heard of it would think: weird, (I mean, Harlan Ellison so obviously weird), weird sex, weird violence, postapocalyptic, too weird.

I'm basing this on what my impression is. Which largely comes from the back of VHS boxes.

They were pretty much telling the truth.

We're in a post-nuclear desert. People are scrounging about looking for canned food to survive on and women to rape to death: "Hell! They didn't have to cut her! She could have been used two or three more times!"

If you weren't already expecting ugliness, you should now.

The film offers two plots. The first is a classic love story: they fight and bicker but rely on one another and sacrifice all else for each other. That's the boy and his dog---a hyperintelligent "police dog." The second is another type of love story, a redemption story. Boy meets girl who shows him a new sort of life and together they make that life. This story is boy and actual girl.

They can't both end happily ever after.

Art + Belief (2019?)

We went to the New Parkway which had been rented out by the Bay Area Mormon Arts Council to see the nearly-done version of this film submitted to Sundance. It was much more complete than the version we had seen before, but it also lost a few of the nuances I liked.

(Incidentally, I haven't decided whether or not to reach out, but Nathan Florence? Matt Black? if you see this, the narration needs an edit. I would be willing to volunteer my time. If you haven't heard from me yet it's because I don't know your timeline and I'm busy and I just haven't decided if I can commit. [Or I've lost track of time and am on to other things.] But I'm good at this. I could help.)

Anyway, the turnout was good, the film was good. I really hope that it becomes something Mormon artists watch and share with each other. We need to stop believing, each of us, that we are the first and that there is no tradition and that we have to blaze a new trail alone. I hope this film helps Mormon artists find their community.

Which is one of the reasons, I think, the Q&A featured multiple questions about artistic women of the time. We are all hungry to know that we are not alone, that others have come before. This film can be that. Hopefully it can be that for many.

One Man's Treasure (2009)

Since Son2 and I watched this in January, he showed it to Son3 and tonight they showed it to Son1. Although it is a bit cheesy, sure, it's a fun ride and a fair look at being a missionary that's less likely to traumatize, say, than, say, this.

The bits that I curl a nostril at don't matter so much. The boys like it and the elders and sisters are real people and this is something worth doing someday. That's enough.

Not every movie has to move the artform forward.

Previous films watched

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







Hella comics and the biggest Mormon book ... ever?


074) My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris, finished August 29

Drawn entirely in ballpoint pens (Bic-style) with the occasional colored pencil and seemingly on notebook paper complete with blue lines and binderholes and metal coiling, this is supposed to be a sequence of notebooks by an elementary-school girl. She's a helluvanartist for her age, let me say.

This is multilayered comics on the level of Chris Ware or Duncan the Wonder Dog. Although it begs us to ask how autobiographical it is, I'll avoid that topic. There's enough without it. We have monster movies/magazines; we have childhood cruelty; we have mob violence; we have all kinds of sex; we have family dynamics; we have the Holocaust; we have a mysterious murder; we have questions of sexuality; we have human duality; we have fine art---

All these pieces click together nicely. It might be hard to imagine all those things coming together without becoming either maudlin or oppressive, but no: Ferris shows real skill in balancing all this stuff. It's a heavy read, but not at all unpleasant. The only awful thing about it is the likely wait we have in front of us before the story will continue.

two weeks or so


075) The Customer Is Always Wrong by Mimi Pond, finished August 30

Another enormous comic book! This one is a much quicker read, but it's remarkable how much they have in common. This takes place in the late Seventies rather than the late Sixties, but Madge is about ten years older than Karen, so I suppose they're still contemporaries.

We're in a different American city now (Oakland rather than Chicago) but we still get to see much of the seedy underbelly---only now we're a bit more involved as our protagonist is an adult.

Madge is working at a cafe, saving her money so she can move to New York and pursue her dreams of being a cartoonist. Her boss is Lazlo (imagine Scott McCloud in a trilby), a well meaning would-be poet. Everyone is doing alcohol and/or coke and/or speed and/or "Persian" and/or mj and/or tobacco and/or heroin and/or methodone etc etc etc. It's not a life I'm interested in, but Pond's look is kind without being romantic and truthful without being vindictive.

Although it's born of her actual experiences, Pond's ficionalization is very satisfying as fiction. The story is well organized and structured. It's a great piece of writing and it works well as a novel.
two days


076) Bandette: Stealers Keepers! by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, finished August 30

This picks up where volume one dropped off and provides a satisfying conclusion. There is a third volume, but it seems likely that it will take a new direction. I hope so as this volume, while wonderful, couldn't match the bright delight of newness we encountered in volume one.

All I really really want to do now is show my kids Charade....


077) You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld, finished September 6
078) Baking With Kafka by Tom Gauld, finished September 7
079) Mooncop by Tom Gauld, finished September 7
080) Goliath by Tom Gauld, finished September 7

The first two volumes are collections of his short comics, mostly originally published in the Guardian as part of his literary series. They're good. They have the heightened starkness of Jason and the deadpan intelligence of Edward Gorey.

The latter two are booklength narratives that excel in quiet. Silence is one of the great powers of comics, and Gauld has almost weaponized it. These odes to loneliness, to being an outsider, to calm consideration---they're peaceful even when they are wrought.

I'm fond of his work.
evening, day, afternoon, afternoon (respectively


081) Educated by Tara Westover, finished September 12

I can't think of a "Mormon book" that's made this big of a splash. Maybe ever. Amazon's top recommendation? President Obama gave it a recommendation? That never happened to Scholar of Moab.... So I suppose I was in some sense obliged to pick it up. But if Lynsey hadn't read it as part of an online book club, I would have just kept waiting for it to show up in a Little Free Library.

I think my favorite aspect of the book is how Westover made transparent her efforts to be accurate in writing the story of her childhood onward. Footnotes that lay out the variances in different character's memories give the book an honest sheen that most memoirs simply do not have for me.

One of my instinctive reactions is similar to how I reacted to Elna Baker's memoir: I'm frustrated by how a character who is growing seems to have no access to intelligent faithful Mormons in their moments of need. At BYU (and in Manhattan) there are numerous concourses of such people, yet they're just not there. In Baker's case, she seemed to avoid Mormons when she was shaky; Westover, on the other hand, having had such a "conservative" upbringing had already drawn her to people who were likely to tell her unhelpful things. Given the ties she had to cut, however, it's hard to imagine there were many pathways where the Church did not become collateral damage.

The writing itself is simple, clean, and readable. I don't know how natural it is for her to write this way, but she and her team put together some wonderful prose.

On a personal note, this book hit close to home. I don't know anyone quite like her family, but she's local to me. Franklin County is next door to Bear Lake County---the Bear River runs right past her homestead. The nearest town was the same town Napoleon Dynamite lives in (although Westover kindly refers to it by a historical name), and we all know how much I identify with that bit of Idahoiana.

The greatest bit of Idaho she accomplishes, however, is the dialect. I often want to write Idaho, but I can't get the words to sound right. Tara Westover nails it. That's just how my family talks.

It's also heartbreaking to see how cut off our corner of Idaho is from the rest of the world. My own hometown, when I enter it, looks essentially identical to its appearance when I left, thirty-one years ago. A healthy town changes in three decades. You feel nostalgia for what was. My nostalgia is for what does not have the economic health to grow and change. Although I never met any hardcore fans of the apocalypse and was never treated by homeopathics, it fits; it makes sense.

So I think my primary feeling is one of shared tragedy, although mine is far less violent. And I thank her for sharing.
about two weeks