April Movies Intentions, corrupted by kids


My Life as a Zucchini (2016)

The baby and I watched this together while the big kids watched Iron Man.

This is a small movie---only an hour long and a constrained set of characters and places. But the story of this orphaned boy's finding of a new family had no shortage of depth. The bully character kept surprising me. I could never quite nail him down---because he was not any of the cliches I kept thinking he might be.

Even the form of animation keeps everything close and intimate.

This is the last of its year's Academy Award nominees that I had not seen and I have to say---strong year! I think my favorite is Red Turtle, but all are excellent.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

I can't remember if this one or 3 is supposed to be the bad one, but I didn't think this was so bad. I like Sam Rockwell, and they wrote him comically---about 60% of his dialogue was We Anderson enough I became shocked I've never seen Sam Rockwell in a Wes Anderson film (and some lines seemed like they were aping Edgar Write---which he also hasn't done) (at least he's been in a couple Jared and Jerusha Hess movies). And Mickey Rourke does a killer job being a supervillain Russian Mickey Rourke.

It was, I'll admit, watching a Marvel movie for the first time. But I'm still not planning on watching ALL the Marvel movies as the kids try and fit them all in this week.

(They talked Grandma out of her Disney+ password so the toddler could watch Frozen II. Which she then did, before they started Iron Man and she came to watch My Life as a Zucchini with me [see above]. But they did execute the alleged purpose as well, as you can see below.)

Iron Man Three (2013)

I love how the end credits are like the opening credits to an 80s tv show.

Thematically, it's a bit confused. Is it about Tony being able to win without the suit? Or is it about Tony winning because he has hella suits? I'm not sure.

I enjoyed it. I don't see a need to see it again. It did explain something from future movies, but it also confused me how certain parts of future movies fit together.

But me, I don't need to know.

That said, the kids are gonna keep streaming Marvel flick after Marvel flick after Marvel flick.

At the very least, I'll be hearing them from the next room.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

I've missed most of the Great Marvel Marathon of 2020 because I've been wearing headphones and finishing the draft of a screenplay. I got it off to my potential cowriter in time today to pick up Guardians 2 during the opening credits. I was bummed to miss #1, but I think this movie is even better than my memory. Although the Mormon-God-turned-Satan line worked better for me this go-round, what's most impressive about these movies is the found family. This must be one of the greatest found families in film. And the arc of Yondu is the most moving aspect of this film (made possible by the god stuff). The romantic thing never quite fires---perhaps because Gondora's relationship with Nebula is the film's second most satisfying arc. Family is the true theme of these movies, which is a tacky cliche many movies rely on, but these movies mean it more than most. All those jokes are hiding a sincere core. And they earn it step by step.

Ant-Man (2015)

I'm skipping Age of Ultron though I did see 20 or 30% of it because, I mean, I can.

Ant-Man I did watch, however. And although it's still enjoyable, I can't help having two thoughts:

1. How much tighter this would be had Edgar Wright finished the execution.

and 2. That shrink tech combined with cargo ships could make a huge dent in global warming.

You wanna save the planet, Avengers, maybe wage battle against greenhouse gases? Might do as good box office, but is that all you really care about?

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

I really wanted to go to my room and work on a poetry submission and some book reviews, but I was, honestly, a bit fatigued from all the writing I've done recently. And, frankly, I have been reënjoying the Marvel movies despite myself.

And it is despite myself. Their flaws only get more clear with rewatching. But the movie magic is palpable.

It's like good tv, only the episodes average over two hours. And the plot keeps thickening!

Black Panther (2018)

I missed Homecoming this morning so keep in mind Vulture, a real competitor, is left out of the following sentence, but Killmonger might be the best villain the MCU has offered us---his motivation makes sense and is persuasive. His backstory holds together and adds up believably to its conclusion.

Of course, overall, it's a pretty great action movie. One of the MCU's best.

But it also scratches my itches by placing scenes in two cities important to me, Oakland and Busan. I'll watch any movie that places scenes in Oakland and Busan.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

This film is full of Waititi goodness, but I have to admit, this viewing? Didn't like it as much. Too damn much plot getting in the way. All the machinations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe making demands on what, at forty minutes shorter, might have been the great action-comedy.

I mean: It's still good. I quite like it. Brilliant moments. But the constant Marvel rehash of the last week has been wearing, and although the films are individually enjoyable and as a whole monumental---the combination of individuality and totality is...long.

Just reall, really long.

Another thing: This film, with Thor accepting the throne, gets to one of my main issues with the MCU. It comes over and over and over again. But they are inherently antidemocratic. They are promonarchy. Pro-greatman theory. Even those in Civil War who sign the democracy-bound accords slip out of their bounds to Do What Has to Be Done.

And films like Ragnarok and Black Panther straight-up fetishize kingship as a concept.

And these are the most popular films of our era.

No wonder we were ready to hand over our souls to a creature like Trump.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

I had no intention of watching this one. I had three poetry projects and some school stuff to get done, but my personal computer was commandeered because Infinity War's not on Disney+ and my computer is apparently the Amazon Prime Machine. Why not?

I've watched most of it---which you can do even when you're making the baby lunch and etc etc.

Even so, I am fatigued. The only emotional response really came from the death of Peter Parker.

I do wonder how these movies will age. When this generation of kids is showing them to their kids, how much will their kids care? at least enough to watch half the films? Will Thanos make it onto a future best-villains list?

We shall see.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

I missed the opening scene putting baby down, but I ended up watching the whole dang thing although I had more important things to do. I didn't want to watch the time-heist and I didn't want to watch the endless final battle and so ... why not go to my room and work on Other Things?

But you know what? It's still a solid conclusion. It's compelling moviemaking and it's a worthy conclusion to an eennddlleesss series of movies.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

So...this is supposed to be one of the best movies of the last twenty years, and one of the most stress-inducing films ever made.

I guess so?

I liked how diegetic it was and the long takes (which reminded me of Amour, though this is perhaps less showy but also maybe less effective?) and the focus on the main character. I liked how it showed me a society on the edge of collapse, late-communist Romania with its corruptions and mundanities.

But in the end, it just never came together. Maybe this is an example of me having twelve years of expectations crash upon a first viewing, which is rarely a fair spot to put a movie in, but for all is realism and ugliness, I just didn't have the experience I was promised.

(I thought this might be because I am a man, or maybe it's the comparison's started to making to Amour two-thirds of the way through, but Lady Steed had a similar reaction and is now reading Roger Ebert to figure out why it's so great.)

(Another reviewer at rogerebert.com more recently wrote, "As one of my close friends said, the movie is often so painful to watch that you will probably never want to watch it again, but it is a great film you will not forget, and its many grim human moments will haunt you for a long time." And maybe this is the real test of 4 Months---what will I think about it three years from now?)

Still. It makes for a change from all those Marvel movies.

Finding Dory (2016)

I wasn't intending to watch this, but I got sucked in by the opening sequence with baby Dory and her parents. And the Dory parts of the film are excellent all the way through. The Marlin/Nemo parts, while good, aren't as good. And while, sure, they're of one thematically etc etc, ultimately, were this not a sequel---

Don't you think they just would have been written out of some earlier draft?

I do.

Pixar's brutal quest for the best story, killing darlings left and right along the way, cant overcome the massive gravity of sequel logic. Alas, alas.

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

I haven't seen this in quite some time, but anticipation alone might be the reason my eyes leaked from Sully dropping Boo off till that final, perfect moment.

Plus, the jokes hold up. I kinda wanna get it on bluray and see if some of the background text becomes more legible. I suspect there are jokes throughout you can only get by pausing.

At the conclusion, however, the baby began screaming that she didn't want to watch this, she wanted to watch Jack the Pumpkin King. So...bedtime?

Once I Was a Beehive (2015)

Believe it or not, considering how much I liked it, I'm just now finally showing this to my kids. It holds up! I think I like it better now than I did. I'm still astounded by how the film manages to have its dog and eat it too. Impressive stuff.

I'm less down on the VO than I used to be---there certainly is too much of it, but the final bit works so well, I can't argue for doing away with it all.

My biggest issue is with the music. The song at the end is still too much, yet, but that's not what I mean. I have issue with the nondiegetic music. I've recently started watching YouTube videos from this guy Sideways, and his essay on Shrek gets at EXACTLY what the issue is here. The songs are just too on the nose, too loud, too obvious, with no purpose outside just that. I get that it's easy and pleases crowds, but it's shallow and a real opportunity.

Speaking of Sideways, this essay is how I now want the music managed for my new screenplay.

And speaking of myself, I was working on a screenplay when I first saw Beehive. It too was about high-schooler Mormon girls so naturally I did some casting play. Allie Jennings I had in mind for the girl who kept trying to be the lead (though in theory this was a movie with four equal protagonists). She might be too old now to play high school (?) but maybe Beehive's youngest star Mila Smith? She didn't (didn't seem to) have (had) the specific chops in 2015 for this particular role, but maybe she's grown? I dunno. I also had Mila's screenmom in line to play Allie's mom.

You know, that screenplay's a mess, and I haven't looked at it in years. Maybe it's time to look again.....

Onward (2020)

So I really liked Onward. It made me laugh hard and tear up frequently. The animation was physical and ebullient. The details were witty--it's certainly the sort of movie that tempts one to go through frame by frame reading product labels and store signs ("NOW SERVING 2ND BREAKFAST").

And yet---shall we call it now?---it is no Toy Story.

Instead, it's more like Up (excepting those first couple minutes) or The Good Dinosaur or Brave or Monsters University---competent, enjoyable films unlikely to have much of a lasting impact. Forgettable.

I grant it's possibly any of these films might open up if I dedicated more time to their study, but why? when I can just rewatch The Incredibles or Inside Out?

Brother Bear (2003)

So Onward was a better brother movie.

I wasn't interested in this movie when it came out because Disney had been in a skid for a while, and when I saw Tarzan---I couldn't ever imagine watching another film "with songs by Phil Collins." I still shudder, thinking about them.

My brother, in high school at the time, insisted Brother Bear was actually really good, so when I had a chance to pick up the dvd for free, I did. I've now had it for, gosh, over five years? and when the baby insisted on watching a bear movie tonight, I pulled it off the shelf.

Annnnnnd, it's not good.

It thinks about being good every once in a while, but it's not. And those stupid, awful songs are used instead of character development and in place of emotional beats. In the end, nothing is earned.

The moose are pretty funny, I guess. But was this worth bringing Rick Moranis out of retirement for?

Anyway, the baby is now roaming the house roaring at people and refusing to brush her teeth, so it worked on that level.

The boys were positive too, though not enthralled.

Asked which brother movie was better (Brother Bear vs Onward), O said "they were both the same tier of movie." His brothers basically agreed.

Spirited Away (2001)

I love this movie.

But, as Lady Steed says, it really leaves you aware of the cultural gap between us and the audience it was made for. And that's only becoming more true each time I see it.

The train scene is one of my favorites in all film, but even so, my absolutely favorite moment in the film must be the evil-be-gone recreation. And the music!

But...how well do I understand this, one of my favorite films?

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

There is a scene in this movie where the Witch of the Waste has her powers stripped; the sound design and visuals caused Lady Steed to observe that the whole thing was very Lynchian. And she is totally right. I don't know if those most attracted to the adjective "Lynchian" will find it sufficient to bring them to Miyazaki, and I don't know if Miyazaki fans are apt to raise or lower Howl in their estimation in hearing that it is Lynchian, but once Lady Steed made the observation, I had that in mind through the rest of the film. And, frankly, the whole damn thing's pretty Lynchian.

It's also instructive to watch multiple Miyazaki films close together. He has certain techniques that make his films feel so honest and expansive---both Howl and Spirited Away, for instance, involve treating enemies kindly and seeing them become friends. Because, the films seem to say, below the surface of "good guy" and "bad guy," we are all more or less the same and can be friends. Both films also have really peculiar (ambiguous) definitions of love. I wonder if they are even the same Japanese word in both films---or even scene to scene.

I'm fond of Miyazaki films that mush European and Japanese stuff together into some new world that is familiar and strange. Howl's a good example of this.

Out of Liberty ()

So I am predisposed to like this film. I love movies that take place in constrained spaces. Rope, Phone Booth, 10 Cloverfield Lane. I just love that whole thing.

And here we are, a movie set mostly in Liberty Jail.

Like book adaptations, historical films can be difficult if you know the source material too well. I kept having thoughts like "That ceiling's too high" and "I'm not sure the relative heights are correct here" and "I'm not sure Porter Rockwell looks like Corbin Allred"---thoughts that wouldn't survive a second viewing. (But the movie also felt, ten, fifteen minutes too long to me so...that might get in the way of rewatching.

But the details of the story I really don't know. The most famous bit of the story---the Joseph/Jesus conversation recorded in the D&C was defamiliarized in a way that serves the story well and forces us to hear it in a new way.

So not a perfect film but a compelling film and a rather daring film. We would like to see more like this.

West of Her (2016)

I only heard of this film because it was listed in the director's bio under an essay he wrote about Spirited Away. I liked the essay. I wanted to see how his ideas turned into craft.

Here we have a film which is mostly two people. Driving around. Rural landscapes. Cars. Cheap hotel rooms. And inexpensive film.

The leads are skilled. He has a great voice. She has a face you can't look away from.

It's a film about unsolvable mysteries. And it has the good grace to leave them unsolved. And that's that.

Previous films watched


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









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028) If Mother Braids a Waterfall by Dayna Patterson, finished April 2

Instead of writing here, I need to get to work on my Dialogue review....

maybe two weeks


029) Witchy Kingdom by D.J. Butler, finished April 11

I took longer to read this book than the first two combined---in large part because I was a bit burned out, reading the same genre so long, and took breaks to read other books, some of those breaks quite long.

Which is no comment on the book's excellence. It is excellent. Just, all combined, this trilogy comes near two thousand pages. And it ends nicely setting things up for more books. Which I happen to know he's writing.

I know many people love this. I'm afraid I'm much more into beginnings and endings rather than endless middles.

Which is a lot of complaining about a book I genuinely loved and absolutely admired. It's excellent adventure, excellent fantasy, excellent americana, excellent mormonism, and excellent religion. It does everything well.

I think I most admire its incorporation of initiation ritual---temple ritual as we Saints think of it---into this new world. It's striking and provocative. I was impressed by the coronation scene, but it just kept getting better.

I really can't recommend these books enough.

And if, for you, two thousand pages is just a nice chops licking, you'll fit into them even better than I have.
over seven months


030) Prayers in Bath by Luisa Perkins, finished April 14

This lovely little book is by a friend (see an interview I did with her or one she did with Wm about this book) and it is indeed both lovely and little. Something that could have included an extra two hundred pages of intrigue clocks in at 109 pages (including four pages of art and several gaps filled with art-relevant design). It's quiet and modest, and punches a great emotional wallop for all that.

I was caught offguard by how emotional I found the book at points, notably the final page. (Which I did not think would be the final page, but I was gratified and satisfied to discover it was.)

There are probably one or two awkward sentences per chapter, but I can't really nail down a pattern. They're more common when there are spiritual moments, but most of the spirituality is handled with aplomb. They're more common when there is conflict, but maybe that's for the best? I just mention these sentences because they are really the book's only flaw.

I've read three of Luisa's novels (two of the three published novels and one unpublished) and this is my favorite. I think (based on old memories of the other two books) that it's the most consistent throughout, and the most...honest? I'm not sure what I mean by that, but I do mean it. Perhaps not coincidentally, it's the only one that is openly Mormon rather than Mormon through allusion and subterfuge. The novel deals directly with lived spiritual experience and does it in a calmly realist manner. It's a great success.
four days


031) On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden, finished April 22

This is a long and beautiful book. I do have some complaints, but most of those may be seen as virtues by other readers (characters whose ages run together, coloring that makes characters at times indistinguishable, ambiguous word bubbles, occasional [period inappropriate?] preachiness). My issues with coloring for instance, no doubt, are do at least in part to the poor lighting I read most of the book in.

Brief summary: In the future of our solar system, humanity has people the Solar System. For unexplained reasons, no one biologically male is left (I didn't realize this until page ~135). Our main character's story is split between two timelines: highschool at a fancy boarding school and her post-highschool working on a ... not really a salvage ship ... repair crew? Anyway, she makes a new family with those on their flying goldfish and off they go. The mechanics of the plot are such that it's the collision of the past with the present that engines the story forward.

Overall, I loved spending time in this world. Walden does wonderful things with panels and colors and the design of the worlds and ships we visit. I love how matter-of-fact everything is (except, and this is my #1 complaint, when the crew is dealing with a replacement captain), how lived-in and normal---while being absurdly imaginative and challenging to what science fiction "looks like."

I was also happy with not getting the dumb ending I feared and that the actual ending become something utterly unexpected, while honest to the story thus far. She has two more books out. They might be worth looking into.


032) Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher by Jake Parker, finished April 22

Baby wanted a mouse book and looking over the shelves I saw this. Reading it to her involved a lot of pointing and half the words, but it was a fun read and she followed the story fine.

I still don't like reading comics aloud, but it's worth making an exception for those learning the early ropes of reading themselves.



♲ Easter Svithe


Today I was invited rather last minute to speak at Zoom sacrament meeting. So I did a bit of recylcing. As you can tell from the time stamp, this is the draft as it exists before I slip off to bed.


Today is Easter. Why is today Easter and not some other day? I wish I could tell you, but the way Easter bounces around the calendar, no matter how many times I look up the formula I immediately forget it again. But it has something to do with the full moon.

And the full moon’s a good symbol for Easter. The moon waxes and wanes, regularly dying and returning, to remind us of the death and resurrection of our Savior.

Every halfway worthwhile religion in the history of the world has had a spring festival to remind its followers of the return of life—nothing like waddling, fluffy ducklings to get your mind on the really important things in life. Resurrection and fertility is what spring has always been about. Australians should consider rescheduling their Easter to October—the Southern Hemisphere’s spring.

My religion is itself a symbol of death and resurrection. I don’t mean The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints per se, I mean my own personal inner life of faith. It too, like the moon, waxes and wanes. At times I am a man of faith. Other times I am a spiritual pauper.

Harold B. Lee described testimony not as “something you have today … [that] you are going to have always … [but as something] fragile.” It is hard, he said, “to hold … a moonbeam. It is something you have to recapture every day of your life.”

But that’s to be expected. Way back in 2006, I wrote,
Good old time, dragging us onwards ever onwards to mortality. Now that I’m a whopping twenty-nine, I am regularly reading about people my age dropping dead of heart attacks, brain aneurysm, peculiar cancers, and the like. I would have thought I had at least ten more years before I would feel like the bad news was about my peers. But not so.

I was taught once in a science class that entropy is the only true measure of time. Meaning that death is the only true measurement of life.
Christ’s great work of two thousand years ago, however, was not a merely mortal effort and is not subject to cheap entropy. And his Easter gift is not only to raise my body and to save my soul. Relying on him also allows me to daily recapture the moonbeam of my own faith. For he is the author and the finisher of that faith. The source of all moonbeams.

previous svithe

ps: the moon is a symbol
of the mother and easter
is almost certainly derived
from the name of a goddess
and so you might ask who
pray tell gave the son
to give himself