I've run out of September-film puns (2022)


September proved to be an unusual month. I saw a bunch of movies in the theater—but none of them were new! And I ended up watching four movies in one afternoon/evening stuck on campus by myself. Also: two movies movies proposing where-babies-come-from ideas that . . . are not particularly biologycentric. Mix and match!

library dvd
Storks (2016)

This is an absolutely delightful work of popular entertainment. It's funny and surprising and smart and moving and it's completely happy just being those things. I think I liked it even better this time, even though I wasn't holding a baby!

One weird experience watching the endcredits was saying, "Oh! Lord & Miller worked on this movie!" followed immediately by, "Oh. Steve Mnuchin worked on this movie."

Another curious observation is that all the major cast are Famous Actors except the emotional core of the film for which they cast a voice actor. Innnteresting.

someone else's harddrive
Ocean's Eleven (2001)

This is a movie I will never stop loving. And I imagine that, no matter how many times I may see it, I will be impressed with how cool it it. The dialogue is cool, the lighting is cool, the editing is cool—it's just cool. All the way through.

But I've seen it enough times now that its coolness doesn't stop me from seeing its flaws. Flaws that overwhelmed (for me) Twelve, Thirteen, and Eight, are only now starting to chink away at this excellence.

This has happened before. Probably the same year Ocean's Eleven came out, I watched Radioland Murders for the, I don't know, twentieth time? And suddenly brightness and brilliance, it's wit and speed, could no longer cover the few story flaws.

I haven't watched it since. Not because I think I won't like it anymore. Not even because I'm sad that I might not be able to enjoy it purely. But simply because it's kind of a hard movie to watch, you know?

Anyway, I need an oral history on Ocean's Eleven. Was Tess in the original script? Or perhaps a suit insisted on a romantic subplot? Or maybe Soderbergh just wanted to work with Julia Roberts? Or maybe an earlier draft had some backstabbing instead of the crew watching the fountain together to Debussey. I don't know. But a couple pieces don't fit quite right together.

I forgive it. Because I love this movie and it has brought me much joy. But I'm also okay letting it sink into my past. Sometimes memories are as wonderful as relivings.

Moana (2016)

It's too hot to do anything and no one could agree and the youngest kept asking for Moana. So Moana it was.

Which is fine! I like Moana!

Most interestingly, this is the first time the little girl has sat all the way through. She kept leaving the room for Storks, but somehow the giant crab and lava monster were bearable.

Maybe this is why kids rewatch movies.

Love and Saucers (2017)

David Huggins is a fellow who has been having alien encounters since his childhood. I'm familiar with him from a seven-minute 2008 documentary I sometimes show students. This time the kids did some googling and discovered this feature-length look at the man and his work and I decided I would check it out.


Anyway, if the seven-minutes crosses the line of school-appropriateness (probably) this one's waaaay beyond that line. Although I like where it goes a great deal, the paintings of his sexual encounters are much too graphic for school. Sorry, kids.

I do recommend getting that Wholphin, though—the interview with the filmmaker is better even than the doc. Plus it includes a few other of my favorites including a sweet Dutch apocalypse and my philosophy of life, suddenly in black and white.

library dvd
Boss Baby (2017)

I'm irritated at how Boss Baby has become a hiss and a byword, a shortcut for bad kids movies. It's nothing of the sort! I didn't think so in 2017 and today I am here to defend it anew.

First, it's clever. Visually, it's inventive with lots of throwbacks to earlier forms of animation. It's emotional core is effective. The satire is barbed but innocent.

So don't be mad that it was nominated for an Oscar and something else was not or because Oscar voters are notoriously animation-ignorant. Just judge it on its own merits. You're gonna like it.

Prime Video
Macbeth (2018)

So this Macbeth is shot entirely on greenscreen and is very artsy—characters always walking on invisible staircases and the camera moving from one literal proscenium to another to another. There's a conceit I don't quite get of an old man watching and old filmprojector. It's . . . interesting. A little distracting that the main actor seems like a lost Helmsworth brother. Lots of excellent yelling.

One more bad way to introduce students to Macbeth. Quite a lot of those, it would seem.

AMC Bay Street 16
Jaws (1975)

Now that I think about it, why is Jaws in theaters now?? It's 50th is just a couple years off. But whatever.

Son A's first favorite movie was Jaws but we haven't watched it in a long time and this new IMAX!!! 3D!!! rerelease seemed like a rare opportunity that should be snatched. So off we went to our local IMAX. (Which is not true IMAX with the truly enormous screen—you have to cross the Bay for that—but still much bigger than we usually sit under!

I'm still glad we went. It was great to see the movie at such detail and, let's remember, it's just a really good movie. And watching it made me want to play my son's game again.

The funny was that Son A, afterward, was all like, "I didn't know it was scary! Why did I like that when I was little?"

I guess we'll never know.

Cialto Cinemas
Bullitt (1968)

The Cerrito is having a slew of excellent old films from late last week to late this week. Sadly, this is the first I've made it to (the ticket jockey told me no one came to Sullivan's Travels! I am outraged!) but I hope to see a full half of them before week's out. Three of them (Sullivan's Travels, The Mummy, Treasure of the Sierra Madre) I've seen recently so it doesn't feel that pressing though I would love to, yes; two I haven't seen before (this one and Touch of Evil); and one I haven't seen in a very long time and very much want to give another chance to but alas, I have a dentist appointment (The Birds).

Anyway, Bullitt! All I knew about it was a) Steve McQueen b) San Francisco c) perhaps the greatest car chase ever filmed. So that provided a set of expectations that were met but another set of expectations that were completely ignored. For instance, this is a very quiet movie. The motion is assertive but the sounds largely refrain. Not much score. Not a lot of dialogue. Most of what you hear is diegetic.

And that car chase is terrific. I felt it in my gut as they were going up and down San Francisco's hills.

And the mystery? I didn't even realize there was a mystery until Bullitt began to unravel it. (I also like that he doesn't go by "Bullitt"—he's mostly called "Frank" or "Lieutenant.")

In short, this is a good movie. Not what I anticipated but thoughtful and fun. It's also an incredible time capsule of the moment and that could be reason alone to check it out. The clothes, the cars, the reimagined race relations, the cutting-edge technology, the beatniks (but no hippies!)—it's just cool to look at. A little time capsule to a cooler era, and you when you simply watch a movie, you don't risk getting murdered.

Cialto Cinemas
Touch of Evil (1958/1998)

I hadn't seen it before so I suppose starting with the 1998 reedit, intended to bring it back in line with Welles's vision. I just mention it in case you're wondering which version I watched or whether I have notes of comparison to share.

Anyway, it was good. I was unsettled throughout and, frankly, I surprised how little I knew going in. It's rare I see a movie knowing so little ahead of time.

The dark characters are dark and the camerawork is dark and, even as noir goes, this is supernoiry. And it's fascinating that the hero is Mexican (ish). I feel like I need to eat something and read something before I can wrap what I think about it, but I'm certainly glad I saw it. This is a movie that can open conversations.

Cialto Cinemas
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

A great film to revisit—and this time on a big screen! Terrific movie. I took Largesse with me and he dug it too. There are just so many great moments and elements. The acting and the camera work. The way it deals with other languages and death. Largesse particularly appreciated a camera move at the bar revealing a mirror.

Maybe it's because this was the only one I was revisiting, but of the Cerrito's old-films marathon, I think I may have enjoyed this one most simply because the joys of revisiting of an excellent film have another depth than even discovering a great film for the first time.

In other words, it's a shame I can't go see Bullitt again!

my dvd
It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)×2

Watching this so shortly after reading Slaughterhouse-Five the similarities are striking Bill(y) is in and out of hospitals, may have a hard time seeing reality accurately, time is unstuck, memories are questionable, the structures are even Tralfamadorian, "brief clumps of symbols separated by stars."

It gets more complex and beautiful and no less funny with each viewing.

library dvd
M*A*S*H (1970)

So Lady Steed haaaaaated this movie. The sexism, the lack of plot (it is a true Hamlet), the confusion, etc. In other words, the things people loved about it when it hit theaters fifty years ago.

I didn't love it myself, but I will say that I deeply appreciate it. I love the way Altman makes films and I'm on the hunt for the Altman film that will rank among my alltime favorites. I want to try out Nashville next, but it might be a while before I have a companion to watch it.

It's wild that this cast was nearly unknown when the movie arrived. Donald Sutherland? He's so Donaldy Sutherlandy! Elliot Gould? Same deal!

It's true that there's a lot of ugliness here, but, well, war. And the past. I don't relish any of it, but the movie felt very true to me and I wager it gets funnier each time you see it. Plus, I loved the meta conclusion.

So, yeah. I liked it. And the good news is there are a lot more Robert Altman films to work through yet.

(If you're wondering, I saw Popeye as a small child and was a bit traumatized by it; Lady Steed and I have seen together Gosford Park, The Company, and Prairie Home Companion, all of which we liked well enough—rather how I liked this one; and I have also seen The Player, which may be my favorite to date. Though one moment in The Company may be one of the last movie memories my brain gives up at death.)

Brave (2012)

First time I've seen this since watching it at Pixar campus shortly before its original release. That wasn't a terrific viewing since we had a constantly terrified 5yrold in tow which muddled the experience. My memories have since been supplanted by the remaining annoyance that Brenda Chapman had the movie taken away from her and wondering what might have been. Which is a supposition which presumes the film we got is subpar but, really, it's pretty great. I found it funny and moving. It's not one of the Great Films or anything, but it is a winner. (Literally, in many cases.)

The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

My gradually growing collection of seen Macbeths adds a beautiful and strange and particularly interesting member—still not a great option for showing sophomores before the play, but great.

It's interesting to me that people who make a film of Romeo and Juliet aspire to clear storytelling but Macbeth's filmmakers straightup assume you know the story already and just want to see what spin they'll put on it. They are rarely clear unless you already know the beats.

Luckily, I do! Which is why I can tell you while the cinematography is busy getting all Kurosawa/Wiene/Bergman, the actors are relishing their lines without wasting our time. And the shuffling of characters is interesting, too. Famously, all three witches are played by the same person—but she also plays the old man who delivers the news of cannabilistic horses. And "Ross" shows up all over the place. He's the one speaking to the old man (usually Ross) the third murderer (a mysterious character at any time) who then saves Fleance's life and he's at Macduff castle and then with Malcolm (both of these are Ross as written) and after Macduff kills Macbeth, it is this Ross who then carries the head to Malcolm and leads the crowd in cheers (Macduff). He's kind of everywhere, and his distinct profile ties him to the witches in eerie ways.

Anyway, if you like Macbeths, don't miss this one.

The Boyfriend School (1990)

This is a movie I saw for rent on VHS plenty of times as a teenager and it neeeeever tempted me. And then I completely forgot about it. Completely. So when I was listening to How did this get made? and they covered it, it took long looks at the poster art before I recognized it. (I think I knew it under it's other title, Don't Tell Her It's Me?) But they made me think it would be worth checking out.

I don't think I would have liked it at age fifteen (and it does have a bunch of absurd bits) but it holds together at least on a Disney Channel level and featured some big laughs. Plus, who doesn't like Shelly Long?

I hate the concept (romance-writing sister decks out brother as foreign heman to trick girl into loving him), but as these things go, it was delightful. No doubt it will help to keep your expectations low, but you'll have a good time.

(ps: how did that hermaphroditic sex mannequin make it into a PG-13 movie???)

Prime Video
Frances Ferguson (2019)

Not sure when I first heard about this, but as I was just scrolling through movies I've watchlisted, it was the promise of a Nick Offerman narration that made me click it this time. And it's a good narration. And the title character occassionally interacts with him. Not the character on the screen, but her voice. It's an intriguing idea, but not enough was really done with it.

That said, it is the writing that makes the movie work. It's very low budget though the money's spent well. It does have a couple actors I recognized, David Krumholtz and Martin Starr, but mostly nobodies doing good work. Fun things are done with words on screen and, as I said, the writing is consistently good.

It's the story of a sad woman, working as a substitute teacher, who sleeps with a kid at the high school. She gets arrested, goes to prison, gets out, remains sad. As a character study, it is quiet. It lets us sit with this woman in her sadness and her lack of direction.

It's a quiet film with wit and depth and precious little flair. But isn't that something we all need now and then? It can't be Iron Man and Godfather *a*l*l* the time.

Prime Video
Teacher of the Year (2014)

From the poster and other marketing, you will likely assume that this is a film about teachers behaving badly. And there's some of that. The robotics teacher is awful and the college counselors are so far into jokeland it's like they're in another movie, but this mockumentary as a whole has intelligence and even some nuance. It manages to even provide a moving ending.

But that moving ending is not without its complications. The eponymous teacher of the year accepts the devil's bargain and betrays the good he stands for. His motivations are understandable and possibly even noble, but still. The devil will take his due.

Which is to that for all the aspects that are overthetop or silly, Teacher of the Year still manages to say something meaningful about the way our society and education intersect.

Dog City (1989)

Some introductory facts:

Narrated by Rowlf.

A breathless puns-per-minute ratio.

Jim Henson doing a Marlon Brando impression.

A tough-talking rubber ducky.

I don't recall hearing of this before seeing a bit about it at the Jim Henson show at CJM. And I remain a little unclear whether this is a "tv movie" or an episode of a longer series. I think it depends on how you measure things?
Fun discover: a character whose last name is Them. It's not pronounced the same as my Byuck protagonist, but what a thing!

Previous films watched


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











Is BYU in trouble?


Undergrads are the lifeblood of any university.

I always tell high-school seniors this: you will get into college. They need to you stay alive. You're going to get into schools. Relax.

That said, part of what makes for one of those much-coveted rankings that "fancy" schools boast about is the percentage of students they accept who ultimately attend. And that number will be higher if they can successfully reject students who will ultimately decide not to attend. That's one reason your Ivy Leagues and your CalTechs reject students that on paper look like good fits—they're trying to reject students before students reject them. Po' wittle Stanfwowd's feewings are at stake here, people!

Anyway, I suspect this is part of the reason Son #1 wasn't accepted to BYU last year. Which is fine. He ended up going to his top choice anyway (tuition-free!) and this way it wasn't his fault his mom's sad he's not attending our alma mater. Getting rejected was, some might argue, a boon for him.

Besides, given all the embarrassing reasons BYU gets into the news these days, I feel weird pushing a BYU education on anyone. I mean—it's a great school and you can find every sort of excellence there . . . but then it'll get in the news and embarrass you.

I can't help but wonder if BYU is confused as to how popular it actually is in 2022. Maybe this embarrassment is getting more students to choose another university? Or maybe BYU just overestimated how "fancy" it actually is? I don't know, but how else to explain this?

(A couple notes: First, if you want that image on a sweatshirt, BYU wants your money. Second, I didn't delete the names from the audio because I thought it was too funny that the name of the person calling us is the same as the university he wanted to attend all along.)

This raises a lot of questions for me. Starting with me just being kind of mystified. Does BYU just assume that the kids they reject are sitting at home waiting for BYU to suddenly open up space for them? Or maybe that BYU has such draw that they will drop out of whatever school they are attending to show up in Provo in the middle of winter? What are they thinking? What kind of an ego do they have?

(Speaking of ego, get these posts in your valuable email space.)

All my other questions are variations on this theme. But the most likely answer seems to be desperation. BYU is desperate for more students and thus they are looking for students who are also desperate. And that makes me think freshmen didn't show up this year in large enough numbers such that a serious explanation is demanded. And the best one I can come up with is freshman embarrassment.

And if that is in fact the reason, well. Well! Seems like BYU needs to stop being embarrassing.

Any other theories?


Mechanical ponies and owl-babies


Happy weekend! Weekends are good times for reading so I really ought to be pointing you to the new issue of Irreantum, out now, and specifically a poem of mine selected by the guest editor, but it doesn't officially launch until Tuesday, so more on them later.

In the meantime, some suggestions from my own reading:

096) One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale, finished August 20

I know Nathan Hale mostly from his Hazardous Tales series of historical comics. I don't think I ever made it through one, but my kids devoured and redevoured them.

Me, I've read his books with some unrelated Hales and Apocalypse Taco.

I suspect this book was not the hit the publisher expected. My local Pegasus still has some hardback remainders on the table. I know 2017 wasn't that long ago, but those books feel like they'll never go away.

And I'm not sure why. The cover looks exciting enough. The story's fun (though the conclusion's a bit pat) and the characters and world are fun too visit. Was it the black-and-white-and-yellow color scheme? I don't know.

Publishing is a mystery.

two sits

097) My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long, finished August 22

As my students were perusing and reading from my contemporary-poetry collection, I picked this one up and immediately recognized poems. I had read chunks of this book before and liked it. So I started at the beginning and, shortly after school, finished it.

This autobiographical-seeming collection is about a British woman whose mother is black and whose father is white and explores the world this fact birthed her into. Some recurring themes (the pull of motherhood, sexual violence) and techniques (repeated sequences, moments of the fantastical) threaded through a compelling voice and brightly seen situations make the collections as a whole deeply compelling.

The sadness and shallowness of even her most longed-for romantic relationships ("I will be so light / upon his life he won't realise / he's kept me" 73) contrast with the depth of feeling she has for her mother. Consider how well she sees her here:

I can still only tell if Mum is laughing
or crying by her breasts
—up-down for laughing, up-down
then into a heavy sway for crying.

But even the people we know and respect and love the best remain unknown. She must see her mum this clearly because otherwise she will not be able to tell if she is laughing.

an afternoon

098) Chivalry by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran, finished August 23

I read the short story "Chivalry" circa 2001 and, like Gaiman's work tends to do, it came back to me as soon as I started reading this adaptation. It's a charming little number.

Apparently Doran's been wanting to adapt the story to comics since it was first written, but it took a quarter-century of waiting for some movie rights to lapse before she could start. I first became aware of the adaptation via the Cartoon Art Museum's website. We never did make it there this summer, but reading Dolan's afterward about how she worked to make the art a different experience in the book versus in person, I've a renewed desire to check it out.

after school

099) Chouette by Claire Oshetsky, finished August 25

I enjoyed this book lots. I don't know if this book liked me (was I under attack?) but I dub it's straightforward madness. Starting from the epigraph (from Eraserhead), we are in a world that is strange and surreal. I recommend clicking on the cover and reading the first couple of pages and see if you can avoid buying it. I couldn't.

Also, what a great cover! And it follows the rule suggested by Aaron Cometbus to give books good spines so they continue to attract attention even when they've been remaindered or twenty-years-old.

Anyway, a woman gives birth to an owl-baby. Disaster ensues.

The author bio on the backflap says this novel "draws on her own experiences of motherhood" and it's easy to see the realism behind the magical in the little mother's sacrifices and abuses. Although the idea of training a hollow-boned baby to catch gophers might be absurd, a sense of honesty pervades each page.

Not that this is an allegory. Don't ask me to provide the key explaining dog-people or cellos or damaged peacocks. While the novel feels true throughout, it is not so plain as to explain which truths it is revealing.

Although, I suspect, if you are a mother, you may already own the key.

under a month (as I reread the first page)

100) Weiner Dog Art by Gary Larson, finished August 26

Honestly? Maybe my favorite index of all time.

two or three stops on a road trip

101) A Bestiary of Booksellers by Aaron Cometbus, finished September 2

I am become quite the fan of Aaron Cometbus's essays. He also writes novels and perhaps after I finish reading what I've already purchased, I may pick one up. But what I have picked up are his personal essays—not any of the anthologies he's edited or anything else. I enjoy his explorations of his lived world.

This one is about selling books in New York City. Starting your way out selling on sidewalks and working your way up—or over. Lots of side paths you can take. He tells us, for instance, that he has become the go-to guy for sorting collections of the newly dead.

The book, as the title might suggest?, is abecedarian. A is for Adam though Z is for Zoo. Adam is one of the patriarch's of New York's bookselling scene; the zoo is the site of a marriage that brings many of the essay's characters back together one last time.

After I read #55 (links below), I spent a lot of time trying to track down several of the books he talked about only to decide that the authors and titles had been anonymized. I started this one from the same assumption, but eventually I realized this book was doing something different. I didn't start looking things up for a while, but I suspect most (even all?) of the books here are real and perhaps the authors as well (with a couple likely exceptions) even as title of magazines and friends and former movie stars are disguised out of my ability to track them down.

Which gets to one of the peculiar things about Cometbus's intimate essays. As well as we feel we get to know him, we have reason to doubt the veracity of almost every intimacy-creating detail he shares with us.

Regardless, he's a fine host.

54 | 55 | 56

about two weeks

102) Slaughterhouse-Five, or. the Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut, finished September 9
What with all the bookbanning of late, I figured I ought to teach Slaughterhouse-Five again. It's been a while. And, it having been so long, I decided I should read it again. Which is a very 2022-Theric thing to do since I have recently read the comic and and watched the film adaptations. Which were both quite good.
As is the novel. I have a very high opinion of the novel. It may hold up better than any other Vonnegut novel I have reread (and reread).

One of the quiz questions this week was "Chapters six and seven contain many things that a reasonable person could find offensive. Explain to that person why one of those things has value and belongs in the book."

Your responses invited in preparation for Banned Book Week, starting on the 18th.

under two weeks


Previously . . . . :