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October 23rd, 2019

10:38 pm - A Multitude of Movies
How the fuck did I watch over thirty movies since last time? At least I liked most of them!!

Days of Heaven: BCollapse )

The Seventh Seal: B+Collapse )

Carol: B+Collapse )

Bound: B+Collapse )

The Wedding Banquet: B+Collapse )

20th Century Women: A-/ACollapse )

Shampoo: BCollapse )

The Hitch-Hiker: B/B+Collapse )

Faces Places: B+Collapse )

Modern Times: B+/A-Collapse )

Our Litlte Sister: B+Collapse )

Dogtooth: BCollapse )

Columbus: B+Collapse )

District B13: BCollapse )

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night: BCollapse )

The Babysitter: B+Collapse )

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: B/B+Collapse )

The King of Comedy: B+/A-Collapse )

Knock Down the House: B+Collapse )

Boyz n the Hood: B+Collapse )

Cabaret: BCollapse )

Blow-Up: C+/B-Collapse )

Casino: B+Collapse )

Hard Boiled: B+/A-Collapse )

The Bridge on the River Kwai: B+Collapse )

The Conversation: B+/A-Collapse )

It's a Disaster: B+Collapse )

Furie: B/B+Collapse )

Wild Rose: B+Collapse )

Teen Spirit: BCollapse )

Family: B+/A-Collapse )

Blow Out: B+/A-Collapse )

Little Monsters: B/B+Collapse )

The Meddler: B+Collapse )

Persona: B/B+Collapse )

Audition: B+Collapse )

I am being crushed underneath the weight of my streaming queue!
Current Mood: uncomfortableuncomfortable
Current Music: Eyes of Eden - Sleeping Minds

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

August 26th, 2019

11:59 pm - Arabia Actress Apocalypse
In some ways, my viewing follows from my previous viewing. In others, it does not. Film is an adventure!

2046: BCollapse )

Marjorie Prime: B/B+Collapse )

A History of Violence: B+Collapse )

The Vanishing: B+/A-Collapse )

Barking Dogs Never Bite: B+Collapse )

Memories of Murder: B/B+Collapse )

Medicine for Melancholy: B/B+Collapse )

The Perfection: B+Collapse )

A Vigilante: B/B+Collapse )

3 Idiots: B+/A-Collapse )

Paterson: B+Collapse )

Thirst: B/B+Collapse )

Only Lovers Left Alive: B/B+Collapse )

Push: B+Collapse )

Faults: B/B+Collapse )

School Daze: BCollapse )

Piercing: B/B+Collapse )

The Eyes of My Mother: BCollapse )

Scotland, PA: B+Collapse )

The Magnificent Ambersons: BCollapse )

Hardcore Henry: BCollapse )

13th: B+/A-Collapse )

Punisher: War Zone: B/B+Collapse )

A Letter to Three Wives: B+Collapse )

The Clovehitch Killer: B+Collapse )

How to Be Single: B+Collapse )

Johnny Guitar: B/B+Collapse )

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse: B+Collapse )

Highway: BCollapse )

Predestination: B+Collapse )

I am drowning in streaming queues! Can I make a dent in them? I keep adding movies to them so the answer is no.
Current Mood: fullfull
Current Music: The Dears - Demons (Cassettes Won't Listen Remix)

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

June 3rd, 2019

11:28 pm - Wong and Todd and Bollywood
Apparently I now watch as many movies in two months as I used to in four to five months? At least most of them are good!

I'm Not There: B+Collapse )

Stoker: B+Collapse )

Across the Universe: B/B+Collapse )

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): A-Collapse )

Velvet Goldmine: B/B+Collapse )

Fashion: B/B+Collapse )

Delhi Belly: B/B+Collapse )

Queen: B+Collapse )

Dear Zindagi: B+Collapse )

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai: B/B+Collapse )

Skeleton Twins: BCollapse )

Miss Stevens: B+Collapse )

Andhadhun: B+Collapse )

Lars and the Real Girl: B+/A-Collapse )

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: B+Collapse )

Terminator Genisys: C+/B-Collapse )

Murder Party: B+/A-Collapse )

Guardians of the Galaxy: B+/A-Collapse )

Unicorn Store: B/B+Collapse )

Ibiza: Love Drunk: B+Collapse )

Chungking Express: B+Collapse )

Belle: B+Collapse )

Fallen Angels: B/B+Collapse )

See You Yesterday: B+Collapse )

Days of Being Wild: B+Collapse )

Queen of Earth: B/B+Collapse )

Prospect: B+Collapse )

Jinn: BCollapse )

Always Be My Maybe: B/B+Collapse )

Next up, maybe I just watch the movies I want to watch when I want to watch them, other people's opinions and/or suggestions be damned? What a concept!
Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
Current Music: Mid90s - Finding a Place

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

April 2nd, 2019

11:02 pm - Everything Old Is New to Me
Good movies didn't just come out in 2018! It's time to catch up on some ~*older movies*~.

Atonement: B+/A-Collapse )

Happy Death Day: B+/A-Collapse )

Hale County This Morning, This Evening: BCollapse )

Being There: B+Collapse )

Of Fathers and Sons: B+Collapse )

Before I Fall: B/B+Collapse )

The Sisters Brothers: BCollapse )

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: B+/A-Collapse )

The Searchers: B/B+Collapse )

Set It Up: B+Collapse )

Brooklyn: B+Collapse )

Candyman: A-Collapse )

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh: B/B+Collapse )

Candyman: Day of the Dead: C+Collapse )

Mississippi Grind: B+Collapse )

Goodnight Mommy: B+Collapse )

Gilda: A-Collapse )

The Commuter: B/B+Collapse )

All About Eve: A-Collapse )

Pet Sematary: B/B+Collapse )

Disorder: BCollapse )

Half Nelson: B/B+Collapse )

Tower: A-Collapse )

Picnic at Hanging Rock: BCollapse )

Enter the Dragon: B/B+Collapse )

In the Mood for Love: B+/A-Collapse )

Raw: B+/A-Collapse )

A Hard Day's Night: B+Collapse )

Next up, who knows! I go where the wind takes me, and by the wind I mean the people I talk about movies with.
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Cellar Darling - Pain

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

February 9th, 2019

10:51 am - Two Thousand and Eighteen Movies
With the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 came a massive 2018 movie catch-up! Gosh, what a fantastic year for film.

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies: B+Collapse )

Your Name: B+/A-Collapse )

Madeline's Madeline: C+Collapse )

Leave No Trace: B+Collapse )

You Were Never Really Here: B/B+Collapse )

Hearts Beat Loud: B+Collapse )

The Death of Stalin: B/B+Collapse )

The Wife: B-Collapse )

American Animals: B+/A-Collapse )

Like Father, Like Son: B+Collapse )

A League of Their Own: B+Collapse )

Colette: B+Collapse )

Unbreakable: B+Collapse )

Split: B+Collapse )

Support the Girls: B+Collapse )

First Reformed: B+Collapse )

Lean on Pete: B-Collapse )

The Rider: B+Collapse )

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: BCollapse )

Minding the Gap: B+Collapse )

Skate Kitchen: B/B+Collapse )

The Kindergarten Teacher: B+/A-Collapse )

The Wicker Man: B/B+Collapse )

The Fits: BCollapse )

Personal Shopper: BCollapse )

Good Time: BCollapse )

My Summer of Love: B+Collapse )

Velvet Buzzsaw: B/B+Collapse )

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping: B+Collapse )

Hot Rod: BCollapse )

Next up: oh boy, I can watch Netflix and Hulu and Prime and Hoopla and Kanopy and shit on my FIRE TV, time to make dents in my streaming queueueueueues.
Current Mood: confusedconfused
Current Music: Lamb of God - Requiem

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

December 2nd, 2018

07:07 pm - Double, Double, Netflix and Trouble
I said I'd clear out my Netflix and DVR, and I did indeed make a small dent in them! And then added more.

American Fable: B/B+Collapse )

I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore: BCollapse )

The Wailing: B/B+Collapse )

Mother: B/B+Collapse )

Psychokinesis: B+Collapse )

Collateral: B+/A-Collapse )

Disobedience: BCollapse )

Assault on Precinct 13: B+Collapse )

What Happened to Monday: B+Collapse )

Death Note: B+Collapse )

Lady Macbeth: B+Collapse )

Les Misérables: BCollapse )

To All the Boys I've Loved Before: B+Collapse )

Les Diaboliques: B+Collapse )

Martha Marcy May Marlene: B+Collapse )

I Kill Giants: B+/A-Collapse )

Kung Fu Yoga: B-Collapse )

Nerve: B+Collapse )

Enemy: B+/A-Collapse )

The Double: B+/A-Collapse )

Jackie: A-Collapse )

Marrowbone: B/B+Collapse )

Cam: A-Collapse )

Shirkers: B+Collapse )

The Diary of a Teenage Girl: B+Collapse )

Next up: a smorgasboard of recommendations and Oscar prep!
Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Current Music: Interpol - Length of Love (Fog vs. Mould Remix)

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

August 12th, 2018

10:22 am - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time MoviePass
Do I watch more movies than anyone you know? Quite possibly.

Metropolis: B+Collapse )

Hotel Rwanda: B+/A-Collapse )

The Devil's Candy: B+Collapse )

Mayhem: B+Collapse )

The Belko Experiment: BCollapse )

Barry: B/B+Collapse )

Life: B+Collapse )

Always Shine: B/B+Collapse )

It Comes at Night: B-Collapse )

Pitch Perfect 3: B/B+Collapse )

Mom and Dad: BCollapse )

Creep: B+Collapse )

Creep 2: B+Collapse )

Set It Off: B+Collapse )

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story: B+/A-Collapse )

The Nines: B+Collapse )

Coherence: B+/A-Collapse )

Videodrome: B+/A-Collapse )

Gerald's Game: B/B+Collapse )

Zardoz: C+/B-Collapse )

The Killing: B+Collapse )

Appropriate Behavior: B+Collapse )

Next up: clearing out my Netflix and DVR, maybe actually getting to those documentaries, whatever!
Current Mood: okayokay
Current Music: Maggie Rogers - Dog Years

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

June 2nd, 2018

02:17 pm - Fleabag? More Like T-Bag!
Fleabag begins with arsefucking, but don't let that put you off! It's not like it begins with pigfucking. Don't look at me like that.

Instead, look at Fleabag, who is looking at you. Fleabag—who is never referred to by name, which is true of many characters like "Arsehole Guy" and "Bus Rodent"—invites you into her story, constantly addressing the viewer, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is so incredibly deft at what should be a gimmick that she breathes new life into the whole idea of breaking the fourth wall. She will make comments to you in the middle of a conversation, switching back and forth—it's a testament to the rest of the cast that they never react to it—as if you're best mates. Oddly enough, I was actually glad I watched this show on my phone because it made that connection even more intimate. Fleabag needs someone to talk to, she needs someone to say things to that she won't say out loud, she needs to not feel so alone.

And the way she tends to not feel so alone is sex, as the beginning of the series makes clear. Pretty much every episode features one or two sex scenes (without nudity), which is why I watched this show in the privacy of own phone. But the sex scenes are never sexy; they are awkward and funny, especially since, of course, she cracks jokes to you during them. But this isn't simply some show about a woman sleeping with a bunch of men. The relationships that truly matter here are those with her sister, Claire, and her best friend/business partner, Boo (and to a lesser extent, her godmother-turned-stepmother and her father). She isn't the best sister (or the best friend, for that matter), but you can tell she loves them both so much, even if she doesn't show it or say it. Also, however, this show is about sex, and female sexuality in particular, explored in a uniquely honest fashion not often portrayed onscreen.

Fleabag is a hard show to describe, as it initially appears to be a comedy with the requisite tinge of angst and sadness but then proves itself to be far more emotionally rich than that, as the second half begins to pay off elements in the first half in unexpected ways, leading to the finale that stabbed me in the gut. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is compelling every second she is onscreen, and her performance in the finale, just, goddamn. But the show is also laugh-out-loud funny, with an offbeat sense of humor, especially with how it delivers its title card and end credits. If you have Amazon Prime and the time to watch six <30-minute episodes, it's absolutely worth your time.
Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Current Music: Alice in Chains - Dirt

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

May 13th, 2018

07:50 pm - Atlanta? More Like Tales from the Hood!
Donald Glover is certainly having a Cultural Moment, what with Solo and "This Is America" and Atlanta. Troy Barnes sure has come a long way. But what's the deal with Atlanta, anyway? What is Atlanta?

Ostensibly, Atlanta is a show about down-on-his-luck Earn, who decides to manage his rapper cousin Paper Boi just as he's hitting it big. He is so down on his luck he doesn't have an actual place to live, though he tends to stay with his girlfriend, Van, with whom he has a daughter, Lottie; they are...sort of in an open relationship but sort of not, their relationship status is definitely "It's complicated." Also Paper Boi's friend Darius exists on his own weird plane.

In order to enjoy and appreciate this show, however, you must understand that it is not the heavily serialized narrative we've come to expect from Prestige TV. Each episode functions as a short film, centered on one particular story, as it were, and the next episode will be something else, like the previous episode never happened. Which is not to say that there's no continuity; everything in every episode did happen and occasionally gets referenced. Sometimes a character from a previous episode will return, or a plot point will come back in subtle or major ways. The second season displays more of this than the first season, which frustrated me in the way it seemed to tease narrative (the second episode does result directly from the first episode, but the show abandons that flow immediately); the second season is more ambitious in its commitment to creating powerful stand-alone episodes but also more conscious of how these characters are changing, even if the big character moments aren't always onscreen (or if they are, the emotional fallout occurs offscreen).

Working both for and against it is the show's marvelously understated tone, cultivated both in the writing and acting but also in the direction (primarily by Hiro Murai, director of "This Is America"). Though it's categorized as a "comedy," it is only occasionally funny, as it's not about jokes but characters either being kind of absurd or reacting to other characters being absurd, but all with a grounded tone that paints a surreal picture of black life in America. I did laugh out loud sometimes, though, usually at anything Darius said or did. But mostly I was drawn in by the various character conflicts, like Earn and Varn trying to suss out what their personal relationship is or Earn and Al (Paper Boi) trying to suss out what their business relationship is. I liked when supporting characters got spotlight episodes, showing they had their own lives apart from Earn.

And then there's fucking "Teddy Perkins." Fuck. Motherfuck. Goddamn. Shit. "Teddy Perkins."

Atlanta is a hell of a show. It is not entirely my thing, since I do gravitate more toward serialized narratives, but I admire the craft behind the individual episodes, unsatisfying as their own open-ended narratives might be, because I just enjoy spending time with these characters. It challenges a lot of typical conventions, but it almost never comes off as pretentious, which is a feat. It's doing its own thing, and when it hits, it hits hard.
Current Mood: hungryhungry
Current Music: Spineshank - Smothered

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

February 25th, 2018

10:17 pm - Netflix and Krill
Every five or six months, perhaps? It's a good time to look back on a lot of movies.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter: B/B+Collapse )

xXx: Return of Xander Cage: B+Collapse )

Exit Through the Gift Shop: A-Collapse )

Passengers: B/B+Collapse )

Evil Dead: C+Collapse )

The Edge of Seventeen: B+Collapse )

Full Metal Jacket: B/B+Collapse )

Tangerine: B+/A-Collapse )

Rififi: B+/A-Collapse )

Free Fire: BCollapse )

A Cure for Wellness: B/B+Collapse )

Nocturnal Animals: C+/B-Collapse )

Elle: B/B+Collapse )

Me and You and Everyone We Know: BCollapse )

Bright: B/B+Collapse )

Growing Up Smith: B+Collapse )

Misery: B+/A-Collapse )

The Lure: B/B+Collapse )

Mudbound: BCollapse )

Sleight: B/B+Collapse )

Girls Trip: B+/A-Collapse )

The Cloverfield Paradox: B-/BCollapse )

Forbidden Zone: CCollapse )

Rebecca: B+Collapse )

Paddington: A-Collapse )

Tank Girl: B/B+Collapse )

The Master: B-Collapse )

The Queen of Katwe: B+Collapse )

Boogie Nights: B+/A-Collapse )

Wind River: B+Collapse )

Next up: movies I've been wanting to see for yonks, maybe documentaries, maybe some surprises, who knows!
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: Run the Jewels - Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost)

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

February 22nd, 2018

11:00 pm - BoJack Horseman? More Like Animal Far!
Back in the nineties, BoJack Horseman was on a famous TV show. The show? Horsin' Around. The role? Horse. Twenty years later, he's all washed up.

BoJack Horseman is about an anthropomorphic horse who lives in a world filled with similarly anthropomorphic animals, and somehow it's one of the most brilliant television shows airing right now.

On the surface, BoJack Horseman appears to be a simple Hollywood satire centered on a horse version of Rick Sanchez. BoJack is a drunk asshole who verbally abuses his dimwitted roommate, Todd (human). His ever-persistent agent, Princess Carolyn (cat), tries to help his career by hiring a ghostwriter, Diane Nguyen (human), to write a book about him. Diane starts dating Bojack's old "pal"/professional rival, the happy-go-lucky Mr. Peanutbutter (dog). None of this sounds particularly compelling on paper, but Raphael Bob-Waksberg takes these characters on rich emotional journeys through the course of the series, with each character trying to discover what they truly want out of life and how they can get it...and how they deal with their constant failure to get it.

Also the show is full of so many animal puns, visual gags, callbacks, and running gags you can't possibly catch them all on a first viewing. This is the wonderful dichotomy of BoJack Horseman and the fact that it balances this tonal mishmash so well is a testament to the skills of everyone involved. Even in a devastating flashback episode, you'll have some cute metahumor about flashback episodes, that's the kind of show this is. I love how unabashedly silly the show can be, and I love the show's obsession with rhyming and alliteration. There is a monologue in season four that strings together twenty-three rhymes in fifty-two words, and Amy Sedaris nails that tongue twister just like she nailed an earlier sentence with seven rhymes in eleven words. There's such a love of wordplay and language on display, not to mention a dedication to running gags I haven't seen since Arrested Development.

BoJack Horseman tackles lots of serious topics and goes to some very dark places, and it's able to deliver gut-punches so effectively because the animated format—and the absurdity inherent in the premise of this world—lulls you into a false sense of security. There's one standout sequence in the penultimate episode of the first season, but after that, the show regularly gets creative with animation styles and narrative formats. The first half of the first season is just okay, but the second half reveals what the show can do, and then it keeps doing that. The storytelling is excellent on both an episode level and a season level, with strong seasonal stories with emotional payoffs, some brutal and some hopeful and some a bit of both. What's truly astounding is that for a show where more than half the main characters are animals, it's deeply human.
Current Mood: worriedworried
Current Music: Run the Jewels - A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

January 18th, 2018

10:31 pm - The Indian Detective? More Like Russell Peter Sellers!
Of course I'm gonna watch a show called The Indian Detective! It's about an Indian detective! Played by Russell Peters, oh well, I could think of many other South Asian men I'd rather see playing an Indian detective, but there are so few shows with Indian protagonists that I thought I could give four 45-minute episodes a whirl.

So Constable Doug D'Mello becomes a laughingstock in Toronto and gets suspended just in time for his dad in Mumbai to pressure him to visit, so away he goes...only to end up investigating the murder of a swami and then getting caught up in the machinations of a vicious crime lord. Also crushing on his dad's neighbor.

When it comes to the crime plot, The Indian Detective is fairly by-the-numbers, with obvious clues, weird leaps of logics, and ridiculously clichéd dialogue for everyone involved in the machinations of a vicious crime lord, including William goddamn Shatner, randomly here to be occasionally menacing. But because the show only has four episodes to get things done, it's refreshingly swift, meaning every single mystery Doug looks into is tied to the overall mystery (I say "mystery" but there's no mystery). Bodies keep piling up! Corruption abounds in both Mumbai and Toronto! Who can Doug trust?? (I say who can Doug trust but it's pretty clear who he can trust.) Hamza Haq shines as crime lord Gopal Chandekar and his twin brother Amal (he's so good I didn't realize it was the same actor for a couple episodes), and there are seeds of his being a truly fascinating villain with compelling motivations (he wants to raze the slums of his birth to build a skyscraper and prove how far he's come, which we know because he literally tells us his motivations several times). But, you know, this is not Breaking Bad, okay.

And what of the rest of the cast? They generally acquit themselves well, with Meren Reddy as Inspector Devo being my favorite secondary character. Russell Peters seems to be going for a Shawn Spencer vibe, but he is no James Roday. His jokes almost never land, but it kind of works in that it makes him doofily endearing (for instance, there is a running gag where he reminds people that Toronto is in Canada and it is never funny but the fact that he keeps doing it eventually charmed me). Mishqah Parthiephal as his bland love interest/Indian partner in detectiving is...consistently dull, especially compared to his other love interest/Canadian partner in detectiving, Christina Cole (also none of the romance plots work). Anupham Kher as Doug's dad provides both comic relief and pathos.

When you get right down to it, The Indian Detective is not a great show by any means. It's maybe not even a good show. But it's quite an okay show that does its job, even if it's a bit of a mess and it's flawed as hell. When I watched the first episode, I guessed that I'd make it to the end and be done. By the time I finished the last episode, I found I'd grown fond of most of the characters, and I'd even watch a second season.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Emm Gryner - Hello Aquarius

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

January 15th, 2018

06:36 pm - Mindhunter? More Like Find Gunter!
In the late seventies, FBI agent Holden Ford has a revolutionary idea: why not interview unusually violent murderers and figure out what makes them tick? He ropes in seasoned veteran Bill Tench (and later on, professor of psychology Wendy Carr) and lo, a special subgroup of the Behavioral Science Unit is born.

Based on the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, Mindhunter chronicles the early days of said unit, before we even had the term "serial killer." Nowadays, we take a lot of the psychology behind these people for granted, but this show is set during a time where they felt like a new kind of criminal. And so Ford posits that you need a new kind of FBI agent, a new way of thinking. If he can understand why they do what they do, maybe he can develop ways to identify them before they hurt anyone.

Not unexpectedly, Mindhunter is at its most compelling when the characters are in the room with serial killers, most notably Ed Kemper, Ford's personal Hannibal Lecter. Much of the dialogue in these scenes is taken directly from real interviews, and the actors (Cameron Britton in this case) deliver chilling performances of men driven to kill, who feel no remorse. No two are alike either; though they sometimes share commonalities that help categorize them, each killer feels like a distinct individual rather than a general sociopath. Ford and Tench try to get what they need from their interviewees, but often their subjects are less than forthcoming, so they must resort to...unorthodox methods. It's fascinating to watch them—with the help of Dr. Carr—attempt to get into the heads of these men and use what they learn to solve some other crimes as they travel the country.

While Mindhunter succeeds in occasional moments with serial killers, it is less than compelling as a serial narrative. It does not give the audience much to grasp onto in terms of a long-term plot arc or any sort of narrative momentum. It rarely builds to anything in any given episode, let alone the season. Hell, the cryptic cold opens following an unidentified man—I did not even realize it was the same man for about half the season, that is how obtuse these scenes are—do not build to any satisfying punch. It is as if the show does not care about sustained tension or audience investment. Plotwise, I suppose the focus is on the trials and travails of the unit itself and Holden's relationship with his girlfriend, but only in the last few episodes did I ever feel into the story, truly wanting to know what would happen next. That's also when the strongest thread begins to reveal itself, as we see how much Holden Ford has been affected by his work.

Mindhunter has an excellent cast and atmosphere to burn, but it doesn't seem to know what story it wants to tell, if it wants to tell a story at all.
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: Cranberries - Salvation

(2 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

January 4th, 2018

11:00 pm - American Vandal? More Like Farrakhan Scandal!
American Vandal is a show whose central mystery can be summarized in four simple words: Who Drew the Dicks?

American Vandal is one of the best, smartest, most well written, most well acted shows of 2017.

On the afternoon of March 15, 2016, someone spray-painted penises on twenty-seven cars in the faculty parking lot at Hanover High School. The security camera footage was deleted, but everyone knows who did it: Dylan Maxwell, the fuck-up with a history of drawing dicks.

But Peter Maldonado thinks he's innocent, and he's making a documentary to find out the truth.

Creators Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda, with showrunner Dan Lagana, took inspiration from popular true-crime series like Serial and Making a Murderer, but it is absolutely not necessary to have seen or listened to any of their multiple inspirations because this is not a two-minute joke trailer painfully stretched out over eight episodes that alternates between dick jokes and references/homages to other things. It is a genuinely riveting mystery that's better constructed than those of some serious mystery shows, with twists and turns at every corner and dramatic cliffhangers that make the show incredibly binge-able (you're going to want to just sit down for four hours because, trust me, you'll want to know who drew the dicks). Peter and his co-documentarian, Sam Ecklund, dig through mounds of evidence, from text messages and Instagram posts to Snapchat videos and, yes, sometimes even actual regular photographs. They plot their theories out on a whiteboard, they attempt to reconstruct events, they do all the things you would do if you were investigating something far more dire than dicks on cars. And I assure you, the show never attempts to artificially raise the stakes with an actual murder or some shit. The brilliance of the series is how it treats this low-stakes crime with all the same gravity, and it fucking works.

Everyone fully commits to American Vandal as a legitimate documentary, and so much of the comedy comes from the fact that the people in the show don't realize they're in a comedy. There are only a couple jokes that break the fourth wall a little and point out the absurdity of what they're doing, and the show itself usually eschews the rhythms of an actual comedy, without obvious setup/punchline scenes, although there are some wonderful running gags. Instead the show finds humor in the characters themselves and the high school environment, which it portrays more accurately than, say, 13 Reasons Why (which I also really liked, by the way). People say funny things in interviews, sometimes regrettable things. High school kids sometimes act like silly high school kids. And Dylan Maxwell himself, well, Dylan is a fucking comedy goldmine and Jimmy Tatro deserves to be recognized for his incredible acting, not only because he's funny as hell but because he actually has a hell of a character arc. Some of his scenes in the finale, goddamn.

Because this show isn't just about drawing dicks. It's about the way we judge people and bend the truth to fit our preconceived notions. It's about how the search for the truth can uncover things you never wanted to know. It's about how making a documentary makes you part of the story. The finale of American Vandal packs an emotional wallop that actually feels earned amongst its array of dick jokes. It's thought-provoking and incisive, the show walking a precarious tonal tightrope and never so much as losing its balance.

American Vandal was three thousand times better than I expected it to be. I cannot believe they pulled that off. Like Dylan Maxwell, it's more complex than you'd ever think to give it credit for.

But also like Dylan Maxwell, it draws a lot of dicks.
Current Mood: impressedimpressed
Current Music: Nine Inch Nails - The Idea of You

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

December 3rd, 2017

04:32 pm - Insecure? More Like Black Lives Chatter!
Sometimes I barely hear about a show and then suddenly it is getting award nominations and being constantly mentioned by television critics and friends, and it is only two seasons of eight half-hour episodes, so watching Insecure seemed like a good idea. And it was!

Created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, Insecure follows three characters navigating personal and professional relationships in Los Angeles while black. This is definitely not a show where characters "just happen to be black"; their race and culture are integral to who they are. As a non-black person, I cannot speak to the level of authenticity in its portrayal, but given its writers and its reception by black critics, I am guessing it's pretty accurate. But this is not A Show About Being Black any more than Master of None is A Show About Being Indian; it survives on the strength of its characters and stories.

Issa works at a youth outreach program called We Got Y'all, which is run by white people and staffed almost entirely by white people—she is the one black person. Fun for her! She gets to present the black perspective and then still be whitesplained about what's best (or what looks best) to serve these "urban youth." Meanwhile, her best friend, Molly, works at a law firm where she has to code-switch to fit into a predominantly white male environment and fight for her considerable skills to be recognized. Finally, Issa's longtime boyfriend, Lawrence, doesn't have a job but does have a great idea for an app he's been working on for a while.

The basic storytelling engine of the show focuses on relationships, primarily romantic (heterosexual) ones, although Issa and Molly's friendship forms a strong emotional anchor. I love that they can fight and have real conflict with each other, but they still ove each other. They call each other on their shit all the time, sometimes playfully, sometimes hurtfully, yet they respect that they are two different people with different priorities. Even if both of them are still trying to figure out what those priorities actually are. Issa is feeling like her relationship with Lawrence is a bit stagnant and eyes an old flame, whereas Molly envies all her attached friends and longs to find someone to settle down with. If there is one constant in this show, it is that all three of these people make bad decisions. It's incredibly frustrating to watch, yet very human. People fuck up, people do stupid things, people forgive or they don't or they do and then they don't.

Luckily the show is also quite funny and charming, in ways both genuine and uncomfortable. Issa and her friends trade barbs like baseball cards, and one of them, Kelli, is particularly boisterous (though not always endearingly). Issa expresses her emotions by rapping at a mirror, and it's not always clear if it's a fantasy or she's actually doing it, which leads to some amusing moments. Nearly every scene at We Got Y'all has some cringeworthy moment, sometimes courtesy of Issa's white colleague, Frieda, who's lovable and awkward as hell as she tries not to be That White Person while working with Issa.

Insecure treats its characters like complex, flawed people, who want love and/or sex and/or success but don't really have their shit together in any of those departments, whether it is their own doing or not. It is a refreshing counterpoint to the predominantly white television landscape that doesn't feel the need to explain itself to its non-black viewers. And the season one episode titles are all "[Blank] as Fuck" and the season two episode titles are all "Hella [Blank]," and I love any television show with episode title naming themes.
Current Mood: draineddrained
Current Music: Prodigy - Medusa's Path

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

November 23rd, 2017

10:51 am - Broadchurch? More Like God, Lurch!
In the small British coastal town of Broadchurch, the body of a young boy is found on the beach. Who would kill a child? From this great tragedy, Broadchurch crafts an intriguing mystery, a portrait of a family's grief, and the dissolution of a community.

Heading the investigation are Alec Hardy, an outsider with a scandal around a similar case plaguing him, and Ellie Miller, recently back from leave only to discover that this wanker has taken her promotion. She, like most of the town, knows the family, which makes it hard to separate the personal and professional. It's a volatile partnership, as Hardy doesn't know anyone and so treats the case as any other, whereas Miller always keeps the town and townspeople—her HOME—in mind. Plus Hardy is kind of a dick, though he's only a dick because he really wants to solve the case, it's all he has in life, especially after failing a previous family. He won't fail the Latimers. Keeping an eye on him are the local preacher and the local press, however.

Given that the show is named after the town, you'd think the SETTING was a CHARACTER, and sure, it kind of is. I love how much the show focuses on the townspeople's reactions and the difficulty of keeping a secret in a small town...that has so many secrets. This murder investigation threatens to expose a lot of people's secrets, which is great since it means more people have motive. But it's not all bad: we also get to see how the town supports the Latimer family in their time of need, even if it's not necessarily how or what they want. Each member of the family deals with the loss of Danny Latimer in a different way, showing how complex grief can be.

With only eight episodes, Broadchurch delivers a well paced mystery, even though it does tend to fall into typical rhythms like "All the clues are pointing to THIS suspect...oh wait, it's not him, now all the clues are pointing to THIS suspect...oh wait, it's not him...now all the clues..." Like, come on, show, we know the guy you arrest like three episodes in is not actually the murderer...OR IS HE. It throws in a hefty dose of red herrings (some of which are never addressed?), but the final resolution packs a huge punch. It's excellently done, and you can see how nicely it was set up, red herrings and all.

The first season functions as a satisfying miniseries, and it's clear Chris Chibnall hadn't intended to do a second season. But he did! And it's a precipitous drop in quality, thanks to ludicrous courtroom drama, but it also has a pretty good mystery plot, so it's not a complete disaster. The third season, however, redeems the show entirely, as it follows a sexual assault investigation with maturity, nuance, and empathy.

Overall, Broadchurch stands out among police procedurals thanks to its evocative, powerful mood enhanced by cinematography and score, generally sharp writing, and strong relationship between David Tennant and Olivia Colman, who always play off each other wonderfully, even in the subpar second season. Plus, it's a show with three Doctors and a Companion!
Current Mood: groggygroggy
Current Music: Cellar Darling - Starcrusher

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

August 26th, 2017

08:33 am - Big Little Lies? More Like Pretty Big Liars!
Big Little Lies kind of came out of nowhere earlier this year, and all I heard was praise for the cast and the ending, so I decided to go into this miniseries not even knowing what it was about. You can also do that! But if you don't want to, I will tell you what it is about.

We open with a murder! All right, now we're talking. Someone has been murdered at a school fundraiser/gala/trivia night, and as members of the Monterey community provide their gossip-laden testimonies, we flashback to meet the characters in play. Madeline, as played by Reese Witherspoon, is very Tracy Flick-as-a-mom, aggressive and curt but full of good intentions, as she quickly befriends newcomer Jane (Shailene Woodley, fully graduating from teen dramas to convincing adult roles), a single mom with a mysterious past. Madeline's best friend, Celeste (Nicole Kidman giving the kind of award-winning performance whose strength is in its subtlety, not its showiness) appears to have the perfect life, but there are some troubling aspects about her relationship with her husband. They're all witness to an incident that puts Jane at odds with Renata (Laura Dern, giving a villainous character the humanity she deserves). Oh, also, Madeline hates her ex-husband's new wife Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz, selling a very hippie granola character without turning her into a joke). Are you still following me? Because by the end of the pilot, we realize that we, of course, don't know who the killer is. That's to be expected. But we also...we also don't know who the victim is.

Well, that's new.

Here's the amazing thing about this show, though: the murder double mystery, which is such a cool hook, quickly fades into the background. You think you're watching these flashbacks to figure out the mystery, but, no, the flashbacks are a compelling story all on their own. I became utterly caught up in the lives of these characters and their petty squabbles and their terrible marriages and their dark secrets, thanks to a number of elements. First of all, the incredible performances. Each actor refuses to make their character a caricature; not a single character on this show—even the unquestionably worst one—is fully "good" or "bad." Everyone has layers and depth, and we see it in their faces—Nicole Kidman can tell a whole story with the camera lingering on her face as it changes expressions—and in the frequent quick edits/flashes that illuminate a character's inner thoughts, both of which require you to pay close attention to the screen. I loved this latter technique, frustrating as it could have been, because it plays into the recurring theme of the series, which is that everyone is so much more than what you see on the surface. We see people having perfectly normal conversations, but, just like in real life, they're thinking of something else, something traumatic, something untrue, something wishful. It's such a great representation of how our minds work, as opposed to sitting in extended flashbacks. With writer David E. Kelley and director Jean-Marc Vallèe on every episode—and may I just say I am shocked and relieved that two men adapted a woman's novel about women so well—the show has a consistency in tone and mood and style that's mesmerizing visually and aurally, down to the soundtrack, as characters are constantly listening to songs on their iPods (episodes tend to end on songs that make you want to sit through the credits and decompress).

This could have easily been some trashy show about rich, white neurotic housewives, trafficking in cliché after cliché, but the complex performances and artful directing prove it's more than it seems. Throughout its seven episodes, the show follows multiple narratives, and as it heads into the finale, the specter of the murder rises again, as we can see the seeds of conflicts that could lead to violence. The finale was so tense I could not bear it, as I had become so attached to these characters I did not want any of them to die (well, there was one I wouldn't have minded). I was close to tears multiple times, and then the emotion hits its peak in a culmination of interweaving narratives like I've never seen, a revelatory catharsis, and this is beautiful storytelling, people, this is what I watch things for, this is the feeling I want to create in readers. As the show was ending, I did not want it to end, I had been so sucked into this world, but I also knew it should end and not be tainted by a second season. This one was executed so well, and a second could not replicate the magic, as much as I'd want to see how the remaining characters moved on from this.

Big Little Lies is not my typical viewing fare. I love murder mysteries, but this is not a murder mystery, it's a suburban domestic drama about, honestly, subjects I can't relate to, like the difficulties of marriage and motherhood and how motherhood is far more complicated than it is often portrayed. Also more complicated than it is often portrayed? Women and their relationships (seriously, how did two dudes not screw this up). Plus the child actors are wonderful! I'm getting off track because this is one of those shows where I want to start listing all the things that are great about it at the end, so I'll rein it in. You want to see some great fucking television? Big Little Lies is worth seven hours of your time.
Current Mood: worriedworried
Current Music: Arcade Fire - Intervention

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

August 23rd, 2017

10:27 pm - GLOW? More Like Crazy Ex-Bestfriends!
A television show about a women's wrestling show called Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling sounds ludicrous, but what's more ludicrous is it's based on an actual women's wrestling show called Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. It was the eighties, anything could happen!

Ruth Wilder is no wrestler, but she's a struggling actress searching for a great role for a woman in an age when all the best parts are for men (not too different from our own age, but shows like this are signs of progress). Her best friend Betty Eagan is no wrestler, but she's a recently fired soap star searching for something fulfilling. Sam Sylvia is no wrestler, but he's a cult schlock filmmaker who'll make a wrestling show if it means he can make his dream project. So he puts out a casting call, and Ruth shows up, and the rest is history.

GLOW should not work nearly as well as it does, given its subject matter and large cast of colorful characters, but the writing and directing are so assured that you always feel in capable hands. While every wrestler doesn't get the same amount of attention, each one quickly distinguishes herself (except the two designed to be a pair). It was hard to pick a favorite, no it wasn't, it was obvs Carmen, who comes from a wrestling family and is the cinnamon roll of the show. But I also enjoyed Melrose in her bad-girl awfulness and Rhonda (played Kate friggin' Nash) in her British dorkiness and Arthie in her South Asian dryness and...basically everyone, everyone has a thing, and you feel for their small stories, like Justine's crush on a pizza boy or Sheila's whole...deal. Even though Ruth is ostensibly the protagonist—and her conflict with Betty is a central, driving force in the season—it felt less like "her" show and more like an ensemble where she simply happened to get more focus. If that makes any sense at all. Because there's so much warmth and joy in watching these strangers bond over ten episodes and become a found family, which is my favorite thing.

I also love how much of a period piece it is! This show is totally eighties from the soundtrack and costumes to the VHS tapes and hostage situations. Unlike Stranger Things, which was replicating a specific eighties movie aesthetic, GLOW captures the period just as any other "period piece" would bring the Victorian era or the Roaring Twenties to life.

The first season tracks the early production of the show as they attempt to get it on the air, and at times, it's like the Slings and Arrows of wrestling with its behind-the-scenes shenanigans and personal issues carrying over into the ring. Ruth has the clearest arc, but all of the women are, in a sense, finding out who they are on this wrestling journey. While the main story follows a sports movie narrative (team tries hard, team faces obstacles at every turn, team is gonna lose BUT SURPRISE THEY WIN), it's a delight to watch because of the characters and all their interactions. The finale is incredibly satisfying on so many levels and sets the stage for much more wrestling mayhem in season two. And I'm sure Sam has some devilish plot twists in store!
Current Mood: stressedstressed
Current Music: David Bowie - Blackstar

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

August 20th, 2017

11:27 am - A Series of Fortunate Movies
The big batches continue, as no one is reading anymore so this is just for me now, I guess!

Batman: B+Collapse )

Batman Returns: B+Collapse )

3:10 to Yuma: B+Collapse )

Unforgiven: B+/A-Collapse )

Rosemary's Baby: B/B+Collapse )

Notorious: B/B+Collapse )

Loving: B+Collapse )

Lion: B+Collapse )

The Girl with All the Gifts: B+Collapse )

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: B-/BCollapse )

Train to Busan: A-Collapse )

Godfather: B/B+Collapse )

The Godfather: Part II: B-/BCollapse )

The Godfather: Part III: B-Collapse )

Tombstone: B+Collapse )

Moana: B+Collapse )

Monster: B+/A-Collapse )

Monsoon Wedding: BCollapse )

Patriot Games: B+Collapse )

Clear and Present Danger: B+Collapse )

The Sum of All Fears: B/B+Collapse )

Next time? Catching up on movies I didn't see in the theater, plus maybe making a dent in my Netflix Instant Queue.
Current Mood: exanimateexanimate
Current Music: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - Group Hang (Demo)

(2 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

August 15th, 2017

11:20 pm - The Night Of? More Like Law and Order: Eight-Hour Unit!
The Night Of begins with a pilot as exquisite as any independent film, absorbing and gripping despite never, as the AV Club reviewer put it, raising its voice. We follow Nasir Khan, a Pakistani Muslim college student in New York who "borrows" his father's taxi to go to a party and ends up picking up a Gothic Pixie Dream Girl who takes him on a little adventure. That leads back to her place. Where things happen. And then Nasir—Naz—wakes up to discover she's been murdered. Did he do it? It sure as hell looks like he did.

Through the rest of the miniseries, we follow several different characters. John Stone, the Saul Goodman-esque lawyer who takes Naz's case. Dennis Box, the soon-to-be-retired detective who investigates Naz's case. Naz's parents, who must search inside themselves as to what they believe about their son's guilt or innocence while weathering the racist shitstorm that results from a Muslim man being accused of murdering a pretty young white girl. Chandra Kapoor, another lawyer attached to Naz's case. And Naz himself, as he tries to survive in prison before and during the trial.

Here is the curious and masterful thing about this series: at (almost) no point does anyone with the exception of Naz, who repeatedly says he did not do it, declare whether they think he is guilty or innocent. The truth of the matter becomes irrelevant in a court of law; all that matters is what you can prove or fail to prove. The Night Of is at its best in the moments when it shows the justice system in its non-idealized form, laying the inherent injustice bare. All of these people serving law and order are there to do their jobs, and to do their jobs they must be right, they must win, and Naz is not the pawn but the fucking chessboard.

But you throw a chessboard into Riker's, and bad things happen.

The Night Of can be extraordinary at times, elevating the simple detective work or courtroom scenes we've seen in police procedurals time and time again. It can also be less than extraordinary, as with a distracting plotline about Stone's eczema that maybe is supposed to have metaphorical resonance but takes up more screentime than anything involving Naz's parents. I also found the prison plotline, pointed as it was, to be absurdly accelerated. To crib from the AV Club again, it was best when it felt least like a television show, and various moments rang false and untrue. While not entirely successful, The Night Of provokes more thought than your typical procedural and does it with visual panache and an assured sense of atmosphere.
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: Conjure One - Make a Wish

(Describe me as "inscrutable")

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