one hundred forty things tagged “movies”

Telugu Folk at The Movies

A theater-owner on Telugu moviegoers at RRR:

This fucking shit destroyed my theater opening night. The Telugu crowd specifically wrecked out shit. No issues with the Hindi dub or the Tamil dub.

Confetti cannons, spraying soda everywhere, littering in the parking lot, sneaking in more people than there were seats in our biggest auditoriums, screaming and shouting and chanting constantly.

I get the guy is something of a hero. I get you’re excited for your long awaited movie or whatever. Here’s an interesting thought thought: fuck off. :) Just fuck right off. Don’t be an animal and make my and my employees lives worse to have more fun at our expense.

The janitors saw the insane amount of glitter and newspaper shreddings and confetti explosions and said “hm, actually, second thought, fuck this. Nobody gets paid enough for this.” In-between every seat, every chair, in every row and even where there weren’t rows of seats, on every step, even up by the projector window. We’re lucky they didn’t damage the silver screen in any way, tbh, but that’s about it. Took days to fully clean.

Fuck RRR specifically for this reason. I know it’s probably decent, and a few friends watched it on Netflix, but out of sheer principle I just can’t bring myself to watch even a second of it now. There were some fun scenes for sure, but I think I’d much rather watch War or Baahubali 1 and 2 than RRR on account of the bad time everyone but the Telugu crowd had.

With the usual “not all of us” apologies from other Telugu folk of course.

I have never, ever understood this deeply embarrassing behaviour from my people1. At college, I remember watching a Chiranjeevi movie at some small town in Iowa. The poor folk who ran the theater had no idea what they were in for. Moviegoers littered the entire theater with glitter and torn newspaper and didn’t clean up after the show was done. Some set up an unsanctioned tea and snack station for the intermission (these refreshments were, of course, offered at a price). Chanted, chatted loudly, and generally made a nuisance of themselves.

I’ve been offered quite a few reasons as to why Telugu folk do this and they’re all pretty bullshit. I personally refuse to go to the first screening of any Telugu movie in Des Moines in case I have to deal with “passionate” people who don’t seem to understand that they’re rude, ill-mannered, immature, and annoying pieces of shit to everyone else around them.

  1. Those are things I could find in a few seconds for the recent release of a terrible movie. ↩︎

Gargi (2022) IMDb A-

Saw with LD. Very heavy subject matter loosely inspired by harrowing real-life cases and I skipped watching a few scenes. Sai Pallavi was intense and excellent, of course, but we were very impressed with the raw vulnerability and menace Saravanan brought to his character (also called “Saravanan”, lol). Kaali Venkat was great too.

S Sudha deserves a special mention both for her austere performance and who she is:

One of the places where the movie hits it out of the park is the casting of S Sudha, a transgender person, as a transgender judge in the movie. One of the fewest and rarest moments in Tamil cinema in which a transgender woman is shown to be in a position of power and authority. When she asserted her identity and agency in her reply to the misogyny of the Public Prosecutor (Kavithalaya Krishnan), the audience in the Chennai theatre erupted in applause, signaling a positive change in society.

Siddarth Muralidharan, “‘Gargi’ is special for two reasons: It is bankrolled by a woman and led by Sai Pallavi”, The Print

The Northman (2022) IMDb B+

Saw with LD. Revenge flick set in Scandinavia in 895 AD. LD thought that the ultraviolence was a bit gratuitous and didn’t serve the plot very well. I don’t know what one would expect from a story about a beefy Viking beserker hell-bent on revenge. Lush, beautiful, amazing visuals from Eggers and crew. I wish I saw this in the theater. This is Eggers’ third movie after The Lighthouse (which we thoroughly enjoyed) and The Witch (which I am too much of a chicken to watch). Alexander Skarsgård and Anya Taylor-Joy are simply excellent.

Bheemla Nayak (2022) IMDb B

Excellent cinematography and art direction. Bouncy background score by Thaman. Rana Daggubati stole the show, is magnetic in every scene he’s in, and we were all amazed by the ease with which he plays arrogant douchenozzles 💯 Could’ve been at least an hour shorter. Lovely poetry.

Clean (2022) IMDb B-

Adrien Brody is a great actor and I love watching him act. I absolutely love good, easy revenge flicks. So this was an easy pick. Mr. Brody channels his inner Travis Bickle (for the most part.) This was Taxi Driver meets Taken meets John Wick, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Brody produced, wrote, and scored the movie, leading someone on Reddit to call this a “tough guy savior vanity project”. I loved the camera work, the overall revenge theme, ass-kicking, and little else. Recommended, easy watch if you like this genre. Others include The Equalizer (Denzel), Man on Fire (Denzel), and The Man from Nowhere (absolutely not Denzel).

Oh and RZA’s in this! His presence in this movie somehow reminded me of his role in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, which is another fantastic movie of the “kind-hearted lone mumblegrumbler with a dark and troubled past kicks badguy ass to save the innocent” genre 💗

The Salesman (2016) IMDb A+

Saw with LD. This was our first Asghar Farhadi movie and it won’t be our last. Everything was magnificent: story, acting, screenplay, all of it. I remarked to LD that he managed to punch us in at least ten emotional centers in our hearts. So masterfully paced we didn’t feel two hours flow by.

Here’s a short clip where he describes his filmmaking process:

The hardest part is when the movie is done. When the movie starts to have its distance from me. When the movie is over I don’t show it to actors. Because they just look at themselves, and their opinion wouldn’t help me. I show it to some people who don’t have anything to do with cinema. Same with the script. I have the past script to the French teacher of my daughter.

When normal people see the film they can’t tell you what they feel right away. But while they’re watching the film you can sit with them and feel which part they are getting bored and which part gets them excited. The most important thing for me to understand after I am done with a film is that if my film is boring or not. I don’t like anyone to go out when viewing my film even if they have to go and pee. My film has to do something that they have to finish it and then leave.

I’ll watch the A Separation next1.

  1. Not that they matter too much but both these movies won Academy Awards for Farhadi. He refused to accept the second Oscar in person “out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.” If you didn’t notice when the movie was released: One guess as to which administration that happened under. ↩︎

The Eye: Calanthek

This is a short film done entirely with the Early Access version of Unreal Engine 5. It’s only around eight minutes long and took six weeks to make but its plot is more exciting and coherent than whatever the heck was happening in Prometheus1.

  1. Some examples: Let’s take our helmets off on an alien planet teeming with life forms we are yet to study. Let’s then just go ahead and touch and electrocute said life forms. And what exactly are David’s motivations? From Wikipedia: “Writer Damon Lindelof stated that the character provides a non-human perspective on the film’s events, and said, ‘What does the movie look like from the robot’s point of view? If you were to ask him, ‘What do you think about all of this? What’s going on? What do you think about these humans who are around you?’ Wouldn’t it be cool if we found a way for that robot to answer those questions?’” Let’s ask these questions, never answer them, and waste Michael Fassbender on this embarrassing shit instead. Oh and if you didn’t know that the ‘Engineers’ in the movie are mad at us and want to destroy us because we killed Jesus, you do now. ↩︎

Akhanda (2021) IMDb D

REALLY 📢 LOUD 📢 NOISES 📢 with a good dose of Hindutva1. It’s really, really loud.

This is Boyapati Srinu’s third movie with Balakrishna after Simha (loud) and Legend (louder.) Akhanda is the loudest and shittiest collaboration yet. The story is a complete afterthought and, very loosely, holds together punch dialogues, fight scenes, and forgettable shit songs featuring Balakrishna’s embarrassing and dismaying calisthenic attempts at joint health and mobility2. Meat for the most hardcore of Balayya fans. At this rate, he could just put out a two-hour plot-free smorgasbord of Balayya belting us with nothing but punch dialogues and still have a hit on his hands.

Diarrhea with kernels of punch dialogues. Please make sure you protect your hearing if you decide to watch this disaster. Here’s a review via NN. 0:09 to 0:24 is accurate.

Update

When I said the first few seconds of the review above were accurate, I wasn’t fucking around.

Those histrionics are marginally better than the movie.

Update

The music director thinks it’s wrong to call his shit loud. “You don’t ask the priests at the temple to turn down the volume of the bells ringing do you?” He submits that the ear-splitting volume induces a “trance” state. Otolaryngologists might call it “trauma” but OK Bro.

  1. It’s just what the market wants you know? ↩︎

  2. Tho truth be told, I’d be very happy if I could move like that at sixty-one 🤷‍♂️ ↩︎

Worlds Beyond the Stars

Dil Se, written and directed by Mani Ratnam, is one of my all-time favorite movies. I still consider its soundtrack to be A R Rahman’s greatest work. It’s just magnificent stuff.

When I was 15, I remember seeing the movie’s trailer1 and being awestruck by this haunting background song2 that didn’t make it into the official tracklist. The song is a rendition of a well-known poem, Sitaron Se Aage Jahan Aur Bhi Hai, by another genius Allama Iqbal.

I’ve been looking for this song for a long while, settling for shitty movie extractions (which are exactly that.) I went to the extent of trying to contact Madras Talkies, the director’s production company, several times to no response or avail.

Twenty four years later, and thanks to the internet, I’ve finally found good versions of this elusive song 🥰

All of these appear to be from a 20-year anniversary release I couldn’t find anywhere but here. The whole thing is just absolutely lovely. Oh and here’s another version at appears to be mostly the same as the one linked to, and a solo version by a guy named Sujay.

  1. Which was badass and which I also cannot find. We went to see Bade Miyan Chote Miyan↩︎

  2. Sung by Sukhwinder Singh and, I’m guessing, a fucking banshee. ↩︎

The Matrix Resurrections (2021) IMDb B+

Saw with LD on Christmas Eve. I thought it was well-done millennial nostalgia porn. Nothing wrong with that. I loved the humor and digs at techbro culture and co-option of “red-pill” by the far-right (which led to my favorite set of Tweets.) Thought it could be a deconstruction of the original Matrix (for what isn’t these days?) and was very swayed by this lovely analysis by /u/Dangerous_Budget8897.

Breaking free from the Matrix is about breaking free from preconceptions. This is emphasised by the fate of the real Morpheus, who was so convinced by the mythology of the One that he couldn’t accept the new peace could be undone. I think Lana regards certain fans of the original film in the same way, with their steadfast commitment to the original film’s aesthetics. This revival executes the highly-anticipated action scenes with total indifference, all while cheerfully embracing goofy comedy along with the defiantly uncool visual palette continued from the final shot of Revolutions.

Is this a middle finger to the audience? To some extent, but I think Lana would argue that they need their expectations recalibrated. For her, the Matrix is about love. She is aware that, as the analyst says, “people will find it sentimental”, but the positioning of sentimentality in favour of macho posturing is one of the film’s core tenets. Co-writer David Mitchell has said that Neo never shooting a gun was a purposeful choice, and it makes sense in light of the trilogy’s sacrificial ending. Neo is no longer the One, flying off alone at the end of the film, but someone who is incomplete without Trinity. Smith is once again used as an individualist counterpoint to the protagonist, but is here rendered almost irrelevant. Freedom is impossible or meaningless without connections between people, and an act of faith (in this case jumping off a building) can be more about trusting in other people than yourself.

There is also the element of further rejecting binaries. Another aspect of the Trinity arc is to do with accepting or integrating other aspects of yourself, in a way which perhaps reflects Lana’s transition. The female led cover of Wake Up1 can be seen as a kind of corrective to the aforementioned macho elements, and the conservative adoption of the term “red pill”. People in this story are kept in place by ‘Fear and Desire”, the sense that possibilities are just out of reach, and the film proposes that the only way to set them free is by example, to “paint the sky with rainbows”.

💗

  1. Not from the movie but this is fucking great. ↩︎

Some “Dune” Posters

For “the greatest movie never made”, although there appear to be a few contenders1 for that title, like Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon.

My absolute favorite is the last one by Hugo Emmanuel Figueroa 🙌

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 1

Pe-release flyer (Source)

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 2

by Matt Chinn.

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 3

Variation 1 by Stan and Vince.

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 4

Variation 2 by Stan and Vince.

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 5

by Hugo Emmanuel Figueroa

  1. In case that link goes down here’s a cached version. Others include The Man Who Killed Don Quixote by Terry Gilliam, Revenge of the Jedi by David Cronenberg/David Lynch, Heart of Darkness by Orson Welles, and Gladiator 2 by Ridley Scott/Nick Cave. ↩︎

On Nicholas Cage

Yeah, Nic Cage brings the same intensity to almost every role he does. If it’s not a very good role, it’s gonna stand out as being bad.

To put it another way, imagine a boxer that is very good at knocking people out. That’s impressive. Now imagine he accepts fights against children as well, and he is still good at knocking those people out. Now it’s less impressive and more horrifying. He could be an amazing boxer, but he keeps accepting fights against children and knocking them out.

That’s Nic Cage’s acting.

Aarekk on /r/NoStupidQuestions

You either get Nic Cage or you don’t. Via CM.

The Lighthouse (2019) IMDb A

"Robert Pattinson said to me before agreeing to this, ‘I don’t want to make a movie about a magical lighthouse. I want to make a movie about a fucking crazy person.’”

Jess Joho, “What the hell did ‘The Lighthouse’ even mean?”, Mashable

Saw with LD. Noir, Jung, myth and mythology, Proteus, Prometheus, masculinity, sexuality, very large phallus, isolation, identity, lobster dinners, psychosis, mermaids, flatulence, alcoholism, omens, portents, songs, odes, the-father-is-the-son-is-the-father, Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

“Every Frame a Painting” and it somehow manages to be quite funny at times. Oh and this (emphasis mine):

Underneath the jargon and flatulence, the film is mostly concerned with identity.

Vinnie Mancuso, “‘The Lighthouse’ Ending Feeds Myth and Symbolism to the Birds”, Collider

Bravo!

Eliminating Distractions with MS-DOS

The Dune screenplay was written on MS-DOS on a program app called “Movie Master”. It has a 40 page limit which helps the writer, Eric Roth.

Writing is fundamentally about putting your ass in the chair and typing the words. Eliminating distractions (I’ve checked Twitter at least five times while writing this short blog) is a key to success. Nothing eliminates distractions like a stripped down simple program with no internet access. Roth also said the 40 page limit helps him structure his screenplays.“I like it because it makes acts,” he said. “I realize if I hadn’t said it in 40 pages I’m starting to get in trouble.”

Matthew Gault, “The ‘Dune’ Screenplay Was Written in MS-DOS”, Vice

“It wasn’t brains that got me here I can assure you of that.”

I cannot help rewatch this powerful scene from “Margin Call”. A masterclass in acting by the great Jeremy Irons.

Every sentence, glance, and gesture projects complete and menacing presence, power, and finality, and is done to absolute perfection 👌

Mersal (2017) IMDb C

Saw with NN. At least twice as long as it needs to be. Didn’t care about the score. It’s three hours of Vijay doing Vijay things with gusto. Spoiler: I understand that mass Indian entertainers, particularly the South Indian ones, have a tenuous relationship with reality. But we are to be OK with two siblings, born five years apart, looking like facsimiles of each other. They didn’t even bother shaving the mustache of the younger bro. Come the fuck on.

Candyman (2021) IMDb B+

Saw with BE and NN. Eh. Clear messages about creatives’ struggles and temptations, and the importance of continuing to tell past and present stories of horrific pain and suffering.

I suppose I just lazily wanted to watch a well-made scary movie without actively engaging with it, without searching for the clever and occasionally deep symbolism that has come to characterize a movie with Jordan Peele’s name on it. It was adequately scary.

The title of Anthony’s piece [“Say His Name”] also is recognizable as a play on the Say Her Name slogan meant to memorialize victims of anti-Black violence and police brutality such as Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland. The recognition of that inference is the only point of connection to it.

Beyond that, little about the plot makes a statement about over-policing or the socio-economic violence that gentrification creates by destroying and displacing low-income communities. Its characters blithely discuss these concerns over drinks or Brianna’s well-appointed living room, but only as part of a litany of urban ills. The sequences are the film’s ways of throwing a message that’s on-brand for 2021 behind a horror movie meant to speak to an audience that supports protests against racial injustice and biased policing in principle without having any actual skin in the game.

To those impacted in a real way by these issues or savvy enough to recognize when they’re being used as mechanisms to impart a sense of relevance, they come across as didactic nonsense. All that noise strangles the twin melodies that make up the Candyman character’s siren song: seduction and legacy.

Melanie McFarland, “No sweets for the sweet in new “Candyman,” which neglects the legend’s seductively scary legacy”, Salon

Speaking of these “twin melodies”: I haven’t seen the 1992 original and it’s on my list. Didn’t know that Philip Glass did the score for the movie.

The Wolf’s Call (2019) IMDb B+

Watched with LD. Nuclear apocalypse via submarines. At least as exciting as “The Hunt for Red October”. Watch on the largest screen you have and with a good sound system. The premise and last half hour were (I hope) pure flights of fancy. Excellent stuff by Francois Civil, Reda Kateb, and Mathieu Kassovitz as Alfost1.

  1. Which Wikipedia notes is not a name: “It is an acronym designating the admiral commanding the SSBN fleet of the French Navy. It stands for AmiraL commandant la Force Océanique STratégique.” ↩︎

“All You Zombies” by Robert A. Heinlein More Pasta

2217 Time Zone V (EST) 7 Nov. 1970–NTC-- “Pop’s Place”: I was polishing a brandy snifter when the Unmarried Mother came in. I noted the time—10:17 P. M. zone five, or eastern time, November 7th, 1970. Temporal agents always notice time and date; we must.

The Unmarried Mother was a man twenty–five years old, no taller than I am, childish features and a touchy temper. I didn’t like his looks—I never had—but he was a lad I was here to recruit, he was my boy. I gave him my best barkeep’s smile.

Maybe I’m too critical. He wasn’t swish; his nickname came from what he always said when some nosy type asked him his line: “I’m an unmarried mother.” If he felt less than murderous he would add: “at four cents a word. I write confession stories.”

If he felt nasty, he would wait for somebody to make something of it. He had a lethal style of infighting, like a female cop—reason I wanted him. Not the only one.

He had a load on, and his face showed that he despised people more than usual. Silently I poured a double shot of Old Underwear and left the bottle. He drank it, poured another.

I wiped the bar top. “How’s the ‘Unmarried Mother’ racket?”

His fingers tightened on the glass and he seemed about to throw it at me; I felt for the sap under the bar. In temporal manipulation you try to figure everything, but there are so many factors that you never take needless risks.

I saw him relax that tiny amount they teach you to watch for in the Bureau’s training school. “Sorry,” I said. “Just asking, ‘How’s business?’ Make it ‘How’s the weather?’”

He looked sour. “Business is okay. I write 'em, they print 'em, I eat.”

I poured myself one, leaned toward him. “Matter of fact,” I said, “you write a nice stick—I’ve sampled a few. You have an amazingly sure touch with the woman’s angle.”

It was a slip I had to risk; he never admitted what pen–names he used. But he was boiled enough to pick up only the last: “‘Woman’s angle!’” he repeated with a snort. “Yeah, I know the woman’s angle. I should.”

“So?” I said doubtfully. “Sisters?”

“No. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Now, now,” I answered mildly, “bartenders and psychiatrists learn that nothing is stranger than truth. Why, son, if you heard the stories I do—well, you’d make yourself rich. Incredible.”

“You don’t know what ‘incredible’ means!”

“So? Nothing astonishes me. I’ve always heard worse.” He snorted again. “Want to bet the rest of the bottle?”

“I’ll bet a full bottle.” I placed one on the bar.

“Well—” I signaled my other bartender to handle the trade. We were at the far end, a single–stool space that I kept private by loading the bar top by it with jars of pickled eggs and other clutter. A few were at the other end watching the fights and somebody was playing the juke box—private as a bed where we were.

“Okay,” he began, “to start with, I’m a bastard.”

“No distinction around here,” I said.

“I mean it,” he snapped. “My parents weren’t married.”

“Still no distinction,” I insisted. “Neither were mine.”

“When—” He stopped, gave me the first warm look I ever saw on him. “You mean that?”

“I do. A one–hundred–percent bastard. In fact,” I added, “no one in my family ever marries. All bastards.”

“Oh, that.” I showed it to him. “It just looks like a wedding ring; I wear it to keep women off.” It is an antique I bought in 1985 from a fellow operative—he had fetched it from pre–Christian Crete. “The Worm Ouroboros… the World Snake that eats its own tail, forever without end. A symbol of the Great Paradox.”

He barely glanced at it. “If you’re really a bastard, you know how it feels. When I was a little girl—”

“Wups!” I said. “Did I hear you correctly?”

“Who’s telling this story? When I was a little girl—Look, ever hear of Christine Jorgenson? Or Roberta Cowell?”

“Uh, sex–change cases? You’re trying to tell me—”

“Don’t interrupt or swelp me, I won’t talk. I was a foundling, left at an orphanage in Cleveland in 1945 when I was a month old. When I was a little girl, I envied kids with parents. Then, when I learned about sex—and, believe me, Pop, you learn fast in an orphanage—”

“I know”

“—I made a solemn vow that any kid of mine would have both a pop and a mom. It kept me ‘pure,’ quite a feat in that vicinity—I had to learn to fight to manage it. Then I got older and realized I stood darn little chance of getting married—for the same reason I hadn’t been adopted.” He scowled. “I was horse–faced and buck–toothed, flat–chested and straight–haired.”

“You don’t look any worse than I do.”

“Who cares how a barkeep looks? Or a writer? But people wanting to adopt pick little blue–eyed golden–haired morons. Later on, the boys want bulging breasts, a cute face, and an Oh–you–wonderful–male manner.” He shrugged. “I couldn’t compete. So I decided to join the W.E.N.C.H.E.S.

“Eh?”

“Women’s Emergency National Corps, Hospitality & Entertainment Section, what they now call ‘Space Angels’—Auxiliary Nursing Group, Extraterrestrial Legions.'”

I knew both terms, once I had them chronized. We use still a third name, it’s that elite military service corps: Women’s Hospitality Order Refortifying & Encouraging Spacemen. Vocabulary shift is the worst hurdle in time–jumps—did you know that a ‘service station’ once served oil fractions? Once on an assignment in the Churchill Era, a woman said to me, ‘Meet me at the service station next door’—which is not what it sounds; a ‘service station’ (then) wouldn’t have a bed in it.

He went on: "It was when they first admitted you can’t send men into space for months and years and not relieve the tension. You remember how the wowsers screamed?—that improved my chance, since volunteers were scarce. A gal had to be respectable, preferably virgin (they liked to train them from scratch), above average mentally, and stable emotionally. But most volunteers were old hookers, or neurotics who would crack up ten days off Earth. So I didn’t need looks; if they accepted me, they would fix my buck teeth, put a wave in my hair, teach me to walk and dance and how to listen to a man pleasingly, and everything else—plus training for the prime duties. They would even use plastic surgery if it would help—nothing too good for our Boys.

"Best yet, they made sure you didn’t get pregnant during your enlistment—and you were almost certain to marry at the end of your hitch. Same way today, A.N.G.E.L.S. marry spacers—they talk the language.

"When I was eighteen I was placed as a ‘mother’s helper’. This family simply wanted a cheap servant, but I didn’t mind as I couldn’t enlist till I was twenty–one. I did housework and went to night school—pretending to continue my high school typing and shorthand but going to a charm class instead, to better my chances for enlistment.

“Then I met this city slicker with his hundred–dollar bills.” He scowled. "The no–good actually did have a wad of hundred–dollar bills. He showed me one night, told me to help myself.

"But I didn’t. I liked him. He was the first man I ever met who was nice to me without trying games with me. I quit night school to see him oftener. It was the happiest time of my life.

“Then one night in the park the games began.”

He stopped. I said, “And then?”

“And then nothing! I never saw him again. He walked me home and told me he loved me—and kissed me good—night and never came back.” He looked grim. “If I could find him, I’d kill him!”

“Well,” I sympathized, “I know how you feel. But killing him—just for doing what comes naturally—hmm… Did you struggle?”

“Huh? What’s that got to do with it?”

“Quite a bit. Maybe he deserves a couple of broken arms for running out on you, but—”

"He deserves worse than that! Wait till you hear. Somehow I kept anyone from suspecting and decided it was all for the best. I hadn’t really loved him and probably would never love anybody—and I was more eager to join the W.E.N.C.H.E.S. than ever. I wasn’t disqualified, they didn’t insist on virgins. I cheered up.

“It wasn’t until my skirts got tight that I realized.”

“Pregnant?”

"He had me higher 'n a kite! Those skinflints I lived with ignored it as long as I could work—then kicked me out, and the orphanage wouldn’t take me back. I landed in a charity ward surrounded by other big bellies and trotted bedpans until my time came.

"One night I found myself on an operating table, with a nurse saying, ‘Relax. Now breathe deeply.’

"I woke up in bed, numb from the chest down. My surgeon came in. ‘How do you feel?’ he says cheerfully.

"‘Like a mummy.’

"‘Naturally. You’re wrapped like one and full of dope to keep you numb. You’ll get well—but a Cesarean isn’t a hangnail.’

"‘Cesarean’ I said. ‘Doc—did I lose the baby?’

"‘Oh, no. Your baby’s fine.’

"Oh. Boy or girl?

"‘A healthy little girl. Five pounds, three ounces.’

"I relaxed. It’s something, to have made a baby. I told myself I would go somewhere and tack ‘Mrs.’ on my name and let the kid think her papa was dead—no orphanage for my kid!

"But the surgeon was talking. ‘Tell me, uh—’ He avoided my name. ‘did you ever think your glandular setup was odd?’

"I said, ‘Huh? Of course not. What are you driving at?’

"He hesitated. 'I’ll give you this in one dose, then a hypo to let you sleep off your jitters. You’ll have ‘em.’

"‘Why?’ I demanded.

"‘Ever hear of that Scottish physician who was female until she was thirty five? —then had surgery and became legally and medically a man? Got married. All okay.’

"‘What’s that got to do with me?’

"‘That’s what I’m saying. You’re a man.’

"I tried to sit up. ‘What?’

"‘Take it easy. When I opened you, I found a mess. I sent for the Chief of Surgery while I got the baby out, then we held a consultation with you on the table—and worked for hours to salvage what we could. You had two full sets of organs, both immature, but with the female set well enough developed for you to have a baby. They could never be any use to you again, so we took them out and rearranged things so that you can develop properly as a man.’ He put a hand on me. ‘Don’t worry. You’re young, your bones will readjust, we’ll watch your glandular balance—and make a fine young man out of you.’

"I started to cry. ‘What about my baby?’

"‘Well, you can’t nurse her, you haven’t milk enough for a kitten. If I were you, I wouldn’t see her—put her up for adoption.’

"‘No!’

"He shrugged. ‘The choice is yours; you’re her mother—well, her parent. But don’t worry now; we’ll get you well first.’

“Next day they let me see the kid and I saw her daily—trying to get used to her. I had never seen a brand–new baby and had no idea how awful they look—my daughter looked like an orange monkey. My feelings changed to cold determination to do right by her. But four weeks later that didn’t mean anything.”

“Eh?”

“She was snatched.”

“‘Snatched?’”

The Unmarried Mother almost knocked over the bottle we had bet. “Kidnapped—stolen from the hospital nursery!” He breathed hard. “How’s that for taking the last a man’s got to live for?”

“A bad deal,” I agreed. “Let’s pour you another. No clues?”

“Nothing the police could trace. Somebody came to see her, claimed to be her uncle. While the nurse had her back turned, he walked out with her.”

“Description?”

“Just a man, with a face–shaped face, like yours or mine.” He frowned. “I think it was the baby’s father. The nurse swore it was an older man but he probably used makeup. Who else would swipe my baby? Childless women pull such stunts—but whoever heard of a man doing it?”

“What happened to you then?”

“Eleven more months of that grim place and three operations. In four months I started to grow a beard; before I was out I was shaving regularly… and no longer doubted that I was male.” He grinned wryly. “I was staring down nurses necklines.”

“Well,” I said, “seems to me you came through okay. Here you are, a normal man, making good money, no real troubles. And the life of a female is not an easy one.”

He glared at me. “A lot you know about it!”

“So?”

“Ever hear the expression ‘a ruined woman’?”

“Mmm, years ago. Doesn’t mean much today.”

“I was as ruined as a woman can be; that bum really ruined me—I was no longer a woman… and I didn’t know how to be a man.”

“Takes getting used to, I suppose.”

"You have no idea. I don’t mean learning how to dress, or not walking into the wrong rest room; I learned those in the hospital. But how could I live? What job could I get? Hell, I couldn’t even drive a car. I didn’t know a trade; I couldn’t do manual labor—too much scar tissue, too tender.

"I hated him for having ruined me for the W.E.N.C.H.E.S., too, but I didn’t know how much until I tried to join the Space Corps instead. One look at my belly and I was marked unfit for military service. The medical officer spent time on me just from curiosity; he had read about my case.

"So I changed my name and came to New York. I got by as a fry cook, then rented a typewriter and set myself up as a public stenographer—what a laugh! In four months I typed four letters and one manuscript. The manuscript was for Real Life Tales and a waste of paper, but the goof who wrote it sold it.

“Which gave me an idea; I bought a stack of confession magazines and studied them.” He looked cynical. “Now you know how I get the authentic woman’s angle on an unmarried–mother story… through the only version I haven’t sold—the true one. Do I win the bottle?”

I pushed it toward him. I was upset myself, but there was work to do. I said, “Son, you still want to lay hands on that so–and–so?”

His eyes lighted up—a feral gleam.

“Hold it!” I said. “You wouldn’t kill him?”

He chuckled nastily. “Try me.”

“Take it easy. I know more about it than you think I do. I can help you. I know where he is.”

He reached across the bar. “Where is he?”

I said softly, “Let go my shirt, sonny—or you’ll land in the alley and we’ll tell the cops you fainted.” I showed him the sap.

He let go. “Sorry. But where is he?” He looked at me. “And how do you know so much?”

“All in good time. There are records—hospital records, orphanage records, medical records. The matron of your orphanage was Mrs. Fetherage—right? She was followed by Mrs. Gruenstein—right? Your name, as a girl, was ‘Jane’—right? And you didn’t tell me any of this—right?”

I had him baffled and a bit scared. “What’s this? You trying to make trouble for me?”

“No indeed. I’ve your welfare at heart. I can put this character in your lap. You do to him as you see fit—and I guarantee that you’ll get away with it. But I don’t think you’ll kill him. You’d be nuts to—and you aren’t nuts. Not quite.”

He brushed it aside. “Cut the noise. Where is he?” I poured him a short one; he was drunk, but anger was offsetting it. “Not so fast. I do something for you—you do something for me.”

“Uh… what?”

“You don’t like your work. What would you say to high pay, steady work, unlimited expense account, your own boss on the job, and lots of variety and adventure?”

He stared. “I’d say, ‘Get those goddam reindeer off my roof!’ Shove it, Pop—there’s no such job.”

“Okay, put it this way: I hand him to you, you settle with him, then try my job. If it’s not all I claim—well, I can’t hold you.”

He was wavering; the last drink did it. “When d’yuh d’liver 'im?” he said thickly.

He shoved out his hand. “It’s a deal!”

“If it’s a deal—right now!”

I nodded to my assistant to watch both ends, noted the time—2300—started to duck through the gate under the bar—when the juke box blared out: “I’m My Own Grandpaw!” The service man had orders to load it with Americana and classics because I couldn’t stomach the ‘music’ of 1970, but I hadn’t known that tape was in it. I called out, “Shut that off! Give the customer his money back.” I added, “Storeroom, back in a moment,” and headed there with my Unmarried Mother following.

It was down the passage across from the johns, a steel door to which no one but my day manager and myself had a key; inside was a door to an inner room to which only I had a key. We went there.

He looked blearily around at windowless walls. “Where is he?”

“Right away.” I opened a case, the only thing in the room; it was a U. S. F. F. Coordinates Transformer Field Kit, series 1992, Mod. II—a beauty, no moving parts, weight twenty–three kilos fully charged, and shaped to pass as a suitcase. I had adjusted it precisely earlier that day; all I had to do was to shake out the metal net which limits the transformation field.

Which I did. “What’s that?” he demanded.

“Time machine,” I said and tossed the net over us.

“Hey!” he yelled and stepped back. There is a technique to this; the net has to be thrown so that the subject will instinctively step back onto the metal mesh, then you close the net with both of you inside completely—else you might leave shoe soles behind or a piece of foot, or scoop up a slice of floor. But that’s all the skill it takes. Some agents con a subject into the net; I tell the truth and use that instant of utter astonishment to flip the switch. Which I did.

1030–VI–3 April 1963—Cleveland, Ohio–Apex Bldg.: “Hey!” he repeated. “Take this damn thing off!”

“Sorry”, I apologized and did so, stuffed the net into the case, closed it. “You said you wanted to find him.”

“But—you said that was a time machine!”

I pointed out a window. “Does that look like November? Or New York?” While he was gawking at new buds and spring weather, I reopened the case, took out a packet of hundred–dollar bills, checked that the numbers and signatures were compatible with 1963. The Temporal Bureau doesn’t care how much you spend (it costs nothing) but they don’t like unnecessary anachronisms. Too many mistakes, and a general court–martial will exile you for a year in a nasty period, say 1974 with its strict rationing and forced labor. I never make such mistakes; the money was okay.

He turned around and said, “What happened?”

“He’s here. Go outside and take him. Here’s expense money.” I shoved it at him and added, “Settle him, then I’ll pick you up.”

Hundred–dollar bills have a hypnotic effect on a person not used to them. He was thumbing them unbelievingly as I eased him into the hall, locked him out. The next jump was easy, a small shift in era.

7100–VI–10 March 1964—Cleveland–Apex Bldg.: There was a notice under the door saying that my lease expired next week; otherwise the room looked as it had a moment before. Outside, trees were bare and snow threatened; I hurried, stopping only for contemporary money and a coat, hat, and topcoat I had left there when I leased the room. I hired a car, went to the hospital. It took twenty minutes to bore the nursery attendant to the point where I could swipe the baby without being noticed. We went back to the Apex Building. This dial setting was more involved, as the building did not yet exist in 1945. But I had precalculated it.

0100–VI–20 Sept. 1945—Cleveland–Skyview Motel: Field kit, baby, and I arrived in a motel outside town. Earlier I had registered as “Gregory Johnson, Warren, Ohio,” so we arrived in a room with curtains closed, windows locked, and doors bolted, and the floor cleared to allow for waver as the machine hunts. You can get a nasty bruise from a chair where it shouldn’t be—not the chair, of course, but backlash from the field.

No trouble. Jane was sleeping soundly; I carried her out, put her in a grocery box on the seat of a car I had provided earlier, drove to the orphanage, put her on the steps, drove two blocks to a ‘service station’ (the petroleum–products sort) and phoned the orphanage, drove back in time to see them taking the box inside, kept going and abandoned the car near the motel—walked to it and jumped forward to the Apex Building in 1963.

2200–VI–24 April 1963—Cleveland–Apex Bldg.: I had cut the time rather fine—temporal accuracy depends on span, except on return to zero. If I had it right, Jane was discovering, out in the park this balmy spring night, that she wasn’t quite as nice a girl as she had thought. I grabbed a taxi to the home of those skinflints, had the hackie wait around a comer while I lurked in shadows.

Presently I spotted them down the street, arms around each other. He took her up on the porch and made a long job of kissing her good–night—longer than I thought. Then she went in and he came down the walk, turned away. I slid into step and hooked an arm in his. “That’s all, son,” I announced quietly. “I’m back to pick you up.”

“You!” He gasped and caught his breath.

“Me. Now you know who he is—and after you think it over you’ll know who you are… and if you think hard enough, you’ll figure out who the baby is… and who I am.”

He didn’t answer, he was badly shaken. It’s a shock to have it proved to you that you can’t resist seducing yourself. I took him to the Apex Building and we jumped again.

2300–VIII, 12 Aug. 1985–Sub Rockies Base: I woke the duty sergeant, showed my I. D., told the sergeant to bed my companion down with a happy pill and recruit him in the morning. The sergeant looked sour, but rank is rank, regardless of era; he did what I said—thinking, no doubt, that the next time we met he might be the colonel and I the sergeant. Which can happen in our corps. “What name?” he asked.

I wrote it out. He raised his eyebrows. “Like so, eh? Hmm—”

“You just do your job, Sergeant.” I turned to my companion.

“Son, your troubles are over. You’re about to start the best job a man ever held—and you’ll do well. I know.”

“That you will!” agreed the sergeant. “Look at me—born in 1917—still around, still young, still enjoying life.” I went back to the jump room, set everything on preselected zero.

2301–V–7 Nov. 1970–NYC—“Pop’s Place”: I came out of the storeroom carrying a fifth of Drambuie to account for the minute I had been gone. My assistant was arguing with the customer who had been playing “I’m My Own Grand–paw!” I said, “Oh, let him play it, then unplug it.” I was very tired.

It’s rough, but somebody must do it, and it’s very hard to recruit anyone in the later years, since the Mistake of 1972. Can you think of a better source than to pick people all fouled up where they are and give them well–paid, interesting (even though dangerous) work in a necessary cause? Everybody knows now why the Fizzle War of 1963 fizzled. The bomb with New York’s number on it didn’t go off, a hundred other things didn’t go as planned—all arranged by the likes of me.

But not the Mistake of '72; that one is not our fault—and can’t be undone; there’s no paradox to resolve. A thing either is, or it isn’t, now and forever amen. But there won’t be another like it; an order dated ‘1992’ takes precedence any year.

I closed five minutes early, leaving a letter in the cash register telling my day manager that I was accepting his offer to buy me out, to see my lawyer as I was leaving on a long vacation. The Bureau might or might not pick up his payments, but they want things left tidy. I went to the room in the back of the storeroom and forward to 1993.

2200–VII-- 12 Jan 1993–Sub Rockies Annex–HQ Temporal DOL: I checked in with the duty officer and went to my quarters, intending to sleep for a week. I had fetched the bottle we bet (after all, I won it) and took a drink before I wrote my report. It tasted foul, and I wondered why I had ever liked Old Underwear. But it was better than nothing; I don’t like to be cold sober, I think too much. But I don’t really hit the bottle either; other people have snakes—I have people.

I dictated my report; forty recruitments all okayed by the Psych Bureau—counting my own, which I knew would be okayed. I was here, wasn’t I? Then I taped a request for assignment to operations; I was sick of recruiting. I dropped both in the slot and headed for bed. My eye fell on ‘The By–Laws of Time,’ over my bed:

  • Never Do Yesterday What Should Be Done Tomorrow.
  • If at Last You Do Succeed, Never Try Again.
  • A Stitch in Time Saves Nine Billion.
  • A Paradox May Be Paradoctored.
  • It Is Earlier When You Think.
  • Ancestors Are Just People.
  • Even Jove Nods.

They didn’t inspire me the way they had when I was a recruit; thirty subjective–years of time–jumping wears you down. I undressed, and when I got down to the hide I looked at my belly. A Cesarean leaves a big scar, but I’m so hairy now that I don’t notice it unless I look for it.

Then I glanced at the ring on my finger.

The Snake That Eats Its Own Tail, Forever and Ever. I know where I came from—but where did all you zombies come from?

I felt a headache coming on, but a headache powder is one thing I do not take. I did once—and you all went away.

So I crawled into bed and whistled out the light.

You aren’t really there at all. There isn’t anybody but me—Jane—here alone in the dark.

I miss you dreadfully!

W/o Ram (2018) IMDb D

Watched because I’m a sucker for any movie that calls itself a ‘thriller’. A case-study in nepotism. She shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near a camera. Good God.

Vijay Yelakanti considers Lakshmi as one of the best female actors of this generation. While he was directing her for a commercial, she had apparently given him 10 different expressions.

Y Sunita Chowdhary, The title ‘W/O Ram’ emphasises the woman’s identity as someone’s wife, says Vijay Yelakanti, The Hindu

Well, Vijay, let’s just say I didn’t see any.

Homefront (2013) IMDb D

Shit. Stallone wrote it. Background-watched because it looked revenge-y and Netflix listed it as a Top 10 movie in the US. Jason Statham is B+ as Jason Statham. This time, he growl-mumbles through this shit movie as an undercover DEA agent (with Special Forces training of course) who speaks with an English accent, presumably because he became a naturalized citizen beforehand.

Well, he was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, which is between Stoke-on-Trent and Sheffield so that would be a mix of accents but closer to Yorkshire, but he grew up in Norfolk… which would give him an East Anglian accent. He then moved to London I believe… which gave him his slightly unusual not quite Cockney accent or Mockney as we call it.

Source

Kate Bosworth was excellent and looked like she subsisted purely off the aura of vegetables a few months before playing her role.

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) IMDb A

Watched with CK. This was Hitchcock’s favorite movie:

This was my father’s favourite movie, and it was because he loved bringing the menace into a small town1, into a family that had never known any bad things happen to them. They adored this uncle. They just adored him. Yet they had no idea what he is like. The whole suspense of the movie is, “When are they going to find out?”

Patricia Hitchcock

And then there’s this exchange 🤣

CHARLIE
Oh, what’s the matter with you two ? Do you always have to talk about killing people?

HERB
We’re not talking about killing people.

JOSEPH
Herb’s talking about killing me, and I’m talking about killing him.

ANN
It’s your father’s way of relaxing.

CHARLIE
Can’t he find some other way to relax? Can’t we have a little peace and quiet without dragging in poisons all the time?

  1. The thick black smoke at Uncle Charlie’s arrivals is meant to be a bad portent. He uses this a lot. ↩︎

Tenet (2020) IMDb B

Watched with CK. The plot doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. But very, very entertaining. Anyone who claims to understand what’s going on after the first 32 viewings is a damned liar. A perfect one-line review:

So suit up […] for what may not be Nolan at his best, but is definitely Nolan at his most.

Honest Trailers

Excellent soundtrack by Ludwig Göransson (first came by his work when watching The Mandalorian and just knew he was something special.)

Also the Sator Square for a standard dose of Nolan apophenia1. See also: The pitch meeting.

  1. It has no goddamn ‘meaning’ other than being a middle-school palindromic curiosity (and contributes nothing other than names to the plot.) ↩︎

Man on Fire (2004) IMDb D

Watched because Denzel and Revenge. Not sure why I bothered finishing it. Absolutely awful. The cinematographer appears to have borrowed the ghastly verdigris-like palette from this terribly photoshopped poster, and keeps twitching the camera with the giddiness of a raver who’s taken two of them Mitsubishi pills that were in vogue at the time.

Dakota Fanning is the only other reason to endure this. She was only ten in 2004 but acted like she’d been at it for at least three decades.

The Nest (2020) IMDb A-

Watched with LD. Reminded me of “Hereditary” (it’s a slow burn) but with The Evil being this chimera of financial insolvency, really bad trust issues, childhood trauma, and severe affluenza. Jude Law was perfect, but Carrie Coon was so fucking good as the beleagured yet passively complicit partner and mostly grieving person. The scene shot from the stable facing the manor was genius. Sean Durkin (writer and director) stuck the landing perfectly. Lovely stuff.

Dream Team (1989) IMDb B+

Michael Keaton and Christopher Lloyd were excellent. But Peter Boyle steals the show as “Jack McDermott. Christ fixation. Megalomania.

BILLY
Hey, Doc, isn’t it true that if even one of those tiles were to come loose, millions and millions of gallons of water would come pouring down on us and squash us like tiny little bugs? Is that a leak up there? You see those tiles? They’re leaking water right there!

DR. WEITZMAN
Bill. Cut it out. Oh, my God!

JACK
I will hold back the waters.

DR. WEITZMAN
Thanks, Jack.

.

BILLY
Dr. Verboven can be such a perfectionist.

JACK
Yeah, but that’s what makes him such a great diagnostician.

HENRY (DR. VERBOVEN)
Vital signs are good. Zip code checks out.

.

JACK
Let me hold the gun.

HENRY
No.

JACK
I let you sit in the front seat.

(HENRY HANDS GUN TO JACK)

PSYCHIATRIST
Jack, Jesus Christ would never point a gun at another human being.

JACK
Stay out of my psychosis and get your ass in that van.

and finally (even though there’s a lot more understated gold)

JACK
I drove the moneylenders from the temple. I can handle a ten-spot.

🙏

Rashomon (1950) IMDb A+

Saw this after about 18 years. Some assorted notes: Thought I heard Boléro. Every frame is a fucking painting. Just so wonderful: sunshine through the leaves and at the interrogation, characters walking into and out of the audience, the gate’s history and state of decay, and of course Tajomaru’s sword when he’s under the tree 🤣 No idea what his constant fly-swatting signified. Faces sometimes resembled those in Ukiyo-e paintings (like this one). Save for the hapless priest, every character is demon and human. Storytelling: tension between whether it is to be regarded a fable or a real account. ‘The lies we tell ourselves don’t matter as long as they’re in the service of mending and preserving our humanity.’ Professor David Thorburn breaks down the movie.

What Did Jack Do? (2017) IMDb B

Stars David Lynch, his spouse Emily Stofle, a monkey, and a chicken. The oddest and most hypnotic thing I’ve seen this year (and twice.) A mere 17 minutes in length and like if film-school students used GPT-3 to generate a script an hour before the assignment was due.

Toototabon 🐓

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) IMDb C

Saw with CK. Excited because Charlie Kaufman. Mostly self-indulgent tripe. The conversations in the car were interminably tedious1 and missing PBR hats and gauloises. The weirdness in the first third-to-a-half of the movie was excellent. Top-notch performances and camerawork.

  1. No, this is neither clever nor the point. ↩︎

The Rhythm Section (2020) IMDb C+

Am a sucker for a good revenge story. This one was very slow and kinda haphazard. But I didn’t think it was bad enough to deserve this:

The film received negative reviews from critics and was a box-office bomb, having the worst wide opening weekend of all-time, the biggest drop in theaters, and is projected to lose Paramount $40 million.

Wikipedia (emphasis mine)

Good grief Basel! Blake Lively put in one of those “triumphant” performances 👏💯🏅

Vivarium (2019) IMDb B+

An entertaining, unsettling, dissatisfying Lovecraftian allegory for suburban life and child-rearing (esp the teenage years.) Dragged on for a bit: I imagine it would’ve worked great as a Black Mirror episode. Jonathan Aris and Senan Jennings were supremely creepy and magnificent and perfectly cast for their roles 🙌

Tanhaji - The Unsung Warrior (2020) IMDb C+

Another jingoistic saffron shitshow a la “Padmaavat1. Quite the visual spectacle: like walking through a racist and revisionist Amar Chitra Katha. Saif Ali Khan’s Uday Bhan is the only interesting character. Of noble Rajput blood, he succumbs to eating crocodile meat, sexual assault (of chaste Hindu women who need protection), comical levels of bloodlust, a fuckton of kohl, and villainous-looking sartorial choices.

Because that’s what hanging out with evil Muslim foreigners will do to you 🤷‍♂️

Prof. Ruchika Sharma’s take on its historicity is worth reading for these things called ‘facts’ your WhatsApp relatives won’t appreciate. ProTip ✨: Please don’t make the mistake of suggesting that the “India” depicted in the movie did not exist until independence, three centuries later #swaraj

  1. Cash it in while you can, I suppose. Like for real. ↩︎

Arundhati (2009) IMDb C

“Hey Sonu, we’re gonna need you to do some PCP before you show up to the set. Certainly before the dubbing. Go for that Nandi bro.”

Sayaji Shinde as Anwar was the MVP. Ode to The Exorcist and The Ring.

The Foreigner (2017) IMDb C

Ireland. Liam. Mick. Belfast. Mary. IRA. Patrick. Belfast. Liam Hennessy. Sean. Sinn Féin. “You should try a real whiskey. Two Jamesons, Single Malt.” Belfast. Belfast.

Also Jackie Chan. But watch for Orla Brady 🇮🇪

There Will Be Blood (2007) IMDb A+

Finally saw this with PLG. Daniel Day-Lewis’ best performance IMO. Astounding, really.

Mr. Day-Lewis’s outsize performance, with its footnote references to Huston and strange, contorted Kabuki-like grimaces, occasionally breaks the skin of the film’s surface like a dangerous undertow. The actor seems to have invaded Plainview’s every atom, filling an otherwise empty vessel with so much rage and purpose you wait for him to blow. It’s a thrilling performance, among the greatest I’ve seen, purposefully alienating and brilliantly located at the juncture between cinematic realism and theatrical spectacle.

– Manohla Dargis “An American Primitive, Forged in a Crucible of Blood and Oil

Paul Dano is great as an ageless vampire-pastor 😑 The excellent soundtrack was written by Jonny Greenwood (!) and features works by Arvo Pärt and Brahms.

Bad Genius (2017) IMDb A-

Slow start but gets pretty exciting towards the end. I couldn’t wait for Lynn to rid herself of her parasitic friends (especially the cloying Grace, played to perfection by Eisaya Hosuwan.) Cheating on standardized tests is big business in India and China. The Atlantic has a relatively recent article on the phenomenon.

The usual commentary on class and meritocracy. Lots of love for Boston University.

Anurag Kashyap on The Struggle

Kashyap on his journey to become one of India’s most important filmmakers.

The cover picture is clickbait. No “shocking” revelations. Just a good story about pursuing one’s chosen vocation with grit and perseverance (with a bit of luck along the way.)

On “Josh Talks”, who look like a TED clone and are “on a mission to raise the aspirations of Young India.”

Manmarziyaan (2018) IMDb B+

Watched with Paaji. Third Anurag Kashyap and Amit Trivedi film. Superb. Maybe a little too drawn out at times (gotta fit in all 14 tracks of that sweet Trivedi score) and was dismayingly Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam-predictable towards the end.

Gray Waala Shade” (with the accompanying opening scenes) is a magnificent song12.

  1. Yes, yes, “Daryaa” too. ↩︎

  2. Kashyap saw Poonam and Priyanka Shah on this viral Bharatnatyam video before asking them to be part of the movie. ↩︎

The Titanic and Climate Change

Stumbled upon this nearly three-hour, real-time, annotated simulation of the Titanic sinking. Late night1.

Which led me to James Cameron’s 2012 documentary Titanic: The Final Word, in which he assembles a group of engineers and historians to fix the simulation in the 1997 movie, which leads to this ‘final’ version.

Cameron, in the documentary:

Part of the Titanic parable is of arrogance, of hubris, of the sense that we’re too big to fail. Well where have we heard that one before? There was this big machine, this human system that was pushing forward with so much momentum, that it couldn’t turn, it couldn’t stop in time to avert a disaster. And that’s what we have right now. Within that human system onboard that ship, if you want to make it a microcosm for the world, you have different classes, you know, you’ve got first class, second class, and third class. Well in our world right now you’ve got developed nations and undeveloped nations. You’ve got the starving millions who are going to be the ones most affected by the next iceberg that we hit, which is going to be Climate Change.

We can see that iceberg ahead of us right now, but we can’t turn we can’t turn because of the momentum of the system. Political momentum, business momentum. There are too many people making money out of the system the way the system works right now, and those people, you know, frankly have their hands on the levers of power and aren’t ready to let them go. Until they do, we’re not going to be able to turn to miss that iceberg and we’re gonna hit it. When we hit it, the rich are still gonna be able to get their access to food, to arable land, to water, and so on. It’s going to be the poor, it’s going to be the steerage, that are gonna be impacted. It was the same with Titanic and I think that’s why this story will always fascinate people. Because it’s a perfect little encapsulation of the world and all social spectra. But until our lives are really put at risk, the moment of truth, we don’t know what we would do.

  1. Speaking of… found this amazing model of the ship. ↩︎

Us (2019) IMDb A

Excellent stuff again from Jordan Peele. Thought the first half was about slavery and lost identity. Wisecrack has a great video on the movie’s various interpretations.

A Vigilante (2018) IMDb B+

The first two-thirds are brilliant. As for Olivia Wilde and her riveting performance:

[. . .] it’s still good to see a cunning and capable actress rise above her usual projects, such as stupid fodder like Tron or Cowboys and Aliens, or labels like “Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity of 2010.”

After Enough and five Death Wish movies, the revenge genre is not without its recurring clichés, many of which get defrosted and microwaved again in A Vigilante. The point, if there is one, is that “heinous criminal felonies are acceptable if they are justified by a woman driven beyond the limits of reason.” As one battered wife says, “Every graveyard is full of people who didn’t make it.” The same is true of old movies gathering dust in Hollywood film vaults.

– Rex Reed, Olivia Wilde Goes Full Charles Bronson in the Brutal Revenge Thriller ‘A Vigilante’

Aquaman (2019) IMDb C+

Fell asleep about three times trying to finish this visual overload. Ended up taking a walk right after this exchange

“You expect me to call you Your Highness?”

“No, I expect you to call me… Ocean Master.”

The Wailing (2016) IMDb A

Saw with LD. Long, slow, visceral, beautiful, gory. Kept me guessing. Excellent stuff.

There’s a pervasive hush and sense of stillness that lingers over the region of Gokseong, and scenes of brazen, crazed madness are often preceded by shots of tranquil mountain vistas whose lush, thickly forested landscapes increasingly feel smothering and secretive. This is a film as beautiful as it is gory, as painstakingly scenic as it is committed to stark visual interplays between darkness and light.

All the while, the story of Gokseong unfolds in fits and starts, each puzzle piece more confusing than the last. Are the residents of the town being systematically poisoned with a drug that causes them to become frenzied, savage killers? Are they being cursed? Or is it both, and for what reason? Na’s writing layers tension upon tension, particularly through the escalating paranoia that each of the townspeople comes to feel for any and all outsiders.

However, answers are much harder to find in this film than accusations. Horror fans wanting a plot whose ending dovetails nicely with all the elements that preceded it may wind up feeling frustrated, though many more may be drawn into the heart of its darkness: the conviction that terror has come to this town and there is no escape to be had.

– Aja Romano, The Wailing is the most unsettling Korean horror film in years, but it offers more chills than answers

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) IMDb C

I don’t understand the ratings and the hullabaloo over what was affluence porn with a tired Bollywood plot (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham came to mind but I’m sure there’s something else that aligns better with CRA.) Might be a satirical, over-the-top take on new and old money in Singapore, though I wonder it was construed as such by the target audience.

And then:

Racism against minorities is endemic in Singapore. Job advertisements frequently only ask for those who can speak in English and Mandarin, and even if minorities are able to do so, they are told that only ethnic Chinese are wanted. Muslim women in hijabs are kept out of certain civil service jobs because of their headwear. While there are police bans on speaking in Tamil, there are yearly tax-funded programs to promote speaking in Mandarin. Minority representations are rife with stereotypes and the idea of the quintessential Singapore girl is one that embodies only East Asian beauty standards. The country’s ruling power has stated that Malay-Muslims in Singapore cannot be trusted in the armed forces due to their divided loyalties between religion and state. It has further accused them of being unable to ‘integrate’ an irony considering that Malay people are considered the original inhabitants of the land. The founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, holds views on genetics that would seem disconcertingly similar to eugenicist and white supremacist ideals, as he has touted the genetic superiority of the Chinese as stronger and hardier, with Indians not being as bright, but still better than the lazy, un-driven Malays. Chinese people wear Indians in ‘brown face’ and many elite public schools are reserved for them.

[. . .] Given this context, this movie is actually perpetuating the state of racism and Islamophobia in Singapore. The only Brown people in the movie are opening doors or in service of the elite Chinese in the movie. Minorities only exist in the periphery of the film. Why is this being lauded as revolutionary?

What people celebrating this movie are doing is bringing a Western racial framework to bear upon a Singaporean one.

– Sangeetha Thanapal, “Crazy Rich Asians” Promotes The Ongoing Systematic Erasure And Oppression Of Singapore Minorities On A Global Screen.

Bird Box (2018) IMDb B-

A slasher version of A Quiet Place except The Monster gets you when you open your eyes (but only at key moments that further the plot.) Snoozefest after the first half. Had no idea that the lanky, highly tattooed extra is a famous rapper. A few plotholes that bugged me:

What exactly constitutes a safe barrier between your vision and the outdoors? By the movie’s standards, a thin-fabric blindfold and a sparse canopy of leaves count, but a security camera does not.

How did Trevante Rhodes manage to keep such a defined six-pack over the course of five home-bound years, and would he be willing to share that workout routine?

Elsewhere, Gizmodo on how the unseen monster is an allegory for the pernicious effects of social media on our lives. Huh.

Venom (2018) IMDb C+

Venom goes from evil alien mastermind who wants to take over the planet to Toothless in “How to Train Your Dragon” in about five minutes.

His new motivations make no sense whatsoever.

But in the case of Venom, the action follows nothing. There’s no reason for Venom to risk his life because he doesn’t seem to care about people, and it’s never been his arc to learn about why caring for humanity is important. Venom is not about an alien symbiote coming to Earth and learning that people are worth saving. It’s about a cannibalistic, violent force who merges with a hapless shmuck and decides to stick around. Venom’s sacrifice means nothing because even if you buy that he’d be willing to save Earth, that’s different than being willing to die to save it.

– Matt Goldberg, “The Ending of ‘Venom’ Is Familiar Except It Makes No Sense

Honest Trailers on the movie. I suppose it’s all forgiven if you make $0.9B. Of course there’s a sequel. Of course I’ll watch it.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) IMDb A-

Dan Fogler is as awesome in this one as he was in the first. A role he was born to play:

Did you feel like you had an advantage while auditioning because you’re actually from New York?

I think I brought some real authenticity to it. I grew up in Brooklyn. When I read the part, I thought, “Oh, man, I know this guy. He’s one of my ancestors.” I have a great-grandfather, Isaac, who was a baker in New York on the Lower East Side. It’s really surreal stepping into the role. I felt like it was written for me. I felt like he was family already, so I loved him.

Then I paid homage to a lot of my favorite actors from that era, like Chaplin and Buster Keaton. When Eddie and I are together, it’s like Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello. I tried to infuse him with all of that great, elegant kind of comedy, that real physical kind of comedy. Also [James] Cagney. I liked how Cagney stood. He was very conservative in his motions – because I’m such a broad, wacky guy, I thought that it helped me stay in the period. Cut to me flailing and running like a maniac. [Laughs.]

– From an interview with The Los Angeles Times’ Meredith Worner

A Wednesday (2008) IMDb B+

Because I saw Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher in the cast. And they were excellent.

The climax is an absolute knock-out with an accolade-winning speech by Naseer who becomes a flag-bearer for all those nameless, ordinary people battling with this modern-day scourge, the world over. The highpoint of the film is the class act by the two stalwarts of the industry: Naseer and Anupam pitch in riveting performances as the shuffling, seemingly inconsequential, nameless bomber and the no-nonsense cop. Add to this some finely nuanced acts by Jimmy Shergill and Aamir Bashir and you have a topical, gritty, high-adrenalin drama.

Times of India

Neeraj Pandey wrote and directed Special 26 as well.

Baaghi (2016) IMDb D

Terrible. Expected this, so not sure why I did this to myself. Thought it was a weird mashup of Varsham and Dredd. Features this ‘Grandmaster Shifuji’ who attempts to act like a Kung Fu/Kalari master in the movie and a combat veteran and “special forces trainer” in real life.

Watching what they did to Sunil Grover and Sanjay Mishra’s talents was depressing. As for Kota Srinivasa Rao: they used a North Indian voice actor to dub over his South Indian accent… with a ghastly South Indian accent 😐

Just terrible.

Lutz Ebersdorf

As if I needed another reason to fall in love with Tilda Swinton

Swinton penned a phony IMDb biography to keep the secret, and wore fake genitalia, created by makeup artist Mark Coulier, while in character. (“She did have us make a penis and balls,” Coulier told the paper. “She had this nice, weighty set of genitalia so that she could feel it dangling between her legs, and she managed to get it out on set on a couple of occasions.”) Both she and Guadagnino were miffed when their secret got out. “Frankly, my long-held dream was that we would never have addressed this question at all,” Swinton told the Times. “My original idea was that Lutz would die during the edit, and his ‘In Memoriam’ be the final credit in the film.”

Vulture

😳

Hereditary (2018) IMDb A

Deeply upsetting. One of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker on what gives it its potency

Should you want to measure the psychological disturbance at work here, try comparing “Hereditary” with “A Quiet Place.” That recent hit, for all its masterly shocks, is at bottom a reassuring film, introducing people who are beset by an external menace but more or less able to pull through because, as a team, they’re roped together with enough love to fight back. “Hereditary” is more perplexing. It has the nerve to suggest that the social unit is, by definition, self-menacing, and that the home is no longer a sanctuary but a crumbling fortress, under siege from within. That is why there are no doctors in Aster’s film, and no detectives, either, urgently though both are required; nor does a man of God arrive, as he does in “The Exorcist” (1973), to lay the anguish to rest. Nothing, in short, can help Annie, Steve, and the kids, and they sure can’t help themselves, stationed as they are inside their delicate doll’s house of a world. There is no family curse in this remarkable movie. The family is the curse.

The amazing Colin Stetson did the soundtrack which is somehow even more unsettling than Brian Reitzell’s Hannibal.

Update 25 Oct 2018

If this were a movie:

Ann Hamilton Horse Eye photograph

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018) IMDb B+

This is the jingoistic view of American force so familiar from films like ‘Black Hawk Down.’ This is American power as an unstoppable beast.

Yep.

You would be forgiven for asking what religious extremists have to do with a film series that previously focused on Mexican drug cartels. You would also be forgiven for finding this film problematic as it focuses next on a craven terrorist attack in a grocery store. Three suicide bombers enter the crowded building and commit mass murder. We are not spared the image of a mother begging for the life of her little girl. We discover that the terrorists are being smuggled across the border by the cartels. Two of our greatest enemies have now become one.

– Joshua Ruth “Sicario: Day of The Soldado’ is Violent, Problematic and One of the Most Satisfying Sequels in Years”

Watch for a masterclass in tension, Benecio Del Toro being a badass again, and for Isabela Moner’s excellent performance.

Srinivasa Kalyanam (2018) IMDb D

Watched with JS and LT. A solid 2.5 hours of Telugu Sampradayam-porn for the 50+ members of your family. Culture and Tradition are static and immutable constructs that are absolutely not subject to examination and revision, especially when it comes to gender roles. Features cameos by yesteryear supporting actors who appear plasticine with the amount of makeup employed.

Isle of Dogs (2018) IMDb A-

Michael Cavna at The Washington Post with a roundup of the cultural appropriation controversy around the movie. Steve Rose at The Guardian:

Some critics are barking “appropriation!” on Twitter and online, but where Ghost in the Shell and Doctor Strange (and there are many more) took a Japanese story and cut-and-pasted in white people, here Anderson engages with Japanese culture and references on an almost scholarly level, while the cast is filled with Japanese names1, from Ken Watanabe to Yôjirô Noda, lead singer of Radwimps to, er, Yoko Ono.

Isle of Dogs is a movie that seems custom-made to set off appropriation dog whistles but, for all its questionable moves, the result is a story that’s one of a kind. If we police boundaries too strictly, we’re stifling the possibility of cross-fertilisation and invention. If you do it well enough, it’s not appropriation, it’s conversation.

Also from that article: “cultural Pinterestism”.

I can watch stop-motion “making of” videos all day and here’s a dismayingly short one on Isle of Dogs:

The sushi scene took 8 months to craft!

  1. Numbers alone aren’t compelling arguments but I counted 26 Japanese actors out of 49 on the (partial?) cast list here ↩︎

Child Endangerment

A mother in suburban Chicago breathes a huge sigh of relief this week, as she was reunited with her 8-year-old son Kevin, who was accidentally left at home alone as the family went on vacation to Paris. Apparently no one had noticed the boy was missing on their drive to the airport and through airport security and while boarding the plane.

Only once when they were in flight did the mother sense that a cherished family member may not have been present. She then shrieked, Kevin. She would rush home where she, along with police, found the boy unharmed physically, though he may deal with abandonment issues for years to come.

In addition to the boy, the police also found two career criminals who appeared to have suffered great bodily damage while attempting to rob the house. One man had been shot in the groin with a BB gun and had his hands severely burned by a hot doorknob. The other man had a nail and pieces of glass Christmas ornaments lodged in his foot. Both men also miraculously survived being hit in the head with a paint can that was apparently swung from a rope at high speeds, something which would normally crush a human skull.

Child Protective Services say they will not remove the child from the family since they believe it to be only a one-time occurrence, and certainly not something that could happen again the next year.

– Hari Kondabolu on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!