FIRST MAN: Neil Armstrong Is Trapped In A Glass Case Of Emotion

This contains spoilers for First Man (by which I mean bigger spoilers than “They get to the Moon”).

Ryan Gosling has given many performances that are the equivalent of a glass of water that had some fruit briefly dunked in it – he is so stoic and blank that he just gives you the hint of an idea of the concept of an emotion. Often, as in Drive, these performances have left me cold. But in First Man Gosling – playing one of America’s most iconically emotionally distant men – finds another place to go within that stoicism. As Neil Armstrong Gosling lets us get beyond that stoic exterior and gives us the fragile, live wire trauma that is hiding just beneath the surface.

Continue reading “FIRST MAN: Neil Armstrong Is Trapped In A Glass Case Of Emotion”

Michael Myers Is Not Mentally Ill

Lately non-genre publications/sites have been covering genre films, largely because that’s where the clicks lie. You get all the mainstream mags and the generic film blogs covering movies that were once the sole province of Fangoria or Starlog, and sometimes you end up with writers who don’t know a lot about genre doing the coverage. Add to that hot take/problematic culture and you end up with something along the lines of what Little White Lies published recently, “How Halloween stoked our fears and misunderstanding of mental illness” by Frazer Macdonald.

The piece is well-intentioned – it takes to task how horror movies use mental illness as a shortcut to making a villain/killer scary – but it’s applied incorrectly. Very incorrectly. See, Michael Myers isn’t mentally ill. There’s nothing “wrong” with him, nothing to be “fixed” or healed. And that is what makes him scary.

Continue reading “Michael Myers Is Not Mentally Ill”

VENOM: Tom Hardy Knew This Was Stupid When He Made It

Now on Patreon for $10 subscribers: my review of VenomHere’s an excerpt:

Venom is terrible. The script is an atrocity, from clanging dialogue to dim-witted motivations to terrible structure to characters who are lucky to have one dimension, let alone three. It’s a stupid movie, a listless and pointless movie. It has no momentum, nobody accomplishes anything and I’m not even sure what most of the characters even WANT.

I loved almost every minute of it.

This isn’t a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of movie. It’s just a bad movie. But Venom has at its center a Tom Hardy performance so excellent that he makes the entire movie about two or three hundred percent better. Hardy is watchable in Venom in a way that few movie stars are anymore, completely magnetic while also being completely unhinged. It’s a performance for the ages.

Hardy gets it – he knows what movie he’s making. He understands the tonal line he has to walk to make this work, and he never takes Eddie Brock too seriously… yet he never tells us that he’s anything but serious. It’s brilliant, a totally straight-faced slapstick performance. It feels like a muted Evil Dead 2 era Bruce Campbell, a very straight take on a very ridiculous character doing and saying very ridiculous things. But he’s never broad; I love Campbell, but he’s winking in all his best roles, playing to the back of the theater. In Venom Hardy takes that broadness but crushes it down into a mumbly, naturalistic form. It’s extraordinary – a performance full of emotional resonance springing from a script utterly devoid of emotional resonance. Hardy’s Brock is absolutely non-dualistic – he is at once real and phony, serious and ludicrous, played straight and played as a gag. There’s no daylight between these opposing concepts; Hardy is both things at once.

To read the whole thing, become a $10 patron at Patreon.

The Gravitational Pull Of Negativity

This week I wrote about my second sober birthday, and the response I got was phenomenal. So many people contacted me to express not only their well-wishes and congratulations, but also to tell me how what I wrote impacted them. As a writer this is the dream – to talk about your own experiences and life and have other people say “This resonates with me. You’re saying something that means something to me.” Some of the kind words came from friends, some from longtime readers, some from people with whom I had never interacted with before. It was wonderful.

But two guys left less than complimentary comments on the piece. One guy says he knew me sixteen years ago, and wanted to make sure I knew I was an asshole. The other guy I don’t think knew me, but wanted to make sure I knew I was a bad person.

There were a dozen kind, affirming, positive replies (and hundreds of positive interactions on my Instagram post about my sober birthday) and two less kind ones. Guess which reactions I internalized?

Continue reading “The Gravitational Pull Of Negativity”

Two Years Sober: How I Drank

In recovery we celebrate the worst day of our lives. After all, you don’t get sober with the help of a 12 step group if you’re doing just fine – you usually have to come in the door beaten and battered. Some people come in on their own two feet, but most of us come in on our knees. More than a few come in on their backs, wheeled into a hospital or jail.

But it’s like the Smashing Pumpkins song Today, which is all about how the worst day of Billy Corgan’s life was also the best – because he knew it couldn’t get worse. Hitting bottom doesn’t just imply that you have no further to fall, it implies that you’ve landed, and now you can start standing up.

Originally on this, the second anniversary of my sobriety, I wanted to write about my bottom and how it wasn’t just one event but rather a long skid of alcohol-fueled disaster that stretched throughout 2016. People sometimes think that a bottom means you decided one day that you had a problem, when the reality is that you knew for a while. The bottom is just the moment when you can no longer ignore that problem.

Writing about my bottom seemed self-indulgent, though, and maybe a little too “look at how I suffered!” Perhaps I’ll tell the full story of my annus horribilis at some point in the future, but I don’t think that story will be helpful to anyone except me today. What I do think might be of some help is if I tell you how I drank.

Continue reading “Two Years Sober: How I Drank”

Review: SHORT TREKS: “Runaway”

There was this party at Comic-Con one year where I got absolutely hammered and I cornered JJ Abrams. This was when it had been announced that Star Trek Into Darkness was happening, but we knew nothing else about the movie. I had enjoyed the first Abrams Trek, although I thought it was a mess; one of my least favorite things about it was Nero. I thought the character was hollow and empty and violated one of the main tenets of good Trek.

Good Trek, I slurred to poor JJ that night, doesn’t have a villain. It may have an antagonist, but it doesn’t have a villain. This is hard to argue because everybody’s favorite Trek thing is Wrath of Khan, a movie featuring one of the great screen villains. But I would argue that movies like Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, neither of which has a villain, are the most Trek-y movies of them all.

Continue reading “Review: SHORT TREKS: “Runaway””

Why THE MANDALORIAN Will Probably Be Awesome

You may have seen the announcement about Jon Favreau’s live action Star Wars show, The MandalorianSet after the events of Return of the Jedi but before The Force AwakensThe Mandalorian will follow a gunfighter in a familiar armor as he travels the Outer Rim of the galaxy. You might look at the first image released and mutter, “What a bullshit attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Boba Fett,” and I get where you’re coming from. You’re coming from the POV of someone who hasn’t watched Clone Wars or Rebels.

Continue reading “Why THE MANDALORIAN Will Probably Be Awesome”

I Was A Blackout Drinker

I was a blackout drinker.

Perhaps you think you know what that means – drinking until I became a drooling mess, falling asleep in some bar booth or on a subway platform. If only it was that lame. No, drinking until you blackout doesn’t mean passing out, although later you may well wish you had. A blackout drinker is someone who, when a certain amount of alcohol enters their system, has a part of their mind shut off. I have heard the blackout drinker’s brain during an episode described as a VCR without a tape in it, but I think it’s even heavier than that. The blackout drinker is walking and talking, may seem absolutely together and not even obviously super intoxicated, but essential parts of their brain have been shut off. The blackout drinker is a danger to themselves and others.

Continue reading “I Was A Blackout Drinker”

The Women Who Tried To Kill The President

In September of 1975, just weeks apart, there were two attempts on the life of President Gerald Ford. Neither was a success; the first would-be-assassin never even fired a shot, while the second’s shot went awry when a good samaritan intervened. But even so, these attempts were unique in the history of American political murder, as both assassins were women. And they were totally unconnected.*

Neither, by the way, had much of a beef with Gerald Ford personally. While John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald** held deep personal issues with their respective victims, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Sara Jane Moore were coming at Ford because of his position, not because of his policies. Ford was a hapless president, the only president not elected at all – he had been appointed Vice President by Richard Nixon after Spiro Agnew resigned, and he had ascended to the Oval Office when Nixon bugged out – and he was more of a blip in our history than anything else.

Continue reading “The Women Who Tried To Kill The President”

Brett Kavanaugh Is A Coward

It’s very possible that Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t remember assaulting Christine Blasey Ford. It seems like Kavanaugh has been a heavy drinker, and if he suffered from blackouts while drinking he will never recall the incident. A blackout isn’t the same as passing out; a drinker in a blackout state may seem perfectly normal, but a switch has been thrown in their brain and they are no longer making memories. There are no memories for the drinker to recover. I’ve seen it compared to the old-fashioned VCR technology – you could set your VCR to record a TV show, but it wouldn’t record anything if you forgot to put a VHS tape in there. A person in a blackout has had their VHS tape ejected.

Or perhaps Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t remember assaulting Christine Blasey Ford because it was just not a big deal to him. He was raised in a culture, and lived in a community, where this kind of behavior might have been seen as fairly par for the course. That’s a pretty stinging indictment of our society, but it seems quite plausible. Kavanaugh came of age in a time very different from today, in a decade in which two of the most vaunted underdog movies – Revenge of the Nerds and Sixteen Candles – feature triumphant moments that we would now recognize as rape.

Neither of these options let Brett Kavanaugh off the hook. It’s just worth noting that he might very well have no memory of assaulting Ford. It’s worth noting that drinkers in blackouts also have a part of their brain turned off that regulates their behavior. It’s worth noting that he was raised in a culture where his values at that age may not have been positive. To judge his character today based on his actions in 1982 might be unfair. A lot of growth and change can happen in 30 years.

So let’s judge him on his actions in 2018. And in 2018 he has shown himself to be a moral coward, a man without decency, and a person willing to throw his own humanity away to score a win.

Continue reading “Brett Kavanaugh Is A Coward”