What THE EXORCIST Taught Me About The Trump Administration

I don’t believe in Hell anymore.

Supposedly I didn’t believe in it for decades; I’ve been an atheist and an agnostic since I was a teenager, so you’d think there would be no room for Hell in that worldview. But when you’re raised Catholic – even as lightly Catholic as I was – Hell and Satan are overwhelming concepts that become the cornerstones of your cosmology. It wasn’t that I intellectually believed in Hell but rather that I had an emotional fear about what might happen after I die. 

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Why I’ve Come to Hate HAROLD AND MAUDE’s Harold

Did you know I have a Patreon that helps support me and my writing? Patrons at the $10 and above levels get exclusive writing. This week they got this look at Hal Ashby’s classic Harold and Maude,which I’ve excerpted below. If you want to read the whole thing, become a patron at www.patreon.com/cinemasangha!

Maude dies badly, and I hate Harold for it.

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Tammy, the T-Rex, and the Question of What Is a Bad Movie

You probably never saw Tammy and the T-Rex. The 1994 film stars an infant Denise Richards and a fetal Paul Walker as high school star-crossed sweethearts; he loves her, she loves him, but her psychotic ex-boyfriend refuses to let anyone get close to her. The ex beats up Paul Walker and dumps him in a wild animal park, where he gets mauled by a lion. While recovering in the hospital, Walker catches the eye of a mad scientist who has a scheme to achieve immortality by putting human brains in robots. His test case, of course: a giant animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex. Poor Paul Walker gets his brain cut out and put into the T-Rex and from there things get even weirder.

If you did see Tammy and the T-Rex you likely saw the PG-13 version, but director Stewart Rafill (of the classic The Ice Pirates) actually shot a hard R movie, which was unseen by American audiences until recently. It has been playing fests and midnight screenings, and it played in Los Angeles at Beyond Fest last night. Having heard much buzz about this super gory version of what was released as a twee PG-13 teen comedy, I had to go check it out. 

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PTSDeep Space Nine (Ode to Aron Eisenberg)

Earlier this year I went to see a screening of What We Left Behind, a documentary about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The crowd was what you would expect – dorks, geeks, nerds, freaks. You know, Trekkies. I was at home. Waiting in the long line to get into the movie I heard a commotion up ahead, felt ripples of excitement echoing down the line.

It turned out that Aron Eisenberg, who played Nog on Deep Space Nine, was working the line. A little guy in a knit cap, Eisenberg bounded up and down the line of expectant Trekkies with a big smile on his face, laughing and joking with just about everybody. But what was most amazing was seeing Eisenberg recognize fans he had met at conventions, hearing him ask follow-up questions about things they had discussed at Star Trek Las Vegas or some other meet n’ greet. 

Eisenberg was in his element, truly vibing with the people, feeding on their excitement and love and reflecting it back tenfold. The people in that line felt included and appreciated in the way that fans hope to feel included and appreciated, the way they hope to be acknowledged and warmly welcomes by their favorite stars. It was really something else, and after the screening Eisenberg hung around (with some of his co-stars) and did a Q&A that went on so long that I bounced after an hour. His energy, at the time, seemed endless.

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Is JJ Abrams Coming to Rescue the DC Movieverse?

Today’s big news is that JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot will be leaving Paramount to set up shop at Warner Media in a very lucrative deal that will see JJ producing movies, TV and games for WB. It’s a big move, and it’s part of WB’s recent signings intended to try and safeguard some talent from being tied up at Disney forever and ever.

The word is that Warner Bros wants JJ to create original, new franchises, and that’s admirable, but I’m not sure he’s the guy. Let’s put it this way: he’s never done that. He’s created/produced some successful TV series, and I think he’ll probably do more of that with Warner, but he’s not launched a new movie franchise yet.

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The Radical Optimism Of Richard Linklater’s MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG

James Stockdale was shot down over North Vietnam in 1965. He spent seven and a half years in the hellish Hỏa Lò Prison (aka the Hanoi Hilton), where he was tortured and abused. Stockdale made it out – you might remember him from the 1992 Vice Presidential debates, where he infamously began with “Who am I? Why am I here?,” reinforcing his image as a doddering, confused old man – but many other men didn’t. Years later, when asked what kind of man didn’t survive the Hanoi Hilton, Stockdale said:

Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.

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Why I Liked The Ending Of YEARS AND YEARS

A few weeks ago I did a Recommendation of Years and Years (if you don’t know, $5 and above Patrons at my Patreon get weekly Recommendations of all sorts of stuff, and it’s not just a quick thing – I write about it), even though I hadn’t finished the show. In the modern era I hate doing this, because too many shows don’t stick the landing, but I was loving it so much three episodes in (out of six) that I felt the need to write about it.

The show had already aired in the UK and I heard from some blokes that actually the series did not stick the landing, and that the ending was pretty terrible. This kind of put a damper on my viewing, and I held off a couple of weeks on the final episodes of Years and Years, waiting until the whole show was done so I could blow through the final eps.

Turns out I loved the ending. 

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About All The Spider-Man Mishigoss

Yesterday the internet was aflame with the news that, in the wake of the ultra-successful Spider-Man: Far From Home, Disney and Sony would be parting ways on the Spider-Man character. It’s pretty big news in terms of modern blockbuster filmmaking, but it didn’t feel too surprising to me.

After all, Venom‘s success was the worst thing that could happen to Spider-Man – it convinced Sony it knew how to make these movies.

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GLOW Season 3: Identity As Kayfabe

What even is the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling anymore? This question hangs over the third season of GLOW, after the TV show within the TV show got canceled but the crew moved to Vegas to do their wrestling schtick live on stage. In wrestling there’s a term, “kayfabe,” which refers to the way scripted elements are presented as real, and the levels of identity and truth implicit in that hangs over the whole season.

Each of the characters struggles in some way with questions about who they are, what defines them and what it means for them to be true to themselves. As a result we end up with a dissatisfied, questing season that maybe lacks the punchy fun of the first two seasons but more than makes up for it with deep character explorations, honest confrontations of social issues and… still some punchy fun.

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What If THE JOKER Is Really Good?

An R-rated origin story for The Joker, directed by the guy who did The Hangover, heavily riffing on The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver. Could there be a more terrible series of ideas jammed into one sentence? On its face Warner Bros’ upcoming The Joker is almost like a joke poking fun at comic fans’ obsession with all things grim and gritty, at the way The Joker speaks to exactly the sorts of bros who think “one man wolfpack” is both funny and inspirational, and the way that WB has been absolutely unable to figure out what the fuck to do with their iconic DC characters. 

And yet. 

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