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.

Continue reading “GLOW Season 3: Identity As Kayfabe”

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. 

Continue reading “What If THE JOKER Is Really Good?”

“Let Me Help”

I was at the Star Trek Las Vegas convention when the El Paso and Dayton shootings happened. Conventions and film festivals are strange bubbles, separated from the rest of the world, but when something like this happens, the bubble is penetrated. It can be disorienting to go from reading the news on your phone to walking through the dealer’s room and marveling at the cosplayers – there’s real emotional whiplash happening. 

But maybe there’s nowhere I’d rather be when two such overwhelming examples of reckless hate are unleashed on the world. There’s no fandom like Star Trek fandom; there’s a positivity and a kindness inherent in the most hardcore of these people. I know that in the year 2019 all fandoms are suspect, and there are certainly elements of Trek fandom who are not great, but the core of this group reminds me of Midwesterners – polite, friendly, deeply uncool. And I don’t say deeply uncool as some kind of a putdown; the lack of pose or ironic distance is part of the charm. No matter how hard CBS or JJ Abrams have tried, nobody has ever, ever been able to make Star Trek cool. 

Continue reading ““Let Me Help””

On Patreon: ROSEMARY’S BABY

Every week at the Cinema Sangha Patreon I recommend something to subscribers at the $5 and above level. Sometimes it’s a book, sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s a movie. Every time I try to write in depth about the thing and what it means. This week I’m recommending the classic film Rosemary’s Baby. This is an excerpt; to read the entire review, become a Patron at www.patreon.com/cinemasangha.

Mia Farrow might give the best horror movie performance ever in Rosemary’s Baby. I’m hedging my bets a little here because I’ve learned that any declarative statement is nothing but a dare for a series of “what about” responses, but if Farrow’s performance isn’t the best, it’s certainly top three. It’s monumental, it’s profound, it’s harrowing, but maybe most of all it’s got a metatextual texture that I find absolutely compelling. 

Continue reading “On Patreon: ROSEMARY’S BABY”

Tears In Rain

When Rutger Hauer died last week social media lit up for one brief moment with a thousand iterations of his tears in the rain speech from Blade Runner. It’s the best bit of the film (a film to which I am not partial), and it’s great despite the clunky scifi nonsense weighing it down.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

(It’s worth noting that Hauer himself wrote the “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain,” which is what we’re going to be talking about here)

This monologue comes at the end of the movie, as Roy Batty has defeated Harrison Ford’s Deckard but has opted to save his life. Here, on a DTLA rooftop in the rain, Batty passes the Voight-Kampf Test, flipping this turtle rightside up. And as Deckard sits, astonished, Batty gives that speech… and then dies. 

It’s become a monumental little monologue because the existential howl at the center of it is so familiar to us all (and because Hauer’s delivery of these few lines is coursing with intense power and pathos). We live in a modern world, and few of us believe in eternal souls. We have come to accept that when we die, that’s it – lights are out, the show is over and there is nothing else. Every unexpressed thought, every feeling, every experience we have ever had is snuffed out as the neurons go dark and cold. 

Continue reading “Tears In Rain”

Intermezzo Phase: A Look At Marvel’s Phase Four

Nobody puts on an announcement like Marvel Studios; since the death of Steve Jobs Kevin Feige has become the number one “standing on a stage and announcing thing” guy in the world, and this year’s slew of reveals at San Diego Comic-Con was no different. Feige laid out Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although I don’t love this – we only got two years worth of releases, and no climaxing team-up as we have had in the previous three Phases. 

If Phase Four is just a bunch of movies, what even is a Phase anymore? I certainly would like this cleared up, because one of the things that has been great about the MCU to date is that each Phase has felt like a chapter, and they have all been leading up to something. Unless the Doctor Strange or Thor movies are some sort of culmination film, we’re dealing with a little wayward Phase here. An intermediary phase. Intermezzo Phase. And it could be Intermezzo because it lost the big player it was counting on Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3.

Continue reading “Intermezzo Phase: A Look At Marvel’s Phase Four”

On Patreon: Recommendation: YEARS AND YEARS (TV Show)

Every week subscribers at the $5 and above level on my Patreon get a new recommendation. Sometimes it’s a movie, sometimes a book, sometimes a song, sometimes a self-help technique. Each week I not only recommend something, I write about it with some depth. This week I’m recommending the show Years and Years, now playing on HBO. This is a peek at the piece; to read the entire thing, which is much longer, become a $5 or above subscriber at Patreon!

Have you ever, in these past three years of the Trump administration, said to yourself “I wouldn’t believe this if it were in a movie/book/TV show!”? Russell T Davies has taken that up as a challenge with his limited series Years and Years, the scifi TV show so absolutely relevant and believable that it has given me a number of anxiety-related stomach aches in just three episodes.

The premise: we follow a British family over the course of 15 years, starting in 2019, as the world continues on its current path. Each episode fast-forwards through a year, replicating the breakneck sense of our current society hurtling out of control. And holy shit, does Davies think we’re going to dark places.

Continue reading “On Patreon: Recommendation: YEARS AND YEARS (TV Show)”

1776 And The Imperfection Of America

How to celebrate the birthday of America when the nation has become its worst self in the past three years, when the southern border is a nightmare that looks to educated eyes like the precursor to the worst European atrocities of the 1930s and 40s, when there is a kleptocrat wannabe martinet in office rolling out tanks in front of the Lincoln Memorial, when the ongoing reality of a sexist white supremacist system has become impossible to ignore? How do we look at the Fourth of July and feel good about any of this?

Continue reading “1776 And The Imperfection Of America”

Resist The Algorithms

You don’t have free will. One of the grand questions of philosophy is being answered today in laboratories as we come to better understand genes and the workings of the brain, and it’s becoming very clear that we actually do not have free will.

Sure, we get to make choices, but they’re incredibly constrained. It’s like in a video game RPG, where you’re given an onscreen prompt that allows you to make three different choices – yes, the choice is yours but is this really free will? In real life those choices are dictated by things like genetics (my love of sweets is likely handed down to me over the generations), time and place of birth (all of your woke beliefs wouldn’t exist if you had been born in Alabama in 1835, for instance), your biochemistry (people with toxoplasmosis, a parasite related to cats, have higher risk-taking behaviors and die in car accidents more often), and your upbringing. Yes, you get to pick from three options, but the entire world of options is never, ever available to you. That’s before we even get to physical, legal and economic constraints.

Continue reading “Resist The Algorithms”

Why We Must Ensure The DUNE Sequels Get Made

My Dune-mania is in high gear. Having read, and loved, the script for Denis Villeneueve’s upcoming adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal and defining work of science fiction (or at least one half of an adaptation; the movie coming out next year will only get so far as Paul Atreides coming to Sietch Tabor, becoming Fremen and falling in love with Chani), I dove back into the original books. Herbert’s Dune series, six novels in all, is unlike any other science fiction epic and is, to my thinking, almost unadaptable in a modern landscape. Which, I believe, is why they must be adapted.

Spoilers for Dune to follow, but minor ones – ie, stuff you’d assume happens in a story like this.

Continue reading “Why We Must Ensure The DUNE Sequels Get Made”