Witnessing The Unclaimed Dead

We stood, a hundred or so of us, jammed under a complex of blue tents in a thunderous downpour. This was real rain, not just LA rain, a driving rain that had turned the grass of the cemetery grounds into a sucking puddle of mud. 

At the center of the crowd, flanked by an underpowered speaker, was a small gathering of religious figures, clustered around a freshly dug grave. Inside the grave were the cremains of 1,457 people who had died in LA County in 2016 and remained unclaimed. The county held on to their mortal remains for three and, when no one was found or came forward to accept the ashes, they were buried in this small green space. We were all gathered there to put these people – our neighbors – to rest. 

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Does Grant Morrison’s ALL-STAR SUPERMAN Give Us The Ending Of HBO’s WATCHMEN?

This will contain spoilers for All-Star Superman and Watchmen on HBO. Spoilers for Watchmen will only be for what has aired, as I don’t have access to screeners. 

We’re at the end of this season of Watchmen, HBO’s audacious sequel to the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons masterpiece. I have a lot of feelings about the show (I’ve written a thousand words I’ll probably never publish about whether or not it was correct to answer a question Moore purposefully and thematically left unanswered in the comic. The show is very good, but as a huge fan of the comic (I have a Dr. Manhattan tattoo!) I get twitchy about some things), but in general it’s been absolutely amazing. 

What’s been most amazing about the show – so far – is how thematically and emotionally in line with Watchmen the comic it is, while at the same time seeming to push back on some of the comics’ initial thesis. Moore and Gibbons were doing a deconstruction in Watchmen, taking apart superheroes and displaying their fascism and perversion. He was taking the white adolescent male power fantasy and peeling away the veneer and showing the ugliness beneath it. But Damon Lindelof’s (and company) take on the sequel feels more like a reconstruction.

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The Ending Of THE IRISHMAN

As the headline indicates, this will mention the ending of The Irishman, but it won’t be too specific. It will, however, touch on the general events and tone of the end of the film as context . 

Yesterday I was talking to a guy who isn’t a movie guy. He’s a working class guy, likes to spend time at the gym, keeps himself busy. He doesn’t make a lot of time for movies or TV, but the holiday weekend being what it is – his family lives out of town – he found himself watching The Irishman on Netflix.

He didn’t watch it in one go. Even when he had nothing else happening he couldn’t sit still for the whole three and a half hours, so he watched it in chunks over a few days. And in the middle of the chunks he got news that his father was dying. His father was living alone and he had fallen, and he had laid in a puddle of his own vomit for two days. Now he was in hospice and dying. 

This guy didn’t tell me his whole relationship with his father, but he didn’t have to. It was on his face. It wasn’t an easy relationship. 

So this guy watches the end of The Irishman, puts on the last hour and figures he’ll get his mind off things. Except… well, if you’ve seen The Irishman you know it didn’t get his mind off things. Exact opposite, in fact. 

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Now That Tony Stark Is Dead, Maybe the MCU Can Get Progressive

Maybe Tony Stark died at the exact right moment. Maybe the spring of 2019 was the last time it was safe out there for a billionaire, and if he had survived into the current Democratic primary, which has made billionaires as much a target as President Trump, he would have come to understand Harvey Dent’s famous quote in The Dark Knight.

It’s almost hard to remember a time when Iron Man was a C-list superhero, but he was. He was essentially a runner-up, a superhero whose best known storyline was the one where he was too much of a drunk to keep being a superhero. But the vagaries of Hollywood are what they are, and Marvel Studios ended up with only the rights to their B and C-list heroes, and so they made an Iron Man movie. The rest, as they say, is history.

But it’s a weird history, one warped by the fact that Tony Stark is the founding member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That doesn’t reflect his status in the comics (or at least it didn’t, until recently) and it has led to a strange and unforeseen – and, I think, largely unacknowledged – imbalance in the MCU. One that, now that Tony is dead, can finally be corrected.

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THE MANDALORIAN Review

Never forget that George Lucas was ripping off a lot of stuff when he made Star Wars. This is vital, and it’s a part of Star Wars’ DNA. It is also, I believe, why the first episode of The Mandalorian works so damn well. 

See, modern Star Wars seems to be interested in aping old Star Wars as opposed to taking a page from the Lucas playbook and ripping off other movies. Star Wars, to borrow a phrase, is a place, and that means you can take other films and genres and easily drop them into a Star Wars milieu, which is exactly what The Mandalorian does. In this case it’s a Spaghetti/revisionist era Western plopped right into a world of blasters and Gonk droids, and it’s the chemical reaction between Star Wars and the genre that creates the beautiful fizz that makes the episode so damned enjoyable. 

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Berlanti Triumphant

Today Greg Berlanti’s DC journey has come full circle. The big announcement about HBOMax, Warner Bros’ entry into the overcrowded world of streaming services, included news about another Berlanti DC Comics show – he will be creating a Green Lantern series. That particular property is significant because it’s the one where Berlanti entered the DC Extended Universe… and it was a major failure.

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The Anti-Cinema Of GEMINI MAN’s High Frame Rate

Cinema is not immersive. Cinema is voyeuristic, not participatory, and that’s part of what defines it. We are looking in through a window at a story, but we are not in the story, we’re not in the room, we don’t feel the heat of the explosion. We can imagine these things – great filmmakers will invoke sensations in us, will make us imagine smells or textures – but we don’t experience them. 

Cinema happens at a remove, and that remove is what allows us to be even more immersed in the storytelling than if it was actually immersive. The gap between what we experience and what we imagine is where magic happens, it’s what makes the moviegoing experience so special. It’s the same kind of magic you get reading a book; there are small places where your mind gets to create connections and those are the alchemical spots, the places where the lead of 24 still images a second is transformed into the gold of a truly moving, life-changing artistic experience.

It’s more real than reality.

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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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