Save Yourself With Service

Another heavy day. They come one after another, not letting us catch our breath. They are huge, cataclysmic. They overwhelm. You look at the scope of the problems hitting us, hour after hour, and it seems like there’s no way to fix it, like there’s no hope. You’re staring at a tsunami wave and simply waiting to be consumed.

That’s how I felt when I woke up this morning and saw a news alert on my phone about the Supreme Court upholding the President’s racist Muslim ban. I had only just opened my eyes and the first thing I learned about the world today is that our system of checks and balances is unbalanced and unchecked. What could I, an unemployed disgraced former film critic, do in the face of such wrongness?

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Your Obedient Servant, or, The Sham of Civility

One of the songs in Hamilton that always gets a chuckle out of me is “Your Obedient Servant,” which happens late in Act Two. Hamilton and Burr, once friends and now simmering enemies, exchange a series of increasingly heated letters back and forth that culminate in the two agreeing to a duel. Based on real letters, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song has the two men getting more and more aggressive with each missive but closing out every letter with a return to civility – they sign as “your obedient servant,” and the music switches from a driving beat to chipper and polite strings. The disparity between the anger and the sign-offs gets me every time.

This is civility, and it’s bullshit. The two men, despite all their well-learned politesse, end up in a fatal shoot-out. They adhere to the rules of good taste, and yet one man still bleeds to death when it’s all said and done.

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JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM Review – Same Shit, Different Dinosaur

This review contains spoilers

Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom is so dumb it would have voted for Trump. It’s a movie so dumb that its own premise doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it only gets worse from there. The script, by noted bad filmmakers Derek Connelly and Colin Trevorrow, pulls back from the wanton cruelty of the last film but still is entirely incapable of showing the slightest amount of heart. The Jurassic World films are simply sociopathic.

Director JA Bayona at least brings visual chops to the film, unlike Jurassic World, which was flat and boring to look at. Bayona seems to have studied Spielberg frame by frame, and many of the film’s best sequences – the end of the first act island escape, for instance – has the look of vintage Spielberg. But it doesn’t have the feel; Bayona is utterly unable to evoke the actual emotion and joy that Spielberg gets into every frame of his adventure films. Bayona’s Spielberg stuff is a simulacra, a golem of Spielberg that walks and talks but has no soul. Continue reading “JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM Review – Same Shit, Different Dinosaur”

Don’t Look For Helpers – Be The Helpers

These are difficult days. The sense of injustice and horror is overwhelming. Some days I think this must be what it’s like to be in a falling elevator – weightless, terrified, aware of the inevitable conclusion of the journey. Hopelessness can seem like the only reasonable reaction.

Thomas Merton, Catholic monk and great thinker, wrote this about hell:

Hell is where nobody has anything in common with anybody else except the fact that they all hate one another and cannot get away from one another and themselves.

They are thrown together in their fire and each one tries to thrust the others away from him with a huge, impotent hatred. And the reasons why they want to be free of one another is not so much that they hate what they see in others, as that they know others hate what they see in them: and all recognize in one another what they detest in themselves, selfishness and impotence, agony, terror and despair.

The tree is known by its fruits. If you want to understand the social and political history of modern man, study hell.

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We Must Fix Our Hearts Or Die

Something is wrong. You can see it manifesting in a million different ways, in your immediate life as well as in the state of the world. No one is unaffected by the current wrongness; it hangs over our lives like a miasmic cloud of toxins. Even the people who have things good feel uneasy and off, and for the people who have things bad this has been a catastrophic addition to their problems.

We can see the symptoms of the wrongness all around us. We see it in the big stuff, like the bizarre way we just ignore climate change as someone afraid of the doctor ignores a lump. We see it in the cruel policies of the US government and in the ways supporters of that government seem unfazed by the suffering of others – no, more than unfazed, they seem encouraged by the suffering of others. We see it in the rise of angry, hate-filled racist politics. We see it on Twitter, where the righteous destroy other human beings in order to get the thrill of dominance from purity, turning the platform into a kind of democratized Spanish Inquisition in which anyone can take on the role of Inquisitor and prove their moral high ground by crushing others. We see it in our friends and ourselves as sadness and isolation become the norm, as everybody we know is in a funk of some sort and so many seem to be struggling just to get through the day.

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HEREDITARY Is The Camp Classic Of 2018

This contains full spoilers for Hereditary

Stephen King famously dislikes Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining. As I watched Hereditary I thought a lot about King’s problems with the portrayal of Jack Torrance in that movie: “When we first see Jack Nicholson, he’s in the office of Mr. Ullman, the manager of the hotel, and you know, then, he’s crazy as a shit house rat. All he does is get crazier.”

There’s something similar happening with Toni Collette’s Annie in Hereditary. By the end of the movie she’s a raging crazy person in boots and a nightgown, but it’s not that much of a distance from where she starts out at the beginning of the film. Now, I know that’s part of the point – much of what writer/director Ari Aster is doing in this movie is talking about the transmission of generational trauma – but what this means functionally is that Collette, and the movie around her, very quickly get to 11 on their amplifiers. This is a movie that gets broad very fast, and as a result I spent a lot of time not quite sure if I should be laughing as much as I was.

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I Love Kelly Marie Tran And Rose Tico

Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (and, I’m assuming, upcoming Star Wars movies as well) deleted her Instagram this week. There’s a lot of speculation that she did it because of unrelenting abuse from toxic (male) Star Wars fans who hate her character in a seriously obsessive, unhealthy and unpleasant way. As far as I know she hasn’t confirmed this; some people say Daisy Ridley deleted her Insta because she was getting harassed, but she has said she did it because she was addicted and needed to take her life back.

But let’s assume that Tran deleted because of the abuse. I spent the last couple of days wanting to write at length about how broken fandom is (something I’ve written about in the past) but a friend rightfully called me out on sinking into despair the last few days, and focusing on what’s wrong only leads to more despair. So I want to focus on what’s right: Rose Tico.

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Brandpocalypse Now

The sequel to Wreck-It RalphRalph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, has released a trailer and it is… something else.

Obviously judgment on this movie should be withheld until the movie is seen; the original Wreck-It Ralph was a very charming film with some knowing and fun pop culture references. But the trailer for the new film makes it seem as if the references have been turned up to 11, and this time around it’s a full-on branding free-for-all.

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We Live On Krypton

There’s a lot of Krypton retcon happening these days.

Let’s start with the world of comics, since there’s big news there: Brian Michael Bendis, one of the most Marvel-associated writers of the past few decades, has jumped ship to DC. After redefining Spider-Man and inventing Jessica Jones he was tempted away by the chance to write Superman, and who can blame him?

His first issue is out this week, Man of Steel #1, the beginning of a weekly Superman saga. The issue itself is… fine? In true Bendis fashion the whole issue feels like a prologue, or like the first five pages of a more complete comic book, but he loves that decompressed storytelling, so we get three pages of Superman meeting a new fire chief. It also introduces a new villain to the Superman mythos, one who seems to have a connection to the destruction of Krypton.

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Who Was Buddha?

(The image above is Keanu Reeves as the Buddha in Little Buddha, a movie that actually does a pretty good job of retelling the Buddha’s story, and also feature a weird Chris Isaak performance)

Yesterday was Vesak, a Buddhist holiday that, with extreme efficiency, celebrates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment AND death all at once. It’s highly unlikely that all of those events took place on the same day, and as Buddhism is one of those ancient religions that is less interested in facts than modern religions are, nobody really got upset about it.

Vesak seems like a good opportunity to talk really briefly about just who the Buddha was, because it’s clear to me most people don’t know. I certainly didn’t know until a couple of years ago, and I had taken comparative religion courses and had a lifelong interest in religious mythology. I always thought Buddha was the fat guy whose statue you see in Chinese restaurants, but it turns out that ain’t him. In fact those fat Buddha statues couldn’t be farther from the real thing.

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