(8 replies, posted in Movie Stuff)

Okay, at keyboard.

Aagh, I really don't know how to feel. The Kylo/Rey plotline is the best point of the film by far—Driver continues to kill it, and I'm very glad that we've solidly rejected a redemption arc for Kylo and committed to playing him as the tyrannical man-baby he is. I categorically reject the idea that the Luke Skywalker we know would have EVER ignited his lightsaber with the intention of murdering a child, but Mark Hamill plays the fuck out of the character and the way he goes out is perfect.

Everything else? . . . I . . . I just don't know. For every joke that lands there's another that feels out of place, particularly the outright cartoon that is the casino sequence. I like Rose but the decision to pair her/Finn (and hint at the very end toward a Poe/Rey pairing) makes absolutely no sense. It doesn't help that her/Finn's plot is largely a waste of time that doesn't do justice to our TFA co-protagonist.

Laura Dern kills it. Benicio Del Toro was great but I'm so bummed that Joaquin Phoenix turned the role down because he would have been perfect.

Oddly enough, the VFX were also a really mixed bag. Snoke is amazing—he rivals War for the Planet of the Apes in terms of quality if not scope—but so many of the other creatures felt off in their texturing and their weight. There's such a lack of the physical tangibility that so many of TFA's creatures and ships had. Also, a lot of the time the lightsabers looked downright weird—it's the ROTS effect where they resembled solid bars of color more than semi-transparent beams of plasma.

This also inherits one of TFA's biggest flaws: pacing. The entire movie takes place over the course of twenty-four hours. It feels so breakneck even though it's the longest Star Wars film.

At the end of the day, I'll take TFA's unity of purpose and structure over this one's gonzo carnival. There's a lot to like here, but it's such a bizarre film and it left me feeling wrongfooted. I'll have to revisit it before I can form a definitive opinion, but at the moment I'm a bit baffled.


(8 replies, posted in Movie Stuff)

More to come, for now I'll just say I'm mixed leaning toward positive. It's an absolute hot mess of a film, an abundance of great and unique ideas and scenes but also a tonal and structural mishmash.


(27 replies, posted in Creations)

You are correct on both counts. wink


(27 replies, posted in Creations)

Ugh, fuck you for

"The Parting Glass" at the end there.
Fuck you.

Dude, I'm gonna be sharing the hell out of this with everyone I know. I deliberately kept myself blind to the development of this once it started to become a Big Thing around the forum because I wanted to be surprised, and that's a decision I'm glad I made, because listening to it all unfold with no knowledge of what was gonna happen was so exciting. This strikes the perfect balance between humor and pathos, and the central conceit means that you totally get away with the audio-drama necessity of describing what's happening to the audience without devolving into unearned exposition dumps. The cast are all great—same as when I first saw Sad Max, I'm minorly blown away by how good an actor Teague is, and Boter/BDA were also great. Props to you personally for playing two different characters so well, if I hadn't checked the webpage I never would've known.

My one big complaint is that the rapid dit-dit-dit sound effect is my alarm clock and I was quite literally flinching every time I heard it. I might have to edit the files to give that tone a different frequency in order to not break immersion the next time I listen. tongue

And there definitely will be a next time. The audio drama is basically a dead art form, so to see you create such a damn great one was such a treat. Even though I'm happy I went in blind, I also wish I'd been involved in this thing in some form or fashion because fuck, it's just so stupidly fun.

I've been basically ignoring my own creative endeavors over the last year or so what with graduating college and getting a new job and whatnot. This has encouraged me to jump back in, which is the highest compliment I can think to pay it. Masterfully done, everyone involved.


(33 replies, posted in Off Topic)

If you had to permanently move to another country and decade, where and when would you go?

Okay, in figuring this out I'm trying to find a way to maximize both personal enjoyment and global usefulness. Assuming I'm time-traveling to this period at the same age I am now (21), not getting a solid reset from birth, here's what I do.

1920s America

There was no limit placed on what I can take with me, but I'm gonna keep it reasonable and just bring a collapsible high-powered sniper rifle, plenty of ammo, a polio vaccine as well as other assorted meds, and as much period money from a variety of countries as I can get my hands on. I arrive in America 1920, travel to Russia, and make my first move the assassination of Joseph Stalin, allowing Trotsky to succeed Lenin after the latter has died. I next make my way to Austria, where I knock off Adolf Hitler shortly after he's discharged from the army. From there I hop a boat back to the U.S., where I'm hopefully just in time to bump into Franklin Roosevelt and surreptitiously administer the polio vaccine to him. This leaves Mussolini and Hirohito in play, but by taking out Hitler I've hopefully averted WWII, by ensuring Roosevelt doesn't contract the polio that will eventually lead to his death I've hopefully ensured continued progressive policies in America long after 1945, and by taking out Stalin I've left the Soviets in Trotsky's far more capable hands.

I settle in the American South for the remainder of my stay, occasionally using my leftover ammo and foresight to take out prominent KKK members and politicians like George Wallace. Donald Trump Sr. goes down before he can spawn his offspring. James Earl Ray winds up in a ditch on the side of the road. I travel up north in the 60s to ensure that Nixon and Henry Kissinger both go down, handing the race to McGovern and thereby keeping Hunter S. Thompson with us a few years longer than he otherwise would have made it. In the late 70s Ronald Reagan meets with an unfortunate accident that leaves him wheelchair-bound and unable to run for President.

In between these killings, I keep a low profile. Go see The Who live. Enjoy Citizen Kane and Star Wars and the like on their opening weekends. Find George Lucas in a bar somewhere and convince him to hand Return of the Jedi entirely over to Lawrence Kasdan and hand Spielberg producer credit so he can ghost-direct the thing, thereby freeing George from the millstone around his neck and enabling him to pursue all the other projects he had in mind. (I also do my best to influence him not to release the Special Editions, or at the very least keep the originals in print.) And then, my work done, I die in 1983 at the ripe old age of 84, which I was able to live to due to the meds I brought over.

This is kinda violating the spirit of the question in that I travel to two other countries before returning home, but I couldn't think of what else to do that would be useful so. tongue

Forget existential dread: what's the most existentially exciting thing that's ever occurred to you?
What's the most amusing physical injury you've ever had?
You have 24 hours to live but only $1,000 to spend. Your one companion is Bill Murray. What do you do?


(197 replies, posted in Off Topic)

To be fair to you losing interest in Ready Player One is a sign of good taste. tongue Also: try audiobooks! Audible free trial will get you Ian McKellen reading the Odyssey.


(197 replies, posted in Off Topic)

Oh wow, it's been two years since this thread was touched? Shame on us.

Just posted my annual/semi-annual (depending on my exhaustion every six months) "My Year in Books" writeup to my blog. Don't think I've ever linked to one of these before—usually I put more work in (see 2016's two entries for comparison) but it's 2017 and I'm fucking tired, so. tongue Lots of good books this year, though, and I try to do them justice. Peruse if you're interested—there are capsule reviews of quite a few and a list of 47 further recommendations from stuff I read this year.


(8 replies, posted in Movie Stuff)

Ah well, worth the shot! I promise you'll like Secret Honor much better. tongue


(8 replies, posted in Movie Stuff)

Eat your heart out, Hamilton.


(8 replies, posted in Movie Stuff)

Oh dude, have you heard of the musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson? It's a satire on the craziness of that administration/the "emo rock" years of America and it's SO GOOD. Also prefigures our current political situation in so many ways, as this opening song demonstrates.


(8 replies, posted in Movie Stuff)

Awesome! I need to do more reading on him myself, I've done THE FINAL DAYS and have a copy of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN but otherwise haven't researched him much in print outside of histories of the 70s/Henry Kissinger/etc. that he's related to.


(8 replies, posted in Movie Stuff)

Oh hey, remember this board? I couldn't find a "recommend a movie" thread in Off-Topic, so fuck it. tongue

The setup of Robert Altman's 1984 picture Secret Honor is a simple one. Philip Baker Hall, as Richard Nixon, sits by himself in his office post-resignation, ranting into a tape recorder over the great betrayal that has been committed against him. For ninety minutes. That's it.

It's not hyperbole when I say that Hall's performance in this is one of the greatest in the history of cinema. For an hour and a half, he and he alone carries the movie. He rants, he raves, he slobbers and mewls, alternating between euphoric, delirious nostalgia and futile, towering rage. That he's coherent is a miracle in and of itself—Nixon is constantly stumbling over himself, stammering, and roaring, doing all the work of the collective cast of a David Mamet play, and Hall never once flubs his continuous rant (granted, this is a movie, but he originated the role in the stage version, delivering the same hysterical cry into the wind in one go night after night). But he's more than coherent, he's riveting. As Nixon Hall is at once a titanic, mythic figure and a pathetic, stunted little man. The more his histrionics go on the smaller he shrinks, as though the archetype of Tricky Dick is growing by leeching Nixon the man of his life-force. If Hall had tipped his hand too far to either extreme, his character would have utterly failed, too pitiful to hold our attention or too vast and broad to be taken seriously. The paradox he pulls off is astonishing.

I've seen this movie a couple of times, but I haven't revisited it since the election. When I do, I'm sure it'll resonate all the more. Nixon is obviously a precursor of Trump in many ways, the biggest of which is that Trump is living his own Secret Honor every day. The difference is that where this movie takes place in the seclusion of Nixon's home, Trump is staging his own dark night of the soul on Twitter for all the world to see.

I posted this because Secret Honor is currently available to watch for free on YouTube. I don't know how much longer that'll be the case, so do plunge in while you have the chance.

Remember BOAT, everyone?

The object of this game—sum up, as best you can, your taste in movies through a picture of no fewer than three and no more than five films that you yourself own. The challenge? The featured movies have to be a sequential set that runs in alphabetical order. And no, you can't just pick a few movies from different locations on your shelf and put them together alphabetically—it has to be an alphabetical chunk that exists when all your movies are assembled together. (For instance, I can't just go to my shelf and pull out Inherent Vice, Star Wars, and The Tree of Life to use for the game, unless for whatever reason those were the only films I owned for the letters I through Z and thus were already next to each other in a block.) Post the pic, and then explain below it what each of the films pictured represents of your cinematic taste.

- - - - -

My submission:


1. The Fly—the horror representative of this sequence. This, along with The Thing, is a movie I watched in bits and pieces on YouTube long before I actually saw it, fourteen-year-old me switching between taking in all the puppetry and gore and glancing over my shoulder to make sure no parents were watching (R-rated movies were not allowed in my house). And while The Thing is much nearer and dearer to my heart, this one is as good a movie as any to represent why I love horror. The awesome practical effects aside, The Fly's ethos isn't shock but philosophical dread. The fear comes from realizing how impermanent and susceptible to decay our bodies are—we're little more than meat puppets, and this is what happens when the puppet starts to break down.

2. The Formula—I'm convinced this is genuinely one of the best artistic statements about the dark side of fandom ever made, and sums up better than anything else my relationship with Star Wars. That series has alternated between being a spring of joy and a well of bitterness for me ever since I saw the OT at age eight, and even though the new movies have swung me back over to the healthy side of that coin, this film is a much-needed reminder of why I should never let the franchise consume my life to the extent it once did. And moral didacticism aside, this is just a great movie. It captures so much about fandom at a specific moment in time and clearly has such love for the source material it cannibalizes and twists into new shapes, something I wish could be said for current nostalgia-porn dreck like Ready Player One.

3. 45 Years—ngl, I haven't watched this one yet. tongue But I needed to find an alphabetical chunk that included "soul-killing character study," and just knowing its plot description this film fits the bill. (And I bought it because I really do want to watch it, so.)

4. The Fountain—film as a medium is capable of inducing metaphysical awe far more easily than literature, in my opinion. Literature can only summon imaginary sensations, whereas film is able to produce sensation. I find this metaphysical awe most frequently in Terrence Malick's films, but it's here in this one, too. And the very things that made it so polarizing upon release—its unabashedly cosmic imagery, its stubborn refusal to play its religious influences with a hint of irony, its deeply personal nature—are what enable it to channel awe so effectively. I'm not a believer anymore, but I take the issues religion addresses very seriously, and Aronofsky is one of the filmmakers currently working who are unafraid to make undeniably artistic cinema that's still inextricable from religious sensibilities.

5. Frances Ha—we all know what it's like to turn to film as a relief. To escape the world for an hour or two and just curl up in the warmth that a movie can provide. This movie is the perfect encapsulation of that feeling for me. Greta Gerwig has one of the most infectious screen presences of our generation, and while this movie is as filled with lingering sadness as it is with happiness, few things fill me with such joy as watching the titular protagonist dance through New York while "Modern Love" blares in the background. Watching it is like being reunited with old friends for eighty minutes, and if there's any character in the movies I see myself in, it's Frances.


(24 replies, posted in Episodes)

"You know what they call a quarter-pounder with cheese in Five Points?"

". . . they don't call it a quarter-pounder with cheese?"

- - - - -

"Aww man, I just shot Seleno in the face."


- - - - -

"You ain't got no problem, Hooker. I'm on the motherfucker. Go back in there, chill them bitches out, and wait for Kid Twist, who should be coming directly."

"You sending Kid Twist? Shit, negro, that's all you had to say!"

- - - - -

I'm done now, promise.


(24 replies, posted in Episodes)

Hey, Jackie Brown is basically Tarantino's The Sting and if Jackson's character is anyone it's Lonnegan. We'll call it a soft reboot.


(24 replies, posted in Episodes)

NO CAPES! Ya folla?


(10 replies, posted in VFX)

In all seriousness, it might be worth thinking about to make an "Other Media" board for things like books/music/games/etc., move the Off-Topic movie threads to the Movie Stuff section, and leave Off-Topic for the various threads that still don't fit into media (all the cool storytelling threads, "Stuff you're deeply tired about," etc).


(10 replies, posted in VFX)

I demand a humanities board. Discrimination!

Oh wait, that's the rest of the forum.



(2,082 replies, posted in Off Topic)

BigDamnArtist wrote:

I honestly didn't think Carey was even acting any more. I wonder how much of what you're talking about has to do with Carey's whole "everyone is a character, and I'm no longer Jim Carey the character" self realization thing he's got going on these days.

He does seem to view Man on the Moon as a turning point in his interviews for the movie—talks about how it was "liberating" for him to escape being himself for a while and then goes on this rant about how you can't really know anyone, man. Which is also pretty hilarious as he simultaneously claims that he knew Kaufman so well that he was literally possessed by him.

Teague wrote:

Great post, Prax.

Thx, just had to vent a little. The more I think about it the more this movie is an intensely interesting artifact but also the more it makes me really angry. I wouldn't even know where to begin in answering the question of whether it's "good" or not (though if it is it's certainly good in a way Carrey didn't intend).


(2,082 replies, posted in Off Topic)


This is fucking harrowing. Carrey himself seems to think it's an ultimately uplifting look at a quirky-but-endearing film shoot when it's actually a glimpse of the living hell he put everyone else in the cast and crew through in his attempt to channel Kaufman's "spirit." There's several moments where he's interacting in-character with Kaufman's real family members and it's so fucking upsetting. The emotional manipulation involved just gives me the shivers.

Don't get me wrong, this is a fascinating movie, it's just also pretty repugnant in many ways. Definitely up there for one of the more visceral reactions to a film I've had in 2017.


(70 replies, posted in Episodes)

Phil Sandifer, who's always an intelligent and engaging critic, did a fantastic analysis of the Joker/the broader politics of TDK this week. Big chunk of the middle quoted below.

To understand what’s going on with Ledger’s Joker, it’s necessary to understand the basic oversignification of the character. For that, let’s turn fleetingly to what is both the best comic story written about him and the low point of Alan Moore’s career, Batman: The Killing Joke. (This being where Nolan’s “multiple contradictory origins” idea originates.) For all that Moore crafts a typically symbolically rich take on the Joker, the big problem with the story, as Moore readily admits, is that he didn’t define the Joker as anything other than Batman’s archnemesis. He represents nothing save for a particular limit point for Batman - an irreducible reality of his mythos interesting for few reasons other than that homicidal clowns with good visual design are kinda cool.

This is not what the Joker in The Dark Knight is doing, although it’s easy to miss that fact. The centrist liberalism that is the default setting of most popular culture means that we’re most used to villains who are cuddly versions of fascism: Voldemort, the Empire, the Daleks, etc. It’s easy to make too much of this - the defanged fascists of popular culture villainy are generally so cartoonishly that if they have any political effect, it’s to blind us to fascists that don’t literally call themselves Death Eaters, have the Imperial March as their theme song, or shriek “EXTERMINATE” a lot. But it means we’re strangely unused to seeing a villain who’s applying the same cartoonish excess to leftism. Which means, in practice, that it’s easy to miss that the Joker is a leftist villain, with the same basic relationship to anarchism that Darth Vader has to fascism.

It’s certainly not that the Joker is the only villain in pop culture who can be described as “anarchic.” But it is by any measure a shorter list than the fascism analogues, and more to the point, few of them are quite so defined as to get an ostentatious villain monologue about the evils of “schemers” and “plans” that ends in a declaration that they’re an agent of anarchy and chaos. Fewer still get to deliver the monologue opposite a semi-fascistic narrative of powerful rich men running elaborate surveillance operations.

One of my favorite things ever posted to my site is Jack’s TARDIS Eruditorum guest post on Merlin. He sent it to me late on Christmas Eve so I ended up reading it on Christmas morning, happily ignoring a stack of presents in favor of his hymn to the glories of villains. His argument is that villains, as the force in a story that wants to change the status quo, are an occasion where “the radical howl be heard, even if in a distant and garbled form.” But this garbling mostly comes from the routine use of the liberalism/fascism opposition. Because fascism is little more than the acceleration of liberalism’s worst instincts, this opposition tends to collapse. To use one of Jack’s examples, Voldemort may be marked as a fascist due to his zealotry over racial purism, but this ends up being a mask for the fact that Rowling’s “good” wizard society is built on systemic racism of its own, including literal fucking slavery.

But the Joker sidesteps that aporia. He doesn’t embody the same flaws as the heroes only in black. Rather, he offers an actual ideological difference. Batman endorses a world ruled by militarized power wedded to a mythic and incorruptible symbol. (And it’s worth noting that Harvey Dent’s “maverick tough on crime prosecutor” personality is very, very Bush era.) The Joker endorses burning that world down. Tellingly, the Joker doesn’t get what the sort of standard villain moment that will be afforded to Bane whereby whatever political alternative he offers is revealed as disingenuous, typically because the villain is actually a genocidal maniac. The Joker is never presented as anything other than a force of violence attempting to dismantle Gotham’s society. There’s no reversal. He just wants to watch the world burn. This fact is presented to the audience as a self-evident horror, the possibility that anyone might nod with agreement not even entertained.

I don’t want to go too far towards “the Joker was right” here, although I’ll admit that’s more because of the historic lameness of that argument than out of any particularly substantive objection. The reasons he’s wrong mostly come down to the distortions necessary to transmute anarchism into straightforward villainy. He’s a sadist who blows up civilians for no reason other than the fun of it. But what interests me is how terrible a job Nolan does selling the apparently straightforward case that he’s wrong. His final comeuppance - the stunt with the two boats - may well be the single worst sequence Christopher Nolan has ever committed to film.

To recap, the Joker has taken two boats - one a prison transport ship, the other full of civilians - and put bombs on each one, with the detonators given to the people on the other boat. The point is, as he puts it, a “social experiment” to see who blows who up first. Its resolution is that neither boat blows up the other because, in one case, a bussinessman is unable to bring himself to do it while in the other what the script describes as a “huge, tattooed prisoner” (played, of course, by a suitably intimidating looking black actor) demands to be given the detonator so that he can make the hard decision, only to heroically chuck it out a window. It is gobsmackingly schmaltzy, and completely lacking in any conviction - a hopelessly contrived affirmation of the basic goodness of human nature that literally nothing else anywhere in Nolan’s trilogy backs up. It’s as though the film recognizes the suppressed possibility that the Joker might not be as self-evidently awful as it desperately wants him to be and goes to ostentatious lengths to deny a possibility that it can’t even acknowledge in the first place.

And no wonder. In marked contrast to R’as al Ghul, whose sense of Gotham’s decadence seemed utterly contradictory given his own methodology and whose solution was simply to eliminate the entire city, the Joker clearly wants the city to survive in what he views as a better form, and is thoroughly coherent in diagnosing its problems. Consider his monologue about how “nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I tell the press that like a gangbanger will get shot or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics. because it's all part of the plan,” which is, notably, a more coherent response to R’as al Ghul’s whole “we tried to destroy Gotham with economics” thing than literally anything Batman says over the entirety of Batman Begins.

Indeed, this is in some regards the crux of the problem (if one wants to call it a problem) with the Joker. Yes, he bypasses the tedious aporia created by the liberalism/fascism dualism of a lot of hero/villain pairings, but he does so in pursuit of a different sort of breakdown. The truth of the matter is that Gotham, as envisaged by Nolan, is a strong case for anarchism. When the world is systemically corrupt and the only apparent alternative is violent authoritarianism, burning it down is an entirely rational response. The sensible points of disagreement with the Joker are over tactics, not goals.

I still love TDK and find a lot to like about TDKR, but that central sticking point—"Gotham has been overtaken by the rich and corrupt, let's let more rich people combat this by . . . dealing with largely impoverished people extrajudicially"—is a big one to get past. Especially in TDKR, where it basically devolves into utter political incoherence that's rescued by the sheer ballsiness of Nolan's cinematic eye more often than not.

So I've fallen in love with Rilo Kiley, but a certain four-note sequence in one of their songs instantly makes me want to switch what I'm doing and jam to "Limp-Dick Christmas Lights" instead (occurs around the 2:44 mark).

(Three years on and I still love this album so much.)

Tangent: my sum total of Buddhism knowledge remains the DiF Twilight commentary, which I should probably fix at some point.


(83 replies, posted in Creations)

I recuse myself from answering the first one as any advice I'd give you would probably be wrong. tongue Re: the third—I think that's kind of a shitty situation when the art has significant exposure (for instance, Uncharted 4 cast a white voice actress as a black character, which is... not cool), but as this particular art project isn't really tied into systemic lack of opportunities for POC actors, it being a fun project and not something made by a movie/game studio that pays actors, I think you're probably off the hook. Keep in mind I'm a white guy, though, so my opinion doesn't really matter.


(225 replies, posted in Off Topic)

This one is probably the pair's finest hour. Drums and bass were all downhill as instruments from here on out.