The Summer of 89′ Tim Burton’s Batman was released. We were in Dallas, Tx, visiting our father. We dig through our memories again and follow the ripples of this special film and that fateful summer.
We’re back, after a bit of a break, to talk about how women have impacted our lives.
In the past we’ve talked about our mother and father and even ourselves. But here, we take some time to explore how we’ve been encouraged and changed by the women in our lives.
Along the way we talk about gender, and bodies that have choices, and this difficult world men have built for women.
Just when we thought we were out, it pulls us back in.
Most of us just want it to be over. It’s been a long and arduous road and navigating Covid-19 hasn’t been easy. Face-masks and social distancing has taken it’s toll on the collective masses.
We welcome another voice into our mix, and discuss the Delta variant and the woes that have come with it physically and politically, and hope that we’re near the end.
We continue our discussion on the Tower of Babel with special guest, Kathy Wick. There are just too many layers to sift through in this tale of an ancient skyscraper to the heavens.
Too many questions to be answered. Like whether God’s dispersal of language led to more diversity or just the stamping out of individualism. And how does that reflect in our art.
Join us as we add another voice into our cacophony for the first time.
May 11 – July 12
Couples in Crisis. Bend but don’t break, they say. But lots of relationships break, leaving people with only loneliness. The ones that bend are special. Malleable things to aspire to. To hold onto one another even in the harshest moments.
That’s what half of these films are about. These ten that it’s taken me forever to watch. About couples who withstand the fire and come out, not better, but changed. Because all we can do is withstand the change of life.
But the other half are about the one’s that break. Those sad cases we all have wish to do over. The thing that you learn watching these films, though; you need those failures to learn how to bend.
Save Yourselves (2020) – There is a groaning idea that all of us have of wanting to be less attached to our phones. Life was a lot simpler before the smart-phone. Information wasn’t at the tip of our fingers and no one had a trouble in the world. With all this info, comes angst and dread and weight of the world. If we could just unplug for a few long moments, maybe the cobweb of facts and figures and statistics would clear and the sheer load of data would be lifted and we could finally breath. So, we think of the best place to do this. To unplug, to unspool the extension cord of details. It always comes back to one place. The woods. A nice, little home you Airbnb, near a lake. The perfect place not to have an Alexis. That’s the idea, right. But maybe we’re just looking at technology the wrong way. Maybe it’s just part of our evolution as humans to incorporate ones and zeroes into our futures. How else will we know when there’s an alien invasion? We need to be ready for this. Fight technology with technology when the Tribbles come for our ethanol. Maybe spending less time with our phones is the wrong idea.
The One I Love (2014) – Does therapy bring out our best self? Or is it all just an exercise in futility? A ruse to temporarily change a train of thought. This movie would suggest that therapy could be some evil plot to let the id out, and let it run amuck. Ted Danson’s therapist sends a couple to Ojai for an oasis-like couple’s retreat. The place is beautiful and comforting and the couple seem happy for the first time in a long time. But there’s a guest house that stands in for the inner-self. And inside the house are two con-artists. Con-artists of the subconscious. Two people, who look like the couple and present the most amiable sides of the couple, but really have their own motivations. Which is to escape that quest house of the mind and be free. Again, the id taking over the ego. Or, is it the other way around? Either way, the endgame of therapy is to find a balance between the two. And maybe that’s just what happens for the couple. An id and ego together forever.
The Lovers (2016) – It’s a movie filled with images of people so wary of each other. Everyone treats each other like wild dogs. Eyes crowded with foreboding. Medium shots held for awkward seconds as characters measure and study motivations. Just what does this person want from me, their eyes say. But, all it takes is the right look. The one that says, hey, maybe, just maybe. Then the rollercoaster shifts into reverse and you’re remembering what it was like to be love with this person. To be so attracted to someone you can’t even stand it. Marriage is rarely a circle. It’s usually a straight line toward contentment or ruin. Rarely do you get a chance to loop back with one another and rediscover one another. See the person as new, but familiar. See that person as the adult they are. Because I believe we rut ourselves in the image of first meeting. We find ourselves wondering what happened to that person that made you feel that certain way in the first three months. Ask ourselves what changed? But it’s you who has changed. And your partner. We just don’t adapt. And the loop back is rare but it can happen with the right look.
Bound (1996) – They’re sisters now. Sometimes the first film you make as a filmmaker is the most important. The one you put all your heart and soul into. The most intimate and personal you’ll get, is in that first one. You can imagine, now, the Wachowski’s as Corky and Violet. Two women hemmed up in a Neo-Noir of oversized, gangster burlesque. Two male filmmakers (at the time) trapped in genre. Two brothers trying to untie themselves from existing yolks twofold. It’s meta, they say these days. It’s a popular adjective to describe self-awareness. To describe something cleverly aware. Most of the time in your art, you’re just trying to work things out. Art is a good space to let go and let the sub-conscious roam out in the daylight. Only later does the journaling become meta. So, it is later. Twenty-five years later, and this film may very well be the Wachowski’s, not at their inception, but at their end. Not at their end as filmmakers but as men. At the end of being hemmed in as genre filmmakers as well. It only took one film for them to get to the Matrix. A film that took a handful of genres and pulverized them into modern mythology. But the Matrix wouldn’t be able to break free if it wasn’t Bound first.
Someone Behind the Door (1971) – Charles Bronson is so bad in this that it makes you wonder how terrible the director felt about his ability to work with actors. You just can’t get past the utter drowning of Bronson in this. He’s playing an insane amnesiac and he’s rudderless. He has no idea which direction he’s supposed face or go. And maybe Gessner thought a hands-off approach would lead to an interesting motif. Because Perkins plays his evil, heartbroken neurosurgeon with the same matador approach. Just stay out of the way of the pitbullish Bronson. Perkins is light on his feet here, and pushes and cajoles Bronson into the perfect murder of his cheating wife. It just takes forever and once you get there, even the actors are tired and don’t quite buy the back and forth, which Gessner turns into an unending loop of man and woman forever trapped in their own discord.
Vivarium (2019) – Finnacan wants to dig holes and never get there. Never get to China. Or Australia or anywhere that a gopher could stick its head out and see the endgame. It’s all in the mood he creates. He gets lost in it, and never sees the forest. It’s a sick game he’s created, in a Burtonesque burg, but without any of the charm or humor. It’s like focusing on the bassline and nothing else. What are we to think of this take on parenting? The nuclear family is exactly nuclear. A bomb ready to go off if you’re not prepared. You want the house and the lawn and whatever comes next. But are you truly ready for it? Not so sure that’s what the filmmaker is saying. No one is sure what is being said. Are there aliens in the world conducting experiments? Why the bulge in the neck, kid? We’re given some sort of answer when the mom finally resorts to violence. A literal pulling up of the rug to see what’s underneath. Irony. The father digging that hole for nothing other than for his and her grave. But what did the mother see underneath the rug? Just more visual gibberish. Nothing that understands the mystery of the story. It’s the curse of the cinema of Lynch.
Miracle Mile (1988) – It ends in the white-hot heat of nuclear annihilation. Sorry for the spoiler. But not really. It’s a new couple in crisis. A newly minted couple. They’ve just met and the ending is just a coda for how some relationships burn. Burn like matches. You’ve experienced them before. Brief and fiery. That’s how some go. And that’s how this one goes. It’s a beautiful metaphor for its time. The Cold-War and its paranoia creeped all through the eighties. When would that senile Reagan finally fall asleep on the launch button? That’s the mania of the time and this movie captures it so well. It begins at the LaBrea tarpits. Woolly Mammoths being swallowed by the muck of fossil fuels once legend. In 1988 they’re being looked on by minds with less than random intent of destruction. It’s a willful evolution toward the manipulation of atoms. But in the minutia of all this is the slipshod nature of human beings and what they call love. Two people who feel the rolling time. Every second of it and choose to care for one another, even though this place they live in is nothing but chaos ending in white light.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999) – The blueprint to the male mind in marriage. Or any other form of loving relationship. Everything seems to be going fine. You’re a doctor in New York City. You seem to be doing well for yourself. Nice home, wife and a daughter. Then one night you smoke a little pot (Kubrick wafting us into a waking dream) and your wife tells you about a time she had a fantasy about another man. Some guy in uniform that she saw for half-a-second. She didn’t even talk to the man, much less sleep with him. But it burrows its way into your male mind and turns into an erotic thriller you play back over and over. It drives you to walk the streets at night looking to get revenge. Revenge on your wife’s worthless dreams. All the way down a rabbit hole to a secret society. Kubrick has given us the pattern for maleness and why the world is the way it is. The male ego is at the same time narrow and obtuse. It only seeks to control what it can’t understand. Subject to massive over-reactions and pettiness. A man done wrong will seek to protect himself from the world. Even form clandestine communities so they can wear masks to hide their shame.
Detective Story (1951) – Early on you get vaporized by Wyler’s visual acumen. These seamless shots and cuts and masterful compositions set you in this baleful mood. Something bad is gonna happen real soon. You can see a string connecting it to Lumet’s Twelve Angry Men eight years later. Not just the visuals but the examination of morality in confined places. The putting under the microscope of the fragile American male ego boxed in by civilizations and it’s ceaseless upward and onward movement. And in doing so, Wyler puts front and center misogyny women face in the systems men create. It goes right to the core of the control men seek over women. To control every aspect. Even their ability to create human life and every decision surrounding it. One system blaming the other. A cop blaming a doctor for all societies woes. An abortion doctor is verboten. A sure criminal. But when it hits down in his own backyard, the male ego crumbles. Black and white bleeds together into gray and the mind can’t take the uncertainty. Thank God for criminals with guns. You can always count on them.
Presumed Innocent (1990) – The overly, ambitious, career woman and the deferring, talented housewife are anathema to each other in this, but they are rolled up in the same ball in the end. Man-eaters all of them. But this movie has a bit more subtlety than that. The legal system is the ultimate metaphor for man’s grasp on controlling chaos. What is law but an idea thrown against the maelstrom of nothingness? A chance to draw a line and say something matters. That’s what the law is. And that’s how the actors act. Holier than thou. Because they are the pinnacle of society. Without the law, where would be? Anarchy. But there’s a better question being asked by Pakula here. Where do women fit into all of this? Do they benefit from the system that men design? No, not really, is the answer. By juxtaposing these two women against one another, on the surface, we find them in the end, nothing but fatales. But if you take a step back and look at it as a whole, we find that it’s just the system that they’re wrapped up in. Where they find themselves, clawing and fighting to gain some sort of attention from their fathers.
Communication is key. It’s a subject that seems to keep rearing its head. So much so, it almost feels as though we’re harping on it with questions not easily answered.
Questions like, how can we truly understand each other if we’re not speaking the same language? Will we truly ever know what’s in someone else’s heart and mind?
The story of the Tower of Babel may hold the keys to all these questions. Maybe, just maybe, we can look back and decipher the clues to communication.
We seem at the edge of ease here. Not so much wrestling with ourselves or our pasts but in a place of cool contemplation. In a place where we can discuss the nature of communication and change.
Because our lives are mostly these two things. Two things that we haven’t quite mastered and haven’t quite understood fully.
But we’re both thankful to have this tool to dig away at the things that vex us in this chaotic world.
We finally arrive at ourselves. After talking about our parents, we thought it only fair to turn the lens (or microphone) on one another, to see just how we got here.
It proves harder than you would imagine to go inward into one’s self. To really scratch the walls the ego builds for coping with the world.
To get a view of one’s self as other’s do can be a jarring thing. But that’s what we’re here as brothers to do. Peel back the layers.
Mar 9 – May 6
Lovers on the Run movies proved harder to find and watch than I thought. It’s a genre maybe only popular in my head. It was something I thought as a young man just getting into crime novels that certainly had the most emotional resonance as genre. People who love each other, will go to the ends of the earth for each other. Even rob, steal and sometimes kill.
Romantic love at its zenith!
But with this batch of films, you find out that the genre is particularly malleable and love may have nothing to with being on the lam.
In fact, romance may be the last thing you find.
Queen & Slim (2019) – This may be the first lovers-on-the-run with a black couple as said sweethearts. I’m not sure if that’s true (I’m proved wrong with a movie below). But this movie treats itself that way. There’s a street-fairy-tale to the telling of this. A first date in a greasy-spoon diner. The girl is bored and in need of some attention, and not impressed. The boy is earnest and simple, a family man looking for his own makings of one. They don’t really hit it off. Enter America and its police. More of a nightmarish fairy-tale when the guns go off and they’ve killed a racist (they find out later) cop and have to go on the run; than a fuzzy feeling of being on the road from Johnny Law and living your own brand of freedom. But the couple does find that there are people out there who are willing to help. The black community has found their Bonnie and Clyde. Not because they’re Robin Hoods, but because they’ve somehow survived long enough to dream about getting away. Not getting away with it, but away from death. Away from the crushing boot of the white American dream. There’s an innocent structure to this movie that is only regurgitating what classic lovers-on-the-run have fed us for years. It’s simple but genius in its subversion of what white’s gave done with black culture from the beginning.
Villains (2019) – It’s Mickey and Mallory on drugs. Which takes the edge off of them and subtracts a decade, somehow (It was just Oliver doing all the drugs). What if they were just kids looking to have a little fun; on a road trip to Florida? Then you run out of gas. You run out of gas when your lovers on the run. It’s just something that’s always overlooked. Passion gets in the way. The thrill of criminality and loose body parts just isn’t conducive to stopping at a gas station beforehand. We see it all the time. And it’s usually in the middle of nowhere. Here it’s somewhat in the middle of nowhere. There’s a house nearby, and Desperate Hours gets turned on its head. Because the married couple that lives there are stuck in amber. Stuck in some hardened remains of a shattered shot at having a family. The man’s shooting blanks and the wife’s all twisted up about it. None of it really makes sense other than the comment on male virility being such a fragile piece of glass all looped around ego.
River of Grass (1994) – You don’t always have to be in love to be on the run. You don’t even have to like the person you’re on the lam with. You just kind of need to find a person to be unstuck with. Or to meander through Dade County with, trying to unload your grandmother’s records. Reichardt uses an 80’s indie-vibe-synchronicity to weave a Stray Bullets-like story of lonely people, doing enigmatic things in the Everglades. A woman living with her cop-father leaves her kids behind one night after swimming in a backyard pool and accidently shooting the homeowner with a gun that one of Fessender’s friends finds in the street. The gun happens to be cop-father’s police-issued firearm, something he lost goofily chasing a crook. But she doesn’t actually shoot the guy, so all of this is just futile pocket change that could only happen in Florida. That could only happen to people way out there on the edge of things, wondering how the universe places them there in the first place.
Thomasine and Bushrod (1974) – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lives in this movie. Parks Jr must have been a big fan. Most people are. It’s fun and lethal and sexy. This movie shoots for that and succeeds. Maybe you’re thinking it’s more Bonnie and Clyde, just twenty years earlier and more pigment. Could be you’re right. Could be they’re paying homage to both films. But they’re blazing a new trail, all their own. It’s a great look into the modernization of not just the West but the nation as a whole. Like the Wild Bunch, it features automobiles in the world of horse thievery and itchy-trigger fingers. But this one features more automobiles. Like, a lot of cars, circa 1911. It’s amazing how they seem to pop up so suddenly. Just like Glynn Turman showing up as a Jamaican gunslinger, with a funny hat. It’s also kind of amazing that a movie exists like this one. A lovers-on-the-run-black-western. And Parks hits all the right notes (except for the Jamaican cowboy). Max Julien and Vonetta McGee are so sweet and fiery to each other. They’ve managed to squeeze in their own touching and realistic love story into everything else going on in this movie.
Mean Dreams (2016) – It’s impeccably shot and paced. The kids are a bit out of their depth, technically and metaphorically. It works in this somber tone of a first-time-love always tip-toeing on a line of destruction. And it’s got a mean rural-noir plot at its center, that anchors it throughout. The line that’s always drawn in a young-love-on-the-run tales is more often than not between parents and children. More than just a generational gap where differences are cultural misfires, the older generation takes up the posture of a conquering army. Always encroaching with bitter smiles and heavy hands. There’s a distrust between the young and the old and never the tween shall meet. Bill Paxton plays that poison moat to the most scene-eating extreme. It’s funny, you don’t really think of him as a scene-chewer, but take a look back at his career and he’s that guy. In Aliens, Weird Science and True Lies. It’s usually from a wacky angle, but here it’s a whiskey-filled, venomous wrath. He’s a dark wit curled throughout this movie that’s lucky to have him. A movie savvy enough to know how to use him. Know that the genre needed him.
Infamous (2020) – An interesting look at how fame is intertwined in the American consciousness of crime. Why commit a crime if you can’t be known for it? You don’t want your work to go unknown. It’s a coda taken to its zenith with the help of social media. The perfect platform for bandits on the run. Instant gratification. A world you can live in and be liked in by total strangers. But there’s one thing you have to do. You have to be interesting. All the time. Or risk losing people on an epic scale. Here the woman is bent on leaving her mark on the world. More Bonnie than Holly. More Spring Breakers than anything. Strange how that movie seems to influence this one. Florida setting and all. Youthful transgressions and all. Especially the exuberance and understanding of current technology and the way social media works and the avarice inherent in it all. These criminals on the run, the one’s that chose to rob banks or any place with cash-holdings, are never really into the money. They’re in it for the attention. For whatever reason, they’re looking to be liked. Or loved. Or hated. Just noticed. Because no one looks in the margins.
Princess Mononoke (1997) – Humans on the run from industrialization. An unlikely love story. It’s love at first sight for one and hatred for one’s own for the other. The stakes are high in this phantasmagoria of animal gods and the seeping sewage of man’s wasteful energy. Digging into the earth for metal is treated as a disease of mankind in this fantasy tale. Bullets for our guns has caused a great sickness in the natural world. At the time that this was made it was more of an environmental message, and still is, but you’re mind kept help from wandering into what you may feel about gun control. The right to bear arms as a sickness unto itself. A black ooze that eats you up from the inside. It’s of a sort, anathema to the Lover’s on the Run subgenre. Where the men and women covet gunplay. Often times, psycho-sexually. It’s the one freedom that they have. The freedom to wield a weapon and plot your own course. Damn the consequences. But that’s what this movie is about. The consequences of civilizations. Miyazaki has made an environmentalist, anti-gun, Lovers on the Run fantasy film for all time.
You Only Live Once (1937) – Certainly the Great Depression is the incubator for the Lovers on the Run movie genre. And Henry Fonda the patron saint of that era of blues. The era of the sulky, white man who can’t catch a break. He’s trying to go straight but nobody will let him. Nobody cares really. Not about reforming criminals, anyway. Never have and never will. But like most fatalistic noir, none of it is really the hero’s fault. At some point, someone eviler than you will steal your hat and set you up for a bank robbery. And your life will be just one wrong turn after another. But remember, none of it is really your fault. The universe is certainly conspiring against you. At least you have the unwavering, albeit incomprehensible, love of a beautiful women, who’s willing to go on the lam with you and have your baby. The best part about it is, is in the way that you thank her. You wait till the very end and thank her for loving you. Because it’s all about you and your woe. Just get make sure you get in the way of those bullets, please, and thank you.
I’m Your Woman (2020) – A strange thing happens along the way. It’s sort of built into the genre. Strange things need to happen. The strange thing that happens here is that the man is present for just ten minutes at the beginning. And in his place a baby emerges. An adopted boy, later named Harry, becomes the fulcrum for a plunge into a neat crime-drama set in the seventies. It’s a nuanced look at feminism and race and the fateful roles that fathers play. And it’s all set against a Brubacker-like-Criminal-world. It takes its time, telling the story through a naïve Midge, a white gal so underwater at the start that everything out of her mouth is a question that Cal, who’s sent to protect her, views as just the many white annoyances that plague his job. And then we meet his family, and the whole story gets explained and turned on its head. Devious strings work their way through this plot. And Cal’s family are well-versed in navigating this complicated white-criminal world. It’s the structure they live in and the one that Midge is oblivious to. It’s a near perfect look at white domination and the misogyny that’s layered in our society throughout.
Days of Heaven (1978) – The Proletariat Blues. Unskilled workers don’t unite here. They just get used and abused and misunderstood. When a ragged-faced foreman walks up to a hunched over Brooke Adams and tells her he’s docking her wages for ruining wheat bushels, he doesn’t offer guidance or information on how not to ruin bushels, he just walks away and threatens to fire them if they don’t like his management style. It’s America post-manifest destiny. The rolling wheat fields have been claimed and now they need to be worked. A perfect place for a loose family of vagrants fleeing the meat house of Chicago to settle in and look for opportunities. And be surprised by love. And be surprised by the triangular hardships of the open plains. But not be surprised by the crushing and wreathing of industrialism on the move. Not be surprised by that ostentatious house all alone on that prairie. Or be surprised at what malice lurks in that fresh-faced Sam Shepard as locust eat his fields and jealousy rakes his heart. But maybe we’re surprised at the end when Malick shows us that men will keep on breaking the world and women will endure.
Women on the verge of something. That was the idea of picking these movies to watch. On the verge of what? A nervous breakdown? Possibly. Or just understanding.
I think Almodovar would have you think past the hysteria that a nervous breakdown would connote and think about just what verges women have been on for ages.
The verge I like to think about is the one where we’re at the brink of dismantling it all. I think these films represent that feeling. Let’s tear it all down and start again.
Feb 13 – Mar 4 2021
Phantom Thread (2017) – Molding women is one of man’s favorite past times. And it’s one of Anderson’s favorite things to subvert. His movies have always been set in periods that are easier for this type of subversion. He’s made films about men, mostly. A certain type of man. Men that are demanding and rigid and not all together that human. They seemingly seek domination over women. Or sometimes, don’t seek them out at all. But when they do it’s always set in the ring of the wills. Always the boxing match of the soul with Anderson. And here it plays out over the plains of love. Day-Lewis is a dress-maker. A master of the art form. A bit of a puppet-master whose meticulousness seems rooted in an inflexible belief of self. Probably placed there by his mother’s love and Woodcock pays it forward in a secretive sower’s intent. But this waitress he picks up in some Ryan’s Daughter country retreat will not be hidden inside some piece of fabric. She will not be some hidden trinket sown into the lining of a coat. She’ll kick and punch and cook poisonous mushrooms to temper her own design on Woodcock. It’s a wonderful and heartbreaking game we play when we play with love. But we don’t always have to play the roles that are expected of us.
Horse Girl (2020) – There’s some sub-culture I’m missing out on that has something to do with women who have unhealthy fascinations with horses. Not that they’re into bestiality, but a fixation is a fixation. And fixations tend to multiply into harrowing unifying theories. Like, how do you make it from sleepwalking to being abducted by aliens to you’re a clone, and connecting the dots as if one would naturally follow the other? Most of us have some experienced some trauma in our lives. Some of us more than others, and some of us more crippling than others. And sometimes that leads to fantasy. We’re made to think that maybe it isn’t a fantasy throughout. Baena goes back and forth on whether it is or not. At times I don’t think he really cares. Maybe he watched Repulsion one night, stoned, and thought, yeah, I’d like to make a Polanski movie. A Polanski movie by way of Greg Arakki. It almost works and then it doesn’t. It’s constantly oscillating in that nether region of a thought experiment.
Possessor (2020) – This is some sort of video game, right. Some weird extension of eXistenZ. Some strange extension of fathers and sons. Fathers and sons that share the same occupations in life. Sharing not just choice of jobs they pursue but with what abandon they choose to pursue them with, and sharing the same obsessions over identity and the disconnection between mind and body. Sharing the same fascinations with the horror and ecstasy of violence and how it can be portrayed on screen. Just a general, dark playfulness with the idea that we’re just antic clay. And if flesh is just puddy to be played with, where does that leave the conscious and the sub-conscious? Is the body just a vessel? Just a bag of muscle and bones, and our minds seem to treat them as such. An occupational force that treats the other organs with extreme prejudice. I don’t know if the Cronenbergs really view the mind as some sort of mystical tyrant, but they do have some thoughts on it being a fluid creep. Something that has great potential but will always seek petty violence to prove its point. And what point is that?
Barbara (2012) – If you think about Germany during the Cold War at all, as an American, you think of the Berlin Wall and communism versus capitalism. You think two sides separated by a massive brick wall and never the tween shall meet. But that’s not true of any border. Here a doctor is sent to a backwater town in East Germany for trying to emigrate to the West. Barbara’s punishment seems just a mere annoyance at first. She shuns everyone in this small town, turning her nose up, at any social interactions with the other staff members of this small hospital, especially a male doctor, who has the hots for her. Because Barbara’s got other plans. She’s still trying to escape to the West, with help from her lover, who she rendezvouses with in the forest for some romantic love play, and later in a hotel room, at which point the plan to get her out of the East is unfolded. But Barbara never stops being a doctor. She grows close to two of her patients and can’t cut the cords of her Hippocratic duties. Even going so far to send one of the patients, a young pregnant girl, off to the West in her place. Capitalist or Communist, whatever side you find yourself marooned; people need care.
Forty-Year-Old Version (2020) – Is it your best version? The opinion more than likely oscillates from day to day. A seventy-year-old may tell you things are just getting started for you. A seventeen-year-old may tell you differently. And you know at this precise moment that you’re at a crossroads. Mid-life crises tend to happen that way. So, forty is an easy number to get caught up on. You spend the first half doing these things within the scaffolding of just living, and upon reflection, maybe they seem the wrong things, however your moods are swinging. The first half often seems like the side where you do the things you’re supposed to do, whatever the framework of your choices. Which leads you to wonder what exactly have your choices been. And what exactly has been standing in your way? Radha Black finds herself in this exact space and time. She finds herself at a wonderfully funny nexus of reinvention. At a place where poetry flows free. A place where no one can edit you. A place where maybe, just maybe, you can find and be the self you can live with.
Blow the Man Down (2019) – The shaping of patriarchal pageantry is at play from the very beginning. Or rather, the manipulation of man’s violent power over the world. A little fishing village on the coast of Maine serves as a backdrop for prostitution and multiple murders covered-up. Fishermen are tough folk. Tough men doing a tough job. There’s something mythical about it all. Songs are sung about it. Men at sea are facing the unknown. An adventure into the unforeseen. Which tends to bring back lusty and voracious men. Not that we see much of that here. One incident of lechery and assault leads two young sisters into a secret world of their dead mother’s making. An agreement to provide an outlet for all these voracious fishermen in the form of a bed and breakfast come carnal house. And this is where the movie finds itself in this land of ambiguity. A place where survival and contradiction have a life of their own. The women in this town are wrestling with old ways of survival. Because the old way of men is still hanging around, unable to let go. It’s a complicated surgery, unloosening the ties that bind patriarchy together. But these women are game.
Nomadland (2020) – The west was once a place of opportunity for white folk. Some of those white folks are still holding on to that dream. The west is still there. Physically. But the world has changed. Amazon is everywhere and they seem to have the only jobs. It’s hard to be prideful when you’re poor. But these people have made this choice to be nomads. To live in vans or RV’s and wander around the west like pioneers of old. But there’s nothing left to pioneer. It’s just beautiful places for sad white folks who’ve been marginalized. At least they have beautiful places to go to; lots of marginalized people don’t have vans or RV’s they can hit the road in. Again, these white people have chosen to be marginalized. Yet, they still seem to be able to get jobs. They still have families to go back to. The choice to live on the edges of things is some sort of heroic deed in these people’s minds. They’re resisting the corporate machine. But, what about Amazon? Is that the point? No matter how far out you get, you’ll still need the corporations. Keep piling on the sadness Chloe.
I Care A Lot (2021) – Should we just eat the old? Devour them to make more room. Cause that’s what we need, right, more space. And the elderly take that up in spades. And some of them are ripe for the picking. So are irony and sarcasm. So is the viewpoint that if you’re consumed by greed, you’re not that far off from being a gangster? It’s just an attitude, right. Blakeson plays it that way. If you take care of the details and don’t show any fear, most men are just bluster. You can railroad right through with a bag and a bat. There’s two women at the core of this movie that are figuring that out as they go. The devil really is in the details. The movie takes real pleasure in showing us every trifle being taken care of with Hitchcockian aplomb. And Pike is a mutated mixture of Vivian Leigh, Hedren and Grace Kelly and every other blond Hitch used as a punching bag. But it’s fifty years later and she can kiss her girlfriend on screen and be an eater of the old all at the flick of a cell phone app.
Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) – There’s a girl at the core of this. Way down deep in the core. She’s a telepath. We think. Yes, definitely. But there’s a man keeping her captive. He’s a doctor, we think. He’s something and he’s working through something. It’s all very murky. It’s all very Lynchian. It’s all very boring. The man is working through some existential crisis. Some long-ago acid trip keeps fucking with him. It’s 1983 and Reagan is on the TV and the synth is in full of effect. There’s a girl as an experiment. There are pale little children trapped inside Technonauts? Whatever this is, it’s not feminist. Well, maybe at the end. She wins. But the journey to get there is steeped high in white-male-emo-bullshit. It’s 2010, not 1983, and someone doesn’t know how deal with a black president. Maybe. I don’t know. It’s all incomprehensible and if I’d paid for it, I think I would be a little bit more pissed at having lost the time. But instead, I looked at the time every ten minutes and lamented at how impatient I’ve grown over the years. Or, is it justified to feel this way when you see a truly awful movie?
Underwater (2020) – A woman on the verge of discovering the Old Ones. Lovecraft reigns in modern cinema. The movie starts out with one of the worst teeth-brushing jobs ever seen on screen. So bad is it, that one starts to think the movie might be a metaphor for the mouth and what lies beyond, down the throat and into the stomach. But the ocean has always been a place for metaphor. The mysteries of time and space have always had a deep place to preside. The depths of the oceans hold all the conundrums of the soul. So, making a correlation between the bottom of the ocean to the pit of the stomach is apt. And the movie’s underwater rig set design feels a lot like taking a journey through the lower intestines of a human body. On its way to the black, maw of the stomach. Where the real horrors lie. Down deep where they grow into unfathomable monsters. Kristen Stewart plays the woman on the verge of something well. She’s just enough skittish and plucky to make it through this and then remind us why she didn’t need to brush her teeth all that thoroughly.