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Archives for January 2018

Mr. Arkadin

I didn’t care for it, not at all. Watch Touch of Evil again instead, or even The Stranger. Above, you can listen to Welles deploy a Russian accent through an improbable beard as he regales partygoers with the story of the Scorpion and the Frog. Then compare it to versions from The Crying Game, Drive, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, all of which you can find on the side bar.

Okay.

the-shape-of-water-sally-hawkins

So The Shape of Water (my review, for what it’s worth, is here) got a whole bunch of Oscar nominations. I’m gonna use that as my spur for writing Volume Two of Lives of Famous Catholics. See if I can get it done in time for the ceremony in early March. No title yet, but my subject is director Guillermo Del Toro. I know, I know — another film director? But I can’t help myself. For what it’s worth, I still hope to finish Gaga Confidential, perhaps pegged to the release of A Star is Born later this year. I have plans for the other four entries that will make up the eventual seven-story book, but there’s no sense in getting ahead of myself. Let’s see if I can do one.

Fathers and Sons

ADDED: A primer for those who don’t know why NYFG fans hate the PEs (and, yes, of course, the NEPs too.

ADDED: Exhibit A & B.

How I Feel Now that Philadelphia ("Ptui!”) Is Going to the Super Bowl

How I Feel Now that Philadelphia (“Ptui!”) Is Going to the Super Bowl

 

There is the boy and there are the certain facts of boyhood
(Though nothing autobiographical
Is ever really deduced, is ever really reducible).

Yet the boy’s whole story is as any boy’s life, full
Of moment and followed by others, messily progressing
Along in the plain old myth-telling style.

There was the boy and his father — a fact which must go
Unverified as a creature’s cause. That which didn’t
Make self, though, inherited at least this knowledge:

There is the father and the son – met in boisterous love of sport
Which welded the lessons of thunderous anger
And the sadness hidden in laughter’s cloudbanks.

The boy’s hand consumed in his father’s, they would walk
The yard, policing November’s washout of light;
Spring would arrive only later in the Sun’s cult.

But now was the time to take all of creation into account,
To find the faults in the earth where hide the virtues
Of fathers, to corral the sins of the sons with a hard stewardship.

In these wintry days, the son played Icarus with his father’s
Crafted matchstick ships, motorized by cleverness;
Or played Phaeton pilfering matchbooks and cigars; or Ganymede

Holding the cold brown bottle of Olympia beer for
Father Zeus watching Sunday football, weighing and sighing
In the gridded and hashed balance of his favor-fought heroes.

Thus, Zeus’s gaze fell shadow-like on the U.S.S. Missouri’s
Jacked keel, but withheld just punishments for playing
Fire’s innocence, and hounded the N.Y. Giants weekly battles

Against his patience – all things that youth reaches for
In the hardened hands of time, the works and ways
Of which the golden scales tip in a boy’s growing favor.

Brawl in Cell Block 99

This wasn’t a very good movie, which I suspected would be the case because Bone Tomahawk, director S. Craig Zahler’s first film, wasn’t an especially good movie either. But it was fun to watch, was indeed a pleasure with a full plate of nachos and three glasses of rye, since when it comes to accruing my guilt, I like to do it all at once. I’m also a fan of Vince Vaughn, who looks like he stayed off the nachos and whiskey while making this movie.

I, Tonya

No, Margot Robbie looks nothing like the 15 year old she plays in the movie, or even the 18 or 21 year old she plays in the movie. With a little makeup, she does look something like what I assume the 40-something Tonya Harding must look like now. Still and all, Robbie turns in an outstanding performance in a biopic about a national joke who somehow makes good of her life against very long odds. Sure, she may have been in on a plot to deliver an actual kneecapping to her opponent. But. She really was a damn good skater.

Between Knopler’s “Romeo & Juliet” and “Dream a Littleness Dream of Me” sung by Ella, this might be my favorite soundtrack ever. In fact, the entire Sound Design was about as sharp as I’ve ever heard. The editing is worthy of Thelma Schoonmaker (so skillful at turning Scorsese’s chaotic collection of images into narratives with such a strong pulse), and the combination of spot-on acting by the four principles from a great script make the whole movie incredibly credible.

I admit that I take issue with the metaphysics in which the entire movie is grounded. You can hear it in the above trailer when Tonya says in the voiceover, “There’s no such thing as truth. It’s bullshit!” For one thing, there’s the logical problem in stringing together both statements, by which we can gather that, yes, there is truth, and that truth is bullshit. Not all things, and perhaps even few qualitative statements, are entirely true or untrue, and most any kind of story (μῦθος) is going to embody a very particular kind of truth that may or may not also cohere with Truth with a capital T (λόγος), but by baldly stating “there’s no such thing as truth” or “there’s only my truth” (as Tonya says towards the end of the movie), the entire story demands to be taken as a tissue of lies. I can only conclude that Tonya certainly was in on the plot to break Kerrigan’s legs, and doesn’t actually deserve the sympathy everything else in the movie—the sound design, the editing, and the more pedestrian elements of the storytelling—would lead us to believe it deserves. But of course it’s with those extremely seductive technical achievements that we in the audience are enthralled.

The credits at the end ran with real footage of Tonya skating, which is indeed beautiful and a kind gesture on the part of director Craig Gillespie. For a movie that has so many scenes in which the characters are anything but, it’s a finishing touch that affirms the improbable tone of the entire story. In short, while problematic as a parable for any life but that of the impenitent thief, I, Tonya is still a very good movie.

Hostiles

A very good movie, which reminded me a little of (the also very good) Meek’s Cutoff in its consideration of the mutual antagonism between Native Americans and White Settlers. The year is 1892, and the now safely united US government has all but finished clearing the way for westward expansion. Captain Joseph Blocker, who has himself done a fair amount of this clearing, has now been tasked with escorting a former adversary, Cheyanne Chief Yellow Hawk, from a fort in New Mexico Territory to the Chief’s ancestral lands in the newly created state of Montana. Violence ensues and then recurs like bad spells of the weather, meted out by both the U.S. Army and what Native warriors remain. Though, interestingly enough, not between Chief Yellow Hawk and Blocker, who need one another to fight other hostiles, Native American and Caucasian alike.

The friend with whom I watched it praised the movie for its story of a man growing beyond the racism with which he performed his duty to clear the territories by subjugating or killing people he refers to as “savages”. I saw that, but what interested me more was the way the knife’s edge between sanity and insanity was even sharper than that between violence and peace. In the end I decided that it was because of Blocker’s stubborn insistence on sanity that he is able to rise above the genocidal racism by which he has fought, and lay claim to the humanity he’ll need away from the battlefield. Uniformly well acted, especially by Christian Bale, and director Scott Cooper’s best yet.

My New Paper Shredder

is an absolute dream. For years I’ve hunched over a brown paper grocery bag every few months, laboriously trying to cut my medical reports and payment past due notices into confetti. This year I got a brand new shredder for Christmas, and feeding six months worth of backlogged paper into this hungry little monster was the most fun I’ve had since piling up all those bills and medical problems in the first place.

shredded

As I was about to take the bag down to the recycling bin, I spied one cutting that read “on bended knee”. Seemed significant. What on earth could the gods be trying to tell me?

I looked at another that turned out to have a number of Chinese characters. Assuming I could safely disregard these, I sat down right there on the floor and pulled out a few more, continuing to disregard the Chinese characters, lines of seemingly random numbers and letters, and of course those that were blank or had been cut perpendicular to lines of text. What I ended up with was this:

fortunes

Thank Heavens for my training in Classics, which included deciphering legends stamped onto coins, the handling of ancient manuscripts, and—most helpful here— epigraphy. Here’s what I’ve been able to determine:

IMPORTANT:
[Your] mission is [at] 5:00 on T[itan.] We have the e-Surge, and we claim thy pathways logo are trademarks of Cenall. They are like nomination meetings, or s[oft]ened [skulls], but [oh] how it felt on bended knee! Now is the time, Wanderer—pray tell your fri[ends they] ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PAY.

So there you have it. Not gods, I now understand, but that intergalactic force of aliens from EGS-zs8-1 now hiding behind Planet X. While I appreciate the information as well as sentiments conveyed in that last line via all caps, I’m not sure how I feel about Cenall claiming my pathways. And they may denigrate said pathways as a reading back of the minutes of an annual Rotary Club meeting or Aunt Sylvia’s habit of including herself in the conversation on Fox and Friends, but the point is simply this: these pathways may not be pretty, but the fact is they work. What you’re feeling there is success. You’re welcome.

So I won’t be disposed of that easily. I’m a man of my word, so you can count on me to make that trip to Titan—but you can also expect me to wander by the Cenall HQ on Europa before I do. And then we’ll see about that e-Surge, you can be sure of that.

Wow.

I almost think the opening scene of Nocturnal Animals is there to scare the moralists away via aesthetic assault. (It also serves a narrative/thematic function, sure, but…) Because after that, it plays out with the blunt trauma moral force of a Flannery O’Connor story, only without the promise of grace. Maybe it was the tequila watching, but I liked it a lot.

Dreams

It is, of course, common internet knowledge that bitches love mixtapes.

19323566

But dudes like mixtapes too. I know, because The Wife made one for me early on in the whole “she loves me/she loves me not” stage of things. Side A was titled “From love’s first fever…”; Side B, “…to her flame.” (A nice tweak on Dylan Thomas.) First song on Side B was “Dreams” by The Cranberries. (This was before it got used in every film trailer ever.) It was enough to give a young swain hope that he was not a swain in vain.

Anyway, it’s part of our history, and I was sad to hear of lead singer Dolores O’Riordan’s death.

Wait a Minute…Don’t We Know this Guy?!

Sho’ nuff, FOK Christopher Carstens up and got hisself published (again!):

carstens book

Lent is coming and my brother-in-law has eight kids to feed and clothe. Just sayin’…