2022 Film Diary Part 4

This is a continuation on notes on movies I’ve seen this year. For this series, I tried to watch films from several film movements including the Scandinavian Revival, and Pre-Code Hollywood.

Movie #73/ New Movie #51: Top Gun (DVD)
This was a massive hit that I never saw before that spawned a sequel late enough that a character who was a baby in this film could plausibly be a presidential contender in the next one (they’re probably not going down that route.) I could see why this was a star turn for Tom Cruise, and it gets the camaraderie of the pilots, as well as impressive stunts. There is an interesting balance with Cruise’s Maverick and Val Kilmer’s Ice as rivals who are on the same team, and do want the other to succeed. Some scenes are way too obvious, and there is a lack of a compelling antagonist.

Movie #74/ New Movie #52: Phantom of the Paradise (DVD)
This was a weird film, a mash-up of rock musicals and silent classics Faust and Phantom of the Opera. The strangest part of it may be the twists and turns of the partnership between a naive singer-songwriter and a record producer, which continues after betrayals and violent efforts at revenge. The songs are decent, especially “Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye” a 1950s style ode to a musician’s suicide, which sets up this warped take.

Movie #75/ New Movie #53: Sawdust and Tinsel (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It’s an important film for Ingmar Bergman and company, as he has discovered himself as a director, exploring themes (what constant performance does to a person, how dreams represent inner lives, embarrassment and reconciliation) that would be key to his work. It can be cruel, but it’s not just that. And no one is able to surpass Bergman when it comes to cringe humor.

Movie #76/ New Movie #54: The Fearless Vampire Killers (DVD)
This is not a film that it obviously made by a great director, although it is very obviously Eastern European. It’s not funny. It’s not scary. The characters are so dumb and slower than anyone in the audience that it’s not clear what they know at any given moment. There is one decent set piece at a ball, and an interesting tonally off ending.

Short Movie #11: Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This was a highlight of the Kennedy Films of Robert Drew Criterion collection, with a surprisingly intimate look at the Kennedy White House, the office of Attorney General Robert F Kennedy, the administration of Alabama Governor George Wallace, and two African-American college students who just want to attend the University of Alabama. It’s a bit horrifying to think about how this was so controversial in living memory.

Movie #77/ New Movie #55: Mister 880 (DVD)
This is a bit of an oddball film depicting a clash between two major actors: future Oscar winner Burt Lancaster as a secret service agent and previous winner for his depiction of Kris Kringle Edmund Gwenn as a friendly minor counterfeiter. It is a showcase for the Golden Age of Hollywood’s ability to mix serious questions with a sense of fun. It’s not a great movie, but it is quite pleasant.

Movie #78/ New Movie #56: Top Gun: Maverick (Movie Theater)
This is a great sequel to a good film. I just saw the original for the first time a week ago, and this fixed one of the major flaws, by providing an adversary for Maverick. The characters have greater gravity because this builds so well on events from 30+ years earlier, and it’s also a statement on Tom Cruise, movie stardom and awesomeness. It seems it took so long to make this sequel, because they kept looking at the script and figuring how it could be more awesome. And then they did it. That A+ Cinemascore is well-earned.

Short Movie #12: Waldo Salt- A Screenwriter’s Journey (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This is a perfect story for a Hollywood documentary: a blacklisted screenwriter learns to spend more time on his films and wins multiple Oscars while elevating his form. As a bonus, because he’s a screenwriter, so much footage of his movies is available. It’s a well-told story, and does cover how a relatively obscure screenwriter in his mid-50s adapted Midnight Cowboy (this film is an extra on the Criterion blu-ray), and then went on to success with Serpico and Coming Home.

Movie #79: Summer With Monika (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It’s an important film for Ingmar Bergman and company, as he has discovered himself as a director, exploring themes (what constant performance does to a person, how dreams represent inner lives, embarrassment and reconciliation) that would be key to his work. It can be cruel, but it’s not just that. And no one is able to surpass Bergman when it comes to cringe humor.

Short Movie #13: Islands: Georgy Rerberg (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It’s an okay documentary about a cinematographer with an interesting personality that does offer some insights into his talents and how he could be a uniquely difficult person to work with. There’s a very weird thing where they talk about Stalker, where they obviously have cut out specific context about why it was so tragic (contamination from a nearby chemical plant likely led to the higher cancer rate among film and crew.) I wonder why they seemed to set it up, and then abandoned it.

Movie #80/ New Movie #57: Feels Good Man (Mubi)
This documentary is several things. I like the parts that cover a San Francisco based relatively apolitical indie cartoonist when one of his characters is appropriated by the alt-right. That is an interesting arc with an oddball twist. Some of the people take this way too seriously, with an “occultist” suggesting it is mimetic magic that helped Donald Trump get elected President, and interviews/ footage of some people on the left and right who seem to be in agreement.

Movie #81/ New Movie #58: Miss Julie (DVD)
I’m watching this as part of an effort to be more familiar with the films of the Scandinavian revival film movement, especially those that aren’t by Bergman or Dreyer. The Swedes are intense, and do not bullshit in a romance of two people separated by class that does not go the way any typical romance goes. They go extreme, pushing people to the limits even in a standard melodrama. The Criterion transfer is solid, but not pristine. I’m not sure if it’s an issue with the restoration, or the original material, but I did notice some issues.

Short Movie #14: Being Green: Jim Henson’s Early Shorts (Mubi)
This is a catch-all for a few early shorts by Jim Henson (Time Piece, Run, Run, Drums West, Shearing Animation, Cat and Mouse, Ripples, Wheels That Go, Alexander the Grape) with a combined runtime of 21 minutes, shown on Mubi. “Alexander the Grape” is an unfinished short film that predicts gags we’ll see later (Toy Story, Sausage Party.)

Movie #82/ New Movie #59: The Dissident (Youtube)
It’s a well-made documentary about an international injustice. It’s obviously horrific that a Washington Post reporter was murdered at the behest of a Saudi prince, and this film shows the life of the victim, the causes he fought for, and all those affected in unforeseen ways. It’s powerful. And the lack of major distribution is an indictment of the big streaming companies.

Movie #83/ New Movie #60: Tough Guys (DVD)
It’s a fun example of a particular subgenre (elderly criminals out for one last score just as everyone underestimates them.) Douglas and Lancaster are a great buddy duo and sell their reactions to how the world has changed in the thirty years they’ve been away. It’s a bit unpolished, but it’s a solid B.

Movie #84/ New Movie #61: Crimes of the Future (Movie Theater)
Stylistically it feels like a neonoir made either during the events in this film, or decades later. It’s a bit slow, but the worldbuilding is excellent, and the narrative threads tie together rather well. It all feels weird, but lived in.

Short Movie #15: The Bones (Mubi)
I watched it on Mubi. The lost silent film gimmick works okay. The visuals are odd, but distinctive.

Short Movie #16: Juke: Passages from the Films of Spencer Williams (Mubi)
This short film is mainly just out of context clips from the films of Spencer Williams. Some commentary and context would be appreciated. Right now, the main result is clips from black and white films during the Golden Age of Hollywood, except African-American characters have agency. That has a power independent of everything else.

Movie #85: Guardians of the Galaxy (Blu-Ray)
It seems so effortlessly enjoyable that we can overlook that it easily could have flopped. It’s a team film about characters who didn’t have much history in the comics by an indie director whose cast included A-listers in voice roles, the third male lead of a moderately successful sitcom, the female lead of Avatar and a wrestler in his mid-40s. We get a group with the camaraderie and heart of any superhero team, or any iteration of Star Wars or Star Trek. That was the most important accomplishment and it’s done quite well.

Short Movie #17: Gulpilil: One Red Blood (Criterion DVD Extra)
This is a decent spotlight on an odd actor: David Gulipilil. He is best-known for his first film Walkabout, and there’s some focus on a strange project he did with Dennis Hopper a few years later. The majority of attention goes to two films he made in the turn of the century around when the documentary was made: Rabbit-Proof Fence and the Tracker. It does get into the balance of his life as an aborigine family man who is also a cult actor. I saw this as a bonus on the Criterion edition of Walkabout, and it is above-average for that material. Even if it seems big stuff was left out, enough was included that is interesting..

Movie #86: Knives Out (Blu-Ray)
Each time I watch this film I’m more impressed. It’s obviously a starmaking performance for Ana De Armas, and the successful launch of a post-Bond franchise for Daniel Craig, as well as a great ensemble piece about a murder mystery involving a weird upper-class family. Add to this legitimately intelligent commentary on modern politics and culture. And it is legitimately great that when Christopher Plummer passed away at 91, a lot of headlines mentioned a movie he had made three years earlier, because he was so nuanced and charming as a murder victim who still managed to get the result he wanted..

Movie #87/ New Movie #62: Spiderhead (Netflix)
This has become an example of Netflix’s excesses, a sci-fi prison drama reuniting the director of one of the biggest movies of the year (Top Gun: Maverick) with co-star Miles Teller, and adding a Marvel superhero just when his new film is coming out. And they barely promote it, despite a nine-figure budget. Watching it, you do you get why they don’t promote it. There are some interesting ideas, and sequences with prisoners part of a secluded study. But sometimes it just feels like a TV movie, with all that implies. It kinda feels like they rushed it. With a bit more work, it might not be an A film, but it could be a B.

Movie #88/ New Movie #63: Ordet (Criterion DVD)
It took me a while to watch this, because I thought it would be difficult. After all, it is a movie from a director with a reputation for long shots about a family suffering a crisis when the middle son thinks he is Christ.

That was a mistake. It’s easy to follow, and while we see the difficulties of the family, we see some joys. And it gets into some really interesting questions about what it means to truly believe. It’s certainly worth watching, and discussing.

There was a conversation on film twitter about great directors, and someone said that Spielberg was the most versatile after West Side Story came out, since that proved he could excel in any genre. There was one alternative path to being recognized as a great director: overwhelming success in one genre. So it was Spielberg’s versatility against John Ford’s westerns, Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers, Martin Scorsese’s crime films, Ingmar Bergman’s psychological dramas, and Kurosawa’s samurai epics. With this, the Passion of Joan of Arc, and the other films where he explored these deep Christian questions, Dreyer joins the list with his skill in religious drama.

Movie #89/ New Movie #64: Repo Man (Criterion DVD)
Watching this film, I’m not surprised it is the directorial debut of a cult director. It just feels like it. It almost seems like three movies put together: a conspiracy involving a car that may be involved with aliens, a suburban punk taking a new job and Harry Dean Stanton’s veteran repo man. It’s fun, interesting and raw.

Movie #90/ New Movie #65: Thor- Love and Thunder (Movie Theater)
This may be an example of the MCU as the most expensive TV show ever, rather than discrete films, building in a big way on earlier sagas while also seeding big developments in the future (especially when it comes to the introduction of Russel Crowe’s Zeus and one of the post-credit scenes.) But it also about something, an immortal’s quest for love and meaning. The visuals are really nice. Chris Hemsworth has fun with the Wakiti version of Thor, and it’s also a step up for Natalie Portman. Tonally, it is a bit all over the place, with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster dying of cancer and Christian Bale’s god butcher as a serial killer of Gods. My bigger issue is that the stakes are sometimes vague, and they don’t seem to take it seriously enough, which reminds me a bit of Infinity War, although I could accept it there because of novelty and the suddenness of the life and death decisions. It’s fine, and a superhero film that can make for some interesting discussions.

Movie #91/ New Movie #66: Gold Diggers of ’33 (DVD)
I’ve seen this on two separate lists. It’s often ranked among the bottom among Oscar winners (although they acknowledge the opening song is great) but it was on a recent list of best musicals, so I decided to check it out along with other Pre-Code films. It’s generally charming, acknowledging a bit of the hardship of the Great Depression while telling the story of someone trying to make art about it. The conflicts are slight, but there is a great prank played on two stuffy guys, along with one of the least attractive romantic leads to get the girl in any Best Picture winner. But it’s fun. That’s what matters.

Movie #92/ New Movie #67: Blonde Crazy (DVD)
It’s a somewhat slight movie of a con man falling in love with his accomplice. There is some pre-code fun, although it does feel kinda primitive, as early sound cinema was still finding its way, to say nothing of the equipment. But the cons are fun. James Cagney and Joan Blondell have legitimate star power.

Movie #93: Moneyball (Blu-Ray)
The reasons I like it are probably why people looking for standard biopics might not. There is an unsentimentality even if the people changing baseball love the game. It’s a good movie about trying new ideas, and what matters for success. It’s inspirational for really ambitious people, which seems to be a sweet spot for Sorkin (The Social Network, Steve Jobs.)

Movie #94: City Lights (Criterion Blu-Ray)
I haven’t seen this in years, but good lord, does it hold up.

It’s weird. It’s possibly the best Pre-Code Hollywood movie, although unconventional in that it is largely silent, even if Chaplin uses music and sound, including mock dialogue to hilarious effect.

In discussions of film franchises, the tramp is weird, popping up in different settings (the west in Gold Rush, a dystopian future in Modern Times) in some of the best movies ever made. There isn’t anything quite like that in movies.

The story of a poor man trying to help a blind girl who think he’s a millionaire has moments of pathos and tragedy, as well as an ending that just goes beyond that. It’s one of the best comedies ever, one of the best romances ever, and one of the best films ever.

Movie #95/ New Movie #68: Black Phone (Movie Theater)
It’s a perfectly fine horror film about an abducted middle schooler. The costume and mask for the Ethan Hawke character are suitably creepy. The concept and character arc are decent. The kids are as profane as real middle schoolers would be. This does come across as a pastiche of Stephen King stories, and I know it’s based on a short story by his son, but if you like Stand By Me, Carrie and The Shining, that’s not a bad thing.

Movie #96/ New Movie #69: Chris Claremont’s X-Men (Amazon Plus)
A talking heads documentary focusing on how one comic book writer was able to make interesting work on one franchise for over a decade, until the suits started trying to get more and more control. It’s part of a larger effort to reevaluate Chris Claremont’s legacy, which is appreciated, even if it is at times borderline hagiographic.

Movie #97/ New Movie #70: Oblivion (DVD)
It has an interesting take on a dystopia with Tom Cruise as a nostalgist for how the world was around the time this movie came out. The world is well-realized, and there is a decent sense of unease. Some of the elements are similar to other films from the time that also dealt with the loneliness of jobs that require being on other worlds, although given how long Kosinski spent on this it could just be parallel development. There are some good twists, and I do really like the ending. And we do see some big hints of Top Gun: Maverick.

Movie #98/ New Movie #71: The Kennel Murder Case (Paramount Plus)
This murder mystery was part of a series that made William Powell a star. He’d leave for the superior Thin Man series pretty soon. Here, the lead detective is bland although he elevates it with charisma. The central mystery is a decent one (a man with a lot of enemies seems to have committed suicide) and there are some nice twists. I also like the dynamic between Powell’s detective and Eugene Pallet’s police sergeant, especially when Phillip Vance ends up making a big mistake. The version of Paramount Plus could benefit from restoration work.

Movie #99: Tron (Disney+)
Tron is imperfect, but interesting and fun. Jeff Bridges is great as a cheated video designer. I like the duplicate versions of characters in the world of the game, and in the real world as well. The futuristic world of Tron seems to have some silent film influences, which helps the film hold up.

Movie #100/ New Movie #72: Elvis (Movie Theater)
Baz Luhrmann is probably a good match for Elvis, with his focus on music and splash. Austin Butler is able to depict young Elvis and Vegas Elvis pretty well. Hanks is odd as Col. Parker, but his affectations work with a showman who has something to hide. The movie is a bit unfocused, with the interesting stuff in the trailer about a young musician pissing off social conservatives covered in half an hour. It is a bit meandering in the second half, although I do like how it shows Elvis ready to do the right thing for himself, but deciding against it. There is a legitimate element of tragedy in that.

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The Rule Behind the Rule

One of the best concepts I’ve heard for understanding people is the rule behind the rule. It was summed up pretty well on a Reddit thread.

A great example of this was a story I heard from Brad Bird when he was working on Incredibles 1. Bob and elastagirl where fighting and the brain trust (I believe) came back with notes that it seems like Bob is bullying Elastagirl and the scene needed to be taken out or reworked. He tried to rework the scene, but he kept saying “No, this is what would happen, this is how they would react”. He then eventually realized that while their symptom was correct, this uncomfortable feeling of spousal abuse or bullying, their solution was wrong. Bob didn’t have to be “nicer” or not express his anger, it’s just that Elastagirl was like 1/4th his size and it seemed like a mismatch. He then added that elastagirl puffs up and stretches out “This is not About YOU!!” to a size bigger than Bob and the whole feeling of the scene was fixed without really changing anything but her animation.

In society, we have to be able to have civil discussions with people who we sincerely believe are advocating for policies that will kill millions and prevent much of the population from reaching their potential, because these are the stakes. I’ve made my peace with that, (as well as the possibility that I’m wrong, and standing in the way of policies that will save millions) and may incorrectly assume others thought things through to the same extent.

I personally avoid rhetorical flourishes, reliance on anecdotal evidence, and emotionalism because these would increase the chances of being misunderstood. For the same reason, I try to avoid making arguments personal. I might criticize a tendency or a political position, but I don’t go after the person, because the important thing is the argument. And on that note, I will stick to the specific point being argued. I’m a stickler for goal posts because when people with different sources of information are having a discussion, it’s better if they’ve got the same understanding of information. I can appreciate that we’re human and that we can fail to articulate legitimate points well, but on the other hand it’s not someone else’s job to figure out what we’re trying to communicate.

The idea of the rule behind the rule makes sense when trying to figure out other people. Shorthand is based on people having a shared understanding. I try to avoid it because I’m aware peoples’ frames of reference may be different. There are still going to be times when I make incorrect assumptions about people’s understandings. In that context, it’s important to figure out what they’re trying to communicate, and what they believe to be important.

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Am I The Asshole? Film Edition

This question was posted online, and I had a lot of fun with it.

First up, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Then, The Passion of Joan of Arc

Next, The Dark Knight.

I’m proud of my comment for 2001, A Space Odyssey.


And finally, The Passion of Joan of Arc.

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MCU Phase 5 And Beyond

There was an argument on a comic book message board about whether the Marvel Cinematic Universe should be rebooted, and I thought that was way too premature. The X-Men and the Fantastic Four haven’t really been introduced yet. Spider-Man’s still going strong. Daredevil just showed up. There’s a new generation of heroes ready to go.

They can easily keep going for another twelve years with three movies and four Disney+ seasons each year. And this is before we consider that we don’t know what characters are going to be breakouts the way Shuri, Agent Carter and Agatha Harkness were.

Movies that have been confirmed at this point are Thor Love and Thunder, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Antman: Quantumania, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, The Marvels, Fantastic Four, Captain America 4 and Blade. Disney+ shows that have been confirmed include Loki Season 2, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Armor Wars, Ironheart, Secret Invasion, Nova, an untitled Wakanda Project, Echo, Agatha: House of Harkness and Captain Britain. There are a bunch of animated shows in the larger MCU/ multiverse including What If?, Marvel Zombies and Spider-Man: Freshman Year, which may count as a separate category of content.

For the hell of it here is a potential live-action schedule to get us to 2035, not including anything confirmed so far. We’ll start with 2025 with the assumption that everything announced so far will have been released by 2024. That is a stretch, considering how long it took to make Antman after that was announced. But it does show that they don’t need a new Tony Stark quite yet.


By this point, Shang Chi 2 and Dr Strange 3 seem like obvious sequels. Tom Holland seems to want some time off Spider-Man, but he’ll likely change his mind in two years. The first trilogy had a home theme in the titles. I think it makes sense for a new one to have a war theme for a follow-up, so a fourth MCU Spider-Man film could be Spider-Man: Gang War.

The biggest film would be X-Men VS Avengers, as that would seem like a fun way to introduce the mutants, by having the heroes of the Marvel Universe tricked into a showdown, which would fit the theme of the struggle for acceptance.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure Loki Season 3, Daredevil: Born Again, Moon Knight Season 2 and Nova Season 2.


Fantastic Four: Doomsday would be a sequel focusing on Doctor Doom, so that he could be the villain in a movie without the new origin of the Fantastic Four. Deadpool 3 would feature his entrance to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And Captain Marvel 3 seems inevitable. As does Blade 2.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a Guardians spinoff, Ms. Marvel Season 2, Punisher Season 3 and Captain Britain Season 2.


Young Avengers would be a team film about the younger heroes. The X-Men would get a proper spotlight film. A new Wakanda related project seems inevitable. And let’s do the alien costume saga and a crossover with Tom Hardy’s Venom in Spider-Man/ Venom: War of the Symbiotes.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a Human Torch solo project, a Loki spinoff, a Guardians spinoff and Daredevil: Season 5, potentially adapting the Bendis/ Maleev run when his identity goes public.


Fantastic Four: The Coming of Galactus will introduce the Silver Surfer. A Wolverine solo film would make sense. King Thor would be a Thor finale. Deadpool and the X-Force would fit at this time.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a Thing solo project, Loki Season 4, She-Hulk Season 2 and Echo Season 2.


Blade 3 makes sense at this point, to tie up a trilogy. Steve Rogers: Supersoldier could be a standalone film set in the 1960s where Steve Rogers goes on some kind of secret mission that seeds future conflicts. Spider-Man: Sinister War would be the big Sinister Six story, and a potential finale for Tom Holland’s Spidey.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a Daredevil finale, the second season of a Guardians spinoff, and first seasons for X-Force and New Mutants.


This would seem an appropriate time for an X-Men sequel, a Silver Surfer spinoff, Captain America 5 and Young Avengers 2, potentially setting up Miles Morales.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a Punisher finale, Human Torch Season 2, Black Knight and New Mutants Season 2.


At this point, it seems like time for a Wolverine sequel introducing Alpha Flight, as well as the first live action Miles Morales Spider-Man solo film. For a change of pace, it could be interesting to explore the golden age with Human Torch VS Namor, focusing on the android Human Torch.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure X-Force Season 2, Great Lakes Avengers for a change of pace, Excalibur Season One (X-Men and Captain Britain spinoff) and Echo Season 3.


Fantastic Four: Into the Negative Zone seems like a Fantastic Four sequel without Doctor Doom or Galactus. Avengers VS Thunderbolts would be a way to bring back the flagship team. An arthouse Deadpool film would be fun. It seems about time for a Silver Surfer sequel.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure New Mutants Season 3, Maverick, The Vision and Squirrel Girl.


At this point, it’ll be time for X-Men 3, Miles Morales Spider-Man 2 and some kind of Wakanda project (a potential title would be Secrets of Wakanda) as we start building to an epic finale.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure X-Force Season 3, Excalibur Season 2, Werewolf By Night and Photon.


Around here, we would have Silver Surfer 3 and Wolverine 3 to finish trilogies. Avengers: Secret Wars Part One would be this generation’s version of Infinity War, setting up some kind of event where the heroes disappear.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure New Mutants Season 4, Squirrel Girl Season 2, Bishop and Nextwave.


Miles Morales Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: The Secret Lives of Moira X would serve to set up a big finale in Avengers: Secret Wars Part Two.

For Disney+ shows, let’s figure a New Mutants finale where they come to their own in a world where the X-Men have vanished, World Without Superheroes showing the Marvel Universe when the heroes have disappeared, Great Lakes Avengers Finale and Marvels (adapting the Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross mini-series)

This is not meant to be what Disney has to do. It’s likely that new characters will emerge, that existing characters will sometimes become much more prominent, and that some stuff will flop. For all I know She-Hulk will be a monster hit with seven seasons, launching spinoffs for Awesome Android and Wyatt Wingfoot. I have no idea how the conclusion of Guardians of the Galaxy will work or what characters will be able to have adventures afterwards. I have no idea what kind of spinoffs or follow-up there could be to the Skurll-centric Secret Invasion or Ironheart. Maybe someone will have a great take on Machine Man, the Champions, Warlock, the Crew or the Guardians of the Galaxy team led by Sylvester Stallone. America Chavez’s exploration of the multiverse or a new take on the Runaways could easily be a series. But it is fair to say we can wait some before introducing a new version of Tony Stark.

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Film Seen In 2022 Part 3

I’m still keeping track of movies I’m watching. This year I’ve gotten involved into some annual film challenges. One is to watch 52 particular Criterion moviesand the other is to watch four movies each from multiple movements. For this entry, I went with 21st Century blockbusters, which I recognize one of four major movements at the moment in American/ anglosphere cinema and the post-code Golden Age of Hollywood. The first blockbuster is not a good one.

Movie #51/ New Movie #35: Morbius (Movie Theater)
It’s not that bad, but it’s also not recommended either. Matt Smith is the highlight, even if there’s a lot that doesn’t make sense if you think about it for a millisecond (like how exactly does Michael Morbius get his money?)

Movie #52/ New Movie #36: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Movie Theater))
I was a big Sonic fan growing up, so it was important that this film captures the dynamic between Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. And it succeeds on that level. It’s not great, but it brings them together and has some fun with their friendship, while also showing sequences that do seem to be straight out of the video games. The CGI seems worse this time around. In the first film, there was one CGI creature interacting with humans. This time, there are multiple CGI characters, and giant robots, and obvious scenes of ordinary people interacting with green screens. Jim Carrey’s okay as Eggman/ Dr Robotnick, but the robots are kinda dull. It’s just drones. The Genesis-style credits were great, and gets this back to a “B” grade.

Movie #53/ New Movie #37: Everything Everywhere All At Once (Movie Theater)
This was fun. Weird but fun. And by weird, it is one of the strangest semi-mainstream films I’ve seen, although it remains accessible despite the mishmash of immigrant family drama, and sci-fi action comedy. It’s not going to happen, but I would love to see Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu, James Hong and Ke Huy Quan all get Oscar nominations for playing interdimensional versions of their characters (and for making the Earth versions more layered and complex than is immediately apparent.) This film conveyed an emotional truth quite well, and in between the butt-plug jokes and wacky action set pieces, it can have you thinking about how your life could have gone.

Movie #54/ New Movie #38: Fantastic Beasts- The Secrets of Dumbledore (Movie Theater)
This is an odd sequel. It’s the third film in the Newt Scamander saga, although it’s promoted like a Justice League/ Avengers with wizard Ash Ketchum teaming up with Dumbledore, a top Hogwarts professor and an elite auror. The actual film comes across more like an X-Men, but if Magneto and Professor X had dated. It’s fine. It’s the third of five, but it does tie up things okay. Jude Law’s Dumbledore works well as a tragic hero. I’m not sure how excited viewers are about all the plot points involving an election at the ministry of magic, or a metaphor for how Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. The question of extralegal moves against Grindelwald raises some icky questions in the modern political climate that aren’t addressed. Who should get to decide if someone who isn’t convicted of a crime belongs the ballot?

Movie #55- Captain America: The First Avenger (Disney Plus)
The Captain America saga might just have the best batting average of any solo Avengers films. It’s a fun homage to 1940s action adventure movies (as well as retro projects like Indiana Jones) which sets up the hero quite well, and gets into some interesting conflicts (What happens when a guy who just wants to contribute to the war effort becomes a celebrity capable of selling lots of war bonds but kept on the sidelines?) Over a decade later, it is clear that Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell are really well cast.

Movie #56/ New Movie #39: Cluny Brown (Criterion DVD)
I am quite unfamiliar with Jennifer Jones despite her immense popularity in the mid ’40s, which included four consecutive Academy Award nominations (and one win.) This wasn’t one of them, but it shows her efforts as a comedienne in a collaboration with Lubitsch and Charles Boyer (the bad guy in Gaslight.) The film is perfectly fine, but overshadowed by Lubitsch’s other productions, even if Boyer is a perfect match for his approach, and Jones is fine, even if she is kinda playing Katherine Hepburn’s little sister. There is a sense of a lack of stakes here, and much of the film is about conflicts that likely seemed old-fashioned at the time (The staff in a stuffy mansion don’t know their place!)

Movie #57- To Be Or Not To Be (Criterion DVD)
This might just be my favorite Lubitsch movie, with the perfect balance of adulterous romp and high stakes, as a Polish acting troupe gets involved in the resistance against Hitler. It has some astounding sequences and recurring gags.

Movie #58/ New Movie #40: Lone Wolf and Cub- Baby Cart in the Land of Demons (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This entry in the film series features some great sequences. It is a bit haphazard, combining several notable chapters from the manga but at least the results are decent. This does expand quite well on the uncompromising world of the manga.

Movie #59/ New Movie #41: The Northman (Movie Theater)
There’s a lot of talk about how it’s pre-modern and seems like it’s outside of current understandings of the world, and that may be a bit of stretch, but it can feel like how someone at the time would have imagined a campfire story. That person would need a violent sensibility, but that is one of several contexts in which the film works. It feels like a ripoff of Hamlet, but the source material inspired Shakespeare. It’s violent and intense, but it can be quite enjoyable. I saw it with some people who called it the most metal movie ever, which is apt.

Movie #60/ New Movie #42: The 50 Year Argument (DVD)
This documentary about the New York Review of Books functions as a companion to Best Enemies, I Am Not Your Negro and Town Bloody Hall, covering those and other disputes. It’s an enjoyable defense of intellectual inquiry, although it focuses on controversies the magazine got right (the Central Park Five, opposition to the Iraq war) when there had to be some stuff they got wrong, which would have been interesting and honest to cover. I’m curious about the reaction to it now that many on the left have gone more illiberal.

Movie #61/ New Movie #43: The Front (DVD)
It’s compelling to see Woody Allen at his height in a film directed by someone else. This take on the Hollywood blacklist is a mixed bag. Zero Mostel is a highlight as a hack entertainer caught in a Kafkaesque trap. One complication is the difficulty of taking him and Allen seriously when they’re responding to legitimate injustice.

Movie #62- The Mouse That Roared (DVD)
This is a comedy about the threat of nuclear annihilation over a silly international misunderstanding in which Peter Sellers plays multiple roles and it’s not Doctor Strangelove. It has a different sensibility, although it is obviously a creature of the Golden Age of Hollywood rather than the film brats. It is a lot of fun, with a decent hook (small nation invades America hoping to lose and get aid; they accidentally steal an experimental nuke) and excellent sequences.

Movie #63- Moana (Disney Plus)
It’s quite decent. It fits some tropes that Disney has been exploring recently, and is a good example of their incorporation of underseen but visually interesting cultures. It’s an enjoyable reluctant partners story, with some good twists and fantastic songs.

Movie #64/ New Movie #44: The Adam Project (Netflix)
I like time travel stories and this was okay. Ryan Reynolds and his younger counterpart are sometimes over the top annoying, although the story does have something to say about loss and trauma, along with some decent but not exceptional sci fi action set pieces.

Movie #65/ New Movie #45: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Movie Theater)
It’s obviously quite meta, but very fun: a parody and celebration of an unusual actor/ star that serves as a commentary and example of the types of movies he does. But at least it’s a good example.

Short Movie #6: Sword of the Samurai (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This silent documentary was an extra in Criterion’s Lone Wolf and Cub collection. It really gets across the difficulty of making samurai swords, and why they’re so honored, showing the process step by step. Quite relaxing, actually.

Movie #66/ New Movie #46: Pillow Talk (Blu-Ray)
This was a fun movie from the tail end of the golden age of Hollywood when they’re hinting at some stuff but keeping it vague enough. It is at a very specific time, when men and women could work in creative endeavors but people living in different apartments would still sometimes need to share a phone line. It has excellent leads in Rock Hudson and Doris Day, and all-star supporting performances in Tony Randall’s cad best friend and Thelma Ritter’s drunkard housekeeper, who has a great sequence with Hudson later in the film .

Movie #67/ New Movie #47: Downfall- the Case Against Boeing (Netflix)
In ninety minutes, Rory Kennedy and co. do a decent job of setting up the initial response to a major news story (two Boeing plane crashes a few months apart) before looking at the safety shortcuts that contributed to it. Well-made and infuriating.

Short Movie #7: Hendrix at Montrey Pop (Criterion Blu-Ray)
Monterey Pop might be my favorite concert film, and this expansion of the Jimi Hendrix material gets to a big reason why. It’s not polished, keeping the rawness of the concert with feedback and imperfect acoustics. This feature highlights Hendrix’s skill, and you can believe that his contemporaries were looking at him trying to figure out how he’s doing this.

Movie #68: Casino Royale (Blu-Ray)
I don’t think I’ve seen this film since it was in theaters. I liked it then, but I appreciate it even more now. Daniel Craig isn’t just good as Bond. I can’t think of anyone who has been better in the first movie of any series taking over such an iconic role. He is obviously newer at the job, but he comes to his own very quickly, and then things get worse, so he’s pushed in ways the other iterations of Bond haven’t been. At least not so soon. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd is an exceptional Bond girl, with a strong character arc. Judi Dench is great as the boss. This is Mads Mikkelsen’s first A-list villain, and he’s got the balancing act of being vicious and desperate. The film takes the Bond franchise to the 21st Century, with exceptional action sequences and drama, while keeping the fun. When it isn’t time for torture.

Short Movie #8: The Long Goodbye (Youtube)
Riz Ahemd’s Oscar-winning short serves as a companion to a concept album, but works in its own context as a stream of consciousness nightmare, when the normal chaos of a family gathering goes to hell.

Movie #69: The Evil Dead 2 (Blu-Ray)
A horror movie so insane it makes the original into a proof of concept, and remakes it in the first seven minutes. It’s a lot of fun. Ash is one of the strongest horror movie protagonists, with iconic visuals and an appropriately unhinged reaction to all the craziness. Putting together several groups of people who don’t know one another works well here, in contrast to the usual trope (seen in the first) of a group of friends to a cabin. Raimi’s personality as a director is also a joy. This is a movie where anything can happen, and does.

Movie #70/ New Movie #48: Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (Movie Theater)
This has more of a directorial stamp than any MCU film; there are scenes where it is very obvious Sam Raimi is in charge. It’s a solid film, which builds on earlier continuity and is clearly about something interesting. The distinction between being glad and happy is a decent addition to pop culture discourse. It’s probably the first MCU film to really piss off some people because of the actions an existing character commits, but it makes sense in the context. It does set up the two main characters pretty well, and it’s fun to see Dr Strange on the other side of the situation where someone has to be sacrificed for the greater good.

Short Movie #9: An Occurrence at Owl Creek (DVD)
I saw this the way most viewers have, as an episode of the Twilight Zone. It is a decent adaptation of the Ambrose Bierce short story, with impressive cinematography and a good example of the will to live in desperate circumstances. There’s a great twist constructed generations any episode of any TV show aired.

Movie #71/ New Movie #49: The Man Who Wasn’t There (DVD)
This is a well-made military procedural about one of the most interesting stories in World War 2. Gloria Grahame is a standout as a young woman who accidentally gets involved in the conspiracy, and targeted by a spy. It has a suitably mature understanding of espionage for a 1950s film, but it’s not Le Carre dark.

Movie #72/ New Movie #50: Summer of Soul (Disney Plus)
This is an excellent addition to the canon of 1960s concert films (Woodstock, Monterey Pop, Festival) with performances of the same quality, and the explanation of as very specific context (a series of concerts in Harlem for largely black audiences with mainly black singers in the summer of 1969.) It’s so great to see the interviews with the singers, and their reactions to seeing the footage of what had to be among the best professional experiences of their lives.

Short Movie #10: Otis at Montrey Pop (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This is a great extra on the Criterion Monterey Pop blu-ray, which shows Otis Redding at his most intense. The way he gloriously rushes through almost everything is a contrast with Hendrix. It is also an astounding top five set.

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One Reason The Last Decade Has Been So Uniquely Stupid

Signe cartoon TOON23

Jonathan Haidt had a piece on the Alantic on social media’s effects on culture called “Why the Past Ten Years of American Life Have Been So Uniquely Stupid.” It got a lot of attention, although one portion of it is underappreciated, as he gets to a major reason for the subtext of so many culture war fights.

Childhood has become more tightly circumscribed in recent generations––with less opportunity for free, unstructured play; less unsupervised time outside; more time online. Whatever else the effects of these shifts, they have likely impeded the development of abilities needed for effective self-governance for many young adults. Unsupervised free play is nature’s way of teaching young mammals the skills they’ll need as adults, which for humans include the ability to cooperate, make and enforce rules, compromise, adjudicate conflicts, and accept defeat. A brilliant 2015 essay by the economist Steven Horwitz argued that free play prepares children for the “art of association” that Alexis de Tocqueville said was the key to the vibrancy of American democracy; he also argued that its loss posed “a serious threat to liberal societies.” A generation prevented from learning these social skills, Horwitz warned, would habitually appeal to authorities to resolve disputes and would suffer from a “coarsening of social interaction” that would “create a world of more conflict and violence.”

And while social media has eroded the art of association throughout society, it may be leaving its deepest and most enduring marks on adolescents. A surge in rates of anxiety, depression, and self-harm among American teens began suddenly in the early 2010s. (The same thing happened to Canadian and British teens, at the same time.) The cause is not known, but the timing points to social media as a substantial contributor—the surge began just as the large majority of American teens became daily users of the major platforms. Correlational and experimental studies back up the connection to depression and anxiety, as do reports from young people themselves, and from Facebook’s own research, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Depression makes people less likely to want to engage with new people, ideas, and experiences. Anxiety makes new things seem more threatening. As these conditions have risen and as the lessons on nuanced social behavior learned through free play have been delayed, tolerance for diverse viewpoints and the ability to work out disputes have diminished among many young people.

You can write another cover story article on just this one question. Someone will likely do that soon enough.

In general, parents are controlling children too much.

Children are growing up into young adults who don’t know how to manage basic conflict.

Haidt considers potential solutions to this question, and to the harm social media causes children, although there will likely be pushback.

The most important change we can make to reduce the damaging effects of social media on children is to delay entry until they have passed through puberty. Congress should update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which unwisely set the age of so-called internet adulthood (the age at which companies can collect personal information from children without parental consent) at 13 back in 1998, while making little provision for effective enforcement. The age should be raised to at least 16, and companies should be held responsible for enforcing it.

This may get to why some parents freak out so much about pop culture. Obviously kids always had pop culture, but they would also have structured play (IE- sports leagues) and unstructured play. Now we’ve got more structure play than ever, but the main alternative is pop culture, which means that parents who are used to keeping an eye on their kids may be worried about propaganda from adult entertainers. With so many forms of pop culture, it’s also impossible for parents to keep track of everything their kids watch and listen to, which further increases the suspicions. With more material for children, it’s also easier for adult media to do some nutpicking, and point out the craziest things some kids somewhere may be exposed to.

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Should Political Parties Support Independents?

On a discussion forum, there was an argument about British politics and the strength of the Scottish Nationalist Party, which led to questions of whether something like that could work in America. The United States sometimes has a history of regional parties, although most politicians would not want to openly copy their approach as these tended to be racist Southerners pissed off at Democratic support for Civil rights. These parties did sometimes win electoral votes for presidential races. Stromm Thurmond carried 4 states in the 1948 presidential election, and George Wallace carried 5 in 1968. Their basic strategy was to play kingmaker if neither major party gets a majority.

The political environment is different now, as politics is so nationalized. Although there is still a geographic shift with Democrats becoming the urban party, and I’ve seen an argument that they should support independent candidates in red states.

One solution, prompted by some of the data presented by Rodden in his book, is that would-be conservative and moderate Democrats in red states should shun the Democratic label and run instead as Independents. This both saves them from being automatically cast aside by rural Republican voters and allows them to adopt some more conservative social positions — say, on gun rights, abortion, immigration, or what-have-you — which Democratic Party activists and organizers would ordinarily fight them on. Dividing the party system anew along economic lines could also decrease the salience of social and moral issues which are currently the main wedge between Americans. That would increase the return Democrats would see on their popular economic policy proposals.

This new cohort of economically liberal, pro-working-class Independent candidates could be funded by outside donors, so there are no problems there. And if they restrict their efforts to very red states, and Democrats refuse to run candidates there, then they would avoid the spoiler effect which has doomed third-party candidates in single-winner plurality electoral systems. They could run as write-in candidates, or maybe even fight for ballot access with a unified name across states. Maybe call it the New America Party or something. Perhaps they could get Joe Manchin to sign on — which would have the added bonus of saving him from having to performatively kill major Democratic legislation in order to appear conservative and anti-Democratic enough for West Virginia’s massively pro-Trump voting population to re-elect him.

There’s been a bit of a trial run. Independent Bill Walker was elected Governor of Alaska in 2014 with Democratic support, while Democrats dropped out in favor of independent businessman Greg Orman in the Kansas senate election. He got 42% in a red state in a bad year for Democrats, which is likely an improvement over what a generic Democrat could have gotten.

There could be a similar approach for moderate candidates in blue states and cities, with Republicans not running candidates.

It might all be too clever by half as it’ll be obvious which “independent” candidates are backed by major parties, but it might still result in a difference of a few points, which may be enough to win a few races. They should just make sure not to emphasize that the most successful efforts at this in living memory came from racist Southerners.

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I Think I Need To Watch Letterkenny

The Youtube algorithm recommended this scene from the sitcom Letterkenny in which a Women’s Studies Professor has the attention of rural Canadian men.

The Youtube algorithm was certainly correct in the assumption that I would enjoy this.

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Nancy Pelosi Did A Bad Thing

There’s something Nancy Pelosi did recently that makes me wonder why no one is calling for her to be fired. It has also gotten very little attention.

This was in a San Francisco Chronicle piece about concerns of Dianne Feinstein’s capability to do her job.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a statement to The Chronicle, said she had not noticed a decline in Feinstein’s memory and noted her work on the recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and the Supreme Court confirmation.

“Senator Feinstein is a workhorse for the people of California and a respected leader among her colleagues in the Senate,” Pelosi said. “She is constantly traveling between California and the Capitol, working relentlessly to ensure Californians’ needs are met and voices are heard.”

Pelosi said it was “unconscionable that, just weeks after losing her beloved husband of more than four decades and after decades of outstanding leadership to our City and State, she is being subjected to these ridiculous attacks that are beneath the dignity in which she has led and the esteem in which she is held.”

Slandering people who are telling the truth should be considered beyond the pale in congressional le

One wrinkle is that there’s stuff behind the scenes we don’t know, as these are comments from staffers and elected officials speaking off the record. But it does really appear that Feinstein’s struggles are common knowledge in Washington, so Nancy Pelosi should know that she lied about people who were telling the truth. If she didn’t know when she made a statement to the press, I’m sure someone got in touch with her afterwards.

This is a sad situation. Feinstein and Pelosi have been friends for a long time, likely going back to even before the late 1970s when Pelosi was a member of the DNC from San Francisco and Feinstein was its first female mayor. I can appreciate the desire to protect a friend, but there are other ways to do it than shredding your credibility.

In her defense of Feinstein, she did insult the people coming forward with what appears to be accurate information. This is the specific thing that’s pissing me off. An important principle is that people should not be attacked for telling the truth, and anyone who does this should be called out. Here Pelosi seems to be the toxic combination of obnoxious and wrong. And if she’s calling people who are saying something true “unconscionable” and saying that their correct observations are “ridiculous attacks that are beneath the dignity in which (Feinstein) has led and the esteem in which she is held” it reflects very poorly on her. Either her judgment is bad (including the decision to make a statement blasting people concerned about Feinstein), or she knows that what she’s saying is untrue. In either case, it makes it easier to ignore her in the future, as well as the Democratic politicians who don’t call her out.

There’s an argument that some older people have good days and bad days, and this may be the case with Feinstein. However, someone who consistently has days of confusion and lethargy should not have a prominent time-sensitive job like being a Senator. It is the moral responsibility of everyone within that person’s sphere of influence to get them to resign as soon as possible.

An inevitable response will be that someone will point out something that Kevin McCarthy did that is as sketchy or worse, without the benefit of someone trying to help out a friend. And I’m totally fine with pushing him out of congressional leadership as well.

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Films Seen in 2022 Part 2

I’m still keeping track of movies I’ve seen. This year I’ve gotten involved into some annual film challenges. One is to watch 52 particular Criterion movies, and the other is to watch four movies each from multiple movements. For this entry, I went with New Hollywood, the French New Wave and the Czech New Wave. There were also quite a few films that were nominated for the recent Academy Awards.

Movie #21/ New Movie #13: Parallel Mothers (Movie Theater)
It’s a drama about two women who meet in a maternity ward and form a bond in the ensuing years, and it does take some really interesting turns. Penelope Cruz is excellent, selling some decisions that might seem a little weird in lesser hands. Milena Smit works in a different register, that makes for a worthy contrast. Aitana Sánchez-Gijón has some unexpected depth as her mother, a middle-aged actress with a very non-cliched arc of finding success late in life. There are some great themes in the film in the exploration of atrocities in living memory in Spain, and what that means going forward, which causes some conflicts for the two mothers, who have different feelings on the matter. There’s a relationship that develops that seems a bit out of place, and that seems to touch on some cultural landmines. I’m curious that no one appears to have called it out.

Movie #22: Spider-Man No Way Home (Movie Theater)
Still loved it.

Movie #23/ New Movie #14: Take the Money and Run (DVD)
This is an excellent comedy about an inept criminal. It is a big odd to see Woody Allen when he’s this young, even if at this point, he’s in his mid 30s. He has some fun with the mockumentary style, and there are some great gags. It shows that he could’ve gone in a different comedic direction quite successfully.

Movie #24/ New Movie #15: Belfast (Movie Theater)
It’s very obviously an Oscarbait film, as a director recalls his upbringing during a tumultuous time, where he found comfort in the movies. But is is very well told, getting across a child’s view of the world while still keeping everything interesting. I also really like that the film is under a hundred minutes, even if it has four supporting performances good enough to potentially get Oscar nominations (two did.)

Movie #25/ New Movie #16: Westworld (Blu-Ray)
The sci-fi western does a great job of worldbuilding, so I can understand how it’s the basis of a hit show. But it’s also able to tell a satisfying story of people trying to survive robots gone amuck.

Movie #26/ New Movie #17: Death Race 2000 (Blu-Ray)
The dystopian road movie about a race where the goal is to kill innocent bystanders is ridiculous but fun. It kinda sells the world where this is entertainment. I’d like to see a remake poking fun at the modern media environment with Stallone as President.

Movie #27/ New Movie #18: Belladonna of Sadness (Blu-Ray)
This is a very strange medieval fantasy anime. It’s often lovely if barely animated. It’s quite psychedelic and definitely not for everyone as the plot synopsis makes clear. It sells the harshness of the world and why someone would make the decision to become a witch.

Movie #28/ New Movie #19: La Liste- Everything or Nothing (Movie Theater)
It’s a beautifully shot documentary, which might be expected given the subject matter (skiers trying to find increasingly inaccessible heights.) It’s notable for how seriously the people take their pursuit and the acknowledgement of the risks, as well as the messy question of whether it is worthwhile. A rescue sequence is a highlight of the film, and we see the lengthy recovery afterwards.

Movie #29: Don’t Look Back (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It may be a bit odd to go into this cold, as the initial audience would understand in the context of the time in a way that’s easy for us to forget. This is Bob Dylan at his creative peak, pushing against expectations, a little bit prickly due to the pressure he’s under, fan backlash and that he’s surrounded by people who don’t care about the consequences of their actions as he does. But it’s a great example of what documentaries can do very well, showcasing an iconic figure (one of the most fascinating people on the planet) at an interesting time.

Movie #30: Enter the Dragon (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It’s fun. It’s probably the best fighting tournament film, as well as the best display of Bruce Lee’s talents. Much of what the film does had been surpassed, but there is no other Bruce Lee, and his partners in crime are pretty decent here.

Movie #31/ New Movie #20: The Batman (Movie Theater)
It’s a well done film, although it kinda feels like a comic book; the first arc of a new creative team shaking up a series that already has some history. It was probably a smart idea not to show the things we’ve seen before in every Batman adaptation, but there is a sense that some developments are unearned. We care about the legacy of Bruce’s parents because we’ve liked their depiction in other stories. It’s also a bit derivative, feeling like a superhero version of R-rated thrillers like Zodiac and Seven. There’s a decent conspiracy at the heart of it, and I like Pattinson and Kravitz’s chemistry, along with the arc for the Batman. The film just doesn’t wow me, but it’s perfectly okay.

Movie #32/ New Movie #21: Pierrou le Fou (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This is an excellent vehicle for Godard, his best male lead and his best female lead. It is the stereotypically avant-garde director at the height of his powers: weird, experimental and fun. Obviously the politics are radically left-wing, although he gets across the ridiculousness of some of the people on this earnest adventure. It could easily be in Godard’s top five, along with Breathless, Vivre Sa Vie, Band of Outsiders and Contempt, even if it is only my third favorite Godard/ Marina collaboration. It might still be the best example of 60s pop art in film.

Movie #33/ New Movie #22: The Haunted Strangler/ In the Grip of the Strangler (Criterion DVD)
It’s a clever concept dealing with the aftermath of the serial killer’s arrest, with Boris Karloff playing a novelist who thinks there’s something more to the story. It takes some turns, with a major twist when the film has half an hour to go, and it has some fun with that twist. It may be better to see it knowing as little as possible. It’s nice that Karloff had this showcase. It’s curious that there haven’t been recent horror movies about stranglers. I guess it’s all slashers now.

Movie #34: Persona (Criterion Blu-Ray)
It’s the master of psychological drama at his most ambitious and complex. It’s a showcase for what film is capable of, as well as the talents of Bibi Andersson (who has to do much of the heavy lifting) and Liv Ullman. It might just be the best two-hander in film.

Movie #35: American Hustle (DVD)
It feels like imitation Scorsese, but the cast is excellent. I’m not sure Jennifer Lawrence or Amy Adams have ever been better, and it’s a solid con artist film elevated by an understanding of the consequences of an effort to destroy seemingly corrupt politicians, as well as the interpersonal dynamics. It’s a fun film that manages to be meaningful.

Movie #36/ New Movie #23: The 49th Parallel (Criterion DVD)
It’s interesting how British propaganda efforts seem so much better than those of the Soviets. There’s something worth exploring in that. The story of Nazis stranded in Canada taking hostages takes some unusual but satisfying turns, and works as a showcase for Canada and the different ways people find meaning. The focus on the invaders is timely given the horrors going on right now in Ukraine.

Movie #37/ New Movie #24: Elevator to the Gallows (Criterion DVD)
This is an excellent unconventionally paced noir. The murder happens in the first 15 minutes. The antihero then makes a serious mistake, which accidentally leads to another crime spree. Jeanne Moreau is exceptional, compelling as the lovestruck mistress, but gaining more agency towards the end as she makes one last effort to save the day (a messy effort as the situation begins with her boyfriend murdering her wealthy husband.) The only better artist in the film (not a knock on the director or the male lead) is Miles Davis, who provides the incredible soundtrack.

Movie #38: Band of Outsiders (Criterion Blu-Ray)
This may remain my favorite Godard film. Watching it this time, I had a real appreciation for its influence on Quentin Tarantino. It is a fun hang-out movie, with a complex take on the dynamics of the two guys and a girl who get involved in a major crime, but who are so much fun to spend time with before that happens, even as we recognize they’re willingness to betray one another.

Movie #39/ New Movie #25: Active Measures (Youtube)
It does sometimes feel like a really long, although well-done campaign ad. It’s an overview of Putin’s involvement in politics in multiple countries, as well as potential connections to Trump. Some parts of it have not aged well (theories about Jeff Sessions) and some parts of it are more relevant than ever, especially the sections on Ukraine. They are generally careful to make the distinction between smoke and fire, and there is a lot of smoke. It’s also notable how quickly some stuff is glossed over that could easily be its own film (IE- Brexit) because it’s a look at a grand conspiracy. It’s not quite accurate to say it’s a conspiracy theory, because while there are some unresolved questions, it covers a lot of sketchy stuff that is confirmed.

Movie #40/ New Movie #26: The Young Girls of Rochefort (Criterion DVD)
This musical is just so much fun. It plays around with expectations in interesting ways, sometimes seeming like things are going one way time while instead going in an unexpected (in a pleasant way) direction. An hour into it, there are three couples deeply in love but unaware of just how close they are to their soulmates. It’s a great companion to Umbrellas from Chersbourg, not quite on that level but simply joyous.

Movie #41/ New Movie #27: Touki Bouki (Criterion DVD)
This takes the formula from films like Breathless or Mean Streets (Scorsese has played a big role in the restoration efforts for Touki Bouki) of applying post-French New Wave energy to a story about young protagonists, but setting it all in Senegal makes something new.

Movie #42/ New Movie #28: The Phantom of Morrisville (DVD)
This is just fun, a parody of chamber mysteries which plays around with set design and has some great sequences (the early hints of the titular phantom, a gag involving a baron’s dog.)

Movie #43/ New Movie #29: Drive My Car (Movie Theater)
This is a strange but satisfying very arthouse take on communication and the making of art. The avant-garde approach to performances (an Asian adaptation of a Russian play in which each actor uses their natural language) is a dynamic that is used well.

Movie #44/ New Movie #30: Power of the Dog (Movie Theater)
This one is dark but I loved it. The score and cinematography are beautiful, but it’s otherwise a clash within a family where everyone is more complex than is apparent. The performances deserved the Oscar nominations, and it’s certainly worth discussing. There is a criticism than Benedict Cumberbatch is basically playing at being a great cowboy, rather than the real thing, but that approach works quite well here.

Movie #45: The Loves of a Blonde (Criterion DVD)
This Forman piece shows what the Czech New Wave does best, capturing the awkwardness of young people in romantic entanglements, parents dealing with the fallout and administrators trying to make the best of a bad situation.

Movie #46: Dune: Part One (Movie Theater)
It definitely deserved the craft awards at the Oscars. I’ve been seeing it in theaters a lot. The worldbuilding is astonishing. The effects and soundtrack are amazing. The cast is quite decent. It’s the most exciting Triple-A Sci-Fi/ fantasy adaptation in film since Lord of the Rings.

Movie #47/ New Movie #31: Coda (Movie Theater)
Sometimes this feels like a two part special episode of Glee. It would be a decent special episode, but there are some false notes here which make me suspect it’s the weakest Best Picture winner in about a decade. There’s still some good stuff. The family dynamics are excellent, and Troy Kotsur gave one of the most valuable supporting performances ever.

Movie #48/ New Movie #32: Black Peter (DVD)
Milos Forman’s directorial debut feels raw and unpolished, which is a decent fit for the topic; a somewhat aimless teenager starts a job and tries to figure out what he’s supposed to do in work and love.

Movie #49/ New Movie #33: Encanto (Disney Plus)
It has some similar themes to recent Disney work, so it might seem a bit derivative. But it may also be the best realization of those themes, with some great songs, and a decent conflict with a gifted family potentially losing everything.

Movie #50/ New Movie #34: The Cremator (Criterion DVD)
Mr. Kopfrking may just be the nastiest villain in the films of the Czech new wave. Early on, there’s a good sense of unease with the family man cremator hinting at flaws that go beyond his enthusiasm for his job. There is a decent sense of unreality to all of it. Worthwhile for fans of black humor and horror.

With the Oscars coming out, it was an opportunity to catch up on major contenders. I did prefer Power of the Dog to CODA, and still think Spider-Man: No Way Home got robbed.

Morbius was the 51st film I saw this year, and weaker than anything I’ve seen in this batch of movies

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