Horror for Breakfast

Saturday morning, I got to see A Quiet Place which I’ve been looking forward to for months, because it looked like an interesting concept for a horror film.

It was amazing. I don’t think I’ve had a movie I loved so much and which provided as much emotional resonance and as much fright with so little gore since I saw the 70s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (a film which, like this one, I deeply adore).

The basic premise of A Quiet Place is that the monsters that have invaded earth have amazing hearing and if you make sounds they will find and kill you.

What sold it for me wasn’t that premise, though, it was the deep emotional life of the family the film centers on. They go through some very human, normal things in this context and the sheer normalcy of the emotions — the love, the communication and lack therof, the teenager who acts out — throws the horror of their situation into a sharp, close focus.

The film, at its core, is about family and what that means and who does what and who gets to make those choices and why they make them. It’s also about survivor’s guilt and how that plays into one’s mental state.

The result is a deeply moving and human story that I found fulfilling and cathartic — even heartwarming, in spite of the horror.

Another aspect of the story I loved was the way disability played into the plot and the individual character arcs. One of the family members is deaf. This provides the family with a unique advantage in their particular situation (they all spoke sign language before the crisis began, making their lives easier after) and also provides that particular character with a unique challenge (how can you be certain you’re not making noise if you can’t hear noise?) The disability is not particularly highlighted or harped upon. It’s just a natural part of the character – one of the many challenges she’s facing in the post-apocalypse where she finds herself.

The story is compelling, it’s captivating. The characters are relateable and very human. The threats and peril are sold very well and keeps the movie in edge-of-your-seat territory.

Despite its being a horror film, A Quiet Place spares us a lot of blood and gore, instead manipulating our feelings by making us care, deeply, about its characters and their fates. I ran quite the gamut of emotions in the watching of it. There are stretches of relief and moments of sadness and humor to temper the fear.

Because of this, it might be a horror film which a non-horror-fan could watch, though there are also genuinely scary bits.

Do not freaking bring crunchy snacks into this movie, if you see it in the theater. You will be sad as you try to suck on them so you can chew them without disturbing anyone. I’ve never been in a film where silence was cleaved to more closely by the audience.

The film makes excellent use of silence vs sound. You pay attention to the ambient noises and when the music comes in, you notice.

All the technical elements come together to build something moving, affecting and powerful. This film is a must-see for anyone who likes horror films. I may go again, myself.

T’is the day of fries.

Everyone can have some fries. Delicious fries. Or something.

I’ve spent a bunch of recent weeks inundating a friend with random fanfics then texting her to get her reactions like a creepy fanfic stalker.

Also: knitting.

THIS WEEKEND, I’m planning on seeing A Quiet Place and Isle of Dogs, and possibly also RampageLove, SimonBlockers, and/or The Death of Stalin.

I have done four or five movies in a weekend before, but not usually when I have other stuff to do, and I do, but we shall see. I’m betting on two.

If you’re hanging out this weekend, here are some recs for streaming!

Netflix

Flix has Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a film that attempts to grasp the age of radio scifi. Drenched, as it is, in cinematography reminiscent of film classics from Metropolis to noir detective fiction, it’s a lot more about style than about substance, but I think it’s fun.

Hulu

Hulu has one of my favorite comedies, Steve Martin’s modernization of Cyrano De BergeracRoxanne.

I like it partially because the love interest is an astronomer and I am a giant space nerd and partially because of my deep and lengthy love affair with Martin’s work. It has one of the best scenes of someone standing up to a bully of all time and the characters are fun and goofy while still feeling real enough to bring the emotions home.

And, unlike the original play (spoiler!), it has a happy ending.

Prime

Amazon has oscar-winning drama Moonlight, which if you haven’t seen, you really should. It’s fantastic and so well worth watching.

Red

Guess who broke down and subscribed to an additional streaming service? This guy! I mostly did it because I was sick of being exposed to ads when I am on an endless string of watching late night comedians or youtube gamers, but they have other content, too.

One of the things streaming on youtube currently, is Kedi, a critically acclaimed documentary about cats in Istanbul.

I haven’t gotten a chance to really browse their stuff, yet, so perhaps I’ll have more to say about their streaming stuff next week!

Kids

Netflix has The Iron Giant, which is gorgeous and moving.

Hulu has The Emperor’s New Groove – not Disney’s most classic film, but a lot of fun. And, if you’re looking for something shorter (or longer, if you consider the whole show together) you might try Gravity Falls, a cartoon about siblings in a town full of spooky and wacky happenings for the summer.

Prime has animated classic The Last Unicorn, which probably everyone should see or read at least once.

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That’s it from me for this week. Regardless of whether I spend the whole weekend in a dark theater or running around and actually getting life stuff done, I hope you’ll join me again next week!

Ass Over Teakettle

There’s only one good thing about falling dramatically down onto a sidewalk and making a very undignified noise and having your glasses fly off and spilling your coffee after only getting one sip…and that is getting to use the phrase “ass over teakettle”.

I went ass over teakettle last week. Scraped and bruised the living fuck out of one knee and generally felt stupid and had several days of deep muscular soreness.

FUN!

There’s something deeply humanizing about spraining your dignity. I don’t mean to go out of my way to sell any benefits of being human, mind you. It can be the worst. But a dose of humility every now and again is probably good for most of us.

I mean. It’s complicated, right? Like – entitlement is often considered a bad thing. And it is in excess, absolutely. In my opinion an out-of-control sense of entitlement is at the root of a lot of societal problems. But there is such a thing as too little entitlement. You can fail to feel entitled to an opinion (even a knowledge-based one) or to feel entitled to the basic things you need to keep your body healthy, or even to the space that you take up in the world.

It’s a balance thing, right? Too much entitlement equals egotistical asshole. Too little equals low self-esteem or something worse – depression, lack of sense of self, possibly a buy in to any cultural narratives that tell you that you’re lesser, that humanity itself doesn’t establish your worth.

So: a balance thing. You can have too much, but you can also have too little. And I think it’s always difficult to understand or to believe that the amount of entitlement you have may be wrong. We pick up these ideas at a level below the conscious one and bringing them to light and unlearning them is a job of work.

So it’s humanizing to have moments of humility. It’s at least as human to have some sense of entitlement.

Humility visits itself upon me easily and frequently. Entitlement not so much. It’s difficult for me to believe that it’s okay for me to promulgate my opinions, even for stuff I think deep and long about.

I bring all this up mainly because this is the particular dog that has eaten my homework for the past week or so. I may always be thinking about culture but it can be difficult for me to believe there’s any particular value in adding my voice to the throng of folks who talk about this every day — that there is value in my perspective and in the way I express it.

This is a slice of how exhausting it is to have a brain that doesn’t feed you the right chemicals. That, too, is a very human thing, I know. Also (like many human things) a fucking frustrating or even enraging one.

Mentally, I went ass over teakettle before I did physically. And a bruised psyche is harder to allow to heal than a bruised knee. First, you need to accept that it is bruised. Because part of the way depression perpetuates itself is by convincing you that it is the only one who’s telling you the awful truth of your worthlessness. The bruise, it will tell you, is supposed to be there. You’re supposed to hurt. You’ve earned it. You deserve it. And you deserve to experience it in silence.

So how do you get past it? I do not know, dear reader. I’ll let you know if I ever figure out how to leave it behind for good. In the meantime, I must assume that I’ll be back this way again. I know it’s tedious to hear about (but not, as Douglas Adams once said, nearly as tedious as it is to undergo). Thanks for sticking with me. More stuff on actual culture is coming up.

Tomb Raider

So, I’ve admitted to you all before that I kind of adore the old Tomb Raider movie. Angelina Jolie doing her own stunts with a plot so cheesy and thin it could’ve been sold at taco bell was my fricking JAM. I went into this one with some trepidation, quieted somewhat by my love of Alicia Vikander and my confidence in her ability to project ‘tude and act badass.

I was skeptical, largely, of the grim and gritty action premise the trailer promulgated, when the video games are action puzzlers. Is there death? Are there fights? Sure, but the core of it was figuring stuff out.

This new Tomb Raider does a fair job of translating the puzzling to the screen and definitely sold Vikander as a badass action hero. It is also much more diverse than the early 2000s films, which is not a high bar, given how white and (sadly) overwhelmingly male they were.

The gritty definitely was wedged into the film, though. When our main villain is introduced, there is some of the kind of head-fuckery and open gaslighting that is something I truly can’t stand in movies. They do it for what we’ll call “kick the dog” reasons. We know this guy is bad because he comes across as intense, a little unhinged and because he hurts people when there’s no particular reason to do so.

I found all the kick-the-dog moments from him to be super predictable and formulaic, which was actually helpful for my sitting through them. And of course, this being an action movie aimed at younger folks, he gets his comeuppance in a satisfying and narratively appropriate way.

Our villain is not our heroine, Lara Croft’s, foil, but rather her absent father’s. The villain is being villainous and trying to do it efficiently because he’s desperate to see his daughters again. Meanwhile, Lara has grown up without a father figure because to her father, keeping the world (and especially Lara) safe is more important than being in her life. The plot could’ve been reasonably played the other way around if the sympathies were switched, honestly.

But the plot in a movie like this is really not the point.

The action was actively awesome and gasp-inducing. I’ve seen videos of Vikander working out and muscling up for this role and she definitely sold all the stunts her character was supposed to be performing. The parts where she’s performing feats of strength and daring are probably the best parts of the movie. And her characterization is pretty solid – we get a chance to see what she’s like before her adventure really begins and learn about some of the traits that serve her the best: intelligence, stubbornness, athleticism and persistence.

She has a reasonable counterpart in a character portrayed by Daniel Wu: Lu Ren. Ren is part comic relief, part sidekick and part eye candy and sells them all pretty well.

A lot of the violence we see feels really vivid and we see it up-close and personally. There is one murder in particular that I found to be really visceral. I’m almost amazed that the film got a pg-13 rating. I suspect it was bargained down by cutting things and this makes me wonder what scenes we *didn’t* get to see.

The film (unsurprisingly) sets itself up for an indeterminate amount of sequels, and frankly I hope it gets at least a few. I’ve always thought that a Lara Croft movie done really well could be a badass female answer to Indiana Jones, and even though this movie didn’t really get us there, I feel as though the characterization and world-building in this film gives a lot more footholds for climbing to that height than the 2001 film did.

I’d like to see more humor in the mix, if we do get another one, but I’ve always preferred camp to grit, and I may well be in the minority, there. I’d also like to see more puzzle engagement (there is some and they do a good job of making what puzzle scenes exist seem vital and action-rich). Overall, it was an entertaining movie and worth seeing, in spite of being a little predictable and a little grim.

I really hope it does well enough that we get to see more of the character and the world they’ve set up.

 

Thursday never looking back it’s FRIDAY MOVIE RECS

Hi all, I am caffeinated and gleeful, even though my New England enclave is apparently likely to be subject to more WEATHER in the near future.

This weekend I will be seeing Tomb Raider and possibly also Love, Simon, though I have a busy weekend ahead of me so maybe not.

But you’re really here for the streaming recommendations. I know you. All cozy wrapped in that blanket on your sofa. I get you. I, too would like to hibernate till spring is really here.

Netflix

I started watching season 2 of Jessica Jones last weekend and I think it’s a much easier watch than the first season, but still very good (still not an *easy* watch per se, mind you). I mainlined about half of it and haven’t had the energy to go back for more, but I shall at some point.

Netflix seems to have put a number of 80s and 90s classics up again recently, including the original Ghostbusters, the 1989 BatmanDead Poets SocietyStrictly Ballroom, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Bring it On.

If you’re looking for something more serious or out-of-the-way, consider Whale Rider.

A story of a Māori girl struggling for understanding and acceptance from her traditionally-minded grandfather, based on a novel by New Zealand novelist Witi Ihimaera.

Hulu

One of your options on Hulu is The Punk Singer, a documentary about Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre.

Though the documentary is specifically about Hanna, it also gives you a slice of the riot grrrl movement in general.

If documentaries aren’t your bag, they also have An Ideal Husband (1999) – starring Rupert Everett and Julianne Moore from the Oscar Wilde play.

Prime

Amazon has a classic comedy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I heard this is getting a female-led remake and I am PSYCHED. Steve Martin and Michael Caine star as con artists. This is one of the most underrated Steve Martin movies ever, in my opinion.

Kids

Prime has classic The Last Unicorn. Netflix has Dreamworks’ Kung-Fu Panda. Hulu has’ Don Bluth’s The Secret of Nimh.

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That’s it for this week, kids and kittens. Have a good weekend and hold on. Spring *is* coming. I swear it.

A Wrinkle In Time

I almost feel as though there is no way I can possibly be fair to this movie. I (like many, I’m sure) read this book roughly eleventy billion times when I was a kid. And I wasn’t sure how well I’d remember it after all this time (I don’t think I’ve cracked its cover in about three decades) but I did. I remembered it well enough to notice not just when scenes were changed but when lines were changed.

That being said, this movie was by no means for me. It’s for a new generation of kids, coming up and finding their own wonder in the universe. And in spite of my (minor) frustrations and my (#pretentiousOld) substantial case of ‘but the book!’-ism, I really enjoyed this movie.

They did omit at least one major scene and at least three major characters that were in the book and I absolutely understand why they did that. I understand far less that they took one of the many adult female figures in the book and had her played by a male person.

However, the production was beautiful. The costumes were breathtaking and the scenery was full of beauty and light. I thought they did a great job with the casting – I enjoyed very much the multi-racial family Disney turned the Murrays into. The film was moving and engaging. I started crying in the first five minutes when Meg and her father are talking about their family adopting a little brother.

“Out of the whole universe he found us and we found him,” her father earnestly tells her. And that is part of the message the film conveys – all the things that make up the specialness in each one of us, including our doubts, our faults and our loves.

The Murrays weren’t the only place the film introduced more diversity. Mrs. Who, one of the beings of power who sends Meg on the film’s main quest, speaks only in quotations. In the novel, as I recall, the quotations were mainly from poets of Western canon, Shakespeare and the bible. The movie drew from many more sources for her quotes, and I thought that was grand.

I was sad that the film omitted one of the few non-pretty characters, Aunt Beast (they give her kind of a shout-out at the very beginning, but that’s all). Her importance in the novel was vast and while I understand why they took out the scene on her planet (it’s kind of an interlude, plot-wise), I thought she would have helped to sell the seriousness of the danger in Meg’s quest and also the importance of taking care of oneself before one can take care of others.

Anyhow, I feel sure that the movie coming out will not only introduce a lot more kids to the characters who meant so much to me growing up, but will probably get a lot of them to read the novel as well. Both may stand alone and not have to represent each other. For any of you who may be concerned about this, I thought they did a good job of broadening the religious themes (such as they are, A Wrinkle In Time is one of L’Engle’s least religious novels, in my opinions) to something universal.

I will be very interested to see if there’s a director’s cut of the film available at any point. Director Ava DuVernay clearly approached the material with love as well as with an eye to modernizing and broadening its message. I’d be very interested to learn more about why she made the choices she did. And I’ll be looking for more of her work in the future. The only other film I’ve seen of hers is Selma and it’s so different it’s difficult even to get a handle on her artistic style based on these two examples.

All in all, the film is well worth seeing. And I hope that a lot of kids do in spite of the backlash any film that diversifies an older property gets.

Friday streaming recs!

Hey hey hey! Happy Friday, folks. We’re getting some relatively nice days after a run of Weather(tm).  And there is a lot to look forward to media-wise, this weekend.

The new season of Jessica Jones is out on Netflix. I am planning on seeing A Wrinkle In Time in theaters. (I read that book roughly one hundred billion times as a kid, along with any of Madeline L’Engle’s I could get my grubby kid-hands on.) In general we’re creeping up on a bunch of shows starting up again and the oscar nominees are finally loosening their grip on theaters — making way for some big, explosion-based fun.

Here’s some fun stuff that’s streaming this week:

Netflix

Our old flix friend has Moon. A polished idea scifi film that I was impressed by. Sam Rockwell does a fabulous job playing the lone technician working for corporations on the moon. The film addresses some traditional scifi questions as well as digging into potential endgames for a mechanized future.

Having come out in 2009, I feel as though it was at the forefront of the wave of big-budget high-concept scifi which we (well, definitely I) have been enjoying for the past several years.

A warning – certified horrible human Kevin Spacey voices an AI in the film. Which is a fucking shame. Because it’s a really good movie.

Hulu

Hulu has the delightful Tom of Finland biopic that I enjoyed so much towards the end of last year.

Prime

Amazon has Thanks For Sharing — a film I have thrust upon many friends through the years since I’ve seen it. Brought to you by part of the creative team behind acclaimed indie film The Kids Are Alright, Sharing stars Mark Ruffalo as an addict in a twelve-step program. The story is a complex, but sympathetic look at twelve-step programs, how they work for folks and their limitations.

Kids

Netflix has made-for-tv movie High School Musical and its sequel, which are cute and upbeat.

Prime has 2005 scifi adventure Zathura.

Hulu has last year’s live-action Power Rangers, which was a pretty fun (and diversely-casted) kid-aimed action film.

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That’s all for this week! I wish you peace and pizza.

Red Sparrow and other weekend news

I don’t pay attention to critics of film. I often, in fact, go out of my way to avoid other people’s opinions of a film before I’ve seen it. And afterwards, I may go check out what other people thought, but I don’t really care that much. What one will enjoy is pretty subjective, and the collective consensus about pop culture skews white, straight and male to a degree I find positively demoralizing.

This is all to say I mostly don’t give much of a fuck about the Oscars. I sometimes watch them for the red carpet spectacle and fashion, but I didn’t last night. It’s nice that Jordan Peele won best writer for Get Out, though. (Kind of ridiculous that he was the first black person ever to win best writer, though. We have so far to go and just a huge history of bullshit to try to dismantle.)

Anyhow, while I didn’t see the oscars, I did get out to see Red Sparrow. I was amused afterwards when I looked up info about it on the way out of the theater to see that people were accusing it of “failing at its women’s empowerment message”. I have no idea where they got the notion that it was supposed to have a women’s empowerment message. Certainly not textually. Maybe the director said something somewhere?

Anyhow, it’s a spy/counterspy film set (largely) in Russia. And its the kind of story where everyone is super dangerous and the Russians speaking to each other basically never speak in Russians, but always have Russian accents. It’s a bit too thriller-y for my usual tastes, but it’s a woman-led action movie, so it made it onto my list anyway.

Before I saw it, I was calling it “the sort-of Black Widow” movie. The heroine does indeed have some cosmetic parallels to the Marvel character – ballet, deception, catch 22s and coercion.

The story is not really exceptional if one is familiar with the spy thriller genre. The only things that really do distinguish it are that a woman is the main character and the focus on sexual exploitation as a spy gambit.

This is where any argument about its ever being intended to be about women’s empowerment falls right down for me. It’s not about voluntary use of sex as a tool in a spy’s arsenal. It’s about people who don’t quite know what they’re in for being trained as mini modern Mata Haris. There are male-bodied folks as well as female in the training program, but most of the grinding humiliation and forced participation is directed at female characters.

The fact that Jennifer Lawrence’s main character gets a little slice of her own back by the end of the film after being put through this program is mildly emotionally satisfying but in no way diminishes not just the story she’s been through nor how the movie chooses to tell the story.

Both the story and the movie are about exploiting womens’ sexuality. And the story is engaging, but it’s not groundbreaking nor particularly political (ironic for a spy thriller, I guess). I feel as though if a similar film had been made with the same characters 10-20 years ago, Lawrence’s character would not have been the main character but would have been an accessory to some guy’s story.

The one thing that is slightly empowering, in a cold, shattered sort of way, is that our heroine ultimately saves herself. There are a lot of men in the story pressing her in many directions and putting her in invidious positions over and over and she uses what she’s learned to outsmart, outlast and manipulate them. It’s a story about creating new options for yourself when you’re given a choice of evils, but it doesn’t lead us to believe that the new third way is, in contrast, an unequivocal good.

For my many sensitive friends, I will say that the film has many, many awful scenes – torture, sexual coercion, violent rape & rape attempts. Basically all the CWs ever should go on this film. I didn’t find the rapes to be diminished or sexualized, for what little that’s worth.

It kind of reminded me of La Femme Nikita in attitude, though this is a more difficult watch (and I didn’t find Nikita easy). I’m sure that it’d be enjoyable to folks who are comfortable enough with spy genre tropes. I’m equally sure that the mild emotional satisfaction the resolution of the film brings is not remotely enough for anyone uncomfortable with any of the plot elements I mentioned to push through and watch it anyway.

So, honestly, the best thing about it is probably that it out-performed Bruce Willis’ Death Wish at the box office in the first weekend. As well it should. As little empowerment as Red Sparrow offered, it has to be better than two women fridged in the first ten minutes as motivation for the main character. And in our current climate of mass shootings, I’d really rather see sex used as a weapon than weapons used as solutions to All The Things in my downtime.

Friday streaming (and pouring) recs

It is a soggy, drenched evening here on the East coast of the U.S. It’s the kind of night that makes me bitter that “it was a dark and stormy night” is the go-to example of triteness in writing, because if you’ve been out on a dark and stormy night, you know it’s spooky and sometimes also miserable. To be barely able to see and have wind and rain whipping around your head and making creepy noises – you can see why people go there to evoke mood.

This weekend, films I may see in the theater include Red SparrowPhantom Thread, and Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.

Here are some streaming recs for those who are (wisely, if you’re anywhere near here) staying in, tonight:

Netflix

New streaming on netflix is Wind River, a mystery thriller starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. I haven’t seen this one – it was on my list and got away from me, as movies sometimes do, but the critics liked it quite a bit. I may watch it myself, this weekend.

It also has one of my cheesetastic favorites, the 2001 Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie.

This is not a good movie, per se, but I like it a lot. And Jolie does a bunch of her own stunts, which is impressive. Just…don’t look at the plot too much. Or at all, if you can help it.

Hulu

First let me say that I finally got around to watching the first season of Hulu’s Runaways, and it was pretty good. It might actually be more enjoyable if you’ve never read the comics and don’t know which cards are being left out of the deck, but I’ve read them and still enjoyed it.

They also have the movie Mermaids (1990). Cher and Winona Ryder star (along with an itty bitty baby Christina Ricci) in a film about mothers, daughters and romantic relationships. It has a bit of funny and a bit of moving and all in all is kind of sweet.

Prime

Prime has what I can only describe as a cancer comedy: 50/50.

It’s a buddy comedy based on the real life experiences of writer Will Reiser. It runs the gamut of emotions and feels very real and visceral in places while still being overall pretty funny.

Kids

Not movies, but Hulu has the first three seasons of Steven Universe, now, which I adore. And they also have the classic Pinky and the Brain and the series off of which it spun, Animaniacs.

Netflix has the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in its current kid movie selection.

That’s it for today. See you next week. Stay dry!

Annihilation

Annihilation was one of the movies I was really looking forward to, this year, and I wasn’t disappointed by it. Visually striking and beautiful, which is perhaps to be expected from director Alex Garland. Also thoughtful, interesting and full of characters that are largely better developed than I would expect, given the number of them.

Five different women with their own idiosyncrasies and their own voices travel through a dream-like reality and carry us with them on their journey. As I told a friend just before I saw it, Annihilation is a woman-led ensemble action scifi horror movie, and is therefore what I would like to pump directly into my veins to wake up every morning and keep myself vital.

I know that there were questions of whitewashing the movie. Other people have discussed that with more depth of knowledge than I could. It does, however star five women of different ages, all of whom are portrayed with their own strengths and weaknesses, most of them are scientists. None are sexualized outside of the snippets of actual sex scenes we see Natalie Portman’s character in, and those are well-placed in an emotional context.

So: problematic, yes. But I enjoyed it anyway. I liked seeing women as strong and as intellectual on the screen. I liked seeing them get to be emotional and seeing the ways they dealt with those emotions.

In its treatment of women it was a nice change from the only other of Garland’s films I’ve seen so far, Ex Machina. That bought hard into some deeply irritating sexist tropes. It may have been attempting commentary on them, but I’m not convinced it succeeded.

I keep thinking I should watch Ex Machina again, considering that, unlike the majority of movies I didn’t enjoy watching the first time, it has really stuck in my head and kept me thinking, which I believe is a point in its favor. However, there are so many things on my to-watch list, I don’t know when I’ll be able to make that happen.

But I digress.

Like in Ex Machina, setting is like an additional character in the film, driving the plot forward in the way that setting rarely does. I got a very palpable sense of the the landscape our characters ranged through. And that landscape developed throughout the film, carrying the film’s themes of creative destruction and transformational journeys within itself as well as passing it on to the people moving through it.

It is deeply a science fiction movie, full of ideas and lines of thought that raise many more questions than they answer. The plot doesn’t fully resolve at the end of the film. I don’t know if that’s an artistic choice or because Garland is planning to adapt the other two novels in Jeff VanderMeer’s southern reach trilogy  into films as well. After seeing this one, I hope he does. And I’d like to read the novels themselves, though I understand there are lots of differences between the screen version and the original written one (as there almost always are).

Annihilation is a rich tapestry, with a lot to take in. More, I suspect, than can be absorbed in one viewing. I certainly would be open to repeat watchings to try to take in more of its layers.

It is also very definitely a horror film. Things that happen in the dream-like, ethereal landscape are in hard contrast to the landscape itself. The horrific things that happen (and how they happen) are frequently vital clues for our band of scientists on the screen, moving the plot forward with the information they bring.

In the film landscape, there have been a slate of Big Idea Scifi films over the past several years. And I am in love with them. In love, really with the whole new hard scifi film movement that brought us GravityArrivalInterstellar, and The Martian. I would definitely place Annihilation in this movement as well.

As much as I enjoy a good space opera (a fuckton, for the record) it’s nice to see some science fiction cinema that has a lot more intellectual depth and which sticks a little closer to home. It’s nice to see some bigger budgets invested in Idea Genre Fiction in general.  I hope we’re starting to get past the era of snobbery in which genre fiction isn’t taken as seriously as ‘realistic’ fiction.

All fiction that works deeply for the audience is based more in emotional truth than in factual reality. Science fiction and horror can bring us just as much emotional truth and deeply relevant themes as any random award-seeking biopic or Work of Art.

The upshot of all this is that I enjoyed Annihilation a lot. It was effective as both scifi and horror. It had lots of intellectual badass women characters. It’s beautiful and thoughtful and emotional — pretty meaty as an experience.