Happy Birthday to me

I wanted to write something profound and well thought-out today, but I got a headache before I left work that will not die.

So I say: Hurrah for another year. Hurrah for surviving a brain that’s trying to eat itself. Hurrah for weathering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Forty-one is a stupid, random age to be, but making it here is definitely preferable to the alternative.

Stay tuned for thoughts about Deadpool 2The Bay, trailers as art form, and some movies I love that you can’t get in any streaming places. Along with, of course, whatever the fuck else I come up with.

Living in the future sure is grand

One minute, I am laying down, exhausted on the sofa, my hair still in the braid I put it in on Tuesday, hungry and contemplating how depressing the film The Man Who Fell To Earth was even before David Bowie died. Ten minutes later, I am watching Mamma Mia, singing along and answering the door to receive the dinner that a nice young man had brought me.

Yay technology. Saved my night. From crying about David Bowie’s alien character getting his alien contact lenses fused to his eyes forever.

It has been a challenging week, that’s my point. And for me it isn’t over for, lo, I must work tomorrow because finals happen on Saturdays at the institution where I work.

Flooomph.

I do not have much energy for digging through stuff, so here’s just some of the stuff I’ve been watching on streaming, lately, and what I thought of it.

John Mulaney – Kid Gorgeous (Netflix)

Has some really good bits. Not as overall strong as some of his other shows, but I laughed out loud a lot.

Hari Kondabolu Warn Your Relatives (Netflix)

Very very funny. Watched it basically twice in a row. He’s quite political and fairly confrontational but still entertaining while doing it.

The Conjuring (Netflix)

I watched this because it showed up under “critically acclaimed movies” and it was horror. Being an exorcism/haunted house movie, this doesn’t fall into my favorite sub-genres, but it’s pretty, well acted and slick.

Wind River (Netflix)

Really good. Really dark and serious. Loved the acting, particularly Renner. CW for a long list of violence and awfulness including graphic sexual assault and murder. They are treated with the seriousness they deserve and not romanticized but the movie doesn’t shy away from smacking you in the face with them.

Queer Eye (Netflix)

Pleasant. Fun apart from a few moments. There needs to be a lot more of it so I can just keep watching episodes when I am tense instead of RUNNING OUT AUUUGH. MAKE LONGER SEASONS NETFLX.

The Cloverfield Paradox (Netflix)

Kind of…fine. I was very into it for like the first three quarters and then the plot took some jumps.

The Joy Of Painting (Hulu)

One of my gotos when the stress and anxiety overwhelms me. Makes me want to paint, but when stress and anxiety are overwhelming me is usually when I don’t have time to perpetrate any art. Bob Ross is terminally mellow and sometimes he brings cute animals to show his viewing audience.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (Hulu)

Pretty good. I mean – very eighties happening all around you but fun and gross.

Drunk History Season 5 (Hulu)

I love Drunk History. It always makes me laugh and I always learn something. Win/win.

The Crossing (Hulu)

I watched the first three episodes of this (which was all there was yet at the time I watched it) and enjoyed it, though it makes me REALLY TENSE which is why I haven’t watched the new episodes yet. Tense time in real life is not the time for tense TV.

Crocodile Dundee (Prime)

Technically I saw this back in the eighties when it was still shiny and new. It was more nuanced and interesting than I remembered and while it doesn’t hold up perfectly, I still found it entertaining.

The Exorcist tv show (Hulu)

Yeah yeah. I know I said this wasn’t my sort of thing, but I kept seeing it recommended and binged the first two seasons in like three straight days a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. Then came up for air to find out it’s not getting a season 3 which is a bummer because it was good.

SPEAKING OF GOOD THINGS THAT AREN’T BEING RENEWED.

Brooklyn Nine Nine, y’all. What the fuck? I hope one of the streaming services picks it up because WHAT. THE FUCK. That show is so good.

My roommate, A, has been watching the entire run of the show on a loop since she got into it, more or less. I need to buy her a consolation pie or something.

If you’re interested my roommate also watched the first season of Fallet on Netflix. It is, apparently, a spoof of the gritty Nordic detective sub-genre of mystery. She, however, speaks Swedish (which the show is partially in) so it’s possible she’s getting more out of it than I ever would.

If her cat has been watching anything, she’s been playing it very close to her furry vest. I did open the window this evening and she spent a considerable while sniffing the outside, but I feel that’s a brand of cat entertainment that just doesn’t translate well to humanity.

I am taking my punchy ass to bed, now. Work tomorrow, then I can lose it and possibly watch horror movies or big friendly exploding action films.

 

Friday Streaming Rec’s

The weather has finally gotten warm in the greater Boston area, and so I should spend part of the weekend outside (and may well do so).

I’m also likely to see RBG. I may also see Disobedience, Overboard and, of course, I will be seeing Avengers: Infinity War at least one more time.

It’s supposed to rain here on Sunday. Just in case that’s also true for you, here are my streaming recommendations! I’ve kind of lost track of what I’ve recommended in the past, but I’m going to try not to do repeats.

Netflix

Netflix has 2007’s Nancy Drew. The film does a great job of transplanting an old fashioned character to a modern setting without losing what makes her quintessentially her.

Rated PG, this one is fine for kids, yet still fun for adults. Liking the old books may be a bonus, but I don’t think it’s a prerequisite for enjoyment.

If you’re looking for something harder-hitting, Netflix currently has Milk, the biopic about gay rights activist Harvey Milk. If you’re just looking for something less wholesome, it has vampire flick The Lost Boys.

Also, I, personally, will be checking out John Mulaney’s new stand-up special Kid  Gorgeous that just recently went up.

Hulu

Hulu has the James Bond movies on streaming, again. If you’re not sure which ones to watch, I’m fond of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. The former because it’s good and the latter because it definitely is not.

I also want to put in a good word for the animated Doctor Strange film that is available there. It’s his origin story and while it doesn’t blow the world away in any direction, it’s a much better intro to the character as the comics present him than the live action movie was.

If you’re looking for something scarier, Hulu now has Nightmare on Elm Street 1 through 7 streaming. I have, as yet, only seen the first three. Each has their strengths, though 2 is my least favorite. I think three is the strongest on emotional resonance but one is a classic for the ages.

Prime

Speaking of horror classics, Amazon has the first Friday the 13th movie. This series of slasher flicks established what a lot of folks think of as laws of the horror genre. And while the beginning of the series lacks polish, it definitely has a flair all its own.

For something more fun, check out Leap Of Faith

I believe my love of Steve Martin is well-established. He’s likable even when playing a cynical, exploitative itinerant preacher.

* * *

That is it from me this week, folks. Happy viewing!

MCU women

I’m not gonna lie, folks. I have seen Avengers: Infinity War three times since it came out last Thursday. Odds are I will see it more. It was so much better than I expected. It’s dense with both plot and emotion and each time I see it I catch something I missed before.

One thing I was thinking about after viewing number two is while almost every hero we’ve met in the Marvel cinematic journey is still with us, most of the women have fallen by the wayside. They disappeared, in many cases, without any textural comment or without a concrete in-universe reason.

The movie was engaging enough that I didn’t think about this the whole first time through it. That’s saying something considering this kind of thing is at the forefront of my brain.

I’m going to try to make this post as spoiler-free for Infinity War, but since it is a list of characters that aren’t in the movie  (and has some references to characters that are),  that could be considered a spoiler in and of itself. It definitely contains spoilers for just about every other film in the Marvel cinematic universe. You have been warned.

Let’s start our list at the beginning (by release date).

Christine Everhart

The treatment of and writing for this character in Iron Man was the main reason I hated the film the first time I saw it. The fact that she’s treated with contempt not just by Tony Stark but by Pepper Potts as well is fucking weak-ass writing. It’s canonical “woman character: by men” bullshit. She goes from confrontational to fucking Tony in the space of a heartbeat. I know that’s supposed to establish Tony as irresistible to women but mostly it establishes that the committee of dudes who wrote this film are lazy as fuck when it comes to characterization. And possibly also that they have never met any actual women.

She is brought back (apparently solely for the purpose of slut-shaming her a second time) in Iron Man 2. Apart from that she’s only been in a series of news-based shorts.

It doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult to work a cynical, well-educated, intelligent journalist into the MCU again.

Betty Ross

She was dropped after appearing in 2008’s The Hulk, and has not, I believe, been so much as *mentioned* again. Not even when Bruce Banner is resisting being pulled into another romance in Age of Ultron. You’d think it’d be reasonable for him to include the ways Betty’s life had been fucked up when protesting that being in a relationship with him is a bad idea.

Not to mention, she’s a cellular biologist and is married to a psychiatrist. There have been LOTS of places scientists have been dropped into these movies. You’d think that a biologist would be pretty useful in some of them.

Also – her *dad* is still in the films. But not her. That is some bullshit.

Sif

One of Thor’s warrior companions. We haven’t seen her or heard anything about her since Thor: The Dark World. She is badass and funny and I’d love to see her meet some more avengers. She’s a hero in her own right and is already adept at fighting on a team. So she might be a good fit for the Avengers, especially since Asgard has been destroyed.

Jane Foster

Having been written off with a throwaway line in Thor: Ragnarok, Jane Foster as another scientist doesn’t seem like she’d be difficult to include. Eric Selvig, her colleague, has been in several more of the films than she has.

It might be nice if she got to have a life in the universe beyond her relationship with Thor. It also might be nice if we got to see some of these testosterone-fueled male heroes dealing with an ex with politeness and grace.

Darcy Lewis

Foster’s comic relief companion shows up only when she does, which I think is a shame. Her presence in the first two Thor films really humanizes what were some of the weaker links in the Marvel movie chain. She may not be a scientist, but she is portrayed as having some good instincts. And can anyone tell me that a poly-sci graduate who has dealt with heroes from another planet wouldn’t be able to parlay that into at least an entry-level job at SHIELD or at the world security council?

Frigga

Yes. She’s dead. We all know in comic books, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Nor in mythology, for that matter. And she wouldn’t be the first character to be brought back.

Peggy Carter

Okay, so she is more dead than Frigga, in some ways. And she got a long, eventful life even if we don’t get to see all of it. I’m still bitter her tv show was canceled though.

Beth, the waitress

Okay, yes. She’d be more difficult to work in than some of the others, but she had lines. She counts. And the series has brought back similarly minor characters at other times.

Councilwoman Hawley

I know I wasn’t the only person who was disappointed in The Winter Soldier when Councilwoman Hawley kicked some ass and then turned out to be Natasha Romanoff in disguise instead of herself. She’s a badass character and I wish we got to see more of her in general.

Brandt

A superpowered assassin who can regenerate. Why wouldn’t we have seen her again after the one battle in Iron Man 3?

Maya Hansen

Another scientist, though she technically died, she also worked on extremis, which helped bodies recover from severe trauma (amongst other things). It doesn’t seem like getting shot would necessarily have to be the end for someone who had that at her fingertips. And her moral greyness makes her an interesting addition to the universe.

Sharon Carter

Peggy Carter’s niece plays a fairly huge role in the Captain America comics. I know we may well see her again, since she hasn’t been killed or written off, but she definitely hasn’t been used to best effect yet in any movie in which she’s appeared.

Irani Rael 

The leader of the Nova Corps is probably the person on this list who would have been the most natural to include in Infinity War. After all, her force was guarding one of the infinity stones. And certainly, her level head and commanding presence could’ve been useful.

Dr. Helen Cho

Brought in during the events of Age of Ultron to help patch up Avengers who had been injured — anyone think that’s something they’d only need once? Why haven’t we seen her again? A medical doctor on call is definitely something they need.

Laura Barton

I will be honest, I thought the inclusion of the Ultimates-inspired elements of Clint Barton’s character in Age of Ultron was stupid. And him having a secret family that he actually managed to keep secret in spite of being mind-controlled by Loki in the first Avengers film and all of SHIELD’s secrets being dumped onto the net in Cap 2 really doesn’t make much sense. But if you put her in, keep her in. The only time she’s really been referred to again is when Clint’s family gets mentioned in passing, even though she’s married to Clint and is good friends with Natasha.

Janet Van Dyne

I know including her as a character we haven’t seen again when we never got to see her the first time may seem a little ridiculous. But a lot of comic fans were upset that this founding member of the Avengers (in the comics) was fridged by the Ant Man films. Now, they’ve already established that she has the possibility of coming back (since Scott Lang does what caused her to disappear in the culmination of Ant Man and came back to tell the tale).  So I hold out hope.

Hope Van Dyne

She’ll definitely be back in this summer’s Ant Man and The Wasp so that mollifies me somewhat, but why hasn’t she gotten to be in any of the team-up films we’ve had since the first Ant Man?

The Random Journalist/Writer who talks to Sam Wilson at the end of Ant Man

Again – journalists don’t seem like they’d be hard to work in.

Christine Palmer

Another medical doctor. Seriously why doesn’t the Avengers base have a whole medical wing?

Ayesha

Another random adversary – she still (presumably) has it in for the Guardians of the Galaxy. I know we’re probably going to see her again, but she’s another person who easily could have been in Infinity War as it ranged around the galaxy, but was not.

MJ Jones

Again, we’ll probably see her again. But she wasn’t on the bus Peter was on at the start of Infinity War, even though there was no reason for her not to have been.

Anne Marie Hoag

I know that part of the reason a lot of these characters aren’t in Infinity war is that they don’t want to burden scenes with too many references or too many characters. There’s probably also an issue with paying all the actors, but the head of Damage Control has maybe more of a reason to be in a film where New York is attacked by aliens (again) than some other folks do.

May Parker

I love Marisa Tomei’s May. She’s trying to walk a heck of a line with her nephew. And we saw the very beginnings of her reaction to Peter’s secret identity at the end of Spider-man: Homecoming. I have to believe she would have strong opinions about several of the plot points of Infinity War and furthermore that she wouldn’t sit idly by for them.

Liz Toomes

I suspect we won’t see her or her mom again, even if we see her dad (Vulture, Homecoming‘s villain) again. But maybe Kevin Feige prove me wrong.

Hela

Yet another woman who has come down with a case of death. More satisfying in her case than many of the others.

Topaz

The Grandmaster’s bodyguard. She was fun in her moral greyness and grumpiness.

Valkyrie

Considering she was definitely on the same ship that Thor and Loki are on at the beginning of Infinity War, it’s kind of ridiculous that we see no hint of her.

Nakia

I was pretty jazzed that any of Black Panther‘s badass women were in Infinity War. I guess of all the main female characters, Nakia is the one that makes the most sense to be away from Wakanda, given that T’challa put her in charge of cultural outreach at the end of Panther.

Queen Mother Ramonda

Anyone here think this proud and noble woman would suffer herself to be evacuated from a place where her children were about to put themselves in danger? Nope. Me neither.

* * *

So that’s about 25 significant characters (people with names and personalities and lines) and some assorted others.

To be clear, I don’t actually think they all should’ve been in Infinity War necessarily. I liked the film a lot as it was. But I want to highlight that who made it into this film has a lot to do with choices people are making behind-the-scenes. And the impact would not have been reduced by swapping out some of the side-characters we did see for some of these that we didn’t. Or even just mentioning them in passing.

And I know there are logistics and contracts and actor scheduling conflicts driving some of these decisions. On the other hand, they have recast at least two other major characters in the course of this series of films (Jim Rhodes – War Machine and Bruce Banner – Hulk). So they have the option to do that instead of writing characters out. The series can certainly weather it financially. They have only been gaining fans and momentum as they go, in spite of some more serious setbacks (like how awful Age of Ultron was or how unrelentingly grim Civil War was).

We can’t act as though the decision to have roughly three quarters of the main cast of Infinity War be male is somehow meaningless or incidental. The truth is a large part of what led to the eventuality is the dearth of female heroes that have been in the series of films so far. Which has also been a choice. Indeed, it’s really been a series of choices. And there were several deeply kickass women who were left out of this film, even though the good guys needed all the ass-kicking they could muster.

I fucking love these films, flaws and all, but the issues of which characters are considered main characters versus side ones and which characters get their own movies versus which don’t are not trivial.

I saw so many kids coming into these movies during my three viewings so far. I’ve said it before, it is important for *all of them* to know that anyone of any gender and skin tone can be a hero. Marvel films is getting better at giving this some lip-service, but Infinity War proves they’ve still got a ways to go.

 

Keymaster

I try to be the opposite of a gatekeeper when it comes to fandom and pop-culture knowledge.

I mean – I haven’t always tried to. I used to be the asshole who would gasp when people said they hadn’t seen some movie I considered to be classic or who, even if I wouldn’t quiz other people on their depth of knowledge on my favorite subjects, would still get into back-and-forths about it, playing right into the hands of whoever wanted to define the limits on who was and was not a “true fan”.

Anyone who has been in fandom long enough has encountered these people. They’re combative, confrontational and unbearably tedious. They may be coming from a place of defensiveness, but sometimes I don’t think even they know what they’re trying to achieve with quizzes and nerdsplaining and scorn.

The longer I live, the less time I want to spend around people like that. And I know no one else wants to either. The older I get the more I take it as a true gift when I meet someone who is interested in something I’m nerdy about and who wants to talk to me about it. If someone comes to me with questions about movies, comic books, video games, etc. it is a sheer pleasure to talk about them unreservedly.

There no greater fun you can have with your pants on than to have a nice, meaty discussion with someone about something you love. And if they start to love it too, then bonus. If not, well, their time and attention are a gift. And if I want folks to thoughtfully discuss these things with me, the best I can do is to try to make my enthusiasm infectious.

I know a lot about movies. I know a lot about video games. I could probably teach a 300-level course in the history and politics of the Marvel universe. There is no valor in these areas of knowledge. There is no utility in them. If they’re not fun then they are nothing. Or – worse than nothing – they could be a millstone or a stick with which I could try to beat people.

I try to subscribe to the philosophy outlined so succinctly in this XKCD. Instead of saying, “Oh my god. How have you not seen/read/played that?” it is always more interesting to say “Oh man, come hang out. Have I got a treat for you.”

 

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.

* * *

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.