FRIDAY FRIDAY GONNA GET DOWN ON FRIDAY.

Years later, and it still gets stuck in my head on an almost weekly basis. I’m so sorry.

I’m definitely seeing Lucky.

The other movies I’m interested in this weekend are Geostorm and Breathe. I’m also interested in Tragedy Girls, but it doesn’t look as though it’s playing anywhere I can actually get to, in my car-less-ness.

For those of you looking to stay in, this weekend, here are some streaming recommendations.

Byzantium, based on a stage play, is a vampire story that isn’t really a horror story, I’d say. Which is not to say that there’s no bloody vampire death or awful situations – there are. But the movie doesn’t spin around them. It is instead a drama touching on themes of motherhood, family, death and sexism through the ages. It stars the lovely and talented Gemma Arterton, who I have adored ever since I saw her head-butt a guy in the first ten minutes of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Saiorse Ronan whose credits include Atonement and The Lovely Bones.

Gemma Arterton on a chat show saying 'I went to the royal academy of dramatic fucking arts.'.

It’s a heavy film, but beautiful and beautifully acted. Byzantium is streaming on both Netflix and Hulu.

For a more subtle spooky film, consider Berberian Sound Studio. It stars Toby Jones (AKA Doctor Zola, from the Captain America movies) as a foley artist for a trashy horror film in Italy, far away from his home in England. His character is also a war veteran and the work affects him more profoundly than he had anticipated. The film takes many a surreal turn as it explores the disturbing nature of the work he’s doing and what he’s putting himself through to do it. As I recall, you never see one minute of gore. Instead all awful, bloody moments in the film he’s working on are played on Jones’ face or on the equipment he’s using to add realism to the gore-fest he’s working on.

Berberian Sound Studio is streaming on Hulu.

If you’re looking for something more kid-friendly, consider Kubo and the Two Strings. An epic, beautifully animated fairy tale of a film. It’s streaming on Netflix.

Once Halloween is done, I will probably stop recommending so many spooky films. But I promise nothing.

ALSO for local film mavens (or anyone who enjoyed Netflix’s Glow) Channel Zero is hosting a showing of a documentary: G.L.O.W. – The story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in the Somerville Theater. Tickets are $7.50 – cash only and the show starts at 8. I probably won’t make it, myself, but I thought folks might like to know!

[This post contains spoilers for Mother! and for Pi.]

I have always thought Darren Aronofsky is a little bit up his own ass. By which I mean to say, his films are deliberately and self-consciously smart and grating before they are entertaining. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s resulted in a kind of modern theater-of-cruelty ethos that has the disadvantage of not punching up so much as punching out at everything and everyone.

Aronofsky’s films (the few I’ve seen) assault the senses, then the morals, then the marrow. He does what he does well, though it’s definitely not for everybody.

It is not, for instance, for me at all. I saw Pi back in the day when it first came out, and thought it was interesting, though a difficult watch. Definitely not the kind of movie I’d ever like to watch *again*. (Let’s just say that nothing that culminates in trepanning is ever likely to be something I watch twice. Let’s just agree to that and move on forever.)

Requiem for A Dream was the movie that brought me to a place where, if I ever met Aronofsky in person, I would have to rigorously restrain myself from punching him straight in the nuts. That movie is one of the few well-crafted films I’ve seen that I would almost certainly never recommend to anyone under any circumstances. It haunted my twilights for weeks after I saw it. I swore off the man’s films after that.

I swore off them, at least, till I was in the thick of my current movie project (or lifestyle, really).

When I saw the trailer for Mother! I was moderately interested. It wasn’t at the top of my list, but when you’re seeing a movie a week, sometimes the tides and fates combine to bring you to something you wouldn’t usually watch.

I know a lot has been said already about the film. I know critics liked it and audiences hated it, which seems to be exactly what Aronofsky is always looking for.

I watched the film rapt and horrified. I was swept along with the titular character’s helpless anxiety and eventual despair. We start on a closeup of the Mother’s face and are told the premise of the story by her actions and reactions to small things around her.

The movie *is* the Mother. She is the only character who doesn’t wind up seeming wooden and distant and callous. As her distant husband, the poet, ignored everything she was wishing and feeling, and as her world falls apart around her due to the selfishness and reckless actions of those around her, I felt every blow she took and I thought to myself, “this is the ultimate ‘the patriarchy is the villain’ horror story.”

I wasn’t surprised, when I looked it up the next day, to find out that Aronofsky was selling it as some elaborate metaphor about the way human beings treat the Earth. I can see where and eco-parable is the movie he was trying to make, but it’s not the movie he wound up making. When the only person that seems real is the one you’re trying to sell as the metaphor, I don’t buy it. It reminded me of nothing more than The Good Woman of Scezhuan written by someone with less political awareness than Brecht had.

The mother has worked meticulously and wants comfort and appreciation. She is given neither, not even from her husband. Even though the house she has lovingly restored theoretically belongs to him. Even though the hospitality he thoughtlessly offers in complete disregard of her comfort with the situation is only important to him. Even though she is living her whole life in the service of his comfort, his vision, his work, he gives her next to nothing. He takes and takes from her without a thought of what he’s taking and at the end of the movie, she dies in fire and he is the one who gets another chance (another wife, another regeneration of the house) to begin again.

We are not killing the earth. We are changing it and making it unliveable for many of the things on it, including ourselves. The Earth will remain. We are the ones who will not. Mother!’s metaphor reads more like the kind of horror woman experiences when she’s trying to fit into patriarchal notions of what a “good woman” is and does and finds out it’s really, really bad for her. That it strips her of energy, time, sympathy and health for the sake of someone else’s work. And how she’s not supposed to complain abougt it at all.

The only way one could miss that feeling utterly from the film is to lack awareness of who women are and what they’ve been asked to do.

Mother! was like a horror film version of The Giving Tree, written from the tree’s perspective. A argumentum ad absurdum of what many women go through every day as they give and they give for partners, for workplaces, for children and for everyone who passes through their lives. Women already do more work than men to keep society running and moving forward. That’s not opinion – studies have shown they do more cleaning, more emotional labor, more childcare, more teaching, more cooking… all these fundamental things without which the coders and hedge fund managers and, yes, poets would wither and die.

You can try to make that a metaphor for something, but really, it’s just life.

[I tried to be as un-spoilery as possible, but it’s difficult to review a film without revealing things about it.]

Romance is generally a genre of story that is deeply wedded to its formulas. Not that there aren’t exceptions in romantic films, but a lot of times if you walk into one, you know what you’re getting and it’s what you’re there for. (Like cheesy action flicks.)

Biopics are similar, just in that, if you go in knowing and liking the person the movie is about, you probably already know at least part of the story you’re about to be told.

It’s always refreshing, and somewhat unnerving, to walk into a film about a person you find interesting and know the general outlines and to be not at all sure how the film will handle its subjects or themes.

I was nervous going into Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. I was delighted by the time I came out. The film’s advantages of centering around a non-traditional romance and telling a story about the relationship and their lives instead of the relationship as their lives set it up to break out of any dramatic romance formulae.

It succeded in being very romantic. Also funny, sexy and dramatic by turns. That two of the real-life folks from which whose lives were drawn the story of the film were badass female academics who were allowed to be strong on screen, and angry, and off-putting pretty much guaranteed that the film would be at least half a win for me. But I was blindsided by my investment in the relationship and interior lives of these three people. I didn’t expect to be crying tears of joy for their successes. I did, though.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women almost reads as a fanfic AU – which I mean in the nicest of ways. It explores problems for unusual people who choose an unusual lifestyle without making the narrative into a moralistic or denigrating tale. It does such a fantastic job of painting its characters early on that you feel like you know them well by the time their biggest troubles hit. I know that both the complexities of the story and the ever after that we get to see in the film are taken from real life, but I did not expect them to be portrayed with such interest and sympathy.

My respect for Rebecca Hall as an actress grows in every film I see her in. She shines in this as the mercurial and brilliant Elizabeth Marston. The film gives her room to be all the things she is – wildly intelligent, bitterly angry at the limitations imposed by her gender roles, defensive of her position, insecure and boastful by turns. And she takes all these qualities and delivers a performance of great depth. The film also allows Marston (who, in spite of the film’s name, does not feel like the film’s primary focus) to be unusual in his own way: deeply invested in emotions, communicative, thoughtful and a great advocate for the rights of women. Bella Heathcote, who plays the pair’s lover, has a quieter kind of strength, but is not portrayed as lesser because of it.

I was captivated by Angela Robinson’s portrayal of complex people and the warm lense through which she invited the viewer into their bond. I think it’s rare in film to see a three-way sex scene portrayed with such emotion and connection as in this film. I adored her work and will be seeking out more of her films in the future.

If you’re in this looking for a deep exploration of Wonder Woman and the creative process behind her inception, this movie will only give you a taste of what you want, but if you’re looking for a deep and moving story about unconventional people, you should definitely check it out.

Some quick things, before the weekend hits.

Here are the things I’m planning to see this weekend:

I definitely want to see Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, and I am planning on attending a local theater’s double feature of Friday the 13th and Friday the 13th: Part 2 which is happening (unsurprisingly) tonight, on Friday the 13th.

Other films I’m interested in and may not get to are: American Made, The Foreigner, Marshall (damn, I feel like I have seen a much greater than average number of biopics this year), The Florida Project, and Lucky.

Lists like that are why even seeing as many movies as I do, there are always some at the end of the year that I really wanted to see but didn’t get the chance.

Streaming Recommendations: 

And if you are looking for something to watch, yourself, this weekend, but you don’t want to leave the house, here are some films to consider:

Colossal is a film with an enchanting and fun premise that earns its R rating by adressing some scary and serious topics. It plays with the tropes of the monster-film genre to address some awful real-life stuff, including unemployment, domestic violence and natural disasters.

Definitely not for kids (and I’m sure not for some adults, as the domestic violence is portrayed realistically and brutally) the film is moving and heavy. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis really sell the emotional reality of the outlandish premise.

Colossal is streaming on Hulu.

The trailer does not give a good sense of the film’s overall mood, but here it is:

On Netflix, if you’re on the ‘cute white guys named Chris’ train at all, you may enjoy Finest Hours [PG-13]- a period piece about a real life story of an audacious Coast Guard rescue off the coast of Massachusetts.

For something more kid-friendly on Netflix, you can’t go wrong with Moana. If you prefer something more obscure, consider Penelope. Starring Christina Ricci it’s a modern-day fairy tale about a girl with a curse who can only break it by finding someone who loves her as she is. The film is waay more fun and waaay less disempowering than that makes it sound.

Enjoy your weekend, kids and kittens!

I was born into the age of the geek.

I know many other nerds of my generation will happily tell how they grew up oppressed and marginalized, bullied at school, isolated with few friends. I have some stories like that, too. How I didn’t have many friends in my year and wound up playing Magic: The Gathering and Warcraft with my little brother’s friends. How I ate lunch in teacher’s rooms, or the school library, just to avoid exposure to other students in the cafeteria…

Those experiences may have helped shape my personality, but no one can call us marginalized now. And, even though science fiction and nerdy games have both been around much longer than I have, arguably the turning point between “science fiction is this weird, niche thing for people who read pulps and see b-movies” to “this is now a huge portion of the common cultural currency” is the release of Star Wars in May of 1977. One day after I was born.

Alec Hardison from Leverage saying 'Age of the geek, baby. Stay strong.'

Now I am so spoiled for choice of scifi and fantasy television, movies and books, that I can be truly selective about what I take in.

I mean, I am not selective, by and large. I still like me some b-movie cheese, for sure. But gone are the days of reading everything in the science fiction section of the library just because they only had so many choices (whyyyy did I read all those Xanth books?). Gone are the days where everyone has the same science fiction knowledge as each other. And gone are the days where knowledge about specific things (Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, They Might Be Giants, Gary Gygax) were the cultural shibboleths we used to determine who was in our exclusive club.

I’d like to think that gone are the days when these things are considered exclusive at all. As my youth has passed away (#pretentiousold), I have become less and less interested in shaming people for what they’re into or for what they haven’t been exposed to for whatever reason, and more interested in sharing things that bring me joy and listening to other folks about what brings them joy.

My housemate and I like to joke that all media safewords are repsected in our house. Everybody has corners they don’t want to poke into and that is fine with me. God knows, I have plenty of my own. And I don’t appreciate it when people try to push on my boundaries or mock me for what they are.

So no mocking, here. No expectations. If this is the age of the geek, then I believe there are rooms for all kinds of geeks in it. I just want to share some of the things that I’m enthusiastic about. And I hope you enjoy.