December, 2017

Dec 17


What’s buggin’ me lately is THE NEW SNOBBERY. Not so much reviewers, though there are some who engage in it, but mostly it’s people at parties or on social media, who just can’t stand it that other people are enjoying things that aren’t their cup of tea; that people are enjoying something like THE LAST JEDI (one guy claimed *the Jedi* were “fascists”!), it’s all so formulaic and actiony and corny or something they say, or like THE SHAPE OF WATER, how dare audiences enjoy the romance, the sentimental parts, the inevitability of the way the story plays out. Or the new STAR TREK, that’s supposedly for the *simple* people. And they claim that The Lord of the Rings movies are (somehow) racist or classist or something, and also designed to entertain, well, other people than the Snobs…They’re even going after A WRINKLE IN TIME..These New Snobs have to constantly take in only film or TV or books that are deeply cynical and everyone dies in the end. Snobbery isn’t new but there’s a new burst of this extra postmodern hyper politically correct looking down on anything that’s a franchise, anything that’s from big studios, type of snobbery…

I dig Bergman and Herzog too, and PBS Masterpiece shows…But looking down on people for enjoying some encouragement, some pure entertainment, a hint of hope and transcendence, as in The Shape of Water and A Wrinkle in Time… It’s intellectual classism…

Dec 17

The One Millionth Off the Cuff Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

We saw STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI today. There are various SW fan community subsets. There are probably more than six, like maybe Wookie fetishists, we don’t talk about those–but basically, far as I can see, there are six. There are Star Wars nerds, Star Wars super nerds; there are Star Wars geeks, who are more detail oriented than the nerds, and SW supergeeks, who are quietly hated by the studios involved, and there are two more: SW Dweebs, and SW Super-Dweebs. SW Dweebs are often somewhere on the autism spectrum, and that is not mocking them, I think I’m on the spectrum somewhere myself; they are a little compulsive and judgemental but they’re good-natured and not usually wrong. Then there are the dreaded super-dweebs. The super-dweebs are all about how THEY want the thing to be; they’re control freaks who can’t tell where their preferences (or pretend preferences for the sake of an imagined self importance) end and crafted entertainment begins. They feel that THE LAST JEDI should be excluded from Star Wars “canon”. They feel it breaks with the big overall story in some way. If it did, I think George Lucas would’ve straightened that out and…it wouldn’t. I don’t see how it does. If you do and want to tell me, message me about it, so we don’t make all six categories wail “Spoilers! You’ve ruined my life!” What I want to say to the super-dweeb SW fans is, *if you think this movie is all wrong, you didn’t listen closely enough to Master YODA’s spectral comments in the movie.* They’re also missing some philosophical depth I haven’t seen before.

We liked THE LAST JEDI a lot. I personally agree with some reviewer who said it’s the best SW movie since THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Those who growl about JJ Abrams should take note that the director is also the writer, and he is Rian Johnson who wrote the movie BRICK which won a special prize at Sundance; he won numerous other awards in his relatively short film/TV career. He wrote and directed LOOPER which I now want to see, he wrote three episodes of BREAKING BAD. The guy is a masterful director, as you can see in THE LAST JEDI, and a very good scripter. And whoever oversaw the editing should win a best film editor Oscar. The editing was great–suspense and pacing in it, superb. Someone was bitching it was draggy. Whaaat? Lots of action, it thumps right along, and the non-action scenes pulse with drama and flash with humor.

The script uses a good deal of humor, in a balanced way, which I always enjoy. It was good, effective humor. There are all kinds of cool creatures in this thing–my favorite is the weird oceanside creature that Luke Skywalker actually milks.Yes, he milks an alien and drinks that milk right up. Spoiler, Luke milks an alien, oh no! …Hamill is excellent in this, my wife thinks his best performance ever and I think so too…I loved the sophisticated but evil interplanetary casino in this movie…And Carrie Fisher. I’m not a terribly sentimental guy but boy the scenes with her affected me. She was very good, and…my wife and I squeezed each other’s hands and said, “Carrie!” (We’ve read her books, seen docs on her, saw her live in person in her one-woman show.) …I just wanted to say that Adam Driver was way better in this one. He rediscovered his gravitas, his anger, his timing. Better director I’d guess.

There’s a scene at the end that my wife thinks may be (unconsciously?) inspired by a scene at the end of the movie of CAMELOT…it worked, anyway… There are a few special effects and a few props and set items I thought could’ve been realer…but it didn’t really matter. The movie has winning ways, if you’re not a super-dweeb…oh and Chewbacca has a bit more character development in this, and one very amusing scene.

BTW, did you know that Wookies make good eating? They’re delicious. What are they like to eat? They’re Chewie.

Now is that joke nerdy or dweeby or…

Dec 17

I’m a Supporter of Transgender Rights & I Can’t Stand the Term Cisgender

Okay, I say this objection is NOT political. I can’t stand the term cisgender or cismale or cisfemale, as promulgated by people who imagine they’re progressive (even though they’e engaging in linguistically incorrect name calling) for people who are Just the Gender They Were Born In. People (rarely actual transgender people) who feel we must resort to assaulting English to supposedly prove some point, are, dare I use the term, bozos.

“Calling me a bozo is pejorative!” Yes it is. You deserve a real pejorative. And cisgender as a term SOUNDS pejorative and I do not believe them when they say it doesn’t and I do not believe them when they say it’s not intended, consciously or unconsciously, to be negative sounding, ugly, and like hanging a sign over someone. “Wear this armband that says cisgender,” she sneered.

If that’s not what’s going on why is it pretty much always in a negative context that they use the term? “Cisgenders oppressed me today.” No–ASSHOLES oppressed you. That’s why we have terms like ASSHOLES to talk about certain kinds of jerks who are abusive–whether to girl scouts or postal workers or to gay persons or transgender persons. It was a cretin, a jerk, a putz, a schmuck, an asshole–it was not a cisgender person oppressing you. Because that term doesn’t exist just because you and a few thousand other people say it does, or because some rare college professor pretends to like it.

And is the term cisgender ugly, oh yes. It sounds like cess-gender. It has a hiss-sound at the beginning of it.

I’m SORRY I have had one definite gender from birth, okay? I’m SORRY it’s my birth gender and I’m not bothered by the gender. Happy now? But aren’t transgender people supposed to know what gender they are psychologically, inwardly, and so on, from an early age? “I’ve always known I was female, so I’m transing to female.” And that’s fine with me. I believe you! But if you always knew you were female, shouldn’t we say you’re cisgender? You weren’t assigned that, true, by the outside world, but you assigned that, or knew that you were always female…so…you were always that gender. So you’re arguably cisgender. Which means the term is extra lame.

This isn’t political because accepting transgender folks is not a political thing, it’s a human decency thing. That’s how they are, it hurts no one, just accept them. And don’t call people phony categorization names.

Dec 17

A Hole in the Heart of America

Not a terribly big asteroid. But one enough to punch a great hole in the heart of America. Its impact on the USA is just the beginning–the shockwaves spread out from there…In the case of the asteroid the explosion rains particles of Earth and asteroid, darkening great parts of the world… That’s what comes to my mind, when I think about TRUMP. It’s not the end of the world or, technically, the end of the United States. It’s the maiming of America; it’s the crippling, of America… When I think about Scott Pruitt, like all that darkening debris, all that toxic dust from the asteroid…When I think about the tax plan. Great numbers of people dying in the cold darkness. The sudden impact, then the slow progress of America’s black lung disease… I want to think about something else.

Dec 17


We’re gonna see the new Star Wars pic tomorrow, I hear it’s good despite some whiny hyper-nerd fans, and my wife has given me a sharp look as she warns me not to bitch about the following during the movie:

the one thing that annoys me about Star Wars movies in general is the Storm Troopers apparently have armor made out of eggshells, and not just because it looks that way, but because if you merely, say, sneeze at them they fall over dead. It’s the galaxy’s most useless armor. it deflects nada, nothing. Punch them, shoot them with anything, they instantly die. If they can manage it, several will die from one shot. “Fellow stormtroopers, line up so more of us can die from one blaster shot!” Also apparently their helmets are designed to make them the worst shots, the worst at aiming, in the galaxy far far away.

Dec 17

‘An Alarming Number Of People Think “The Martian” Is A True Story’

Buzzfeed reported that large number sof people believe that the movie about an astronaut trapped on Mars is a true story.

I shake my fist at the vast abyss, like fifty grand canyons cut into the landscape of knowledge in our country…I shout damn you, damn you, and my voice comes echoing back to me…I shake my fist at ignoramuses who’re squandering their minds on their cellphones and ESPN and who are voting against money for libraries…and for more money for coliseums where brain damage is regularly manufactured…I shake my fist at the dearth of science education…I shake my fist, then I bow my head and shuffle back into my house, so discouraged I dont’ have the strength to slam the door…

Dec 17

Off the Cuff review of THE SHAPE OF WATER

We saw THE SHAPE OF WATER tonight. This fine film is the overall-best del Toro film I’ve ever seen. His films are always rewarding but this one is the best-balanced, the best paced, the most effective. It only cost 20 mil to make and it’s in limited release right now but it’ll be a success for him and will get many award nominations. Sally Hawkins is superb in this as the mute girl who encounters a strange creature trapped in a secret govt lab–a creature which, yes, was probably in part inspired by the Creature from the Black Lagoon. And there is a line in the film that seems an homage to that movie. But this isn’t some kind of sequel concept or reboot of Creature from the BL. This is a branch, an offshoot, a volunteer growth with a life of its own. It is its own movie. It’s not at all dependent on that film. It’s a way better film too (though actually the C from the BL is a damned good movie of its kind).

THE SHAPE OF WATER shows us once more that an auteur with a good vision is always way better than a lot of creatures from the green-fixated studio–always better than a movieĀ  underĀ  significant studio control. del Toro co-wrote and directed and it’s a seamless vision. There are a couple of dream sequences, in a sense, and a surreal quality that never is too heavy handed. There’s just enough of it…I don’t want to say too much because it’d risk spoilers. There are surprises in the story, and there are things that probably play out the way you thought they would, but this film has no shortage of suspense, you’ll probably never feel bored. Unless of course you have no goddamn heart…I’ll just finish by saying that sometimes I thought of the French movie Amelie, oddly enough, but it reminds me more of the better Tim Burton films except this does human feeling, suffering, romance, far better than Burton could. Oh and actually all the actors in this are really, really good.

Dec 17

A Simple Dilemma: The Internet Intensifies Idiocy

There are a thousand complex, nuanced theses about the value of the internet and, alternately, about its destruction of values. But I suspect the main thing to be concerned with is madly simple. It is this: the internet magnifies stupidity. It’s like one of those converters that boosts voltage…the voltage of sheer stupid. It’s like insistently wearing the wrong prescription glasses–glasses intended for clarity suddenly make things blurrier. Lenses that increase blur! The internet intensifies imbecility. If we quantify stupidity, if we look at stupidity as a kind of data-set, we can see that the internet tends to magnify it. It’s like gravity, erosion, and where the water goes.

We can blame the internet for the astounding increase of people who are *not joking* when they insist that, yes, the world is flat. This is a THING now. We actually, truly have to get in complex arguments explaining that no, those pictures from space aren’t faked, no, planes aren’t flying around the edges of a disc, no no no. They overlap with the clueless clods who claim we didn’t land on the moon…Conspiracy-theory political groups, radically idiotic racists, were relegated to a tiny little corner before the internet. But the web allowed them to find one another and they propagated ideologically on the web, using its cheap marketing methods to sell ideas…and Alex Jones became a big name, an actual success, who influences the President of the United States. The people who claim that gun massacres are faked–they propagate their fallacy through the internet.

You can choose your filter, your bubble of pseudo-info on the internet. You need never get another point of view–ironically–if you just keep following the same links in a moronic circle reinforcing falsehoods. The internet is the greatest tool of the Big Lie. Repeat, repeat, and repeat in variations. And its superpower is this: it rewards laziness and impulsiveness, it rewards what’s low in us…

Oh I could go on and on with examples…Like the degree to which it helped Trump get elected…Yes, I know I’m using the internet to say this, and intelligent people magnify one another on the web too–but we are in the minority. Because thinking requires thinking–it requires effort. It requires a willingness to engage complexity. The internet seems designed (or has devolved) to do a better job of spreading lies than truth; of supporting stupidity instead of sense.

We have to find some proactive way to change the goddamn thing before it gives us permanent societal brain damage.

Dec 17

My off the cuff review of the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie

Superman, Superman, does whatever a soup-can can. . .We finally got it together to see JUSTICE LEAGUE and we both enjoyed it. You know, I’ve been waiting 55 years to see this movie. I wanted such a movie when I was ten…My ten year old self watches it with me, as if sitting on my lap, and he was goggled eyed with pleasure. My older self simply enjoyed it… The complaints I’ve heard are, one, villain didn’t have enough characterization/background. What, they want to show this ancient godlike being weeping because his mother abandoned him or something? (Actually he does have mother issues of a sort…) He’s just not that kind of character. No, he’s a force of nature. He’s more of a Jack Kirby comic book character. And he is one, too. Kirby left Marvel for awhile and created the New Gods for DC, which are referenced, along with Darkseid… You want more characterization, go for Lex Luthor.

Two, people bitched CGI not up to speed, other FX not up to speed. I dunno. It’s *not the same* as the Marvel Productions style of CGI. It looks more like something from a comic book, without being cartoony. Marvel’s look (at its best) is always grittier, somehow, a little more fully dimensional. But I think this is about a company style. Oh maybe it could’ve been a little better, in Justice League. But it was still in the upper echelon of CGI.

Three, complaints about the action. Mostly I found it quite easy to follow, though there was a certain patchiness now and then. In truth, Zack Snyder can be a tad clunky, in editing and in the way he shoots dialogue between two people, for example… But it was still a delight to the ten year old in me and worked well enough for the adult. The adult noticed that some of the byplay between League heroes didn’t quite come off. I blame the director. He’s not terrible but he could’ve worked everyone harder.

I think fans today are spoiled. They expect too much. To me, if a superhero movie is reasonably coherent–especially one with all these heroes–and if it is more or less internally logical, and looks pretty good, I feel lucky. I shake my fist at the spoiled fans and tell them to get off lawn…There are many delights in the film. The guy who plays the Flash is a lot of fun, is funny, has good timing and has a *wonderful* face. He could play an elf or a Vulcan. Enjoyable character. Aquaman, a powerful presence–you know how people are said to have been raised by wolves? He acts like he was raised by California surfers. It works for him. Wonder Woman a pleasure as always. Opening scene with her in action was one of the best things in the film…Fierce! In fact you get to see a whole bunch of fierce muscular Amazons really roaring through combat and some guys I know will re-run that part over and over, their eyes wide…Opening scene with Batman in action was very like old comics, which was something I loved.. His behavior toward the burglar toward the end of that scene puzzled me though…And of course the return of Superman, which I very much dug–that’s no spoiler, it’s in the trailers…The interaction, bickering and teamwork, between the heroes was entertaining….Cyborg character worked well–the actor manages to project big charisma despite all the metal on his face…

Hard to make a film like this, with so many superheroes, really flow smoothly. They juggled all the balls well enough…This is an “origins” movie of the Justice League and it worked fine as one. I give it Three …what? Three hero fists? Three batarangs? Three lightning bolts?