Glass (2019) review

I have a complicated opinion of Glass. I’m a comic book guy so I found something in it interesting re myth and how-it-would-happen-in-reality of it all. Also there are some interesting things about how the modern world fights a more reactionary right and wrong moral vision (heroes and villains etc), it softens real consequences by doping us up but that also impedes an actualized way of living. More on this later.

That’s about all I can say without offering spoilers but I wish there was a sequel to Glass for the ideas to be more fleshed out. If the “ideas” portion of the film doesn’t interest you, you might as well walk out after the first 20 minutes and the first big confrontation in the warehouse.

There are three things that I might touch on when reviewing a film. The first is “should you see this film?” This is easy, yes or no, thumbs up or thumbs down. It’s a recommendation. If you’re a comicbook guy like me, you’ll like this, you’ll like the thought exercise, maybe you’ll like the limited grounded action or maybe you liked Split and want to spend more time with all of that. But I just made a pivot, a pivot that included number two of what I touch on, “What is this?”

Asking what a movie *is* is asking about the truth of the thing. Maybe it’s formally, are there striking frames, showy moves, performances, how the VFX renders, and it gets more complicated from there. What words are spoken, how do they contrast with the images, what’s the plot, how does it come across, what ideas are behind the lilt of the portrayal, what does it suggest. You can connect the two.

“If you’re a comicbook guy”

“if you like the thought exercise, grounded action or Split”

These are statements about the content in a kind of bland surface way. My third touchstone is if the movie *succeeds* which is a kind of subset of #2 and #1 depending on your judgement about how and why it does, what you can expect and what you want as a viewer.

I don’t think Glass succeeds. I think it wants to be a genuinely thrilling, inspiring blockbuster driven by thoughtful ideas. There *are* ideas but the attempts at thrills and action don’t exactly satiate. This is the “first 20 minutes and the first big confrontation in the warehouse” marker at the top of this review. You’ve got to be in it for more than a success as a genre piece. The how-it-would-happen-in-reality action tries to do both and there are some unique, crafted images but it’s not enough to overcome the clunky delivery.

Don’t think of this as a review, not after this point.

The goal from now on will be to discuss the ideas within Glass beyond that surface way. There’s only so much you can say to recommend something without spoiling it. There’s the added problem that a recommendation is a kind of subtraction, a subtraction from all the other things in the world you could be doing.

If I’m really *telling* you to do something, you should go to Sunday School or learn the catechism. People write down the really important stuff as codes and traditions. How exactly can mere artifacts, trashy popular art and superheroes stand up to that? They can’t and they can.

Codes and Traditions are narrow and rightly narrow because they are specific. Baptists aren’t Presbyterians, aren’t Islamists, aren’t Mormons, aren’t Naturalized American Citizens (the citizenship test is a kind of tradition!), aren’t NBA Basketball Players etc. People do specific things and claim specific identities but movies are secular goods, shared culture and like any symbol – open. Open to interpretation and open to everyone even outside of their own time if they are preserved right. We don’t necessarily agree on the strictest truths but we can point to truth that can be shared, that exists out in the world as observable rather than as specific experience or belief in divine revelation.

Interpretation, engaging with the symbol requires referring to it. This is the difference between the first part and the second part of this non-review. I’m assuming you’ve actually seen the thing or at least are ok with discussing the thing as the thing not as something behind a curtain.

So let’s spoil Glass.

*SPOILERS FOR GLASS*

The reading that makes Glass interesting to me: it’s about miracles.

The fictional anthropological theory for how there are real superheroes and villains (kinda dumb if you think about it for too long but let’s do that) is that THEY EXIST but they need a kind of community faith. They need to be jolted out of obscurity by a circumstance, they need to believe in themselves and others need to believe in them. There’s an easing in this theory, if we are to have a world of heroes throwing cars, you need a hero just tipping a car first. Heroes must *emerge* in this way.

In this way, the idea is you would need to accept a small miracle before a big miracle because the acceptance, not the miracle is the key to the miraculousness. The heroes and villains in Glass think they are the first, hopefully of many.

All of this is textual, usually in Mr Glass’s limited monologues and it doesn’t exactly have much of a dramatic underpinning other than just being a self aware aid to the audience understanding how the characters emerge in the story. Mr Glass was once Little Mr Glass and he suffers a trauma as a youth. Painfully rendered, his bones crushing in different ways because he just wants to experience the joy of a carnival ride like a regular kid.

As a result he visits trauma upon the other super characters and they emerge and develop as a result. Trauma to be birthed and then a drop of faith that makes the whole world of super heroics possible.

Think of the logical jumps of people who believe in the supernatural, how most people who believe in that kind of thing mostly just have stories, some sort of canon to trust or easily deniable viral videos. Like the son of David Dunn, maybe it’s personal experience, what did you see really? Think of faith stories, people being born again, people who fall away and say it was all a lie or there was some other explanation.

It’s that, for superheroes and it’s all too blatant. This is the psych doctor’s area of study and all the tangible details that she presents as justification are too easily dismissed by the audience because we’ve seen the other movies. We’ve been converted already and that’s why this movie doesn’t really work. It tries to engender *real* doubt.

At least there’s now an experience I can point to now that can explain in some way what it’s like to be born again. I’m a Calvinist. This is the joke about us. We’re certain. I’m certain. I know already in my bones. I can’t unsee the sun. We can’t unsee David Dunn lifting those weights on an untrained dadbod.

This isn’t an experience limited to just my religious subgroup. Mr Glass is *the* true believer, his belief leads him to do terrible things and here we see something insidious, something thoughtful that I love about this film. The neoliberal modernists, the real villains who squelch faith, squelch a greater reality.

That’s right.

The real villains of Glass are the ruling class neoliberals who value stasis over conflict, warm professional blazer wearing half-reality over the exciting beyond, hoping to institutionalize, lock away the things that actually matter.

In a way, they aren’t wrong. Mr Glass *is* evil. His belief drives him to blow up a train! Evangelism by trauma is bad! But this secret society, they’re an over-correction. They rob the world of its magic. They rob society of wonder, stakes and power. All in the name of non-conflict. But non-conflict is not the same as good winning. That’s the key here. Killing good on the road to kill evil is a mistake!

Consider who Mr Glass is. He’s the least able. He’s a genius of course but physically he’s twitching, alone in his chair for most of the movie. Then it happens, he punctures the neoliberal, modernist equilibrium with a shard of glass. He kills a man. Even the weakest are able to puncture our shared calm. A bomb strapped to a child, a couple of men with box cutters on a plane. Bad shit!

If only there was a way to puncture the calm without killing? The word we are looking for is conflict. True conflict, honest conflict. Reactionaries might think *physical* or *violent* conflict is true conflict but in secularism, dialogue is conflict. You’ve got to let good and evil fight in the abstract. You’ve got to let people believe trusting they won’t set off a bomb. You can’t institutionalize us, neutralize our conception of good. You’ve got to let people walk around in a rain poncho when you think water gives life rather than takes it away.

Maybe one day they’ll do something that’s undeniable, that’s unequivocal good. Maybe one day you’ll see.

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2018, Movie Year in Review

2018 was a patchy year for movies for me. I definitely watched fewer than in the past. The pure lists in order of viewing, with my Letterboxd reaction and unranked are at the very bottom.

You can find my Letterboxd here: https://letterboxd.com/mattheimiller/

Before that I’ve got a couple areas to highlight.

Solid Drama: Ladybird, Amateur, I, Tonya, Widows, Bad Times at the El Royale, First Man, The Favourite, Leave No Trace, Eighth Grade, Blindspotting, mid90s, A Star Is Born

Best Time Machines: 2001 A Space Odyssey, JAWS, Rebel Without A Cause

Top Tier Westerns: Hostiles, The Sisters Brothers, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (VERY MIXED and should be evaluated one short at a time, they are all very different)

Easy to Rec: The Marvel Films (Ant Man 2, Black Panther, Avengers Infinity War), A Quiet Place, Mission Impossible, Blackkklansman

Sci Fi that’s Trying Something: Annihilation, Hotel Artemis, Upgrade

Comedy: Game Night, Death of Stalin, Instant Family

Crazy Action: ManHunt and The Night Comes For Us, The First Purge, Bodied

Incredible, Must See Docs: Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Minding the Gap, Generation Wealth (this one is a little bit graphic about how culture of capitalism/materialism can worm its way into our very bodies so be warned it’s not for kids)

Basketball (yes it gets its own category): Uncle Drew, Amateur,

Underrated and Forgotten: Alpha, Ready Player One (the texture is potentially very abrasive but Spielberg doesn’t make bad movies)

Horror Fix: Hereditary, Unfriended Dark Web

Best Fat Suit Performance: 15:17 to Paris

Best Movie That Really Came Out in 2017: Lady Bird

Best Liam Neeson: Widows

Serviceable Genre (no insulting shortcuts, product as advertised): Bumblebee, Deadpool 2/Once Upon A Deadpool, Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, Incredibles 2, Paddington 2

Genre Misses (though with at least some interesting element in the greater overarching failure): Mile 22, Cloverfield Paradox, The Predator, Venom, Overlord, A Private War, Crazy Rich Asians (conventional to a fault), Wreck It Ralph 2, Robin Hood, Creed 2

Genre Regrets (completely forgettable): Fantastic Beasts 2, Aquaman, The Meg

Misc Other Should be Forgotten/Walk Out/Wish I Walked Out (please don’t see these): Christopher Robin, Tag, The Happytime Murders, Flower, Mortal Engines, Mute

Movies Released This Year OR Movies I Saw In Theaters:

    • Lady Bird –Everything you have heard is true.

      Looking forward to what’s next for all the creative involved.

    • 15:17 to Paris –Good moments in this film:
      – the stilted portrait of being a kinda dumb but earnest kid in the 2000s
      – the little get in shape vignette
      – the actual train sequence which seems like the only thing Clint Eastwood actually touched… the rest is second unit quality made worse by non actors but if you know this going in you can look past it for the normies tell their story angle

      All in all, not great. In the film’s defense, any biopic is going to have problems, even more because they cast the actual people involved in the focus of the film. So exactly the problem is why it could be interesting. Never got a sense for the people beyond those few moments listed though.

    • 12 Strong –The cast is incredible. Could have used more Michael Shannon. Constrained by real events.

      The long shadow of the practical Afghanistan horse stunts in Rambo 3 still stretches. Nothing tops that here.

      Fine. First half is the better half. Someone in the camera department really liked that Sicario silhouette thing. They try it twice in a helicopter and walking establishing shots. Nothing revolutionary here.

    • The Commuter –Falls… off the rails. I’m so sorry.

      It’s actually pretty ok. On the level with the other collaborative efforts between Neeson and this director. More here

    • Hostiles – A must see
    • Black Panther – Solid Marvel. Better on the second watch! You know what the film is, you know all the proper nouns and you can appreciate the comic booky small things!
    • The Maze Runner: The Death Cure – Another one better than it had any right to be. The running should be tedious by the third installment but somehow the schlock sticks the landing however that may be possible with this terrible mush mash material.
    • Mute –Mute wants to be Blade Runner and Layer Cake but comes off like edgelord doctor who potpourri.

      these actors, the production department, this cinematic universe- they all deserved better.

      with the exception of the woodworking, Mute is the opposite of Moon

      It gets needlessly ultra dark with this child predation subplot that goes nowhere, 90% of it is texture for texture’s sake and while some wacky elements and inspired futurism hit, there’s nothing tethering this movie after they kill the love story and drag our Amish guide past a point where there isn’t any reasonable expectation that his choices matter… if he can even make them in such a world so unsuited to him

      I wanted to love this movie but I hate it

    • The Cloverfield Paradox (Netflix) – I actually had a lot of fun with this one but I won’t be seeing it again. Yeah it’s rough. Kinda watching it while doing something else Netflix fair is going to become its own subset. Honestly liked the last second Cloverfield tie in and wanted more of that. The arm was cool too. Great cast, not worth a theater ticket but fine for its venue.
    • Early Man –a conventional sports film (how many of those do we even get anymore!) wrapped in a pg hand animation spectacular (how many of those do we get anymore!) that doesn’t transcend either genre.

      I hate to say it’s fine, but it’s fine. Go watch this animation house’s catalog, even the most recent Shaun The Sheep film has a bit more going on. Wish there were more of these period, hard to make the case to general audiences when this is all that comes out once every three years.

    • Annihilation – It’s fun to look at, the characters are sketched and performed well regardless of the sci-fi and cumulative meaning of the film, but the ultimate pay off was a little bit Indiana Jones 4/Day The Earth Stood Still for me. More here
    • Game Night –A real throwback, you’d almost wish it would stay closer to farce. The practical action stunts sing though.

      Date night movie for sure.

    • I, Tonya – Best you can hope for when it comes to biopics, what a traumatic life
    • Good Time – a picture of low life poverty scumbag crime, one wild night with a mumblecore ending that makes you ask, “what was all this for?”
    • Ready Player One – the popcorn movie’s popcorn movie, the only good video game movie?
    • Chappaquiddick – wow these were terrible people
    • A Quiet Place – So simple so solid
    • Amateur (Netflix) – solid basketball photography, such spot on coach performance. The answer to corrupt fake education sports system’s is competition from markets in Europe???
    • The Death of Stalin – Dark
    • Avengers: infinity war –

      A good time for sure. Comic book af

      Spider-Man’s “I’m sorry” still gets me. What’s this the fourth time I’ve seen it

    • ManHunt (Netflix) – such Woo
    • Deadpool 2 – Absolute trash but you know what you’re in for because this is the second one. Josh Brolin doing way way better work than he ever needs to do
    • Ocean’s 8 – fine but not as good as the other films, you just can’t replace Soderbergh
    • Hotel Artemis –At its best when the characters just get to talk.

      Where is the train passengers/bottle murder masterpiece Renaissance we all want and need

    • Hereditary –Uhhh, the naked cultists got some laughs in my theater

      Excellently made of course

    • Upgrade – A solid genre entry, we’ll have to see how the object tracked action ages.
    • The Incredibles 2 –the short before this film Bao, even better the second time.

      Thematics of the feature are more noticeably mixed on second viewing

    • Superfly – the costuming and guns were good! The dirtbag white trash cops are something you never see because even like, David Ayer is too reverent.
    • Tag – Go rent Game Night instead
    • Adrift – ultimately walked out because of audience trouble, slow and by the numbers but great if you want to watch attractive people fall in love on a boat
    • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – all I can think about is how much money this movie will make… I guess that means I think it’s pretty not great
    • Won’t You Be My Neighbor – It’ll destroy you
    • Uncle Drew – 9 times out of 10 they go for something sincere rather than a joke????
    • Ant Man and the Wasp – between this and Deadpool 2 we’ve attained the perfect equivalent disposability of a comic book
    • The First Purge – best one yet and the action! The breakout star! The conservative values!
    • Unfriended: Dark Web – Liked the supernatural take of the first better
    • The Equalizer 2 – Like Jack Reacher 2, a redundancy the world could have done without.
    • Sorry To Bother You – Wow they went full horse people
    • Mission Impossible: Fallout – Viewing 1: Bathroom fight goes in the canon. The rest is fine. Some of the interiors are sexy as hell – Viewing 2: Better the second time for sure. After the London escape the film kinda falls down, relying on the “I am the master of all your pain” and tech mumbo jumbo to secure a happy ending disconnected from the excellent film that came before. The helicopter stuff doesn’t ever quite crosscut well. This ending and the ex wife continuity due diligence could be excised for a much shorter and crisper film but nobody wants the bad guys to win soooooAlso, once you know this is coming you can largely turn your brain off for that portion. I can’t help but think drawing attention to the surreptitiousness of Ethan Hunt’s successes so literally in the text helps the series. The rope fight as well in the last portion occupies time I wish the film spent saying something.

      Like a Nolan bros film if they weren’t preoccupied with throwing in whatever philosophical, political and semiotic snarl has caught them in a given phase.

    • Blackkklansman –The break from reality in this story (the bombing at the end which is fictionalized) acts as a nominal rebuke of conservative black voices (Stallworth/Obama) without being fabricated wholecloth. Bbombings can happen, they did happen. In the final twist, only the dumbness of the Klan was their undoing. The system went unchanged… or at least that seems to be the thesis behind this pro good cop biopic-y piece which counterbalances its triumph and romance with this stunning clarity. At the same time I don’t think it’s cynical which is so important, it lets us have fun with the good cops who get the bad guys.

      Spike Lee remains an interesting filmmaker whose films are ALWAYS worth exploring but some mix of the constraint of the often funny true narrative story and the weighty implications of the real villains… idk if you’re going to be happy. It’s not an escape and it’s not a solution.

      In my book that means it’s uniquely good.

      Great performances, charisma to spare, wildly watchable and quietly humane. Go see it.

    • Teen Titans Go: to the movies –It wants to be PG Deadpool and it has one really good batman dead parents joke but the sum total is a feature length Saturday morning cartoon that services “I get that reference” nerd dads while their children suffer through the nonsense (or worse, enjoy it).

      I didn’t have a bad time but it’s not a good movie.

    • The Meg – It’s like a star wars prequel without the things that make those movies good
    • Dog Days – Pretty much a web series, drags like one
    • Mile 22 – Peter Berg is more self-aware than people think he is
    • Alpha – Better use of comps than most Blockbusters out there. Real simple, real throwback Disney feel. Great underwater photography 👌
    • Crazy Rich Asians – Fine, It’s romance mostly, not a yuckster comedy or anything. Very traditional! And American!
    • Christopher Robin – hated and walked out, weirdly, needlessly dour with a horror film animation team doing the stuffed characters you are supposed to love
    • Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring
    • Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers
    • The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King
    • 2001: A Space Odyssey – Wow ok
    • The Happytime Murders –Weirdly, the straightforward noir elements work the best but all the actors think they’re in a The Muppets film so they’re not playing it as straight as the main PI character.

      It’s also unforgivable for being not funny

    • The Predator –There’s a whole sub genre of way too mythological Nth sequels that really really don’t do much of anything beyond deliver details or texture.

      With that said, this movie feels like a relic of 1990 or something, uniquely terrible and the kind of deep cut trashy thing you love to watch but don’t expect anyone to deliberately make in 2018 the year of our lord.

      The Transformers: The Last Knight of the predator universe

    • (TCM Classic revival) Rebel Without a Cause
    • Venom – Ok sure???
    • Minding the Gap – Go see this doc: trauma, class and real world 90s an 2000s American masculinity. More than any of that, the individual human being’s choice, feelings, growth and transgression. Also skateboarding but that’s just the beginning.
    • Bad Times at the El Royale – a real throwback. Very fragmented and digressive structure. The finale is like if a Tarantino bro did Silence mixed with the “this is fine” meme.
    • The Sisters Brothers – 👌👌👌
    • First Man – So… Grim
    • The Old Man and The Gun – a biopic, Redford charms
    • A Star Is Born – Wow yea this was great
    • Bodied – DEFINITELY SOMETHING
    • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – Those shadows 👌👌👌
    • Overlord –Overlord… I didn’t read any reviews but everyone probably compared it to a video game adaption

      It’s genre, it’s plotty, the characters never really break out of their archetypical roles, there’s not really a point ideologically or anything like that

      a couple of conventional set ups, lots of gore make-up, nazi bad guys who are really bad!

      but idk if it’s anything more than all those textural elements… and since the action didn’t work for me, the movie doesn’t work

      actors trying really hard tho, solid cast could use better script

    • A Private War –Idk man, the cynicism that says kinda rightly, “sadbrand neoliberal journalism is just another form of adventurism” kinda runs up against a wall when the film ends with “500,000 innocents killed” because we did not intervene

      Inexplicable nudity????

    • Widows –It’s nice to have top shelf genre in theaters.

      The distance between this film and a Triple 9 or a Sleepless is not as great as it could have been. A good time for sure with a different perspective

    • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – just a hair better than Jupiter Ascending! Not good!
    • Wreck It Ralph 2 – More learning annex lesson with a simple moral than anything else. Fine I guess
    • Robin Hood –Not good! Doesn’t say anything! Isn’t dumb enough!

      They start off with this wild, Iraq-War-With-Bow-And-Arrow bit. The arrows explode like bullets. Black hawk down/zero dark thirty vibes just a tiny bit. Never really returns to that, would have loved to see the irreality and that metaphor turned up to 11.

    • Generation Wealth (Amazon Instant) – wow ok
    • Once Upon A Deadpool
    • Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse – of the two comic books they are adapting, I have more affection for the Miles Morales origin. That story is give an eighth of the time it needs in service of the drama reducing multiple universes macguffin. The other 7/8s of the story are all other spider-mans who get their own origins. Light and fun but not a coherent synthesis of the two stories they are pulling from, frustrating light and dark tonal shifts. Infinite possibilities and serendipitous lack of actual effective character choice but also incredibly punishing deaths. Not for me, love the characters and goofs tho. 
    • Aquaman – Absolutely trash, not the good kind
    • The Mule –Clint Eastwood looks like he’s about to die, the digital de aging is terrible.

      Idk what this is other than kind of the minimum amount of acceptable. Like The Old Man And The Gun but for an old guy who has threesomes with cartel money rather than a monogamous feel good bank robber.

    • Bumblebee –a competent blockbuster, the first in the transformers franchise

      the current glut of terrible competition and the previous terrible entries might be enough to convince you this one is good, serviceable is the better word

      This should be the minimum amount

    • The Favourite – an incredibly prescient film about modern dating and how cruel it is
    • Mortal Engines – a bunch of new useless meaningless proper nouns, I walked out before the final battle because there’s just no reason to care
    • Creed 2 – Unfortunately the script never quite gets past the Wikipedia Plot Summary outlining stage of dramatization but the actors are all very compelling and the good will from Creed brings this sequel into a serviceable, forgettable safe harbor with some stunning images of muscle guys hitting themselves, others, the ground and heavier things.
    • Leave No Trace –This is a performances movie that needs time to breathe and grow with the characters.

      You might have been able to get away with this feature length film being made merely as a short but in a theater you won’t feel the drag.

      If stillness bothers you or the premise offends or confounds, it won’t be for you.

      An all time church flag dance scene. A woodsy father daughter delight.

    • Eighth Grade – Sicario for relationships and growing up, loved the dumb sweetie chicken nuggets date at the end
    • Blindspotting – something else! the depiction of violence is startling and immediate. Heartfelt, funny at times
    • Three Identical Strangers – Fine
    • Flower –this movie starts at a place way past fucked up.

      Just as a comparison, the movie Nightcrawler spends the whole running time making you feel dirtier and dirtier, more and more complicit until you finally understand both the main character and what he does. It’s an incredible film.

      THIS MOVIE on the other hand, STARTS way past that films end point in terms of dirtiness and complicity but without all that dramatic work. It’s alienating to say the least.

    • mid90s –Everything you’ve heard about it hitting the nostalgia spot, capturing a moment- it’s all true. It’s a great work that, with the exception of a few faces you’ll know, feels delivered from a time machine/capsule.

      As to the moral component, the film is wildly clear eyed, maybe to a fault. 8 more paragraphs here

    • Paddington 2 – Touch my little heart
    • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs –Better understood as a series of shorts. I wish they were catalogued that way! Instead it’s a bloated feature presentation when breaks between segments would do them good, focused viewing.

      They are pretty dense and the tone shift of connecting the shorts as a single work makes an uninterrupted viewing a bit of a pill.

      The craftsmanship is undeniable but the packaging yells “work” to the average viewer. This is not the creative direction’s fault, must watch but feel free to pause in between and come back later.

    • The Night Comes For Us –An interesting evolution for this kind of film from this part of the world. You got a heel turn from Iko, a sprawling cast, more women combatants, non-repetitive interesting setups with the firearms.

      It’s a muddy plot and imo the action doesn’t take off until the pool table but maybe the best martial arts action we got this year in that final fight.

    • Instant Family – Beautiful little film, surprisingly funny

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movies Not Released This Year:

  • The Road Warrior
  • The Mask Of Zorro
  • Heat
  • Bullitt
  • The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
  • Coco
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Miami Vice
  • Collateral
  • The Informant!
  • Thief
  • Doctor Strange
  • Ant Man
  • Michael Clayton
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Speed Racer
  • The Big Lebowski
  • The Town
  • Heist
  • Two Days in the Valley
  • Out of Sight
  • Bullet to the Head
  • The Prince of Egypt
  • Treasure Planet
  • Welcome to Collinwood
  • Be Kind Rewind
  • Mission Impossible
  • The Carter Effect
  • High Fidelity
  • The Score
  • The Social Network
  • Inside Out
  • Small Crimes
  • The Incredibles
  • The Godfather part 3
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Baby Driver
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Noah
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Space Cop
  • Marvel’s The Avengers
  • Oceans 12
  • Miami Connection
  • Warm Bodies
  • The Emperor’s New Groove
  • Iron Man 3
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2
  • The Bourne Identity
  • The Primary Instinct
  • Brick
  • Interstellar
  • Blood Simple
  • A Christmas Story
  • Elf
  • The Greatest Showman
  • It’s A Wonderful Life
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2018, TV Year In Review

It’s already too late for a 2018 retrospective, it’s 2019! So for purely archival purposes I’ve included a brief summary of my year in movies and TV.

TV Released This Year:

It was the year of the miniseries and so many of them were great!

Godless brought the western to the small screen, an epic about Men and Women, Absence and Civilization, the Cold Wilderness and the Warm Home. Just capitalize some great western nouns and they become thematics, very rich textual stuff here.

Little Drummer Girl was legit spy cinema. Something mature and dangerous and human. The workmanlike Jack Ryan can only wish to be this show and unequivocally falls short of a tenth of what Drummer Girl accomplishes.

Some solid seasons. Atlanta got experimental with every episode. Westworld carried on with its very literal exploration of self and consciousness with enough time to tell a touching small insulated story about a robot native american father’s spiritual and literal journey.  I have no idea what Barry will do in season 2 because in season 1 they told such a story of consequence and choice, none of that The Americans’ style humming and hawing. The immediate, shocking assassin violence benefits greatly from the classic look, the heavy hitting cinematography that polishes, scrubs any missteps from your memory of the show.

Maniac, Sharp Objects and Homecoming all deal with trauma. There’s a lot of space between the shows in tone, genre, content and perspective. From a fun and friendly big swing indie multigenre piece (Maniac) to a confrontational, dark and triggering murder mystery social horror show (Sharp Objects) to a formalistic, simpler than it seems Stranger Things upgrade (or downgrade depending on your take!) that takes place for the most part in a series of sit down conversations (surprising podcast to TV adaption Homecoming).

New Girl’s capper season is mostly on this list for nostalgic reasons, it was just nice to see Nick and Jess and Winston and Schmidt and Cece again.

American Vandal (RIP!) continued teaching us lessons about the modern world. It’s hard to explain but once season 1 hooks you, season 2 really hits you in the gut. These aren’t comedies imo and my default mode to watch things on their face without reading the goof first really helps with American Vandal. These are “fake docs” first and I wish the form caught on. Ostensibly regular people that subvert, falter and confuse all in the service of some greater truth, reminds me of detective fiction.

Hearty Recommendations: 

  • Godless (Netflix)
  • Little Drummer Girl (Amazon Instant)
  • Barry season 1 (HBO Now)
  • Atlanta, Robbin’ Season (2) (Amazon Instant)
  • New Girl season 7 (Hulu)
  • Westworld season 2 (HBO Now)
  • Sharp Objects (HBO Now)
  • American Vandal season 2 (Netflix)
  • Maniac (Netflix)
  • Homecoming (Amazon Prime)

Truly Terrible:

  • Titans season 1 (DC Universe) – please don’t see this, someone throw this show into the sun
  • Ozark (Netflix) – wrongheaded, mean, for every ounce it wishes it was Justified it comes off insulting and dead eyed. Potentially evil in its irredeemable embrace of bare minimum prestige TV Bad Man Tropes. The Jason Bateman of tv shows, just the worst

Down the Middle:

 

 

 

  • Jack Ryan season 1 (Amazon Prime) – ehh, one good chase at the end. Doesn’t understand the character at all.
  • The Bodyguard (Netflix) – better than Jack Ryan, down the middle conflicted heroism stuff
  • Collateral season 1(Netflix) – Jack Ryan levels of obvious message work being done on screen but without the action. Work to watch despite the absolutely charming and charismatic Carey Mulligan who is great TV Police and squandered here!
  • McMafia season 1 (Amazon Instant) – the reason I like this show is a banker guy hits a button to transfer dollars and then there is a montage of that money getting to work, putting on flesh, becoming dock workers, gangsters, street operators, bribes- all over the world. More of that in season 2 please.
  • Silicon Valley season 5 (HBO Now) – fine, but the same as all the other seasons
  • Succession season 1 (HBO Now) – one part Aaron Sorkin and one part Adam McKay without all the preachy rain clouds over their work. A family drama first, a parable second. Wicked funny if you’re willing to watch these princes suffer.

TV Not Released This Year:

  • One Punch Man season 1 (Netflix) – a must watch for anyone who has ever seen any anime. I… don’t like anime anymore. Not since I was in 4th grade watching fan subs of Naruto as it released broadcast in japan. A phase that’s been closed for sure since middle school almost two decades ago now. Also Fullmetal Alchemist, Onepiece, Deathnote, Dragonballz (I didn’t really watch that one), all of these mainstream pieces of animation history are good prereq knowledge for One Punch, any level of genre knowledge is welcome, the show both lampoons and embraces the genre elements. High Quality! Short! is there anything else you could possibly want from an anime other than this kind of self awareness.
  • Comrade Detective season 1 (Amazon Prime) – a complicated pleasure that weirdly works on its face as a procedural detective show. Too many layers of irony to *really* work but some deep belly laughs here that I can’t imagine anyone else but me enjoying. For example, the commie cops go to the dissident capitalists in prison to get an explanation of this new kind of game-propaganda “MO-NO-POLY” which of course is just the board game Monopoly.
  • You’re the Worst season 4 (Amazon Instant) – I don’t know why I watch this show. They’ve done so much terrible stuff at this point, what the chief creative is going for other than as a canvas for wrongheaded, too mean social observation- I don’t know.

 

 

TV I Didn’t Get To/Finish:

  • Killing Eve season 1 (Amazon Instant)  – very good but ran out of gas, I only have one or two episodes left and I really should
  • Cloak and Dagger season 1 (Amazon Instant) – ditto Killing Eve
  • Trust season 1 (Amazon Instant) – great first couple episodes, Brendan Fraser is back baby! in a big hat! Rome! a kidnapping! rich family with extended and interesting class and culture gradation! I just didn’t stick with it but now that I think about it I should get back.
  • Legion season 2 (Amazon Instant) – a bit much, feels like homework now that I think about it. Homework in the way that a stack of comics can feel like homework when you know what it’s going to be like and you’re less than thrilled about the prospect. It might take a couple vacation days to actually conquer this one but like a stack of comics, I’m looking forward to it.
  • The Americans season 5 and 6 (Amazon Instant) – this one just… it takes time, seasons 1-4 took time and I think we all know how this one ends because we’re alive in 2019 but still
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Comic Book Round Up

Image result for bendis cover

The Bendis deluge: Brian Michael Bendis is one of the most popular comic book writers going, DC paid him the big bucks to step away from creating and shepherding new characters at Marvel to come revitalize Superman.

Part of that deal- on top of Action Comics and Superman (which are two distinct comic books that feature superman, one as more Clark and the other as more Cosmic Kryptonian), a special walmart trade paperback project and a Man of Steel miniseries that kicked off his time with DC- were two new independent books Cover, a spy series about a comic book creator (but not as masturbatory as that sounds) and Pearl, a yakuza tattoo artist thriller. Both above, both gorgeous collaborations that I recommend.

If you’re counting, that’s 4 ongoing books that are all worth your time plus two trade paperbacks to go run down- Man of Steel is going to be easy to find, the Walmart stuff, I don’t know anyone who has had luck getting what they want consistently and it will all be eventually collected when that special deal is done.

But most people don’t read comics, they just don’t! People who read comics don’t even read comics! So if I’m going to recommend one thing, it’s Cover #1. Go to a comic book shop and get as many consecutive issues as you want but I guarantee the #1 will hook  you. The reason Cover takes the bacon is that it’s relatable to any business traveler. I just made it sound hugely boring, just the most boring. Wow have you taken an airplane to a conference, well I have THE BOOK FOR YOU. No what I mean is, the way that business connections are made, the kind of easy trust that comes from mutual benefit, dinners, being known for one thing that you can provide for a market. All of that can be a bit isolating, a bit boring, it’s a job. The key in cover is that the central comic artist gets offered a little bit of excitement, it sneaks up on him and I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes him.

Bendis has other ongoing books, a mobster book United States VS. Murder, Inc. which is a crime fiction alternate history I’m not up on. Scarlet, which is a kind of activist crime book that I’ve just barely started, the earlier trade paperback that serves as preface for the ongoing has such a strong first couple issues that I keep promising myself to get caught up.

Image result for bendis man of steelImage result for bendis action comics 1000

THE BIG LIMITED SERIES EVERYONE IS READING: Doomsday Clock and Heroes in Crisis will probably be better as collected stories, delays on top of already slow release schedules make the books painstaking to keep up with.

Image result for doomsday clock comic bookImage result for heroes in crisis

Doomsday Clock is more frustrating in this way than Heroes. Tom King’s excellent collaborators ship on time and Doomsday smells like a conflicted writer not a production pipeline issue. The longer Doomsday Clock goes, we are more than halfway done now, the more the excellent DC Universe Rebirth Issue that initially revealed Doctor Manhattan seems more like an anomaly, an urtext of the symbolic reactionary goals of the new universe that never quite gets the fleshing out that it deserves. As a single issue I can absolutely rec DC Universe Rebirth in the context of the linked article to understand comics more broadly if you’re not a regular reader or even if you are and hadn’t considered it that way.

This kinda meta, heart and soul, creation and aims thing is what’s interesting to me, not seeing the Watchmen characters again. These characters, who have clearly had their definitive stories already told, were never suited to ongoing evaluation. Watchmen is The Text as far as 101 classes on comics go. It’s the “literature” that people who don’t respect comics find some reason to respect. It doesn’t get better than that but I guess I’ll love them forever if somehow Doomsday Clock twists in the last couple issues here to match both Rebirth and Watchmen… but that’s doubtful. Things could really go wrong! Spending plotty time on new characters was a choice and certainly a nice bit of IP for future development but I’m not sure it was necessary.

The limited series that’s getting collected soon, you should be anticipating the hardcover for Mister Miracle:

Mister Miracle (B&N Exclusive Edition)

There’s not an easy way to describe Mister Miracle… maybe that it’s a kind of depressive Mumblecore Sci Fi book with just enough space kings and queens, traded babies and fates of the realm for a John Carter ass pulpy good time. Gods of The Fourth World actually, Aliens, whatever. It’s a bit much but the contrast between the mundane and the Too Much is really what makes the book. The birthing issue is very beautifully done and one of the more touching moments in comic book history.

The Ongoing Dilemma: Comic books that come out issue to issue have an interesting challenge, how do you tell a compelling serial story over many issues without losing that zip, snap and crackle that makes a single issue a fun worthwhile buy and read on its own.

This disjointed nature of issue to issue reading, heavy readers will know better than a casual reader, and they will know it is to their detriment. The mental burden of keeping dozens of storylines straight, the ones you care about you may revisit, the big ticket Mister Miracles etc you keep in the front of your mind but not like Nightwing #24 or the dozens of interchangeable Mark Waid Champions issues that never clear a quality bar that keeps them with you. All the same, you keep reading for some reason. A heavy pull list means you forget what happened in the last issue if you don’t have multiple ready to read in sequence.

There’s no way to rectify this other than to re read an entire run as a single unit. This is why rebuying is such an industry mainstay, a successful ongoing gets collected into a hardcover and people buy again because they want to read it as a continuous finished work. There’s a different flavor, storage is easier but the downside to only reading this way is who is patient enough to not read single issues?! Most people, it turns out and definitely most *normal* people. Ms Marvel for example continues to do numbers 10x in collected what its ongoing single issue sales are. They’re just different markets, like the difference between book publishing and magazine publishing.

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Comic Recap: Kill or Be Killed #19

KillOrBeKilled_19-1

No Spoilers Below

We are one issue away from the Kill or Be Killed finale. It has been a ride. In many ways this issue is a culmination of all that has narratively come before. This series has dealt with a number of different metaphorical and literal shackles. Like the cover of the issue, the straight jacket has come off. Socially, morally, kinetically and at varying times literally, an unchained issue of KoBK.

When it comes to literally being chained and detained, Brubaker shows he is excellent at tightening and loosening a situation. Who is in charge of an interrogation, who has something to prove and then undercutting that when it serves him. You think it’s going to be all right and then BAM it goes horribly wrong. It’s happened before for Dylan our main character, getting into binds and taking desperate actions that lead to bloody stumps and crime scenes.

Tonally he’s got the juice but you knew that, Brubaker has one long catalog. What I think is new in this series in particular is the action sensibility. There’s mystery and specific character in his Criminal series. He’s handled noir. It’s just the gunfights here, the geography is so clear and how he weaves them into and out of the flashback architecture in the history of the run, so good.

As we’ve caught up to the flashback narration, an opportunity to give us something divergent here. Not to spoil anything but this issue is divergent from the comfort and bewilderment of starting in medias res or Dylan’s stalking, planning narration. It’s immediate and fresh.

Culmination, pressure, tone and execution, what else is there? Well there’s at least one or two mysteries remaining for the final issue.

Straight up plot like this is also a departure from Brubaker’s wandering portraiture mode. We’ve seen how a strangely, uncomfortably relatable young man deals with a mental health crisis, a flagging graduate education, a complicated relationship’s highs and lows, social decay, a casual drug habit and Russian invaders. With only a small small difference from the reality of the worldview that he is depicting.

It’s that small supernaturalist push that the character encounters all the way back at the first issue, noticeably completely absent from this issue. What he thought he saw as a demon might have gotten him rolling but we’re at full culpability stage now.

Anyway, an excellent book that I look forward to finishing. In anyone else’s hands I wouldn’t have trusted this subject matter as anything other than a poor taste edgelord grab. Brubaker’s crime background and sensibility really softened the anti social elements by giving other, better thrills than transgression. He’s painted something special in the vigilante killer genre. Well, Sean Phillips does the painting. This pairing reconfirming themselves yet again as a winning combo.

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Comics Recap: Legion #2-5

Legion is… an experiment. I’m guessing the popular FX show had something to do with bringing back this character with truly the worst Slim Jim mascot hair of all time.

slim jimIf you want to catch whatever good there is to mine here, go read #1 and then read #5.

Truly, the half baked subconscious journey, alternate persons inside of David and David trying to explain himself to strangers IRL in a hospital plots of #2,3, and 4 are the stuff of disposable comic book history. Really not good.

Issue 1 sees David’s powers running wild and warping reality. Issue 5 sees David’s new celebrity therapist doing some wild self therapy of her own and confronting a giant mutilated baby doll inside of David’s mind. The twist is that the Baby Doll is from HER MIND! Her past is COMPLICATED! It’s really a completely different story, all told in one issue and it’s the best that they could do to salvage the nothingness that ended up being David. The doll art is something else but nothing to go buy an issue for. It speaks to how maudlin the issues are after #1. If you’re going to go to an unconstructed dream space, you might as well fill it with something interesting and they never do. Some blue golems? really.

Then there’s the other issue of how psychotherapy is depicted. Multiple personality disorders and mental illness just point blank do not work like this. There’s not a therapist in the world who would look at psychically realized abstract dreamscapes that can cause actual harm and see anything beyond the loosest metaphorical application of their training. It doesn’t help when they have the therapist do just this meta out of my depth thing in the comic while still implying that it’s all sort of the same.

Obviously, it’s a comic, it doesn’t work like this in real life and there is nothing wrong with fiction and extended metaphors. Just look at Inception for this done well. It’s just not done well here and what little we have is trite and not fun.

If you look at something like Inside Out that has a fairly simple metaphor that teaches a fairly simple lesson: sadness has purpose, it’s ok to be sad, embrace sadness honestly with people who care about you. What you find in Inside Out is that the metaphor barely works! These things are always going to be thin, but they pad out the film with entertaining sequences and little playgrounds that work on their own.

Last big criticism, mixing the inside and outside worlds, cutting back and forth between them is bad. It’s all shoe leather. David punches a kind of nega-David in the face at the hospital. Why isn’t that fun?

If you are looking for something imaginative I suggest going back to the recent Doctor Strange Sorcerers Supreme book that was trying wild artistic things every issue.

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Comic Recap: Batman #48

batman 48

Is Batman #48 Tom King’s darkest comic?

Coming off the DC Nation Issue #0, the Joker’s nihilistically perverse will-he-or-won’t-he killing of a poor random man in his home. Coming off the painfully deconstructionist, worst case scenario Booster Gold The Gift arc on the main batman book. A book that is already so filled with suicide and death (the whole I Am Suicide arc just… it’s right there in the name).

You would think MAYBE he’d lighten things up. There’s a wedding coming up!

The Cat and Bat back and forth has been one of the little contrasting joys. Check out the Annual #2 where they live long and happy together, surrounded at their end by the people they love and raised together.

(Also the Rooftops mini arc is waiting for you if you want to get caught up on/relive the decades of in canon romance)

That this happy ending story plays out in the Annual does not bode well for the canon events that are to come. It seems, the worst has already started in #48.

There are a couple moments that break the comic a little bit. The Joker talking about Augustine??? But they can be forgiven, Tom is talking to us in some ways through the comic and doing all that writely stuff that writers do. Giving us just a little bit more, something new and something stranger than what’s come before though definitely, definitely as dark.

King’s Joker made more sense in his previous defining boundary push, The War of Jokes and Riddles. The Joker abstains, he’s restrained, he’s not laughing and not killing and it’s like a candle has gone out. The Riddler we learn is trying to relight that candle. What’s the joke that makes this guy laugh, what’s his character germ, what will get him going again. There’s a lot of horror in that little run, a lot of terrible stuff that echo Tom King’s other work with the topic of War.

In those final issues, Riddler fails to feed his devil but the devil finally laughs. It’s not the Kite man thing that makes Joker laugh, it’s not the lengths that the Riddler goes to that moves him. The Joker is wilder, worse and even those surreptitious events aren’t quite as random as his chaotic soul.

It’s that Riddler’s quest itself, the perversity of it makes Batman understand that in war someone does deserve to die and it’s 100% Riddler who poisoned a kid to make his big Kite Man joke work. Batman breaks his rule, tries to kill Riddler and the worst man in the world stops him. That their roles, however momentarily are reversed and some semblance of equality is attained. That even within the worst there is this potential for a single “good” restraining act and in the best most self controlled, the potential to lose control (although for a right/just reason).

This is all very interesting and I picked up on what King was trying to do with Joker. He’s random! He kills indiscriminately! He’s the devil or worse because he cannot be predicted!

But reiterating it seems a bit much. At least now with #48 and DC Nation #0, I have the clearest textual examples of this randomness and malice punctuated by moments of nonsense and weird moral clarity. The moral clarity bit is something I understand intellectually, if something is truly random, a broken clock may eventually tell the right time or whatever. It’s just not exactly satisfying and like I said earlier risks breaking the character.

#49 and however long this arc goes promises to at least resolve something with the Joker. All I can ask for at this point is for these no-win situations to end. The least interesting thing to me in the world is watching Batman show up late to a massacre AGAIN which has happened multiple times at this point and like I’ve said, more interestingly in Jokes and Riddles.

It doesn’t help that the massacre in #48 is in a church and the victims are black, giving it a timeliness that is more unsettling than King’s use of 9/11 imagery which he has more of a personal history with. I can definitely see how this could be seen as exploitative. Where the 9/11 pull all the way back in his first issue shows that Batman’s world is actually better in a way than ours because Batman sacrifices himself to stop that possible Gotham 9/11, this just feels… wrong. It feels wrong to do the bad thing we have actually seen in our actual human lives again on the page. I get what he’s saying with this issue and I get the character but the question becomes… how much of this do we really need?

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