Quick and Dirty TV Recaps: Better Call Saul s5ep1-2, Hunters s1ep1-3, Briarpatch s1ep1-3

Better Call Saul, Season 5 Episode 1&2

We needed a kind of perfunctory first episode back, we are reminded of who all is on this show, who it’s about. Where Jimmy/Saul (Jimmysaul?) is in his black and white furthest continuity, still at a cinnabun and finally at risk!

Mostly the stakes were just stress and depression before (the vacuum man really worked his magic and found a good spot, RIP to Robert Forster who the episode is dedicated to) but we finally see what it’s like to be spotted. It really hammers the source of all the Jimmysaul stress, to be so recognizable even after the years and that mustache here yet states away from where he first made his bones as a lawyer.

Episode 2, just the most gorgeous thing. So beautiful. Just the actual images.

A great episode that moves the ball forward with Kim. For a show that takes its time, Kim being confronted with multiple things, seeking closure for regrets from the first episode and throwing her a bone with the rare Jimmysaul apology that feels real and legitimate- all this stuff feels more compelling, more complete and immediate than the previous seasons. She’s not having fun anymore which is how they teased the relationship in the earlier seasons, when she lies to her client, it hurts. “For the greater good” of a plea deal doesn’t make that cosmic nagging sense within stop. That’s what makes her different from Jimmysaul.

At this point, they both have the money and power to make good decisions, get enough rest and be as respectable or disreputable as they want. The crucial brush off with Howard in the courthouse hallway (some understated but exciting and effective camera movement here, they never go full Birdman thank goodness) is the kind of association choice, the kind of time management choice that goes to Jimmysaul’s character. They say we re hat e continually do. He really is being Saul in how he lives here, criminal defense legal churn with an angle always for getting it over quick and getting one over too.

I’m not even to the Nacho subplot stuff yet. I love how he finally converges with Saul at the end. The taste of the much darker work for Saul to come, I wanted the next episode to play immediately.

I do want to call out really simple cause and effect, character choice stuff here that sounds like a no-brainer but is so crucial to writing and plotting. Characters make decisions based out of their needs and desires. Those choices interlock and have an effect that slots in as a place for another character to reveal their need or desire. This then has its own effect that’s a new context for a new character choice.

It sounds really dumb when I say it like that. You might be thinking any child could write a cause and effect chain like that. Is this essentially the skillset that it takes to play that old video game series The Incredible Machine but trust when you’re looking at an empty FinalDraft or Celtx doc, it can be hard.

Hunters, Season 1 Episode 1-3

Ripping the band-aid off, this series can be cartoonish at times. It’s not aided formally by the gun, bullet, blood and gore fx that call to mind less than stellar action VOD offerings. The bodies sitting around and in the pool as a result of the immediate and shocking turn in the first episode ARE effective but the Goldeneye 64 ass sequence that gets us to that horror is maybe not uhh politically correct? This isn’t Schindler’s List.

There’s the problematic thing where the actual Nazis were essentially bad enough and some of the dramatization to make them “worse” is just more exploitation-y (however self aware this exploitation aesthetic is, lmao at the character intros in the next couple episodes, wtf is Josh Radnor doing in this, just with the jokes nonstop).

But if you’re happy that 80s movies/shows had really bad cartoon Russians and are ready for Nazis to get a kind of similar spy meets crime meets procedural treatment- this is your show. Maybe it’s me maturing or something that the real surface pleasure of watching a really really bad person die within the context of genre just doesn’t sit right with me when there are these actual bad guys in the real world.

The most real thing in the first episode was the drug deal gone wrong. There’s violence but it’s just unpleasant at first, most about masculine and interpersonal jockeying. It evolves closer to “bullying,” there’s a slur and the kind of assault a regular person would endure, not some super assassin beat down.

By the third episode I did have favorite characters. Surprise, they’re the younger characters who work at a comic book shop. For all the genre tropes that can be pitfalls, getting the audience aggressively and early on the side of the relatable POV character was the best choice they made.

I hope they stick the landing. It seems like the show may become a bit more self aware and ultimately judge the Nazi hunting rather than indulge it, probably both if I had to guess.

Briarpatch, Season 1 Episode 1-3

This is a really fun watch if you watch it looking for moments that would probably fit better in the late 40s or 20s, you know, something with noir guys in fedoras.

It’s an adaption. As a genre exercise and as something transposed from another time onto ours, it is fascinating. The exact story is still taking shape. Heavy serialization means that after 3 episodes of 10 I really do feel like I barely have 30% of the whole story. That gives me hope for the rest. Can it deliver? Each episode introduces new characters and more details, hard to say if it’s going to reward us down the line. It’s making promises right now that feel like they’re setting up dominoes for later. I’ll keep watching.

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2019 Movies Top 10

In no particular order

  1. Free Solo
  2. Us
  3. The Sun is Also a Star (tho i hated the ending)
  4. The Farewell
  5. Standoff at Sparrow Creek (Amazon Instant) (tho i was frustrated with the ending)
  6. The Lighthouse (tho this one is pretty gross and challenging!)
  7. The Report (Amazon Prime)
  8. Honey Boy (tho it’s uncomfortable in how it tells a real life story)
  9. Waves
  10. The Laundromat (Netflix)

Special Rec:

How To Train Your Dragon 3 which is the best family film of the year.

For more go to my letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/mattheimiller/films/reviews/

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2019’s Over Simplistic Good, Bad, Complicated Movies Breakdown

Good:

  1. Free Solo
  2. If Beale Street Could Talk
  3. FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (Netflix)
  4. FYRE Fraud (Hulu)
  5. The Lego Movie Part 2
  6. High Flying Bird (Netflix)
  7. How To Train Your Dragon 3
  8. Triple Frontier (Netflix)
  9. Us
  10. Dragged Across Concrete
  11. Aladdin
  12. The Sun is Also a Star
  13. Spider-Man Far From Home
  14. Midsommar
  15. The Art of Self Defense
  16. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
  17. The Farewell
  18. Standoff at Sparrow Creek (Amazon Instant)
  19. El Camino (Netflix)
  20. Extreme Job (Amazon Instant)
  21. The Lighthouse
  22. Parasite
  23. Knives Out
  24. The Report (Amazon Prime)
  25. Honey Boy
  26. Waves
  27. Marriage Story (Netflix)
  28. Dark Waters
  29. Richard Jewell
  30. The Laundromat (Netflix)

Bad:

  1. Serenity
  2. Isn’t It Romantic
  3. Booksmart
  4. The Hustle
  5. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  6. The Secret Life of Pets 2
  7. Dark Phoenix – I honestly did like this one for the surface pleasures of comic book disposability. We’ve perfectly found the sweet spot to turn out a bunch of Deadpool 2s and Dark Phoenixes and Origins Wolverines and I’m totally ok with that but you can’t get general audiences to see the 15th best disposable superhero movie of the year. You just can’t ask anyone to see this other than exactly and only me.
  8. The Dead Don’t Die
  9. Toy Story 4
  10. Yesterday
  11. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience (Netflix/Lonely Island)
  12. Stuber
  13. Hobbs & Shaw
  14. Good Boys
  15. Angel Has Fallen
  16. Rambo: Last Blood
  17. Zombieland 2
  18. Maleficent 2
  19. The Dead Center (Blu)
  20. Jojo Rabbit
  21. Terminator: Dark Fate
  22. 21 Bridges
  23. 6 Underground (Netflix)
  24. Jumanji: The Next Level
  25. Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker

Complicated:

  1. Glass
  2. Alita, Battle Angel
  3. They Shall Not Grow Old
  4. Fighting With My Family
  5. Cold Pursuit
  6. Captain Marvel
  7. Shazam!
  8. Unplanned
  9. Avengers: End Game
  10. John Wick 3
  11. Brightburn
  12. Dora The Explorer and the lost city
  13. Peanut Butter Falcon
  14. Ready or Not
  15. Lion King
  16. Hustlers
  17. The Goldfinch
  18. Ad Astra
  19. Joker
  20. Harriet
  21. Pain and Glory
  22. Doctor Sleep
  23. Motherless Brooklyn
  24. Ford v Ferrari
  25. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
  26. Queen and Slim
  27. Spies in Disguise
  28. Uncut Gems
  29. Bombshell

Now I’ve just got to narrow down to 10. OOF.

For more depth, see my letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/mattheimiller/films/reviews/

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2019 Movies Year In Review

VOD/Movies not released this year:

  1. Miller’s Crossing (Amazon Instant)
  2. Avengers Infinity War (Vudu)
  3. The Man Who Wasn’t There (Amazon Instant)
  4. Ant-Man (Vudu)
  5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor (HBO Now)
  6. True Grit (2010) (Amazon Instant)
  7. Speed Racer (DVD)
  8. Thoroughbreds (Amazon Instant)
  9. Raising Arizona (Amazon Instant)
  10. To Sleep With Anger (Criterion Channel)
  11. Like Crazy (Amazon Instant)
  12. Skyscraper (HBO Now)
  13. Goodfellas (HBO Now)
  14. Miss Congeniality (Vudu)
  15. Swingers (Amazon Instant)
  16. Star Wars 1: the phantom menace (Blu)
  17. John Wick (Amazon Instant)
  18. Crazy Rich Asians (HBO Now)
  19. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Blu)
  20. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Blu)
  21. Killer of Sheep (DVD)
  22. Road House (Amazon Prime)
  23. Observe and Report (Netflix)
  24. A Message from Akira Kurosawa: For Beautiful Movies (Criterion Channel)
  25. Good Burger (DVD)
  26. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Netflix)
  27. Summer of 84 (Amazon Instant)
  28. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Blu)
  29. Blockers (HBO Now)
  30. 2 Fast 2 Furious (Amazon Instant)
  31. Avengers: Endgame (Vudu)
  32. Fast and Furious (the 4th one) (Amazon Instant)
  33. Fast Five (Amazon Instant)
  34. Gifted (DVD)
  35. Get Smart (DVD)
  36. Baahubali 2 (Amazon Instant)
  37. The Terminator (Blu)
  38. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Blu)
  39. Superbad (Netflix)
  40. 12 Monkeys (DVD)
  41. Batman: Hush (DC Universe)
  42. Enemy (Amazon Instant)
  43. Casino Royale (Blu)
  44. Upgrade (Amazon Instant)
  45. The Shawshank Redemption (Blu)
  46. Den of Thieves (Amazon Instant)
  47. Psycho (Blu)
  48. Batman Begins (DVD)
  49. Clue (DVD)
  50. Lilo and Stitch (DVD)
  51. The First Purge (Vudu)
  52. Grand Budapest Hotel (Vudu)
  53. Chinatown (Amazon Prime)
  54. Star Wars episode 7 (Disney+)
  55. Galaxy Quest (DVD)
  56. Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (Disney+)
  57. Shattered Glass (Amazon Instant)
  58. Mississippi Grind (Amazon Instant)
  59. Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi (Netflix)
  60. It’s A Wonderful Life (Amazon Instant)

Movies/(VOD THIS YEAR)/in theaters:

  1. Free Solo
  2. Glass
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk
  4. FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (Netflix)
  5. FYRE Fraud (Hulu)
  6. The Lego Movie Part 2
  7. Serenity
  8. High Flying Bird (Netflix)
  9. Beauty and The Beast (animated)
  10. Isn’t It Romantic
  11. Alita, Battle Angel
  12. They Shall Not Grow Old
  13. How To Train Your Dragon 3
  14. Fighting With My Family
  15. Cold Pursuit
  16. Captain Marvel
  17. Triple Frontier (Netflix)
  18. Us
  19. Shazam!
  20. Unplanned
  21. Dragged Across Concrete
  22. Avengers: End Game
  23. John Wick 3
  24. Booksmart
  25. Brightburn
  26. The Hustle
  27. Aladdin
  28. The Sun is Also a Star
  29. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
  30. The secret life of pets 2
  31. Dark Phoenix
  32. The Dead Don’t Die
  33. Toy Story 4
  34. Yesterday
  35. The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience (Netflix/Lonely Island)
  36. Spider-Man Far From Home
  37. Midsommar
  38. Stuber
  39. The Art of Self Defense
  40. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
  41. Hobbs & Shaw
  42. The Farewell
  43. Standoff at Sparrow Creek (Amazon Instant)
  44. Dora The Explorer and the lost city
  45. Good Boys
  46. Peanut Butter Falcon
  47. Angel Has Fallen
  48. Ready or Not
  49. Lion King
  50. Hustlers
  51. Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (Marcus rerun)
  52. The Goldfinch
  53. Ad Astra
  54. Rambo: Last Blood
  55. Joker
  56. Rear Window (Marcus rerun)
  57. El Camino (Netflix)
  58. Extreme Job (Amazon Instant)
  59. The Lighthouse
  60. Zombieland 2
  61. Maleficent 2
  62. The Dead Center (Blu)
  63. Harriet
  64. Parasite
  65. Jojo Rabbit
  66. Godfather part 2
  67. Pain and Glory
  68. Doctor Sleep
  69. Terminator: Dark Fate
  70. Motherless Brooklyn
  71. Ford v Ferrari
  72. 21 Bridges
  73. Knives Out
  74. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
  75. The Report (Amazon Prime)
  76. Honey Boy
  77. Waves
  78. Marriage Story (Netflix)
  79. Dark Waters
  80. Queen and Slim
  81. 6 Underground (Netflix)
  82. Jumanji: The Next Level
  83. Richard Jewell
  84. The Laundromat (Netflix)
  85. Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker
  86. Bombshell
  87. Spies in Disguise
  88. Uncut Gems

 

Some Stats:

-148 total movies watched

-13 New Releases STREAMED rather than in theaters

-2 Best films I saw this year. 1990 release MILLER’S CROSSING tied with KILLER OF SHEEP from 1978. Both are worth your time

-20 films watched on physical media

-3 new Marvel Films in theaters in 2019 (It feels like a lot less because they took the winter off this year! It’s been 6 months since Spider-Man, missing my super heroes)

More comprehensive breakdown coming with top 10 etc.

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2019 TV Year In Review

The List, 32 Total Seasons of Shows:

TV released this year:

  1. Escape at Dannemora (showtime trial on Amazon)
  2. The Dragon Prince season 2 (Netflix)
  3. The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
  4. Doom Patrol (DC Universe) not finished
  5. True Detective season 3 (HBO Now)
  6. Game of Thrones season 8 (HBO Now)
  7. What We Do In The Shadows season 1 (Amazon Instant)
  8. Archer season 10 (Amazon Instant)
  9. Big Little Lies season 2 (HBO Now)
  10. The Boys (Amazon Prime)
  11. Bosch season 5 (Amazon Prime)
  12. Carnival Row season 1 (Amazon Prime)
  13. Titans season 2 (DC Universe) not finished
  14. Righteous Gemstones season 1 (HBO Now)
  15. Succession season 2 (HBO Now)
  16. Watchmen season 1 (HBO Now)
  17. Veronica Mars season 4 (Hulu)
  18. Jack Ryan season 2 (Amazon Prime)
  19. Silicon Valley season 6 (HBO Now)
  20. Mrs Fletcher season 1 (HBO Now)
  21. The Mandalorian season 1 (Disney+)

TV not released this year:

  1. The Dragon Prince season 1 (Netflix)
  2. Community season 1 (DVD)
  3. Community season 2 (DVD some Hulu)
  4. Community season 3 (Hulu)
  5. Bosch season 1 (Amazon Prime)
  6. Bosch season 2 (Amazon Prime)
  7. Bosch season 3 (Amazon Prime)
  8. Bosch season 4 (Amazon Prime)
  9. Deadwood season 1 (HBO Now)
  10. The Wire season 1 (HBO Now)
  11. Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place season 1 (DVD and YouTube)

Some Stats:

-Total Watch time: 9 DAYS 13 HOURS 15 MINUTES according to: https://tiii.me

-3 Seasons of Netflix Original content

-10 Seasons of HBO Original content

-8 Seasons of Amazon Original content

-2 Seasons purchased outright (What We Do In The Shadows and Archer from FX through Amazon)

-1 surprise excellent Disney+ show worth the price of that subscription all by itself

-12(?) people using my Disney+ login

Worst choices: DC Universe generally, just a huge joke of a streaming service. Just terrible and they still got my fanboy pity dollars for Titans season 1 and 2. I’ve never been more angry with myself and I actually do love to waste money on superhero stuff.

Jack Ryan season 2 was trash except for a few small OK action scenes. But the show won’t die. We, the US Public, love our non partisan super smart super soldiers. Tom Clancy’s nice boys in khakis speaking french and doing book reports for the president, ratings gold. They are doing a creative overhaul for season 3 making it a shared cinematic universe with Taylor Sheridan at the helm (Remember SICARIO!) doing a movie that’s probably a very bad and dumb Michael B Jordan Navy Seal Deep State Thriller that riffs on The Fugitive. I will watch season 3 but you should skip season 1 and 2.

Best Show: Escape at Dannemora – a recent history true crime prison break told plainly with the best dramatic performances of the year, captured with a cinematic eye like something from what you think of as the classic decades of popular, grown up cinema.

From director Ben Stiller of all people. Yes that Ben Stiller, no it’s not even close to a comedy). Barely TV because it plays like a movie and benefits from being watched all at once if you can plan a Saturday for it. Each piece is very interdependent and illuminates every other piece in a small way.

Most Watchable Show: The Mandalorian. If this isn’t TV, there’s no such thing as TV. High quality elevated Saturday morning cartoons for the whole family. Where a lot of prestige shows want to be movies, Mandalorian knows what it is and delivers episode to episode. I want 100+ more of these if Disney is willing to keep paying for them.

All of the Competent Cop Shows I Enjoyed: True Detective Season 3 (Mahershala Ali’s performance as an old man was so good), Bosch (all 5 seasons! Last year my comfort food like this was Justified), Veronica Mars (workmanlike adequate followup/revival of the old show), The Wire (always a classic)

Other Good Stuff:

HBO Comedies – just absolutely fine.

HBO Dramas – Watchmen was not as good as the movie (a bit too optimistic at the end!) but still good TV. Great catalog but miss me with the slice of life stuff.

Succession doesn’t count as a comedy. That’s a drama that over performed. Watchable on a level that Sorkin fans will say The West Wing/The Newsroom reached, darker and nastier than either of those but also better.

The Weird Ones: Garth Marenghi had an eyeball child, maybe the most unforgettable trauma I suffered this year. Thank you to my friends for introducing me to this mock 80s super irony novelist auteur procedural.

Everything that Under Performed (sorry!):

The ending of Umbrella Academy. What even was that? Maybe season 2 will make it worthwhile. Very much the serial pleasure, an ending is not what we were looking for.

Carnival Row – absolutely forgettable, clumsy basic social commentary, fantasy romance cover YA garb, be glad you missed this

The Boys – despite being a stellar adaption of an unadaptable 90s edgelord comic book text, it never escapes its bush era resentments, cynicism or politics. You can hear it yelling, “YOU DON’T KNOW HOW THE REAL WORLD WORKS. MOM!” as it smokes one (1) weed behind a gas station while on break. Upcoming Season 2 shows a lot of promise. Get back to the core bit that works, killing superheroes that deserve it with clever in universe mechanics.

Doom Patrol – essentially a DC Universe version of Doctor Who with super gore. A lot of spark, spunk and heart but none of the individual characters or performances were enough to keep me. The weirdness is a plus, the terrible network it’s on is a minus. A lot of promise and maybe I’ll finish this one later.

Game of Thrones – in my first episode of the season recap I said Game of Thrones needed to mean something… it never did.

“In Game of Thrones, you get the sense that these characters will never leave anything behind. No one, not one character in the smallest way leaves this world a better place really. You either win or you die, there’s not that complicated grey area that we have here in the real world, where small humane actions between people in their own small way add up to more, a richer more purposeful universe than just a bunch of titles, natural resource tiles out of a catan board game, with localized arbitrary sociological quirks mish mashed in a tangible details world building blender.

Like a pre teen boy throwing trash in a camp fire, burning whatever comes to mind or hand, there are some interesting colors that come from the breakdown of complex things. The only question that matters to me now is what will be left when this cable tv show is out of fuel. What will it all really, ultimately mean.”

Something that also under performed in 2019? ME. I totally forgot I was even in classes until I went back and read that recap. I had memory hole’d my hurt back and withdrawal from all my classes. Hopefully I’ll have a better 2020 personally. I am not planning on returning to academics.

 

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Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 1: Winterfell

I have a one week break. In this time I’ll have to look back at where I’ve been. I’ll reassess myself and my progress this semester and yes I will admit, I will redo some labs. I hate doing this kind of homework because it’s work I either did or should have done before. I should be enjoying myself this week. There’s a great double feature from criterion I want to get to.

Game of Thrones has been off the air for well over a year and the first episode back is like the homework I don’t want to do over break. It’s not necessary but there’s knowledge there we absolutely need going forward.

Game of Thrones has always been about breakdown (a lot of people like *subversion* for this but I don’t). Breakdown of people (the greater social trust crisis in Westeros), the breakdown of storytelling conventions (degradation changing a character is the most used technique in the series rather than the conventional cumulative character choices thing), the breakdown of this very complicated fantasy world (the various ways people do not believe in the various gods, the ways those gods fail their believers, the way the world/climate is revolting, the ruins of a greater, grander more excellent world all around with the main characters fighting for the bones of these places labeled from a more interesting time).

For all the Mi’Lords and Mi’Ladys out of these characters’ mouths, there’s never a sense of constructive meaning, really, to all the allegiances and fights. The show starts with breakdown and it just keeps breaking down. Cause and effect are important to storytelling and in the same way that not every story needing to be about heroes, not every story needs to be constructive. We get a lot out of stories like Dan Gilroy’s film Nightcrawler, a film that supposes the existence of a hungry twitchy, familiar villain, places him in Los Angeles local media, then watches dominoes fall around him. He’s the wrecking ball, his existence is the dramatic driver.

So in a similar way, we start season 8. We are literally looking at the last hole in the wall from the last dramatic wrecking ball. If you have been gurgling on the thousands of hours of surplus enthusiast materials (God help us all subjected to the content machines), most of this episode will be anticipated if not entirely understood to pretty much have happened in the mind of the fully apprised, detail captivated viewer.

Where were the characters last time, who were they and now a slight pivot, a lean, a small choice, a conversation – the set up for how it may all fall apart this season for them.

In Game of Thrones, you get the sense that these characters will never leave anything behind. No one, not one character in the smallest way leaves this world a better place really. You either win or you die, there’s not that complicated grey area that we have here in the real world, where small humane actions between people in their own small way add up to more, a richer more purposeful universe than just a bunch of titles, natural resource tiles out of a catan board game, with localized arbitrary sociological quirks mish mashed in a tangible details world building blender.

Like a pre teen boy throwing trash in a camp fire, burning whatever comes to mind or hand, there are some interesting colors that come from the breakdown of complex things. The only question that matters to me now is what will be left when this cable tv show is out of fuel. What will it all really, ultimately mean.

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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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