Almost two months ago there was a two-week period of nothing; just metaphorically dotting & crossing the last marks in an afterword, and closing a back cover. Then, spreading open new, aspirin-white pages, watching everything remaining rush to arrange and take places, like a show about to start. One last thought of gratitude, and then surveying across the clear new, and nebulous.
That very quiet period was a strangely still pocket, not totally unlike just after H- was born, when feeding 5-6 times per day and through the middle of the night left me with a lot of time of just having to sit, and be. During that time I cranked through a ton of viewing and this time, albeit a smaller window, was the following…
* Black Mirror – I know. Finally. No show has ever caused so many friends and acquaintances to reach out to me and say: “Did you see Black Mirror? It totally made me think of you.” (Orphan Black has also had this effect, to a lesser degree, but I still haven’t seen it. ) Now that I’ve watched the series, I feel amused and a bit unsettled that more than 5 people saw it and thought of me? What the hell am I portraying to people? White Bear, White Christmas, and Be Right Back are the episodes that stand out most strongly for me. The third season is not super strong and I actually turned off the bees / Kelly MacDonald episode, for the terrible utilization of K.M. alone.
* Captain Fantastic – Charming. Pleasant. Viggo Mortensen. Faltered at the moments it could have made larger points or impacts, but enjoyable to watch.
* Chewing Gum – I love this show. Michaela Cole performing comedy is sooo satisfying to watch. Her timing is superb, her character is fantastic, and her presence is incredible.
* GLOW – I liked this way more than I thought I would. In fact, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t loved this. I was really worried at certain points, and began cringing in anticipation of bad choices, but they didn’t happen and instead… good decisions happened!! Allison Brie is a perfect, would-be starlet, perpetually “on” and therefore too much, but she dials it in before the show becomes unwatchable and Marc Maron is way more of a joy to watch than I ever would have expected.
The hyper-reality of the depicted relationships can’t *not* set a new standard for interpersonal relationships between characters in TV shows and movies going forward. It’s a paragon in this regard. Everyone existing as in shade of grey and having difficult things about them and also wonderful and endearing aspects to them, results in deftly portrayed examples of how humans come to bond and relate in spite of and because of those.
However… Jenji Kohan makes me nervous. OitNB is highly problematic and (for me) unwatchable. I fear that while a near ensemble cast has been presented, next season white women will continue to be centered and screen-present, pushing the black and women of color to the periphery.
* Arrested Development – Yeah. I’ve never seen it. I’m only through the first season of it. It’s something people have been telling me to watch for forever… and it’s… ok? Does it get better? I think I’m just there for Michael Cera’s performance and character alone? Maybe I would have found it funnier if I still drank? Or is this administration wasn’t in office? Watching miserable people be miserable with no psychological growth or progression isn’t my bag, and the comedy isn’t consistent enough to hold it together. None of the characters change based on what they experience… it’s like how TV was before The Sopranos and Buffy. (Update: I’ve abandoned it, at the beginning of season 2. I think there’s two types of people… those that love AD, and those who do not.)
So, I was doing this thing for a while where the movie The Room is in my queue, but I know it will likely annihilate me and not wanting to be emotionally annihilated, I was skipping over it for something less devastating… so I picked…
* The Keepers – Yeah. So… yeah. I’m glad I watched it, I sorta had to watch it, but there was absolutely emotional and psychic cost involved / wasn’t my brightest move.
* The Handmaiden – (^ Yeah. See above self-observation.) To be fair, I didn’t know where the story was going to go or even the premise, but watched because of director Park Chan-wook alone.
I liked this even more than I thought I would, but it would be nice for dudes to stop directing lesbian sex scenes in films and really, cis–het sex scenes, too? (…we already know all of your fantasies… our culture is saturated with them.) Let someone else depict sex / intimacy / bond / carnal desire so we can see a broader, and therefore more representative, spectrum. What would have been compelling / progressively creative is if Park Chan-wook had given the camera to a lesbian director specifically for those scenes, or the actors, so we could have an idea of how they see themselves and might experience intimate sexual connection? Remove the problematic / tired male gaze, urge to control, and the requirement from women to perform, which so much of the movie is trying to be about? It’s like when he really had a chance to hold himself accountable, he couldn’t help himself… the fantasy and control are too compelling.
And those sex scenes do the film a disservice for those reasons; the viewer becomes so aware that we have just been set up to get to the scenes, so that we can watch him directing them. He’s trying to implicate himself, and then does exactly what he’s trying to hold men accountable for. If sex is that pretty and that performative, the visible exertion to depict alone suspends the audience’s disbelief, at least, for women. It pauses the potential impact of the film because we need to roll our eyes as loudly as possible. He then goes on to punish himself for doing it, via his male characters, which also lessened the film’s impact and narrative for me. That said, I still think it’s a good film? I pretty much never need to see it again, but it kept me engaged enough to write all of this so that’s positive. It’s technically stunning, as well.
* Remember – Christopher Plummer! Excellent to see portrayals of mentally ill characters and senior citizens, and a compelling plot that kept unravelling. As enjoyable of a watch as a film about hunting down Nazis who killed your family can be.
* Trainspotting2 – meh. nooooooope.
* Paterson – How did I miss this?? It’s so warm. And an interesting depiction of the boundaries between (some) manifestations of the ‘Me / You’ in relationships. I’m not going to lie, I think it would have been a far better film from the woman’s (Laura played by Golshifteh Farahani), perspective, with her as the poet, if only because the working class white dude artist / poet trope is a bit snoozy at this point (even if directly referencing the William Carlos Williams book… I get it, I get it), but it’s vulnerable and isolated at once which reads very tenderly.
It’s by far the best depiction of being a poet I’ve seen, and how alienating, even with a community and strongly bonded partnership, to be the one constantly reading the world as vibrant narratives of symbol and pattern and meaning, and resonantly feeling that constant impact, while everyone else is trying to actively get away from, devalue or ignore it (and thus, the poet themself), if they see it at all.
A strange component I’m not conviced Jarmusch has control over is Adam Driver’s partner’s search for what she is supposed to be doing with herself. The audience can see she needs to be designing, making, and selling textiles, but because it’s her gift and inherently who she is, she takes it for granted. We think he can see it, but we aren’t sure. And if he can, why not just say it to her, especially since she is so passionately supporting him and his work? So why is her ability treated as whim? By the film and both characters? I want to believe Jarmusch is making a broader statement about how we expect / demand women’s creativity and therefore devalue it, but I actually don’t believe he is.
Their are important issues of race here as well, which I feel ill-equipped to explore and will leave to someone far more versed.
It’s an interesting, tender and at times slightly aching film to watch. Certainly worth the bother and time.
(This gent touches on race batter than I can, is less forgiving of the film (which actually makes me feel relieved), and also noticed the gender / creativity imbalance. Bright Lights Film – Paterson)
* Riverdale – Ahhhh, I need to come back and write about it… I’m considering trying it again, but stopped watching after that problematic season 1 statuatory rape that was just NEVER ADDRESSED?? How can a show going all in on intersectionalism, and sexism, among many other issues in modern culture, take the stance that teachers preying on adolescent boys is a-o-k?? The whole “boys can’t be raped” vibe is nausea inducing.
Aaand all viewing then slowed again, as the new work started gaining momentum and life’s new foundation continues to settle. But, I’m slowly working through new Twin Peaks, need to start American Gods, still see Moonlight, & Get Out. I recorded nearly the entire Thin Man series because I have only seen one and it feels like those would be nice for colder months, and finally going to watch, at some point, The Lady Vanishes. As well as a handful of tickets for the Lynch retrospective, when I’ll get to see what’s maybe my most beloved movie ever, for the first time in a theater, on a screen. That’s no. small. thing!