Do Some Damage podcast I'm excited for First Love the latest from prolific Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike. If you can't get out to theaters for his bloody, romantic one-crazy-night comedy, I'm pleased to inform you that there's a lot of good stuff of his available on streaming platforms.
Chris Holm ducked out of the latest episode, but William Boyle stepped in to talk music and Holly West, as always, takes on the TVs.
Monday, September 30, 2019
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
I think McCallany is the secret weapon of that show. He's the un-flashy bedrock, sturdy as hell, but flexible enough to launch some of the bigger performances to stratospheric heights. He shows up and does really good work. And he has been for years. Before Mindhunter David Fincher cast him in every(?) movie he made, though in small, background roles. He got a little bit of room to be seen in Michael Mann's Blackhat, but honestly when most of your screen time is with Viola Davis you're not going to be the memorable part.
Of course McCallany isn't the star of the movie, that's Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (he who wanks with his left hand on Game of Thrones) and if I had the episode to do over I would have got to Shot Caller through him. Dude's building up a very respectable body of crime films including this one, Headhunters, Nightwatch and Small Crimes. And his latest honor is starring in the new Brian De Palma thriller, Domino. That should've been my way in.
Domino. Finally got around to seeing it and so glad I did. Here's the thing if it's first and foremost a 'thriller' than it is a disappointment. We don't really care about the relationships, the suspense and tension never amount to much, the atmosphere is intermittently arresting, but the air is continually let out of it by less successful scenes.
Until Blake is made permanently un-Lively.
It's a surprisingly nasty slice of domestic suspense to come from director Paul Feig better known for his comedic pictures often pairing female leads (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters, The Heat and Spy) and the fun is wondering how dark a pitch we're in for. Were it David Fincher making Gone Girl I'd be braced for pretty noir shit, but Feig? Kendrick? Wheeeeeere's it going?
You may or may not enjoy finding out.
But back to Feig, 'cause I had an idea the other day that I can not shake and it is this...
Are you with me? I mean, you love Stakeout as much as I do, right? It's one of those crime comedies from the 80s that made the decade the golden age of the genre as far as I'm concerned. I watched it again the other day and enjoyed it like I always do, but it's not the 80s anymore (and I'm not a teenager anymore) and yeah, some of it remains firmly in another time and social sensibility.
Anyway, I went down the Stowe hole after viewing Michael Mann's Last of the Mohicans in preparation for that brannew Blake Howard podcast The Last (12 Minutes) of the Mohicans which will feature the Mann again in the final episode of this mini-project. Fuck, I'm so excited to be part of this project. I love, love, love the movie and the company.
issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room. Seriously though, why didn't they do Elaine May's issue in May? I mean, a gender-flipped Stakeout project for Paul Feig, and a May May issue, do I have to think of everything?
Sunday, September 8, 2019
And then the trailers landed and who-ee the takes were hot!
And then the film debuted at a festival and the hub-ub was (at least briefly) deafening and I saw my interest levels rise a little more. I may love and I may hate Joker when I do eventually see it, but I've got to say it is refreshing for the polarizing effect of a comic book movie to have just about nothing to do with comic book fidelity and I'm tantalized a lot more by the prospect of having a big reaction (good or bad) to it than the shrug most comic book movies elicit from me.
I get that this might not be your preferred tone or flavor for the material and I have no problem with your disinterest or frustration if that's the case. The good news for everybody who's a fan of Batman is that it's such a fuckin' cultural juggernaut with so many differently flavored takes across so many mediums reaching back decades and showing no sign of slowing down that there is and will be plenty of material of the flavor that you do prefer available.
But I've seen some takes that bother me. Takes that put forth an argument I find disturbing. Namely that making an effort to humanize this character is not only not worth it, but potentially dangerous and artistically irresponsible.
They are human and what they do is monstrous.
How can we reconcile that? How can we have anything in common with a monster? If we don't have anything in common with monsters then we don't have to be concerned about our own souls.
Every time I hear a story of an amazing human achievement or heroism or compassion it thrills me because I have something in common (humanity) with the hero. Likewise, every true story of an awful crime that I hear hits me hard because I know that I have something in common with the perpetrator.
When I hear those awful stories they bother me and I am tempted to shrug their behavior off as something un-human. That would be comforting. But inhumanity in action or attitude is exceedingly common in people. It's extremely common in me.
I'm always looking for an excuse to dehumanize victims of crime/poverty/injustice/disease/natural disaster because it's overwhelming to have to consider all the suffering that happens in the world, but when I discount the suffering of real human beings just to achieve some minor comfort, some status, or some little goal then I have engaged in intellectual inhumanity and the difference between thinking of people as less than human and treating them that way means crossing an awfully thin line.
The other side of that line is where monsters live and operate.
I love a thriller and I don't need to know how every monster got to be that way, but when I write I'm always looking for the answer (even if it's not on the page) because I don't want to become one. I may or may not do a good job of it, but it's always part of the work for me.
I've got no problem if you see a trailer for a movie and can tell right off that it's not to your liking, and I've got no problem if you see an actual movie and think that it sucked, but the idea of telling an artist that they shouldn't try to humanize a character - not because it's going to be a bad choice for a particular project, but because any character who would do that kind of thing shouldn't be humanized - it's a pretty wrong-headed take.
If it's something that people do then it is human. "Humanizing" the criminal doesn't lessen the horror of the crime because it's relatable. The relatability of the terrible act is where the horror truly lies.
To which I immediately reply - motherfucker, then who should he try to redeem?
Redemption is the shit.
The good and necessary shit.
Otherwise we're all fucked. All. Everybody. Me first, but you too.
When I was a kid I thought I was a pretty good guy (and I was comparatively), but the older I got the more I realized that my actions and thoughts and instincts run more or less completely perpendicular to my ideals. I fail constantly to be who I think I should be, nevermind thinking correctly who I should be. I need to be redeemed annually, weekly and daily, probably hourly. I make too many mistakes. If there's no improving, no hope for course correction or overpowering grace in the world then a swift and merciful death is the best hope for everybody.
Which isn't to say it's always (or often, or regularly) artistically successful. Fuuuuuuuuck no. If the complaint is that a trope or plot point in a character's humanizing or redemption is kinda worn out or poorly utilized, that's absolutely legit. I do hate it when it's done badly, cheaply, falsely. And please forgive me personally for the times that I fail to humanize or redeem characters in a satisfying way - you have my blessing not to read my stuff. There are people who do it better than I can and you are encouraged to go read them.
Joker may do it badly (jury's out - I haven't seen it yet). Tarantino may do it badly (keep having the conversations, everybody). But I reject the idea that it shouldn't be attempted.
Posted by jedidiah ayres at 5:16 AM