I Lead You Here Sir, For I Am Spartacus

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Movie Season round 4:

Don’t Think Twice inspires The Thing You Do

Sorry that this is late, you guys! I was at a comic con on Saturday and then Sunday I spent three hours training for race day (less than a month, eeehhh!!!) So I wasn’t really up for writing so much as sleeping!

Anyway, choosing a movie to pair with Don’t Think Twice took some thinking and I’m very proud of what I wound up with. As I reflected on Don’t Think Twice and what it was saying (which was a lot,) the things that really interested me about it were the personalities bouncing around it, and the cross section of creation and commerce.

No other movie deals with that quite as well as That Thing You Do, the rock and roll fable that Tom Hanks gave us in the 90’s and is in the top ten movies that I’ve seen the most. It’s one of those stop on cable and watch it regardless of timing movies (also included, The Princess Bride & and of the Rocky films.) The Wonders are a group of people who are quickly shot into extraordinary circumstances and it winds up tearing them apart and forcing them to make something new.

Guy Patterson is a really good protagonist, especially as everymen go. Tom Everett Scott invests him with just enough personality that you want to root for him, but not enough to alienate you. He’s on a ride that he’s going to enjoy and that leads to him finding out what he actually wants (He winds up a music teacher, rather than a rock star. It’s a brilliant subversion). Which, oddly, lines him up with Sam, Gillian Anderson’s character in Don’t Think Twice, he wants the music, not the glory. She wants the art of improv, not the glory of comedy stardom.

When something falls apart, it’s tempting to believe that that’s a bad thing, but sometimes that destruction is what lives come out of, where joy and art and goodness blooms, and I think that’s the theme of both of these little show business stories, that focus on people and places and specificity and something magical and special.

Also, that song is pretty great. Way to go Adam Schlessinger!

Deconstructing Defenders: Jessica Jones Season 1: Episodes 9 & 10

Everything I do feels very small this week. But I do this. I point to the light. In the case of Jessica Jones the light is kind of greyish, but it’s a light none the less.

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Season 1: Episode 9: “AKA Sin Bin”

This is a really good episode. Intense, for sure, but wonderful. Jessica had Kilgrave held prisoner in his glass cell, and gets Jeri to come see him. Unfortunately, Jeri points out that there’s nothing she can do with anything Jessica gets from him, you know, because of the whole kidnapping aspect of this particular enterprise. Jeri is also distracted by, you know, her divorce, her attempt to get Hope a plea deal, and the intoxicated possibility of having control over Kilgrave (which she of course does not have, it’s all an illusion.)

Jeri gets Hope that plea deal and she decides to take it, which makes Jessica desperate, and so she tracks down Kilgrave’s parents. And this is where the fun begins.

And by fun I mean unspeakable horror.

So, Kilgrave (with Jeri’s help? I really don’t remember) stages a most awesome breakout, but first, he forces his mother to kill herself with scissors, after feigning regret and forgiveness to his parents. It’s terrifying, but leads to what is ultimately the most badass moment in the whole series.

During his escape, he orders Jessica to let go of him. She does not. Reflecting on that moment, she flashes back to Reva’s death, realizes that she left before he got hit by the bus, and she smiles

Season 1: Episode 10: “AKA 1,000 Cuts”

So it was Hogarth that helped Kilgrave escape. They say it outright, I don’t know why I couldn’t remember that. Anyway, he orders he to take him to a doctor so she takes him to Wendy, who patches him up and then he, exasperated, orders Wendy to kill Hogarth. Pam comes in and kills Wendy instead. Jessica comes in and tells them all that they’re screwed and it’s awesome.

Kilgrave tells Jessica that he’ll trade his father, who is working on a vaccine that will innoculate against his control, for Hope. Jessica tries to control the whole situation and falls up very short, although the image of Malcolm, Robin and the support group in nooses is both haunting and very cool, like something right from a comic book.

But Hope’s death is awful, it’s tragic and unnecessary, and harsh, and I kind of love everything about the scene. This girl is completely and utterly hopeless, and there’s nothing left for her.

Oh, also Simpson has gone berserk and that’s really boring. I think the only thing that Daredevil season 2 is better at than Jessica Jones is it’s execution of “Crazy Veteran Who Kills Everyone.”

Other Stuff

  • Pam dumping Hogarth is ridiculously awesome.
  • But nothing is better than Jessica’s remembering her moment to escape from Kilgrave and missing it. Her fantasy of the white horse, the moment where he orders her to cut off her ears, all of it is so well done. The fact that he’s only now understanding what a monster he is, except for that he isn’t.
  • Malcolm and Robin go searching for Reuben. And then, she find out the truth and causes way more problems then she solves. Basically, the whole point of the second episode is that you can’t control anything.

 

 

“Maybe I Am A Lovesick Schoolgirl”: Felicity: Season 1: Episodes 7 & 8

So, that was heavier than I was expecting. I decided to watch these episodes after two episodes of Jessica Jones. And then, well, I wasn’t going to also watch the second one, I mean, I did, eventually, but well…yeah, I needed to watch something not about rape. (This is, by the way, a story point I knew hit eventually, I’d heard it talked about, but it didn’t know when, or the circumstances.) ANYWAY!!!

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Season 1: Episode 7: “Drawing The Line Part 1”

So, to begin with, this is a very good episode of television, even without the gut punch of the ending. We have, basically, three stories being evenly balanced.

Ben is not talking to Felicity because of the situation with his paper. It’s nice for Ben that he’s getting a sense of boundaries, and all, but it’s also, like, I hate him? So I want him to stop being such a dick about it. Felicity, in turn, is whining to Noel about the whole thing, and Noel is talking (in hypotheticals, FOR REAL) to the other RA’s about it, and how he can’t take having feelings for this girl and having to listen to her talk about this other guy. They suggest he tell her that he can’t be her sounding board. He does, she’s hurt, but eventually gets it.

Elena loses out on a scholarship she was counting on and is in panic mode. Blair (OMG I LOVE HIM) decides to help, by preying on Felicity’s lack of boundaries and getting her to look at Elena’s admissions file. They then find a scholarship specifically for young black women who want to be doctors at New York. What a stroke of amazing luck! At first she’s mad, but then realizes, with help from Noel, that her dreams are worthy and she should fight for them.

The third story is about Julie and Zack. Their relationship is becoming more intense, both emotionally and physically, but Julie wants to pull back physically. After a night of Julie scoring Zack’s movie and then partying, they go back to Julie’s room, and, clearly have sex. The next day, Felicity find Julie, having stripped her bed and deeply upset. After asking what’s wrong, Julie describes her night, explaining that Zack was aggressive, that she said no and he didn’t stop.

Season 1: Episode 8: “Drawing The Line: Part 2”

What I like about this episode? The focus is very much on Julie and her dealing with the fact that she’s been raped. (Possibly not for the first time? Way to drop that bomb and then do nothing with it, show! Unless you do later.) However I do not like that Felicity makes it all about her. Way to be the worst Felicity.

Anyway, as Felicity encourages Julie to trust the system when it comes to her rape, taking her to the hospital and scoping out the counseling center for her. She also tells Noel, which is very Felicity of her, but also seriously, not her call. Anyway, together, these two well intentioned busy bodies attempt to get Julie to report Zack.

Meanwhile, Zack is coming to grips with the fact that he raped someone. In (yet another) perfect encapsulation of dude obliviousness when it comes to rape culture. Julie was into it, he didn’t attack her. When she tells him, finally, that she is reporting him, that she’s going to fight for herself, well, it’s pretty moving, especially when he says that he’s going home he knows that he has a lot to grapple with.

But nothing beats Ben. The moment where he talks about being abused by his father and coming to grips with it not being his fault, so Julie needs to realize that she did nothing wrong either, it was incredible.

I hate him a little less now. (As described below)

Other Stuff:

  • It hit me that both Felicity and Noel grow up to be spies. This feels important, somehow. (It is not actually important)
  • Why I Hate Ben: He tries to turn Blair against Felicity. What the hell man? She’s a nut job, but she deserves friends!
  • Why I’m Coming Around On Ben: He’s very kind of Julie about everything, actually listens to her. We learn that they didn’t have sex because she said she didn’t want to and he punches Zack in the face.
  • Greg Grunberg, who’s character name I can’t seem to remember, is an utter delight on this show, with his weird invention/business ideas. Also, I’m thinking he never leaves Ben, his and Blair’s apartment.
  • Felicity looks darn cute in her Dean and Deluca uniform. Also, I hope she starts standing up for herself more. She’s way less annoying when that happens.
  • Amy Jo Johnson is a BEAST acting wise in these episodes. She’s really, really, good.
  • Crystan Says: “All I want is for Jake and Elizabeth (Keri’s character on The Americans) to meet up and be badass spies together. Also, you will hate everyone on this show at some point. And Felicity continues to be a door mat. (GREAT) And his name is Sean (his name is GREG GRUNBERG!)”

It Has To Mean Something

Movie Postseason Round 4:

Arrival Inspires Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

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With the exception of the remakes, this is probably the most obvious connection between two of the movies I chose. This is also a movie about humanity connecting with visitors from another world. It’s also primarily the small personal story of one character rather than a sweeping epic.

So there you go.

Here are some other things about Close Encounters that every one forgets when they’re talking about the majesty of that final scene and the communication of music and the awesome special effects:

  1. Richard Dreyfus is really good in this movie even though it’s all about him leaving his family
  2. This movie is FREAKING TERRIFYING
  3. This movie is really, really weird.

So let’s deal the performance of Mr. Dreyfus, shall we? He’s exceptional in this, his laser focus on the mountain, what it means and being sure that he belongs there. His confusion and certainity at the same time are really really good, and it’s jut all really exceptional. Much how Arrival hinges on Amy Adams. (I’m telling you it’s really easy for me to connect these two movies, just absurdly simple. I did good with selection this time around!)

As for how terrifying this movie is? Maybe it was because I was alone in the house and exhausted while I was watching, but the scene where all of that kid’s toys come to life? Or when he gets abducted? Or the scene where the alien is seen for the first time as the saucer opens. FUCKING TERRIFYING MAN!!!

This movie is really, really weird. Most people talk about this movie, they remember the last 20 minutes, which, frankly, is what I remembered too. (I’m also pretty sure this is the first time I sat and watched the whole thing) but the two hours before that is really just Dreyfus running around acting like a goddamn lunatic, some weird stuff in Africa, some weirder stuff with a French scientist and something sort of involving the army. It’s strange and slow and hard to follow. The payoff is worth it, but I feel the need to warn anyone else who wants to watch this movie that it’s kind of strange.

Overall, I’m proud of this pairing in a way that I’m not of any of the others. It’s just such a perfect match.

Deconstructing Defenders: Jessica Jones: Season 1: Episodes 7 & 8

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Season 1: Episode 7: “AKA Top Shelf Perverts”

There are two truly amazing images in this episode that I can’t ever quite let go of. One of them is brutal, the other is just beautiful. The image of Reuben, bleeding from his freshly cut throat in Jessica’s bed is haunting and fabulous, and Jessica looking over the city on a bridge, saying her goodbyes to it, is also brilliantly staged and so stunning, that I hadn’t even remembered it from my first watch through.

The crux of this epsiode though, is about Jessica further losing control. Reuben’s death is horrifying and the fact that he is truly an innocent is not lost on Jessica or anyone around her. I’m not a huge fan of the character of Robin, but the way she becomes unhinged at Reuben’s disappearance really reminds you that these are people who are meant to be on the outskirts of the world, even Hell’s Kitchen, which is all shadows.

The rest of the episode plays out with a brilliant two handed scene between Kilgrave and Jessica in the police station, where he will not allow her to turn herself in. It’s terrifying and some of the best acting I’ve seen David Tennant do. (Which, considering how much Doctor Who I’ve watched, and that Richard III I saw him in…well, that’s saying something right?)

I also love that Malcolm is all in with Jessica. I really love his character! I’m really excited about it moving forward with more of this show. (Season 2 and all…) But the visit to Trish’s mom, and the flashback to Jessica’s early days with the Walkers is also chilling and a good reminder that abuse is kind of the watchword of this series, recovering and moving past it, and it’s cycles.

Season 1: Episode 8: “AKA WWJD”

This might be my favorite episode. A lot of Jessica Jones takes romantic comedy and drama cliches and plays them for terror, and the “grand gesture,” Kilgrave purchasing and recreating Jessica’s childhood home is easily the most cogent and most terrifying of all of these. And this episode never plays the gesture, or the way Kilgrave is treating Jessica, holding her emotionally hostage as he threatens the lives of the servants that he’s hired.

And there’s another brilliant double scene, where Jessica finally says, “you raped me,” and we get the most salient comment on rape culture I can possibly say. Kilgrave’s complete misunderstanding of consent, boundaries and why Jessica felt violated is so spot on to what I’ve heard men say.

Meanwhile, Simpson (ugh) is really hoping to kill him, and Jessica makes him do a heroic act at one point and finally, captures him. Seriously, the moment where she stabs him in the neck is one of the most satisfying in the whole series, and there are a lot of satisfying moments.

Other Stuff

  • OFFICER BRETT MAHONEY SHOWS UP IN THIS EPISODE! Unfortunately for Jessica, she has no cigars to bribe him with. Unfortunately for Brett, he’s being controlled by Kilgrave.
  • Everything about Jessica demanding a lawyer makes me wish that Matt and Foggy showed up. Sadly, or possibly for the best, they do not.
  • The flashbacks to the day of Jessica’s family dying are really affecting. There’s nothing idealized in this day, it’s a normal frustrating and ultimately awful day.
  • Jessica’s neighbor is awful, but that doesn’t mean that she deserved to be blown up.
  • When Jessica and Kilgrave go to break up the hostage situation the Star Wars references are golden, but I also get Doctory vibes from it. Of course, the Doctor wold have just empathized the hell out of everything instead of ordering, but still, it’s all there. It’s all about the framing, that’s what this show has taught me.
  • Jeri’s divorce is actually a very compelling B story, I just never remember to write about it. But I do like it, and Carrie Ann Moss is fab.

Felicity: Season 1: Episodes 5 & 6: War Stories

felicity-season-1Season 1: Episode 5: “Spooked”

Felicity and Ben get mugged, and react to it in different ways. Felicity reacts by applying for a job at Dean and Deluca, helping the police and talking Ben through his feelings. Ben reacts by calling Felicity in the middle of the night to talk about his feelings and then making out with some other girl at a Halloween Party.

My hatred of Ben grows strong, it may turn me into a Sith, or like whatever the WB version of a Sith is. (Chad Michael Murray? A male vampire from Buffy before they fell in love with Buffy?) I mean, I kind of hate Felicity too, but I also relate to her, because I so get being that girl, I was that girl for so many guys when I was that age, and younger, but oh God, is it awful to see it being acted out by a character I like so much. I want to shake her.

Anyway, Noel encourages Elena to go with him to the party, which he winds up skipping because he’s taking care of a crying drunk Felicity, because OMG HE’S THE BEST EVER.

Julie, meanwhile, is hanging out with Zack and they kiss a few more times and I like this plot a lot. Overall this was an interesting episode that was made awesome by a few weird touches that I’ll get into below.

Season 1: Episode 6: “Cheating”

This episode is, for reasons I guess I understand not about Noel cheating on his girlfriend with Felicity. (Which I would have much preferred.) Instead, it’s about Felicity rewriting Ben’s paper for their poetry class because Felicity has BOUNDARY ISSUES. Ben didn’t ask her to, she just did it. And it’s pretty awful, because they both wind up in big trouble for plagiarism, and because it illustrates both of their most monstery qualities.

Anyway, that’s all happening with Julie and Zach get ready for their second date to go see Solaris, which Julie is only marginally interested in. She fakes it, but winds up being honest and hey, he likes her anyway. Also, Elena and Blair, the guy she hooked up with on Halloween also deal with having relationship things, mostly, he’s really sweet, and she’s kind of freaked out about it.

Oh, and Noel goes to Ben’s apartment and eats some Marzipan that Ben’s roommate (GREG GRUNBERG!) made. Because adorable.

 

Other Stuff

  • Why I Hate Ben: He makes out with a Pink Power Ranger (haha, I totally get that. That’s really funny) instead of Felicity at the Halloween party. He also bails on their couple costume. Granted, he confesses that the mugging reminded him of being scared of his father, and while I always have sympathy for WB Characters With Horrible Abusive Fathers. (Love you Nathan Scott and Pacey Whitter) Ben has none of Pacey or Nate’s redeeming qualities, so it’s not enough.
  • Team Noel: If anyone likes you even after you throw up on them, they deserve to continue being your friend. Also, he’s nice to Elena, who’s sort of a jerk to everyone, but Noel is so nice he’s even nice to her.
  • Actors I Love On This Show: Guys! Greg Grunberg! Who I knew was on the show and I was waiting for, but oh the glory that is the beginning of the most important friendship in all of entertainment, that of JJ Abrams and Greg Grunberg. Also Ian Gomez! Not only do I enjoy his work, he’s married to Nia Vardalos, which makes him the coolest man alive.

Badly is An Adverb

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Movie Post Season Round 3:

The Nice Guys Inspires Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

The Nice Guys held on to the number one spot in this seasons movie season for an almost unreasonably long amount of time, and I maintain that is by far one of the best action movies ever made, far eclipsing Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which is in many ways, it’s big brother. You know, because of Shane Black, and casting actors against type and all of that.

But there are two things that Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang has that The Nice Guys lacks, and that’s the performances by Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. Ryan Gosling and Russel Crowe are very good, but they’re not a match for these two. Plus I love the genre and writing play in this movie.

Basically, like all good film noirs, it’s starts with a guy and girl. The guy is Harry and the girl is Harmony. They were friends in high school, and now they’re both in LA trying to be actors. Well, Harmony is. Harry is actually a petty theif who accidentally winds up auditioning for a movie. But, Harmony’s sister turns up dead, and with the help of a PI named Perry, who’s consulting on Harry’s movie, and is very gay.

The movie itself moves very quickly, the characters are fun. (Although the content, particularly Harry’s attitude towards both Perry and Harmony is problematic at best. If I didn’t know Black’s work as well as I do, and know his satiric bent, I might be offended by some of it.)

Overall, I was really glad to revisit the movie though. I recall watching it in high school, but didn’t have much to remember it by, except for loving Robert Downey Jr. And he really is incredible in this movie, which tends to get forgotten in his career resurrection in favor of Iron Man, Black took a chance on him when no one else would and American cinema is richer for it. And Val Kilmer is also amazing, but he usually is. At the very least, he tends to make interesting acting choices.

I was happy to revisit this movie, and I really hadn’t remembered many of the details about it, and I do think that The Nice Guys is a better execution of the kind of thing that Shane Black likes to do, but this has the stronger performances.