Saturday, September 3, 2022

What I've Caught Up With, August 2022

I watched a lot more television in August. There are too many cultural references that I'm simply not getting without having at least a little television knowledge. In addition to Midnight Mass below, I also watched WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and also got through all eight seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. As usual, less than I'd like, but I was also finishing up a huge work project this month--I had to work on a project pitch for people about five pay grades above me--I find out on Monday if my team is getting funded. So...fingers crossed.

What I’ve Caught Up With, August 2022:
Film: Frozen II (2019)

With the success of Frozen, it’s not a surprise that Disney put a sequel into production. It’s also not a surprise that while the story is a lot bigger than the original film in a lot of ways, it’s also not nearly as good a movie. Where the first was more about sisterhood and familial love than anything, this is about looking for the source of Elsa’s powers. It’s fine; it’s just not nearly as good as I wanted it to be based on the first one. There’s also a part of me that wonders what homeopath crept into Disney and gave someone the “water has memory” story idea. As Tim Minchin has jokingly said, “Water has memory! And while it's memory of a long lost drop of onion juice seems infinite, it somehow forgets all the poo it's had in it!”

Film: Midnight Mass (2021)

Not a movie, but a miniseries that plays in large part like a movie, Midnight Mass is a strange exploration of religion and belief in the context of a horror story. As a non-believer, I very much appreciate exactly where this goes when it comes to how it addresses the danger of belief. By the time we get to the end, concepts of how someone like Jim Jones could have gotten hundreds to drink poison may not make any more sense, but are at least on the cusp of understandability. Watch this, and you’ll get a good sense of why people still worship at the altar of Qanon. Some nice gore and a few good shocks, and while this is good, ultimately, I’d have been a lot more excited if it hadn’t been a classic monster at the end.

Film: A Bigger Splash (2015)

Well, I certainly wasn’t sure what to expect with A Bigger Splash. This went in directions I didn’t see coming. A rock star (Tilda Swinton) is recovering her voice in Italy with her filmmaker paramour (Matthias Schoenaerts). Out of nowhere, her old producer/lover (Ralph Fiennes) appears with his young daughter (Dakota Johnson), who is very much a Lolita. Bad things happen. I’ve said before that I often have an issue with movies where there isn’t someone in the story with whom I can identify. That’s the case here. All of these people are terrible; the best person in the whole thing is the housekeeper. It’s well made, but it’s ugly in its heart.

Film: Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017)

Based on the true story of the last few years of the life of Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening), which involved a whirlwind romance with a stage actor half her age named Peter Turner (Jamie Bell). We don’t normally get May/December romances in this direction, and in that respect, it was quite refreshing. We do learn some things about Grahame, though, that would make her a controversial figure even now, like the fact that she married her stepson, a la Woody Allen. I’m not much of an Annette Bening fan, but she’s quite good in this, as is Jamie Bell, who is the one who truly sells the romance. The actual Peter Turner makes an appearance as well, as he should, since he wrote the book this was based on.

Film: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)

When I was a kid, along with talking with my friends about what we might do when (not if) nukes started flying, I would wonder how I would react had I been alive in Europe in the 1930s and ‘40s. Artist Ai Weiwei is living that reality, but is doing so in communist mainland China. Knowing exactly how the government is going to react to acts of defiance, he continues to create art, make films, blog, and take photographs that are intended to push China in the direction he wants it to go. This is a profile of intense courage and the true power of art at its finest. “There are no outdoor sports as graceful as throwing stones at a dictatorship.”

Film: The Unholy Three (1930)

Lon Chaney was one of the greatest actors of the silent era, and, aside from Chaplin, was the last major star to move into talkies. He made exactly one talkie--The Unholy Three--a remake of an earlier film of his where he leads a trio of sideshow performers in a series of crimes. Also featuring Harry Earles, the star of Freaks, the big sell here is that Chaney actually talks. He not only talks, though, he does a bunch of different voices and even signed an affidavit saying that all of the voices were his. He could have done so much more, but this is the only chance we got to hear the man speak—the man of a thousand faces had at least half a dozen voices.


  1. I've seen Frozen II a lot because of the niece and nephew as I liked it a bit more than the first in terms of its visuals and ambition. I also enjoyed A Bigger Splash mainly for Ralph Fiennes. If I was a woman, I'd fuck him raw as I just love the way he dances to the Stones' "Emotional Rescue".

    1. I can't really think of a good reason to watch Frozen II again. Same with A Bigger Splash.

  2. Dead on with Frozen II. Wanted to like it more, but just not as good a movie as the first one and not as good as it should have been.

    I loooooooooove Brooklyn Nine-Nine. One of the greatest ensemble comedies of all time.

    1. I enjoyed Brooklyn Nine-Nine a great deal. It managed to often be culturally relevant and have something to say while still being funny. It also has the distinction of having one of the better series endings in television history.

  3. I don't watch much series television (the only one I watch on the regular now is Nathan Fillion's The Rookie), I seem to be some sort of curse-almost invariably when I find a show I want to follow it gets cancelled within the first year but I lucked out with Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I started watching from the beginning, it was fun and quirky but still grounded in the fact that the characters really cared about being good cops. Amazed it last as long as it did.

    I thought A Bigger Splash was okay but the one time I watched it was enough.

    The Unholy Three was a good film and Chaney wonderful in it giving a glimpse of what the future could have held for him. Obviously he wouldn't have had any trouble making the transition from silents to sound.

    Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool was decent but having read the book years beforehand it couldn't help but feel like a sketch of Gloria Grahame. I suppose that was inevitable but it still hindered my fully buying into the film. Annette Bening did a good job but Grahame was such a singular presence it would be next to impossible for anyone to capture her special magic.

    I know it was extremely scandalous at the time when Gloria married Nick Ray's son but to fair it's not like she left the elder Ray for the younger-there was an eight year gap in-between during which she was married to someone else for a number of years. However she did have a child with each man (2 with the younger Ray) which made the family dynamics quite complex with half brothers also being each other's uncles and so forth.

    1. I also don't watch a great deal of television. I had a friend make a list of shows that she thought essential in terms of quality or just general pop culture knowledge and I'm making my way through them--I watch a couple of episodes of something every day. It's a very different experience in a lot of ways.

      There wasn't a lot this month to get really excited about. The Ai Weiwei documentary is the class of this list, although I enjoyed everything well enough. A Bigger Splash felt cruel in a lot of ways; I probably liked that one the least.