The Rise and Saul of Practically Everything: Some movie and tv notes

The Rise and Saul of Practically Everything: Some movie and tv notes April 30, 2016

Well, I’ve started Better Call Saul. I’m only through five episodes. I watched I think the first three seasons of Breaking Bad, hating Walter and sort of myself the whole time. Saul is more my speed. The main character is that one character type that will always, always get its claws right into my heart: the dutiful sleazebag. Make somebody both really sleazy and really willing to serve another human being, and I am there for you. (I had some sort of formative experience with Grantaire as a child. The wish-fulfillment version of that trope. Now you know where I get it from….)

In general the three things I look for in any narrative art object are jokes, sleaze, and repentance. In visual art I also like showy stylishness. I expect to enjoy this show.

Now some movies.

Condemned: A hideous mix of chemicals in a locked, abandoned building claimed by NYC squatters turns them into ungentrified zombies. There’s a fun ’80s feel to this, with its ultra-grungy New York still all guns and graffiti, its bright bouncy colors and its gross gooey over-the-top batwingery. It’s also tasteless on every level, stomach-turning, and the kind of movie that’s about gentrification and the marginalization of freaks but also our POV character and final girl is the nice middle-class white chick. Throwbacky and sort of demented. I found this very skippable but idk, you might like it. The squatters are very paint by numbers (whoa he’s a Hasid with payess BUT his girlfriend is a black transvestite hooker! man, New York is a weird place!) but the building itself is well-imagined and I did like the opening speech a lot, about how birds become their nests.

Something, Anything: A rich career woman trapped in a mistake of a marriage doesn’t realize she should speak honestly to her awful husband because she has no decent friends. Also, she considers monasticism and rids herself of worldly possessions.

There are some clever cuts in this movie, especially in the opening montage. (There’s also a shot where the main woman’s boobs walk toward the camera, but okay.) Every woman except one speaks in a terrifying sugary baby voice. I question the decision of the real actual monks of Gethsemane Abbey to appear in this film. I do think the exploration of monasticism is sincere and even low-key preachy, but it’s a kind of unanchored monasticism, a way of expressing one’s sickness of the world and taking on a self-improvement project. Monastic longings as self-expression.

I know it’s hard to make a movie about someone trying to figure out what or whom or Whom she loves, because if you can’t show her loving some specific beloved it’s easy for her to come across as self-absorbed. But why don’t we see what or how the monks love, if they’re going to be such a large part of the movie’s symbolic vocabulary? Why don’t we see what the old flame/ex-monk/guy who hits on an unhappily-married woman but he’s conflicted about it so I guess that’s great, loves, other than music and fun?

And sentimental fireflies.

The Objective: Short weird tale about a CIA man (Jonas Ball, like James Marsden on a bender, I really enjoyed this guy) who takes a team into the wilderness in Afghanistan and confronts something not of this earth. Much more compelling than it had to be, partly because it knows which questions to leave unanswered and partly because it sells you the main character as a guy who is cynical on the outside but genuinely loyal to the Company. Will his loyalty be rewarded? Ha ha ha ha yes definitely, that’s how that works.

Voice: Korean haunted-school horror. The relationship of best friends Young-Eon and Sun-Min is at the heart of this story, which has sapphic overtones. I loved the use of singing; in general this is a poignant, haunting (!) movie to experience. The plot gets tangly by the end. As I was watching I was really moved by this film, though now that I’m trying to remember it I see that it has faded pretty fast. Definitely worth a watch if you’re intrigued.

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