Masochism, Macbeth, Mayors, Marvel and More: My May Movie… Notes.

Masochism, Macbeth, Mayors, Marvel and More: My May Movie… Notes. May 21, 2016

Missives? Anyway.

The Duke of Burgundy: Lush flick about two butterfly researchers and their dominance/submission relationship. Some early scenes made me wonder if this would be about attention as submission–the submissive gaze, the gaze of service, as the gaze which most truly knows its object–and I’d super still want to watch that movie, but that definitely is not what this is. Then later when the twist is revealed I was like, “Ugh, I hope this isn’t just going to be a movie-length version of that joke about the masochist who says, ‘Beat me!’ and the sadist who says, ‘No!'”

It isn’t that either–or at least, it’s a poignant, rueful version of that joke. This is a story about the scripts we write for our relationships, the scripts we ultimately need to surrender if we want to love another person instead of using the fantasy version of her in our heads. There’s a lot of gentle humor–the research assistant hissing her safeword in increasingly-indignant tones!–and a golden, autumnal atmosphere that suggests that every lasting relationship is a long defeat. A long surrender of our own expectations.

Can’t recommend as this is semi-pornographic, but I got a lot out of it. Reminded me of some of Rebecca Brown’s stories in The Terrible Girls.

Nadja: Mid-90s b&w artsy bisexual vampire movie that feels ’80s in both its hairstyles and its sexual politics. When you put it like that you’d think I’d love it, right? I couldn’t do it, though. Idk, maybe I just didn’t get it, but this seemed pretentious and kind of pointless. Like, remember how I said The Addiction was a lot smarter and harder than it seemed on its overblown surface? This is not that.

Scotland, PA: Macbeth if it were set in rural Pennsylvania among 1970s fast-food entrepreneurs. I enjoyed this well enough but I’m not sure what it did other than that sentence I just typed, you know? What is this other than its elevator pitch?

It really is fun to watch, though. Loved the clothes (especially Mrs M’s stained-glass outfit and her woods-to-Dunsinane one) and the wiggy witches.

And in fairness I liked how this film made the Macbeths’ arguments feel really normal, like, these are things every married couple has argued about, why don’t you try harder at work? Do I have to do everything around here? Why do bad things you did make you so weird and sad? Why do we seem to grow further apart the more people we murder together?

Street Fight: Short documentary about Cory Booker’s first campaign for mayor of Newark.

Two layers of outsider pov: the filmmaker, Marshall Curry, is some white random who clearly sees Newark as generic low-incomeville, a sociological case study. Booker himself is a suburbanite (and a Yalie!, if the law school counts) and pretty much the whole election is about how he is Not One of Us. Man, people flat-out use the word “carpetbagger” multiple times in this film, which I didn’t know still happened.

And I felt them, honestly. The filmmaker doesn’t get it at all, but there’s a rally where the corrupt incumbent, Sharpe James, tells the crowd, “We’ve been here through good times and bad times, and we gonna stay here in improved times! We ain’t going nowhere! And we don’t need any carpetbaggers! Get out!” And I couldn’t help thinking, Yes. Everybody nowadays is all “oh rich Washington, oh DC needs to be poorer” and where the Hell were these people when we were prostrate? If you didn’t love DC as the murder rate soared and the population fell, if you didn’t live here between the King riots and the Mount Pleasant riots, then you can go on home, we don’t want any.

Meanwhile a woman leans out her window to ask Booker, “De donde eres?” and his staff replies, “Americano!”

One of James’s supporters: “We don’t want nobody practicing on Newark.”

The filmmaker’s voiceover: “Cory is a vegetarian who doesn’t drink or smoke.” I mean I too am a self-parody but y’all.

But no, all of that stuff is unfair posturing in the end. Sharpe James and his minions race-bait and fling insults–and send government goons out to harass, fine, and close down small businesses whose owners support Booker. They massively abuse their power in order to suppress black people’s votes and then hide behind Al Sharpton’s skirts.

In a way I’m glad Curry is such a… man without a hometown?… because that’s probably the only way to make me sympathize with Sharpe James. But then also other local reporters “take [Curry] aside and tell [him] to be careful.” So even though our narrator kind of is just practicing on Newark, he still has to share some of its dangers, and that is worthy of respect.

He’s totally uninterested in policy. In the interview that’s one of the DVD special features he flat-out says he decided not to focus on education policy or gang initiatives or anything like that because “it would have made the film a little too local”! Forgive others their self-parody as ye have been forgiven yours. He wanted to tell stories about democracy (valid, the voter-intimidation stuff is intense) and *~*what it means to be black in America*~*~ (a super played story we have all heard a million times). I would have liked to know more about what has actually worked in Newark.

For me, because of who I am, the most interesting stuff in the movie is about Booker as a person. He lives in a tough housing development; he was raised by parents who were active in the civil rights movement, and pressured him to carry on the struggle. He clearly feels the obligation you’re born into, the inescapable responsibility to a community which will never really see you as one of their own. I related to that really strongly on multiple levels. Kind of wish we’d gotten below Booker’s plaster-saint surface here. He’s a cipher. Not that I want political documentaries to be gory spelunking in the psyche but I could’ve used more about where, and whether, Booker felt at home.

Captain America: Civil War. I more or less enjoyed Iron Man 4! No, what an overstuffed movie, you guys, but Iron Man is a mess and that’s always great to watch. I like that in the terrific Congressional-hearing scene from IM(2? 3?) he was all, “I do what I want, kiss my shiny metal ass” and we cheered, and in this movie he has realized that he is a totally untrustworthy human being and is flailing around frantically for somebody to be accountable to. Note to self, do not take the United Nations as your higher power.

Best things for me: Natasha and Rhodey making actual valid arguments; Natasha and Rhodey in general; everything Tony Stark says to Gen. Ross but especially “Thank you, sir” as a way of trying to keep things from getting even worse; Captain America being all, “Who can we trust more than ourselves?” and Stark being like, “…Yeah no, we’re done here.”

Eh, I can’t say more for it than that, but I would watch this again if I were at a party and it was playing and my friends were into it, but also, like Tony Stark I make bad choices, so don’t trust me on this.


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