lowercase movie journal – american graffiti (1973)

(journal meets writing meets movie review)

 

9/22

 

american graffiti – 1973 – george lucas

 

lots of painful scenes

girls rejecting the guys, the guys pressing on regardless

 

were the 60s like that, george?

 

it’s in the 90s, temperature-wise here.

i feel cooped up in my small apartment.

 

i get it. the fondness of reminiscing on adolescence

and figuring women out.

 

but it’s a sinking gross kind of feeling, too.

 

you stare at your own picture enough

and you become a monster.

 

/

 

the ending with the epitaphs was weird.

women treated as objects throughout the whole thing

side characters who don’t warrant any sort of mention along

with the dudes.

 

lots of uncomfortable cat calling scenes

i disliked this movie much more this time around.

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TV stuff: Marc Maron – Too Real (Netflix)

Rating: Worth your time. Watch it or listen to it while you’re doing something else and you’ll still get a lot out of it.

I think I liked this special more than any of Marc’s other specials. It felt, as the title suggests, pretty real. I’m sure he wrote this whole hour plus up and performed it based on what he wrote, but it felt like him just getting up there and saying things off the cuff, but in a good way.

He recorded this special right here at the Pantages in Minneapolis, but I didn’t get a chance to go see it. He kind of nailed the reason why I didn’t go- he joked about it in the midst of his set. I’m in my late 30s. I hate dealing with parking, and I figured I’d get as much or more enjoyment watching it at home on Netflix than paying $35 and sitting WAYYYY up in the rafters of the Pantages. (That’s what I did when I saw him the first time, here in Minneapolis.)

Was his shirt weird? I kept getting distracted by his shirt.

The bit about the Stones was pretty great. And I totally agree with his assessment of Dave Matthews fans. You’ve got an uphill battle on your hands, friends. (I also made a Dave Matthews joke later in the day. Sorry man, didn’t mean to steal your joke when I was at Midtown Global Market getting burritos.)

Talking about a standup special is more difficult than talking about a piece of scripted TV, I think.

Marc’s one of my favorite comedians and personalities. I listen to his podcast a bit, so I feel like I’ve heard some of these jokes in different forms as he tries them out on his show, it seems.

Anyway. Great special. Go watch it. It’s worth your time.

Preacher – Season 3 Episode 10: Dirty Little Secret

Spoilers spoilers spoilers-

The introduction of the Jesus having sons storyline. The directors decided to forego making the historical part feel real and instead gave Jesus and all of the other characters a modern surfer-dude dialect. It felt different than the first season with the flashbacks for the Saint of Killers. The show, overall, is taking on more of a comedic vibe than a horror / intense vibe that the first season had.

Denis continues more down his evil vampire path. Tulip and the Grail lady are playing Rock Band and becoming better friends (meaning she’s manipulating Tulip). Herr Starr shows Jesse Humperdoo the Messiah. I’m not thrilled with that portion of the storyline. I mean I get showing the Messiah as the inbred son of 20 centuries of incest, but there was something that felt kind of like picking on the disabled for a laugh. It felt wrong not in a funny or shocking way, just in a cheap privileged kind of way.

Tulip finds the guns and the sword underneath the floorboard and the episode ends. Still not that thrilled with this season.

Oh but I do love the addition of Malcolm Barrett into the show. He was great on Better Off Ted. He doesn’t have much to do but that guy is just super charismatic, in my opinion.

Preacher – Season 2, Episode 9 : Puzzle Piece

(Spoilers ahead!)

This season had gotten bogged down so much that I stopped keeping up with it as the episodes were airing. This episode introduced a few more elements that kept it more interesting, though: The FPS – video game style scene was cool and fun. The mystery of who B.R.A.D. was was pretty good. (Although I kind of wish it was the big crazy ogre-looking dude.) Jesse’s power of The Word and using Genesis is getting very boring to me. A Deus Ex Machina is only good for like one or two uses at best. Jesse can tell Tulip to fall asleep, can tell cops to obey his orders, can have one of the crazy Grail officers kill his friends? I mean if he’s having the cops work for him in a protective capacity, why not just order all of the Grail guys to be on his side and help him find God? I’m trying to suspend my disbelief, but it’s wearing kinda thin on me.

I can’t stand New Orleans anyway. Can we move on from this city, please?

I loved the comic book series, but it’s been years since I’ve read it so I can’t remember how they kept things fresh. I do remember that it didn’t feel as stale as this does.

The Americans – End of Season 2 and S3 E1

(Spoilers ahead for Season 2 of The Americans, and S3 Episode 1 of The Americans.)

The Americans season 2:

This season was a bit confusing for me, but got a lot better at the finale. The idea about recruiting Paige into the Russian spy network made things really interesting. Best part in the last episode of Season 2 was when Philip says about Paige: “If she didn’t shut up about passive resistance, I was going to punch her in the face.” I replayed and listened to that line and guffawed out loud to myself each time.

The big reveal about the other spies’ killer being their son was chilling as hell. I didn’t see it coming at all. It kind of retroactively explains the weird acting job of that kid. I thought he was too cardboard-y in the previous episodes. A recap I read on Vulture said that the kid had a tough job of explaining everything that happened while bleeding out from a gunshot wound to the jugular. Very true.

The Americans Season 3, Episode 1:

They upped their game as far as interesting camera shots go. The opening scene was great, too. I had to replay it to make sure that it was indeed Agent Gad that Elizabeth punched in the face, and it sure was! The removal of Nina is proving to be a good ominous motivator for Oleg. Again, this series makes the killing of a character – this time Annalise – feel really impacting. I had the death of Annalise spoiled for me through a random internet search earlier in the week. I knew it was going to happen but I didn’t know HOW. And of course Philip will use the death to manipulate Yousaf.

I’m also happy to move on to season 3 because it looked like there were some quality recap podcasts to listen to once season 3 rolled around.

The first four Alien movies.

I’ve got to be avoiding some sort of deep dark abyss opening inside myself or in the world. That’s the only explanation for how much I’ve been watching television and movies lately.

I guess there’s a way to deal with these existential things bubbling under the surface in a healthy way, or I could try to find answers by watching all four of the original Alien movies over the course of 3 or 4 days.

Alien (1979) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray :

Ridley Scott made this masterpiece of space horror that every other space horror or serious sci-fi action movie has tried to emulate on the heels of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars. You can see hints of both in the scene when Tom Skeritt is talking to MU-TH-UR (Mother) in a blinky-light room, punching away at a black screen with green letters. Star Wars borrowed from 2001 (I’m assuming) all of those white hallways. Alien borrowed form 2001 and Star Wars the same thing, but added in the freight business. 70s-type dialog where people talk over each other and cut each other off, jump-scares, good special effects. This movie holds up except for a few moments when the alien definitely looks like a puppet. The chest bursting scene is terrifying, but the way the chest burster peeps his head around is a little too sock-puppetty. I watched this movie with my friend who is an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, meaning she was sheltered and hasn’t seen the films we all grew up with. But she also hasn’t been under a rock so she new the major plot points. The biggest shock for her was the reveal of Ian Holm being an android. That scene definitely is still so bizarre- who tries to kill someone by stuffing a magazine down their throat? And the weird noise Ian Holm emits while whirling around before Yaphet Kotto smashes his head off is uncanny and freaky. And Yaphet Kotto is the best in this movie. Probably my favorite acting performance in the whole film.

Aliens (1986) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray:

James Cameron, pre- Terminator 2, and pre- Titanic. This movie goes more for action movie than horror. I think it’s fair to say that it coined a lot of things that are cultural staples. Bill Paxton yelling “Game over, man!” Sigourney Weaver yelling “Get away from her, you bitch!” I was seven years old when this movie came out and my brother and I watched it repeatedly. Of the four original movies, it’s definitely the one that will appeal to 12 year old heterosexual white males the most. It’s still a good romp, but the tone changed drastically from the first movie. The first Alien movie was about claustrophobia and survival. It was about encountering an unknown thing in the midst of your routine life and finding out that the company you work for is actually out to screw you over, royally, and doesn’t give a crap about you. Aliens is about paranoia and the fight of a woman trying to get a bunch of dudes to listen to her. She’s talking sense and is getting condescended to left and right. There are claustrophobic moments, but Aliens is more about guns, sets, space ships, and kicking ass. There’s more humor and mugging for the camera. Sigourney gets into a freight suit thing that I’m pretty sure they made specifically for this movie, and stomps around in it a bit, while the camera follows each movement. “Where do you want it?” She says to the marine dudes. It’s clearly a sly moment for the audience and it felt a little silly. The special effects didn’t hold up as well as the first movie. The flying spaceship moments look kind of like Crayola on cardboard, somehow. The Aliens are frightening, though. The introduction of the queen Xenomorph is genius. Although the getting sucked out into space thing to kill it- that just felt way too familiar. I was surprised at how this one wasn’t as good as I’d remembered it being.

Alien 3 (1992) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray: 

David Fincher directs this weirdly paced and overly long movie. It has some really good moments, though. A way younger Charles Dance, before he played the maniac Lannister on Game of Thrones is actually really good. The prison setting worked for me, too. A lot of this movie is Ellen Ripley trying to figure out the prison scenario and also play detective, of sorts. You think Charles Dance is going to be a huge part of the whole movie, until he’s killed by an Alien right after revealing some deep dark secrets of his past to Ripley. And I was with the movie up until around this point. It kind of felt like 12 Monkeys, in a way. Weird British dudes in this run down future, trying to stay alive. Disgusting lice-ridden dead oxen, other bugs clogging up pipes, and molten metal bubbling in the basement. It was pretty cool. But right around the point when Charles Dance gets killed, the movie sort of loses its way. We learn Ripley’s got a chest burster inside of her and she’s suicidal. Dance’s character is gone, so the other heavy lifting for acting goes to Charles S. Dutton, who is really really good, but he can’t quite shoulder the whole burden himself. The scenes of the inmates trying to shut doors and lead the Alien-dog-oxen thing into a piston room goes on way too long. There’s a fisheye shot from the Alien’s perspective that they keep coming back to. It goes on a long time. The wide shots of the Alien are just too phony- the CGI has a weird glow around the Alien against the “real” foreground. It’s just not that great. Overall, this movie was sort of disappointing.

Alien Resurrection (1997) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray:

This movie had a lot going for it. Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed this- I’m surprised at how many of my friends hadn’t seen City of Lost Children or Micmacs, but they recognized his name from Amelie. The movie was written by a pre-Firefly and pre-Avengers Joss Whedon. You can definitely see the beginnings of Firefly formula in the rag-tag bunch of mercenaries. Winona Rider and Sigourney are great. The Aliens look fantastic. There’s virtually no “ugh, that looks dated” reactions until we get to the final morphed Alien, which is a strange human-Xenomorph hybrid. It has eyes, it has a weird nub of a nose, it’s kinda pasty and jaundiced looking. We’re made to feel bad for it and also despise it. At least Jean-Pierre put a spin on the air-lock death by having it be sucked through a tiny window. It screams pathetically while we watch its guts get deposited into space. Then the ending is also kind of a thud. They land on Earth, Winona and Sigourney exchange a few words, the camera pans out to show a demolished Paris. My friend I was watching this with had never seen it. “Wait, are the humans all dead?” She asked. I have no idea. Ron Perlman is great in this movie. Raymond Cruz, young and way before his role as Tuco on Breaking Bad is great- manic, likable, and just generally calm mixed with bursts of crazy (like Tuco). Dominique Pinon is so damn likable as the wheel-chair bound mercenary. Brad Dourif conjures his creepy doctor vibe yet again. There are so many good things about this movie, it’s a shame the weird Alien baby thing at the end had to happen in it.

I’m sure there are misspellings all over the place. I need to edit more.

I’m sick. So here’s what I’m watching.

I’m working on the second day of being sick- a head cold- the dog’s helping, of course. He’s laying on the couch in front of a space heater, and nudging me to take him out on walks. I’m Google Hangout-ing into my work meetings and keeping my microphone on mute so they can’t hear me hack and they can’t hear me talking to the dog as he’s pestering me.

When you’re sick, it’s the best time to binge watch TV. That’s definitely what I’ve been doing.

Community – Last part of season 1: 

My friend dog-sits for me and lets me use her Hulu account. I log in and see the “Shows You Watch” category. We have clear differences in what we like. You can pick them out: Hers- Kardashian things, Grey’s Anatomy, uh… actually I have no idea what else is on there because they all seem like variations of those two things. Mine: Community, Seinfeld, Adventure Time, Stephen Universe, Samurai Jack.

Community is finally getting good. I’ve heard friends say how they love the show because it plays with the format of the sit com itself, but I hadn’t gotten to that part until now. The first part of season 1 is kind of mood-setting, treating the characters as you would in any sit com: the weird one, the shy one, the cool one, etc etc. But after a certain point in season one they start being self-referential. It’s starting to get good. I dose up and… oh great my ADD or cold meds are kicking in. Here’s what else I’m watching-

Hell On Wheels : 

Cheesy at parts, but then it redeems itself with some beautifully screwed up racial politics and dynamics. It’s like Deadwood-light. With less likable characters.

Batman: Year One : 

I’m sure I watched this before at some point, but I can’t remember. This is the adaptation of the comic that began my love of Batman and gritty comics. It’s a faithful retelling of the comic book story. The best part is Bryan Cranston as Gordon. Oh and you wouldn’t know it from listening to her, but it’s Katee Sackhoff as Ellis. Or is it Ennis? I’m still on cold meds. I can’t wait for The Killing Joke to be released next month, even if Rotten Tomatoes did rate it pretty harshly.

Sleepy Hollow (the Tim Burton movie) : 

I rated this on one of my blogs a couple of years ago and I think I was more disturbed by it back then as opposed to now. It’s a good movie. Bloody as hell but that’s part of the fun. It’s cool to see Christopher Walken have no lines in the movie and yell like a madman. Netflix informed me that Big Eyes was also directed by Tim Burton, and I’ve yet to see that so I suppose that’ll be coming up soon in my sick-watch list.

Soundbreaking (PBS series): 

It looks like George Martin (Not R.R.) helped fund this cool series about music that’s kind of divided up into weird sections. Voice, electronic music, producers- each episode takes a different facet of each of those and then lets the pros in the field do the talking. There’s no voice over narrator. It’s great zoning-out TV, with a parade of all these people from every musical genre talking about how they make music. It made me plug in my guitar and pedals and start noodling around on it. My dog woke up and gave me the stink eye for a bit so I stopped.

Spotlight:

Holy shit, this movie is fantastic. (No pun intended there.) It’s along the lines of Woodward and Bernstein uncovering stuff, but it’s great and if you’re like me and despise organized religion, this will just get your ire up even more. I love watching Michael Keaton act in just about anything (maybe Mr. Mom is an exception). It’s appalling how many priests got away with molesting kids and how the Catholic church covered it up. The movie making is kind of on the dull side, as my friend Bill pointed out when I texted him about how great this movie was. He’s right, but I think it works for this narrative. There’s also only one black guy in the whole movie. Hey if we’re making a movie I think it’s okay to cast against type and race every once in a while. Just try that more, Hollywood. Okay?

I’m sure there’s more but I can’t remember them. Didn’t John Donne keep some kind of diary about when he was surviving the plague? I’m sure if he had Netflix, he’d be much happier. Did he have a dog? He needed one of those, too.

(Forgive all the misspellings in this post. I’m not 100% with it.)