Isle of Dogs

I love all the dogs in Isle of Dogs.


Another movie where the lead doesn’t speak

***Update: I can’t stop thinking about this movie. In a good way. It gets in your head and walks around with you. More below***

Indie sci-fi director, Duncan Jones, has a new film, Mute, just released straight to Netflix. It, like a lot of films I like, has follows a main character who doesn’t talk much.

This film also features a lot of callbacks to the messed up cinema of the 1970s and ’80s. Yes, Paul Rudd’s facial hair is an intentional homage to Elliott Gould’s in M*A*S*H. Yep, this is pretty much what Berlin would look like if Rick Deckard ever had to chase a replicant that far. And that hobbit in a kimono? He sure has some very intimidating sex robots. I’m think that’s a reference to A Boy and His Dog, or maybe Zardoz, or, failing that, just too much Hollywood cocaine in general.

So, I liked this movie. I liked the single-minded, problem-solving intensity of the hero with a communication disorder. Alexander Skarsgård did a heck of a job telling you everything you needed to know with piercing, plaintive stares. He only used two signs, but that’s all right. His character did not grow up using sign. He grew up being Amish, which makes him extra cool. And I guess it’s a bit of an homage to Witness, which also had some throat trauma.

I hope that’s not a spoiler. I mean, the title is Mute, and the intersection of the throat trauma and the Amishness happens in the opening scenes. And there is a brief flash of a newspaper headline that relates the background information that conservatives in Germany had welcomed Amish immigrants for racist reasons.

Also, Sam Rockwell’s character from Moon, Duncan Jones’ first feature, makes an appearance, or, rather a few appearances.

There were so many things I enjoyed about watching this film all by myself on a rainy afternoon. But it’s a murky, introspective kind of enjoyment. And maybe enjoyment isn’t really the word. Appreciation is more accurate.

This is a film that can be appreciated. If you appreciate Bladerunner and Paul Rudd acting like a really pissed off Elliott Gould and gratuitous throat trauma and Swedish guys who don’t say much, you may appreciate Mute.

If, on the other hand, none of that seems like your thing, skip it. No worries. We can still be friends.

-After about 12 hours of letting this movie work it’s way through my head, I realize that it’s one of the most legit renditions of William Gibson style cyberpunk to be commited to film. It’s right up there with Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. I hereby bestow upon Mute an unequivocal rating of five out of five mostly functional cybernetic implants.

Again, if you’re the kind of person who hates cyberpunk, skip it. We can still be friends. Unless, of course, while hating all things cyberpunk, you are ridiculously committed to steampunk cosplay. In this case, I just don’t know what your deal is. I’ll probably nervously giggle far too much for us to have a productive conversation about how the addition of sprockets improves the function of your pince-nez.

The Big Ole Mermaid!

It’s been too long since I blogotroped. I have no excuse, other than a general ennui with all things internet. But, as I was filling out my tax stuff, I realized that if I’m going to deduct my domain name registration as a business expense, I’d better get back to business.

So, down to business. I saw Guillermo del Toro’s reboot of the Little Mermaid. In a big boy theater with a big screen.

(Portland’s nonprofit Hollywood Theatre to be precise. A highly recommended venue. It is more a temple to the arts of cinema and video than a mere movie stadium seated multiplex.)

As is my won’t, I’m a sucker for any movie that employs sign language to move the plot without being preachy (I’m looking at you, Oscar nominated short The Silent Child). Because, you know, Ariel lost her voice, so she’s got to make to be able to tell her boss where to stick his unwanted sexual advances somehow.

There’s so much I could say about this weird and beautiful fairy tale, but how to do so without giving away more spoilers than I already have?

I can’t, so I’m just going to have to give it a glowing rating of 5 out of 5 pairs of rotting, gangrenous, reattached severed fingers.

Happy Death Day

Here’s the pitch: It’s Groundhog Day on a college campus, only the Bill Murray character is a blonde coed and the groundhog is a murderer. Also, it’s not winter and the blonde coed is close to naked, or totally naked, in many scenes.

Studio: How closely does this blonde coed resemble Bill Murray.

Pitch Guy: Not at all. She’s a hot blonde and we can tease the frequency of her nakedness in the trailer.

Studio: Sounds good, but is there anyway we can change the Sonny and Cher song to something less iconic? The licensing rights are going to be murder.

Pitch Guy: Done and done.

Studio: Oh, one more thing. Can we make the killer wear a distinctive, yet easily mass produced mask? There’s a marketing tie-in bonanza in Halloween costumes if we can get this thing in theaters mid-October.

Pitch Guy: Of course. What it we make the killer mask look a little like a groundhog face?

Studio: Cha-ching.

Pitch Guy: Is that a greenlight?

Studio: I said, “cha-ching,” didn’t I?

Ingrid Goes West

This is a very compelling movie about how I really need to stay off of social media.

But, seriously, it’s a film that follows you around afterwards, haunts your thoughts, and leaves you with an ending that isn’t exactly satisfying, but at least is more comforting than the ending it could have.

Spoiler alert! O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (A.K.A. Ice Cube, Jr.) plays a giant Batman nerd. OMG, he is such a Batman nerd. I mean, everyone has their favorite Batman, and that’s okay. But O’Shea Jackson, Jr.’s Dan Pinto is devoted specifically to the Val Kilmer iteration from the Joel Schumacher film Batman Forever. That is a rare breed of Batman nerd. As this actor’s second foray onto the big screen clearly shows, his range far exceeds playing his own dad in a biopic.

This might sound like I’m downplaying this character, but I am seriously captivated. I want to know more about him. I want to know why Batman Forever? Should I revisit this film. Also, how does an orphan get to be a lamdlord in Venice Beach and have a sweet, sweet truck with a BATM8N vanity license plate?

And that sex scene.

This is how I’m selling the movie if I haven’t sold it on you yet. Spoiler alert. There’s an Aubrey Plaza as Catwoman sex scene. It is the epitome of human vulnerability and exploitation between consenting adults. But you should definitely watch the whole movie for the context. Because the movie is about so much more than that.

It’s about how amazing your life is when you have 1000s of Instagram followers, and why that’s horribly wrong. Plus a handful of Batman references.

Coyote v. Acme

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads, but I feel like three and a half stars is the more accurate reflection of my rating. However, I did laugh a lot while reading this slim volume. Also, I picked it up from a thrift store in Tahoe city for less than a dollar. So, for my entertainment value, it was well worth it. Also, I laughed several times. And, also, wished that I could write random 1500 word humor pieces for major American magazines. I would like that job. How do I get that job? What do you mean “what’s a magazine?”

Okay. Fine. Millennials rule the world. But, seriously. Pick up an issue of the New Yorker sometime. It’s magic to feel the pages in your fingers. To touch the stories. To smear the ink with your greasy, aiolli tarnished fingers. To relish in the sting of the occassional paper cut.

Or follow the links to articles that your more erudite friends post on Facebook. Or watch that video of the cats wearing pumpkin hats. It’s nice. And it doesn’t ask you to think critically to be able to appreciate it. Then go to brunch. Because it’s nice to be able to pay too much for breakfast.

Okay, go on. Get out of here, you scamps. Brunch is calling. And mimosas. Go on.

What? Are you still reading this review? Then maybe you’ll enjoy the book. Or maybe you’re hoping to get to the link to the video of a seal asking a scuba diver for a belly scratch. The choice is yours.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

I reread this classic of American Literature while I was on a road trip across many Western American States. I have several thoughts, most of which are easily summed up by the fact that, the last time I read this book I was twelve or thirteen. Upon reflection, I realized that the N-bomb was not a word I should be dropping, but I didn’t quite realize why. It’s a catchy word. It rolls easy off the tongue. It’s problematic. I didn’t realize when I was in middle school that the real problem with the word was it’s history. It was a word that was used to label a great many individuals as chattel rather than people. Now, Mr. Twain, for all his white privilege seems to have figured a way to cut to the heart of this problematic term and it’s common use in a piece of fiction firmly couched within that historical moment between the Missouri Compromise and the Civil War. He wrote the story as a first person narrative from the point of view of a largely uneducated boy who himself has had to escape his drunken, abusive father by faking his own death.

I don’t want to be an apologist for Huck Finn’s choice of words, but here I am, trying to excuse it by saying he didn’t really have any more appropriate words in his vocabulary. So I guess I’m being an apologist. Mark Twain, makes a creative decision that, as much as anything else, adds verisimilitude to this wild account of two people pooling their resources to escape the forces that would carelessly exploit them.

I’m not going to go on and on, because this is, after all, the internet. No one really wants to stare at any page that long. They just want to scroll on to the cat gif. So I’ll keep it short. Over the course of this book, Huck Finn becomes more than a little bit woke. Tom Sawyer, on the other hand, is pretty much a jerk.

Worst. Person. Ever.

Douglas Coupland’s Worst. Person. Ever. is not a socially redeeming book. Raymond Gunt really is the worst person ever. That being said, it is a funny book. Especially if you like crude humor, physical comedy, biological excretion jokes, and a protagonist who is a complete and total asshole of the type the comic actor Matt Berry is quite adept at portraying. In fact, read the book with Matt Berry’s voice in mind. He makes a perfect Raymond Gunt. If you don’t know who Matt Berry is, you may not like this book. If you do know who Matt Berry is, and his work really isn’t your taste, you will hate this book. Also, there are a lot of swear words.

It’s hilarious. I’m ashamed of how much I laughed at some of the horrible situations in this book. But I did. It’s a horrible world and sometimes all you can do as laugh at the inappropriateness of all of it.

I’d like to add that I found this little gem at the Dollar Tree in the newly disincorporated city of Damascus, Oregon. So, for my entertainment dollar, I literally got $16.00 (MSRP) worth. Can’t beat that without stealing. Or borrowing it from the library.

I don’t blog enough

Facebook has gotten difficult. It used to be my psychic safety valve. It used to be that everyone who had privileged access to that rocky mess of the outward expression of my inscape knew what they were in for.

Now, the damned thing is a burden. It’s every bit the morass of interpersonal and social anxiety that I took to Facebook to avoid in the first place.

I suppose it started when they let moms on. I began to second guess my posts lest my mom become worried. She has enough to worry about. Then came friend requests from casual acquaintances. And then potential in-laws. And now actual in-laws. Not to mention all the aunts and cousins I’ve accumulated on my friends list. (Not so many uncles, though.)

Of course, I could set up intricate privacy filters or a make a second account just for the people who really understand me. But that’s a lot of work when I’m just looking for a quick fix to blow off steam that would, unvented, create an explosive outburst in a real life setting.

But now I can’t. And twitter doesn’t do it for me anymore, either.

I know the socially acceptable thing is to just keep those feelings bottled up until, I don’t know, until you die, I guess.

I wish I could just put out a caveat on my Facebook profile that says, “understand that I have a social and communication disorder. The written word is my sacred refuge. It’s the easiest place for me to have my thoughts make sense sometimes. And sometimes my thoughts are doozies. Also, I may feel literal correctness is more important than social kindnesses when I’m posting or commenting. I know. It’s not exactly fair, but it’s what’s going to happen. If what you comment on my posts does not logically follow (or read as a well crafted joke) I might make a response that seems down right rude. It’s not that I don’t like you. It’s just that I can’t not respond that way.

My Facebook, when it really worked for me, was the secret whispers of a confused mind searching for order. I’m not on Facebook to post nicey-nicey fakey-fake happy-haps on how baller I want you to think my life is. It’s what I really think. Do you really want to know what I really think?

Then read my post.

And research your response.

And if you’re posting a joke, it had better be good.