Notes, page 2

  1. Love, Death & Robots, Season 1

    TV Show, 2019

    Watched 27 March 2019

    There is only one episode that actually delivers on what I was hoping for, combining great animation with stylish art direction and exploring cool, mature themes: Zima Blue.

    There are four of five others that aren’t plain edgelord teenager bullshit, but they’re nothing to write home about.

  2. Glass

    Film, 2019

    Watched 4 April 2019

    This is the superhero equivalent of a zombie movie where the characters keep saying the word “zombie” all the time.

    The writing here is even worse than Split. The core plot device (what Sarah Paulson spends most of the movie doing) simply doesn’t work! It never felt the least bit believable. It’s a premise completely at odds with Shyamalan’s direction in the previous films, what he’s been showing us this whole time. It doesn’t work for the viewer, and it shouldn’t have worked for the characters — which makes it a double-whammy of dumb. This is, of course, all done in favor of a big twist (and, in my case, a big sigh).

    I really might have to revisit Unbreakable, which I thought was cool however many years ago I watched it. I’m hoping it holds up.

  3. Split

    Film, 2016

    Watched 3 April 2019

    Have Shyamalan’s films always been this shallow? Nothing feels real outside the very narrow confines of what is happening. Dialogue is often poor, with way too much “as you know, Bob” going on. And all the buildup fell flat for me — I was neither shocked nor emotionally invested. I guess I’d better not rewatch Unbreakable, or risk disappointment.

  4. Us

    Film, 2019

    Watched 29 March 2019

    Very weird and cool and artsy, but also funny — and it all fits together perfectly. I liked how subversive the plot structure felt; I often had no idea where it was going to go next, and that made for a really great experience. I went in completely blind, and it paid off quite handsomely. I watched the trailer afterwards, and boy is it spoilery! Don’t watch trailers, kids.

    It’s impressive how strongly this film pairs with Get Out. They’re certainly different, but there’s a clear style forming. Jordan Peele is carving out a really cool niche for himself.

  5. The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

    Film, 2019

    Watched 24 March 2019

    “You want it to be true so badly, and even for me, I was working with these devices every single day, and she could still kind of convince me. When I think back on those conversations, I just think, how did she do that?”

    I had only a surface-level understanding of the Theranos story, so to me the subject matter was absolutely gripping. The idea behind the company was so good, so elegant, that you do just want it to be true.

    As a documentary, it’s articulate and well-framed, but also somewhat bland and needlessly repetitive. Alex Gibney’s films, when they really click for me (this one and Going Clear most of all), seem to do so largely despite his direction, not because of it.

  6. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

    Film, 2005

    Watched 16 March 2019

    I knew nothing about Enron before watching this, and I came in expecting explosive revelations. But the most shocking aspect here is just how little I was shocked by the whole scandal. We truly are living in a golden age of grifting. Things like this are now, if not normal, expected.

  7. Bumblebee

    Film, 2018

    Watched 22 March 2019

    Bad in all the wrong ways, trading the gaudy excess and over-the-top action for faux sentimentality and the least genuine attempt at ’80s nostalgia I’ve ever seen.

    Particularly insulting is the score, constantly trying to trick you into thinking you’re watching a cute Disney moment, except it’s an ugly robot trying to sit on a sofa and almost crushing a dog.

    Turns out only Michael Bay can make Transformers movies because he is an auteur. Bring back the breakneck-pace kinetic editing and the pyramids exploding and the robots peeing on each other.

  8. Donut County

    Videogame, 2018

    Played on Switch 21 March 2019

    Is this a dig at Silicon Valley techbros? I love it. Reminded me of an old New Yorker cartoon:

    “Yes, the planet got destroyed. But for a beautiful moment in time we created a lot of value for shareholders.”

    Short and sweet, full of personality. The kind of game that makes me want to make games.

  9. Elle

    Film, 2016

    Watched 27 February 2019

    Verhoeven hasn’t lost his touch for twisting the knife, but I don’t see the point in this one — either I don’t like it or I just plain don’t get it. And what happened to the cat?

  10. All the President’s Men

    Film, 1976

    Watched 15 February 2019

    I wasn’t quite expecting this to be The Post 2: Watergate, but man this was different. In a sharp contrast to Spielberg’s heavy-handedness, Pakula didn’t make an easy movie to follow. It’s incredibly dense with information, seemingly disinterested in simplifying to get to the point. Not knowing much about Watergate beforehand, I wasn’t able to follow every fizzling plot thread, but the emotional through-line was so well put together that it never lost me. I was struck by how realistic it feels — the events unfolding naturally and the camera just happening to be rolling nearby, capturing the dizziness and unease, warts and all. Loved the split diopter shots very much.

    Sidenote: Now I get the final scene in The Post — it’s close to a shot-for-shot replica of this film’s opening. That only makes it more of a wink-wink tacky addition, though.

  11. The Post

    Film, 2017

    Watched 14 February 2019

    Does an amazing job at projecting emotion and conveying historical heft, knowing full well how much the present day amplifies its message. It’s just a shame that Spielberg felt the need to go “belt and suspenders” and make sure to have some characters spell out the implications of what you’re seeing, just in case the extremely powerful acting and imagery don’t do the trick.

    Also: the Watergate bit at the end was just silly. It reminded me of the final warehouse shot in Raiders of the Lost Ark, except bad and tacked on.

  12. Burning

    Film, 2018

    Watched 12 February 2019

    Three people watch a sunset in rural South Korea.

    Wow. Whenever a filmmaker can find so much beauty and excitement in being deliberately mundane I sit up and pay attention.

    It’s slow. The smallest of details are just as carefully pondered as the grandiose gestures, all vividly blending together. The quiet moments compel the subjective experience of seeing rather than the objectivity of just looking, only to then make you question what you really saw. The mystery itself felt novel because it feeds off this slowness — instead of being built on plot twists or needless complexity, it’s challenging through imperfection by forcing you to see for yourself. Really great.

  13. Eighth Grade

    Film, 2018

    Watched 2 February 2019

    A powerful reminder of the absurdities of being 14, and how becoming an adult seems to rob us of the ability to understand them. How strong and valid the experiences, yet how quickly we want to forget them, and grow up, because that’s the only escape. I can’t think of any other film that captures that feeling so well, both the good and bad of it.

    The insight into how kids deal with recent technology and social media was fascinating to me as well — the script seems intent on documenting what that’s like, with genuine earnestness. Parts that initially read as comedic exaggeration are, in retrospect, no stranger than reality. Things have changed a lot since I was 14, but somehow stayed the same. I think the kids will be alright.