Thursday, March 15, 2018

your battle is also ours

Doctor Strange Master of the Mystic Arts, Jim Starlin art


...when my merest touch

Doctor Strange Master of the Mystic Arts, Gene Colan art


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Vim (for non-programmers) Part Three: Refactoring my _vimrc File; Chapter Five: Correct Easy Link Addition (Correcting My Misreading of Steve Losh)

As we've seen in previous entries, I've decided to refactor my somewhat creaky, bloated _vimrc file. (For one thing, it was more or less organized chronologically, which makes a certain kind of sense—it certainly reflects an increasing sophistication (or anyway complexity) to my efforts—but also is obviously an insane way to organize configuration settings for anything. For another, I have a tendency to want to hold on to everything I ever tried, so I have, for example, an entire section called "Experiments That Failed Too Many Times".)

Part of the refactoring process, though, involves more than just reordering elements in the file: it involves examining those elements and determining if they could stand some improving.

One of the most vital resources for customizing your _vimrc is Steve Losh's Learn Vimscript the Hard Way. While I was working my way through (the early parts of) this book, I fell in love with a mapping he suggested for surrounding a word with double quotes. (As we know, mappings are a way to tell Vim, "When I type X, please act as though I typed Y". To keep from typing X accidentally, it's common to use a "leader" key followed by a short mnemonic. Because Vim is incredibly complicated, you have to specify what mode the mapping operates in, and you have to specify whether or not the mapping is recursive. This means a mapping is almost impossible to parse visually, because it has the form:
Which, given Vim's predilection for being hella terse, and the obvious utility to tell it "When I type something very short and easy to type, act as though I typed something very long and difficult to type", makes reading mappings difficult.)

– visually select the current word (the word the cursor is on)
<ESC> – exit visual mode / return to normal mode
a – enter insert mode after the character the cursor is on
" – insert a double quote <ESC> – exit insert mode / return to normal mode
b – move to beginning of word the cursor is on
i – enter insert mode before the character the cursor is on
" – insert a double quote
<ESC> – exit insert mode / return to normal mode
l – move cursor right one character (back onto the word)
e – move to end of word
l – move cursor right one character (onto the closing double quote)

As an exercise, he suggested a more advanced mapping that added double quotes around the last thing that had been visually suggested. I was quite taken with this approach, and, reasoning that HTML tags came in pairs just like quotation marks, I adapted his mappings so that I could quickly add hyperlinks to the word the cursor was on, or to the last thing I had visually suggested. The chunk of my _vimrc containing these mappings read like so (please be impressed with my incredible commitment to code documentation via comment):

" make the word under the cursor a hyperlink to URL from system clipboard
" 18jan2016
" mapping <leader>a to:
" select the current word with viw
" wrap the current word in an <a href> tag
" by moving to the end of the word and adding </a> to close the tag
" then moving to the beginning of the WORD and adding <a href="">
" moving back to the beginning of the WORD to move to the quotes
" and populate the quotes with the contents of the + register
" mostly inspired by Steve Losh
" edited 27dec2016
" :nnoremap <leader>a viw<esc>a</a><esc>Bi<a href=""><esc>Bci"<esc>a<c-r>+<esc>
:nnoremap <leader>a viw<esc>a</a><esc>Bi<a href="<c-r>+<esc>a"><esc>

" make the last visually selected text a hyperlink to URL from system clipboard
" 18jan2016
" mapping <leader>v to:
" select the last visual selection with `< and `>
" wrap that selection in an <a href> tag
" by moving to the end of the visual selection and adding </a> to close the tag
" then moving to the beginning of the visual selection and adding <a href="">
" moving back to the beginning of the visual selection to move to the quotes
" and populate the quotes with the contents of the + register
" mostly inspired by Steve Losh
:nnoremap <leader>v `><esc>a</a><esc>`<i<a href=""><esc>Bci"<esc>a<c-r>+<esc>

This allowed me to use two keystrokes—<leader>v or <leader>a—to add links to my text. This is an extremely handy shortcut—especially when working here in Reviewiera, where it's often the case that to make the case that some stuff is better than some other stuff, it is helpful to link to stuff, and then again to other stuff.

The one big problem I had with this mapping is that it didn't work if the line had quotes in it, because my clever ci" motion "selects the text from the previous quote until the next quote" (see :help a"). This meant that when I wanted to add my links to, say, a paragraph where I had mentioned the title of something, I had to:

  1. Enter some line breaks before and after the text I wanted to add links to
  2. Then add the links
  3. Then remove the line breaks

This pretty severely compromised the whole point of having a quick-keystroke method for adding links. And because I didn't look up the behavior of ci" until I was typing this up, I wasn't entirely certain what the glitch was! All I knew was that I had had to create a workaround when the line before whatever I wanted to add a link to included double quotes.

Today, in a meeting, I decided this was no longer an acceptable way to go about my business, so I put the matter to some thought, and decided:

  • Steve Losh was wrong and his approach to selecting a word then moving the cursor around manually wasn't the best
  • The way to craft this mapping properly would leverage Vim's multiple registers (registers are basically clipboards with names: the ones you can assign are a, b, c ... z, and this was something I abused a lot in my early days using Vim)

I sketched it out on paper before trying anything on the laptop, and, oddly, it turned out to work pretty much exactly as designed. Here's what it looks like:

:nnoremap <leader>a "zdiwi<a href="<CTRL-r>+"<CTRL-z</a><ESC>

As I was working on it and testing it, I realized that the problem wasn't Steve Losh at all, the problem was all me! But now I have a couple extremely sexy mappings that work when I personally need them to work. Just for grins, let's break them down and see what they do.

:nnoremap <leader>a "zdiwi<a href="<CTRL-r>+"<CTRL-z</a><ESC> "z – into the z buffer ... diw – delete the word the cursor is on (not including any surrounding whitespace) i – enter insert mode <a href=" – type <a href=" <CTRL-r> – hold down Control and r at the same time (in insert mode, this allows pasting from registers) + – the + register is the system clipboard, where we assume the URL is <CTRL-r> – hold down Control and r at the same time (in insert mode, this allows pasting from registers) z – paste the z register in (this is the word we deleted at first) </a> – close the html tag <ESC> – exit insert mode / return to normal mode

What I like about this is that it works left-to-right, in a more or less sensible way. It basically does exactly what I would do if I were typing: the bulk of the mapping is just banging away in insert mode; typing in the <a href=", then using <CTRL-r>+ to drop in the URL from the clipboard is precisely how I tended to add links before I started fiddling around with mappings in the first place. Also, since I rarely use named registers, I think it's okay to have this mapping clobber the z register. However, as a best practice slash approximation to idiomatically written Vimscript, I think the following mapping is probably better:

:nnoremap <leader>a diwi<a href="<c-r>+"><c-r>"</a><esc>

This just deletes the word, which by default places it into the unnamed register (see :help quotequote), which can be accessed by calling it by the name '"'. (By this point in the series, we should be far beyond being surprised or upset by trivialities like the fact that you can name an unnamed register...)

The visual mapping is a little bit trickier, but only a little bit. It uses exactly the same left-to-right approach, but leverages a fancy little command: gv, which in normal mode re-selects the last visual selection. NOTE: the g prefix in normal mode does some seriously under-known shit. In February of 2015, Tim Chase, one of the heroes on the Vim list, dropped this little gem:

Also, just in case you need it, "g&" is an obscure "across all lines in the file, repeat the last substitution with the same flags" command, even if it's several items back in your command-line history.

Like, seriously, what the hell, Vim? That's a LOT of power to pack into two keystrokes. Anyway, let's check out visual-mode link-adding.

:nnoremap <leader>v gvdi<a href="<c-r>+"><c-r>"</a><esc>
gv – re-select the last visual selection
d – delete what's selected
i – enter insert mode
<a href=" – type <a href="
<CTRL-r> – hold down Control and r at the same time (in insert mode, this allows pasting from registers)
+ – the + register is the system clipboard, where we assume the URL is
<CTRL-r> – hold down Control and r at the same time (in insert mode, this allows pasting from registers)
" – paste the so-called unnamed register in (this is the word we deleted at first)
</a> – close the html tag
<ESC> – exit insert mode / return to normal mode

Again, this is a simpler approach than Losh's, which goes right-to-left, then has to jump back to the right when it's done. Literally everything else he says and does makes a hell of a lot more sense than anything else I say or do, of course.

Anyway, that's two mappings refactored! I only have the entire rest of my _vimrc to go.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Fat's HEAVY TUNES of the Year 2017

0. Introductionalizing Maunderings

Rough year, 2017.  Music seemed, through the early months, beside the point and inaccessible somehow.  Nothing new landed, everything just slid off of me for months.  Eventually, though, a perhaps predictable combination managed to crack my stasis: a couple powerful live shows plus the inordinate potency of perfect pop.  After about midyear, I felt open again to the delivery of novelty and pleasure from music.  Better late than never. 
Looking over what meant most to me this year, what I came back to most, I'm struck by, again, how little truly new stuff I adopted, and how much I came back to Big Melodies and Deep Textures.  I assume this was because my soul needed soothing and my life needed joy.  If you're in similar straits, maybe this list will do you some help, as it did me. 

I. List + Links (TD;LR crowd)

II. Fat's Diary Action

I wrote about EMA earlier in the year, declaring her 2011 song "California" the song of the summer 2017 (prematurely, as it would turn out), but it would be difficult to sum up how much time I spent listening to Past Life Martyred Saints and The Future's Void in 2017.  For much of the year, the only things that made sense were EMA's folk-melodies-into-explosions-of-guitar-noise and pretty, clean vocals, mostly saying upsetting things.  (Because I saw Mary Timony playing Helium last night, this makes me want to declare EMA the rightful heir to Timony's guitar-hero-with-dark-lyrics throne, but don't quote me on that yet.)

Past Life is a brilliant collection of overlapping musical and lyrical themes, treated in frequently experimental ways, ranging from extended guitar solos so simple and satisfying you'd swear only Lou Reed could have written them to self-harmonizing rounds; Future's Void is a more polished, narrower exploration of a couple ideas (musically: sadness, electronics, etc.; lyrically, technology, sadness, fame, etc.) that along the way earns a place as the most interesting and sustained engagement with the work of William Gibson I've ever encountered.  I didn't listen to anything more than I listened to these records this year, and I didn't listen to anything better than these records this year. 

A lot of the power of this music comes straight out of EMA's throat: 3Jane shows off her emotional singing beautifully.  Her sense of simple melodies is wonderful: the synth figure in Dead Celebrity is maybe the best example, or her unexpected appropriation of Camptown Races in California, a seriously weird moment that surprises and works every time I hear it.  Appropriation really works for this band: while everything feels forward-looking and even futuristic, there are frequent lyrical references to what's come before, so in a synth/guitar-noise dirge you might get a Bo Diddley callback, or even something like So Blonde would have been the best b-side on Hole's Celebrity Skin, which sounds like a backhanded compliment unless you understand that most times, the b-sides are a band's best, and that Celebrity Skin was, and is, a record without flaw.  Complicated emotions and sounds, the future and the past blending, stuff you can whistle.  Sounds like a good future to me. 

The one that came out last year, Exile in the Outer Ring didn't do much for me.  Then again, neither did either Past Life Martyred Saints or The Future's Void for 6 and 3 years, respectively.  I think I'll catch up with Exile in a couple years, at which point the band will probably be another couple years ahead of me... 

Völur landed in front of me via Twitter, shockingly, when Kim Kelley of Vice's Noisey mentioned them.  Something about the deep doom drones and the no-guitar instrumentation worked for me nearly perfectly all year.  Rocking, yet soothing: very useful in a nerve-jangling year where nothing seemed in-rhythm and everything had the power to annoy.  Indecipherable (German) lyrics helped, too, in a time where everything is far too explicit.  Metal can be a nice place to hide, and Ancestors built a sturdy shelter to rebuild one's stamina.  (A lot of other people really liked the Big Brave record, but I had trouble getting that one to work for me; as always, I'll probably come around to it in like two years.)

I have this pet theory about punk that says that what punk really is is consuming art made mostly by your friends.  Magazines, music, other performances, whatever.  Anyway, my friend Dan is in a lot of bands, like Wolf Parade and, for me, especially, like Operators.  I liked the Operators records I heard, had them in rotation all over the place.  Then I had some computer work to do and threw on some YouTubes of live sets, at which point I graduated to loving Operators.  Great textures and phenomenal urgency inhabiting beautifully structured songs—what's NOT to love? 

Hard to pick a favorite, but probably my choice for The Single is True, with its amazingly layered synths and unstoppable chorus.  Also if you can line up a friend who makes music you love and is willing to text with you about D&D, I highly recommend you do so. 
  • Swans

If you have a chance to see Swans live, see Swans live.  Resets the heart and mind. 

A surprisingly emotionally intense show was Magnetic Fields performing some of the 50 Song Memoir project.  The night of, "Me and Fred and Dave and Ted" provided the most life and lift—something about the humor directed at dark times vibed with me.  The few times I've tried to go back and click with the album, different bits have enveloped me, but never the same one twice, I don't think.  It may be that the album is a live show, different each time and only approachable on its own terms.  It also may be that I'm high? 

While EMA by a kilometer or two provided all my songs of the year, my song of the summer was, same as everybody's, Cardi B's stunning hypnotic manifesto.  Shame it had possibly the worst, most inept/inane video in recent memory, but even that could hardly tarnish the undeniable all-conquering compulsion of this single. 

Somewhere in the year, we saw the Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile tour.  The second-best songs were the ones from the albums they'd made before their collaboration.  The best songs were a Belly cover and "Elvis Presley Blues" which I had never heard before, and which I instantly fell in love with, and which I was taught later that night was a Gillian Welch song from a decade-plus ago, and which I now think is one of the greatest songs anybody's ever written. 

Another year-end list, another Future of the Left appearance, ho hum.  But in all seriousness, this live album was ridiculously good, bringing everything you want in a live document: a tight, excellent performance, just enough slop or mistake or equipment failure to remind you it was live, actually funny banter, and pre-show music that made at least me laugh.  The song here was new to me, somehow, and for long stretches of autumn, the anvil-dropping-onto-concrete riff and shouty bits made a lot of car rides significantly more tolerable. 

Voivod's Dimension Hatröss, is, as you know, the best record ever made.  But sometimes a person wants to listen to something the same as something they've heard before, but new.  That's where Vektor comes in: the same great pre-major-label Voivod taste you crave, but with new songs you haven't heard before!  Absolute shredders, incredibly technically proficient, but rarely boringly so. 
Terminal Redux is maybe a little bit too long, and maybe a little bit too samey, but my three-song edit, featuring all the songs with clean singing (first song, second-to-last song, last song) has put frothy joy into my soul each time I've tried it.  And, because metal, those three songs? add up to a half-hour of music.  Value for money.

I can't really remember why I decided to revisit Alice Cooper.  But after marching through Spotify for a few concerted days in the fall, I realized a couple things.  First, Alice Cooper's best record is probably Billion Dollar Babies, which came like 5 albums and 7 years into their career.  That was a different, better time; bands don't get the support they need to grow into themselves anymore.  Second, the record you want to own is the very early Greatest Hits compilation, particularly side 2.  Third, "Hello Hooray" is his (/their?) best song, and the single best exponent of a truly HEAVY TUNE that links itself to the Beatles, which all of these dudes love beyond belief, that I've ever encountered.  (No matter what the press kit for Black Sabbath's last album said.)  Anyway, it doesn't really rock all that hard, and it's always on the light side of heavy, but if you're not interested in big Broadway melodies, what are you doing listening to metal in the first place!?
If that doesn't sell you, my pal dB described Alice Cooper as "David Bowie's ugly cousin", so. 
  • Yes

Yes, it's more Yes.  What can I say?  I read Dave Weigel's book The Show That Never Ends, and all it did was make me like Yes, and Jon Anderson's basically down-to-Earth (if a little bit stoned), hopeful lyrics, and legitimately beautiful melodies even more.  Plus Chris Squire's bass playing just makes me laugh, particularly in the songs where everybody gets their own solo, which he happily solos underneath, and then he gets his own, which he solos over, but like twice as hard. 
It's what I turn to at work, when I need a little boost.  What's a bigger recommendation than that? 

III. Conclusatory Thinkery

Not a bad music year: more diversity than I'd've expected from a year of frank comfort-seeking.  Beyond that, I got nothing.  Technology-wise, I still loathe Spotify, but have found something it seems to me to be good for: creating playlists that replicate experiences I had, live shows, albums that aren't easily available to me anymore, etc. 

Anyways, I bought everything on this list, other than the Operators live show, wich I stole off of YouTube, and the Gillian Welch / Magnetic Fields / Cardi B, which I just stream a lot, and Yes, which I own some of but mostly just Pandora at work. 

I saw Less Art this year, and really had a great time at the show.  The record I returned to a couple times, but it really demands a certain volume-in-the-open-air listening experience I don't enjoy as often as I should, being a headphone weenie, mostly.  Also, too, I demand that they appropriate the old SS Decontrol song "How Much Art Can You Take?" and make a t-shirt reading "How Much Less Art Can You Take?".  If you really think about it, it works on multiple levels. 

IV. Previously in Years in HEAVY TUNES

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

As my father cautioned, do not eat pork, or you'll be eating the undead.

From The Book of Madness and Cures - Regina O'Melveny

My more recent-ish book-selection habits have led me to some stuff way weirder than anything I read when I was actively trying to read weird stuff.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top Ten Movies of 2017

1.   Bodied (2017, Joseph Kahn)
2.   The Beguiled (2017, Sofia Coppola)
3.   Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017, Luc Besson)
4.   Slack Bay (2016, Bruno Dumont)
5.   Wonder Wheel (2017, Woody Allen)
6.   Song to Song (2017, Terrence Malick)
7.   Suburbicon (2017, George Clooney)
8.   Alien: Covenant (2017, Ridley Scott)
9.   Detroit (2017, Kathryn Bigelow)
10.  Phantom Thread (2017, Paul Thomas Anderson)

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An Air of Quiet Death

When I was 20 and living at the Dustbin in Portland Magnolia (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson) was my favorite movie. But now that I'm so much older my PTA tastes have changed a lot. There Will Be Blood (2007, Anderson) is so much different from Anderson's early work, and so is The Master (2012, Anderson). These two richly characterized period pieces historically entrenched in twentieth century American industrialism remain profoundly dark and perfectly executed, to say nothing of the effects Jonny Greenwood's scores have had enhancing their viewings.

Phantom Thread (2017, Anderson) is a nuanced atypical love story brilliantly adorned in high fashion costumes and emotionally underscored ceaselessly by Jonny Greenwood's classically elegant music.

Daniel Day Lewis as REYNOLDS WOODCOCK is the movie. Phantom Thread feels like the final entry in a trilogy that could encompass There Will Be Blood and The Master, about dark obsession centered around a male central protagonist. And what could be as abysmally dark as oil, Scientology, and love, respectively?

Phantom Thread is a flawed film though, unlike There Will Be Blood and The Master. While Phantom Thread is magnificent in its rapturous May-December propulsion into the development of a romantic fantasy made reality by two relatable archetypal yet highly neurotic adults, there is little more that the film offers.

And while the film's beautifully and effectively realized core is provocative and truthful, the film's third act is uneven and falls miserably short. But hey, doesn't all romantic love? Another big problem with Phantom Thread is its cinematography. While there is no director of photography credited, Paul Thomas Anderson himself serves in this capacity. And the results are ravishing in some shots, but more often amateurish. So many scenes look like a bad student film because of spill. It's like he has something against flags. Or, in other words, it appears that many shots were filmed without using traditional photographic tools to block light by unwanted sources from contaminating the exposure. Maybe Anderson likes this effect? It's bewildering.

I must give praise to the craftsmanship and elegance of this intimate world along with the trio of characters who inhabit it. Phantom Thread possesses an exceptional command of portraying and pathologizing the intricacies of the elusive apparition that is true love.

Evidently Phantom Thread lacks the staggering tragedy that befalls the antiheroes of There Will Be Blood and The Master, yet suffering from poor cinematography and a stupid plot device supporting its third act, maybe said tragedy is exemplified through subtext? PTA being the victim? Now this is what makes for interesting art.

And I will say the vignette with BARBARA ROSE as an emotionally overwhelmed socialite stands out as a high point keeping me on the edge of my seat while generating such a surprisingly unexpected type of empathy, mixed with laughter, shame, identification and sorrow.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Wonder Wheel Is the Closest Woody Allen's come to Nailing Ingmar Bergman

There's a poster of Face to Face (1976, Ingmar Bergman) at the Bleecker St cinema in Annie Hall (1977, Woody Allen); Interiors (1978, Allen) is Woody Allen blatantly trying to imitate Bergman's cold claustrophobic theatre with South Hampton filling in for Fårö; in Manhattan (1979, Allen) the Diane Keaton character offends the Allen character by making an offhanded comment that Bergman is overrated; Another Woman (1988, Allen) borrows its plot directly from Wild Strawberries (1957, Bergman) and was shot by Bergman's DP, Sven Nykvist—who also shot Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989, Allen) and Celebrity (1998, Allen). But these are just a few coincidences.

Wonder Wheel (2017, Allen) is a period theatrical domestic melodrama about the failed attempts of finding happiness that a handful of characters, whose paths cross on Coney Island, inevitably confront.

Wonder Wheel is uncharacteristically stylized for Allen. From Vittorio Storaro, the lighting is expressionistic, with key moments that burn characters in the glow of fiery sunsets and transition into cold blue darkness before our eyes, underlining the sense of hope departing. The production design by Santo Loquasto adds to the unnatural quality of staging on a constructed set with its forced perspective amusement park backdrop forever contrasting the foreground interior depression of the dysfunctional homelife.

GINNY'S (Winslet) sex headaches, alcoholism, and neurotic lapses into detachment are mirrored by her son's obsession with starting fires and hate of school. Wonder Wheel may be as colorful as Thor: Ragnarok visually, but emotionally it's as dark as oblivion—a fitting contrasting companion piece to the nostalgic warmth of last year's Café Society (2016, Allen).

Jim Belushi is a delightful choice, Juno Temple gives life to CAROLINA, and it'd be a waste of time to say anymore about how well the acting comes off. To say as much would be redundant because it's always been Woody Allen's greatest talent. And along with Crimes and Misdemeanors and Melinda and Melinda (2004, Allen), Wonder Wheel's ending provides no respite, intentionally and profoundly ripping our hearts out with its embodiment of nihilistic existential malaise as the wheel keeps turning. Also the staging of Winslet in the foreground staring off into space is undoubtedly lifted from similar shots of Liv Ullman in Persona (1966, Bergman) and Cries & Whispers (1972, Bergman).

Finally a depressing movie this year!

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

MCU Stands for Medium Close Up Not Marvel Cinematic Universe

I have one sibling, my brother. He's three years younger than me. There have been times when I had wished I could banish him from this universe. But I also love him more than anyone else.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017, Taika Waititi) is a comicbook comedy serial with traditional morals about family and maybe Jews? Pardon me if I am being condescending or trite by saying this, but I don't watch a lot of comicbook movies. And Thor: Ragnarok is the first Marvel movie I've seen in a theatre since Spider-Man 2 (2004, Sam Raimi). For the most part my sole criteria for judging the quality of movies centers on rewatchability. However, an exception to this has occurred here due to viewing format. In an age of HD 65" LED screens having become commonplace in households, I had started to blur the line between theatre and home viewing, with the exception of 70mm's glorious resurgence; man The Hateful Eight (2015, Quentin Tarantino) righteously made clear that watching a movie on a home TV is a paltry substitute for the one and only true big screen. And even though I don't have any desire to rewatch Thor: Ragnarok, the experience I had seeing it in IMAX instantly captivated me and took me back to my youth and the excitement of seeing a movie larger than life. Also, I didn't go to one of those lame theatre-chain IMAX screens, I saw Thor: Ragnarok here in Austin at the Bob Bullock museum across the street from UT; at six stories high and 84' wide it's the biggest screen in Texas.

Still enduring as my favorite thing about the Thor series is the brother relationship between THOR and LOKI. The chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston is immensely true to life and enjoyable for me as a lens through which I'm able to remember how important my brother has been to my life. And not to get too weird or sentimental, but my only remaining family is my dad, my brother and I, and we just shared a Thanksgiving dinner a couple of days ago which was amazing. So, I also wanna add that Anthony Hopkins as ODIN their dad is surprisingly top-notch for a comicbook movie. Old man Hopkins is awesome white-bearded and serving as an exposition device full of class and wisdom, just like my old man.

But there's also Cate Blanchett. Some villains are just outright obnoxious at how one-dimensional their appetite for evil is to endure, but Blanchett's performance is fun to watch because she's so theatrical and somehow still likeable throughout the whole affair. And she's the sexiest I've ever seen her with black hair, tons of black eye-makeup and skin tight costumes out of Barbarella.

Yet the biggest treat for me was Mark Mothersbaugh's 80s New Wave Devo meets Daft Punk 8bit videogame synthpop kid high on sugar dance beats score throughout.

But now back to the plot. The setting of the junk planet feels too much like Idiocracy (2006, Mike Judge), especially with the gladiator arena looking identical to the staging of battles against BEEF SUPREME. Although I am able to overlook the similarities because these Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are obviously made for idiots. Why not? That's where the money is. At the screening I attended there were actually three 15 year old boys who decided to sit a few seats down for me and being that close to them was excruciating. Nothing in Thor: Ragnarok felt like it possessed pristine literary inspiration, but it can't and shouldn't. It felt like a comicbook. Crap. Something to kill time. And every once in a while I now understand the value of that in one's cinematic diet. Thor: Ragnarok was big, fun, funny, and had a tender family bonding core that to me was worth far more than the price of admission and 2 hours of my time I traded for it. It's also maybe the most colorful movie ever.

And while somehow it may have been the most enjoyable 2 hours I spent in a theatre for all of 2017, I am sure I will never ever feel like watching Thor: Ragnarok again. Some movies should only be viewed on the big screen. There's still a part of me that mourns the invention of the TV set. Also it's best that I don't say anything about watching movies on computers or smartphones, or this could get ugly.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Visceral, Ugly Beauty

Everyone I know who likes modern foreign arthouse films likes Yorgos Lanthimos. I'm embarrassed to say that I do not. It's like it negates my taste. I wanted to like Dogtooth (2009, Yorgos Lanthimos) and The Lobster (2015, Lanthimos), but they did little for me. I feel the same shame for not being crazy about, say Michael Haneke. In my defense though, why don't more of these people's conversations praise Bruno Dumont, huh? That's what I'd like to know.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017, Lanthimos) is a conceptual narrative involving a 16 year old named MARTIN (Barry Keoghan) who morally scrutinizes a surgeon (Colin Farrell) about ethics. Martin makes the movie unbearable. He's like an arthouse JIGSAW from the Saw franchise. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is nowhere near as frustrating and impossible as Knock Knock (2015, Eli Roth), but I was reminded of the use of a stifling claustrophobia brought on by the inescapable suffering enacted by a young, lower-class psychopath torturing an affluent career-man. And the spaghetti scene triggers a coded link to Gummo (1997, Harmony Korine) that disgustingly portrays white trash as people who completely lack table manners.

The film plays out like The Shining (1980, Stanley Kubrick) formally due to wide-angle Steadicam tracking shots following or leading characters through long corridors, slow zooms, and an off putting continual use of cacophonous Ligeti. The dialogue is always delivered monotonously and feels distractingly stylized, unlike Rainer Werner Fassbinder's films, where the same technique achieves an enjoyably Brechtian detachment.

However, I did find the mystery in The Killing of a Sacred Deer intriguing and in no way gratuitous.

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