“What a bunch of whackos,” we could be forgiven for thinking. We’ve had over 25 years of brainwashing, after all.
CW: Today’s post discusses mass suicides, cults, child harm, and other unsavory things. I will not be inserting any upsetting pictures. Please proceed with caution!
So, I joined a gym.
That’s not the purpose of this post – not fitspo, not weightloss or bragging about reps or gains or anything else. It is, however, necessary for setting the scene.
But let me back up.
So Wednesday the 22nd, I watched the new WACO documentary on Netflix. I had been looking forward to it for a while – I am old enough to remember when it happened, although at thirteen only recall the beginning and ending, while the weeks in between shootouts didn’t register. In the years since, I’ve become mildly interested in it and read or watch things when they come up. This documentary I found disappointing – it was a lot of sensationalism, some interviews with eye-witnesses, but no analysis or much expert commentary. I have watched other docs on Waco – Ask a Mortician’s examination of it was particularly compelling as she pointed out the failures of law enforcement and how they led to so many unnecessary deaths. The disappointment led me to want to revisit a pretty good one on a true crime show I saw on HBO last year, but I couldn’t remember the title or particulars so I just searched ‘documentaries.’
Which is how I found the Heaven’s Gate: Cult of Cults doc. I didn’t notice the release date and thought it was something from a while back, so I decided to watch.
Greetings all! I am dusting off the film review tag in honor of a very special review: The Batman. As always, the Non-Spoiler review will go above the cut, Spoilers below.
Are you ready? Let’s begin.
For three years, we have heard about The Batman, as directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson. We heard about the Snyder fans insisting The Batman will be terrible because it doesn’t involve Ben Affleck or Zack Snyder. Discussions about Batman in the wake of BlackLivesMatter centered on whether Batman had any right to do what he does at all, or if he was a privileged White Man acting as a tool of post-capitalist masters, protecting private property and punishing marginalized communities. And of course, who can forget the discussion on whether Batman performs cunnilingus on Catwoman. Regarding the latter, just like in real life, one group says yes, another group says no.
I’ve been a Batfan since Burton’s 1989 installment. My childhood doggie (1990-2005) was named Batman. With the popularity of the Tim Burton film, the Family Channel began airing episodes of the Adam West show; trust and believe my parents knew right where I was between the hours of 4-5 PM every afternoon that summer. I had toys and T-shirts. Comics were still being gatekept against little girls so I didn’t start reading those until later, but I had the novelization and read it to tatters. Batman: The Animated Series happened and that was a revelation. It felt GROWN UP. The women were characters! With thoughts! Batman Returns happened and I felt Ways About Michelle Pfeiffer in that suit, but what was most appealing was the depiction of her rage. I didn’t know the word ‘patriarchy,’ but being a little girl in a blue-collar environment I encountered it every day – men, boys and women laughing at the idea that women could do anything men could do. And this was in the 80s and early 90s!
As a movie, Matt Reeves’ The Batman checks all the most notable Batman boxes and rarely colors outside the lines–except in one major area, which I’ll discuss later. The film’s world is immersive and recognizable; it looks like Gotham City ought to look – its striated architecture boasts Art Deco flourishes in the upper levels of the city, and in the lower, puddles, steam, and garbage spew from industrial vents or collect in gutters and alleyways. It’s a vivid if uninspired depiction of the Gatsby-esque wealth disparity that would have been ubiquitous to Batman creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane, writing in the 30s and 40s, and is once again our modern American reality.
Rather than faffing about with origin stories, The Batman jumps boots-first into a crime thriller with a high-profile murder. Batman is known, if not accepted, by the cops, and has made an ally of Jim Gordon, masterfully played by Jeffrey Wright. There’s an upcoming election, there’s political corruption, there’s the Riddler running around killing people and leaving puzzles, there’s Selena Kyle (Zoe Kravitz absolutely glistening) doing the cat burglar thing, there’s Alfred (Andy Serkis) as a surrogate father figure, all of which you’ve seen in the trailer. All of it works perfectly, even though there are moments that should remove you from the action. I realized I was thoroughly and delightfully entertained, even while watching John Turturro wear sunglasses in the dark, or a fat-suited Colin Ferrell yell at traffic.
The Batman is well and truly of the modern age, and if there’s one thing the modern age loves, it’s polarization. So naturally, people are arguing like it’s Thanksgiving at the in-laws, everybody’s had a few drinks, and it’s an election year. NO QUARTER.
To close the spoiler-free section, I am excited and appreciative of the thought and development that went into this new incarnation of a well-loved favorite. It’s a bit more cerebral than previous versions, and its soundtrack was good but didn’t have the impact of Zimmer’s or Elfman’s work. As word about the film grows it will gain its rightful place in the film canon.
Once finished with what can only be described as a ‘wild ride,’ I realized ‘Ah, so that’s why roller coasters are only like 3 minutes long. The human heart and mind can only take so much.’
Sometimes the only way to deal with a uncontrollable and terrifying situation is to jump feetfirst into something else. In an attempt to manage my near paralyzing fear right now, I’ll be doing my best to blog more often. It’s a win-win: I regain a sense of control over my world, and you can be entertained for however long it takes you to get through a thousand words or so. So let’s dive in!
Tiger King came on my radar through memes. Of course Netflix had suggested it to me, but their suggestions have been wrong before. I’ve been doing a lot of comfort-watching and wasn’t sure Tiger King would be a good follow-up for Howard’s End.
In Theaters Now entries give insight on films currently in theaters. There is a brief review, followed by a deeper dive with SPOILERS behind the cut.
To paraphrase someone paraphrasing Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar… unless it’s an 80 foot phallus symbolizing man’s hubristic attempt to navigate the tempestuous deeps of the sea and therefore also the human subconscious.
Let’s dive in!
The Lighthouse (2019) is a historical thriller/horror film by the writer/director team of Robert and Max Eggers, fresh off their success of 2016’s jolly lighthearted romp, The VVitch. If you haven’t seen The VVItch please know I just made a joke and with the exception of Black Phillip, it is neither lighthearted nor jolly. The Eggerses have already cemented their reputation as masters of subverting horror tropes with The VVitch, and The Lighthouse delivers more of the same, yet different. Magnificent costumes, an eerie score, and some soon-to-be legendary performances all combine to make an instant classic.
From the very opening scene, the film establishes itself with an aspect ratio of 1:19.1, which means the image is square. Filmed with a variety of cameras and lenses, including 35mm and some antique equipment dating back to 1918, the resultant effect is distinctive. There was even a little sign on the way into the theater stating, more or less, ‘Yes it is supposed to be that way please don’t tell us there’s something wrong with it.’ Between the peculiar aspect ratio, the black and white photography, stark compositions, and claustrophobic but vivid angles, it feels almost as if you’re watching some brilliant throwback from the dawn of cinema, the age where so many cinematic horror traditions were founded. Another reason I was reminded of that age was Pattinson’s performance, as his wide eyes and shaggy hair reminded me of Conrad Veidt in the immortal Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
The story is fairly straightforward: Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson, sporting a more than passing 19th century Maine accent) has found work for the United States Lighthouse Service and is being dropped off to join Tom Wake (Willem Dafoe, genetically engineered to play this role; if he doesn’t go full Hemingway in the next 10 years we will have failed as a civilization).
The Lighthouse stands on a godforsaken, storm-washed rock infested with stroppy seabirds. The remote environment has already claimed one life, as Winslow is replacing a young man who went mad, claiming mermaids were singing to him. From the moment he arrives, Wake rides Winslow to get to work, quickly establishing a nautically flavored pecking order. Winslow is soon given almost more work than he can humanly do, and resentment blooms between the two men. The sonorous blast of a foghorn, noticeable early on and which should be jarring, inures itself and becomes no more remarkable than gulls crying or waves crashing. Wake gives Winslow task after task and insists they be done to his exacting standard, but the one thing Winslow is forbidden from servicing is The Light.
As the story winds out, it challenges the audience to read between the obvious threads: Is Wake real? Is Winslow? What really happened to the previous employee? How much of Wake’s Old Salt routine is an act, if any? What the hell is up between him and The Light?
Although Winslow manages the punishing routine well enough during his month-long assignment, a bad storm strands him on the island and he, already starting to unravel, comes straight off the spool. But anyone who’s watched the trailer knows that; the real treat is seeing it happen, how, and why. Viewers quickly realize that mysteries abound within Winslow, too.
Fans of H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, and the other voices of early 20th century Weird fiction will find plenty to love, as well as the dialogue, which was inspired by both Shakespeare and Herman Mellville. I will say that when the film comes out for home release I will appreciate the subtitles, as I sometimes couldn’t understand the dialogue and certainly missed crucial plot info. Fans of season 1 of The Terror, would also greatly appreciate the film and its depiction of 19th century nautical life.
In Theaters Now entries give insight on films currently in theaters. There is a brief review, followed by a deeper dive WITH SPOILERS behind the cut.
As an experience, Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark is a delightfully creepy tale. Based on the legendary book series illustrated by someone who very probably hated children and wanted them to lose sleep, the film creates a narrative out of the otherwise disparate and well-loved stories. The Wendigo (my fave!), The Big Toe, and a few others I’ll refrain from mentioning are present. The story structure is simple: taking place in Halloween 1968, some kids who trespass into a local haunted house and steal a book of ghost stories that belonged to the local crazy lady must deal with the aftermath. The book’s stories, written in blood, almost always kill the protagonist, and there are both old stories and new ones that appear as events unfold. There are haunted houses, creepy music boxes, mental hospitals, a jerk bully, and all the classic fare.
I would recommend the film for fans of horror, the original book series, and people looking for a thrill. But I stress: just because it’s rated PG-13 doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for children. One family had a 4-year-old present, and while he was chattering away before the movie, I hope his lapse into silence was because he fell asleep and not into a state of paralytic horror. Bad Parenting Decision, Random Family.
Although the movie is a delightful and terrifying romp, it didn’t have the emotional depth I was hoping for. I mention this because when Guillermo Del Toro’s name is attached to something, I expect an emotional payoff. André Øvredal directed the film and I know he knows how to tell an emotional story because he made The Trollhunter. That isn’t to say the movie isn’t worth seeing, but if you’re looking for Deep Meaning Subtext as I did, you’ll leaving feeling a bit let down.
For more in-depth discussion involving spoilers, dive below the cut!