Category Archives: Discussions (Shooting the Shit)

Tenet

No worries, no spoilers.

I’m an insomniac, emphasis on the niac. As in: not sleeping turns you into a complete and utter maniac. As in: not many good words end in niac. Egomaniac. Pyromaniac. Kleptomaniac. Megalomaniac, for maniacs with positive self regard. But while the word insomniac focuses on that which I do not have (ie, sleep), it fails to account for the many things I’ve gained, (ie, time). Time to stew on thoughts and do deep dives probing insecurities and trying new anxieties on for size, sure, of course, but also time to read. There is a special kind of reading that takes place in the middle of the night, when everyone else is sleeping. Once you’ve reached at least the 36th hour of nonstop awakeness, your brain unveils a secret capacity, a wormhole of clarity, almost, wherein all things are possible. I do read a fair amount of trash, but every now and again I like to throw in a hefty tome or two, just in case I’m secretly a genius with untapped potential, should I ever come across it. And it was on one such night, June 6, 2018 in fact, in a feverish sleepless state, that I was reading a book about string theory and understanding it. By morning, the ghost of string theory was still with me, and as long as I didn’t attempt to look at it straight in the face, it was there, a light dusting of dew on my brain that I worried would evaporate with the sun. Or rather, with sleep. Anyway, I am to this day not a world-renowned particle physicist, so it wasn’t permanent or complete enlightenment. But this wasn’t the first time I’d experienced such insight. In March of 2003, I was making my way through James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Ugh. That Joyce is a straight up dick. Finnegans Wake is the single most obtuse piece of literature to ever darken the Dewey decimal system. If you hate readers so much, why on earth did you become a writer? Idioglossia my ass, this man’s just straight up making shit up as he goes along all stream of consciousness like he’s never met a piece of punctuation he didn’t want to flick to the ground and grind it like it’s the stub of a cigarette and we’re the ones getting smoked. But for a minute there, a glorious minute, I was getting it. I was getting it! I was lost in the rhythm of Joyce’s unique syntax, I was beyond comprehension, I was feeling the meaning, and the subtext. I was absorbing it into my skin like Joyce and his opaque one-hundred-letter-words were nothing but aloe.

This might feel like kind of a digression, but first let me remind you that in order to digress, you have to have first introduced the topic from which to digress, and I haven’t done that, so consider the above paragraph bonus content. Now I will tell you that I am writing a review of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, the saviour of the summer blockbuster. Except it’s now been released at the very end of August, and even as desperate as people are for a good movie and a return to some normalcy, Tenet is not some trashy beach read, accessible and easily digested. It is most definitely a Finnegans Wake, and it’s unlikely to save cinema no matter what the hype may have you believe.

After a brush with insomnia over the weekend, I got some medically-induced sleep earlier this week and am feeling fresh of brain and body. But Christopher Nolan knows how to hypnotize his audience. We feel, if not incapacitated, then intoxicated. Nolan builds the kinds of worlds we might encounter in dreams. Inception taught us to challenge everything. Interstellar taught us to think outside the box. Tenet merely kicks us in the teeth.

The good thing about not understanding a movie is that you can’t possibly spoil it. And yes, yes there were times when I thought I was getting it. I was a smug little shit, untangling the plot like it’s a delicate, thoroughly knotted rose gold pendant that I’m desperate to dangle above my cleavage at dinner, the diamond shining just a little brighter for having worked for it. But no. No.

John David Washington is simply The Protagonist, an operative with a global assignment to stop a renegade Russian oligarch from destroying the world. To do so, he’ll have to master time inversion because sometimes the only way out is through.

Parallel universes are for pussies. Christopher Nolan’s played with time and space before. This time he’s fucking with it, and with us.

In the deepest, deepest layers of Inception, it was difficult to judge just how many layers down we’d gone, and therefore it was easy to lose track of which reality was actual reality. When Leo spins that top and the screen goes black before we know whether it will topple over, that’s basic math. Like, ultra basic. Not even addition, just straight counting. Tenet is like abstract algebra, necessitating the contemplation of infinite dimensions. Plus number theory, the properties of and relationships between integers and integer-valued functions. Nolan may be one heck of a professor and Tenet the most sublime power point presentation, but this shit is hard and for most of us, a little out of reach. Way too many times during the film I could smell the smoke coming from my brain as it attempted to calculate and process too many things at once. I am way too linear a thinker to feel comfortable when Tenet hits its stride, which is frustrating because those are objectively the very most interesting bits!

You know those pricks who back into a parking spot just because they can? Like it was totally unnecessary so they’re basically just showing off? Nolan is that prick. Tenet is his oversized pickup truck. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS HARD! But since it is, a few tricks:

  1. Pay attention to everything. Because everything is something, nothing is nothing, the more nothing it seems, the more something it is.
  2. You’re going to want to watch it again. Even if you hate the movie and how it makes you feel (cough*inadequate*cough), you’ll want to see it again. You need to watch it with the knowledge you can only gain by watching it hopelessly and helplessly the first time. And you’re definitely going to want to discuss it.
  3. The title is a clue.
  4. The movie poster is a clue.
  5. Even my goddamned digression is an accidental clue.
  6. Everything is important, okay? And it’s all happening all the time, and especially when it’s not. So don’t let your guard down.

Black Stories Matter

The American Film Institute (AFI) and Universal Pictures launch a week-long event called “Black Stories Matter” –

 BLACKKKLANSMAN, GET OUT, GIRLS TRIP, LOVING and STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON will be available as free digital movie rentals available all week, August 24-30. Enhanced AFI Movie Club content will feature new interviews with composer Terence Blanchard (BLACKKKLANSMAN), Malcolm D. Lee (GIRLS TRIP), cinematographer and AFI Alum Matthew Libatique (STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON), Ruth Negga (LOVING), writer Tracy Oliver (GIRLS TRIP), Ron Stallworth (BLACKKKLANSMAN) and more.  
 
Each of the Universal films will be available to rent for free on Amazon, Apple, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Dish, FandangoNOW, Microsoft, Redbox, Verizon and Vudu, among others.

Fruitvale Station

Cineplex is offering Canadians a whole bunch of movies that speak to the black experience for free this month – check here for a complete list – and this is one of them, as it should be. I hadn’t seen it since it was released in theatres and Sean hadn’t seen it at all.

It’s been 7 years since this movie came out, but I still remember how deeply it had moved me, saddened me, enraged me, which is why a part of me wasn’t super keen to revisit it. And another part of me was disgusted by that part’s response: the suffering and inherent iniquity of my fellow human beings makes me uncomfortable because IT SHOULD. My ancestors helped create this mess, my privilege benefits from it, and my inaction maintains it.

Oscar Grant III was just 22 years old when he was shot by a white cop while lying face down on the ground. It’s been nearly 12 years since his death signaled a significant problem in policing, and nearly 12 years since we’ve continued to allow our darker skinned friends to die for their melanin. The problem has of course existed as long as policing has; American law enforcement was built in the wake of slavery as a new way to round up black bodies and extort free labour from them, but only in this century has the presence of cellphones allowed these shootings to be captured on film. Grant’s name joins a long list of black men and women murdered by police.

Fruitvale Station is the first feature length film by director Ryan Coogler and his first collaboration with Michael B. Jordan – but not his last. His next film, Creed, gives Rocky fans (and Rocky himself) a strong black protagonist to root for, an extension of Apollo Creed’s (Carl Weathers) legacy, but also a modern American hero for a new audience to look up to. Coogler’s next film takes that premise to an even greater height with Marvel’s first black super hero movie, Black Panther. Through Wakanda, Coogler explores themes of responsibility and identity. He casts Jordan as Killmonger, the fearsome but ultimately sympathetic villain. He helps T’Challa realize that Wakanda’s relative strength and power means they owe something to their neighbours in need, a message that seems not to permeate stubborn white audiences.

Cineplex and other streaming services are also offering another Michael B. Jordan super hero movie for fee this month: Just Mercy. Bryan Stevenson is a real-life African American lawyer who helps wrongfully convicted death row prisoners. Just Mercy is further proof that Michael B. Jordan is himself a black idol, and a major, bankable Hollywood star, living up to his name’s GOAT status.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter: because of course they do. It’s a statement that feels crazy to have to make, which only makes me realize to a further degree how crazy it must be to have to live it. We support the movement 1000%, without reservation. We are only a little movie channel and we are trying to be better allies by listening and learning. To that end, we humbly offer up a few movies, many of which can be streamed for free, that focus on the black experience.

Pride, Prejudice & Rainbows

Everywhere, there are rainbows, co-opted to bring hope and cheer to a world self-isolating from a deadly virus. Normally, a rainbow spotted in June meant Pride Month was being celebrated and acknowledged. This June, however, things are more sedate. Pride events have been cancelled, or moved online at best, to be observed virtually, from one’s home computer. Except home isn’t always a safe space for queer folk. Many have been forced back in the closet, or back into the wrong gender’s clothes and pronouns for the duration, not daring to risk being caught on the wrong website, further isolating an already marginalized population. This pandemic has deprived the queer community of the few safe spaces they can comfortably exist in their own skin: queer bars, sexual health spaces, support groups. Worse still, many of these spaces were already teetering on the brink of inadequate funding when COVID forced shut downs. Many will not reopen. In fact, many queer and trans services rely on Pride Month events for essential fundraising, especially since members of the LGBTQ community were already at higher risk for unemployment, food insecurity, and lack of insurance even before the pandemic hit.

Most of all, though, a pride event is about visibility. It’s about celebrating the victories and honouring the sacrifices and acknowledging the gaps. It’s about giving people a sense of community and belonging. There are still countries where homosexuality is illegal, and even punishable by death. But even many “progressive” countries are still getting it wrong; Trump’s Affordable Care Act rule would allow health care to discriminate against LGBTQ people, the Supreme Court is deciding whether employers can fire people just for being queer or trans, the UK’s Women and Equalities Minister has considered revising the Equality Act to keep trans women out of women’s spaces.

If you are cis and straight, do your part to create and maintain safe online spaces for queer people. Reach out to queer friends and ask if they are really okay. And check out some queer stories because yes, representation matters.

A short list of a rare genre: happy LGBTQ movies

  1. Fourth Man Out
  2. Maurice
  3. Imagine Me & You
  4. G.B.F.
  5. Pride
  6. Jongens
  7. Handsome Devil
  8. Kiss Me
  9. Beautiful Thing
  10. To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Numar
  11. Were The World Mine
  12. The Handmaiden
  13. Moonlight
  14. Laurence Anyways
  15. God’s Own Country

Dear Denis Villeneuve,

I know that you are attempting to adapt the great unadaptable Dune. I know that you are a strong and capable director – in fact, among the very best. I trust you. Blade Runner 2049 was a sci-fi masterpiece, aloe to my burning worries. But having recently rewatched David Lynch’s 1984 Dune, I do have some thoughts:

  1. Do people really need to be so sweaty? It’s unclear whether this was an artistic choice or simply the result of filming in the Mexican desert, but either way, get some blotting papers and use them. Vigorously.

2. This story takes place in the year 10 000++ (I can’t remember exactly, but it’s far, far into the future). Why does the future look so much like the past? And I don’t mean the 1980s, when it was filmed, although obviously it does bear those marks as well. I mean the 18th century – many of the gowns look extras wandered in from the set Amadeus. I cannot imagine a version of the future where women embrace hoop skirts again. And the Duke uses a ring to make his wax seals, you know, for “security” because apparently we moved so far beyond digital fingerprints and retinal scans we’ve landed back at wax. And for that matter, how is it that they can travel through space but they can’t send an email?

3. And for that matter, on the 80s theme…I get that you were living in heady times, David Lynch. You had so many new effects at your fingertips. In just two years time, with every motherfucker with a Panasonic camcorder doing it, you may have relied less on those extravagant wipes. You might have held back on the layering of images if you watched just a little more MTV. Every time the image of a gently weeping man was super-imposed over the image of a barren desert, I expected a power ballad to chime in. And despite a soundtrack from Toto, none ever did. Sheesh.

4. The flying fat suit. I really, really just could not. It reminded me of a hybrid between Mad Max: Fury Road’s  Immortan Joe and Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory’s Violet when she blows up like a blueberry. It’s gross, it’s painful, at times just downright silly, and always, always incredibly unnecessary. Please omit.

5. Also: the eyebrows? Not feeling them. I mean, even if in the future we decide to take faces in a whole new direction, I’m not sure teased, bushy eyebrows would be the look, even if it were possible, which it is not. I can assure you that Sean has not even once in his life groomed his eyebrows, and though they are wiry, unkempt, and disastrous, they are not six inches long because there is just a limit on how long eyebrows will grow before they fall out. That’s just life. And frankly, I think any society should work harder at getting email back before it looks into eyebrow growth hormones.

6. That codpiece though? Yeah, Sting’s codpieces are perhaps the one thing that worked. If I were you, Denis, I’d even look at getting Sting back.

7. I’m not dogging on Lynch. He’s a man of vision and I admire the attempt. I’ve read the book. The story is vast, and very engrossing. But to squeeze it into a two-hour film is just impossible. Movie-goers were even given cheat sheets with backstory, but still it’s not enough. How to retain the book’s essence without overpowering the story with detail? It’s nearly impossible, as Lynch discovered. Villeneuve has promised to break it up into at least 2 films, though Lynch would have expected to do the same and never got the chance after the first one’s failure (it made $31M against a $40M budget, actually Lynch’s most successful film, but still considered a flop). One thing’s for sure: 80% of the dialogue in the 1984 version is attributed to a character’s thoughts, which we hear out loud (or actually, whispered, though I can’t imagine why someone would whisper to themselves inside their own head). This constant narrative device was a major failing of the film and I hope like heck that between Villeneuve and his screenwriting conspirators, Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts, the problem with have found a solution. A workable one.

New vs Old cast:

Timothee Chalamet role: Paul Atreides Kyle McLachlan

Rebecca Ferguson Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica Francesca Annis

Zendaya Chani Sean Young

Jason Momoa Duncan Idaho Richard Jordan

Josh Brolin Gurney Halleck Patrick Stewart

Oscar Isaac Duke Leto Atreides, Paul’s dad Jürgen Prochnow

Javier Bardem Stilgar Everett McGill

Dave Bautista Glossu ‘Beast’ Rabban Paul Smith

Stellan Skarsgard Baron Harkonnen (flying fuck) Kenneth McMillan

Charlotte Rampling Reverend Mother Sian Phillips

??? Princess Irulan Virginia Madsen

??? Feyd Rautha Sting

Friday Fuckfest: The Boys of Star Wars

Alden Ehrenreich
Richard E. Grant
Harrison Ford
Ewan McGregor
Diego Luna
Domhnall Gleeson
Joel Egerton
John Boyega
Woody Harrelson
Hayden Christensen
Donald Glover
Adam Driver
Riz Ahmed
Samuel L. Jackson
Liam Neeson
Mark Hamill
Oscar Isaac

You can only pick one: who’s it gonna be?

p.s. Sean’s Rise of Skywalker review below.

Friday Fuckfest: Keanu Reeves Edition

Keanu Reeves day is officially slated for May 21 2021: the day both Matrix 4 and John Wick 4 will be released. But every day can be Keanu Reeves day, and perhaps every day should. He’s one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors and is almost undoubtedly one of the kindest. He typically shies away from the spotlight, even turning down an enormous paycheque for Speed 2 in favour of touring with his band and doing a small Canadian production of Hamlet, for which his performance was praised.

Dubbed the ‘Internet’s Boyfriend’, and occasionally ‘Sad Keanu,’ the whole world is concerned about his happiness, participating in ‘Cheer-up Keanu Day’ every June 15. Although he’s deeply private, he has publicly admitted to feeling lonely, which, combined with his tragic past (a girlfriend gave birth to their daughter, who was stillborn, and their grief resulted in a breakup, followed by her death in a car accident just months later), makes an irresistible lust bubble. Feast your eyes on: