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What Are We Up To? 07/29/22

Ironically, the secret of life is to watch less television.


This week was a strange one. My job status is up in the air. My relationship status is “vexatious” and, of course, the world at large is falling apart at the seams. On the other hand, I’m sitting at a computer connected to the sum of all mankind’s knowledge, I’m in excellent health, and human life expectancy has never been better. So, I can look forward to living like this for a long, long time.

But hey, that’s why we have movies and television, right?


What We Do in the Shadows

In 2014 I attended a film festival where Taika Waititi screened What We Do in the Shadows, a horror/comedy film based on previous work he’d done with Jemaine Clement. I left the theater feeling like I’d been gut-punched because the last 85 minutes had been spent laughing so hard I nearly lost all control of bodily functions.

Drunk on beer and laughter, I spotted Waititi standing outside, speaking excitedly into his phone. I got the impression he was discussing the screening with someone. He sensed my approach and politely ended his conversation as he regarded me. I blurted out the following:

“I just want you to know, that was the funniest thing I think I’ve seen in years…”

His eyes went wide with astonishment. “Oh, my,” he began, sheepishly.

But I wasn’t done.

“…and…oh my God, I swear to God I nearly pissed myself…just hilarious…God!”

“Oh!” he grinned generously at my multiple supernatural invocations. “Thank you so much!”

Still wasn’t done.

“Please tell me you have more of that (urp). I can’t wait to see what you guys do next with those characters.” I laughed the way drunk people often do, a braying noise, equally reminiscent of sobbing as of joy.

My Significant Other was becoming embarrassed and wisely pulled me away before I tried to hug him or offer him my phone number. The point is, I’m pretty sure what I meant was:

“You should approach a streaming platform with an original show based on this concept, because that’s something a person would say in 2014.”

You’re welcome, Earth, because that’s what they did.

And you know what? We’re into Season 4, and it absolutely freaking slaps. Every time you think this show is going to Jump the Shark or they’re going to run out of twists, they turn left into a brand new pile of gut-busting ideas. It just never gets old.

Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Succession

I have now completely caught up with all three seasons of Succession, and after that banger of a finale I need some time to think about my future. Up is down. Down is up.

I am constantly sure that there’s no way this premise can be milked any further without the payoff. How long can we possibly go with this “Who will succeed Logan Roy” crap before the show utterly collapses under its own weight?

Come on, it’s like dragging out “Who Shot J.R.” for three whole seasons!

Oh, but it’s just not.

Each time I’m sure this show has run out of ways to surprise me, Kendall accidentally drinks a gallon of anti-freeze, or Roman pulls his dick out in a board meeting (note: only one of those things happened).

Or, Logan Roy delivers a Ninja-style double-cross inside a mind-fuck wrapped in a deception for the ages.

I know that was a strange sentence, but it’s the one that came out of my mouth as I took in the Season 3 finale. Wow. You can look forward to me getting deeper into this show when Season 4 drops. It’s safe to say that Succession has more than adequately filled the Sopranos-shaped hole in my heart.

Divergent

I watched Divergent in a situation where I felt compelled to say yes. I was with a special friend who enjoys these kinds of joints and likes to start movie night by asking:

“What do you want to watch?”

When we both know it doesn’t matter what I want to watch. But luckily, I’m that guy who’s pretty easygoing about that kind of thing. It doesn’t matter what we watch when I’m with someone I adore.

Or so I thought, until I saw Divergent.

Admittedly I’ve seen only a handful of entries in the YA space that I enjoyed. This was absolutely not one of them. The production values are threadbare, the script is nonsense, and the cast (many of whom are notable names) are making choices that wouldn’t be out of place in a community college production.

I couldn’t even enjoy it, ironically. The premise is sound and provides plenty on which to build a story, but the execution is nothing short of sophomoric. Shailene Woodley is #NotMyKatniss, I just can’t see Miles Teller without a mustache now and Jai Courtney is less interesting than soggy tofu.

I’m told the sequel is “a little better.”

Oh, good. Hey, if I told you there was a sequel to Freddy Got Fingered, and it was ” a little better,” would that help you want to watch it?

This. Movie. Sucks.

The Crow

I originally shared The Crow with a different Significant Other, and the experience single-handedly prolonged that relationship for three years. Was that the healing power of movie magic or the failure of two people to realize they’d made a terrible mistake?

Why don’t you decide, by watching The Crow?

The tragic death of actor Brandon Lee, son of the legendary Bruce Lee, has been well documented. But that’s not the reason you should take this one in.

The Crow is lightning in a bottle. Aside from being Lee’s best work, the film boasts Ernie Hudson from Ghostbusters in a waterproof hat and one of the best soundtracks of the 90s. The story of urban vengeance, personal honor, and timeless romance resonates with the majority of people.

For everyone else, it’s about a guy in clown makeup who jumps off rooftops and helps people come to terms with their life choices before he murders them. It not only deserves its cult status but may also have created its own self-sustaining hype machine, whose influence occupies a significant portion of the late 90s and early 00s.

One of the few films I love more upon each viewing.

The Craft

The Craft spans Venn diagrams covering ages 18-35, male and female, gay and straight, rich or poor, racist or not-racist. There’s literally something for everyone here.

The only way you could dislike The Craft is if you had a problem casting people in their twenties as teenagers so you can conceptually get away with sexually objectifying them. What are the odds that the only four people on earth with the keys to ancient witchcraft are shapely teenage girls based in the greater Los Angeles area?

It’s as if a shadowy executive somewhere said:

“I want the whole thing filmed locally, as cheaply as possible.” I imagine him noshing on a monstrously large Cuban sandwich for some reason. “And none of them can wear a bra,” he smiled thinly.

“I forbid it.”

I know. Ew. But also, that probably happened.

If you have trouble remembering the story you’re not alone, and I just saw it. Think Mean Girls meets Carrie, but less scary than a Ghostbusters without the ghosts. No real blood, decent soundtrack, tons of nipples and just enough of a script with which, perhaps, to wrap a Cuban sandwich.

There’s definitely a vibe, though, and a highly stylized look. Remember all the late 90s films I said were loosely influenced by The Crow?

Yup.

The Craft stands as a decent late century potboiler, and should probably be on your list of 90s essentials, but closer to the bottom than the top. Come for Neve Campbell, stay for the Robin Tunney / Fairuza Balk table, ladder and chair match at the end.

By the way, there’s a sequel to this, too. And it is not better.


Criticult will return…

Bruce Hall View All

When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail."

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