“To the Bone”, written and directed by Marti Noxon, is a tough-to-watch and somewhat gratuitous drama about a young woman with anorexia nervosa.
Ellen (Lilly Collins) is referred to a therapist Dr. Beckham (Keanu Reeves) to an in-patient facility where, well, there are rules to make sure she eats and gains weight. That’s not until Bechkam has made an odd remark about the lanugo hair growing on her forearms as she tries to keep warm (as if women shouldn’t have that). At the dorm-like residence, there are rules. Bathrooms are locked for thirty minutes after meals (bulimia). Residents get points that allow them passes. Sounds like the Army. Or maybe being an inpatient at NIH in 1962 (when I was 19). But patients get around it with vomit bags hidden under their bags.
But Ellen starts developing a budding puppy live romance with dance student Luke (young British actor Alex Sharp) who seems far too intact to need to be in a place like this. He looks fine (he could use some more hair on his legs), and is quite sharp-tongued, with all his little metaphors.
But then, the movie needs to take us through her crash. A person like this needs to hit bottom to want to live at all. The film sets up a climax in the California desert where she camps out in a yurt and has a near-death experience with Luke.
The film sets up some camera shots of her back, where she is made to look like skin and bone. All unpleasant.
“I am Spider-Man. With great power comes great responsibility”.
An earlier film where Tobey Maguire played Spider-Man ended that way. This time, with the new Marvel film “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017), directed by Jon Watts and written by Jonathan Goldstein et al, the franchise presents a teen super-hero who might be comparable to Clark Kent in the WB “Smallville Series”.
Peter Parker is played by young British actor Tom Holland, now 21 but probably 19 when the film was shot. We get to see his ultra-lean body a couple times when he changes into the spider suit (I though about Milo Yiannopoulos saying fat people hate thin people like Milo). His best friend in his nerdy hdgh school science crowd is Ned (Jacob Batalon), the same age as an actor, but rather pudgy. Ned does all the computer hacking and shell-scripting.
The film opens with its own embedded short film, as “A Film by Peter Parker”, in the old 1.37:1 aspect projected onto the much wider screen, of Peter’s boyhood. Then we see Peter living in Queens with his Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) playing with his superpowers and accompanying his classmates on a trip to a Washington DC hotel for an academic decathlon. The physics an calcolus teacher (Tony Revolori, as if right out the “Art of Problem Solving” videos) seems to be their mentor up to a point. When the vulture (Michael Keaton) threatens terror on New York and Washington (a not so subtle political hint) Peter spins his web into action (sometimes recalling Captain America), rescuing his classmates from the Washington Monument (remember the 2011 earthquake), and then from the Staten Island Ferry when the boat breaks in half. There is a closing climax over Coney Island, perhaps near the old Seaside Courts on the boardwalk.
Peter turns to the Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr) as a kind of “mentor”, despite multiple detentions from school system that doesn’t understand he Peter can save everybody.
Holland seems to be creating a combined persona of some clean-cut youthful science heroes now in their early twenties, such as Stanford undergraduate Jack Andraka (who has been called “nano-man” in a little comics series on Twitter), and Taylor Wilson, who invented a fusion reactor at age 14. (Peter says he is 15.) The body language and speech similarity of Holland’s character and Andraka is quite striking. Jack wants everybody to have nanobots in their bloodstreams to detect and knock cancer before it can start. Is that the premise of another Marvel movie? (Echoes of “Fantastic Voyage”).
2.35:1, 3-D, Imax-compatible, prologue is 1.37:1
When and how viewed:
Tyson’s AMC, 2017/8/16 late fair crowd
Marvel, Columbia Pictures (Spider-Man Marvel productions are distributed by Sony)
“Southside with You”, written and directed by Richard Tanne, may play like a date movie. It gives a gentle biographical retelling of the early days when young Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) courted Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter), who wanted to deny that their time together constituted a relationship. In my one semester of heterosexual dating (in 1971) I didn’t want to push things that far, because I had fantasies on my mind. Barack at an early point asks her if she thinks he is “cute”. That wasn’t said much of men in the straight world in earlier times.
But Barack has his feet in the ground in interacting with real people in a real world, as a community organizer in Southside Chicago. That gets pretty lively toward the end with some contentious rally scenes. He also tells the story of his mixed race, mixed continent family. Barack tells the tragic story of his father, well educated in the U.S., who returned to Kenya and was fired after apparent political purges. The father died in a car crash and was denied having his name put on his tombstone. Michelle thought Barack should fix that, regardless of what the father’s negative wishes might have been.
Michelle, for her part, has an interesting job working in trademark law. Like with most young adults, you have to work for somebody to make a difference.
The film was distributed by Miramax, a resurrection of the old Weinstein brand that was bought by Disney.
Back in 1997, a jogger “went up” near Lander, Wyoming and disappeared without tracks. Some people think that’s evidence of UFO’s. But the current “modern western” directed and written by Taylor Sheridan “Wind River” starts with a disappearance and then the discovery of the body of a teenage native American woman (Kelsey Asbille) deep on the reservation, and the uncovering of the dirty behavior behind it. The film reminds me of Coen Brothers material, with less dark humor,, and a plot that reminds you of Cormac McCarthy.
FBI agent Jane Banner (Elisabeth Olsen) arrives and find she is in over her head, both with dealing with the oncoming early mountain winter (no global warming here) and the legal maze of tribal, state and federal law. (I remember a little of this from living in Minnesota and visiting Red Lake once.) Cory (Jeremy Renner), a US game tracker, will help her with the snowplow journeys into the wilderness, where they encounter some very bad behavior indeed by both natives and white oil field workers. There is an impressive sequence filmed around a worker’s “dormitory” trailer complex (that’s how movie stars live for months on wilderness sets), that gets violent indeed. There’s one particularly captivating shot of a mountain lion family in a den; the cats are left alone.
The film was actually shot in the Wasatch Range of Utah. I did travel through the Lander and Wind River area in August 1994.
“The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy”, by MIT Economics professor Peter Temin, is another recent controversial tome on inequality. But unlike “Dream Hoarders” (July 7), this book talks about inequality in terms of collective political forces involving class, money, and especially race, with little direct attention to how individuals should be expected to behave, which was the point of my own “DADT III” book in 2014.
The parts of the book (from the TOC) give a sense of its message: (I) is “An American Dual Economy”; (ii) “Politics in a Dual Economy”; (III) “Government in a Dual Economy”; (IV) “Comparisons and Conclusions”. The book is relatively brief; the core parts comprise 160 pages, along with 17 pages of roman-number introduction. (By the way, I think that introductions should always be numbered in the main sequence of the book and show in the page count.)
Temin starts out by showing how capitalism alone tends to generate self-reinforcing inequality. He calls the upper crust of society the “FTE Sector” (finance, technology and electronics). Low-wage people doing manual labor or service jobs (or selling on commissions, for example) tend to aspire to enter the FTE but face serious self-perpetuating barriers. Richer people can save money and owe less, can give their own children more advantages, and are more likely to have kids with “better” genes (the inconvenient truth of “A Troublesome Inheritance”, June 24, going back to ideas like those of Charles Murray), as well (particularly) of more access to “social capital” – informal interdependence with extended family and friends (the “Lotsa Helping Hands” idea in churches). The economic system has burdened low-income people with student debt (especially with the rise of for-profit universities), upsidedown housing (the 2008 subprime crisis) and medical bills (even with Obamacare – and the GOP is partly right about this in my estimation). You need to be able to save money to get any traction and move up. I’ve worked as a debt collector before. I’ve heard plenty of stories of how this works.
Temin then moves into race – and I’ll add here that in his conclusions he calls for a “Second Reconstruction”. I wondered if he has sat through “Gone with the Wind”. He connects race and the history of slavery (versus other, white immigration from Europe) and later segregation to the evolution of American democracy, an unprecedented political innovation at the time of the American Revolution. He traces particularly efforts to suppress blacks from voting (as with the 1964 murders in Mississippi) but he might have paid more attention to recent gerrymandering. He also discusses incarceration and “war on drugs” policies as racially motivated, as well as attempts to privatize schools and lack of sufficient attention to urban infrastructure (he mentions the politics of constructing a third tunnel under the Hudson to New York, as well as Washington DC’s problems with Metro, leading to reduced hours and the Safe Track surges. He does talk about the inability of school systems to properly pay teachers, But he could talk about the challenge for teachers from more privileged backgrounds to communicate with students in disadvantaged homes – something I encountered big time as a substitute teacher in the mid 2000’s. On race and police, he mentions Ferguson (Michael Brown – see “Whose Streets”, May 8) and Florida (Trayvon Martin) without objective attention to the deeper facts behind these particular cases. In the government area, he makes an interesting comparison of democracy, autocracy, and oligarchy (and rails against the Koch empire, which libertarians usually like; he regards Dallas as a cultural sub-capital for US business). He goes links personal debt to national debt and gets into a discussion about Social Security, denying that it is an earned annuity and implying it could be taken way from rich retired people who are otherwise coasting in neutral, like in the next debt ceiling crisis (which will happen Sept. 29, 2017). He does present social insurance as needing government and federal oversight, and seems to think that sometimes lenders need to be ready for debt forgiveness (after a discussion of bankruptcy).
On race, I think Temin does not pay enough heed to the fact that economic and social problems of Trump’s rural base (white non-college-educated) are really similar to those of inner city blacks; opioid has a similar dynamic as crack cocaine, and low-wage and resentment of elitism is pretty much the same. Furthermore there are plenty of blacks in rural Trump country with the same problems as inner-city blacks and rural whites,
Temin refers to philosopher John Rawls and the 1971 opus “A Theory of Justice”, with his theory of distributive justice. But it seems to me that such a tome would drill down to a discussion of the moral obligations of every person who finds the self in a more privileged system than others. It goes beyond the idea of “giving back” or “paying it forward” to the idea of accepting personal interdependence with people in other social classes – a kind of resilience necessary to deal with common external threats (like what we have now). Unearned wealth, if not widely used, can eventually lead to ugly ends, including shame and expropriation. Coercion and revolutions do happen. This is even a little more than my old 2004 essay “Pay your bills, pay your dues”.
“The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy” The book cover hides the word “Middle” in black and that fooled me!
2017, MIT Press, 234 pages with appendix and index, 4 parts, 14 chapters + Introduction
I can remember a dream as a child, looking across a nocturnal, oily, desert landscape with a lighthouse in the distance and a command from on high, “Do not go near the Tower of Ned”. Indeed, there is such a tower in my own screenplay “Epiphany”, on Titan, on a methane lake (most of the action happens in a rotating rama colony).
The horror sci-fi film “The Dark Tower”, directed by Nikolaj Arcel, is based on Stephen King’s novel series by that name. Indeed, part of the movie happens on another planet (actually filmed in South Africa), accessible through a portal, largely desert, populated with shanty towns and ruins of pyramid-like structures, leading to a sanctum where the Man in Black Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey, who has a chance to be bad in rather arid fashion) unleashes his minions. He seeks to control an engine of the Universe, the so-called Dark Tower, made to look like Burj Khalifa Dubai, a metaphor for some kind of pulsar emitting rays in straight line fashion. His opponent is Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger (Irdis Elba).
Vox has pointed out that the film adaptation is rather loose (screenplays by Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, and Anders Thomas Jensen as well as the director). I haven’t read the novels, but I remember great characters from other King novels becoming movies, like the “Walkin’ Dude” in “The Stand” as well as films like “Dreamcatcher” and “Storm of the Century” (sold in print as a screenplay, “Give me what I want and I’ll go away”), as well as the book “Cell”.(where technology makes people into monsters).
The star of the movie is the 13-year-old kid Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), who anticipates the Dark Tower rivalry in his dreams, and whose fantasies and writings (he’s written graphic novel) are so shocking that his mother (Katheryn Winnick)l want to send him (from an upper West Side apartment) to therapy upstate (arranged by the villains). Instead, Jake will become almost the next Christ figure.
I saw this film as a break for news coverage about the North Korea nuclear crisis, and just as the movie ended I learned of Mattis’s stark warning backing up Trump’s. Kim Jong Un is indeed a caricature of the Man in Black.
Kathryn Bigelow can be counted on for intensity, and her new dramatic reconstruction of the “Detroit” Rebellion (screenwritten by Marl Boal) and the Algiers Motel murders by police is definitely “in your face” but in the end morbidly fascinating.
I remember that period in my life. July 1967, I had one more semester at KU to get my M.A., before getting drafted and doing Basic at Fort Jackson in the early part of 1968. Once in the Army, I found that many NCO;s and drill sergeants were African American, and one of the squad leaders was an African American pre-med student who was good at absolutely everything. (I would take the physical draft physical in August 1967 in Richmond.)
I last visited the city in August 2012, visited the downtown and one of the gay bars, but noticed the vacant spaces. Anthony Bourdain did a “Parts Unknown” episode in this new Rome, and asked, “what the hell happened here?”
The new film starts out with some Civil Rights history in animation. Detroit, it says, was the most deliberately segregated of all the cities. A couple years before there had been an incident at a nuclear power plant in Michigan that led rags to say “We almost lost Detroit”.
Will Pouter is chilling as the Nazi-like Krauss, all the more chilling with his baby face. He shoots a fleeing looter in the back, and told he will be prosecuted but stays on the force. He “manages” the entire interrogation sequence, the middle section of the movie itself lasting more than an hour, at the motel, started apparently by a toy gun which the cops thought was real.
There follows some courtroom drama, and the scene about how one of the victims of the interrogation becomes a gospel singer.
The film shows the Detroit police as the most bigoted (“Negroes”), alongside Michigan State Police, National Guard, and even the regular Army. During the Vietnam era draft, people would find slots to join the Guard, and escape Vietnam, for this. The obvious message is that BLM has a long “past is prologue”.
I can recall that in the spring of 1968, after the King assassination, when I was in Tent City or Special Training Company at Fort Jackson, we were on “red alert” after King was assassinated, to make a show of force in downtown Columbia or maybe Orangeburg. It didn’t come off.
This film could be compared to Wexler’s “Medium Cool” (1969, Paramount), about the 1968 Chicago riots, which actually came out with an X rating at first.
“Kidnap”, by Luis Prieto (written by Knate Lee), by its title suggests a very grave topic of something that can be a personal crisis. If you get kidnapped, others may have to bargain for your life (or for a family member’s or a child). Ron Howard’s 1996 film “Ransom” with Mel Gibson(Touchstone) is memorable for this. So is the 2009 French film “Rapt” (or “Abduction”) by Lucas Belvaux) dealing with this issue for a business executive. With family members of intelligence agents, consider Pierre Morel’s “Taken” (2008)
But this new film plays like a combo of near gothic horror and typical crowd-pleasing chase female vigilante movie for the summer.
Halle Berry plays Karla Dawson, a divorced mom in a custody battle, who has a real job as a waitress in New Orleans, and who has little economic leverage to keep the kid. She’s takes her little boy Frankie (Sage Correa) to an amusement park, showing a Fire Ball like the one that broke in Ohio recently. When she gets a cell phone call about custody, she momentarily loses track of her little boy (despite calling him), and the boy is taken.
What follows is rather silly escapism. She loses her phone, and chases after the kidnappers who are in a no-license sedan around the Louisiana I-10 freeway interchanges, which I last visited in 2006. The police are incompetent, and eventually the film leads us to a climax at the kidnappers’ safe house in the bayou. The villains are a white couple, (Lew Temple and Chris McGinn) with the woman Margo particularly chilling as a monster. The race roles are reversed here: the white people are the bad guys. The scheme first starts out as a way to extort $10000 from a waitress who doesn’t have it (so that makes little sense), unless she could get it from the ex-husband (which means she loses custody and probably visitation). But at the end we learn there is a sex trafficking ring of young boys deep in the woods. The film was released (probably coincidentally) the same week that the Senate introduced the SESTA anit-trafficking bill, weakening Section 230 downstream liability protections for Internet providers, so this could have an indirect effect on future “free speech”.
As overwrought as the car chases and other conflict scenes are, they seem to conform to a certain idea in screenwriting aimed at selling movie tickets and achieving popularity: make the circumstances of the heroine as dire as possible, even with a twist at the very end. And maintain political correctness at all times, please.
Luis Prieto, Knate Lee
When and how viewed:
Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/8/4, afternoon, small audience
“The Transfiguration”, written and directed by Michael O’Shea, is by no means a glorification of an role model person. It is by no means the return of a youth, now a grown man, in summer shorts at a church service. It does not happen on a mountaintop.
No, it is an internal fantasy (maybe schizophrenia) of a character Milo (Eric Ruffin) who believes he is a vampire. He seems to have a compulsion to cut or attack people, and then vomit afterwards. He sees a therapist who says she cannot help him anymore. The therapy scene rather reminded me of James Holmes seeing his therapist before his 2012 rampage in Colorado.
The use of the same first name as provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos seems to be a total coincidence, even if unfortunate and maybe ironic. The character here is African-American, which seems to have been a casting choice out of desire for casting diversity. Otherwise it might even come across as pandering to racist stereotypes.
Milo deals with a brother who can no longer protect him (no bird, bro) and develops a relationship with another lost soul, Sofie (Chloe Levine), who is white. He lets her crash at his place, as if he had earned enough social capital to offer such informality.
The mid part of the film presents a gang execution shooting of a white teen that is particularly nasty.
The ending is a non-event, but it reminds me of how Nick Fallon went down on “Days of our Lives”. I thought that real vampires and their “victims” resurrect and live forever. Remember Neil Jordan’s “Interview with a Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” (1992, Geffen Pictures, Warner Brothers), based on the book by Ann Rice, with the love story between Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise’s immortal characters (it starts with a trick) and Christian Slater.
The film appears to be shot in Queens in NYC.
When I was as undergraduate at GW in the early 1960s, a friend (and teammate on the chess team) wrote his mandatory freshman English term paper on vampires.
As for the real Milo, I wonder if we will see a documentary film of “Dangerous“. Maybe I’d be interested.
When and how viewed:
Complimentary Vimeo screener 2017/8/3; DVD available for sale 2017/8/8
“Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right”, a booklet (120 pages) by Angela Nagle, seems to attribute the rise of nationalist populism as a kind of sum-effect of the chaos on the Internet in the past ten years or so. As the author says in her last chapter title, it isn’t funny when the culture wars go offline.
I’m rather shocked at the meanness and bullying that happens on line, and the revenge and stalking; Melania Trump has said she wants to do something about it, even if it helped her husband get elected. The behavior reflects a certain cynicism and even nihilism, that the “system” is leaving a lot of “us” out, so we might as well rebel against civilized living.
Nagle’s presentation is non-sequential and rather random, so it is hard to follow an argument. But gradually she gets into the same territory covered by Milo Yiannopoulos in his book “Dangerous” (July 13). She gradually develops a comparison to Milo’s style of conservatism, which I would call hyper-meritocracy (a preoccupation with other people’s virtue and its visual evidence, and a cult of personal competitiveness) but not libertarianism and definitely not alt-right or fascism, and the older Par Buchanan type of conservatism evident in the 1980s with the “Moral Majority” crowd. She almost manages to make cis gay men as likely to prefer conservatism to the particularly constricting identity politics of the extreme Left. The alt-right has its own identity politics, with a different crowd. In the end, communism (or hyper socialism, Venezuelan style), fascism, and extreme nationalism (as Putin is verging on), and even theocracy (Islamo-fascism) all start to seem alike. They are all authoritarian, and easily morph out of excessive political concern over personal “right-sizing” and deservedness.
She manages to convey some interesting narratives, such as about the life of mass shooter Eliot Rodger and his manifesto “My Twisted World” (this 2014 Isla Vista case definitely made “manifesto” a bad word, but so did the luddite Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in the 1990s with his “Industrial Society and its Future” where he ranted about the imposition of socialization). She also gives a perspective on the hit film “Fight Club” (1999, Fox, directed David Fincher, with Ed Norton and Brad Pitt).
She also conveys pretty well just how far some people go into group identity belonging, especially on the radical Left. People have amputated their own limbs to “belong” to “people with disabilities”. She has the same horror at the staged anarchical violence at Milo’s events. She discusses “manosphere” as something sometimes disfigured by tattoos and wounds, something far removed from the cleaner fantasies of the 1960s when James Bond told us “what it means to be a man”, or when a perfected (except around red kryptonite) Clark Kent conveyed that on “Smallville” in the 00’s. (Tom Welling has gone downhill since then, sad to say.)
In the end, it seems like “populists” dislike “elites” who watch and criticize but don’t step up and swing and take the risks of getting beaned.