Thank You! to TWD for Ending my Cable Addiction

April 4th, 2016 – RottenTomatoes posed the question what did you think of The Walking Dead season six finale?

I am thoroughly ambivalent about The Last Day on Earth. The episode didn’t fit with the tenor of the rest of the season. It smacked of torture porn and marked the end of an unknown character, probably more than one character.  I’m waiting to see what happens next, for the first time in six seasons of loyal viewing, to decide if I’m still going to watch. More torture porn will make it not watching.

One of the other commenters observed to me I’m thinking that the season 5 finale marked a good point to end the series on a high note.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that the Alien sequels ended with Aliens. That’s right, there are only two Alien movies in my headcanon. Hicks & Ripley settled down and adopted Newt after arriving safely back on Earth. End of story. Having already written my own endings for popular fiction in the past, albeit in my own head, writing my own end to The Walking Dead (TWD) will not be a problem. They all died. End of story. The season 5 finale was more positive, but also less definitive. I really was wondering what would happen next after watching that finale, a feeling I’m completely lacking this time around.


Someone resurrected that RottenTomatoes zombie thread (pun intended) with a spam comment today (January 29th, 2018) and while I was reading back through the comments I noticed that the one after mine took the time to break down how the camera perspective meant Glenn was the guy being beaten to death with a baseball bat.

Beaten to death, with a baseball bat. Let that sink in for a few, because it is a wakeup call. One of the most popular shows on television ends its sixth season with one of the most loved characters on TV of the time possibly being beaten to death with a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat. We’ve come a long way from The Andy Griffith Show, just to mention another totally random show featuring a character that has a sheriff as its lead. Even if you compare TWD to Gunsmoke, the changes in America’s viewing culture is quite shocking.

It also bears noting that there is a certain amount of fatalism inherent in shows like TWD. All of the characters will die unremarked by anyone around them, because it is a story about the zombie apocalypse. No one will be left to record their last words, because there will be no one to recount the story. This is above and beyond the fatalism of TWD comic book fans who already know how your favorite characters die in their comic books. A literalism that they attempt to write onto the screen with every passing episode.

I can safely say, with not a hint of spoilers, the death wasn’t Glenn’s as the other commenter described. Not that Glenn didn’t die anyway. As I said, no spoilers. I binge-watched season seven on Netflix this past month, prepping to binge watch the final season this fall. Seventh season’s viewing numbers were so low that AMC decided to end the show on a high note and wrap it up with a second season of Negan vs. Rick.

I should thank TWD for making me finally cut the cable. Within a month of watching the season seven opener, the Wife and I decided we didn’t need to spend money on cable television that we weren’t going to be watching anyway. With BBC America moved to the even more expensive tier of cable subscription than the one we had, there was nothing on the TV we were overpaying for that we wanted to watch. Aside from which, it was less jarring to watch TWD on Netflix as a binge event, and not paying for cable TV has saved me a couple of thousand dollars by now.

On the subject of the eighth and final season of TWD, I’m having a real hard time believing Negan isn’t dead yet, much less figuring out why anyone would follow the son of a bitch anywhere. My experience over the last two years of TWD has shown me that you can’t take comic books and make videos out of the stories and characters directly (as if the DC movies are not proof of this already) it is better to let people who understand the medium of television write for that medium themselves.


The promo for the mid-season opener popped up on my feed yesterday asking,

2 weeks left. Is the Kingdom ready for one last stand? #TWD

TWD on G+

Of course, the pro and con trolls then proceeded to make hay over their various opinions on the subject of TWD in general and not the final half of the final season in particular, including one particular troll who threatened bodily harm to the naysayers. I haven’t watched the first half yet, not being willing to spend actual cash on seeing it before the season is finished. But opinions? I have a few.

I started with Threatening  us with injury is a punishable crime; as is everything Negan does in the show. I don’t accept that the character of Negan is realistically drawn or portrayed. I don’t accept that people will simply do as they’re told because they are afraid. There are too many examples of the contrary being true throughout history. The Governor was far more believable as a character, which means TWD has done the evil leader thing already in the show, and done it better previously.

Religious zealots who adopt labels like savior, groups that submerge the self, like Fight Club and Tyler Durden, they have a certain way of speaking and thinking, at least on the screen. This is important if you want your audience to come along with you for the ride. The first Negans, the first saviors our heroes meet in TWD? They displayed this behavior in a vague sense. It was a nice teaser, as far as teasers go.

Unfortunately it was a tease that was completely lost when we meet the Negan himself. He is no Tyler Durden. He doesn’t suffer to show his followers his dedication to the cause. The Negan is just another dictator. Kill him and the cult of personality dissolves because the power, the person, is lost. The problem of repercussions is negated if the saviors fall apart without him. The more complex, religiously motivated cult-like group is probably what the comic portrays (I don’t know or really care) but the writers for the television show wrote something else.  Negan grooms his people to blindly follow him. Without him they are nothing. This is just basic character motivation here. It isn’t hard to follow.

No, Negan would have been dead the first time he handed Rick the bat. Be honest. There wasn’t enough saviors there to do anything except die. The show has been torture porn since the end of season seven. I have only continued watching out of vague curiosity as to how the writers will complete the story. I ceased caring about the characters somewhere about minute 45 of Last Day on Earth. I ceased caring out of  a sense of self-preservation. It was clear through the course of that episode that the writers were purposefully tormenting the viewers with the death of their beloved characters. I don’t have time for that kind of mental illness.

If you are enjoying torture porn, you might want to ask yourself why? It’s a question everyone watching should ask themselves, and at least be truthful with yourself about the answer. What the answer implies is between you and your conscience alone. After all, no one will remember why you died in the zombie apocalypse. They won’t even remember that you lived.

Editor’s note, 2020. Google+ comments reposted to the blog, with an addendum for the re-awakened zombie thread that it was. “It is always now on the internet” The comments were copied in 2018 with a bit of prescient foresight. Google+ was taken offline not too long after the comments were made.

Newt Knight

Free State of Jones (2016)

We just finished watching Free State of Jones starring one of my favorite Austinites, Matthew McConaughey. I really, really wanted to like this movie, which is probably why its meh presentation frustrated and disappointed me so thoroughly. It’s slow in places. The film makes some unexpected turns and time jumps that leave the audience puzzling over events and characters, distracting them from what is happening on the screen.

Perhaps another editor could have fixed this problem? It’s really hard to say. Films like this one are a testament to just how hard it is to get even the most gripping stories and well-written scripts in front of audiences in a form that they will understand and appreciate. Thousands of people have to do their jobs flawlessly. The directors, editors, and producers all have to have the same vision of the finished product in mind the entire time that the film is in production. The actors have to create believable characterizations that can speak to the viewing audience. The film crew and audio crew have to capture those performances flawlessly. If any one group of people fails to do their job, including craft services, that failure will be noticeable in the finished product. If what the audience ends up watching doesn’t connect, for whatever reason, all of those people’s time, energy and dedication can come to naught. It is heartbreaking when this happens to good actors and good stories.

The story of Free State of Jones is one that everyone should be familiar with, but have probably never heard before. It is a portion of the life story of Newt Knight, a plantation owner who never owned slaves while living in the slave state of Mississippi in the years leading up to the Civil War,

“He was a Primitive Baptist who didn’t drink, didn’t cuss, doted on children and could reload and fire a double-barreled, muzzle-loading shotgun faster than anyone else around,” said Moulds. “Even as an old man, if someone rubbed him the wrong way, he’d have a knife at their throat in a heartbeat. A lot of people will tell you that Newt was just a renegade, out for himself, but there’s good evidence that he was a man of strong principles who was against secession, against slavery and pro-Union.”

Smithsonian Mag.,The True Story of the ‘Free State of Jones’, March 2016

After volunteering for the Confederate army and being involved in several botched battles with heavy casualties, he deserted the army and returned to Jones County and his now-ruined plantation. All of this is covered in the movie, to some extent. What extent is real and what is contrived for the convenience of filmatic storytelling is open to question; open to question because not even historians agree when it comes to the details of Newt Knight’s life. The one thing they all do seem to agree on is that, after the war was ended and the South was returned to the Union, Newt Knight remained a supporter of equal rights for all without regard to skin color. Which is why he’s still a pariah in his home state and even in the county of Jones, Mississippi. It is also one possible explanation as to why the film about his story is so hard to follow. It’s hard to follow because the principles involved in the film are too close to the subject matter and so cannot see the big picture, the story that needs to be told.

Which is a shame. Because the story of a white Southerner who rebelled against secession, a plantation owner who hated slavery, is exactly the kind of story this country needs right now. It just isn’t the story that the film Free State of Jones ends up telling. Maybe someday the events of that war, the history of slavery in the US, all of it will be far enough in the past that we can give the story of Newt Knight a proper telling in a visual medium. Maybe in that future time there will be a monument to Newt Knight in the Jones county seat, and not a monument to the Confederate soldiers of the Civil War. The existence of that monument is a testament to the fact that the cause of the Civil War still exists in the minds of the people living in the old South and all across the United States. The cause still has converts living in the US right now. Maybe someday we will end that war, if we are lucky.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

William Faulkner

Expanded from four sentences, 27 words and a web address, written as a Facebook status. To say I expanded this one is just a bit of an understatement. 

Dead Again Should Have Stayed That Way

Dead Again (1991)

I really wanted to like this film. I don’t hate it, but it really isn’t that good. It was so forgettable I forgot it and mistakenly rented it a second time thinking I hadn’t seen it. Not even Robin Williams’ (the reason I queued it up a second time) brief appearance is enough to save it from its mediocrity. It delivers what the trailer promises. If you are into these kinds of stories and haven’t seen it, you won’t be disappointed. Still, it could have been better. Maybe.

Rotten Tomatoes, IMdb

“Except as a Punishment for Crime”

13TH (2016)

“There has never been a period in our history where the law and order branch of the state has not operated against… the black community”

Kevin Gannon, Thirteenth

13TH Trailer (2016) Netflix Documentary – Sep 26, 2016

This was a hard film to watch, especially as a white man living in a Southern state.  A Southern state that will probably go for the self-described law and order candidate. Thirteenth is a documentary that horrifyingly depicts the long-term effects of a single clause in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The hardest thing to accept about this film isn’t the graphic depictions of blacks being killed at the hands of police at the end of the film. It isn’t the detailed narrative that traces the effects of the end of slavery through Jim Crow to the admission of a Nixon official that the drug war was wholly conceived as a method to end the 1960’s era of black rights activity, concluding with the election of Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton all under the coded language of law & order candidate, all promising and fulfilling that promise, to continue what we now know to be a racially motivated war on crime and drugs.

No, the hardest thing about watching this film was knowing that the group that would profit the most from watching it would never sit down and give it a chance to change their minds.

The people who will go to the polls and vote for the lying real estate developer (but then I repeat myself) who speaks in coded language, language whose code is known by everybody by this time in history, promising to jail people whom we know are innocent, prosecute people who have done no crime, exclude people who are demonstrably dying by the hundreds.  The people who will vote for that guy, the Orange Hate-Monkey, the Birther-in-Chief, the people who don’t understand that #MAGA means Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, Those people? They’ll never watch this film. They’ll never watch it because they are afraid.  Afraid of being wrong. Afraid of having been wrong for longer than most people have been alive on this planet.

But they, above all other people, need to understand this film.  Because when their candidate loses (and he will) it won’t be because the election was stolen from him.  It won’t be because their voices weren’t heard.  He will lose because the vast majority of Americans are not afraid of the future. We embrace it, as we always have. They need to understand that they are part of history.  They are a part of history that we want to leave behind in history. 


2019. There are a lot more stupid people in the United States than it is healthy for any one region of the planet to have. Those people got their racist president, and now they claim they are not racist while still supporting his racist agenda. They’ll all pretend they were just going along with the crowd when this is over. Lying, hypocritical tw0-faced Republicans.

Primer Misfired

Primer (2004)

I’m a time travel story junkie. I have been into time travel stories for as long as I can remember. The problem with this film isn’t that it concerns time travel. The problem is that the story is not well-fleshed. The audio is hard to follow, and the story points are clearly added in later as an afterthought.

Even on rewatching it really doesn’t make sense. Not because it is time travel, but because the story is not fleshed out enough to leave breadcrumbs for the uninitiated (people who have not read the script) to be able to follow it. In the end you have to take the narrator’s word for it that the film makes sense.

There is a story here. I personally hope someone else takes the time to tell it well.

Rottentomatoes.

It’s Still Roland Emmerich

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Anyone who hates Independence Day: Resurgence but loves Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens or Mad Max: Fury Road needs to have their movie reviewing license revoked. This film is a perfectly acceptable sequel to the original. It is a perfectly acceptable way to spend a few hours on the 4th of July. It is distinctively Roland Emmerich in every way that ID4 was. Don’t go watch it if you don’t like his films. Everyone else, have a good time.

Rottentomatoes

The Roaming Gnome

Amelie (2002)

…and now I know where Travelocity got the idea from.

alodia84Amelie – gnome (인형) cut – Feb 7, 2010

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I really loved this weird little film. It was only available with subtitles when I caught it on Netflix. If reading your movies is something you don’t mind doing, give this one a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.

The Matrix Trilogy

The Matrix (1999)

Rewatching this with my son. Such a great intense psychological mind trip. I first saw this with friends from Graeber, Simmons & Cowan, the architecture firm where I worked back when the movie premiered. The same crew that insisted I had to watch Fight Club before I panned it.

They were right about Fight Club and they were right to insist we see this film together as a team. The movie blew my mind. So many tropes were introduced in the movie that have been overused since that time; but when bullet time was first rolled out in this movie, it was something that had never been seen before. So too with other filming techniques that the brothers Wachowski invented while making this movie.

I was most reminded of James Cameron’s ability to recreate the art of filmmaking every time he rolls out a new film while watching the Matrix for the first time. I walked out of that theater a different person than when I went in, something that is only true of the best (or worst) films made. Your run of the mill three star film will not make you look at your batteries in a different light.

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The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

I loved the architects speech, towards the end of the film. How he mechanically runs through the predictions of what Neo’s next word, next move will be. His willingness to break the mold and do something different than has been done previously before. Like most middle films, I can’t remember much about this movie aside from that one part that sticks out, and I’m afraid of reminiscing about the other little things that I remember for fear that I am misremembering which movie the scene in question happened in. I liked this movie, but I didn’t like it as much as the average viewer did, given it’s comparative rating on the various websites that rate movies. I also didn’t hate it the third movie as much as the average viewer did.

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

I was psyched to see this, the last installment of the Matrix Trilogy, and I was not disappointed. I’m sure there will be many who will feel it is fashionable to pan this film with ever more clever zingers, but I am more than happy to accept this film for what it is. The concluding episode in a series of action flicks that happen to contain a message as well.

Revolution, as the word is used in the title of the film, was first used as a defense against charges of insurrection during the war for American independence. We were engaged in a turning or tuning of the rules between those who govern and the governed. A throwing off of an unwanted outside control in favor of self determination, not a simple rebellion. So too do these movies explore (albeit lightly) the nature of control, the meaning of reality, and the purpose of existence, within an action setting. They are not just action movies, mayhem for its own sake.

As action movies with a message, they fulfill their purpose wonderfully.

IMdb

Writers That Can’t Sell Their Work

Adult World (2013)

If you were curious about this film, but were worried about the label of comedy on it, you were correct. On the other hand, if you are a John Cusack fan and are prepared for some very dry humor, this film is for you.

Adult World Official Trailer #1 (2013) – Emma Roberts, John Cusack 

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The Duellists

The Duellists (1978)

I just finished watching the Duellists for the second time, this time with secondary audio track playing. When I like a film, I frequently check to see if there is a secondary audio track, and if there is I generally queue the film back up and listen to the audio play over the film that I just watched. I just want to get an impression of what the director or actors or writers have to say about their experiences in making the film.

The comment that caught my ear for this film was from the director. He said that it had never made it’s money back. That is a shame and a terrible fate for such an impressive work as the Duellists is. The beauty of the cinematography alone should have netted this film recognition, if not box office success. I’m beginning to think I watch movies for different reasons than other people do.

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