Outside In

Two very dear friends of mine were diagnosed with Covid in the last month.  They were being very careful, whatever that means, but clearly not careful enough.

That is because careful enough means pretty much not leaving your home and, in the rare cases that you do, wearing a full series of KN95/94 masks and/or Hazmat suit AND a gas mask while staying 5-10 feet away from anything living, aside from yourself.

And that latter point is clearly debatable.

Getting my list together now

Yes, I exaggerate – but barely.  That is why whenever possible my action of choice is to, indeed, pretty much… not leave my home.

Now let’s be clear.  One of those friends is fully Covid recovered and the other one is less than a week in and doing quite well after a shot of those magic monoclonal antibodies.

Nevertheless I’ve made an executive decision.  At this point in my life I don’t want to take the chance of getting a virus where there’s a chance I can have brain fog that lingers any more than my actual age-related brain fog already does.

Cringe

Incidentally, I spoke to a neurologist friend about the latter pre-pandemic and in so many words he plainly told me that, no, Prevagen, the much advertised over the counter memory booster, doesn’t work.  Not to mention, all that stuff about natural vitamin supplements like gingko biloba helping me remember where I put my keys is snake oil.

Okay, he didn’t say exactly that. 

But when I proposed to him taking either of the two, or several others, he paused, smiled very slyly to himself or to me, I couldn’t tell which, and said,

Will taking them make you feel better? 

I tentatively replied,

Maybe at one point, but not after this conversation.

To which he smiled again while I simultaneously cried inside, and definitely to myself.

UGHHH!

Since there’s no way out in the way(s) that I used to go out (Note: Crowded restaurants where you can eat family style, or even put an attractive stranger’s fork in your mouth from the next table after they offer you a bite of something luscious (use your imagination)), I’m once again making the most of staying in and watching TV and movies on the big ass screen my husband and I bought during the first pandemic and are, yes, still paying for.

This is a luxury, I know.  As is being able to work from home most of the time and not go into an office everyday.  Not to mention, being in debt.

Yet can’t we have anything after four years of Trump, the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the decimation of Ukraine by the f-ckhead also known as Putin, AND the fact that now and forever I have to spend my life being in awe of and appreciative for Liz Cheney and her courage???

Yes, Dustin, we are in the upside down. Send down the sheet.

I say yes. (Note: With a whine)

So, here’s what I’ve re-discovered in the last few semi-quarantined weeks and nights watching BIG ASS TV.  My taste in movies and TV pretty much entirely depends on what I’m going through at the time and what is happening in the world around me. 

This week I discovered an absolutely perfect, eight episode, half-hour streaming show on Hulu called The Bear.  It’s about a very young, hot, famous chef – recently rated the #1 young chef in America, whose drug addict cook brother left him the run down, financially failing neighborhood lunch place that’s been in their family for years after committing suicide by shooting himself in the head.

Sounds like an upper, right?

Except, well, it is.

Messy but good!

All that fried food and meat (Note: I don’t even eat meat anymore!) and chocolate cakes are sustenance.  They’re the affirmation of life in a much too contained space.  The way the camera franticly moves from station to station and through the lives of each poor schnook stuck working there as it peels back their pains and pleasures is like looking into a mirror of everything you feel these days in one day all at once.

I admit the series is messy and the sweat and speed at which the ingredients and story points unfold can be dizzying and almost too homemade.  But that is exactly what makes it a must-see.  It made me less crazy knowing that the intensity of the times, whatever those times may be, affects everyone trying to work through it (even the food), in oddly affecting ways.

Fat Chance!

What I didn’t care for as much was the much-touted 2022 feature, Everything Everywhere All At Once.  And no, it’s not because I didn’t see it in a movie theatre on a MORE big ass screen.  It’s because, well, there were no rules and too many options and worlds and I kind of got the point after the first 35 minutes.

Michelle Yeoh is great as the matriarch of the local Chinese laundry whose life has become dronish to the point of self-evaporation.  As is the rest of the cast – her nerdish hubby, exasperated lesbian daughter, disapproving father.  And can we talk about an unrecognizable Jamie Lee Curtis as their crazy IRS auditor?

Talk about delicious.

Hot dog fingers and all!

Yet the so many fantastical trips the movie takes them on as fantastically different versions of themselves, seemingly endless roads and planes of existence not traveled so Yeoh can eventually __________ the ___________ is just…tedious.

I have just now lost every one of my film and TV students, I know.  But hear me out.  The movie works on its own terms but not for where I am at the moment.  If I’m going to go on fantastical journeys stuck in my house I want to feel like there’s a

logic and a point to it – even if there isn’t.  Illogical thinking is what got us here in the first place.  It’s what’s cursed us, not saved us.  I like lunacy as much as the next shut-in but when anything is possible and no one dies or is punished because of your clearly crazed actions in the name of your cause, then it’s hard to see how any of us will better our lives, much less survive, the insanity of this insane world, er, plane/plain.

Not even the rocks, Chairy??

Another hard pass for me is this third season of Amazon’s The Boys, a series I’ve loved up to this point. 

Sorry, I don’t want to see Homelander, the nihilistic most powerfully crazed superhero in the world who is also secretly an emotionally weak, weepy, family-starved man-boy, become the Trump-like leader on of  an alt-right following on steroids. 

It’s easy, uninspired and ultimately uninteresting.  Even with his blonde streaks, stars and stripes and overly long, er, cape. 

Lame

We live in a world of comic book actions.  All we need to do is turn on the TV or read a news story any day of the week.  Simply giving a Trump substitute a literal superpower makes him as infuriating and un-fascinating as the real thing. 

The lack of nuance of the heroes and villains this season also feels like really odd timing.  Given the urgency of all of our lives, you’d think the writers would want to find deeper, below the surface similarities, as they have in the past, and attempt to come up with something new and different., or at least bizarre (Note: Remember the season one nipple suckling?)  Even if, as in real life, what gets served up, doesn’t all work. 

Because if I wanted to see superficiality and silliness I’d go on Twitter and read a tweet from Marjorie Taylor-Greene or Jim “Gym” Jordan.   At the very least they could have created a super villain named Musk.  Or  DeSantis. 

aka Clown Parade

So it is with no regret that in my constant swirl of platform surfing I came upon an old, dependable favorite I’ve written about before.  It’s a series I first discovered on the Gramps Channel – ION – eight years ago.  A CBS show I NEVER watched first run but became addicted to in a year of reruns in the mid-2010s – Cold Case.

Now Cold Case was never available on DVD and seldom on cable over the years, mostly because of its music rights.  When you use the original recordings from artists like Springsteen and Nirvana, among dozens of others, to recreate the soundtrack to unsolved, imagined period crimes, you’ve pretty much limited your options.  Even though you’ve made the wisest of creative choices.

But given the joint partnerships and side deals that has infected so many producers, studios and streaming platforms (Note: Like a virus!!) ALL EIGHT SEASONS of Cold Case are available for the first time ever at any time, day or place with a paid subscription fee via HBO MAX.

And the angels sang!

I cannot tell you what this has done for self-imposed shut-ins like me who long to see a 45-minute crime story where the dead and/or murdered get justice to the tune of a pop song we know and/or have loved.  Even better is that empathic, tough as nails but with a soft underside, homicide detective of long forgotten “cold” cases, Lily Rush (Kathryn Morris) literally gets to SEE the imagined GHOST IMAGE of that dead person breathe a sigh of relief or sometimes literally tip a cap (Note: As Season #1’s gay-bashed homosexual baseball player in the early 1960s did) when their case is FINALLY solved decades later.

I could literally watch hours and hours and hours and hours of it in one sitting.  As I clearly have.

Don’t judge me!

No, it’s not real life at all.  It’s BETTER.  Especially when you’re stuck inside.

We regular people always win in some sort of small way at the end and the bad people are ALWAYS made to pay, often grandly.

It will FOREVER work for me.  Masked or unmasked.

Beyoncé – “Break My Soul”

Now Playing: MEH

A friend of mine recently posted about being disappointed in the current crop of movies and pondered whether his expectations were simply too high.

I thought:

I used to feel this way about people until years of therapy educated me to the fact that since you can’t expect anyone to behave in the absolutely perfect way you would in any given situation, well, you can’t quite fault them for it.

But art is something else and movies are really something more than that.

If you can’t depend on a chunk of the films in the last three months of the year to be really great, or at least really, really good, what hope is there for the future of the country/world?

Even my pessimism is working against me

Or to put it another way:

What else can THEY take away?

THEY get to fill the majority of movie screens most of the year with super heroes, escapist action and the mindless romps of cardboard characters that pass for humor.  Surely the little sliver left for us adults, or people of any age with some discernment or taste, would not go undisturbed.

Would it?

Oh Chairy, you make me laugh

Well, I quickly diagnosed the condition.  The U.S. film industry has entered a state of artistic global warming and it’s going to take generations of action to reduce the trend and it’s effect on the world.  That is, if it’s not too late already.

Of course, this makes sense.  We have for a while been the #2 polluting country worldwide, responsible for 15% of the planet’s greenhouse gases/carbon monoxide emissions (Note:  Only China bests us at 30%)  Not to mention,  we recently pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord.

So if the choice comes down to huge corporate profits vs. the safety of the planet, be it from pollutants in the air, sea or mind, um, there is only one choice.

Money TRUMPS everything. 

You know I loathe to use the word!!!

This is not to say we’re doing nothing about pollution or that there are no good films to see.  We do and there are.  Though it sort of reminds me of the quality of work I did when my divorced working Mom assigned me my daily household chores.

Never did I NOT get the job but not once, EVER, did I achieve anything spectacular as a final product.  The amount of sheer commitment, single-mindedness and self reflection on the importance of the request that in turn would produce the ultimate load of uber clean and perfectly folded bathroom towels to please Mom could not be further from my #1 priority.

Listen… it was hard work!!

What I wanted was to do it my way, get my allowance money and not have to deal with what was clearly unwarranted and unjustified negative feedback.  We made a deal and I more than fulfilled my end of the bargain.  In fact I did a damn great job of it given all the amount of commitments I had to juggle and guff I was up against as a latch key teenager.

To not to see it my way was clearly ignorance, an inability to truly understand the task at hand with the funds available to me and the overwhelming nature of the job I was tasked with.

Or, so I thought.

See:

It’s not that The Irishman isn’t interesting or well made.  It’s just that, well, it’s a bit of a slog.

I think I aged 20 years watching this

It’s not that Marriage Story doesn’t try.  It’s just that, given the many (Note: So Many) problems in today’s world, it ultimately comes off as superficial, self-important, over-praised and naval gazing. 

It’s not that Knives Out isn’t fun and has nothing to say.  It’s just that, well, it’s not nearly as great as the first two and a half minute trailer and that’s a problem in an almost two hour spoof of an/all Agatha Christie film. 

and a criminal underuse of miss jamie lee

It’s not that Parasite doesn’t have a cool point of view and doesn’t subvert our much too comfortable expectation of “cinema.” It’s just that, well, it’s screenplay is far from seamless and it requires us to accept way, way too much fantastical stuff for a non-genre film.

It’s not that Jo Jo Rabbit is not entertainingly fantastical and welcome-ingly strange.  It’s just that, well, when reinventing the comic Nazi archetype en masse one needs to be much, MUCH more clever and A LOT more specific (Note: See Inglorious Bastards).

It’s not that Hustlers doesn’t have a really and truly quite compelling pole dance by an age-defying Jennifer Lopez and literally countless seductively glossy film montages.  It’s just that, well… an anthem of feminism and/or female empowerment?  R-R-R-Really?  No……really?????

OK but… how many de-aging cameras are on her?

I could go on and if you catch me in person I’d be glad to.  You might not be interested or glad about it, though, and certainly I’d understand that.  After all, there is enough disappointment, bitterness and anger in our overly polluted world already.

The point is, really, where are today’s cinematic equivalents of:

Citizen Kane, Singing In the Rain, Giant, All About Eve, The Graduate, A Clockwork Orange, Rosemary’s Baby, All the President’s Men, E.T., Sophie’s Choice, Do the Right Thing, Working Girl, Boyz in the Hood, Schindler’s List, Mulholland Drive, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Moonlight and yes, La La Land??

You said it Chairy!!

They (whoever they are) say that we get the best art in the most difficult of times.  Judging from the movie art this year this means either the times are going to have to get a lot worse or filmmakers and the industry at large need to figure out a way to go from the satisfaction of good/really good/highly profitable to the exhilaration of great/risk it all fantastic/not trying to thread the needle of commerciality and art and thus achieving both incredible.

No pressure.  At least no more pressure than past generations of filmmakers and their needy, more than willing to go on a journey, audiences ever felt.

Hozier – “Take Me To Church”