In the closing hours of this inexpressibly dumb year, I’m going to do my time-honoured thing of saying that I’m not going to write a whole bunch of review text, and then probably write a whole bunch of review text. I know myself a little better by this point.
The other day, Wump and Toop and I made the critical emotional mistake of watching Inside Out, Soul, and the episode of Star Trek: Voyager where Neelix meets the inventor the space A-bomb and reveals that he is a space Hiroshima victim and a space draft-dodger. Anyway we won’t go into that. Also Mrs. Hatboy was along for the ride but she was mostly watching silent movies on her laptop with her earphones on so she missed most of it. She was along for the movie night, I mean. Not space Hiroshima.
Anyway, we watched the new Pixar movie for Disney+. And it was fine. The more I think about it, the more its message seems to resonate, but it wasn’t anything phenomenal. A man who had never dared to live meets an unborn soul in the same position, and together they … something. Learn about how beautiful life is. It was nice.
I … dislike that the ideas behind the world-building, and the story itself, took a back seat in popular discourse to the ethnicity of the main character. Is it important that Pixar made a black-centred story with African American characters? Sssssssure. Yes, yes it is. Black Panther was about a fictional African nation but it was good, and Luke Cage was fine too, more of all that.
I can’t comment on whether the story of Soul was a real one about the “black experience” or in any way a black-cultural touchstone. Is that what any Pixar movies are for any particular culture? I didn’t think so, but then maybe they’re all about white life and I’m white so I don’t notice. I’m not dismissing that possibility, I just … there’s fuck all I can do about it, so here we are.
I saw plenty of black folks online who loved the movie, so – good. Good enough for me. Everyone brings their own baggage to a movie.
“What if I close my good eye and it’s all blurry, can I pretend this is a story about the unifying human condition rather than the imperialist Pixar hegemony overwriting the African American sociocultural paradigm?”
What I can talk about is the idea of an obsession, a calling, a spark that gives your life meaning. And how that spark can seem utterly all-consuming while at the same time out of reach, frightening, and anticlimactic once you’ve grasped it. Because it was a fucking delusion the whole time.
In a universe that we know, intellectually, is random and uncaring, any and all meaning in our lives is a function of our big dumb overcomplicated brains. There probably is no higher plane, no Limbo or unreality where souls come from and go to. The things we love, the things we feel like we were put on this world to do, are nothing more than a result of our genetics, brain chemistry, environment and upbringing.
But the concept art was amazing. Genetics, brain chemistry, environment and upbringing can fuck off, this was pretty.
So, a man who has lived and breathed music his entire life, while being stifled by modern capitalism and expectations and an unrewarding job as an educator (seems like there was a message there that they could have explored, but I guess trombone girl was it), dies before getting his big shot. Then had literally soul-searching adventures trying to get back so he can have his big shot. Then screws over the cosmic order to get his big shot, and then goes, “huh, that was it?” and realises that there was more to it all.
And then … I don’t know, he goes on doing it. Come back again the next night. And the next, like Dorothea says. “This is water. What I want is the ocean.” He takes that lesson, but it didn’t seem particularly meaningful. It was nice, and the more I think about the ideas that were under discussion, the more I like it. But there could have been a final polishing, a final rewrite. I don’t know.
I guess what I’m saying is, it still wasn’t as good as this.
This movie really hits different when the kid you’re watching it with is pushing 11, as opposed to when she’s 5½. I’ve already said everything I feel I need to say about this movie here, five years ago, so I’ll leave it at that.
What if Inside Out and Soul took place in the same extended Pixar universe, and one dealt with psychology and personality, while the other dealt with higher abstract concepts and the before and after of it all? Not much of a stretch really.
Speaking of a stretch, what if Zardoz was part of an extended cinematic universe? Which Sean Connery universe would it be? James Bond? Indiana Jones? Highlander? The Rock? The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? The Name of the Rose? Outland? It has to be Highlander, right? I’m going with Highlander. Zeist was overwritten to be the future, and “Zardoz” was a post-apocalyptic misinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz. So it practically writes itself. Zeist is clearly a misinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz IV: Time Heist. That’s what we’re going with.
We recently re-watched this horrible classic, not with Wump and Toop but with my good pals Linza and Mr. Bloom and Ilja the Music Man. It was considerably more coherent than I remember – I’m not sure how drunk I was the second time I watched it, or how other-substanced I was the first time, but this time I’d only had about four beers.
A chilling tale of human cultural stagnation and isolationism, Zardoz is just crazy as all get-out.
I remembered I already had two pictures in my archive for Zardoz, so why go looking for more?
This was the second picture I had.
This is another one that has more meanings the more you think about it, but ultimately depends on the luggage the viewer has stored in their overhead compartment. And ultimately is a statement about the mass quantities of top-shelf drugs available to filmmakers in the 1970s. If this is the future Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez came from, it’s no wonder he was happy to stand up under that fast-moving ventilation fan.
Batman and City Slickers
Yeah, I – I’m not sure where I was going with this one. I mean, I didn’t actually re-watch these movies, but I did a bit of ground-work in establishing that they exist in the same universe. Carl Grissom is Curly. Bob is Cookie. There’s obviously a witness protection double life thing going on but I have had too much sleep to blow the lid off it right now.
Oh, and it did definitely have a Zardoz-style mash-up that speaks directly to my 2020 sensibilities, so there’s that.
Let’s close out with a brief look back at a show I was pretty underwhelmed with (due to Star Wars fatigue) for the first season and a half, and then super duper mega excited about for like one episode, and then the season ended.
Spoilers, Luke Skywalker turns up at the end of the show and kicks a whole lot of robot stormtrooper butt, and I don’t even care about the spoiler because nobody should.
I already guessed where the show was headed because I saw a lot of reactions on Twitter. So, just to set the scene, we have a new Star Wars character doing mostly new Star Wars things. He dresses like Boba Fett but he isn’t Boba Fett. Some of the places he goes to are like Tatooine but they’re not Tatooine. He winds up looking after this fifty-year-old baby of the same species Yoda is from, but it’s not Yoda. Okay, so Boba Fett turns up and kicks some butt, and they do go to Tatooine, and Grogu does have Force powers and lived in the Jedi Temple and stuff, but damn it, it was almost a new Star Wars thing. They nearly had original writing and new stuff and a bit of creative integrity in there.
They brought in Ahsoka from animated TV version purgatory, and they said “Grand Admiral Thrawn” one time. THEY WERE SO FUCKING CLOSE.
But then, exactly like a small cock on a cold day, they shrunk back into their warm furry safety-crotch and brought Luke Skywalker in as the Jedi who comes to take Grogu away for training.
Okay, I’m pretty peeved about the whole thing but I have to admit a couple of points.
One, this was just after Return of the Jedi and Luke was just about the only outed Jedi going around attempting to train new ones. So it makes total sense that it be Luke.
Two, they seemed to walk a line between using a real-life younger look-alike of Luke, and mild face-altering CGI to bring him closer to post-Jedi Luke. It was still not exactly right, but at least it wasn’t uncanny valley. They did it fine.
And three, Luke’s butt-kicking scene was cool. It was cool. DAMN IT, IT WAS COOL. It actually reminded me really nicely that Jedi Knights are butt-kicking, name-taking space wizards and they’re fucking formidable. Ahsoka did the same in an earlier episode as well. It called to mind the panicked reaction of the Trade Federation Asian Stereotypes when they found out the negotiators were Jedi. One of the few things I remember, and enjoyed, in that trilogy.
All that said, ugh. UGH, I SAY.
I don’t know where they go for season 3. They’ve fan-fellated themselves into a fanboy-come-spackled corner and they fucking deserved it. The only solace I can take is that at some point between the beginning of The Mandalorian season 3 and Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Luke is going to screw the pooch and Grogu is either going to get killed, or leave the new school Luke makes, or else Grogu is a Knight of Ren with arm and leg extensions built into his goofy uniform.
Hey, that’s about as close to angry about Star Wars as I’ve ever managed to get. So apparently they can still bring it when they need to, eh? But for real, ranting aside, I’m just not invested enough to really care one way or the other. Never have been. I’ll still watch it, in the hopes that they’ll discover good writers one day. And Grand Admiral Thrawn the day after that. But one thing this year has taught me:
Nothing good ever came of giving the bitching crybabies what they want.
And I’m no exception to that.
Willems said it best a couple of years ago.
And said more this year.
That’s it, that’s all I’ve got. I used up all of my spare time to give this stupid year a send-off it hardly deserves. I hope you all have a most excellent new year’s eve and I’m looking forward to more fun and discourse in 2021.
At least it can’t get any worse!