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Can't Stop the Movies

Justice League (2017)

Superman is dead, and with him the hopes that humanity might join him in the stars. Batman, wracked with guilt over his role in Superman's death, feels the rumblings of an invasion and begins assembling a team to confront the horrors of the future.  Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon direct Justice League, with the screenplay written by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, and stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher.

Zack Snyder started the cinematic superhero renaissance with Watchmen, anticipating and critiquing the blithe indifference of most superhero films.  Warner Brothers initially went all-in on Zack's vision, resulting in the deeply empathetic and triumphant Man of Steel, and following up with the complex interrogation of United States ethics in Batman v Superman.  David Ayer and Patty Jenkins added their stamps with Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, further complicating the ethical pool and questioning the good of heroics for a species prone to perpetual war.

Now, thanks to Joss Whedon, what was once a series of complex and challenging films has been reduced to just another superhero film.  It might seem unfair to place the blame squarely on his shoulders but to say otherwise would mean ignoring the vast changes he made as soon as he took the production over from Zack.  As a director, Joss' vision has not evolved passed the "people standing around talking" visual level that even fellow nerd savant Kevin Smith got bored with.  His involvement tears Justice League to pieces, resulting in a third of a film that puts the best of us on the front lines for a spiritual reckoning, and the other two-thirds where Joss gets to write a joke about how thirsty Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is.


A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

Deborah, Rita, and Lora Mae stand at strained points with their husbands.  A letter from a mutual acquaintance, Addie Ross, arrives and informs the women she's taking one of their husbands and running off.  This prompts suspicion and reflection, as all three remember the hard times with difficult to love men.  Joseph L. Mankiewicz directs A Letter to Three Wives, with the screenplay written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Vera Caspary, and stars Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern.

A Letter to Three Wives has a mean streak as subtle as it is all-encompassing.  It starts playfully enough, with a lovely voiceover telling the audience what we're about to watch "might be fictitious" and any character resemblance "might be purely coincidental."  Barely a minute later, after director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's camera takes a jaunty float through town and comes to rest in front of a gorgeous home, the same woman teasing about the veracity of this tale says the home belongs to Brad Bishop (Jeffrey Lynn) - the man who gave her a first black eye and a first kiss.  The playful pretense continued, but I couldn't join in knowing what Brad was capable of, and if he's so genial the rest of the husbands deserved the same suspicion.

The tension I felt in this introduction sustained my interest and racked my nerves throughout the rest of A Letter to Three Wives.  I know that Brad's capable of violence, and with that knowledge I couldn't help but cast a suspicious eye on the rest of the men.  This suspicion grew uncomfortably real in George Phipps' introduction - first because George is played by Kirk Douglas, a man so comfortable dominating the screen it feels as though everyone else has to shirk back by default.  Second because he's trapped visually in a frame made from the car window, and as Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain) speaks with him his energy grows to genial if somewhat menacing trapped in that space.


Super Mario Odyssey (2017)

If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

Super Mario Odyssey is the logical end-point of Mario's moral regression ever since he got the ability to abandon Yoshi to a bottomless pit for a boosted jump.  I could dig further than that, and think of how Mario imprisoned Donkey Kong, forcing Donkey Kong Jr. on a journey of revenge as Mario throws other creatures at the diaper-clad gorilla.  Manipulation has always been part of Mario's appeal, whether he's claiming natural resources to hurl fire or forcing poor attention starved Luigi to fend for himself.  The rest of us craft whatever narrative we need to make his platforming journey one of heroics instead of selfishness.

Sound deep?  Possibly! I just recall how many times Odyssey stopped to remind me I'm playing it incorrectly.  It never comes right out and says it, but all those little tidbits of extra movement are easier if I undock the controllers and play with wristbands.  I considered it for a moment then, out of spite, decided I would continue to play with both controllers firmly attached to the Nintendo Switch screen and get those moons without the help of all those passive-aggressive reminders ( I would prefer not to.)  I didn't need onscreen prompts to show me how to get through the maze of fortresses in Super Mario Bros., nor to get to 120 stars in Mario 64, so I took the needling reminders on as a challenge.


Lake Mungo (2008)

Alice Palmer, sixteen years old and seemingly happy with her life, drowns under mysterious circumstances.  Dissatisfied with official reports, her family begins taking unusual steps to find out what happened to their daughter.  A documentary crew follows, records, and leads the Palmers to revelations they might not want to know.  Joel Anderson wrote the screenplay for and directs Lake Mungo, and stars David Pledger, Rosie Traynor, Martin Sharpe, Talia Zucker, and Steve Jodrell.

Lake Mungo, in concept and execution, may be the most perfectly realized found footage film in existence.  Found footage is fascinating as a mode of cinematic expression because of the implications of its existence.  There's a fictional editor at the wheel, taking bits of people's lives and crafting a narrative for an audience to serve a purpose we can only speculate about.  Writer/director Joel Anderson understands this on an almost preternatural level, witnessing a family torn apart by the loss of their daughter, having those wounds freshly reopened because of technology, and creating a film where its existence relies on wounding the Palmer family one more time for our entertainment.

The affect of Lake Mungo is in its gaps.  Other found footage horror has played with our expectations of empty spaces, that anxiety that something needs to be in shots of empty halls or static bedrooms, then confirming that anxiety with horror.  The gap at the center of Lake Mungo contains no scares - at least not in the way other horror films have used them.  The absence of Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) isn't some distraction so her ghost might pop out of the corners.  The absence is the horror, the realization that she is dead and never coming back, and that our constant need for entertainment and intrigue has put the Palmer family on a traumatic cycle where they'll be forced to relive the loss of their daughter for the rest of their lives.


Changing Reels Episode 30 – Train to Busan

A neglectful father attempts to reconnect with his young daughter by accompanying her on a train ride to see his ex-wife. What starts off as a simple journey soon turns into a harrowing fight for survival as a zombie virus rapidly spreads across South Korea. This week film critic and Blood in the Snow Film Festival programmer Caroyln Mauricette joins us to discuss Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan, one of the best zombie films in the last decade. We also take time to highlight our short film picks: Waterborne by Ryan Coonan and Paranoia by Sandeepan Chanda, Nitesh Mishra, Amrita Mukhopadhyay, and Sunil Kumar Yadav.

Show notes:

If you like what you hear, or want to offer some constructive criticism, please take a moment to rate our show on iTunes! If you have a comment on this episode, or want to suggest a film for us to discuss, feel free to contact us via twitter (@ChangingReelsAC), follow us on Facebook and reach out to us by email ( You can also hear our show on SoundCloud or Stitcher!

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