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Can't Stop the Movies

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

In the future, technology has advanced to the point where a human's consciousness can be transferred to an artificial shell.  Major Mira Killian, after suffering severe wounds in an attack, is transferred to a shell.  As she begins experiencing ghostly glitches, she begins to suspect all is not as it seems behind her existence.  Rupert Sanders directs Ghost in the Shell, with the screenplay written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger, and stars Scarlett Johansson.

As an opening admission, and one of Ghost in the Shell's least weighty problems, I damn near fell asleep watching it.  I'm not proud of these moments as I pride myself on getting through some of the most grueling endurance tests cinema has to offer.  What hampers Ghost in the Shell the most is a lack of cinematic texture.  The production feels like someone half-remembering different aspects of Blade Runner, the original animated Ghost in the Shell, and that Scarlett Johansson is the go-to United States actress for flippy action scenes.

Shame director Rupert Sanders couldn't even get the flippy bits to have much of an impact.  There's an illuminating side-by-side comparison of the water fight Major Killian (Johansson) has toward the middle of both the live-action version and the original animated.  A standard complaint about modern action movies is that they have too many cuts and that's certainly the case here with about 27 for the live-action and 18 for the animated.  That's not an automatic negative though, and what makes the live-action version so unfulfilling is the monotony of the construction.  There's never a moment Killian's target isn't overwhelmed by the city and his momentary feeling of safety is undercut by the long-shot preparing our eyes for something to emerge from the water.


Patreon Post: Twin Peaks: The Return

Now that I've had time to digest what Twin Peaks: The Return succeeded and failed at, I sat down with part-time Can't Stop the Movies contributor Kyle Miner.  In our conversation, we discuss what makes Lynch effective, some of the spiritualism he borrows to varying affect, how television consumption practices have changed, whether Lynch "gets a pass" on how he treats women in his narratives, and what the long-term impact of Twin Peaks: The Return might be.

After some deliberation, I loved this conversation so much I didn't want to mark it private.  Please consider contributing a couple of dollars to this Patreon.

You can go to the podcast by clicking here or on the above image.

Filed under: 2017, Patreon, Podcasts No Comments

It (2017)

It feeds, and a group of outcast children calling themselves the Losers Club may be the only people able stop it.  Andy Muschietti directs It, with the screenplay written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman, and stars an ensemble cast led by Bill Skarsgård and Sophia Lillis.

I closed my eyes.  Couldn't stop the tears, then I couldn't stop the shakes, and I felt my body freezing up.  I wasn't in control anymore.  I had to remind myself - I am here.  I am not what I am seeing onscreen, I am not bleeding, I am not being held down, I am not being attacked for being different, I am here with my wife and holding her hand trying to focus what bit I have control over to listen to her.  "Do you need to leave?"  I can't answer.  I'm desperately trying to ground myself.  I will not let it beat me this time.  It can't hurt me anymore.  It can't hurt me anymore.  It won't hurt me anymore.  I breathe, feel my feet on the ground, count the seats in front of me when I can open my eyes, and I am here.  Back in this theater.  Realizing now that I can't watch It so much as withstand watching my trauma laid bare in violent detail right on the screen.  I am dazed, but the fear has passed, and I am able to finish It knowing I'm not done with It and I can't imagine a time when It will be done with me.

There's a subsection of It's audience that may not be able to ground themselves when confronted with the brutally real violence of It.  I'm not talking about the scenes with Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård), those have visual metaphors to cushion the lingering pain of trauma, a space where I could visualize my pain without having to face it.  Those kids are able to visualize the metaphors Pennywise uses to attack them because they're on the cusp of adulthood.  The way forward lies through disease, bigoted violence, distorted perceptions of biological changes, and each kid - be it because of their weight, asthma, sex, skin color - have to deal with the pain now instead of gaining distance to transform their experience into art.  When It claws into me it's through blood, in broad daylight, as victims of violence struggle alone against bullies who get no greater thrill than seeing those they perceive as weak suffer.


Changing Reels Episode 26 – The Wedding Banquet

To placate his meddling Taiwanese parents, Wai-Tung agrees to a marriage of convenience with a struggling artist Wei Wei. What he failed to mentioned to his parents is that he is already in a loving relationship with Simon. Things spiral out of control for Wai-Tung when his parents decide to make a surprise visit to help plan the wedding. This week walk down the aisle with Ang Lee’s 1993 romantic comedy The Wedding Banquet. We also take time to highlight our short film picks of the week: Pink Grapefruit by Michael Mohan and In a Heartbeat by Beth David and Esteban Bravo.

Show notes:

Filed under: 1990's, Podcasts No Comments

Song to Song (2017)

Artists struggle to connect with each other as they wander in and out of the orbit of a predatory music executive.  Terrence Malick directs and wrote the screenplay for Song to Song, and stars Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, and Natalie Portman.

Watching Song to Song is like learning to fall in love all over again.  I wasn't a big fan of Tree of Life (which Danny reviewed years ago) and loathed To the Wonder, but I grew deep affection for Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups - a Wings of Desire for the alienated Los Angeles set.  Song to Song is the first Malick since The Thin Red Line that felt like it was speaking to me in a language of loneliness and confusion that still leaves room for hope and desire.

Some of the traditional Malick tropes are in full effect as a love quadrangle forms at the center of Song to Song.  Lovers whisper dialogue that's equal parts reassurance and lie.  Malick's camera drifts from scene to scene with little to ground my perception outside an object or color that bleeds from one shot to the next.  Yet, amid the whispers and floating, I noticed Malick's imagery is growing more complicated by each film.  It was easy to place visual signifiers into "earthen" or "heavenly" in the early stages of his post-millennium career and, while I don't view criticism to "solve" or catalogue visual impulses, I just didn't connect with his first steps back.