Last night I watched — for the second time this week — Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019), which is the latest episode of a saga polymath auteur Kevin Smith has been telling since 1994 with his first film, Clerks. The arc of that tale contains one of my very favorite movies, Dogma (1999), wherein we learn that God looks exactly like Alanis Morissette.
If you’ve never heard of Jay and (his “hetero life-mate”) Silent Bob, you’ve missed a minor cultural phenomenon. Clerks is a cinematic landmark on par with Reservoir Dogs, and is preserved in the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” In my book, it’s all three.
I’ve been waiting well over a decade to see these guys again!
“Go home everyone!”
I seriously can’t believe I’ve never posted about this. It’s one of the few times in life I’ve been “in on the ground floor” of something — been there enjoying it from the beginning.
It’s doubly cool for being an overlooked secret in plain view. Something like a great restaurant hidden behind a plain door down the street from the obvious places. It isn’t some great secret, these taste delights; it’s that most people walked out too soon and never saw them.
I’m talking about movie cookies (they aren’t something one eats, but they are a delight).
It’s always the quiet ones. As I’ve said before, sometimes the most interesting movies are the ones that slip by mostly unnoticed. In some cases, they’re movies many people didn’t realize were much better than they thought. (I’ve long thought Johnny Mnemonic and Johnny Dangerous both fell into that category.)
Last night I watched American Ultra (2015), directed by Nima Nourizadeh and written by Max Landis. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s either an action-thriller with comedy, or a comedy with action thrills. Those can be hard to pull off well.
I think if you like Quentin Tarantino’s films, you’ll like American Ultra.
I see them often, headlines that blare urgently: “Fans Flip Out Over _____” On the flip side, the ones that proclaim giddily: “Fans Are Thrilled About _____” The blanks differ, week to week, but the mood is always vocal eleven; outrage or delight; thumbs up or thumbs down. (As Jerry Seinfeld put it recently, it either “Sucks!” or it’s “Great!” His genius is pointing out they can be the same thing.)
For me that level of involvement in fiction is a bit alien. Even as a young Star Trek fan, I distinguished between Trekkers (the sensible sort of fan that I was) and Trekkies (those goofballs running around with Spock ears and toy phasers). Love versus obsession; appreciation versus Let’s Pretend.
What concerns me sometimes is we’re amusing ourselves to death.
I was planning on curling up on the couch with some good reading material today, but I bumped into something in my news feed this morning that raised my blood pressure and gave me the perfect excuse to get rid of another old note and vent some spleen (I like to keep it aired out).
The bitter irony is that what I see as a problem just doubled. It used to involve just one episode of a TV series I really like. Now it involves another episode of another TV series I like. Two episodes I will never, ever touch. If they were the last TV episodes in the world, I’d stop watching TV.
I’m talking about Netflix and their @#$%ing interactive videos.
For this Mystery Monday I want to tell you about a great American writer whose name you might not know: Elmore Leonard (1925–2013). As with Philip K. Dick, another great American writer, it’s quite possible you’ve seen a movie based on his work without realizing it. In fact, Elmore Leonard gives Stephen King a run for the money when it comes to works adapted to film.
Two of my very favorite films, Get Shorty (1995) and Jackie Brown (1997), are adaptations of Leonard’s novels. The former is the second film that restarted John Travolta’s career, and many believe the success of the film greatly depends on the source material (I quite agree).
If you like crime fiction, you definitely want to get into Elmore Leonard.
There’s an old saying (attributed to Stanislavski) that, “There are no small roles, only small actors.” (One might argue that writers do sometimes create small roles, but that’s another blog post and not really what Stranislavski was getting at. He meant actors must take any role seriously, no matter its size.)
What I have today approaches the smallest possible actor in the smallest possible role. Despite this being seven years old, I think it still holds the title of “World’s Smallest Movie” — at least until we can make one starring nucleons or quarks. (I especially like the electron banding; that’s quantum mechanics in action.)
For a Wednesday Wow, a movie starring a single atom.
One of the older notes on my board just reads: “Armageddon (1998) vs Deep Impact (1998)”. On weirdness points, the note could just as easily have read: “Antz (1998) vs A Bug’s Life (1998)”.
The coincidence that both coincidences take place in 1998 (ah, the good old days) does makes it a bit weirder, but weird coincidences aren’t the point of my note or this post. The point is how audiences reacted to the films.
For this Sci-Fi Saturday, I thought I’d ramble about some SF Yin-Yang pairs that have struck me over the years.
I’m not that into horror, on the page or the screen. For instance, I’ve never seen any of the Jason, Freddie, or Chucky, movies. Maybe it comes from having a different set of fears, but slasher movies never did anything for me. The gore doesn’t bother me. It’s more finding it all kinda silly and ultimately tedious.
But there are definitely exceptions. Some horror stories — usually comedies or parodies — manage to find a new spin on old tropes. When it comes to storytelling, I am a big fan of new spins, almost regardless of genre.
Which is why I really enjoyed The Cabin in the Woods.
Still half a meal!
When I was growing up, we didn’t have much money, but we were always blessed with food on the table, a place to sleep, and a roof over us. I have no complaints — nor even a sense — my life lacked luxury. It never lacked what was needed, and it never lacked love. That’s a pretty golden childhood.
But money was tight, and our ethic was “waste not, want not!” Two of the more grievous sins in our family were waste and inequitable distribution (everyone got a fair share of what there was). I heard a lot about those “starving children in India.”
Which is why it annoys me when characters waste food.