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Uncle Josh Tries to Get “Colossal”

(Obvious note regarding a movie that came out 14 months ago: Spoilers.)

This has been in the back of my head for several weeks. When I first saw the trailer for Colossal I assumed it was comedy take on kaiju movies. As we watched the film, I thought the monster was a metaphor for Gloria’s alcoholism and how it ruined everything in her life. As I kept watching I decided the monster was her internal way of handling the controlling jerks she had in her life, and she didn’t realize it until the very end. At the of the movie I actually had a negative reaction. She may have learned what her actual problem was, but she didn’t solve it. She didn’t grow. By killing Oscar (and I can’t imagine him surviving that ending) she didn’t become a better person. I didn’t like the movie.

But Stephanie and I kept talking about it. We kept talking about Gloria and Oscar and Tim and why she did things. I am still not sure the sex scene was necessary for Gloria but maybe I’ll figure it out eventually and at least it was a well done sex scene in that it was a scene cut and the why mattered as the how wasn’t shown at all. It’s not like I need a reminder that Anne Hathaway is a beautiful woman.

It took a week of talking before it dropped from our conversation, what with America coming to an end and all, but I kept thinking about it. The movie presented a problem, and it took a long time (for me) to reveal it. Yes, I thought Oscar was generous, then creepy, then an asshole, and Tim being an asshole was a surprise. No knights in this picture. Joel, the sweet one who thinks he has to act like an asshole gets the “prize” of Gloria (from Oscar’s point of view, Gloria is a thing to control and having sex with her is his “prize”) and he always does something assholish and backs off. He’s too nice for Oscar and Garth, the cocaine-sniffing asshole friend of Oscars.

All right, enough with the assholes. Maybe I’ve reading too much about Dan Savage.

The point of the ending, I think, wasn’t to “heal” Gloria but to show she had enough strength to do something good for absolute strangers. Oscar is the monster that does not back down. He can be scared into being a nice guy but only for a little while and he lashes out, anger and demanding control being his only real tools for dealing with life.

Gloria can’t heal. Not in the space of a single movie’s narrative. She can get strong enough to say “enough” and when that isn’t enough she has to push herself out of the control she had managed to gain during the movie when she stopped drinking.

And the news ever since we watched has been full of men acting shocked and appalled when their abusive behavior from twenty, thirty, forty years ago gets highly publicized. The women who have come forward to accuse Weinstein, Louis, Spacey, Moore, et. al. have probably not really healed after all this time either. The depth of the wounds they suffered are so deep that they may never even be aware of them all. Gloria, being aware but still wounded, is a symbol of #YesAllWomen.

As a white man with a middle-class upbringing, I am not aware of all the blinders I have. I think in some way watching Colossal has helped me see the problems in the real world a little better.

So I’m calling Colossal my “sleeper hit” of the year. A movie that may have been low on my priority list, but I’m glad I watched it.

Uncle Josh Tries to Get “Colossal” was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

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Uncle Josh Tackles Blade Runner 2049

To prepare for the new movie I did not manage to re-watch any version of Blade Runner but instead re-read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time anyway. I walked away from the movie in a definite love-hate relationship with the movie. It is a movie for the hard-core Blade Runner fan and the disciples of film as an art form. It should be needless to quote River Song here…

–cut

Memories of Blade Runner

I remember the basics: Deckard sent out against his will to retire a group of Nexus-6 replicants. He tests Rachel and has a strange non-love story with her. He hunts and kills and finally meets his match with Roy Baty who dies after a hell of a fight and a great speech. The movie’s theme for was empathy is the key to being human, and Deckard is a human with so little empathy and the replicants seem to have a lot more, but it’s all faked. Of course there are the visuals, the crowded always dark nearly always raining city and the cluttered combinations of food carts and ad-hoc labs and omni-present advertising.

Memories of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

My long term memories from first reading the book decades ago was challenging the idea that Deckard was a human, or could be a replicant himself. The re-read made me realize that this was not what the book was about. The switcheroo with the fake replicant cops was a smokescreen that barely lasted a chapter. The replicants are evil in their callousness. They cut off the legs of a spider because they are certain it could get by with only four legs, and when it doesn’t move they set it on fire to prove their point. It is cruel and uncaring. The book emphasizes this as a theme over and over again.

Blade Runner 2049

As soon as the music started I knew I was back in the world of Blade Runner. Seeing the devastation of California in the opening shots let us know exactly how bad things were, even worse than in the first movie. The bounty hunter and the prey. This is how it works. The reveal in that first fight that K is a replicant was a little disappointing. It made it harder to care about the character. It made me think that we need to get to Deckard sooner, because it’s nice to have a human to root for.

The memories of childhood introduced the idea that K is actually a human, somehow and for some reason convinced he his a replicant. This was great. The best part of the PK Dick stories is questioning basic foundational realities. That gave me some investment with the character. Because K begins to question who he is, I begin to spin out the possibilities and predictions and watch them play out.

The other great question was the mixup in the genetic profile of the missing child. This played out well. I was surprised that it turned out to be Dr. Stelline. I didn’t catch her tears at the memory as recognition, but basic human empathy. So that’s on me.

I even liked the effects of the gratuitous sex scene, but it was still a gratuitous sex scene. The idea that a holographic home companion would fake that much emotion to a replicant didn’t feed into the central question of the first movie as much as seem, well, odd. I can buy the replicant living in a grotty little apartment in an ugly neighborhood instead of living in a closet. I can buy that part of emulating a human is to have a human need for companion. One of the ideas in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is presented by JR Isadore who decides that it’s good to have neighbors and people around because it helps keep us human. Even once he realizes his new neighbors are replicants and he could get a major reward for turning them in, he desires their company more than the money. K even has a “gift” for the JOI he owns. It’s a strange relationship for a tool to want a humanish tool.

What did shock me about watching the film is how impatient I’ve become as an audience member. When K realizes he’s in the set of his memory and he looks to confirm the wooden horse is still there, the descent down the stairs took too long. I was impatient because I knew where he was going and what he was going to find ind would have been surprising if he hadn’t. I felt there were a lot of scenes that just took too long. It fit visually with the first movie as I remember it, but in several scenes I realized I was thinking “get on with it.”

The idea of the replicant army seemed plugged in to set up a sequel, if this movie gets one.

Finally, Wallace seemed a strange uber-villain to the whole thing. He didn’t have a clear goal. Yeah, he wanted to improve his product, but to what end?

I will probably re-watch it down the road, back to back with the first movie, and come away with a different reaction.

Uncle Josh Tackles Blade Runner 2049 was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh Reviews Logan

First, anyone thinking of taking a child to see this “comic book” movie should take the R rating seriously. I think I heard the MPAA ratings board has a threshold of the number of times a script can have “fuck” or “shit” and stay in PG land. Logan jumps that shark in the first five minutes. It felt like a lot of lazy writing.

I found the first hour or so very difficult and slow. It wasn’t the swearing and the violence, although I hit action fatigue early on. It was the Hero’s Journey Rejection of the Challenge phase took for frikken ever. I think it spent too long justifying why this movie doesn’t follow from the previous ones. (Disclaimer: Uncle Josh watched X-Men, maybe X-Men 2, maybe 3. I stopped watching them when Scott Summers was killed off screen for no reason other than they didn’t know what do do with his character.) The movie establishes the future setting (nice to see cell phones won’t change over the next 15 years and there’s no Southern Border Wall) and the reasons for treating Charles Xavier in such a shitty way in the beginning of them. It’s all reasonable. Comic book readers are used to that sort of convenient back-fill for the readers who may not have read that book.

There were only a couple of scenes where I felt the actors enjoying their roles in the few moments of levity offered. They may have liked the whole process, but it was too much the old run-down dogs tired of life.

However, when the movie picks up and the characters connect, it gets powerful. The final scenes wrench at the heart.

It’s a fitting end for Hugh Jackman’s run with the character.

Uncle Josh Reviews Logan was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much

Uncle Josh reviews Ant-Man

Today I finally let myself see Ant-Man. Short review: Fun Flick. Go See.

Preview Review:

  • Batman v Superman (or whatever): Yawn. Let’s criticize the wanton destruction of Man of Steel with wanton destruction.
  • Star Wars Episode VII: Don’t break my heart. Please oh please do not break my heart.
  • Mission Impossible Rogue Nation: Won’t see it, because of capitalism.
  • Goosebumps: Definitely for the Netflix queue. This looks like it will be fun.

Slightly longer review: I don’t remember being an Avengers reader as  a kid, back whene there was really only one Avengers comic. When I returned to comics in adulthood* it was through Claremont and Davis’ Excalibur, and through that into the X-Men, and through the many years of X-everything and sort of disdain for anything “Team A”. I know some of the history of the Ant-Man character but not enough to be dogmatic.

I know both Hank Pym and Scott Lang wore the costome and took the name in the comic books, and I appreciate how this movie made that work. They’re dealing with comic characters created over 50 years ago; there’s a lot of history and storyline to deal with, and the MCU seems to be building up to a Jim Starlin Extravaganza. (I am for this, by the way.)

So they let the younger man take the lead, and it works. Lang is a catburglar trying to go straight, and not getting very far. He has a daughter who is as cute as a button and an ex-wife who is now engaged to a cop. I felt the writing was a bit heavy handed with the repeat of “be the hero your daughter thinks you are.” That may have been an attempt to tie in to the “second chances” theme, but it didn’t work so well for me.

I also feel like a nitpick goes to how quickly they crossed the country during the movie, and the whole bit about the raid on the Avengers, while fun, was not contextualized enough. All that means is they assumed anyone seeing Ant-Man had seen Avengers Age of Ultron.

Another nit-pick: Ant-Man hits a lot of people for someone claiming to be a pacifist.

The positives, though, are many (HERE BE SPOILERS): Scotts Ex-Wife doesn’t dump her fiancée to accept Scott back in her life, but she still accepts Scott back in her life. Scott’s kid is brave and solid, and while technically needs to be rescued there is a glimpse of the girl who won’t need rescuing later in life. Hope van Dyne is an unexpected love interest, but she sure as hell doesn’t need protecting, and would appear to be perfectly capable of handling the crap her father want to protect her from. She should be an equal partner to Ant-Man as the next Wasp.

Plot wise, the parallel between Pym and Lang works. Both men have fractured relationships with their daughters and desire to win their daughters back. Naturally, they have to do things they don’t want to do. Pym has to let go of some control, and Lang has to fight. Once Lang makes the decision, to take his second chance, though, he never looks back. He also never gives up.

This, I think, is the hallmark of the Marvel hero. Everyone gives up on the plan except Lang, and he finds a way through using the most amusing sidekicks. (I hope the DVD has a bunch of shorts with Luiz just telling stories.) There is no rallying cry moment, though. Lang doesn’t show doubt after he accepts the hero’s journey. Even though those around him are doubtful and feeling hopeless, he pushes on. Come to think of it, I don’t know if any of the other MCU heroes used a rallying cry. (For comparison, Aragorn gives a speech before battle at the black gates in The Return of The King, Shakespeare’s Henry V gives his St. Crispin’s Day speech.)

There is no pause for hopelessness, and perhaps that makes for a more lightheated hero movie. Maybe lighthearted is the wrong word, but the movie had more laughs in it than other MCU entries. I suppose when the villian is also threatened by a toy Thomas the Tank Engine, there’s a certain levity that cannot be avoided and therefore must be embraced, and embrace it they did.


* Well, adolesence allowed to drink

Uncle Josh reviews Ant-Man was originally published on Uncle Josh Talks Too Much