What'cha Watching? (TV or Film)

No worries! I’m happy to expand a bit on that.

As someone who grew up in the Christian faith, I think a lot of the fundamental tenets of Christianity as a personal doctrine encourages self-interest and views compassion as a means to an end, namely one’s own salvation.

Under Christian doctrine every good deed is another step towards heaven. Compassion is instrumental. There’s no reason to care about making the world a better place for when you leave it, because the mortal realm is a testing ground where you need to prove yourself worthy before the main event.

I have a lot of thoughts about this but what I’ll say is that yes, the Church (and especially the Catholic Church) is a leech whose own past should be sufficient to condemn it. But, I think the beliefs themselves are also objectionable. These organisations just exacerbate and magnify the negative externalities of the doctrine itself. Take it away and you’ve still got a belief system that is fundamentally utilitarian.

Midnight Mass actually touches on this a bunch but always directs the blame back on individuals and their relationship to the institution. The beliefs, and the act of believing, is never interrogated with the same urgency or scepticism.

Ultimately, I am an atheist though. And I don’t come at atheism from a scientific perspective. I have specific moral objections to Christianity and the older Abrahamic religions that it’s derived from, based on my perspective of growing up baptist.

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Thankyou for expanding on that, it’s definitely a lens I didn’t consider while watching the show!

First off, I saw somebody say they started the Leftovers a few posts back, which I’m super excited to hear what you think about it. I haven’t revisited it yet, but it might be one of my favorite shows of all time. I loved Lost, a show that I think benefits heavily from being able to watch it all at one time. Unfortunately, it definitely did give rise to the JJ Abrams mystery box thing that is so obnoxious about shows/films today. The Lost forums were filled with people trying to guess the ending or figure out what was really going on with the island and executives definitely took that as a sign that says “here’s how to write a show”. Having said all that, I think Lindelof and co. knock it out of the park with the Leftovers and it absolutely is helped by some strong performances from the actors. I won’t say much more other than to say that the first season is easily the weakest because it is based almost entirely on the book. The second and third season diverge and are much better for it, in my opinion.

As for the month of October, my friend and I last year put together a list of water/underwater based horror films. Our list this year is based, somewhat loosely, around cities and urban environments. Since there is a film for each day, nobody participating expects to watch all of them, but it’s been fun having a reason to watch these films. I’m already behind having skipped some of the films my friends recommended skipping, but I’ll post the whole list below just as a curiosity. The stand outs so far for me are definitely Aterrados, Tenebrae, and the People Under the Stairs.

October films

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Great list! I’ve only seen ~10 of those, but there are some great ones in there (Candyman, Purge: Anarchy, and REC would be among my picks) and some I’ve been meaning to see (Possession, for one). I really like the idea you and your friends have of a list you can kinda tune in and out of but planned ahead of time.

So, as a Canadian, the first time I remember realizing that Canada was what people thought the USA looked like, if they only saw it on TV, was watching Rumble in the Bronx right coming back from a family vacation in Vancouver. It was pretty hard to ignore that some of the places that I had literally just been to in Canada were suddenly pretending to be in New York, in the same way that the human actors on screen were portraying characters. I remember being a little offended by it, and having that feeling of wondering if I had any idea what New York actually looked like, since I’d been lied to all this time.

After that, it started to get pretty easy notice Canadian locations on screen. Particularly in mid to low budget sci-fi shows. Or large ones like Interstellar or Ravenous. It’s not really weird to me anymore, it’s honestly part of the fun to pick out “obvious Canadian place” in a show (the original run of X-Files is great for this). Every now and then a show just admits it’s in Vancouver (Continuum, anyone), and that’s just delightful.

I don’t think I get too bothered by the juxtaposition of Canadian scenes and American politics. Canadian news is nearly dominated by American events. Watch CBC’s The National on youtube and you’ll see that most nights, 30-50% of the coverage will either directly be about events south of the border, or be covering the ways in which the US zeitgeist is being mirrored in Canada. It’s sort of a Canadian cultural thing to try and hold Canada as being separate and very different from the US, but the ways in which we’re deeply intertwined are hard to ignore, especially now that I’m an expat living in the US. It makes sense that that would be reflected on screen.

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So, The Color Out of Space (2020) is bad, and I’m unsure whether it really even falls into so bad its good. The dialogue is laughably bad, and I don’t think the creators really knew what to do with the source material, so instead it feels like mishmash of better films. There are moments where something interesting might be about to happen, but it can’t seem to decide what type of horror movie it wants to be.
Go watch Annihilation and The Thing instead and you’ll have a much much better experience and you’ll know what they were trying to do in The Color Out of Space.

Also, for the best depiction of cosmic horror I’ve ever watched you have to check out The Endless.

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My spouse and I are very into weird horror films, and watch them all year, so we use October to do full franchise watches of big series we either never got around to or haven’t seen all of the films in. This is usually terrible - not every Friday the 13th sequel is as good as Jason X, unfortunately. We’ve done Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Ju-On, Ringu, Child’s Play, and this year: SAW.

V and VI? Masterpieces. The best filmic soap operas I have ever seen. Hoffman is a living comedy of errors. The torture/trap room element of the series is basically only present for the sake of making it a SAW film, in V, the only relationship between the people in the trap and the actual plot is that an FBI agent stumbles upon the survivors while looking for someone else entirely. It’s just an extremely absurd police procedural where Hoffman comedy of errors his way into killing most of the Jigsaw investigation team, some Nazis, and people whose job is denying people health insurance coverage.

Would encourage only watching those, but the films are so flashback-focused I think it’d be tough to follow. (Also, shoutouts to Horror Vanguard and Fearbaiting, who made doing this series retrospective much more fun.)

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I watched through all the SAW films either late last year or earlier this year in preparation for the Chris Rock led Spiral (from the book of SAW). I still think the first SAW is actually a masterpiece of a film for what it is and its budget. It slowly gets worse from there, though I certainly can appreciate some of the later ones for the sheer melodrama of it all. As somebody said on Twitter a while ago, the funniest thing about those films is that, at a certain point near the end, Jigsaw starts running out of people to hold a grudge against so you get stuff like ‘guy who sold his nephew a motorcycle with faulty brakes’ getting punished. That of course also pretty much directly contradicts Jigsaw’s supposed ‘message/lesson’ but that whole film was a mess anyway.

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I really enjoyed Venom: Let There Be Carnage. I mean I could take or leave the Carnage bit, but I did enjoy Tom Hardy bickering with his big voice. It basically poses Eddie Brock and Venom as a problematic married couple living in the same body. The last movie felt quite frank in showing Venom up against the big idea that he’s a big dumb angsty edgelord relic from the 90s who only appeals to 90s adolescent kids who listen to Eminem to feel angry. By contrast Venom 2 kind of makes the character a bit of a sweet heart. I enjoyed it immensely, 90 minutes and your done - with the promise of more Venom to come… It was worth it getting Andy Serkis in to direct - really brings out the performance out CG characters.

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This is something that I’m super curious about. Having grown up in the US it’s taken years to unlearn american exceptionalism (education was just propagandist Iraq war garbage 85% of the time), but one of the things I was taught was, “everyone in the world watches on at what the US does,” and trying to square that circle with the acknowledgement that, yes, our northern cousin actually does spend a lot of time looking at us leaves me feeling weird.

I think that’s the part which strikes me so strangely about the Arrowverse. I’m uncomfortable by how much the US is in the spotlight. It reminds me of when Shakespeare or Moliere would throw the king in to sweep up the drama and save the day. It’s no question that any industry panders to the global north, but this effect seems to be multiplied significantly when the nation in question is the US. (Take that with an enormous grain of salt, since I’m living here and it inherently twists what I observe about the rest of the world)

But yeah, for those of you who don’t live in the US or expats who used to, what’s this like in other countries? Especially as it relates to TV. Do other countries report on american news, or is that just a Canada (maybe UK?) thing? I can tell you as an American that most news sites are dominated by only American news.

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I’m in the UK so there’s probably a ‘fellow Anglophone’ emphasis to US news, but it’s not like we get the same level of Canadian or Australian (let alone, say, Singaporean or other non-majority-white English speaking country) coverage. The US definitely has an outsized share of both news coverage and cultural impact. Yes, the UK has a fairly robust native film and television industry, but US TV and film dominates. And think how many UK actors show up with American accents in major TV and film (Tom Holland, Idris Elba, Rahul Kohli, Hugh Laurie being an extremely abbreviated, off the top of my head list). Without ever meaning to I’ve probably consumed far more material made in or about the US than the UK.

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I’m brazillian, and can say that US exercises a lot of impact in our media production and consumption. Obviously in part due to the fact that US has historically intervened in latin america countries (funding right wing dictatorships, meddling with elections affairs, and so on). So general US politics tend to be featured in mainstream news TV channels. Another reason for that is because our economy is heavily affected by our comercial relations with US and the dollar currency. As for entertainment, I feel that much of our television tends to chase after trends set by US television, but that is limited for a certain extent. For example, one of the most popular formats around here continues to be soap operas, which as far as I can tell are not super big in US anymore, right? (you can tell me if I’m wrong, I’d be glad to know). Finally, when it comes to cinema there is the problem that US movies tend to outshine our local film industry and are way more readily avaible to the average consumer than our own movies (be that via streaming or even in movie theaters). In my experience I feel that it has limited my knowledge and repertoire of brazillian films, even though I consider myself sort of a cinephile and try to go out of my way to learn more about our industry. But anyways, those are some quick thoughts, hope that they help to paint a picture of what’s it like to watch TV in Brazil :slight_smile:

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On the subject of soap operas, they are still pretty prevalent on American TV, but not nearly as much as they once were. Non-scripted talk shows dominate daytime network tv slots now, mostly because they are cheaper to produce.

That said, soap operas dominated daytime American media (many soaps started on radio) for over a century, so it makes sense that the format would make its way to other countries. For many networks, soaps keep them in the black. The advertisement contracts were incredibly lucrative, usually featuring cleaning supplies aimed at the stay-at-home wife… hence the name soap operas.

For myself, I used to watch All My Children. I worked as a producer for a noon news show in the early 2000s, and AMC was on the monitor when I was creating chyrons and layouts for the show. It’s tough to not get invested when you watch it every day.

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oh my god. I don’t know what I thought the name meant before but now I don’t know why I wasn’t questioning it.

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After watching Squid Game a few weeks ago, I’m really glad that show got the room to have cultural touchstones that are explicitly Korea. There’s definitely a less good version of that show where some Netflix executive put their foot down hard to have them change things like the Dalgona Candy challenge into a game of paper football or something.

Finished Squid Game. I liked it overall - but does feel like they maybe needlessly are going to make more seasons. I can picture it now. New season. New games. As a fan of South Korean cinema, it’s pretty great that it has become as successful as it has.

Went to the cinema 3 times last week.

Halloween Kills: I was setting myself up for disappointment for this after reading the reviews and generally enjoying the 2018 reboot. I get all the criticism for Halloween Kills, but I actually really enjoyed the movie overall. It definitely feels like a movie made for Trump’s America, with the whole town effectively turning into an angry mob looking to hunt down Michael Myers. It is really heavy handed about it, and not sure if I every peripheral character from the original Halloween needed to make an appearance in the movie, but generally liked how it becomes less about Laurie Strode. The ending is really weird, brutal but weird I think at Halloween, most cinema goers want to be spooked but not crushed completely. If you want to see Michael Myers gut some fools Halloween Kills is pretty much it. I also like how the movie does build off the first movie, lots of little details get passed round to flesh out Haddonfield. Makes it feel as if they do have a plan for the concluding movie.

The Last Duel - I feel most discussion of this film has centred on how depressing it is that a fairly sober medieval history film made by Ridley Scott no less, just bombs. It’s got an all star cast with Adam Drive in full Byronic mode, Jodie Comer and the Ben Affleck/Matt Damon who both had a hand in writing the movie. It focuses on the last duel to the death between two lords in France, one accused of raping the wife of the other. You see the movie from three perspectives - Matt Damon’s fairly thuggish but dutiful soldier boy, Adam Driver as the sheriff of Nottingham and then Jodie Comer’s perspective which is basically the actual truth. One of the cool ideas behind the movie is that each account is kind of unreliable as it shows what the character wants to see, so the same events play out differently depending on who’s account it is. I don’t think they truly embrace this as an idea, feels like events play out quite similarly from character to character. Enough to the point that you do see Jodie Comer’s character get raped twice… It’s fine for the most part, the duel itself is basically a colder grittier version of the coliseum fights in Gladiator. Adam Driver and Jodie Comer are both really good in it.

DUNE - Been waiting for this one for a while obviously. It’s a real experience, watching it on Imax, it’s almost as if you are stepping onto Arrakis yourself. Really solid performances from the cast, especially Timothy Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson. The artistic design is phenomenal, the sense of scale is immense, the landscapes are enchanting and all the structures and spaceships have that same kind of abstract minimalism that Denis Villeneuve had for the alien spacecrafts in Arrival, they feel ancient but practical.

I think what I enjoyed most about Dune, more I did than the actual plot was it’s worldbuilding. It introduces everything to you so naturally yet economically, I kept thinking about how some fantasy movies have to take time to have characters explaining the plot to you, or abstract terms. For the most part, Dune is just showing you. The sequence in which you first see one of the sandworms is truly awe inspiring, yet it starts from a kind of mundane routine aerial inspection of a spice harvester.

I suppose the plot only really kicks in during the second half, I haven’t read the original novel, but at the moment it maybe has shades of a white saviour ‘chosen one’ plotline. I really hope there is more to it than that. It’s cool that it has done so well in it’s opening weekend and part two has now ‘officially’ been greenlit. It’s rare to have a movie actually generate feelings of awe and wonder, it reminded me of seeing A New Hope for the first time, also a 4k David Attenborough documentary. I’d recommend seeing Dune on the biggest screen you can.

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I’m super excited to see people love Dune. Denis Villenueve is one of my favorite directors and I can’t wait to see it myself. I can assure you there’s more to Dune’s plot, but from my memory most of that comes in the subsequent novels. Light spoilers maybe:It’s been a little while since I read the first novel, but for the most part it plays it pretty straight as a blatant white savior story. I can’t claim much authority but that seems pretty intentional, because in the book at least there are all these things occurring at the periphery that hint to some horrible galaxy spanning genocidal shit going down if Paul keeps doing what he’s doing. I guess Frank Herbert wrote parts of Dune Messiah before finishing Dune, so there are interlinking parts between the books where greater things set up in the first play out in batshit crazy land in the second. Hard to know if its really a successful approach since Dune on its own can read like a straightforward white savior novel, and handling that in film where you can’t guarantee movie 3 or 4 being made is even tougher.

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It absolutely does this but then it also wildly subverts it down the line. It’s not as simple though to then say that it’s a progressive work and I think given when it was written and who by it resists those characterisations.

It’s going to be interesting for sure to see how a new generation of people (myself included who only read them in 2019!) interprets Frank Herbert’s works. That Villaneuve has largely, for better or worse, tried to make a faithful adaptation is going to make that conversation more interesting I think as there’s elements which have aged either not well (the Baron) or in an interesting fashion (the positive portrayal of jihad).

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week 3 of spooky movies
18. Parents (1989)
19. The Banana Splits Movie (2019)
20. Tone-Deaf (2019)
21. The Dark and the Wicked (2020)
22. The Blob (1958)
23. Carnival of Souls (1962)
24. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987)

Carnival of Souls was the stand out, saw it for the first time and was impressed.
This week I might focus on Nightmare on Elm street movies b/c I haven’t seen many of the sequels before, only the more meta one that was released in the 90’s comes to mind.

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I’m seeing new Dune tonight, but I did watch 1984 Dune on HBO last Sunday. It’s bad! But it might be fun to watch in a mystery-science theater way.

Lot of weird stuff. Definitely a lot of mocking Harkonnen’s weight/appearance/sexuality that might see more scrutiny if released today. Patrick Stewart carries a pug into battle. The “big battle” at the end is a complete mess and seems like something Lynch was not interested in at all. Incomprehensible plot if you don’t know the book.

Excited to see a hopefully more complete vision tonight. 1984 version definitely got me extremely on board with making two parts.