This is Happening

February 14th, 2019

Super November, directed by Douglas King, written by and starring Josie Long

Sorry to Bother You, written and directed by Boots Riley, starring Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson

“Rap critics that say he’s money, cash, hoes
I’m from the hood stupid, what type of facts are those?” - Jay-Z, 99 Problems

“Take the big key and open the door to the living, breathing past
The one you enliven over and over,

To the ship’s port, or the house of the welder;
To the library door of Donald Dewar.

Then picture yourself on the threshold,
The exact moment when you might begin again,” – Jackie Kay, Threshold 

Super November is a film of two halves, with a break in filming reflected by a jump in the story we see on the screen. People disappear from the plot along the way. Cameos in the first part don’t get the intended pay off. Haircuts change. The substantial details of the narrative are left largely unexplained.

The first part of the movie concerns a librarian called Josie who’s on the edge of what seems like a pleasantly boozy romance with a nice lad who’s in the Scottish Green Party. The influence of mumblecore is overt enough that it’s been built into the production and promo cycle of this low budget comedy, but Super November‘s endearing roughness highlights the interconnectedness of aesthetic choices and material possibility.

If the film feels like it was being put together on the fly, with everything from its dialogue style to its central narrative conceit working around the availability of certain players and locations, then that’s because it probably was.

The Lego Batman Movie

February 5th, 2017

Na na na na na na na na na na na!

Following Part 1 – in which Joel began discussing Brandon Graham’s Prophet, only to be ambushed by Ewoks – he brings in fellow Kraken Mazin (or to give him his Mindless name, maybemazin), for Part 2 of our guest blog, to discuss all things The Force Awakens, before it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray next week.

But what’s that got to do with Prophet? you ask with increasing exasperation. And who the hell is Mazin? Well, when he’s not splashing around with the rest of his pod(cast), he is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, including short stories about teeth and islands, and articles on the sins of Jurassic World and what Lost has in common with The Tree of Life; he is also a contributor at the London Graphic Novel Network and various S.M.A.S.H. comics panels.

We last left Joel and Mazin in a sealed box about to duke it out over Star Wars. Let’s hope we remembered to punch in some air-holes…

 

So Mazin: the subversiveness of Ewoks, and the problems with the old films. What do you reckon?

To start with, count me in the pro-Ewok camp too. Hm, that sounded cooler on the inside. I used to think it was a shame that they couldn’t find enough pituitary cases to do the Wookie forest planet in Return of the Jedi as first planned; had they done, it would’ve at least nixed the film’s teddy-bear gooiness problem. But turns out it didn’t really matter.

Because the Ewoks work.

They do. Just. And yeah part of why they do is because they’re unassuming, not unlike the critters that inspired them in Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The World For Word is Forest’, also furry aliens that no one takes seriously, though in that book they have a complex culture and a talent for bloodletting. But then, ROTJ was U-certificate and stormtrooper-helmet bongos were as far as they could take it. It might have been a bit more interesting though if the Ewoks in the film did have a bit more of the book or the Ewok cartoon, i.e. characters with personalities and a culture. Instead, we’re just left wondering what’s the whole deal with George Lucas and small aliens…

Your idea about the theme of technology versus nature in ROTJ, I don’t totally agree it’s a subversion of the films that came before: you could trace it to The Empire Strikes Back, the cutting between hi-tech spaceship chases, then a little green man in a jungle world teaching our hero White Magic. Or, for that matter, to Luke switching off his targeting computer in A New Hope.

As for A New Hope, you’re right, the first 20 minutes are great: just how much mystery there is, the weirdness. But the last 20 minutes are great too! For me, the film’s problem was always the sag in the middle. And after rewatching, I thought of the simple reason why: the trash-compactor sequence should’ve come after when Obi Wan turns off the tractor beam. That way the action would have kept escalating nicely, right up until Yavin IV. But I still think the final Death Star battle is so pacey, just really well edited and scored. Compare it to how paceless and undramatic the final battle is in The Force Awakens, how the baddie planet in that bursts like a Gü pudding, somehow both more complex a special effect and more boring a one than when JJ Abrams popped Vulcan.

But I thought you loved the new film?

Ahaha. I’ll at least try to think of some of the things in SWFA that I thought were good. (‘SWFA’ sure sounds like a right-wing paramilitary group- dammit! See, it’s hard.)

The characters! They were cool, no?

Well, John Boyega, it was nice to see him enjoy himself so much…