The comic book/cartoon violence and oversexualized women, the drama of the European graveyard, a young Ken-doll Rupert Everett and the similarly statuesque Anna Falchi; from the first scene there is little to make me feel like I should take this movie seriously. Instead, it's as one of the posters describes: "Zombies, guns, and sex!" Oh my! There's lots to find offensive but as a background movie for Halloween, it's still practically perfect in its mediocrity.
Also October 3: Actual notes from Babadook.
I originally wrote a purely emotional response to The Babadook, and since have gone back and looked over the actual notes I took. So here's a return to discussing one of my favorite movies of all time (that I've only seen twice because holy hell it gets me too well right now).
The scariest part of the movie is the mother's slow descent into the Babadook's transformational depression. From early on, we see that her son has turned to physical violence and it was hard not to think of the children of abusive parents. Physical and emotional abuse as a parent's response to their own mental illness, teaches the child violent self-defense. The parent's cry for help is lashing out at the child and so the child lashes out in his own way, pushing his cousin out of a treehouse etc. The mother's depression, in the form of the titular monster, threatens to take everything away from her.
This personification of illness becomes an opportunity for the classic horror trope of a child being able to "see the truth," and creates a complicated emotional relationship between the two. The depression of the mother interacts with the depression of her son in a way that shapes it and gives power to his own decisions. When she is pushed to nearly killing her son but, while her hands are around his neck strangling him, he reaches out to pet her cheek. The acceptance of the Babadook, the ability not to lay full blame for each other's actions, saves them.
She vomits blackness, like motor oil, but we see that the Babadook isn't gone. They're learning to live with him. As we see her live through her husband's death again, we get a sort of twist in seeing the horrific memory of seeing his head sliced in two. This isn't just depression, it's PTSD, she is still dealing with the visceral reality of that past accident. She is at once filthy, plain, and powerfully ethereal screaming "I'll fucking kill you," in the face of suicide/depression/the ineffable darkness of the Babadook.
The happy ending is that they live, they talk about death truthfully, they are healthy and have learned to keep the Babadook contained. At the end, we see the Babadook still nearly knock her down but she's able to calm him, feed him, and go back to her life. I don't know that I've ever seen a movie that so accurately describes the personal battle of chronic illness.
October 6: Twin Peaks or How I learned to Kinda Like Spaghetti Westerns (Shut up Daniel)
I've tried to watch Twin Peaks several times since high school. It's been on my "list" for about as long as I've had one but, for a variety of reasons, the timing just never seemed to workout. So, thanks to Netflix, it seemed like now was as good a time as ever.
I'll no doubt return to it since, yet again, it was difficult for me to really get into. However, at the suggestion of a certain Marxist we all know and love, I decided to give it a few more episodes. I'm glad I did.
Daniel has been watching Once Upon a Time in the West on repeat for a few weeks now and this is only the newest on his list of spaghetti westerns. I'll admit, I've never really cared for them. However, watching this a few times has given me a new appreciation. The melodrama of the characters, the stark backdrops, and the swelling music create a heightened reality of the "Old West;" an idea I admittedly am not as invested in because I group up in the west with horses and such and never found the movies to speak to me.
The melodrama, the structure, the music, all set this genre apart. So, when Lynch borrows the keynotes of the genre while readjusting it for a moody view of small-town America of the late 80s, the "Old West" gives a whole new breadth of understanding to Twin Peaks for myself. I'm still left asking: do we need more movies about the complicit plasticity of whiteness? Do all "pure products of America go crazy," and if we do, is there value to looking at the sordid capitalist details?
I'm still watching it and hoping to return to discussing it once I've seen more.
Hotel Transylvania 2
After a few days of watching some relatively heavy subject matter, I decided that (without seeing the original movie) the sequel Hotel Transylvania 2 would be a good piece of candy. I wasn't disappointed. The bright and shiny lacquer of CGI is undercut by the slapstick humor surrounding the monsters of classic Hollywood. Dracula gives the Invisible Man a double purple nurple, the Invisible Man by the way, has a very successful workout video, and Bigfoot is the best new goalie in a very Monty Python-esque "giant foot in front of goal" kind of way. All these jokes cover what must have been the plot of the first movie fairly well.
Like Zootopia, though, the differences made between monster and human (added to with the variety of monsters and humans) is used to talk about racial prejudice and community differences. For example, imagine Daniel and Shana walking into a party where someone assumes Daniel is a werewolf because he's hairy, now imagine our response. *This actually happens (except they're not literally us.)* Now imagine the family coming to visit in black face for Halloween because they're trying to be supportive. Now imagine invited possibly racist (and yes a Jewish caricature) Grandpa Vlad shows up and is very anti-human. There's a fair amount of nuance in the details, again similar to the animals in Zootopia, but there was one thing that I'm not sure the movie even realizes it does.
Our protagonist is the mixed child of a vampire and human and guess what? With curly red hair and freckles, he looks like some mixed kids I've known. It doesn't feel purposeful, as the human family is very white and the redheadedness might play more off of the soulless ginger jokes. Despite this, it's hard not to think of him as mixed when it's owning his heritage and dual-identities that saves the day from the redneck white trash bat friends of his grandfather.
Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky of Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack renown, I'm already planning to come back to this movie in the future.
October 7: Beetlejuice
"Beetlejugo, Beetlejugo, Beetlejugo! Ay, ay, ay!" - Louise Belcher
I'm actually not going to write too much about Beetlejuice. It's a longtime favorite that I questioned even watching thanks to Tim Burton's most recent examples of human shittiness. Despite that, watching Beetlejuice now helps give Burton's availability very clear context. The designs that were once other worldly, the curvy dressers and abstract patterns, are now widely available. The Burton aesthetic, for reasons both good and bad, is not easily found and mimicked and the power of the "weird and unusual" is somewhat weakened. However, his true power of collaborative character creation is all over this movie. Infinitely quotable side-characters support the infinitely quotable remainder of the cast including Lydia and her "edgy" artist stepmother. The performances and the collaborative work that the designers did to create this movie are still strong and remind me why Burton has become the influential force he has. However, it makes it really really obvious that he's totally sold out. Make of that what you will.
October 7: Caligari again and Twin Peaks continued
I watched The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari again as a response to watching the Burton. Yes, it really is that good, and yes, I really do love silent movies. I also decided to keep watching Twin Peaks and, while I'm not in love, I understand the draw a bit better and not just for the hipsters. If you're curious, Audrey is my favorite character so far but solely for Fenn's bizarrely cutesy-sexy performance. Did I mention the male gaze? We'll leave that for another time.
October 8: Buffy Halloween episodes and once more with feeling
Also, Nosferatu... kinda
The earlier Buffy's are by far my favorites as they buy and trade hard on the awkwardness of being a teenager without trying to grasp it dramatic emotional truths or decisions. They turn into their chosen costumes in turn that would be funnier if it didn't play on the tired gender stereotypes the show sells itself as refuting. However, it's successfully done with with a wrap-up that allow a character like Willow to have a voice she hadn't before. There's also the introduction of characters and relationships that will be dynamic throughout the course of the series. I'd say more, specifically an ode to Drusilla and Spike, but that may be for another time.
A haunted frat party that the Scoobies attend in order to save the day. Watching the episodes isolated in this fashion lets you realize how much the characters haven't grown. Xander is still awkwardly immature, Buffy is still obsessed with boys, and Whedon is already making inside jokes about last year's Halloween. The ending is funny and there are some relationships and characters introduced that I do love (Oz and Anya) but are already criminally underused. How does NO ONE think the painted seal on the ground has something to do with it? It's ok, the ending is happy and silly and very Whedon-esque.
This is clearly when I stopped being the target audience for the show. I'm in the camp of those who are just endlessly confused by Dawn; how she manages to do everything wrong and not learn a single thing about vampires and magic is astounding for someone her age. Maybe I'll go into my issues with the character at large in the future, for now lets just say that I spend a lot of this episode annoyed that Dawn can't tell from shot one that the boy she wants to date is a vampire. This is Sunnydale. Come. On. Baby Amber Tamblyn shows up long enough for you to remember how cute she was but, overall, this episode feels like it's setting the scene for....
Also known as the Buffy Musical. Whedon is a fanboy for classic Hollywood and this episode gives him an opportunity to showcase that in, what is already, a fully peopled universe of his creation. It's clever and I'll admit to liking the music of it enough that I can sing along from beginning to end, in fact, I may even love this episode. It's still problematic but the catchy songs and enigmatic villain serve a distraction to the shortcomings. Meanwhile, our characters get more character progression than they have in a season or two.
It's not overtly Halloween, or is it really Halloween at all, but having followed a Halloween episode about deception the unraveling of some of those deceptions in this episode are fulfilling. In addition, the side characters who are doing the more admirable "work" of the show in my opinion, Tara, Giles, and Anya, get to have their own star moments.
I think I may end up returning to Buffy in the future so I'll stop myself there. Happy Halloweening, it's only October 9!