September/October 2023 Viewing Diary

I moved in late September. Again. I found a little cozy apartment, the second floor of a little house, with slanted ceilings, little cubbyhole-eaves everywhere, and a big yard. It’s a 10 minute walk to the beach. I found it through my own determination and word of mouth. This is the busiest time of year for film critics, so I’ve been buried in work. I’m still not completely “settled in”, although my books are put away, and that’s what matters. It took me a while to put this viewing diary together, and I will put the November list up on my Substack, when it’s done.

Dramatic Relationships (2016; d. Dustin Guy Defa)
I watched Dustin Guy Defa’s 2011 film Bad Fever (and wrote about it here). Many of Defa’s films are currently streaming on the Criterion Channel. Dramatic Relationships is a fascinating short, funny, ironic, with real bite. It’s made up of little vignettes showing awkward interactions between male directors and their actresses. Dustin Guy Defa is, of course, a male, as well as a director, so he’s interrogating a field he knows well, and perhaps interrogating his own participation. It’s raw. Hannah Gross is in it!

Review (2015; d. Dustin Guy Defa)
A black-and-white short film where a young woman sits at a table and recounts to her friends the plot of a film she’s just seen. The friends are engrossed, sometimes appalled, always riveted. They ask questions. They want to know more. They want to know why: why does this happen? What’s the character’s motivation? The funny thing about this is the film in question is a classic. “Cinephiles” (ugh, hate using the word: is there a better equivalent?) know the film inside and out. But to these young people sitting around the table, it’s brand new. Nobody’s even heard of the movie. There’s a tendency for oldsters to have contempt for youngsters. “HOW do you not KNOW about this [well-known thing]. Your education has failed you!” Yeah, no shit, education has failed all of us, but … I don’t know, I didn’t learn about classic film from my education. I grew up before the Internet. My education was Channel 56 showing old movies, and tripping over Shirley Temple on my own, or Philadelphia Story or East of Eden on my own. I watched classic films without any context. I watched them not even knowing they were classics. As far as I knew, they were made yesterday. Everyone sees Citizen Kane for the first time at some point. Coming to things fresh is an emotional state oldsters would do well to remember. (This is the value of the whole YouTube “reaction” phenomenon. People – mostly Gen Z – watch movies, listen to music, from before their time and “react” to it. It’s amazing! Their fresh open reactions gives you a fuller appreciation for things – like The Shining, or Alien, or The Godfather – you’ve seen a bazillion times. It’s also a reiteration of the idea that Great is Great, no matter when you encounter it. Art is for everyone, art is eternal, and you can step into the rushing river of it at any point. You don’t need context. Just jump in.)

God Is an Artist (2015; d. Dustin Guy Defa)
Defa’s documentary about graffiti artists and Detroit culture. The cinematographer is Sean Price Williams, reason enough to see it!

Person to Person (2014; d. Dustin Guy Defa)
Defa eventually turned this short film into a feature, starring Michael Cera. It manages to do quite a lot in its short run time. Bene Coopersmith plays a guy who lives in Brooklyn and works at a second-hand record store. Regular customers stop by, shoot the shit. He throws a party in his small apartment, and the following morning there’s a passed-out girl on the floor. He has no idea who she is. He keeps waiting for her to wake up. Finally, she does, and he makes her breakfast, makes sure she’s okay and then, of course, expects her to leave. He’s got to get to work. He’s got a life to live. But … she won’t leave. Coopersmith is not the type of guy to put his foot down, dammit, so he continues to live his life, regaling his community – the guy on the opposite stoop, the cashier at the corner deli, the regulars at the record shop – what’s going on with this random girl who won’t leave his apartment. This has a really intimate and KNOWN feel: the small apartment, the turntable, the fire escape, stoop life, neighborhood … the way conversations pick up after where they left off. It made me miss living in a city, where the entire world happens in a 3-block radius.

Family Nightmare (2011; d. Dustin Guy Defa)
Harrowing. Defa uses home movie footage from his childhood – a big party at his house, where he can be seen – a small child, on the periphery of all this wild adult behavior. It is a nightmare. Having seen Bad Fever, you have some idea of where Defa is from, what he escaped through sheer force of will and creative imagination … but Bad Fever is fictionalized. Family Nightmare is documentary, and it’s all found footage. You’re dealing with the genuine article, evidence at the scene of the crime. It’s truly haunting, particularly the ending, where Defa lists what happened to each person seen in these home videos. Family trauma, generational trauma, addiction cycles. Very strong stuff.

Revoir Paris (2023; d. Alice Winocour)
I love Alice Winocour’s films. I beat the drum as hard as I could for her 2016 film Disorder (which I reviewed for Ebert and also wrote about in my essay on Matthias Schoenaerts for Film Comment). In Revoir Paris, the wonderful Virginie Efira plays a woman who survived the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, a scene which plays out in excruciating horror, almost slo-mo, as the terrified woman plays dead on the floor of a cafe, as the terrorists stalk through the rubble, looking for anyone left alive. She cannot get back to normal after this event (understandably), and her memories of the event are fluid and unreliable. She attempts to piece her memory together into a linear narrative, easily graspable, but this proves difficult. Efira gives one of my favorite performances of the year. (My pal Charles Taylor wrote about her in his Substack.)

20th Century Women (2016; d. Mike Mills)
A recent comment on my site from a regular reader sent me to re-watch this (it wasn’t the first time). The film gets better and better and better with each visit. I love how everyone gets to be human. I love how tragedy flows into comedy, existing simultaneously. I love the slightly removed point of view, the attempt to not just piece together the memory of a specific moment in time (long gone, and hard to describe to those who grew up with the internet), but also to pay tribute to a time even further back, “the Depression”, and how it shaped its generation. On the windowsill above my grandmother’s sink was a small china statue of the Virgin Mary, and at her feet my grandmother placed a dime. The dime was there for decades. I don’t think she swapped the dime out periodically for a new shiny dime. The dime got grimy with age. I didn’t ask my grandmother about it, but I remember my mother telling me that the dime was there just in case everything fell apart again like it did with the 1929 crash. Even if my grandmother was completely ruined financially, she at least could start again with that dime. She would never be totally destitute. This made a huge impression on me as a child. The dime, faded and worn, gleamed with meaning. I think of that dime when I watch 20th Century Women. I reviewed for Ebert.

The Big Heat (1953; d. Fritz Lang)
I was on the Very Good Year podcast talking about 5 films from 1953 … and The Big Heat was NOT one of the films on my list, although it could have been. Such a good film. It’s such a nasty dark little story, and I always forget how fully-realized and cool Glenn Ford’s marriage is. I love the details of it. You don’t often see happy marriages in noir. It’s not idealized, either. You get the sense that these two people not only love each other but LIKE each other. It’s essential we invest in the marriage. Smart writing.

Sitting in Bars with Cake (2023; d. Trish Sie)
This movie is confused about its own source material. It’s like the movie doesn’t want to deal with the actual facts: the woman wanted to meet a man. Literally many many millions of people want to find partners. Why shy away from it? I mean, I know why. Because it’s seen as “retro” for a young woman to want to find a boyfriend “so badly” that she makes cakes and brings them to bars. But that’s stupid. Wanting a boyfriend is not “retro”. It doesn’t mean a woman is WEAK who wants to find a partner. I don’t think people fully realize how this narrative has solidified into this kind of disheartening and damaging narrative. It’s not that people who want to find a boyfriend don’t want OTHER things in life. Calm down. I reviewed for Ebert.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (2023; d. Kelly Fremon Craig)
I went into this one hesitant, merely because of the book’s place in my young life. It’s known as the book about girls getting their periods for the first time, but it’s honestly about a young girl’s search for identity, including religion. I mean, it’s right there in the title. It’s a complex story! I absolutely loved how the film tackled all of these issues, and it does pretty much everything right, including making “Nancy”, the ringleader, not a cliched mean girl, but a KID. She’s a bossy little thing but she is a CHILD and when you look at her mother you understand why she’s that way. So often little girls are sexualized or seen as more mature than they are – even when you get your period, you’re still, like, 12 years old. You’re a child. These are confusing subjects and they deserve to be taken VERY seriously, especially with the constant attacks on female health, and idiots who think sex education shouldn’t be taught in schools. It’s not just SEX. It’s HEALTH. Women’s health is its own thing and it is very very important. Knowing your own body is very very important for girls. I loved the movie.

The Master Gardener (2023; d. Paul Schrader)
I will point you towards Glenn Kenny’s review. “Let Schrader by Schrader.” Yes. (Glenn is always so good on Schrader). I loved Sigourney Weaver in this.

Barber (2023)
This feels a little bit like the pilot for an Irish crime procedural, rather than a feature, but still, there’s a lot here to enjoy. And I love Aidan Gillen. I reviewed for Ebert.

This is Paris (2020; d. Alexandra Dean)
I finally caught up with this and found it heartbreaking. I never gave any thought to Paris Hilton, except some pretty unfriendly ideas about what she was doing to media/culture. (Little did I know at the time it was just going to get much much worse. Enter stage right: the Kardashians). But this was revelatory, particularly her grappling with the abuse she received at this notorious school for “bad kids”, and reaching out and hooking up with some of the other kids she knew when she was there. If you’re not aware of this whole thing, then all you need to do is Google it. Paris didn’t just “reveal” this for the documentary. She “came out” about it a couple years ago, and has since turned herself into an actual advocate and activist, shining light on the “bad kid” industry and pressing for change from above.

Running on Empty (1988; d. Sidney Lumet)
I was in Chicago for Mitchell’s play. After the play, I went back to his peaceful apartment and hung out with Christopher. Christopher had never seen Running on Empty, which NEEDED TO BE RECTIFIED. It was so fun watching it with him, watching him discover it.

Supernatural, Season 10, episode 11, “There’s No Place Like Home” (2015; d. Philip Sgriccia)
Christopher and I then proceeded to watch three Supernatural episodes. Christopher is a fan, but stopped watching for a number of years. He’s back now doing a re-watch, so we picked up where he left off. It was so fun to be tossed into the middle of a season, and Season 10 was GOOD (up until the last three episodes, that is). I like this episode because of how frank it is about Dean basically being an alcoholic. Mark of Cain? Sure. Okay. Just call it being an alcoholic, because that’s how Jensen played it. He’s so filled with shame and loathing at the end of this one it’s hard to look at him.

Supernatural, Season 10, episode 11, “About a Boy” (2015; d. Serge Ladouceur)
One of my favorite eps of Season 10. I love Tina (Kehli O’Byrne) and I love the scene in the bar. It’s fascinating on a number of levels (in the last 5 years of the show, all the levels disappeared. Everything was surface level, and so the show became completely un-interesting. It was tragic.) But the scene with Tina in the bar is a perfect example of what “we” lost when Andrew Dabb took over as showrunner. It’s a small scene. Tina is a one-off. But she’s not treated like a one-off. She’s actually fleshed out enough so that we can see where DEAN is at. Of course he’s drawn to someone like Tina. He wasn’t an indiscriminate “dog”, the way he became in the Dabb years. Making Dean a “dog” is a complete mis-reading of his behavior in the last ten seasons. Which just speaks to the subtleties of what Jensen brought to the role, and how so much of it was between the lines. But the dialogue in the scene between Dean and Tina is very good: it shows us where Dean is at, what he is avoiding, and what he is looking for … AND it allows Tina to be three-dimensional too, so that we have some closure for her as well. It’s good writing and storytelling.

Supernatural, Season 10, episode 11, “Halt & Catch Fire” (2015; d. John F. Showalter)
I totally forgot about this episode. You know why? Because it’s forgettable. The writers’ room was like “Let’s do an episode about technology!” But you don’t seem hip and current, you seem corny. Plus: uncharacteristically bad acting. Some good stuff with Dean being overwhelmed by the college hotties.

Muzzle (2023; d. John Stalberg Jr.)
Really not very good. I reviewed for Ebert.

Ivy (1947; d. Sam Wood)
The discovery of the year for me. I had never seen it, and watched it when it was streaming on Criterion in their excellent “Noir by Gaslight” series. My friend Farran wrote a fantastic piece about it for her Substack. Joan Fontaine’s onscreen persona was normally one of cringing distraught submissiveness, an easy mark for powerful charismatic men, a suffering woman trying desperately to withstand the strength of her own emotions. But here she gets to play manipulative to the point of sociopathy, and with just a crook of her eyebrow, you can see the wheels moving. She’s so good in this it makes you think she could have had a full career playing femme fatales, as opposed to victims. It was thrilling to see this performance.

Kate Plays Christine (2016; d. Robert Greene)
I loved this sui generis movie when it came out. Kate Lyn Sheil plays herself, on location in Florida, researching Christine Chubbuck, the news reporter who committed suicide on air in 1974. It’s a pure process movie (similar to Todd Haynes May December). Sheil attempts to get a handle on who Christine Chubbuck was (there’s not a lot out there about her, except for one very detailed posthumous profile). She interviews people. She works with a wig-maker, a costumer, trying to find her way into the character. Other actors, local Florida actors, are hired for other roles: the head of the news station where Chubbuck worked, Chubbuck’s mom – their relationship was a strange one, a co-worker. All of these actors are interviewed on camera about their characters, and their work process. They’re rehearsing a movie about making a movie. There’s a lot of great stuff here about the essential unknowability – not just of Chubbuck, but of everyone. And there’s tension in Sheil, not just about her own process – which she finds frustrating – but also what they are actually doing. She has mixed feelings about digging into this poor unhappy woman’s life. Will they be showing her suicide? There are discussions about this. Sheil is resistant. She just doesn’t like it. In her investigation, she goes to the gun shop where Christine bought the gun, she drives around outside the building which once was the news station, and she actually tracks down a couple of people who were there in the studio that day, people who actually knew Christine. This is a fascinating and essential movie about an actor’s creative process.

Christine (2016; d. Antonio Campos)
And then I watched Christine, the actual movie made about Christine Chubbuck, unconnected to Kate Plays Christine, starring Rebecca Hall as Christine. So it’s like this is the finished product of what was being worked on in the OTHER movie, albeit with different actors. They both came out in the same year too. Pretty wild! I’ve seen this one a number of times. Rebecca Hall’s performance is top-tier representation of what chronic depression actually looks and feels like. It’s astonishing. The cast around her – Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J. Smith Cameron and John Cullum – are superb. The film smartly does not position Christine as a diamond-in-the-rough, or a brilliant person “kept down” by sexist unfair perceptions of her, or whatever. Christine was a nightmare co-worker. She was driven to the point of madness. She was laudably ambitious but also delusional. There was no way she was going to be picked up by a major network. She was too serious, not ingratiating enough, she pushed people away through tantrums and crushing depressions. Rebecca Hall is unafraid of all of these things. Her Christine is very different from the Christine Kate Lyn Sheil explores … but seeing them together is an exercise in the fluid subjectivity of storytelling. Your Christine Chubbuck is not my Christine Chubbuck and that’s okay. Both films are worth seeking out.

Laura (1944; d. Otto Preminger)
I know this movie by heart but I am still surprised every time by the long scene where Dana Andrews wanders through Laura’s apartment, looking for clues – in theory – but really what he’s doing is trying to avoid being pulled into the power surge emanating from Laura’s portrait on the wall. At one point, he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror on the closet doors, and stands totally still – perhaps stunned at what he sees, how his mask of cynical distance has been so shattered. Finally, he throws himself into the chair, and gives over to an abandonment of longing and desire and despair: an incredible physical gesture, shocking really since Andrews’ hard-boiled persona has given no clue thus far that all THAT is in him.

Cat Person (2023; d. Susanna Fogel)
I said pretty much everything I had to say in my review for Ebert. What a weird movie, what baffling choices. What were they thinking?

Fair Play (2023; d. Chloe Domont)
I loved this ferocious workplace-romance story. Don’t let the trailers fool you. It’s not a “thriller”. It’s really ABOUT something, a thorny little issue many of us know in our bones, so much so it doesn’t even need to be said out loud. This is Chloe Dumont’s directorial debut, and she also wrote the script. It’s an amazingly accomplished debut film. I got sucked into the couple’s dynamic within the first five, ten minutes, and this identification/investment was crucial for the shattering that follows. This is difficult material, and lesser directors have approached it, relying heavily on cliche and pre-conceived notions. They use shorthand: “Here’s a happy couple! Please believe us that they’re happy. See them smiling at each other over coffee? This means they’re happy. Okay, got it? Now let’s make them miserable.” It’s lazy and cheap. But in Fair Play, Dumont has obviously thought long and hard about the proper approach. This is really a two-hander, and both actors (Phoebe Dynevor, Alden Ehrenreich) are superb. The film is so honest about its subject I almost feared it would tiptoe away from its own implications in the final reel (this happens a lot: a movie betrays its own setup, backing away from the obvious conclusions). Fair Play goes the distance and sticks the landing.

Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe (2023; d. Marina Zenovich)
I read the initial Vanity Fair article when it came out, and found it fascinating and disturbing. A Cult-like group I’d never heard of? Strange! This one was even more disturbing because I felt I could have been sucked into it, at another point in my life. I did fall into the whole “soulmate” belief-system – and have many mixed feelings about it. Or, not even mixed. I think the whole soulmate thing is a CROCK. But this is like Soulmates on Steroids. The whole trans aspect of it is even more disturbing. Similar to NXIUM and Fyre Festival, this group has inspired not one but TWO documentaries.

The Beasts (2023; d. Rodrigo Sorogoyen)
Denis Ménochet and Marina Foïs play a French couple who move to the hilly countryside of Galicia to run their own farm, selling their product in local markets, living close to the land. A romantic notion, perhaps, but they both work extremely hard, bolstered up by the belief in what they are doing. Their neighbors are hostile to the interlopers, and there’s already tension in the little village because of a nearby wind farm. Tradition vs. modernity. There’s xenophobia in the hill people’s response to the French couple. They are literally not welcome. The tension builds and builds. Their farm is sabotaged in various ways – crops ruined, well polluted – and you sense the villagers closing in around the French couple. It’s truly dangerous. There’s an echo of Deliverance in some of these altercations, and no amount of calm rational discussion will alleviate the hostility. It’s a slow movie but excruciating and upsetting. I didn’t realize it was loosely based on a true story. It’s brutal.

Killers of the Flower Moon (2023; d. Martin Scorsese)
Went to the big press screening for this one. It should be seen in a theatre, if possible. It’s a big story. I have moments lately, like watching Silence or The Irishman or this one where I think: “…. God, I feel so lucky that I am actually alive to experience the final stage of this career.” I wasn’t around to soak up the end of Howard Hawks or John Ford or the other legends. But I’m here for this one and I’m grateful and I try to be aware of it as it is happening. In Killers of the Flower Moon, Scorsese doesn’t use his expected motifs and visual signatures (long swooping camera moves, and intensified pacing via cutting). It’s presented in a fairly straightforward style, and this is unnerving in its own way, perhaps because it’s unexpected. There’s a stately quality to its progression, which somehow makes it all worse. De Niro for me is the real standout. This isn’t just a performance: it’s an explanation of how it was done.

Coleen Rooney – The Real Wagatha Story (2023)
Allison and I were casting around for something to watch and tripped over this. As Americans, lol, we were not aware of this massive tabloid story, and so it was all new to us. At first I didn’t care about any of these people, but the docuseries is very well done, and draws you into the personalities involved. I gave a shit, in other words.

Jury Duty (2023; d. Jake Szymanski)
Allison made me watch this and it was hilarious. But kind of sad too: they tricked that poor guy! It was like The Truman Show. How amazing, though, that he emerged as this super nice, kind, thoughtful, responsible person … without having any idea it all was fake. This is just who he is. James Marsden was fucking hysterical.

Beckham (2023; d. Fisher Stevens)
Allison loved this and made me watch it. I didn’t know much about his early career. I only knew of him as a tabloid phenomenon, and it was wild how much came back to me from the days of his “courtship” with Posh Spice. He wore a SARONG on a vacation. People literally were losing their minds about it. I remember that. If you had told me Posh Spice and David Beckham would “go the distance” in their relationship I would have thought you were cracked. But they clearly did have an instant love connection. Not without trials and tribulations, but it does feel like a good partnership. Fisher Stevens included some visual flashiness I didn’t really like (Beckham looking right in the camera at some of his old games, etc.) Unnecessary. But I did find it interesting, and, in its way, a walk down memory lane.

Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls (2023; d. Andrew Bowser)
This was cute and sweet. A real passion project. I reviewed for Ebert.

Wolf Hall (2015; d. Peter Kosminsky)
Allison is finally reading the Wolf Hall trilogy and eating it up. So I made her watch this. I wish they had continued with the series.

Hangover Square (1945; John Brahm)
As with most noirs, it all takes place at night: the night is crowded and urban, but dangerous and unpredictable. The claustrophobia is extreme. There’s an extremely gruesome scene involving an innovative and macabre way to get-rid-of-a-dead-body. Linda Darnell is glamorous and manipulative.

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952; d. Vincente Minnelli)
The Player merely tiptoes into the outer limits of The Bad and the Beautiful‘s cyncicism. One of the greatest insider-Hollywood movie ever made.

Holy Frit (2023; d. Justin S. Monroe)
I loved this documentary about a glass studio in California getting a commission to make the largest stained glass window in the history of stained glass. I reviewed for Ebert.

The Women (1939; d. George Cukor)
I know it practically by heart. And I still watch it on the regular.

The Old Maid (1939; d. Edmund Goulding)
One of Bette Davis’ MANY great performances.

Amen (2003; d. Costa-Gavras)
As much as I love Costa-Gavras’ work, there are still some I’ve missed. Amen is obviously “lesser” Costa-Gavras, not as visually gripping as his others, which somehow translates into the story itself not grabbing you. Costa-Gavras is so strong in visuals AND in dialogue: I mean, Z and Confession are extremely talky. He doesn’t sacrifice one for the other. Here, the Catholic Church is on trial, and for good reason, but Amen somehow doesn’t get a handle on the massiveness of the subject, in the way Z managed to do.

The Ghost Writer (2010; d. Roman Polanski)
I love how meticulously Polanski establishes the mood and the atmosphere. It’s almost like he prioritizes the atmosphere over the plot, to such a degree that the atmosphere IS the plot. The house, the beach, the views out the windows, the eeriness of it all. I saw this one in the theatre, and re-visit it periodically.

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29 Responses to September/October 2023 Viewing Diary

  1. Lyrie says:

    //“Halt & Catch Fire” […] uncharacteristically bad acting. //

    That’s the one where the actress keeps shaking her heads during close ups, isn’t it? I mean, the rest was pretty bad too but that’s such a rookie thing to do. Woman, you’re on camera, stop shaking your head! I don’t know, it REALLY annoyed me.

    I can’t wait to see Killers of the Flower Moon, although it won’t be in a theatre, sadly. The book was such a gripping read. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I’ve honestly been very surprised at some of the discourse around it. I don’t want to form an opinion on the movie before seeing, obviously, but I disagree with some of the premises people base their critics on, so…

    I loved Jury Duty so much – and I don’t watch reality tv and usually have a deep hatred for anything based on pranks. But they were SO careful, so gentle! And Marsden was so funny but also so protective of both the show and Ronald. And the whole cast was so brilliant. My favourite was Ron Song, so deadpan! I also loved seeing the behind the scenes – so much time spent on creating the right poop, ha ha!

    Inspired by your viewing diaries, this year I wrote down everything I watched – but in an Excel file, with columns, etc. because I’m normal like that. Now I can do my own “tv watch wrapped” and I must say… I didn’t realized I watched that much horror!

    • sheila says:

      This past week was wild – I was in New York – and now I’m not – and I have been binging movies to get ready for all these year-end votes. so I’m sorry I haven’t come back to this! I want to respond!

      // actress keeps shaking her heads during close ups, isn’t it? I mean, the rest was pretty bad too but that’s such a rookie thing to do. // oh God I didn’t notice the head shaking and I want to go back and look for it but I can’t bear to watch it again!

      I felt like the widow just didn’t generate a real sense of grief – and I felt like the college “kids” were all terrible, and they clearly weren’t actually college kids. It just all felt so phony. and the laptop strangling the big-boobed blonde …

      If it weren’t for Dean shoveling fries down his throat the whole thing would be a wash!

      • Lyrie says:

        //It just all felt so phony.//
        I think it’s in that one, that the widow kept shaking her head instead of… you know, ACTING. But I might be mixing it up with another episode? Sadly, in the latest seasons it’s all a blur of disappointment and second hand embarrassment.

        //the laptop strangling the big-boobed blonde …//
        ha ha ha WHAT? Oh, man.

        Also, if it’s the one I’m thinking about, it’s all so bizarre to have a “ghost in internet” typa thing. So stale if you don’t have a fresh take (the Slender Man episode was great). Didn’t Buffy do a demon-in-the-computer one like 25 years before?

        Sounds like you’ve been working a lot!

        • sheila says:

          yeah “ghost in the machine” is really tired. and the crazy – cuh-ray-zee – college kids are all in the car, saying stuff like “I just liked your post” – all on their phones.

          NO. SPN, that’s not how it goes, you squares!

    • sheila says:

      I am not sure about the discourse around Killers – Martin Scorsese definitely gets some weirdly hostile reactions because of his comments on Marvel (eyeroll) – and I am particularly irritated by the comment that he “only makes gangster movies”. He’s literally only made 4. He’s directed like 30 movies. I can’t stand when ignorant people have a platform lol

      oh my God the prop person making a giant poop!! I love how the judge at the end – or “judge” – spent about 10 minutes praising Ronald’s kindness and care – his thoughtfulness and basically instinct for kindness, cutting people slack, etc. – I loved that.

      and yes, Marsden – being so obnoxious !! – and Ronald running lines with him being so supportive! ahhhh!!

      I’m so curious about what else you watched. It is really funny sometimes to look back and see what I’ve watched. sometimes it’ll be like
      1. french foreign film
      2. indie release
      3. Oscar-winner
      4. 10 episodes of Bachelor in Paradise
      5. Japanese noir film from 1954

      • Lyrie says:

        //I am not sure about the discourse around Killers – Martin Scorsese definitely gets some weirdly hostile reactions because of his comments on Marvel (eyeroll) //

        Oh I missed that – I hear more from the TV side of things than the movies, sometimes I am unaware of the drama, ha ha.

        It seems the reception by Indigenous people was mixed. Some people defending the movie, some, including some high profile actors, saying it was violent for no good reason, re-traumatizing, that white people shouldn’t tell their stories. I haven’t seen the movie so I have no opinion about it, and it’s not for me to judge was is (re)traumatizing or not. But the last point, I disagree. Meaning yes, some stuff are not ours to tell, but colonization is at least as much white history, if not more. And yes, we have to be super careful how we handle that, but we can’t get past it and repair relationships without acknowledging it as our own, especially because it’s shameful. I’m no Marty but it’s personal to me because I’ve been working on something about Indigenous/settlers relations – way before I knew Scorsese was adapting that book – and struggling with the idea that we shouldn’t talk about it from our perspective. So… we just write white people, then? My god.

        //I’m so curious about what else you watched.//

        I wish it were as varied as yours, but it isn’t. Especially this past year, things have been tough so I have barely read anything, and I’ve mostly watched American TV. The few movies I’ve watched that weren’t were horror (Hungary, Japan). I’ve watch so. much. horror. lol In 2024 I’ll have a better system so I can track the genres better. I love a good spreadsheet, lol

        • sheila says:

          ” re-traumatizing ” – this is an argument I just cannot agree with, although I won’t tell people nOT to be traumatized. Art is there to make peopl feel things – to tell a story – everyone has different triggers. It’s like Demi Lovato having a melt-down because she walked into her favorite frozen yogurt place – a mom and pop shop, not a chain – and was so “triggered” by the fact that they had a lo-fat option that she went on the internet and put them on blast for triggering her. The amount of harassment this little place received was harrowing. like … people who have eating disorders have to manage their own triggers. Some people want a low-fat option, Demi. one of her arguments was “maybe stores should have different sections for people with different physical issues …” Bitch, not everyone wants the entire world to know they have lupus or diabetes or whatever – you want a store to have big labels like “Shoppers with diabetes – this is your aisle!” She just felt like being outraged. about low-fat yogurt. the rest of the world shouldn’t have to completey bend to the possibility that one individual might be offended. Again: everyone has triggers, some more extreme than others. it’s up to us to understand our own traumas and manage them. Killers is a piece of art. It has a right to exist. You don’t have to like it! Or approve of it! everyone’s going to come at it in different ways – all valid. But it has a right to exist.

          // that white people shouldn’t tell their stories. //

          I understand this one totally. Killers of the Flower Moon, though, is not Dances with Wolves. Hollywood has a bad history – it practically started with “cowboys and indians”. unlike Dances with Wolves, the white people in Killers are not positioned as the empathetic saviors – and half the time they aren’t even TORN about what they are doing (except for the mostly horrified FBI agents – all of whom are white, although one FBI agent is an indigenous man – these guys are all like “wtf is going on here is wrong” – which, from what I understand, is exactly how it went) – so the film has a different kind of center. The key to this is Robert De Niro – one of the most chilling performances I’ve ever seen – and he’s given a lot of chilling performances. His performance implicates the watcher. This is of course a problem for the population under siege – and that fact should not be lost – but it’s a problem for everyone. This history is real and it needs to be confronted and faced. It’s one of Scorsese’s angriest and most mournful films.

          Another film I saw this year – starring Lily Gladstone – is Unknown Country – which I also loved. and it’s a quiet small story, unlike Killers – it’s a personal story. A woman who lives in Minneapolis – takes a road trip to visit her cousins on the reservation. She has no contact with the reservation – she lives off the res, and is detached from her roots. She’s searching for something, her roots, her SELF.

          The cast is made up of a real family – none of them are professional actors – one of them wrote the script (and produced the film). The film is a mix of fiction narrative and documentary. while at the reservation, Gladstone’s character attends a wedding, goes to a bar with her cousins, meets with her great-uncle – re-connects with her roots, connecting the dots of her own history.

          Because it was written by a woman who lives on a reservation – and the entire cast is made up of real people (Gladstone the only professional actor) – it has this super real quality, different from the epic sweep of Killers (granted, the films are doing totally different things). There are more films being made by indigenous filmmakers, telling their own stories – and the success of Reservation Dogs – another story told by the people who actually live it – is progress. and good news for the culture. We need people telling their own stories – more now than ever.

          But white filmmakers have every right – even a duty – to confront this history! Because it’s not just someone else’s history. It’s theirs too.

          If you haven’t seen Unknown Country, I really recommend it!! lily gladstone is having quite a year!

          • Lyrie says:

            Unkown Country sounds like my jam and I hadn’t heard of it, thanks for the rec!

            We agree, re: telling stories, and owning our parts in it. It IS a duty. Otherwise you’re just letting the people who got screwed over carry all the weight of that work. Obviously it needs to be done carefully and with clear intentions – but that’s true of most artistic work.

            //Reservation Dogs //
            I love that show SO MUCH. After watching an episode centered around Cheese in season 2, I had a complete meltdown where I cried for 20 minutes straight just because… I love him so much. very normal.

            The yogurt thing… wow. I am aware eating disorders are terrible (I had one) but it’s a terribly privileged take. The world does need to be more accessible, but we cannot cater to everyone’s needs, ESPECIALLY when in this case, Levato was being so self centered that they didn’t see that serving other people’s needs might be at least equally important. Lateral violence is great.

            With stories, we for sure don’t want to fall into the trap of trauma porn either (not talking about Scorsese). But being too cautious with no nuance isn’t terribly constructive. I got told I should reconsider writing a rape scene because it’s unpleasant. So… a man, who has no personal investment in the topic (I asked), told ME, who has been sexually assaulted, that writing about that is not good for… people who have been sexually assaulted? I totally get that it might be triggering for some, and that’s why we have warnings and tell each other about things – so we have a choice to read it or not. And it’s not about that young man, who meant well, but… can we use our brains for a second? WHO is writing it? From what perspective? What are they ACTUALLY saying about it? Why are we assuming that showing things plainly is a lack of imagination from a simpleton and not a deliberate CHOICE, which says something in itself?
            I am TIRED.

            Anyway, maybe I should rant on my Substack lol

          • sheila says:

            A man told you something you wrote about rape was unpleasant?? Oh fuck that dude.

            // Why are we assuming that showing things plainly is a lack of imagination from a simpleton and not a deliberate CHOICE, which says something in itself? //

            Yes – and this demand to NOT show things because they are upsetting – I’m sorry but it harkens back to the Victorian days, when literature was supposed to end with Sunday School type lessons and morals. How is this different?

            I remember there was this massive brou-haha about a scene in Observe and Report (a film I love) – which appears to show a date rape. But it’s more complicated than that – because the scene actually ends with a punch line. But not a mean-spirited punch line. Not a “she asked for it” punch line. It’s way more complicated than that – and I think it was the instability of the “categories” that made people flip out. Are we supposed to LAUGH at this? Screaming: “there’s nothing funny about date rape!!” Yes: you’re right. Nothing funny. But the scene had this weird very DARK nuance to it.

            I could go on and on but my main issue was: “Okay. so yes. It’s date rape. Sort of. Are you saying date should shouldn’t be shown? Or are you saying date rape should only be shown in a specific way? i.e. the way YOU approve?”

            I mean, that’s what people were actually saying. That date rape shouldn’t be shown. There were all these arguments about whether or not it actually was date rape – and … I really struggled to understand what the arguments actually were. If it IS date rape, then are you saying this kind of thing shouldn’t be shown?

            Meanwhile: if it IS date rape, then shouldn’t that tell you something about the character? (Seth Rogen’s character). Maybe showing it helps reveal his anti-social personality? Maybe it’s a valid storytelling device?

            Like you say, I am TIRED.

            I thought Demi Levato went back to she pronouns – so that’s why I said “she” – but granted I might not be up to date. I can’t keep up!

            and yeah, check out Unknown Country! It’s really good.

          • sheila says:

            There’s a movie this year called American Fiction – which is super funny and smart – and it kind of goes after some of these issues, only it’s focused on Black literature, and the expectations on Black writers to “represent” their people and the Black experience in a certain way. It’s really satirical and funny – bold!! To make FUN of some of these things – from the inside. Black writer/director – it only could be made from the inside.

            It starts with a scene in a college classroom, where the wonderful Jeffrey Wright – who plays an English professor – is trying to talk about Flannery O’Connor’s story, the title of which includes the N-word. He has written the N-word out in full on the white board. It’s a course about Southern literature, I think. So he’s giving his lecture – and one of the students raises her hand – and says she finds it really offensive that “that word’ is on the board. He tries to explain that it’s important to read these works and discuss them if we want to contextualize the Southern experience blah blah and how this word is baked into the culture/context -but this self-righteous outraged student is having none of it. She’s triggered, she’s upset – and she finally storms out of the room and goes directly to the administration to lodge a complaint about him. Not just for putting that word on the board – but for not listening to her complaint.

            The student is a white girl.

            Some of the other students in the class, who are Black, kind of glance at each other and roll their eyes. lol

            The whole film is filled with moments like that. So I do try to be very careful to not get offended on BEHALF of a certain identity group – or at least to not charge out in front to declare THIS IS OFFENSIVE. Having allies are so important but I do think it’s not my place to TELL someone from a certain identity group that they should be offended. This happens all the time – and I experience it as a woman. How many 20something men have told me such and such is “misogynistic” – and how “offended” they were by the portrayal of women in such and such a movie. I love to have a little fun with guys like this, and declare my love for that piece of work (and usually I do, in fact, love it) and how I’m confused why he would think it was misogynistic.

            Like do not tell me, a woman, what I should be offended by, white manboy.

            These guys have no idea that they are just replicating Victorian patriarchy, being protective of women, trying to shield them.

            This is a complicated issue – because of course it’s important that men stand with women – or at least support them – in the fight for equality. Look at the men in Iran right now. Risking their lives – getting executed – for supporting their Iranian sisters/mothers/total strangers. So we need men to support us in the fight for political and social equality.

            But don’t tell me what I’m supposed to feel about Lars von Trier or Last Tango in Paris. Don’t lecture me on why these things are offensive to women. Stop being gross and bossy.

          • Lyrie says:

            Oooh, American Fiction also sounds absolutely my jam – I have such a crush on Jeffrey Wright too, ha ha

            Yes to everything you say. And I mean, you can recognize something is racist, sexist, transphobic, etc. without being part of that community, and you don’t have to WAIT for them to say it first – the problem is when you get more offended than them. If it’s not about you, why those big feelings? Or is it displaying the big feelings that are important? I’m not saying everything is an act (and if I someone every says “virtue signalling” in person, I will fucking slap them), but often there’s definitely something about wanting to LOOK like the good guy.

            Also, what really fucking annoys me about this is the assumption that we’re homogeneous groups. But that’s never true! So maybe you’re a feminist that thinks rape should never be shown. Okay, you won’t like my work. That’s totally fine, it’s not for you, then. You can say it and we go on our merry ways. But what REALLY grinds my gear is when it becomes a RULE, when it IS about me.

            As for Levato, I had to check – I am very bad at celebrities, ha ha. According to their instagram: they/them/she/her. We were both right. ;)

          • sheila says:

            // about this is the assumption that we’re homogeneous groups. //

            yes. this is the worst part of it. and … I don’t know who these people are friends with – like, don’t you know people are different, regardless of identity? or are the people who feel this way so extremely online, in a little bubble of sameness, that they … aren’t aware that there are diverse viewpoints on every single issue affecting every single identity.

            It’s just a CRAZY idea to me. and … not just reductive, but like – going backwards into the past. when women were assumed to be weak, or passive, or submissive – like, women were presumed to have the same characteristics and viewpoint and even EXPERIENCE – and these assumptions were used as a form of social control. How is this different? It’s NOT. The depressing thing now is that the social control is coming from inside the house. the terms “cool girl” and “pick me girl” were invented by women to describe – and control – other women. It’s really depressing.

            The only thing you can do is just … ignore it. lol

          • Lyrie says:

            Yeah, I think it’s partially “it’s one of those it swung all the way back” kinda thing. Wanting to build consensus is great, but it requires being comfortable with conflict, understanding that in itself conflict is neither good nor bad – the viewpoints can be bad, the power dynamics might be bad, but explicitly disagreeing is not BAD, actually. So when communities want to build consensus but are conflict averse, they shut dissident voices up and call it agreement – not seeing how they enact the same things they denounce in other groups.

            Anyway, you can tell I’ve had quite a few bad experiences with feminists, queer groups, disability groups, etc. lol

            I couldn’t find American Fiction and The Unknown Country anywhere yet, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled. I see Killers of the Flower Moon is available on digital platforms now. It’s next on my list!

          • sheila says:

            // So when communities want to build consensus but are conflict averse, they shut dissident voices up and call it agreement //

            Yeah. It’s never gonna work.

            Real change happens when you build solidarity across differences. We have more in common than NOT in common. We all are being dominated and harmed by the 1%. If we all got together on this maybe we could enact some real change. I always think of that interesting slice of history loosely known as Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. To me, it’s a really good model.

            Two totally separate groups – with seemingly no overlap – were both feeling targeted by the police. so one group – Lesbians and Gays – came out in support of the coal miners – even though there was maybe homophobia/sexism in the coal miner world and its people. Or, gay people would assume there would be, without actually knowing any coal miners. But it was thought by the Lesbians and Gays coalition that they had bigger fish to fry and a common enemy to combat. The coal mining industry was under siege, working class people in general were under siege. This coalition raised money for miners’ families, transported them safely to their strikes and protests, formed barriers around them against the police. One of the inadvertent (or advertent) results of all this was that – eventually – a decade later – coal miners (and blue collar people in general) came out in strong support for gay people in the fight for LGBT rights.

            I wish we could see more solidarity across differences like this- but in order to do that we have to be able to stand alongside and support people who may not agree with 100% of our platform.

            How to Blow Up a Pipeline (movie also from this year) is actually interesting on this – even though it doesn’t make a big point of it – but it’s there. A lot of the people on that little team planning to blow up an oil pipeline stretching through the wild lands of Texas – clearly agree on things – socially, sexually, they’re middle-class early 20somethings in 2023. They have pink hair. etc. But there’s one guy who isn’t like this. who may – you would presume – be a racist homophobic piece of shit – because he lives in a trailer with his pregnant wife and is white and wears a trucker hat. (This is just as stupid a prejudice as any other.). and so he might not “agree” with their “lifestyle” (even though this is never even said), and they might not “agree” with his – but they are working together towards a common goal, against an enemy which is against ALL of us. The wealthy are perfectly happy to let us little peons argue amongst ourselves about the purity of our various little movements – as they deposit millions into the bank. The only way we can actually fight – is to get TOGETHER on these things. I still have hope that someday this can happen. It has before.

  2. Count Pete says:

    I don’t know Ivy, but Joan Fontaine also plays a manipulative part very effectively in Born to be Bad, if you haven’t seen it.

    • sheila says:

      Count Pete – yes, I have seen that! very effective! she had hidden depths and she could use them. she was also good at that swooning submissive damsel but Ivy was really exciting. I’m not sure if you are a Criterion Channel subscriber but that’s where I saw it!

  3. mutecypher says:

    Beckham was funny. I loved when Posh was talking about growing up with parents who knew the value of hard work, just like David did, and he pokes his head into the room to say,
    “Tell them what sort of car your parents dropped you off at school in.”
    “A Rolls Royce, but that doesn’t…”,
    “That’s all I wanted to hear.”

    Marriages are mysteries.

    That picture of Aaron Eckhart in Muzzle reminded me that I had watched Possession recently. Before A. S. Byatt’s passing. Wonderful book. Solid movie. One of the things I learned from the obits is that she wrote a book about Wordsworth and Coleridge. So that’s on the Kindle now.

    For Killers of the Flower Moon, I kept expecting De Niro to give us some indication of pleasure in being evil. Like Jimmy Conway deciding to whack everyone involved in the Lufthansa heist. Never happened. His character was always focussed on stealing from the Osage for as long as he could. As if the farmer in Watership Down decided to learn the rabbit language and be helpful in person to the warren, while snaring the rabbits one by one.

    And as you said in your Scorsese birthday post, Lily Gladstone was incredible. For me, she was one of the conundrum of the movie. Marrying Ernest even though she knew he was after her money. She seemed to be able to see through people, and to value herself, and yet she fell for him. Maybe. I think she suspected him for so long, but felt powerless.

    Ernest was another conundrum. I think he loved Mollie, but he was also such a petty and greedy man. Perhaps because Ernest bears a striking resemblance to Leo DiCaprio, you want a lot going on inside that head. But the gears were just small.

    I had recently seen Farewell My Concubine for the first time, so Ernest betraying Mollie had some resonance for me with Gong Li’s character being betrayed by her husband. He had the excuse of being tortured during the Cultural Revolution. Ernest’s whole point was betrayal.

    There was a lot of dialog in Osage/Wazaze, with subtitles. I was surprised when the gathering of the Osage tribe to talk about how they were being targeted was done in English. I assume it was thought to be just too much subtitling to be done in Osage, but I would expect a real gathering like that would have been done in Osage. Did you have any thoughts along those lines?

    I had never heard of Dustin Guy Defa. I’ll definitely seek him out.

    • sheila says:

      Mutecypher – funny you mention it: I read Byatt’s book on Wordsworth and Coleridge early this year! It’s the only one of hers I haven’t read – and it’s basically a dissertation thesis – it was published way back in 1970 I think. and it definitely feels like a dissertation.

      But really interesting!

      I haven’t even had a second to process her passing. One of my favorite contemporary authors – I’m so glad she wrote so much. so much to look forward to re-reading. and Possession was my “way in” – like I imagine it was for so many other people!

      I also enjoyed the movie and I went into it truly frightened that they would ruin it – and Neil Labute directed?? really? WTF? But I think he did a good job.

    • sheila says:

      // I kept expecting De Niro to give us some indication of pleasure in being evil. //

      yes. this was, imo, the radical nature of his performance. – and of course De Niro went deeper than just playing a villain. he made a big show of “caring” – and his caring seemed sincere. but the way he talked – the sheer wall of persistence – insistence in him – he was formidable. It was obvious what was going on – and obvious he had no inner conflict. None. But the way he chose to represent this man’s outer public self – it was all so disorienting. the whole thing a trompe l’oeil. Terrifying characterization – I can’t think of too many actors who could make of it what he made it. even great actors would have leaned into the villainy – showing it to us – “commenting” on it. De Niro has way too much discipline for that.

      I think Mollie was probably used to men being after her money. So she didn’t really trip about that. I think she felt real desire for him – making out in the car – that was genuine – and there was something simple about him I think she found funny. He clearly wasn’t a brute. He seemed harmless. which … she wouldn’t be the first woman to be so fooled.

      Honestly I don’t think was Leo’s best performance – he normally goes deeper – he normally doesn’t shy away from complexity and moral grey areas. There were moments where I thought he really pushed – which is, again, really unlike him. What I did like about the performance was that … Ernest clearly was just not smart. He had no intelligence. He was a follower and … a dummy-dumb. Easily manipulated. So I think he did love her – and yet he was “talked into” doing this horrible thing – and yet seemed to be upset and conflicted – and yet he kept doing it because he was under the sway of a much much MUCH more powerful man. Like, Ernest didn’t stand a chance against De Niro. I never felt bad for Ernest – and obviously what he did was evil – but it was more like the evil of a stupid man, rather than the calculating plotting/planning of a cunning psychopath. He just wasn’t smart enough.

      I could be wrong on this. I am not excusing what he did!

      • mutecypher says:

        //He seemed harmless. which … she wouldn’t be the first woman to be so fooled.//

        My impression is that you’ve read the book the movie was based on. Did it go into why she and Reta married white men?

        Of course it could simply have been that Mollie expected to marry, and Ernest had the advantages of being white (social improvement), cute/fuckable, and mild. Lots of guys have married for those reasons. But I wondered if perhaps too many Osage men had become undesirable due to all the temptations that sudden wealth can bring. Drugs/alcohol, gambling, venereal diseases (as the King asked Ernest). Keeping the windfall within the tribe seems like it would have been a social pressure. Anything about that in the book?

        Reta’s husband did seem like a decent, honorable man.

        And as you say below, Marty coming out at the end was powerful. Turning the story into entertainment.

        I was surprised at the nature shots in the beginning of the movie. There was a lot of nature in Silence, but that’s not something I think of with Mr. Scorsese. Beautiful and disorienting.

        Your comments about Leo… I’ve seen interviews where Marty and Robert chuckled at how Leo would come up with all these things for Ernest to do and they would just roll their eyes and say all that wasn’t necessary. But it was apparently Leo’s idea to change the emphasis of the movie away from the white savior Tom White of the FBI. I think that was a wonderful choice to change that viewpoint. Still, I’m with you in not thinking this was Leo at his most compelling. Maybe he just didn’t have a deep conception of the character, despite having the wisdom to understand this would be a more tragic story if it was told as it is. Don’t know. Even the greats have less-than-great performances.

        • sheila says:

          I have read the book. it’s very good! The situation with the Osage – and their vast wealth – was of course unprecedented – there was no model for it. It was literally a “wild west” – where up was down and etc. I think it’s very easy to get confused in that environment. The white chauffeurs and the Osage employers – she definitely was the one with the status and power. (which was her downfall). But yes, I think there was something about Ernest that appealed to her – and maybe she thought she could control him. He wasn’t the brightest bulb. But he wasn’t overtly cruel or a wild drunk or even cheating on her left and right etc. he seemed like a NICE white man, and she was attracted to him, and so … it makes sense to get married. I thought both Lily and Leo made that make sense (when they do joint interviews, they are just constantly cracking each other up. You can feel how much they like each other irl, and so I think that kind of chemistry – not just romantic – translated onto the screen).

          Speaking of Tom White – I love Jesse Plemons. I loved all the FBI guys. It was such a small part of the movie – the investigation – it came so late in the game – too late, really – but I loved how Scorsese handled it. Those were very complicated sequences, so many moving parts.

    • sheila says:

      // I was surprised when the gathering of the Osage tribe to talk about how they were being targeted was done in English. //

      I noticed this too. I definitely think it was for ease of understanding. i did like how Ernest clearly was fluent in it eventually – they basically had a bilingual marriage.

      Marty himself coming out at the end – in the radio show – was overwhelming. especially since he is so old. and he knows his time is limited. and the pain he felt about this story just emanated off of him. I also think it was a brilliant choice to end with this almost insouciantly toned radio show – with all white men – re-enacting this terrible story – turning it into entertainment. We still do this!

      I was glad the film ended with the Osage – the Osage now. Appropriate. It’s their story.

    • sheila says:

      oh and Defa is pretty wild – even though his style is understated and almost … monotone at times.

      I really recommend Family Nightmare – to get some context about his family and the generational madness he escaped. It’s a short film – last time I checked it was on Criterion.

  4. Harriet Wimsey says:

    Wolf Hall is returning! They’re making a second and final season with the original cast–it was just announced a week or two ago.

    • sheila says:

      AHHHHH I missed this news, Harriet! I immediately texted Allison – and we are so excited! I also can’t believe it was announced a week ago – basically the same time she and I were watching the first season and bemoaning the lack of the other two books in the trilogy.

      I’m so excited!

  5. Lizzie E says:

    I started Ivy about a month ago and had to pause it after about 20 minutes – it made me nervous! I was enjoying it too much! Was this movie made for me? Was it even real?! I got over it (eventually) and finished watching last week.

    Joan Fontaine is gorgeous and utterly convincing. It seems to me that a lot of the effectiveness of her performance is related to the quality that made her so convincing when she played teenagers – a youthful, unfinished quality that tugs at your heartstrings in Rebecca or Letter from an Unknown Woman, but comes across as immaturity and amorality here. It’s as though she never outgrew some of the callousness and greed that children can display–or maybe she never had to outgrow them because of her beauty. (I bet she never had an “unattractive” stage–she’s always been able rely on her looks to disarm and charm people. Can you picture Ivy as a gawky adolescent with pimples?! )

    It’s fascinating and fun watching Ivy “perform” innocence and naïveté. She’s not actually terribly good at it much of the time (another testament to Joan Fontaine’s performance, since she was so adept at showing those qualities in other roles!)

    • sheila says:

      // it made me nervous! I was enjoying it too much! Was this movie made for me? Was it even real?! //

      Ha!!! I love this!

      // a youthful, unfinished quality that tugs at your heartstrings in Rebecca or Letter from an Unknown Woman, but comes across as immaturity and amorality here. //

      I really love this observation, Lizzie. It’s very insightful. I hadn’t thought of it that way and I agree with you!

  6. mutecypher says:

    I haven’t seen This Is Paris but I read the memoir that came out earlier this year. She was pretty clearly beyond control as a young teen and needed something that she couldn’t get at home. But the “troubled teen” camps she was put in sounded completely evil. I don’t understand what could be therapeutic about the degradation she described. I respected her feral energy, and that she still has love for her parents – acknowledging the difficult position she put them in. And I respected that there was zero self-pity in what she wrote.

    • sheila says:

      I haven’t read the book – and actually haven’t been paying attention to her at all (which I never really did – but obviously she was ubiquitous in the 90s and early aughts.)

      I was extremely touched by the reunion with her old “roommates” at this horrible camp – which I actually had heard of before – maybe on a Reddit board? I was looking up those evil Scientology “schools” i.e. “camps” they sent bad kids too – and it sounded like a similar thing. Leah Remini and Mike Rinder did a whole episode on them. Totally traumatizing. So I think I was digging into the “troubled teen” industrial complex and tripped over Canyon School I think it was called – horror stories from people.

      The look on Mrs. Hilton’s face when she heard Paris talk about her time there …

      A couple years back – 4, 5, 6, – there was a documentary about the whole Internet “influencer” culture – I found it extremely disturbing and Paris was the patron saint. But the way she talked – she was online all day, she had no real friends, and … now she’s married with a kid. I’m happy for her – and I can’t believe I’m saying that. But good for her.

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