More Movies: Diary, 8/4 to 8/5/21

Reading Sartre; editing Kick Me; Goethe quotes, one about Faust; movie reviews including Hanna, Walled In, and The Inheritance (2011).

Copyright (text only) 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

{8/4/21}  Weight 216.4 at 6:30 am.

Watched Hanna (2011), with Saoirse Ronan as the eponym, Eric Bana as her father, and Cate Blanchett as the insane villain.  An uneasy mix of fantasy and thriller.  Dad raises teen daughter in a forest to be a killer to avenge her mother’s murder.  I liked it some, there were occasional laughs, but there’s an awful lot of Hanna running away and hiding and the villains are erratic.  A couple of settings and supporting characters are interesting.  Mostly it’s just very familiar territory—waiflike supersoldier, revenge, evil government project.  The “coming of age” angle is more glanced-at than explored.  Very few, if any, explosions.  Rotten Tomatoes sez that the “critics consensus” rates the acting “fantastic.”  Uh, no.  The material isn’t challenging enough to earn such an accolade.  Clocks in at 71% “fresh.”  Of course this movie is ten years old, but they don’t seem to realize that they’re in competition with Marvel, or, actually, not in competition—an unfair comparison, of course.  Nick Schager’s brief review is much better than mine, finding obvious themes that I completely overlooked.  There’s also a TV series that doesn’t appear on TV but is available through evil Amazon.

Read some of the Sartre material in Walter Kaufmann’s Existentialism from Dostoyevsky to Sartre.  Kaufmann’s “Introduction” to Sartre is brief but interesting in a gossipy sort of way; the short story, “The Wall,” is a bleak look at the mind of a man about to die—he wants to die “cleanly”; the selection on “Self-deception” (or Bad Faith) was abstract and I couldn’t get into it.  I’ll try that part again, probably.

The new Suicide Squad comes out this month.  I’d give it a pass except that (1) Margot Robbie reprises her Harley Quinn, and (2) it gets over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.

I’ve gotten to page 92 (of 125) in my edit of Kick Me.  It’s 1:45 pm. and I’m ready for some self-indulgence.  It’s also gotten pretty warm in here.

{8/5/21}  Weight 215.6 at 6:15 am.

Watched Walled In, a “psychological thriller” about Samantha (Mischa Barton), a building destruction engineer on her first assignment:  to decide how an eight-story apartment building in the middle of nowhere should be demolished.  Before the opening credits we see a young girl being drowned in concrete in a small space, screaming.  During the credits it is revealed that sixteen people were murdered and walled up in the building.  The building is weird but beautiful, the architect is an eccentric genius who is, or is not, living in the building.  There are four (or five) residents in the building:  a mother (Deborah Kara Unger) and her coming-of-age son (Cameron Bright), an old black man with a bad leg, and an old white woman of dubious mental acuity.  The mother is the caretaker, and her parenting is abusive and troubling.  Samantha, or “Sam,” hears inexplicable children’s voices, the son is attracted to her, the old man scares her, and so on, as she explores the building.  The son explains “the rules,” which primarily amount to, stay off the 8th floor and the roof.  There are unnecessary and unrewarding jump scares.  As the day for demolition approaches, the building reveals new weirdness in its design, Sam hallucinates a bit and gets terrorized and hurt, and the son gets pushy about his attraction to her.  Then comes the catastrophe and awful truths are revealed, and Sam has to fight for her life.  The movie builds tension well, the acting and photography are good, the sets are creative and sometimes beautiful—this is not your usual splatterfest, and for me that was its main attraction.  There’s more imagination here than usual, though nothing jaw-dropping.  Overall, Walled In is humorless and unpleasant without ever being terrifying, but also unusual and gripping enough to adequately fill ninety minutes.  I didn’t love it or even particularly like it, and the ending is rather flat.  If I labor mightily here to “sell” the movie, that’s because I think it’s an overlooked minor classic in a genre where the vast majority of films are thoughtless, uncreative garbage.  Rotten Tomatoes provides three “splats” from critics (no overall score and no “consensus”) and a 19% audience score.

Watching the second season of Andromeda from Gene Roddenberry.  Last night’s episode was interesting—the Captain prevents a coup—but is spoiled by two gratuitous fistfights at the end because the he has to demonstrate his high testosterone level or something.

Tonight I watched “The Screwfly Solution,” the season two, episode seven of Masters of Horror (2006), which was packaged as a stand-alone movie.  It was pretty good, based on a science fiction story by James Tiptree, Jr.  Men are going crazy, murdering their women, and any women, because of a disease.  Gratuitous nudity at a “tittie bar.”  Directed by Joe Dante, starring Jason Priestley and an effective (for once) Elliott Gould.  Only 60 minutes long.

Then I watched The Inheritance, one of many movies with this title, this from 2011 or, per the DVD package, 2010.  It shows up on a Rotten Tomatoes search, but there’s no rating and no page.  It gets an appalling 2.8/10 from IMDB and links to critics’ reviews.  It started promisingly, with a good soundtrack by Nathan Furst that I would have to describe as Afro-tech, and some good graphics, with credits over scenes of slavery.  A group of five young adult African-Americans and a white couple are driving somewhere in the snow to attend a family reunion.  Many potential plot issues are raised, but not followed up—“the elders” are to be asked for money, and a couple are going to reveal to the elders that they are a couple.  Then, when the elders show up, bad things start happening and there’s a lot of running around screaming by the young people and more bad things happen.  The victims decide to “fight back,” but there’s little of this and a lot of whining, and it all adds up to a stupid, disappointing waste of time.  http://www.blackhorrormovies.com/the-inheritance/ has a worthy review and compares this to The Wicker Man.  Interestingly,  Videohound Golden Movie Retriever book rates it at 2.5 “bones,” which is decent but unbelievable.

Read some of Walter Kaufmann’s translation of Goethe’s Faust, Anchor Books, Random House, 1961, 1963, and 1990, just the Introduction and Goethe’s “Dedication.”  I read a bit aloud to Pablo yesterday:

“…Goethe himself stated the moral [of Faust]: ‘The Germans are really strange people. With their profound thoughts and ideas, which they seek everywhere and project into everything, they make life harder for themselves than they should. Oh, that at long last you had the courage for once to yield yourselves to your impressions, to let yourselves be delighted, let yourselves be moved, let yourselves be elevated, yes, to let yourselves be taught and inspired and encouraged for something great; only do not always think that everything is raining if it is not some abstract thought or idea!’” p. 10-11.

I asked Pablo what this sounded like, and he guessed my thought:  Hesse’s Steppenwolf.  But Goethe says nothing about “learning to laugh,” a major theme of Hesse’s novel.

We also discussed this quote from Goethe, “The more incommensurable and incomprehensible for the understanding a poetic creation may be, the better.”  I totally disagree about the value of incomprehensible poetry, but it must be that many poets agree, because most of what I see of modern poetry is incomprehensible to me.

I also read some of Kaufmann’s Tragedy and Philosophy, which I’ve been reading off and on for a month.  I had a lot of time on the bus today, having gone to the Veterans Admin medical building for a three-monthly review and a couple of shots.  This afternoon I had a ninety-minute phone call with my “group,” as required by Probation.  So I didn’t have much time to work today, but I did squeeze in a bit this morning.

And now my day is done.

Copyright (text only) 2021 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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