What I’ve Been Watching: 02/09/16 – 08/09/16

Evil Exes, bail bondsmen, dead loves, and imbecilic gangsters.

One of the great lies that people and media feed you is that telling the truth or speaking honestly about things that are eating you up inside makes you feel better.  That once you let it out, that release will leave you feeling somewhat free and happier for doing so.  In my experiences, that’s bullshit.  For one, a perfectly nice night out near the end of last year went down the toilet after I finally confessed to a friend of mine that I have a large crush on them.  The conversation was fine and civil and seemed to leave us in a good place, but I still felt like shit for having admitted it to her anyway, like I’d failed by not being able to keep my feelings quiet and in check – although then it turned out that she was too drunk to remember anything from that night anyway, almost like the universe was trying to give me a free pass, and I proceeded to feel like shit all over again cos that’s just my default state of being.

For two, at best, I’ve come out of my three therapy sessions thus far feeling nothing much at all or, at worst, more insecure and self-consciously awful than when I went in.  I finally went and got myself officially tested and diagnosed with clinical depression back in mid-July, and the last few weeks I’ve begun therapy to try and manage it.  Unlike with my diabetes diagnosis almost a year ago to the week, this didn’t particularly affect me as, and as detailed in pieces here and there across the site, I’ve kind of known that I’ve had depression for a long while now; I just didn’t start properly trying to deal with it until last year and I always kept referring to it as “misery” in case what I had wasn’t actually depression out of respect for my friends who are clinically diagnosed.  Being told that I am clinically depressed didn’t come out of nowhere like the diabetes did and, largely, I was looking forward to being able to see a therapist.

I don’t much like talking about myself to other people.  That may seem hilariously hypocritical given these self-indulgent pre-ambles to these infrequent pieces, but it is true.  In person, in conversation, with the 4 people that I am certain are my actual friends and the rest that I live in constant fear would like to bolt at the first chance (one that made itself available given that uni is now over and done with), I prefer to hear about other people and what’s going on in their lives.  Mainly it’s because I genuinely care about what’s going on with them and find them far more interesting than myself, but there’s also the fact that I feel like I’m dumping on them when I start talking about myself.  That I get noticeably more bitter and unpleasant when I talk about me, that I’m giving others more of an excuse to head for the hills the more they learn about me, and that nobody wants to hear me whine about my life.  And talking with family is out of the question, obviously.  So I grapple with it in silence.

A therapist, though, I saw as sort of a blank slate.  A chance to be able to voice my various problems out loud, to work through them, find the roots and start towards some kind of self-improvement without having to run the risks that come from trying to talk about this stuff with friends.  Yet, after all three of my sessions so far, I’ve found that being able to actually verbalise the stuff that goes on in my head on a daily basis, all that self-loathing and fear and neuroses, is having rather the opposite effect.  Despite there not being any negative consequences happening outside of that room from stating these things inside that room, I still feel worse off for doing so, again like I’ve failed for not being able to keep them suppressed enough, for not knowing how to be happy, for having these things stare me in the face and be reminded of them.  Rather than feeling freer or better, I feel… I honestly don’t know how I feel, which is the problem, in all honesty.  Once again, media and parenting has left me ill-prepared to deal with the world.

Just another reason why In Treatment is one of the best TV shows to ever exist.

Here’s what I’ve been watching this week.

Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown [Friday 2nd]

Dir: Quentin Tarantino

Year: 1997


My first viewing of Jackie Brown came a year ago, on the day I had to move my stuff out of my uni apartment for the Summer and so, rather than spend the time prior to that actually packing and doing useful shit, I had elected to finally watch Jackie Brown on Netflix.  I was… underwhelmed.  I’d heard that it was very atypical-Tarantino but I wasn’t prepared for just how minor, deliberate, and introspective the film was.  Long stretches of film seemed to go by without much happening, scenes appeared to run on for too long, and the usual blackly-comic tone that exists in most all of Tarantino’s work was missing.  It didn’t feel much like the man who made Kill Bill or Django Unchained, so I didn’t manage to properly adjust to it until just near the end.

Fortunately, those who argue that Jackie Brown grows on repeat viewings were not kidding.  Watching it a second time through, now more attuned to its rhythms and pacing, the usual clichés of it being Tarantino’s most “mature” and, arguably, “respectable” film end up making themselves more known.  What initially felt like a curveball, leading to those false impressions that the film is glacial and flabby, instead reveals itself to be a quiet mediation on aging, with really interesting and nuanced characters, fed through a deliberately low-key crime plot that manages to be surprisingly tense as a result of those very things.  Throw in some of Tarantino’s best directing – the oner of Jackie running out of the clothing store, down to the mall’s ground floor, working herself up to sell the ruse to the DEA agents is especially excellent – and you can now count me among the Jackie Brown diehards.  I really hope Tarantino’s next film is more like this, given that Hateful Eight was a near-three hour self-demolition of The Tarantino Film he’s now expected to make.

45 Years

45 Years [Saturday 3rd]

Director: Andrew Haigh

Year: 2015


I honestly don’t think I gave 45 Years enough credit the first time I saw it.  That sounds ridiculous since I slavishly sang its praises live on radio last year, named it the 11th Best Film of 2015, and frequently dubbed Charlotte Rampling’s astronomically good performance to be the single best in any film released that year, but I feel that I fixated too much on Rampling’s work at the expense of the rest of the film.  For example, there’s Lol Crawley’s cinematography that does an excellent job at both slowly representing the growing distance between Kate and Geoff as the week goes on, and at representing the occasional picturesque beauty but mostly stifling isolation of the British countryside.  Or how about Haigh’s script that, before the marriage truly starts falling apart, manages to write the relationship between Kate and Geoff, their interactions and mannerisms and ways of speaking, in such a believable way that you just don’t see in Senior representations in film.  Or his directing, where the slideshow sequence can send shivers down the spines and hearts into the mouths of even the stoniest of people.  45 Years really is a masterwork, and I am so there for whatever Haigh’s next feature may be!

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World [Saturday 3rd]

Director: Edgar Wright

Year: 2010


I planned to write a giant piece about Scott Pilgrim, my relationship with, and this re-watch until this whole depression thing put pay to productivity for the week.  I may still try and push it out in the near-future though – may, emphasis on may – so for now can I instead ask how the hell we came this close to having the film end with Scott and Knives getting together?  I don’t just mean in a “cos that’s not how the graphic novels went” way, since the film does a phenomenal job at hitting the character beats and thematic developments of the books despite having much less screen time, I mean because it would negate the entire arcs of both Knives and Scott!  Scott is explicitly shown to be a toxic influence on Knives, somebody she crushes on more for this rebellious image he represents from her upbringing and lifestyle rather than anything he does as a person, whilst Scott explicitly dates her cos she’s too young to call him on his shit, instead worshipping the ground he walks on.  The end of their evolution is all about them maturing past those, becoming friends as a result, and then moving on from one another.  Pair them off with each other and you end the film with neither of them really having learned much of anything!

Also, why is the only thing that I’ve seen Kieran Culkin in post-Pilgrim goddamn Movie 43?!  That man is too talented to be stuck in Acting Limbo!

The LEGO Movie

The LEGO Movie [Sunday 4th]

Dirs: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

Year: 2014


I think it’s fair to call Phil Lord and Chris Miller geniuses by this point, right?  We’re all aware that their whole schtick is taking terrible-sounding ideas and making great works out of them, but I think that does a disservice to the stuff they end up making.  For example, to just go, “Holy shit, they actually made a good film out of LEGO!” is excessively simplifying and underselling The LEGO Movie as a whole.  It’s more than just “a somehow good film made out of LEGO,” it’s an incredibly smart, really funny, super fun critique and love letter to the kinds of stories we expose to our children.  The tropes, the clichés, the power dynamics, the themes, the gender politics; how all of this subconsciously shapes our imaginations at a young age, implants ideas of what we can and can’t be, expands or hinders our creativity when we tell our own stories.  But in addition to working within their niche of “stories about stories,” the film also works brilliantly as a philosophical debate about the battle between order and control, a passionate rallying cry for creativity, and just as a clever and inventive family movie in its own right.

Part of me still thinks that “a Han Solo origin story” movie is both an impossible task and a waste of their talents, but then again Lord and Miller are geniuses…

Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly [Wednesday 7th]

Dir: Andrew Dominik

Year: 2012

First-time viewing

I managed to buy this brand-new, still sealed, on Blu-Ray for just £1 at, what else, a Poundland.  That’s rather darkly ironic, considering this film is a super dark and cynical screed against capitalism and specifically how America is permanently stuck in this fundamentally hypocritical screwed position, in a way.  Anyways, I absolutely get why this went down like a lead balloon with the general public, but dear God, did I love this film!  A slow-moving realistic crime-drama that’s super-dark, doubles as a character-study of America, and is at least 75% wall-to-wall monologues?  Shit yeah, I’m all for that!  It looks gorgeous, those performances are across the board phenomenal, and whilst the script may be about as subtle as most pro-wrestling booking with its political parallels – this is the kind of film that believes subtext needs to be about 800 feet tall and announced with “The Imperial March” being amplified through a literal mountain of speakers – it’s so well-written that I honestly didn’t care.  That smash-cut to black gave me actual chills, which I think is the sign of a good mic drop.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford has been added to my Watch List and, unlike how it took me a good two years to get around to re-watching The LEGO Movie, I plan on actually viewing it soon enough.  If this was Andrew Dominik’s “minor” work, I’m dying to see what his alleged masterpiece is like!


Paul [Wednesday 5th]

Director: Greg Mottola

Year: 2011


Paul is… not very good.  Not upon finally re-watching it after four years away.  I’d hesitate to call it outright bad, primarily due to Greg Mottola’s surprisingly really solid direction – although I’m not sure if I’m rather overpraising it purely as a result of watching a comedy with actual directorial chops instead of just “two close-ups, wide-shot, lots of empty space, improv-heavy” like in most comedy films nowadays – and Paul himself looks great, but the script is just really poor.  On a base-level, it’s really not funny, lacking in jokes and lacking further in actually funny ones, instead lining up a bunch of geek-references to rattle off and hoping for applause based purely on recognition.  Like, what is the joke when Zoil shoots his radio and says, “Boring conversation anyway?”  What is the reason for that specific line, to be written and delivered in that way?

On a deeper level, though, Paul is very blatant victimised-nerd power-fantasy pandering in a way that’s really off-puttingly defensive to a more mature audience.  I absolutely get why a film like Paul – which celebrates and self-congratulatorily lionises those who grew up loving sci-fi, comic books, nerd memorabilia, and especially Steven Spielberg movies, but were ostracised as children for those exact things as super-special snowflakes for never caving in the face of such peer pressure, and who now have ultimately won given the current pop culture landscape – won me over as a 16 year-old.  It just doesn’t have much play now that I’m older and demand more to a joke than somebody yelling at Sigourney Weaver, “Get away from him, you bitch!”  It’s not worthless, there are a couple of legitimately funny gags and I at least got some kicks from watching this super-overqualified cast struggle to find enough jokes to go around, but this one really does not hold up by any metric.

Also, I’ve watched Seth Rogen movies that are less militantly and desperately “no-homo” than this.

Callie Petch is learning to live with somebody’s depression.

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