Friday 5 for July 20: Acromony

From here.

  1. When were you recently SOL?
    I took Friday off from work because Bruce Cockburn played two shows here for the first time in his 50+ year career.  I had a few errands to run in the morning and took the opportunity to have lunch downtown.  Now that I work in Manoa, I’m almost never downtown on a weekday for lunch anymore and I miss it.  As I passed through this one sandwich spot off Fort Street Mall, I was lured by the digital sign saying the sandwich of the week was a roasted chicken and goat cheese sandwich  with curry mayo.  Sold!  But not really.  It had been last week’s sandwich of the week, and they hadn’t changed the sign yet.  Great.  I ordered instead a half turkey-bacon-avo sandwich on sourdough that would have been decent but it was so messy I had to eat it with a knife and fork.
  2. What was a recent SNAFU?
    Friday I discovered that I didn’t have seven tickets for the Saturday show; I had eight.  Woo.  Sent a few texts to friends who’d probably be interested, but they had family plans.  When I invited the third person on my list, she seemed interested but then I didn’t hear back from her all day Friday, despite my text every few hours.  Ugh.  Now I had this extra ticket, an invitation just hanging out there, and time running out to find a new plan if this person declined.  When I finally heard back Saturday afternoon, my friend said she was bringing her dad.  It was kind of messed up but I refused to worry about it, and it mostly worked out fine.
  3. From what social gathering were you most recently AWOL?
    I planned to get lunch on a work day with a couple of former coworkers at the engineering firm.  But I was working against a deadline so I had to bail.  The friends decided not to meet anyway once I was out.
  4. When has someone reminded you to MYOB?
    I make a huge effort to stay out of other people’s stuff unless it looks like people need help and I might be able to offer it.  When I was in Walmart several months ago to get a micro SD card, the woman in front of me asked the cashier something about USB ports on a wireless keyboard she was holding up.  You should never ask a Walmart cashier a technical question, no matter how easy the question.  I thought I was being helpful when I said the keyboard she had in her hand was wireless and didn’t need a USB, which I now realize was egregious mansplaining, or possibly geeksplaining.  She was an older woman, and I think I assumed she was therefore clueless (I mean, who asks a Walmart cashier a tech questions if she’s not clueless?).  It turns out she was asking for auxiliary USB ports so some things could run off the keyboard.  I apologized but probably not sincerely enough.  She didn’t tell me to MYOB but that’s what she was saying.  It was the message I received anyway.
  5. What might get in your way this weekend as you TCB?
    I’m typing this Sunday morning, so there’s not much weekend left, and the important stuff happened Friday and Saturday.  Most of what I have left is the usual Sunday stuff, so missed buses could foul things up, but probably not much else.  I’m a little behind on my Camp NaNo project, but I’m ahead on my side work, so I may have some time this evening to focus on getting those flash fictions drafted.

More about Bruce later.  Still kind of processing.

Friday 5 for July 13: The Road to H. E. Double Hockeysticks

From here.

  1. What are some titles in your to-read stack?
    My stack is huge and keeps getting huger.  Some books I’m really looking forward to are David Mitchell’s Slade House, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe, Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, and a whole bunch of cozy mysteries I recently took a break from.
  2. What are the highlights of this weekend’s to-do list?
    A bit of work for the side gigs, for sure.  Some housecleaning.  A trip to the swap meet for black t-shirts.  Maybe the World Cup final.  I’d like to squeeze in a DVD or two as well.
  3. Which current or upcoming movies are you looking forward to?
    Still haven’t seen The Incredibles 2, and there’s this Ben Foster film called Leave No Trace that interests me even though it’s only playing at Kahala, a theater that’s a bit out of the way for me.  Crazy Rich Asians in August.  A modernization of Little Women at the end of September with Lea Thompson as Marmee.
  4. What’s something you meant to do this past week that will have to wait until next week?
    Really wanted to make a bunch of cucumber kimchi but with Camp NaNoWriMo taking up almost every evening, it’s been tough to make time.  Plus I’ve really tried to put a high priority on getting enough sleep on work nights.  It’s tough to find time for that.  I also have a boatload of films to write reviews for and some website-related maintenance I’ve putting off.
  5. What’s an unfinished project (unrelated to media consumption) you haven’t touched in at least a year?
    Ah shoot.  I started my first cross-stitching project a couple of years ago and it was going really well, but I haven’t had time to finish it up.  It’s sitting in a very visible, prominent space in my living room to remind me that I want to do this.

Camp NaNoWriMo July has consumed me these past couple of weeks and it will continue to do so until the end of the month.  More about this later.

Review: Book Club

Book Club (2018)
Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, Candice Bergen, Craig T. Nelson, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Wallace Shawn, Richard Dreyfuss, Alicia Silverstone, Ed Begley Jr.. Written by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms. Directed by Bill Holderman.

Four women who’ve been friends since college have now been a book club for more than thirty years. Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, and Candice Bergen play Diane, Vivian, Carol, and Sharon.

Diane is a recently widowed mother of two adult daughters. She’s going through some reidentification and is unsure of herself, but she’s not nearly as disoriented as her daughters perceive.

Vivian is a builder and owner of hotels, apparently a self-made business success who doesn’t let relationships with men get too serious because they interfere with her independence.

Carol is an empty nester, married to a great guy (Craig T. Nelson) but unhappy with her nonexistent sex life.

Sharon is a judge, divorced for fifteen years. Her adult son is engaged, her ex-husband is dating a much younger woman, and she spends her evenings with a fluffy cat.

At one of the book club meetings one of the women passes around copies of 50 Shades of Grey, which draws complaints and derision from the group, but “bestsellers” is the club’s theme this year, and so they give it a go. The novel inspires them to make a few changes to their love lives, each in her own way.

Some of the sequences are ridiculous, but I suspect we’re meant to take the themes seriously but not the stories, and if you’re capable of doing this, you’ll find a few things to like here. I already have a Mary Steenburgen bias, so I love every scene she’s in, pretty much. Of the four main characters, Candice Bergen’s Sharon is perhaps the most interesting.

I was frustrated with Diane Keaton’s character Diane, because she’s forced to play a character who’s nonassertive around her adult kids, a mode that doesn’t suit the actress well at all. It isn’t until nearly the end of the film where we see Keaton shine as an actress. I wished her story could have begun right there.

It’s a harmless movie, but in this era of gigantic comic book superhero films, its existence and box office popularity feel important. Here are four celebrated actresses of proven competence, yet how often do we get to see them in starring roles anymore? The movie is worth seeing if only to send a message to Hollywood that there’s a market here. Let’s not waste good talent.

6/10
61/100

Friday 5: Happy ASLIRT

From here.

It’s about trail mix, you see?  ASLIRT.  Trail mix.  Or trails mix I guess.

  1. What are your favorite and least favorite nuts?
    I guess pistachios are my favorite, but I want to shout out two non-nuts that are nutty enough for consideration: cashews and pumpkin seeds.  Although I certainly don’t dislike them, I’m beginning not to be thrilled about either walnuts or pecans, exept in a pecan pie.
  2. What are your favorite and least favorite berries?
    My favorite are blackberries, with strawberries a close second.  My least favorite are raspberries, which I will eat if they are placed in front of me but will not place them in front of me myself.  You know those berry mixes in the freezer aisle?  I don’t buy those because a third of those mixes is always raspberries.  I’ll be darned if I’m going to pay for them.  I will make my own blueberry-blackberry-strawberry mix myself, thank you.
  3. What are your favorite and least favorite tropical fruits?
    It’s a sad thing that I have lived in the tropics pretty much my whole life and do not love tropical fruit.  I guess I’ll go with lychee as a favorite and mango as a least favorite, although there’s a local tradition of pickling green mango, and that’s pretty good eating, I guess because I just love vinegar so much.  In recent years, I’ve taught myself to like banana.  I am now trying to do the same with papaya.
  4. What are your favorite and least favorite varieties of M&Ms?
    My favorite are peanut butter, with rice krispies second.  My least are either those berry-flavored ones the mint ones.  I dig mint with chocolate (those Hershey Cookies & Mint bars are amazing), but the mint in the M&Ms is disgusting.  It tastes like brushing your teeth and eating chocolate at the same time.
  5. What are your favorite and least favorite raisin-containing foods?
    My favorite are cinnamon raisin bagels.  My least favorite might be bread pudding.  I eat them when they’re in there, but I can’t help feeling like they’re degrading a perfectly good bread pudding.  You know, it’s also true of rice pudding with raisins.  Let’s just keep raisins out of any pudding.

Friday 5: Scattergories, Part 8

From here.

I rolled the letter G.  I like it.  Surely not a gimme, but not crazy difficult either.  I always find G words intriguing.  For example, what do you think is the largest American city whose name begins with G?  Galveston?  Grand Rapids?   Can you even think of other cities beginning with G?  I just looked it up, and it’s Greensboro, North Carolina, whose 2010 Census data says it has 269,666 residents, good enough for 68th largest in the country.   Next is Glendale, Arizona, with 226,721, the 87th largest.  Gilbert, Arizona (91st), Garland, Texas (95th), and Glendale, California (112th), all come in ahead of Grand Rapids, Michigan at 119.  Galveston doesn’t make it into the top 311.  Sheldon Cooper was a big fish in a small pond, I guess.

    1. What’s a movie you love whose title begins with the letter?
      Librarians say The Greatest Showman begins with G, but maybe that’s cheating.  I mean the title isn’t Greatest Showman.   Movies I’ve seen that legitimately begin with G include Galaxy Quest, Garden State, Gates of Heaven, Gattaca, Get Him to the Greek, Get Low, Get Smart, Get Thrashed: The Story of Thrash Metal, Get on the Bus, Ghost, Ghost World, Ghostbusters, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Global Metal, Glory, Gnomeo & Juliet, God Said Ha!, Gods and Monsters, Goin’ Coconuts, Going Ape!, Gone, Gone in Sixty Seconds, Good Hair, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, Goodfellas, Gosford Park, Grand Canyon, Grease, Gremlins, Gross Anatomy, Groundhog Day, Gulliver’s Travels, Gung Ho, Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Gangster Squad, Garden of Words, Gimme the Loot, Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla, and Gravity.  There are some great movies in that list, but my favorite is easily Groundhog Day.  Top 20 movie of all time for me.
    2. What’s a popular tourist destination whose name begins with the letter?
      The Grand Canyon certainly qualifies, but the Texas Rangers (Texas again?) play in Globe Life Park in Arlington (the “in Arlington” is part of its name), the Cincinnati Reds play in Great American Ball Park, and the Chicago White Sox play in Guaranteed Rate Field.  I would rather visit each of those ballparks a few times each before the Grand Canyon .
    3. What’s something you do, whose name begins with the letter, when you’re very happy?
      I’m neither much of a gloater nor gamboler, so how about just grinning?
    4. What’s a frightening animal whose name begins with the letter?
      Are you supposed to be afraid of gila monsters?  No?  Okay then:  Great.  White.  Shark.
    5. Who’s a person you admire whose name begins with the letter?
      My first answer is Geddy Lee of Rush, but I talk about Rush all the time, so let’s take a moment to appreciate George Thorogood.  George is sort of Geddy’s opposite.  Where just about everything about Rush is precise, considered, exact, almost strangely (and beautifully) mechanical, George’s playing style is loose and messy, dirty and nasty.  It almost seems like he just puts his chording hand wherever it lands on the fretboard, and he does something with whatever sound happens to come out.  Someday I’ll take formal lessons, and I envision myself telling my instructor to teach me how to play like George Thorogood.  This live video of my favorite Thorogood song is super cool because it includes Elvin Bishop.  “One drink ain’t enough, Jack; you better bring three.”

Now I (kssssssssh) Lay Me (ksssssssssssssh) Down

The sleep thing continues to be an issue.  I can neither explain nor understand it.  I get home from work with the clearest, best intentions of getting stuff ready for the next morning (I’m okay there), then doing something to unwind, then putting myself to bed properly, getting a good rest — thanks to my Darth Vader machine — and waking up refreshed and ready for another day.

In the past ten days, it’s worked out this way maybe once.  It’s comical and heartbreaking at the same time, which I just realized should probably be my epitaph.

After weeks of breaking my own promises to myself, I finally made those doctor appointments.  Had my blood pressure taken, and it was almost fifty points lower than when I first had it looked at last August, but it was up a few ticks from the last time several months ago.  Ugh.  Doctor upped my meds by 25% (two pills in the morning instead of the one and a half) and I go back in a month to check it again.  My systolic has gone steadily down, which is a big encouragement.

I see the eye doctor Monday afternoon.  I think it’s time for a field of vision test, but this one might just be eye pressures to see if I’m holding.  I should be; I take my eyedrops religiously, which is one of the idiotic reasons I haven’t always been putting Darth Vader on my face.  The stupid eyedrops go in, and I have to lie still for three minutes or so.  I usually make it five just to be safe.  And you know what happens?  I fall asleep.  I do set a timer, but the timer goes off and instead of reaching over and grabbing the face mask, I just hit the kill button and stay where I am.

Sigh.

I also discovered (because I finally read the accompanying literature, only eight months after my diagnosis) that replacement Darth Vader parts are covered 80% by my insurance if I order through the approved vendor.  Different components have different wait times for replacement approval, but I was eligible to get everything replaced.  My 20% share came out to $67 bucks, which is kind of alarming.  Not for me, but for people who don’t have the insurance I have.

My weight is up a few ticks from the last time I looked at it, but down seven pounds overall since last August.  Should probably keep that trend going.

Friday 5: Gear

Friday 5 from here.

This isn’t the exact corker I have, but it’s pretty close. You turn this thing over so that the plunger is on the underside. Directly below the plunger is a cavity into which you put a cork that’s been soaking in water overnight. You squeeze the the other handles together, compressing the cork in the cavity. Then you turn the device back up (so it’s oriented as in this photo), place the cavity over the mouth of the wine bottle and plunge the plunger, forcing the cork into the opening of the bottle. The cork expands to fill the neck.
  1. What kind of specialized equipment do you own for a specific non-electronic hobby or job?
    Okay, here’s one I may not have written about.  I used to make wine.  Fruit wine, as opposed to grape wine.  I still consider it a hobby despite having put it on hold for the past ten years or so.  Still read up on it, still window-shop the winemaking vendor websites, still make plans for the next batch I plan to make.  The hobby of winemaking suits my personality very well: it requires some intense attention but not every day.  It requires a lot of patience.  And it helps if the winemaker is a bit adventurous.  So I have a bunch of winemaking stuff: carboys, bungs, airlocks, hydrometers, funnels, and tubing aren’t exclusive to winemaking, but I have a corker, a device that squeezes corks so you can insert them into the necks of bottles.  Also corks, yeast (Montrachet and Champagne) and other chemicals to keep things either sterile or alive.
  2. In what way can this equipment be upgraded or souped-up, and how difficult or expensive would the update be?
    There’s definitely high-end winemaking stuff but it’s not a lot better than mid-level stuff, so I don’t feel the need to upgrade.  I did get one of the better corkers; it’s a device I’m rather fond of.  My next toy, whenever I get around to making my next batch, will be an air gun.  I’m not sure if that’s what it’s called, but it’s like a blow-dryer amped up, the sort you might use if you were shaping plastics.  You  know the foil that wraps around the mouth and upper neck of the wine bottle?  The air gun shrink-wraps the foil there so nothing messes with the corkWhen critters are aware of something good behind the cork, they will nibble at it until they finally get through.  Please don’t ask me how I know.
  3. In your fields of interest, what’s the gear envy like?
    You know, I don’t know any other winemakers, so I wouldn’t know.  I look through the catalogs and there’s stuff I want, but I don’t necessarily envy people who have it, perhaps because I don’t know anyone who has it.  If I hung out at the local winemaking supply store more, I would probably have a better answer.  As you can tell from my verbosity, winemakers love talking about winemaking.  I seldom go into the supply store anymore, but whenever I do, I take my purchases to the register and I can count on the cashier to ask me what he or she asks everyone: “What are you making?”  It’s mostly a homebrew store, actually, and I guess homebrew people are about the same kind of person as the winemakers.
  4. What’s something you own the old version of because it’s better than the new version?
    If you’d asked me this question two weeks ago, I’d have said my iPhone 5s.  I held onto that thing as long as I possibly could because I didn’t like the larger sizes of the newer models.  I no longer think this, and I feel great about moving on.  Oh shoot, I meant for these answers to be non-electronic.  I suppose the easy answer is books, since reading is my favorite thing in the world.  This question is difficult.  Who’s the banana who wrote it?
  5. What’s a hobby you don’t engage in that intrigues you mostly because of its equipment or tools?
    You know, fishers seem to have cool stuff.  Oh, and bowlers.

Review: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014)
Written and directed by Mark Hartley.

Until I popped this DVD into my player, I don’t think I’d ever heard of Cannon Films, although I consider myself a casual fan of Troma Entertainment, the super-low-budget-film company that seems to be Cannon’s kindred spirit.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is a documentary about the rise and fall of a movie production company owned by two cousins who just loved to make movies. Gifted salesmen, they made a career-long practice of coming up with a movie title, creating a movie poster, showing the poster to possible investors, and collecting the money for production, often before a script was written or actors cast.

Their figure-it-out-as-we-go approach often meant budgets far lower than expected, story changes in the middle of filming, and bizarre casting decisions. Yet like Troma, Cannon seemed to figure that low budgets meant easier profits, and they could put out a lot of movies in short amounts of time if they didn’t sweat stuff like quality or cohesion. As long as their films had lots of sex, monsters, and explosions, sometimes in the same scene, they knew people would have a good time and come back for the fifth and sixth sequels.

When one of the cousins saw a breakdancer on a Los Angeles sidewalk, he immediately set into motion the production of a movie about breaking. He hired the dancers who would be his stars, hurriedly wrote a story about them, and raced through filming because he heard that another studio was filming Beat Street. For Cannon, it was about getting out there first, not best. Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo were among Cannon’s first hits, but they were not the last.

Other well-known hit-or-miss-but-mostly-miss titles the company cranked out are the Happy Hooker and Emmanuelle series, three Death Wish sequels, the American Ninja trilogy, almost every Chuck Norris film including the Missing in Action and Delta Force series, Runaway Train, King Solomon’s Mines, Over the Top, Masters of the Universe, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Barfly, Invasion U.S.A., and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. At the same time, it is a hilarious yet impressive filmography. Is there a movie fan older than thirty who hasn’t seen at least a small handful of these pictures?

Writer-director Mark Hartley interviews nearly thirty actors, producers, and directors about their memories of working for Cannon, including Bo Derek, Sybil Danning, Richard Chamberlain, Dolph Lundgren, Molly Ringwald, Franco Zeffirelli, Cassandra Peterson (Elvira!), Tobe Hooper, Elliot Gould, Robert Forster, and John Avildsen. Some of them have nothing nice to say about their experiences with Cannon, while others wax a bit more nostalgic. The tone is mostly one of amusement, but many contributors admit that there was something valuable about making these films, and something valuable in the films themselves.

In one segment, the directors talk about how the execs at Cannon promised that they would be allowed to make the movies they wanted, with very little interference from leadership. They don’t seem always to have kept the promise, but you can see why such noted filmmakers as Avildsen, Hooper, Zeffirelli, and John Cassavetes would be willing to work with smaller budgets for a company with Cannon’s checkered past. Zeffirelli says his Otello, a Cannon movie, is the best film of his career.

Would you rather act in a crappy movie or no movie at all? Would you rather direct one with a small budget but creative control, or one with much more backing but much more oversight? These are identity-defining questions, and if nothing else, Cannon offered actors and directors the choice.

This is a funny documentary and making art is a funny thing. Should lack of talent or resources keep you from the joy of creating? I say no, and if there’s some sincerity in Cannon’s love of making movies, maybe there’s something valuable in the art itself.

I laughed aloud multiple times, and am inspired to check out more of the Cannon team’s work.

8/10
81/100

Review: Ocean’s 8

Ocean’s 8 (2018)
Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter. Written by Gary Ross and Olivia Milch. Directed by Gary Ross.

Debbie Ocean has had five years (in prison) to plan a heist involving the Met Gala, a $150 million diamond necklace, seven other women of questionable ethics but unquestioned skill, and maybe the guy responsible for her being locked up all those years ago.

It’s a heist flick and it’s meant to connect to the Clooney-Pitt Ocean’s films, and while it’s not as good as Ocean’s 11, it’s at least as interesting as Ocean’s 12. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett are great together and I would like to see them together in something else. Rihanna holds the screen surprisingly well and is the pleasant surprise of this movie. Anne Hathaway really shines, and almost steal the movie, which leads me to ask once again why people hate her. She’s luminous.

My biggest problem with the movie is that we don’t really get to know much about the other characters, and since they’re also played by interesting actresses, this is a disappointment. Is it possible to have a good heist movie that also develops its characters well? I wanted to know more about Sarah Paulson’s character especially, but Mindy Kaling’s and Awkwafina’s could also have used some development. I feel mildly ripped off.

Ocean’s 8 is notable for starring a large cast of women actors, something one just doesn’t see enough of. A similar cast of only men actors would come and go without comment, which says something about the importance of more films of this sort. As of today, the film has grossed $117 million worldwide against a production budget of $70 million, which would seem to indicate that there is a market for this kind of thing.

We should celebrate also that two of Debbie’s eight accomplices are Asian, and there is no affirmative action in effect here: Mindy Kaling and Awkwafina have already proven their talent, so no excuses need to be made by anyone. If anything, perhaps a few apologies should be sent their way for taking so dang long.

The story works if you sit back and just go along with it. Get too invested in expected twists or unexpected turns, and you may feel like you paid $15 for a $5 ride. Recommended for streaming, but maybe not for box officing.

6/10
67/100

Review: The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects (1995)
Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Pete Postlethwaite, Kevin Spacey, Suzy Amis, Benicio del Toro, Giancarlo Esposito. Written by Christopher McQuarrie. Directed by Bryan Singer.

A friend gave me a terrific day-by-day movie quotes calendar, one of the rare such calendars that you don’t fall behind on, because you really can’t wait to see what the next cool quote is going to be, unlike those word-of-the-day calendars which you always lose interest in because you can’t remember yesterday’s word so what’s the point in looking forward to tomorrow’s, or tearing off the last six weeks’ worth of days just to find out what today’s is?

On Monday, May 14, I shared on Facebook a photo of the May 12/13 quote: “I volunteer as tribute” from The Hunger Games (a movie I like based on a novel I love). I explained that the Monday quote was from a movie I hadn’t seen, The Usual Suspects.

Yeesh. You’d think I’d said I hadn’t seen The Sound of Music (which I haven’t). My friends seemed genuinely concerned. “You must see it!” many commented. Since I work on a university campus and have borrowing privileges, I borrowed the DVD that very afternoon and told everyone to cool it. I was finally going to see it.

The next day, I received two text messages from friends asking if I had righted the wrong. I hadn’t, but I promised I’d do it that evening.

And I promise, it doesn’t please me to say this, but the movie is just okay. I know. I’m sorry!

The film is something of a noir, and its dialogue is written in the noir style, which I really enjoyed. Five con artists are involved in a heist that turns out not to be what they thought they were signing up for, and lots of people die. I’m not spoiling anything because that’s sort of the way the film opens.

The characters are well-imagined and the dialogue is really great. Kevin Spacey provides some lovely voice-over narration reminding you that the joys of a good noir don’t always emerge from the plot. Very often, it’s the look and feel, the sound of the language, the feel of the shadows, the often unspoken emotions and unmentioned sexual tension that makes you stick with The Big Sleep even though you’ve watched it once a year since you were fourteen and still don’t know what the story’s about.

If these were the only things to consider, I’d rate this movie much higher; in fact, the middling score I’m giving it is really the average of these strengths against its major weakness, which is a plot hole I will spoil in the very last paragraph of this review, after my rating. It’s a plot hole I can’t just brush away, because it reduces all these other good ingredients to little more than a pretty good actor’s workshop in movie character tropes and pretty good language. In other movies this can be more than enough to endear me. In this one, all it does is make me certain that my friends are going to disown me.

It’s an okay film. Things about it are great. One thing about it is awful.

5/10
55/100

SPOILER COMMENT:
Even though I am an English major and should always be on guard, I sometimes forget about the device known as the unreliable narrator. This is not one of these times. Alerted by my friends that there was a twist, I predicted the twist very early in the film and was all but certain midway through. Kevin Spacey’s character is about as unreliable a narrator as they come, something I noticed right away, so the moment of the reveal didn’t leave me merely unsurprised, but annoyed. The truth of his identity means practically nothing in the movie actually happens. It may as well be the old waking-from-a-bad-dream reveal. If we can accept the reality that it was all just a really good story, this might make it all okay, except that despite its near-excellent language, the good story itself doesn’t work, since we are privy to conversations and actions the storyteller would never have been aware of because he wasn’t there. Imagine your kid telling you an elaborate lie about how the cookies disappeared, in which he says, “Before I came home, Sally told Betty that they could make it look like I ate the cookies.” The lie is obvious because the storyteller can’t possibly know what Sally or Betty said. Filmed a different way, where we only see everything through Verbal’s eyes, his made-up story could at least be a fun gotcha! moment. As it is, it’s just a movie where something happens but we don’t know what.