So I eagerly bought and read Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump. Of the ever-expanding library of books on her uncle Donald written by burn victims and spurned former enablers inevitably left in his wake, Mary’s perspective as both member of his family and clinical psychologist piqued my interest. That Donald’s younger brother, Robert, was tasked to run point on behalf of their family to quash publication of the book only served to further whet my curiosity. And not just mine. The book sold more copies in the first week than Donald’s ghost-written Art of the Deal has in all the years since it was first published. Oh, and then Robert died — probably from complications caused by COVID-19 that his brother, the President of the United States, has barely acknowledged, completely failed to contain and has arguably made worse, given that any other cause of death short of overdose, suicide or embarrassing accident would not carry the shame with it necessary for a superficial family like the Trumps to cover up and deny in order to keep up appearances.
Though the book chronicles the creation of Donald and ultimately culminates in the emergence of the ruined creature we’ve all come to witness loosed upon our world, it’s more an insight into the monster makers themselves, the systemic forces that shaped him and the role Mary’s father, Fred “Freddy” Trump Jr., played in particular as a kind of catalyst. I’d wondered about Freddy ever since first hearing him mentioned by a piece PBS Frontline did on each of the 2016 presidential front runners; the eldest of Donald’s siblings scapegoated and ultimately driven to self-destruction — it resonated with me.
So after swearing I would never watch another one of these big budget cinematic abortions after walking out of The Last Jedi and binging on the bad reviews for Rise of Skywalker, this masochist had see this unholy clusterfuck for himself. After all, I rationalized, it’s not as though Mystery Science Theater would ever be granted permission to properly mock this shit. No, it was up to me. And, well, it was actually almost okay.
I didn’t know what expect from the previews or the warnings issued the Department of Defense (of all agencies) that incels might use screenings of the film as an opportunity to shoot up a theater as one such unhinged freak did previously at a screening of The Dark Knight. As it happens, there’s a sports shop at the end of the mall opposite of the theater that sells the AK and AR style assault rifles and ammo but there are plenty of other things to shoot in my neck of the woods (literally) so I wasn’t too worried.
The film ended up being a breath of fresh air from start to finish. No spandex. No CGI. No product placement or branding bullshit, unmolested by studio executives or focus groups — which is amazing in and of itself. Just great shots at real locations, brilliantly written and performed.
Joker is the antithesis forgettable, Skittle-vomit, superhero flicks I’ve been totally burned out on. Appropriate, given that it tells the story of an anti-hero and not a superhero. In fact, rather than losing everything that typically kicks off the hero’s journey, Joker begins at the bottom with a beaten-down, impoverished, mentally ill man, Arthur, looking for belonging and seeking to define himself in and in spite of a world that shits on him when it notices him at all. Strangers attack him, family denies him, friends betray him, public services fail him and his heroes humiliate him. He wants to do good, to make people smile. He tries to be that. He perseveres against each setback as they compound and almost seem to conspire against his steadfast goal of becoming a stand-up comedian. But it isn’t enough. He loses to become something else instead.
I found Joaquin Phoenix’s performance of Arthur very relatable, easy to empathize with. Through him, I could feel Arthur’s anguish, embarrassment and exhilaration. Every one of his victims is someone who’s hurt him and has more power or means to have done so. He becomes a symbol of empowerment, punching up against those punching down. And it’s delicious! The movie ends with Joker embracing the chaos that’s embraced him and coming into his own. I left the theater feeling great for a pleasant change.
As is too often the case, the editors who cut together the trailers for this movie should’ve been the ones who cut together the movie itself — maybe scripted and directed it too. Because then I might’ve left the theater with what I came for: the story of a tormented alien child discovering his power and struggling with the choice between doing good by the loving family who raised him or giving in to his destructive impulses.
While the trailer did intrigue me somewhat, I didn’t watch this movie. Because, in spite of the novel concepts, there’s no mystery. Nothing to discover. It’s all presented up front, described by exposition and sweeping, perfectly lit, detailed vistas of these monstrous cities on the move.
And, like any good monster movie, they should have been revealed in parts or obscured from being viewable in their entirety from perspectives and situations that emphasized their terrible enormity. Instead, it’s more Skittles-vomit CGI that I, personally, am sick of. Even if that’s what they were intentionally going for, it happens to be competing with any number of animated features this season of it’s opening for which Skittles-vomit is the stock and trade.
Also, all the dialog in the trailer is boilerplate “Hurry!”, “Wait!”, “No!”, “Find them!” generic story-drivel. The 1980s action movie one-liners were cheesy but you remembered them and the characters and movies they were from, seared into your mind forever. But this, meh! Nothing stood out.
Maybe the books this movie is based on are better (as they so often are)?
I don’t often post public reviews unless I’m really quite impressed or disappointed by some consumed thing. Serendipitiously, Annihilation climbs into the former category.
Basically, a 12th team comprised of scientists enter a shimmering, expanding area (the “Shimmer”) from whence the previous 11 teams failed to return to make their way to whatever it is precipitating this mysterious phenomenon located at the lighthouse in the center of it.
So I fulfilled my destiny and gave Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi not a watch so much as a long (2.5 hours), concerned stare. And it is with sad disappointment that I must say it continues what’s become a trend in this saga of sucking mightily; which, in and of itself, wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t shitting all over something of priceless sentimental value.