Movie Thoughts: Whiplash

I watched Whiplash. Here is what occurred to me while I did so.

Hey Poster, if I wanted to read this much, I wouldn't be watching a movie.

This is one of those movies where everyone gets all worked up about a big competition that I, PDR, wouldn’t give a shit about. Often these are about sports. In this case, it’s about music.

Anyway, the move is fine. The actors are good. It’s shot well. All that stuff. But man, I don’t care if that kid wins the music trophy. But here’s what I do care about: This movie seems to endorse cruelty as a method of teaching.

The big bad music teacher of the movie is convinced that he needs to find the next best music man, and the way to do it is to torture his students. This, he feels, will weed out those students who aren’t fully on committed and will make the True Musician prove their worth by doubling down. It kind of sounds makes it sound like talent isn’t teachable, but is inherent in certain people and they are the only ones worth trying to teach. Seems like a dumb thing for a music teacher to espouse, but whatever. And this movie actually does paint this teacher as a bad guy. We see the negative effects this method of teaching has.

But then, in the end, main kid rises up against the cruelty and does a good music at the music championships. He seems to be doing it in an attempt to prove his bad teacher wrong, but this is exactly what his teacher wanted. Bad teacher was right all along. That sucks.

Anyway, being competitive must be awful.

Beekeeper Review: The Beekeepers of Summersisle

Today’s Beekeepers are from the 2006 movie The Wicker Man. It isn’t a good movie.

Summersisle is an island in the Pacific Northwest which is home to an insular farming community. The big industry on the island is beekeeping. They don’t have a lot of connection to the outside world, but they do sell their honey and other bee-related products online. They make mead for their own use. There are some windows shaped like honeycombs and statues or hives and stuff. They also have “old ways” for treating people allergic to bee stings. In fact, they seem to just generally like nature, as almost everyone seems to be named after after flowers and trees and stuff. On the surface, the place seems absolutely quaint. But they sure are secretive. They just don’t plain like outsiders. So what is up?

It apparently “takes quite a few [beekeepers] to keep order around” Summersisle, but not everyone on the island is an active apiarist. Still, everyone there shares a belief system, so whole don’t intimately get to know any beekeepers, we know that the sort of values they’d have.

Summersisle is a matriarchal society to an extreme. They are, or at least claim, to be descended from Celtic ancestors who “rebelled against suppression of the feminine” and immigrated to America just in time to set up shop around Salem as the whole witch-burning things were going down. Sad to see oppression of women continue, they headed West until they found their current home. But their noble goals of equality have not worked out, because now, in the present, men on Summersisle are the oppressed ones. Male children aren’t educated, they grow up to only be used for manual labour, and they are completely unwilling, perhaps psychologically unable to communicate with outsiders. What does any of that have to do with the beekeeping? Well, it is implied that this is meant to be an evocative the dynamic in a hive, with the queen and all that. The “queen” of Summersisle is one Sister Summersisle, and apparently rulership is a hereditary thing. There’s a level higher than her, though, as they all worship a “great mother goddess” who they feel rules the island. And that’s where things get even worse.

The year before the events of the movie, the island had a failed crop. This is apparently a very rare occurrence, having only happened a few times in the island’s history, but they have a way of dealing with this sort of thing: A bizarre ritual sacrifice they get from a book called “Rituals of the Ancients” which they feel will please their goddess and make everything right again. It’s a dumb ritual. It requires them to find a male stranger who is connected to them by blood. They will call him the drone, for bee-theme reasons. They will run the drone through a dumb obstacle course of confusing scenes and motivations, with the end result that he will be a hunter who they will then hunt and he will come to them willingly. Or something. Outside of the fiction, the confusion is done to keep things mysterious until the end reveal, but within the story, why are they acting like that. It seems to me like it’d be considerably easier to lure the drone in without half the weirdness. How much of their weirdness is legitimate weirdness, and how much is them trying to make him suspicious? And even beyond that, they kill the pilot who brought him to the island because he betrayed them, but they wanted the drone to come to the island, so they totally set that pilot up to be killed. They’re jerks.

Look, I suspect they are decent beekeepers in general, but their belief in this ritual makes me doubt if they actually know what they’re doing.

2 Honeycombs out of Five.

Movie Thoughts: Timer

Yesterday I watched a movie! Here are my Movie Thoughts about Timer.

With that woman from that show that had that vampire hunter.

Full disclosure, I didn’t mean to watch Timer. When I started watching it, I thought I was going to be watching In Time. I was aiming for a sci-fi story about people with clocks in their arms that tells how long they have left to live and uses that gimmick to comment on wealth disparity, but what I got was a movie about people with clocks in their arms that tells them when they will find their one true love. But hey, I liked Timer fine, so it’s all good.

The Movie Thoughts that came to me during Timer is this: I think there may be a whole genre of movies that I recognize but which hasn’t quite been codified yet. Timer is a movie in which a company has a fancy new sci-fi device (which is more magic than science, really) and we aren’t exploring what the device means for humanity or anything, we are focused on a emotional arc of the characters. The sci-fi magic, presented via some company’s gizmo, is just a plot device to allow us to play through the character study and apart from that one element, the world resembles our own. It isn’t a future timeline or a fantasy world. We might get some offhand commentary about how the world is changing because of the device, but that isn’t the focus, and it hasn’t progressed enough to make society unrecognizable. (For example, I disqualify the movie the Lobster because the society in there has different laws and mores than our own. It’s too different.)

Other examples of this sort of thing would be Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where there’s a company that can erase memories. There’s also Cold Souls, where there’s a company that can remove souls and put them in different bodies and such. Both are stories not about the science, but about the characters who just happen to access the science via the miracles of capitalism.

I may not be big on capitalism, but I like this gimmick for a genre. The idea that one could wander down to the strip mall and go into a shop and have some magic device that can power an emotional story arc. I can’t pin down a name for this genre, but it’s definitely related to Magic Realism or Fabulism, but with a corporate component. Capitalist Fabulism? Eh, someone will find a better name, so long as we get more movies of this ilk. And I hope we do.

PDR Movie Thoughts: Knightriders

Hey, I forgot that “Movie Thoughts” was even a thing I had started doing on this site. I think I did two and then forgot about them. Well, I want to break up the flow of Phone Guys being the only thing going up, so let’s talk about a movie I watched the other day.

Today’s Movie Thoughts are about Knightriders.

I mean, that looks cool, right?

I don’t actually want to get too into the details of the film itself, but I should give a little bit of a summary: This is a movie about a group of travelling performers whose medium of performance is motorcycle jousting. There’s a bunch of drama about who gets to be in charge of this motorcycle troupe, and there’s a lot of allusions to the tales of King Arthur. That’s the basic deal. But the Movie Thoughts that occurred to me while watching were about how much I wish the movie had been dumber.

I’m not going to say Knightriders is a bad movie, but it isn’t a good enough movie that I enjoyed sitting through it when I wanted a dumb action movie.

What I mean is that it turns out that Knightriders exists in some sort of valley of quality that actually makes me find it less enjoyable. It’s in the Mid-Quality Zone. I thought that the motorcycle knight movie was going to be stupid. Instead, it turned out to be a movie delivered a drama film plot that just happened to have motorcycle jousting amid actual character work and attempts to take the plot seriously. These things would be good in a good drama, but Knightriders doesn’t break through the barrier to be a good drama. It’s just middling. And the fact the film’s length seemed better suited for a compelling drama than for a dumb action movie meant that I was getting more of what I didn’t want.

The lesson is this: We need more movies about motorcycle fighting. There needs to be enough variety in that concept that there are motorcycle fight movies for whatever mood the viewer happens to be in.

PDR Movie Thoughts: Pulse (1988)

Today I am thinking about a 1988 horror film, called Pulse.

Electricity Is Evil

Pulse is about some sort of technological entity, maybe living electricity or something, that seems to enjoy nothing more than taking over the electronics in suburban homes so as to slaughter those inside. We’re never given any kind of motivation or explanation or anything, but bad horror movies love to do bad storytelling and use the “whatever is in your imagination is scarier” excuse, so I’ll just allow it. Anyway, the protagonal victims here are this one kid* and his father and step-mother. Basically, their house tries to kill them. That’s the movie.

It isn’t a terrible movie, of course. As a fan of horror films, I have watched much worse. But it wasn’t great either I have enough trouble connecting with horror movies given that I’m not in the least afraid of the dark or of night-time. Anyone who knows me can attest, PDR thrives at night. But you know what else I am also not afraid of? Technology. Therefore, I am definitely not the target audience for a movie, the point of which is apparently “Remember, all this technology in our lives? It could kill us.” I’m a lot more off-put by the people using the tech than the tech itself.

And anyway, this movie is probably two decades too soon for a real Killer Technology House plot. Sure, lamps can overheat and start a fire and such, but the Killer Technology House in here is way too low-tech for anyone living in the 21st century. Okay, a lamp can overheat and start a fire or a hot water heater can… also overheat and cause scalding water to hurt people. Those are potentially deadly things, sure, but our houses these days are literally connected to the Internet. The Pulse Entity of 2018 could audio of it killing the kid onto the father’s phone so that the father is distracted and gets into a car accident. In 1988, the monster has to basically malfunction at the people. In 2018, it could use the technology as it is intended and still kill people. And all that without having it inexplicably lock doors that are in no way electric. Was it doing that with magnets, movie? What did I miss movie?

Also, we have electric locks now too, so we could do that too.

Anyway, in spite of my gripes, there will always be something about movies made in the 80s that I will appreciate. I don’t think it is just the time period (Though I do love the time period. I love that there was a time when calling someone a “turkey” was considered a serious insult), but there is something a quality to film of that time that I’d love to see brought into the modern era, and not just via works set in the 80s (Stranger Things).

In conclusion, I am willing to write and direct a sequel to this movie if Hollywood calls. Thank you, goodnight.

*It was not until I checked the IMDB page that I learned that the main kid was played by Joey from Blossom. Whoa. (Good reference, PDR)