The Ballad of Buster Scruggs — Review

The best thing to come out of the age of the franchise blockbuster is the speed at which “indiewood” movies arrive on streaming platforms. I watched Lady Bird in the springtime, Sorry to Bother You in the fall and now the latest Coen Brother’s outing has arrived on Netflix after a short theatrical run.

I guess they’re no longer worthy of cinema release because nobody is wearing a colourful jumpsuit. Actually, you know what, I think one guy actually was. I should stop my flippant criticisms of the superhero genre — People like them and that’s what matters.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a short film collection of six standalone stories, all connected by themes of death, betrayal and expectation, as well as the setting of the Old West.

The stories are tragic, darkly comedic and strangely uplifting, and due to the timed shifts between the narratives, the film is over before you know it.

There’s something to take away from each of the six narratives and I’m going to attempt to briefly explain just what those things are. Spoilers ahead and all that.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The opening outing sees the two extremes of the western genre mashed together into one piece — The ultra-violent shoot-a-thon and the prairie musical.

Buster Scruggs is a singing, shooting cowboy who dresses like the Milkybar Kid. He rides around the West yodelling his tune, which leaves his enemies unsuspecting of his violent ways. He dispatches of them in a series of comedically violent methods before engaging in a showdown with a black-clad roamer.

Scruggs is instantly shot and killed, as the tone is set for the entire film — Don’t grow attached to any of the characters we will be presenting to you today, for the protagonists will be slaughtered, no matter which end of the Western book we peruse.

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This story felt like quintessential Coen brothers, with 90s-style gallows humour (quite literally) and comedic, almost slapstick action. Despite this, it was perhaps my least favourite of the stories. There was no intrigue because I felt as though I’d seen it before, in another world at another time, with different players.

Stephen Root puts in a great little performance as a bank teller, but James Franco offers nothing to the lead role that any generic male actor couldn’t bring to the table.

Thankfully it’s the shortest of the stories, and we quickly move onto something with a little more depth.

Meal Ticket 

Perhaps the most tragic of the six stories, Meal Ticket sees Liam Neeson travelling from town to town as he puts his act on for ever-decreasing numbers of spectators. His act is a young man with no arms or legs, named Harrison, who recites classical poetry and famous speeches.

Their profits are dwindling and the winter is cold, and Liam Neeson treats his meal ticket as an object rather than another person. Liam Neeson is then conned, as he purchases a “magic” chicken that can perform basic arithmetic.

Of course, the magic itself is in the contraption, but he only sees that a chicken requires less care than a man with no arms or legs. So he drops Harrison from a high bridge and continues on the road with his chicken.

In this story, nobody wants to see a curiosity — A strange twist on some classical narratives — They’d rather watch a chicken. Is this about modern media?

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All Gold Canyon

We follow an ageing prospector as he looks for a gold ore pocket in the middle of a mountain valley. His struggle is uplifting and his connection with nature is admirable, but by this point in the film I knew he wouldn’t make it out alive.

Whilst I attempted to predict his method of demise, a lone gunman approaches him from behind and shoots. After a two minute pause, as the gunman watches the prospector bleed out, the prospector surprises the gunman and kills him.

The bullet has “gone clean through”, he patches himself up, collects the gold and rides off to the horizon. A happy ending! Our expectations have been subverted in part 4/6, so maybe everything will be okay from here on out.

I mean, he’ll probably die from an infected wound, but we don’t know that for sure. The Coen brothers give us hope before…

The Girl Who Got Rattled

We watch two people fall in love on the Oregon Trail, a series of events occur and “the girl” tragically kills herself when she “needn’t have done that”.

This served well as a thirty-minute narrative, but had this been feature-length with the same outcome, even I (captain misery) wouldn’t have enjoyed it. There’s too much natural chemistry between the leads for it to end this way, but it did and that’s the point.

This story is about an uncertainty for the future, but a calm tranquility in the present. The girl chooses the path of the known, the certainty of the now. But by choosing this route she makes a mistaken decision that costs her everything.

You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Damn you Coen Brothers.

The Mortal Remains

I’ve seen a couple of reviewers brag about how they “understood the deep meaning behind The Mortal Remains”. Mate, this wasn’t a difficult text, the reapers even call themselves reapers.

This final story is about three souls making the journey from death to the afterlife, as they’re taken in a carriage across the plains to “Fort Morgan”. They explain their personal philosophies, musings and perspectives on the nature of man, before one of the reapers vaguely clarifies what it’s all about.

They arrive at their destination, finally sure of where they are, as the book closes for the final time.


Like with all Coen Brother’s outings, it’s the characters that keep these stories ticking along. Just don’t get too attached to them, as they won’t hang around. Such is the nature of the West.

Not their best work, but deeply enjoyable on a cathartic level. Confront death with the Coen Brothers for two hours, set to the tune of a familiar genre that they’ve proven themselves competent with.

8/10 — Probably don’t need to watch it twice, but you should see it once.


Today is Thursday, November 29th and I’ve almost finished the Spyro games already. Oops.

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AMC: The ‘M’ stands for ‘Movie’

With announced TV-movies for both The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, it’s as though some new, young executive at AMC has just discovered that long-form series aren’t the only medium for storytelling.

You get a movie, and you get a movie! All our beloved franchises get a movie!

As far as The Walking Dead goes I think this is the right decision for the brand. Robert Kirkman and co have established his world as the zombie fiction universe. We live in the age of franchises, more content is only a good thing. Hardcore fans will watch everything regardless of quality, and word will get out if a specific film or series has a narrative worth watching.

AMC did their usual bait and switch last Sunday, as they had teased the “departure of Rick Grimes”, declaring episode five of season nine as “Rick Grimes’ final episode”. I’d fallen for their tricks before (Glenn, dumpster), so I knew the character wasn’t going to die. But I was curious to see how they would write him out of a show in which death walks on two legs and is around every corner.

Rick has been taken somewhere else in America, so that Andrew Lincoln can star in three films set in The Walking Dead universe. The latest episode was the best written in some time, in fact, this whole series is the strongest the show has felt since season five.

On top of this, they’ve introduced a major time-jump after Rick’s departure, as a way of soft-rebooting the characters and allowing for completely new narratives. This is, presumably, thanks to new show-runner Angela Kang.

I can imagine a world where the old show-runner remained, and we then had a subsequent twelve episodes of our cast crying about Rick. A (minimum) five year time jump allows for the characters to change, and have moved on from the leadership of Rick Grimes. Although I doubt his memory will be at all forgotten.

These movies can be good if they’re kept to small, personal stories — Reminiscent of the first series of the show. Some of the best narratives in modern fiction have been low-concept, character-driven stories, set in high-concept, often post-apocalyptic worlds.

The Walking Dead is a universe filled with sprawling narratives, hundreds of characters, and plenty of comic books to still be adapted. Making TV-movies as spin-offs, that feature the central protagonist of the entire show, makes perfect sense for the franchise. More of those stories can be told, and the world can grow at a faster pace, ultimately pleasing the content-hungry fans.

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But what about Breaking Bad? A show often, and rightly, cited as the best open and close narrative in TV history. Breaking Bad is the very definition of golden-age television. Vince Gilligan took a simplistic, genius premise and allowed both his story and characters to breathe over the course of sixty episodes.

Breaking Bad wouldn’t have the same effect across a two-hour story. There would be room for all of the big scenes, but entire characters, sub-plots and beautiful, small moments would be lost.

Now, rumours are that the film will be about Jesse Pinkman, following the events of Breaking Bad. Even though I think his character’s eventual fate would be best left to speculation, and that more time spent with Jesse would weaken his characterisation, I also didn’t think an entire show about Saul Goodman was necessary, but it remains compelling television.

My main issue here isn’t Gilligan’s need to return to his established universe, but that we’re to only get a couple more hours in it.

If AMC had announced a Breaking Bad sequel, with Aaron Paul as the lead, following the life of Jesse Pinkman ten years after his escapades with Walter White, then I’d be all-in. Gilligan has proven himself a highly competent storyteller, who has a real gift for long-form television narratives.

I’m worried that a TV-movie, two hours of new content, would either feel too rushed OR be kept small-scale, but leave us wanting more. No matter which it is, the Breaking Bad sequel film likely won’t feel as satisfying as a brand new full series, or it not even happening at all.

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Movies based on TV shows rarely work, and a successful transition in the opposite direction is more common. The fact that AMC are slated to be making them as TV-movies work in favour of the projects, as they will be kept on a smaller-scale and hopefully close to the narratives they blossomed from.

I’d like to see Vince Gilligan eventually work on something that isn’t set in the Breaking Bad universe. He can tell a similar story — Character-driven yet still about the deep world of organised crime — with a similar tone, and nobody would complain.

His ability to create richly unique and compelling characters is enviable, and so, personally, I’d like to see that brain put to use on a new story. However, we live in the age of franchise and bankable property, and unless your name is Stephen King, you aren’t going to get by as a writer on your name alone.

It could be that Gilligan has many ideas for other TV shows or movies, but AMC is throwing enough money at him to continue telling the stories of the people he originally dreamt-up a decade ago.

It’s as though AMC have remembered that the M in their initial stands for Movie, and so now they’ve decide to return to the roots of their original branding without thinking too much about the consequences.

No matter how I feel about them, they’ve peaked my interest enough for me to watch the movies of The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad universes, and that’s all that matters from a business standpoint.

People, like me, complain about the over-reliance on established franchises in modern fiction, but we only have ourselves to blame. We’re the ones who’re still shovelling it all down, like the filthy little content goblins we are.


Today is Thursday, November 8th and bigger things have happened in the last twenty-four hours, I just needed to write about something light. Stay safe, hold on to each other.

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Discussion w/ Ben Eckstein About His Movie, Zero Fucks

It’s not often you read about a movie that features a talking, anthropomorphic cat, who also happens to be a certain presidential psychopath. In this independently made, post-apocalyptic satirical film you will see just that, and more. Much more!

In my search for all things Twin Peaks, an addiction I’ll never quite shake, I stumbled upon an article about Zero Fucks. After silently rooting for this movie from the sidelines for a week or two, I received an unexpected message from director Ben Eckstein and was fortunate enough to have a quick chat with him about his creation.

I’m a big supporter of independent cinema, original and surreal concepts, and healthy helpings of political satire — All elements that makeup Ben’s production. He has made this film with a fantastic team of people, and has now launched a crowdfunding campaign to secure its future.

I wish I had some cool story and location of exactly where Ben and myself met. You know, like in the proper articles by proper people. Alas, we simply conversed online, like the digital children we are. But it was a wonderful chat, and if I hadn’t said anything a couple of sentences ago, then you (the reader) could’ve imagined that we’d met in person.

Actually, for the purposes of establishing a “mood”, can you just pretend we had this conversation in an LA cafe or something? You’d be doing all of us a favour.

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In your words, could you briefly explain the premise of this film?

Zero Fucks is a dark, subversive, post-apocalyptic political satire exploring what might be the motivations of a mad man pursuing power and what might happen if he actually got it…

Personally, I’m incredibly interested in the film’s blend of surrealism with satire — What made you combine these two genres?

I’ve been involved in theatre most of my life and always fascinated by the works of Antonin Artaud, Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, Eugene Ionesco and other surrealist playwrights. I really couldn’t get enough, and probably read close to everything these men ever wrote. It just seemed to fit with how my brain works and they felt more realistic than surrealistic to me. Satire is a natural side effect of seeing things from a different point of view, and it comes across as satire to the audience, but as the writer, I’m dead serious.

Do you have an active interest in politics? Are you trying to make a statement with this movie?

Yes. I’ve been an political activist throughout my life and seen whole movements crumble into nothing and got my ideological heart broken many times. I don’t carry signs in front of town halls anymore, but use story as a vehicle for change instead. If we think differently we act differently. I’m tired of arguing, I want to inspire. So this movie is not about slipping on a banana, it is still funny, but at the end I hope you’ll feel a little fear and you won’t know how you got there, but the that feeling will be possessive and hopefully it will motivate people into action.

What do you think the real Donald Trump would say if he saw this movie?

It’s going to be his favorite movie and he’ll watch it all the time…but he’ll never admit it.

I loved Twin Peaks: The Return, in which John Pirruccello played the detestable Chad. Now he’s playing Donald Trump as a cat, so I have to ask — Is Mr Pirruccello a nice person in real life?

John Pirruccello is the nicest man you’ll ever meet. He is sensitive, intelligent and superbly talented. John has given a nuanced and irresistible performance as Donald Pump, the trash talking cat. I can’t wait to share it with the world- if there is justice in these things- he should clean up come award season.

Thanks for chatting with me Ben! Before you go, could you tell anyone reading why they should support this movie?

There is so much goodwill and interest surrounding this project, but we simply can’t self-fund the final step of post production. If you believe in bold, original, independent stories- this is your chance to stand up for one that hopes to make a difference and add something to the conversation about our future. Come join the Zero Fucks movement and make this movie with us! Go to our crowdfunding page at zerofsmovie.com to donate now!

I just want to echo Ben’s closing statement and encourage you to support this movie. It’s so clear to see that he and his team are passionate about this project, and we always need more content that shines a spotlight on the underbelly of the establishment.

There are a multitude of reasons to support this movie, but if you only back it for the sole reason that Donald Trump might one day be aware of this film, and hate-watch it out of fear of the destruction of his fragile ego — Well, then I’m sure Ben and his team will respect you just the same. I know I will.

Support independent film!


Today is Monday, October 29th and I finished the latest draft of my dystopian novel and I cannot wait to share this world with you.


I normally put a tip jar at the bottom of this page, but you should check out zerofsmovie.com instead! Have a great week everyone, look after yourself and each other.

Casting Nagini

In the latest trailer for Fantastic Beasts 2 we see that Voldemort’s pet snake Nagini will play a part in the latest instalment of the Wizarding World prequel. Actress Claudia Kim confirmed that she is playing the roll of the woman who will eventually turn into a snake? Or turns into a snake at will? Or was once a snake and will be again? I don’t know.

That’s a narrative issue, and the backlash online in the last twenty-four hours has not been narrative-based, but rather surrounding the casting choice for this particular role.

It’s probably important to point out that I feel indifferent about the Harry Potter series. I wouldn’t call myself a fan, I think the books are great children’s books and the films are just kind-of okay. I’m not coming at this from the perspective of someone who is seeking to defend every decision made by J.K Rowling. We all know she’s made a few questionable decisions in the last few years, including the casting of Johnny Depp at the height of the #MeToo movement.

The issue is this — Rowling has cast an Asian woman in a role that is submissive to a male Caucasian antagonist. People aren’t happy for two reasons, the first being the representative connotations of this role. These connotations include; The submissiveness of the character, the fact that she’s a villain, an Asian woman as a seductress for evil, an Asian woman as an Asian mythical creature (A Naga).

The second is that Rowling has a reputation for not writing diverse fiction. Harry Potter is about a lot of white people who occasionally have friends from other ethnicities — but these books were written twenty years ago by a white woman from the UK (a country that is still 87% white), which isn’t an excuse but is important to remember. So the argument is that Rowling is panic-diversity casting; Shoehorning characters from other ethnicities into her world.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s an extremely nuanced issue with positives and negatives to the casting choice. Before I offer my thoughts I’d like to mention that nobody is waiting for Claudia Kim to issue a statement — The person whose voice matters the most in this scenario. I mean, I’m also not waiting, I just wanted to make it clear that I’m aware my opinion doesn’t matter.

Let’s start with some of the obvious negatives of this casting decision. It’s really not great that this role has the outward connotations it does. At first glance this is an Asian woman who turns herself into a snake and serves a white dude — Johnny Depp no less. It’s a fantastical version of the kind of media representation that Asian women have been fighting against for decades.

Another negative is that there could be some legitimacy to this being a panic-diversity cast from Rowling. The fact is that there’s no way of knowing for sure. Rowling claims that she has known the truth about Nagini for twenty years, but there’s no proof other than her word. However, Rowling also never stated that she was a human at all, so at least she’s not quickly recasting a previously white character as Asian for the sake of some diversity amid backlash. This character used to be green, until yesterday she was just a snake.

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On social media I’ve seen a lot of Asian people make balanced arguments, weighing up positives and negatives before carefully explaining why this isn’t a great decision from Rowling. I’ve also seen a lot of white people make one-tweet reactionist jibes that actually go full-circle and seem a little offensive in themselves.

For example, I don’t think it’s offensive to cast Asian people as villains, as some people have stated. In a film landscape that is increasingly telling the stories from both sides, antagonistic figures now make-up a solid portion of the cast. If you exclude Asian people from auditioning for antagonists, then you’re denying them the potential to work and earn money — Which is horrendously backwards and racist.

Should people of all ethnicities be considered for all roles in a film? Yes, absolutely. But should we be attacking Asian actors for taking a huge pay-day and appearing in one of the biggest blockbusters of the year? No, that’s so offensive and is actually an example of race-based classism.

Also it’s important to note that she is playing the henchman role of this movie. A role that is usually played by a ripped, white dude. The connotations of her being a sidekick to a white man are not great, but one of the positives is that she’s breaking new ground as far as her role is concerned. It’s cool to see new people in traditionally archetypical roles, and it’s even cooler (I think) that she’s female.

I can’t speak for people from Asian cultures, and that’s why ultimately we need to wait to hear what Claudia Kim has to say, and not J.K Rowling. I can speak for liberal-minded white people though, and I’ve seen some dangerous comments this morning from people who think they’re saying the right thing, but in doing so are actually making some fairly dangerous suggestions.

We need to be allies in situations like this and nothing more. Sure we can voice an opinion, as I have this morning, but ultimately we need to let Asian voices be dominant in this instance.

If this film was cast ten years ago then the cast would be entirely white because that’s the demographic Hollywood executives will have been playing to. The immediate connotations of casting an Asian woman as subservient to a white male are bad, I won’t deny that. But in the long-term this is a talented, Asian actress who wasn’t forced against her will to audition, and beat-out other people in the process, to play a major role in a major blockbuster.

It’s not ten steps forward, which it could be if WB actually tried, but it’s surely also not a step backwards for representation.

There are many hills to die on as far as J.K Rowling-hate is concerned — the Depp dilemma or the fact that Dumbledore won’t be openly gay in the new movies. However, this really doesn’t feel like the place to make a stand. Unless, of course, Claudia Kim says otherwise.


Today is Thursday, September 27th and please look at the poor representation in your favourite franchises before throwing stones.

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Trying Marvel Movies

I don’t think I’ve ever been a fan of superhero movies. Even thinking back to my childhood, I didn’t have superhero toys or costumes. At most I watched a VHS of Batman Forever on repeat, but that hardly constitutes being a fan of the genre.

I haven’t been completely under a rock, I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies in the last fifteen years — Voluntary or otherwise. I remember enjoying Spiderman 2 (the first time they did a sequel), Batman Begins and a few of the X-Men movies. In recent years I’ve enjoyed Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredibles 2 and…maybe that’s it?

Avengers: Age of Ultron was the last Marvel superhero flick I saw in cinema, and it was my breaking point for the whole franchise. Up until I saw that film I could gleefully pass the entire genre off as useless but enjoyable popcorn movies, but then they shoved lots of people onto the screen and tried to make me care about it by pointing at themselves and going “Look! It’s Slenderman! Or Grime-Boy! Or Jimmy Jon!” Or whatever all the superheroes are called.

So I’ve missed out on a lot of the Marvel movies, and now I have a very specific conversation every three months with friends and family.

“Have you seen LATEST MARVEL BLOCKBUSTER?!”

“No I haven’t seen it.”

“Oh well — it’s really cool when SUPERHERO DOES THING, oh wait — do you care about spoilers?”

“No, I don’t plan on seeing it.”

“Well you really should, because it changes the game for IMPORTANT FRANCHISE.”

In the last year people have told me that I’d actually enjoy a couple of the new Marvel movies, those being Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. I didn’t believe the first person who suggested them — because it was the guy installing my internet and that was weird thing for him to say out of the blue — but when everyone started to recommend the same two movies for me I thought I best watch them. I mean, I’ve had a three-year hiatus from Marvel, what’s the worst that could happen?

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Let’s start with Thor: Ragnarok, a film I was told I would like because it’s a comedy (thumbs up) and it’s directed by the always brilliant Taika Waititi (double thumbs-up). I was told that it’s “not like other Marvel movies”, “it’s really funny” and that “you definitely don’t need to have seen all the other Marvel movies to know what’s happening”.

*grits teeth and sucks in air*

Oh man, this is tough, because people seem to genuinely like these films for some reason. As though they’re the best films they’ve ever experienced in their life or something, so I feel awful saying bad things about them and then justifying them with appropriate evidence.

Okay, I’ll start with the positives from this movie. The rock guy (played by Waititi) and Jeff Goldblum’s character were exactly what I expected from the film described to me. They were the only two people with lines that made me laugh and had they been the primary companion and antagonist of this film I think I may have genuinely enjoyed it.

The hour of this movie that they spent on Grandmaster’s planet was fun to watch. Apart from all the Thor/Hulk stuff that you clearly needed to see other films to have a better understanding. Oh and the Thor/Loki stuff that didn’t make any sense. The antagonist from this first movie who keeps trying to betray you at every turn is being kept alive just because he’s your brother? Yet you’re all ready to go kill your sister for doing the exact same thing? Don’t get me started on sexism in the Marvel franchise, of entitled boys in suits saving the world…

I can already feel myself getting angry at the plot, so let’s talk about that. Right at the start of the movie Thor tells us that he always gets in these scrapes but manages to come out alright in the end. Fine, as long as this film remains a straight-up comedy and they don’t attempt fake threat and emotion throughout, then this will — and… they did, they did exactly that.

If you have a line like that, why am I supposed to care what dramatically happens to these people? I know they’re all going to survive because of what Thor said, (apart from the one new guy who’s always introduced in a Marvel film and then killed off so they don’t kill a franchise player), so why threaten me with peril? When they returned to Asgard and had the audacity to act as though they wouldn’t win, it was a real “walk out of the cinema” moment for me.

Also — and this is just a sidenote — why doesn’t Doctor Strange solve everything? Or do villains not fall for his magic tricks? And if not, what’s the point of him? How did Loki survive the burning city? Why didn’t Cate Blanchett even try to act? Can Thor only use thunder now that his father is dead? Can Marvel make a movie without a shoehorned classic rock song?

So many questions, no answers within the film. Maybe if Waititi had written the screenplay as well then this could’ve been decent, but he didn’t, it was written by three people! A story by committee is not a story, it’s a sketch show. And eight laughs in one-hundred and thirty minutes does not a sketch show make.

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On the other hand, Black Panther, I genuinely enjoyed. I was worried for the first hour that it was going to be like any other superhero movie, but as soon as the South-African villain was killed, and the story became more about family and a culture war than it did about the threat to the wider, faceless world (which was still there but I found it easy to ignore), I could really sink my teeth into it.

The world building was far more interesting, maybe because it was butchering a culture that I know absolutely nothing about, instead of riding the coattails of Norse mythology but getting it all wrong in the process. Or maybe it played to the culture well, I couldn’t possibly say. What I do know is that dream-sequences through sinking into sand, direct parallels to the anxieties and dangers of modern society, and strong characters that aren’t just the same white dudes I’ve been watching for twenty-five years — Those are all things I want from a mindless action movie.

In the last hour of Black Panther I actually forgot I was watching a Marvel superhero movie, as it just felt like a regular sci-fi/action flick. They’d subtly set-up small details for the third act, and everything came to personal dramatic conclusions that felt emotional and meaningful.

Do I want to see a sequel? Not really — That’s part of the problem I have with these franchises. Just leave things alone and allow them to be remembered fondly. Although, I know how important a movie like Black Panther is to the black community, so maybe true equality is milking every cash-cow to the point of a “terrible” 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, a “measly” 1.5 billion dollars, followed by a reboot? Yeah! Mediocrity for everyone!

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I tried, I really did — I just don’t think these movies are meant for me. Maybe you had to have been either a fan or a child when all of these films started, and I was just caught in the middle of all of that. Too old to enjoy them, too young to remember the Saturday-morning cartoons and original comic books.

I guess I’ll watch another couple of Marvel films in 2022 or something. When they start rebooting them all for the third time.


Today is Thursday, September 20th and watch what you like, like what you like, but believe that your blockbusters can be better.

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Five Directors For Bond 25

Now that Danny Boyle has dropped out of Bond 25 due to “creative differences”, the 25th adventure for the suit-wearing, car destroying, pussy galore-ing spy, needs a new director at the helm.

Boyle — director of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, among other things — would’ve been enough to drag me to the cinema to see a Bond film, for the first time since Casino Royale. I don’t particularly enjoy Bond, but I do enjoy Boyle’s films.

I thought he was an odd choice back in March, when he was announced for the project, but was happy to go along with it, as it would mean that I’d see a modern Bond film at the same time as everyone else — allowing me to participate in a culturally relevant conversation for once.

Alas, Boyle and Bond have parted ways. He probably wanted to load 007 up on opium before his first mission, or recast Ewan McGregor as the chauvinist spy in a bid to “Make Bond Scottish Again”.

Now, a new director is needed, and given the odd, mildly stylistic choice of Danny Boyle, let’s pointlessly pitch for five other directors to take on the task.

1. Christopher Nolan

“Can you keep a secret? I bet you could — because you’re a spy and you have to — that’s the rule.”

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Given Nolan’s style of “men in suits walking around cities doing things”, it’s surprising that he hasn’t yet directed a Bond movie. Bond 25 could now be his opportunity.

Under Nolan, Bond will be recast — with Tom Hardy replacing Daniel Craig, in order to give Craig the sweet escape he’s been longing for, for the last twelve years. Tom Hardy will also play the villain, the henchman, M, Q, P, T, S, D and, of course, Moneypenny.

The film will take place in London, and then New York City — but will it really be either of these places? Bond’s past will literally catch up with him, as he’s chased down by a sharp-dressed Cillian Murphy and beaten over the head with the concept of time.

Several people will claim to understand the exact ending of Nolan’s Bond 25, where Bond mysteriously vanishes into a 6×2 black hole. But given that it’s open to a variety of interpretations and that’s the point, they’re probably just trying to use basic film analysis to sleep with you.

2. Greta Gerwig

“For my entire life, I’ve wanted to be something other than a spy — I just don’t think that’s attainable for me right now.”

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In this version of Bond 25 we go back to the days of James fresh out of the academy, where he’s played by Alex Lawther. He takes undercover work in Brooklyn, where he must infiltrate a group of socialite hipsters who all have dreams of becoming “content creators for old new-media”. James develops his podcast, but his status as a spy is revealed when he nervously fumbles his way through an episode on the history of the secret service.

A dreamy but well-rounded love interest comes into play (Dakota Fanning) and helps to hide his secret from the rest of the group. However, it turns out that she’s working for the Kremlin to spread misinformation throughout NYC. James must put his feelings aside and detain his American love, all as he tries to make it as a twenty-something in the city.

This is the first Bond movie to not feature James driving a vehicle, as it would be ridiculous to own a car in New York. However, the sound recording equipment should satisfy those who watch Bond flicks for the tech.

3. David Lynch

“The name is *eternal screams from the void*, James *eternal screams from the void*”

davidlynch

Why not? Isn’t the true definition of counter-culture and high-art to take the most popular forms and turn them on their head? It’s not? Well I’d still like to see this.

In this version of Bond 25 we open somewhere in the middle of the Nevada desert, where we hold on a shot of insects devouring a rotting cactus, for about twenty minutes. It represents the parasitic nature of the secret service, of course.

Bond, played by Kyle Maclachlan, is getting on a bit and is looking to retire, but he’s been called out for one last job — which will take place in a dream-dimension that’s only visible to those who have a J in their name.

007 must collect the souls of 001-006 in order to push beyond this realm and visit the source of the inter-dimensional crimes. Bond then confronts a talking lamppost, who is trying to smuggle all the evils of man into a washing machine in Berlin. They play a game of chess to decide the fate of the universe, but Bond loses and then wakes up in the body of an actress in 1950s Los Angeles.

4. Woody Allen

“Oh gee, I guess I’m going to have to put my gun into your holster — if you catch my drift.”

woodyallen

This one’s easy for Allen, who’ll be writing, directing, producing and starring. It’s exactly like a Bond movie — he sleeps with girls half his age, people of colour are almost non-existent and he focuses on a lot of things that are no longer culturally relevant. Next.

Nothing like Casino Royale (1967) — this one’s a drama.

5. Wes Anderson

“Keep your hands off my guns! I shall be taking this up with the hotel manager, you can bank on that, buster.”

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This would be such an aesthetically pleasing Bond. A clear palette will be chosen by Anderson, probably lots of chrome colours. Edward Norton will tackle the role of Bond, in an international epic that takes place all across the globe.

Anderson’s Bond 25 will be praised for its soundtrack, with a robotically revived Lou Reed scoring the theme for the title sequence — It’s Such a Perfect Day to Die — which will pick up the academy award for best original song in 2021.

Bill Murray will play the villain, a deadpan businessman who doesn’t take himself too seriously, but who also wants to kill everyone on Earth who’s never seen The Exterminating Angel.

Oh, and Bond fans can also expect car-chase sequences to be entirely stop-motion animated, as well as being set to a soundtrack of a Dutch-language singer covering songs by Bob Dylan.


Today is Monday, August 27th and yesterday we met a couple who had a Twin Peaks themed wedding.

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Make a Woman Out of You

Mulan was one of the films that helped make the 1990s the best decade for Disney. It was a feminist piece that gave a different message to young people than the typical “be pretty and boys will like you” of older, female-lead Disney animated features. It was also a female-lead action movie that came before studios realised they could make a guaranteed profit from that genre; So it felt genuine.

It’s for that reason that I’m concerned about the live action Mulan. During the last few days more details have been revealed in regards to the Disney “reimagining” — and with just these few pieces of information, I’m concerned that the strength of a woman overcoming and outsmarting a man’s world has been lost.

Let me start by praising Disney for opting to cast Chinese and Chinese-American actors. At one point, a few years back, they weren’t going to — and casting people as the correct race should really be base-level common sense in this decade.

Cut to:

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So they can definitely have some points for doing the right thing as far as casting goes. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Scarlett Johansson auditioned for the role of Mulan, given her recent penchant to pursue roles meant for actors of different cultural backgrounds. Disclaimer: She probably didn’t — because she’s already crossed “Asian” off of her white-washing bucket-list.

The promotional photo of Liu Yifei as Mulan looks incredible, and I have no doubt that director Niki Caro will oversee a project that does the protagonist justice.

It was different news that made me feel uneasy, and that was the casting of the new antagonist. It will no longer be a Hun invader (a man), it’ll be a witch from somewhere else (a woman).

Part of the beauty of the original film is that wherever Mulan turns she sees men — men who’re trying to destroy things or destroy themselves. Her grandmother acts as a supportive, anarchic female figure, but the other women (her mother and the matchmaker) are as traditional as the men in the movie. If the villain of the piece is also a woman, I don’t know if the message will be as strong.

shanyu

Not only that, but making the villain a witch just feels so stereotypically Disney. Very little emphasis is placed on Shan Yu in the animated feature — sure he’s the threat, but he represents more than who he is as an individual. I can’t see them creating a witch character and not featuring her more prominently, as they can’t just rely on history to get over the severity of the conflict, they need to show (and tell) us about the magical element.

Most Disney stories about an “evil witch” character are just a way for the female protagonist to work out her mommy issues, which would obviously be horrible for Mulan’s narrative. My hope is that she’s the antithesis to what Mulan stands for, in that she says women shouldn’t be going to war — but honestly, that would be pretty rich coming from a woman who chose to study and learn a complex craft such as the magical arts.

Also announced for the film is “Mulan’s sister”, a character who does feature in some of the early Chinese versions of the legend. I’m hoping that she slots into the role that the grandma held; Someone who encourages her in spirit but is too old (or too young in this case) to do anything herself.

In this version of the story, Mulan loses the war and is forced to become a concubine. Instead of submitting, she gives her sister a suicide note to send to her fiancé and subsequently kills herself. Her sister is then captured, raped and killed before she can deliver the note.

Something tells me that Disney will pick and choose which elements of this story are included.

mulangif

If Mulan’s sister takes the ‘Mushu’ role of the film, and plays the sidekick who tags along, then this will be another way of moving the story away from one lone woman vs a world of men.

There’s a cynical part of me that’s wondering if they’ve had to change the entire plot of the film out of fear of it being transphobic. It’s not for me to say whether it is or not, but I can’t imagine that a woman dressing as a man in 5th century China would be considered as such. Especially as the character of Mulan herself isn’t trans — and more androgynous characters in film can only be a good thing, right?

But, in recent years, historical media texts have been criticised for men dressing as women, so for it not to play the other way has me wondering about the levels of sexism prevalent in trans issues. Which is a whole other, unrelated thing.

I’m still thinking and I just can’t come up with a logical reason for them shifting the plot so much that they need to incorporate such a majorly different antagonist. The Hun’s were people who did awful things and were eventually on the wrong side of history — like the Nazis or the alt-right — so surely they’re still fair game as villains?

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I’m glad that Disney have found a way to cast more women in the film, but ironically, by casting more women — it pulls focus from the primary female protagonist, thus ruining a “reimagining” of our generation’s early exposure to a feminist text.

It’s far too early to tell, but my worry is that the live action Mulan will be praised for its casting choices as far as race and gender are concerned — but the story won’t have the impact of the animated version. I mean, can it be as swift as the coursing river? Or have all the force of a great typhoon? Surely it won’t be as strong as a raging fire? But as we know very little so far, I can say it’s mysterious as the dark side of the moon.

I’ll close by saying that if Disney would work on original warrior-woman stories that aren’t based off a movie, that’s based off a play, that’s based off a poem — then maybe we wouldn’t be having all of these issues.


Today is Wednesday, August 15th and I’m sorry I did that bit with the song at the end there.


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