In this week’s mini-episode of the Substandard, JVL, Vic, and I briefly discussed the life and work of Sam Shepard. After the podcast (subscribe, etc.) I want to share a brief excerpt from a fantastic New Yorker essay on a part of Shepard’s life I, honestly, didn’t know much about: his work as a playwright.
The lede on the New York Times‘s box office roundup from the weekend is … odd.
I just got out of a screening of Atomic Blonde, a movie set in the midst of Berlin in 1989 as the Wall is about to come tumbling down. It’s an odd little flick—a hybrid of an action film and an intricately plotted spy-thriller, a bit like James Bond but with more cinematic flair and a far subtler plot or a dumbed down Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that takes place in the John Wick universe.
What it isn’t is an Olympian-level view of American-Soviet relations as the primary symbol of the Cold War was dismantled brick by brick. I’m sure there’s an interesting movie to be made about the heated phone calls taking place on opposite sides of the world, one that focuses on the domestic Soviet intrigue as Gorbachev watched the Evil Empire crumble into dust—a Thirteen Days by way of The Lives of Others, perhaps. But this isn’t that film. And it wouldn’t make much sense—nor would it be particularly useful to potential audiences, nor would it be particularly useful as a way of measuring the work of art in question—to write a piece of criticism arguing that an entirely different type of movie would have been, well, entirely different. Better, perhaps; more revealing of a time and a place, maybe. More to your specific interests? Sure, why not.
But, mostly, just different.
Which brings me to Dunkirk.
So, if you listen to this week’s Substandard (Subscribe! Review!), you’ll hear me be embarrassingly unprepared for the segment in which we rank Christopher Nolan films. Forgot my notes and wasn’t able to do it off the top of my head. My bad. As penance, after the embed below, I shall re-rank the Nolan movies. I say re-rank because I’ve done this before, but not since before Interstellar was released. Plus, opinions change. Time is a flat circle, all this has happened before, etc.
For a film that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen and in the best format possible—IMAX, 70mm, some combination thereof—Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is often at its best and most terrifying when we are trapped in close confines alongside the young men fleeing the Nazi onslaught: When we are below decks as a torpedo hits a destroyer filled with troops; when we are confronted with a shell-shocked soldier on a civilian ship who refuses to go below deck; when we are trapped inside a cockpit filling with water as the pilot struggles to open its jammed door.
The first three scenes of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets pretty neatly represent the good, the sad, and the ugly of Luc Besson’s nearly two-and-a-half hour opus, meaning that you should have a sense of whether or not this is the movie for you within the first half hour of its running time.
This week on the Substandard we talked about War for the Planet of the Apes after JVL got done yelling about Tesla. Man, he hates Tesla. I mean, REALLY hates Tesla. I can’t wait for him to be forced to buy one by President Zuckerberg and Secretary of Cool Cars Musk!
Anyway, after the podcast (review/subscribe here!), I thought we should rank the Planet of the Apes movies. THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEM.
George Romero, the progenitor of the modern zombie whose offspring have completely captured popular culture, died after a brief bout with lung cancer this weekend.