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Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2021.4

Published by marco on

These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of around 1600 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood and. let’s be honest, level of intoxication. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.

Schitt’s Creek S01–S06 (2015–2020) — 9/10
“Oh, David, It’s a rare gift to strip vanity of its charm, yet here you are.”
Moira Rose
“Oh, Jocelyn, you’ll soon learn that we aging mortals are blessed with weakening eyes and fading memories, so we don’t have to really see ourselves.”
S05E06 by Moira Rose
“I never said it’s the last place you’d ever want to end up. I described the town as the last place I’d ever want to end up.”
S06E09 by Moira Rose

All of the characters are great, but I start off my recap with three quotes from Moira, who stands out for her impeccable diction and extensive vocabulary. The article A Guide To The Moira Rose Lexicon On ‘Schitt’s Creek’ by Jessica Toomer (Uproxx) lists many of her more exotic choices, with many examples. I’ve learned the following words so far,

  • Balatron: A jester or buffoon (referring to Roland)
  • Bombilate: To buzz; to make a certain noise or sound (referring to a roomful of people)
  • Lupanarian: Pertaining to a brothel or prostitution (referring to the Kit Kat girls in Cabaret)
  • Pawky: Cunning; sly (referring to Jocelyn)
  • Pettifogging: Dishonest or unethical in insignificant matters; meanly petty; mean; quibbling (referring to Alexis)
  • Sephardic: Descended from the Jews of the Iberian peninsula of the 15th century (referring to Johnny)
  • Singultus: A hiccup (referring to mishaps on the wedding day)
  • Spanandry: A dearth of males (referring to the locality)
  • Testudine: An order of reptile commonly known as turtles, tortoises and terrapins (referring to an actual turtle)
  • Unasinous: Sharing the same amount of stupidity (referring to ideas)

For even more, Schitt’s Creek/Moira (TV Quotes) lists 62 pages of quotes.

This is the story of a ludicrously wealthy family that, in the first episode, learns that their accountant has absconded with their entire fortune and had never paid their taxes. The authorities show up to seize all of their property, except for a town that patriarch Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) had bought as a joke for his son David (Dan Levy) because of its funny name—Schitt’s Creek.

The family moves to Schitt’s Creek, all moving in to the only motel. Mother Moira (Catherine O’Hara) and daughter Alexis (Annie Murphy) are there with father Johnny and son David. The proprietor of the motel is Stevie Budd (Emily Hampshire), a jaded resident of the town who hasn’t fled yet. She befriends David in an uneasy alliance/truce that grows over the first season.

Alexis, meanwhile, tries her best to continue being a socialite in the town, meeting Twyla (Sarah Levy), the waitress at the only diner, and Mutt (Tim Rozon), son of the mayor Roland (Chris Elliot) and Jocelyn (Jennifer Robertson), who are an odd couple (how could they be anything else with Elliot involved). Mutt is an off-the-grid-composting, wash-clothes-in-the-creek kind of guy, but obviously, opposites attract, and Alexis is spiraling toward him.

The series arc so far is the Roses are trying to find their feet again, looking for jobs and other opportunities in the town. Each show is a classic sitcom episode, with its own arc, contributing to the overall season arc. It’s a one-camera affair, with no laugh track. The show is made in Canada, so it’s thankfully got the appropriate amount of swearing to properly express the angst that accompanies so many worlds colliding.

The first season’s story arc ends with the family almost escaping. They’d found a buyer willing to pay a million for the town—but he falls into a coma after overeating and overdrinking at the Schitt’s house. He fails to sign the contract by seconds. David escapes in Roland’s truck. Alexis tells Ted she would marry him if she were staying, but she’s not, so…and then she has to stay, so now she has to marry him? Even though she just banged Mutt?

Season 2 resolves these conflicts: Alexis turns Ted down. David returns, but Stevie makes him suffer. Johnny Rose seems to have been half-conned into getting a job as a mechanic at Bob’s Garage. Moira and David try to “remember” how to cook her family recipe.

The shows continue in this vein, with the Roses growing somewhat closer to the Schitt’s—and to the Creek. Moira auditions for Jocelyn’s singing group The Jazz-a-Gals, Mutt helps Alexis learn how to ride a bike, and she pays it forward to David. Mutt and David build a cedar chest for David’s cashmere sweaters. David helps Roland pick out an outfit for his The Devil Wears Prada role-play with Jocelyn. Johnny and Moira luck into a $200 mattress for only $50—but it’s used. But it’s memory foam. They accept their fate and accept the mattress’s “memory” of Roland and Jocelyn’s brief tryst.

Alexis and Mutt break up, putting both of them back on the market. Ted the veterinarian rolled with the disappointment of Alexis’s rejection of his marriage proposal and has buffed up and started riding a motorcycle. Alexis is … interested again, like a goddamned jackal.

David is working at the Blouse Barn and has converted it to an upscale, chic establishment. Jocelyn goes shopping there to pick up a cute outfit for her campaign for the town council. Moira is running against her, so David catches hell for having helped her opponent spruce up. Johnny is working on some ideas, with office space in Bob’s garage, but nothing’s happening yet. He tries to get into the raw-milk business, but Alexis’s astounding stupidity just loses him his seed money.

Johnny is hard up for cash and asks for David’s entire paycheck to cover the bills. Alexis starts working for Ted as his secretary, a job for which she is spectacularly unqualified. Moira continues her campaign with a fundraiser with local businesswomen—although she and Johnny show up thinking that the demographic would be lesbians. Hilarity ensues. Actually, no. It was pretty cringey.

Jocelyn caves to the pressure and bows out of the race—after admitting to Moira that Roland had used his mayoral clout to inveigle people into putting campaign signs in their yard. Moira will be on the council with Roland—seeing him every day, something she clearly hadn’t sufficiently considered. David helps his boss at the boutique land a windfall sum for selling the name “Blouse Barn” to an Australian mega-store interested in expanding into the North American market.

She needed the money because David’s transformation of her store had not been cheap. With money in hand, she remunerates David handsomely with $40,000, but then closes her store for a while and going on a long vacation, putting him out of a job. Still, the family ends season two with more money and security than they’d had. They reluctantly form the word “savings” with their mouths instead of spending it.

The next season starts with Moira learning the ropes on council. David and Stevie are sleeping with the same guy. Mutt heads out of town with his weird girlfriend, while he gets Alexis to watch his barn (spoiler alert: she’s not going to watch his barn; a family of woodchucks will take over before he gets back). Johnny is despondent that he’ll ever find anything to do to help his family get back on its feet.

Stevie’s aunt dies, leaving her the motel in her testament. Johnny finds purpose in helping her make the motel profitable, as a partner. Alexis considers college, but has to admit that she’d never finished high school. She goes back to high school to finish her GED—with Jocelyn as her teacher. David briefly considers college, but it’s too much effort to scare up his own diploma, Instead, he pitches a new store concept in the space vacated by the closing general store.

David goes into business with Patrick, with whom he also begins a relationship. Alexis finishes a college course and starts a consulting business. Stevie and Johnny manage to fill the motel a few times and are getting the business going. They rename the motel the “Rosebud” (her last name is actually “Budd”, but never mind). Mutt returns from his pine-cone walkabout with Tennessee (Tallahasee), Alexis professes her love to Ted, who’s still happily dating farmer Heather, who’s supplying artisanal cheese exclusively to David and Patrick’s shop.

Moira is on the council and in the Jazza-a-gals and would barely recognize herself. Jocelyn and Roland are having a baby. The Roses meet people from their old world and no longer quite like what they see. The Roses organize a Singles Week for the town. David and Patrick profess their love for each other. Alexis professes hers to Ted; Ted eventually reciprocates. The motel is full, so Johnny Rose is back in business. Moira stood by Jocelyn at the hospital until Roland arrived. There are hijinks of various kinds (the aforementioned per-episode plots) wherein lessons are learned, much fun is had, and witty repartee flies.

Season five has Patrick and David as well as Alexis and Ted firmly coupled up. Stevie is trying to spark a long-distance relationship with Emir, a hotel/motel blogger/reviewer who’d stopped by once. When she tries to get closer, he pulls away, though. Moira is in Bosnia, on the set of a film that she managed to make much better than it had any right to be.

Meanwhile, Moira is directing Cabaret, ostensibly aiding Jocelyn, who seems happy to have the weight off of her shoulders. Moira chooses Stevie as the lead, a choice that is off to a very rocky start on account of how terrified Stevie is. They muddle through to a truce.

David and Patrick and Johnny play softball against Roland and Ronnie. Patrick got on Ronnie’s bad side when he contracted her to remodel the store’s bathroom. During the game, Alexis and Ted break the new sink with shenanigans.

David invites Patrick’s parents for a surprise birthday party, but they’re surprised to find out that their son is gay and hurt that he didn’t think that he could tell them. They love David (of course) and everything turns out fine (of course). Soon, Patrick corrals David into a hike. After some tribulations, they arrive at the lookout point and Patrick proposes.

On the day of Cabaret, Stevie is nowhere to be found and everyone assumes its nerves—or the fact that David told her that he and Patrick are to be married. That’s kind of the reason, but only because she’d gone to pick up a gift for David and she got stuck in traffic on the way back. She and Patrick knock it out of the park on the night of the show and for the next week. Moira’s Crow film is shelved and she buries herself in the closet.

In Season six, as Moira’s publicist, Alexis ropes Moira into attending a soap-opera convention, filled with adoring fans with ready money. Moira resigns herself to this phase of her life. Days later, though, the trailer for The Crows Have Eyes III: The Crowening drops and Moira’s fame begins to grow. It’s being released on a streaming platform, so there’s no official premiere, but Alexis organizes one in town. They release crows that return to attack the crowd and help create an extremely viral video that boosts the film’s buzz even more. Moira is back?

Patrick and David are looking for a wedding venue and find a castle, but it’s very expensive and the dates don’t match for Alexis, who’s supposed to join Ted in the Galapagos, where he has an opportunity as a researcher. She was supposed to have already been there, but she’d mixed up the day and month on her ticket and flies only in a month. The castle is only available on a Sunday when they slaughter pigs on the nearby farm, so the boys decide to throw a wedding in the meadow behind the motel.

Ted and Alexis navigate their long-distance relationship. With Moira’s success, Alexis’s publicist business is booming, as well. Ted admits that the research station is no place for Alexis at the same time that Alexis was ready to ask him if she could stay for her business. They’re happy to continue in the long-distance vein.

In a hilarious scene, Moira and David get into their cups tasting horrible wines that the proprietor and vintner would like to market with her name on it. They cannot find one that they like, but drink several bottles before Patrick and David pick them up to schlep them home.

Ted shows up with surprise news: he’s been offered a job in the Galapagos for at least three more years. Alexis cannot move to the island and he can’t give up the opportunity. They part ways in a touching scene. Johnny and Moira and Roland and Jocelyn vie for the “presidential suite” in the motel they’ve acquired. The business is growing. Moira gets in trouble with the townspeople for an unfortunate choice of words when describing the town (cited above).

David and Patrick’s wedding plans proceed apace, with Stevie as the Maid of Honor, in charge of organizing their shared bachelor party. At Patrick’s request, they go to an escape room, where Alexis shines, getting them out of there in no time at all. Moira turns down an offer to appear on a Sunrise Bay reboot, while Rosebud Motels learns that their recently acquired motel is a bit of a money pit.

Johnny is struggling to finance the motels and meet every whim of an increasingly unreasonable David. Stevie, following Johnny’s advice in a business book he’d written long ago, comes up with a plan for acquiring more motels and going big or going home. Johnny contacts his former assistant Mike —who is now an extremely rich VC funder—for a pitch. It seems like everyone they knew simultaneously profited from having known the Roses and also completely forgotten about them once they’d lost their fortune.

Mike has them flown in, but isn’t able to be there personally. Instead, they’re in the hands of his snarky and nearly comically buffoonish (although regrettably believable) partners. The pitch is good, but the other partners don’t even consider it. Instead, a few of the board members who were already considering jumping ship decide to take on Rosebud Motels as their first big investment.

They are on their way, but there is turmoil. The Roses are seemingly going to make good on their promise to get the hell out of the town as soon as they are financially able. It’s amusing how unappealing they are when they “go back” to the way they were. David gleefully plans a return to New York City, assuming that Patrick will of course want to go there.

David awakes on the wedding day to a downpour that puts the kibosh on the outdoor wedding, but they all rally to make it happen in the town hall instead. Patrick had already organized a massage for David in order to relax him—and the masseuse obliges. Patrick is surprised to hear what he’d ordered. It’s a very touching ceremony. Moira gets a late call to join the Sunrise Bay cast after all—they’d capitulated to all of her demands.

Johnny decides to move to California with Moira instead of setting up Rosebud’s offices in New York. David and Patrick will stay in Schitt’s Creek in a lovely home. Stevie will stay as well, with Roland and Jocelyn (they’re also not moving to New York, though it had been bandied about). Alexis is still moving to New York, taking leave of Twyla, who’s become her best friend (and is also, oddly, revealed to have been a lotto millionaire all along, who’s just happy with the simple life).

It’s a lovely, well-written, and incredibly well-cast show. Each character brought a lot to the table; there were no slackers, no stragglers. Highly recommended.

La Casa de Papel S04 (2019) — 7/10
Palermo: If I was his mother, I’d be lighting candles for him.”

So we started watching this last season again, having stopped almost a year ago after two episodes. The crew is right where we left them:

  • Berlin (Pedro Alonso, my favorite), showing up in flashbacks (because he went out in a blaze of glory at the end of season 3);
  • Denver (Jaime Lorente), with the Vinny Barbarino laugh, who’s totally grown on me;
  • El Profesor (Álvaro Morte), pulling the strings and keeping the team on a plan that seems to keep changing but is always “the plan”, until it seems that each bump and hiccup has been anticipated, if not actually included from the beginning;
  • Nairobi (Alba Flores), whose inspiring speeches rival Berlin’s and whose gold-smelting prowess is unrivaled;
  • Bogotá (Hovik Keuchkerian), who’s Nairobi’s chief diver and smelter and, soon, lover;
  • Lisbon (Itziar Ituño), who’s been captured and is being interrogated and manipulated by the evil
  • Alicia (Najwa Nimri), who’s arguably more ridiculous than Tokio;
  • Stockholm (Esther Acebo), who’s no longer really with Denver, but also not quite with the shell-shocked
  • Rio (Miguel Herrán), who’s also no longer quite with the laughably over-the-top
  • Tokio (Úrsula Corberó), who tries to hard to be Margot Robbie playing Harley Quinn, but misses by a good bit;
  • Stolid Helsinki (Darko Peric), still mourning his brother (cousin?)
  • Oslo (Roberto Garcia), who only appears in flashbacks;
  • Palermo (Rodrigo De la Serna), whose speeches are flamboyant and erudite but are missing something compared to those of Berlin or Nairobi;
  • Arturo/Arturito (Enrique Arce) is still stirring up shit and, now, apparently, roofie-ing other hostages and, finally
  • Gandía (José Manuel Poga), the head of security released by Palermo to cause chaos so that he can regain control of the operation from Tokio and return to the plan

We see in flashbacks how much of the ensuing chaos had been planned for by Berlin and El Professor, as well as Palermo, who’s a psychotic, but ferociously dedicated to both the plan and the memory of his lover Berlin.

Nairobi is recovering from her near-fatal gunshot wound; she is cared for by Bogotá and others. Tokio is nominally in charge, but gets captured by Gandía, who’d been told how to escape by Palermo.

Gandía dislocates his own thumb to slip out of his handcuffs and then suffered absolutely zero ill effects from it. Like, not for one second. We see him pulling a rope to hang a 250-pound man scant minutes later, seemingly with no discomfort or loss of gripping force. The absolutely massive concussion he had from Season 3 has also 100% healed as he sat on the floor for days with little food or water.

Palermo rejoins the group after winning back their trust, though grudgingly given. Gandia gets away and finally manages to shot Nairobi point-blank in the head, killing a cast member for the first time that season. El Profesor is incensed but sticks to the plan (sub-part A31 or whatever), releasing a video of Rio revealing how he’d been tortured by the Spanish state and how Lisbon is being held captive by the same torturer (Alicia).

Alicia is fired, but miraculously locates El Profesor by the end of the season (because the plot needed her to, despite how overwhelmingly pregnant she is). This not before El Profesor organizes Lisbon’s escape back into the bank to rejoin the others.

Watchmen S01 (2019) — 9/10

The story is set in the world of the Watchmen comic series. It makes several nods in that direction, but it takes a little while to get there. Instead, they spend some time world-building, describing a Tulsa, Oklahoma that underwent a White Night, during which the local Ku Klux Klan killed dozens, if not hundreds of police officers in one night. Since then, the police have gone underground and wear masks on-duty, to protect their identities. Some of them have taken on super-hero-like names, like Red Scare (Andrew Howard) or Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson).

Instead of the classic minorities, the police pursue white supremacists, having hounded them to a sort of shanty town. There is a statue of their patron saint Nixon outside of the encampment/trailer park. Robert Redford is currently president—and has been for quite some time—and has granted reparations to black people.

The police chief of Tulsa is Judd Crawford (Don Johnson), who is hanged at the end of the first episode. An old, wheelchair-bound man named Will (Louis Gossett Jr.) claims to have done it. Sister Night/Angela Abar (Regina King) finds him and takes him in for questioning, without arresting him first, though, in some sort of extra-judicial process. A lot of stuff in this show seems to happen extra-judicially with the police having or granting themselves a lot of leeway in blurring the lines between judge, jury, and executioner.

Superheroes, on the other hand, have been banned. The remaining vigilantes are hunted down and imprisoned or killed. So, no-one’s allowed to dress up and play hero anymore except for a handful of cops—and only they seem to know who’s legit. Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) is an FBI officer put in charge of the Judd’s hanging. She used to be married to Dr. Manhattan before he fucked off to Mars. During one episode, she tells a wonderful brick joke (Screen Rant).

With some jarring exceptions—e.g. the introduction of Lady Trieu (Hong Chau)—the story is kind of interesting, slowly revealing connections to the original stories. The closer it gets to the original mythology, the better. The newer stuff is kind of trite—a point the story itself seems to be aware of in the person of Agent Petey (Dustin Ingram), who has a PhD on the original heroes and disdains any of the retellings. It’s like he sees the future demise of the show.

In the first episode, I found the action scenes somewhat contrived. For example, One member of the Seventh Cavalry has a 50cal machine gun, while Sister Night hides behind a cow carcass. The carcass takes dozens and dozens of shots, visibly shredding apart but, miraculously doesn’t let any bullet through where it would matter. Lucky that. Also unexplained. She wears a mask; she’s not bulletproof.

Minutes later, two people—Judd and Pirate Jenny (Jessica Camacho)—crash-land a slow-flying aerial vehicle to Earth (an Owlship from the original pantheon) from a height of several hundred meters, hitting the ground at what looks like at least 100kph. Neither was belted in—as was evident in the immediately preceding shot—but they both not only survived, they had enough strength to kick their way out and escape without a scratch or a contusion or a bruise or a concussion or any damage whatsoever. Judd dances around at a dinner party later as if nothing had happened at all. I’m pretty sure that neither of them have superpowers.

In a different thread, we see Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons), formerly Ozymandias, on an estate by himself, surrounded by his automata, several copies each of Ms. Crookshanks (Sara Vickers) and Mr. Philips (Tom Mison). He puts them through exercises and continues to practice science (his big thing was being smarter than anyone else). The world thinks he’s dead but he’s just trapped on an English estate, plotting his schemes and scheming his plots.

Meanwhile, Angela finds out more about Will and how he’s actually her grandfather. She’d thought she was an orphan. She also finds out that Judd was hiding Klan memorabilia in his closet. She jousts with Laurie while cooperating somewhat to move the investigation forward. They go to meet Lady Trieu—whom we’d only briefly met in that aforementioned jarring scene where she was the quintessentially alien, ruling-class, trillionaire genuis.

The set design is quite nice, with a mix of high-tech and pretty low-tech (like the costumes, which are barely adequate for a Halloween party, but this seems deliberate) or even steampunk, like Veight’s entire castle and studio, where he grows fetuses he fishes out of the lake into full-grown humans (Crookshanks and Philips) in minutes while he eats the same cake he always eats. I actually quite enjoy the the surrealist scenes with Irons in the old castle. He puts himself 100% into his roles and it shows. The castle scenes remind me a bit of Saló, with a lot less nudity and a better script.

Veidt: Four years. Four years since I was sent here. In the beginning, I thought it was a paradise, but it’s not. It’s a prison. So, with your help, with your lives, with your broken, mangled old bodies, one way or another, I will escape this godforsaken place.”

We learn of Looking Glass’s origin story. He was in New Jersey the day the squid fell. He was there distributing the Watchtower with the rest of his class. In the modern day, Looking Glass (Wade) is still traumatized that another squidfall is coming.

He’s sorta/kinda kidnapped by the Seventh Cavalry, having followed a pretty lady home, suspecting that her ride home was involved in the original police shooting. The Senator of Oklahoma is also there. They’re testing an inter-dimensional portal by throwing basketballs through it.

He hands Wade a tape to watch. Adrian Veidt speaks. Wade hears that the squid didn’t come from another dimension. In fact, it came from Veidt. It was a hoax, designed to pull humanity back from fighting itself to come together against a common threat. The mini-squidfalls are also fake, dumped by Veidt in order to keep humanity united against a common, extra-dimensional threat.

Veidt, meanwhile, is ready to try the catapult himself. He has a “spacesuit” that he trusts. He breaks through the “dome” covering his habitat and discovers he’s on … Callisto? At any rate, he’s orbiting Jupiter. He drags the bodies of his predecessors together to write “Save Me” on the surface. He is recoiled back into the the habitat to meet the Gamewarden, who metes out punishment.

Angela Abar (Sister Night) takes a bottle of drugs called Nostalgia that she’d obtained from Will. They contain his memories. Manufactured as a bulwark against dementia, the drug was never meant to be taken by someone else. Angela dives deep into Will’s origin story as Hooded Justice. He became part of the Minutemen, grew disappointed in them, took on the Ku Klux Klan on his own, and, finally, broke up their Cyclops plan to get black people to kill each other through hypnosis. Angela awakes in Lady Trieu’s lair.

As Angela recovers in the Millennium Clock Tower with Trieu and her daughter/mother-clone, she remembers growing up in Vietnam—the 51st state, after Dr. Manhattan won the war there—and losing her parents to a bomb. She remembers meeting her grandmother and then losing her, just as they were about to return to Tulsa. Trieu tells her of the Seventh Kavalry’s plans to capture Dr. Manhattan, steal his power, and transfer it to the senator of Oklahoma (I know, it sounds cheesier when I write it down, but it’s actually fine).

Angela leaves, breaking out past the cops—Red Scare and Pirate Jenny—to return home to Cal. She calls him Jon, smashes him in the head with a hammer, and digs out an amnesia device and then remembers how she put it there. Since her grandmother had died before taking her from Vietnam to Tulsa, she stayed and became a cop. She’d met Dr. Manhattan in a bar one night, during which he told her of the life they would have together.

We see Manhattan visiting Veidt—24 years after the squid event—and offering him the utopia he’d built on Europa. Veidt accepts. Hearing that Dr. Manhattan is inexplicably in love again, this time with Angela, not Laurie Blake, Veidt offers him the amnesia ring—plan A—which Manhattan accepts. It works. For 10 years, Manhattan had already been hiding as Cal (Angela’s husband), but now he no longer even knows he’s Dr. Manhattan. Angela does, though.

There’s are some time-paradox shenanigans where Angela asks Manhattan/Cal to ask Will (Hooded Justice)—with whom he’s simultaneously conversing because he doesn’t experience time the same way we do—how Will knew about Judd. Will asks “Who’s Judd”, with Angela realizing that she’d set the whole ball rolling in a what is now a classic time-loop paradox.

Manhattan tells Angela that the Seventh Kavalry is here and that he won’t/won’t have/can’t/can’t have stop/ed them. Angela begs to differ and takes out a whole slew of them, eventually with Jon/Cal/Manhattan’s help. But the tachyon cannon fires anyway and sucks him into the artificial lithium cage constructed to trap him. The Senator is waiting, ready to grandstand and then begin the energy transfer.

Veidt has long since grown bored of his “utopia”, with his adoring servants, and continues to try to escape. He is put on trial, but of course it’s a sham. He is imprisoned, but the Game Warden unwittingly brings him the horseshoe he uses to dig his way out of his dungeon. He waits for his message (“Save Me”) to arrive at its destination, which we learn is Lady Trieu, who turns out to be his daughter.

Her mother Bian had stolen one of Veidt’s many samples (the narcissist had stored vials of his seed in a secret safe in his office) and implanted it. Trieu turns out arguably crazier and more narcissistic and more intelligent than Veidt (though not quite … he’s a clever sonofabitch). She sends a rocket to pick him up once she sees that he’d written “Save Me…Daughter”. He escapes, confronting the game warden one last time, whom he vanquishes, revealing that they were all just cogs in a game he’d played on himself to keep himself amused and mostly sane.

Veidt: I had eight years to kill. Having a worthy adversary helped keep me sane.
Game Warden: And was I a worthy adversary?
Veidt: No. But you put on a hell of a show.”

Now that they’re all back on Earth, things are coming to a head. Trieu is poised to use her “Millenium Clock” for its true purpose: to absorb Manhattan’s energy and then implant it into her, transforming her into a god who will supposedly serve mankind. Veidt knows different, seeing in his daughter very much of himself. As Trieu teleports everyone from the Kavalry basement to just below her clock, Manhattan manages to sabotage the transfer by whisking Veidt, Blake, and Wade off to Veidt’s lair in Antarctica (Karnak).

From there, they use his squid-producing device to deliver deadly frozen shrimp that act as bullets from above to destroy both Trieu and the Millennium Clock, disrupting the transfer. Manhattan is gone, but the Senator does not survive his transfer attempt. Trieu would have, but does not survive Veidt’s hail of shrimp. Her plan is thwarted. Bian survives, as does Angela, who reconciles with Will, inviting her to his home after he’d tied up a few expository knots.

Blake and Wade take Veidt into custody—for the murder of 3 million people 25 years ago—and Angela ponders whether an egg that Manhattan/Cal/Jon had left behind contains his power.

There were a few rough spots, but overall the story was excellent, as was most of the acting. Tim Blake Nelson stands out, but no-one holds a candle to Jeremy Irons, who is worth the price of admission.

Overall the soundtrack was quite good, but episode 5 was especially good, with several variations on George Michael’s Never Dance Again, to commemorate the song that was playing when Wade (Looking Glass) was in New Jersey during the initial squid attack.

Thunder Force (2021) — 5/10

Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) and Emily (Octavia Butler) are lifelong friends. We see them meet in grade school, when Emily moves to town after having lost her parents to super-powered criminals called Miscreants. Emily immediately starts flexing her considerable mental muscles in class. The other kids call her a nerd. “I’m not a nerd, I’m smart!” Lydia comes to her rescue and mops up the bullies. In high school, they’re still friends, with Emily destined for greater things, and Lydia…not.

Lydia almost screws up Emily’s academic chances when she forgets to wake her and Emily summarily drops her dead weight. Many years later, Lydia contacts her again to come to their High School reunion. Emily offers hope that she might show, but then doesn’t. From the reunion, Lydia wanders over to Emily’s fancy new corporate headquarters, where she learns that Emily is very close to discovering how to grant superpowers. Lydia bumbles her way into the apparatus and receives the first super-strength injections instead of Emily.

Emily is upset, but accepts that Lydia will be her experimental candidate now. There’s a bit of a montage where we follow Lydia’s progress toward bus-tossing superhero alongside Emily’s more subtle invisibility power. Emily’s daughter Tracy (Taylor Mosby) is also ludicrously smart, very close to her mother, but finds in Lydia an older friend who also, for example, plays Fortnite.

The ladies get super-tough costumes and venture into the streets in a purple Lamborghini into which the Junoesque ladies in rubber suits don’t fit too comfortably. They thwart a robbery by “The Crab” (Jason Bateman), whose crew is robbing a gas station. Sparks fly between Lydia and Crab before he and his crew escape without their purloined goods. Lydia had pummeled a couple of them and Emily had tased another (sneaking up on him while invisible).

The Crab reports back to local politician “The King” (Bobby Cannavale), who’s a super-powered miscreant, but good at hiding it. He’s running for mayor and has another of his henchmen Laser (Pom Klementieff) tearing up the city to convince people to vote for law and order.

The plot proceeds as you’d expect, with ups and downs and everyone redeeming themselves in one way or another as they grow closer and cement into the team called Thunder Force. In the finale, Tracy extends the duo to a trio when she reveals that she’d been taking treatments for super-speed and saves everyone. The Crab and Lydia strike up a relationship and The Crab betrays the King and Laser.

Uncut Gems (2019) — 6/10

Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a jeweler in the diamond district in Manhattan. He’s a gambling addict, a philanderer, and an all-around terrible person. He wears a lot of jewelry—a lot more than you’d expect. He has a small jewelry shop in the Jewelry District with an airlock door system, where you have to be buzzed in and out. He’s cheating on his wife with his callipygian secretary Julia (Julia Fox), for whom he’s rented a nearly ludicrously tackily appointed apartment in Manhattan.

He has arranged for delivery of a rare black opal from Ethiopia, smuggled out of the mine and out of the country in a shipment of fish. He’s planning on putting it up for auction and is convinced that it will bring at least a million. He’s buried under at least $100k of gambling debt but keeps digging himself in more.

Howie is a huge basketball fan and is over the moon when his “partner” Demany (Lakeith Stanfield) brings Kevin Garnett and his entourage to the shop. Garnett is very interested in the opal and feels that it grants him power. He demands to hold on to it over the weekend, trading his Celtics championship ring for it.

Howie immediately pawns Garnett’s ring, placing a stupidly complex and long-shot bet on Garnett’s next performance instead of paying back his brother-in-law Arno (Eric Bogosian). Arno and his crew get to the bookie and quash the bet, but Howie has no idea about that.

Garnett plays like a God that night and Howie thinks he’s a millionaire. Arno and his gang pick him up and beat the crap out of him, informing him that they’d stopped the bet. Howie is mortified and devastated and out-of-his-mind with rage.

Meanwhile Garnett refuses to return the stone. No-one thinks it’s weird that he’s basically stolen it. Demany tells Howie to be cool. Demany and his crew are even sleazier than Howie. Howie is not cool about it because he needs to sell the stone at auction so he can pay off his gambling debts. He’s in the hole even more now.

He eventually gets the stone back and puts it up for auction, but the auction house appraises it at about $150k–$200k instead. Howie is, once again, incensed, and browbeats his father (or father-in law) Gooey (Judd Hirsch) into bidding the stone up, but then he ends up buying it. Howie swears he’ll buy it back from him, and then takes it from him to sell it to Kevin Garnett (this time for real).

With Garnett’s money in hand, he sees Arno and his gang buzzed into his shop. Instead of paying them off, he gets Julia to take the money through an open window and flies her on a Blade to the Mohegan Sun, where she puts it all on a very similarly wild bet on Garnett (again). Howie gets the upper hand on Arno and his crew, trapping them between doors in the airlock of his store. He makes them sit there through the entire game, while he exults as all of the points of his bet come to fruition. He’s made ~$1.3M,

Arno acknowledges that he was right and Howie, overjoyed, lets them back into the store. I was thinking at that point that he should really be buzzing them out, but he was so excited that he’d won that he lost all sense of proportion and thought that all was forgiven. Arno’s main henchman shoots him right in the face. He and the others start to rob the store. Arno tries to flee, stunned that his men have murdered Howie. They shoot him in the face, too.

Julia makes it out of the casino with all of the money, in cash, living presumably relatively happy ever after.

The jumpy and nervous style of this movie was poorly suited to a movie with such a comparatively short story stretched out over a 135-minute movie. I know that this was the artistic style of it, but it was noisy and hectic and stressful. It never let up (my viewing partner deemed the film had ADHD). There was just not enough meat to it for such a long movie. It would have been a better 90-minute movie

That, and there was literally not one really redeeming character in it. Howie was not a nice person without the crippling gambling addiction and philandering (although Sandler was excellent in this role). Howie’s partner Demany was as big a sleazeball as he was. He was selling fake watches. He helped Garnett “steal” the stone. Garnett, a multi-millionaire, thought nothing of taking something that wasn’t his. Howie’s family hated him.

Perhaps Julia, the semi-reformed prostitute, was the closest thing to an admirable character. At least she didn’t renege on her deals. She paid for her apartment. She didn’t abscond with Howie’s money, betting it instead. She was probably legitimately on the way back to Manhattan to bring the cash to him, as he lay dead on the floor of his store.

The Office S01–03 (2001–2003) — 9/10
“If you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain. You know who said that? Dolly Parton. And people say that she’s just a big pair of tits.”
S02E06 by David Brent
“How would I like to be remembered? Simply as a man who put a smile on the face of all who he met. […] Have you got everything you need? Cheers.”
S03E02 by David Brent

David Brent (Ricky Gervais) is the boss of a company that doesn’t seem to do anything. He is nearly painfully socially inept but has no idea—he thinks he’s cool. He’s impervious to criticism because his ego cannot be shattered.

He is surrounded by misfits and losers, none of whom seem to do anything at all—all day long. Nearly all of their interactions are painful to watch. The company they all work for is technically a paper supply office in Slough, England, but you only know that because some of the characters mention it, not because it matters for anything that goes on in the show.

Tim (Martin Freeman) has a terrible haircut, he seems to only occasionally shave, and his clothes are ill-fitting. He’s trying to make time with Dawn (Lucy Davis), who’s been engaged to Lee (Joel Beckett) for over three years. Lee is an awful human being and Dawn will never leave him. Tim will pine for her until he dies.

Gareth (Mackenzie Crook) is a former soldier whose every waking thought is about his former life. He cannot conceive of leaving the paper company. Occasionally, the execrable Finch (Ralph Ineson) shows up as the incarnation of everything that is wrong with the standard English male. And absolutely none of them shine when they hit the pub.

It’s equal-opportunity awfulness, so the women are just as terrible as the men, putting up with nearly impossibly boorish behavior in order to hook up. Everyone gets spectacularly drunk and says the most awful things. In one of the scenes (season 3, I think?), one of them is horrifically drunk and ends up with Finch in what looks like a parking area on a highway. It’s depressing and awful and all too believable and one can only imagine Gervais cackling to himself about it.

I started watching this show over a year ago and I’ve never gotten around to finishing it. It’s a good show, but it’s not particularly fun to watch. I’m at the end of season one (six episodes) and now have a bit of momentum and I can see what the concept is. Once you see the concept, you can enjoy it for that and stop cringing at each and every thing that Brent says.

It’s better if you picture Gervais and co-writer Stephen Merchant grinning madly at how perfectly miserable they make every last detail of the show. Twenty years later and it’s only gotten worse because everything just used to look tawdry, but now it looks tawdry and dated. The gigantic monitors. The clapboard office furniture. The nearly impossibly ill-fitting clothes. The open and crowded floor plan. The carpet. It all just piles on to create a pinnacle of hopelessness.

No-one’s clothes fit. No-one is well-lit. They’re all a bit pasty and have uniformly terrible hairstyles. They’re just a bunch of sad sacks, acting as furniture for the stars, who are not even better—they just have the spotlight on them.

I consider this to be “cringe comedy”. Gervais is brilliant at it, but it’s only passably fun to watch. I think this show is eminently unbingeable because of how uncomfortable it is to watch. It’s well-written and absolutely unapologetic and unrelenting and rings so damned true, but it’s hard to watch a show about an office full of people living lives of quiet desperation, where each day ends not with a bang, but a whimper.

The Boys S01 (2019) — 9/10

This show is about a world where superheroes exist. The show takes place in the United States, largely in the greater metropolitan New York City region. Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue) manages several hundred of these heroes for the powerful Vought International, including an elite team of “The Seven”.

Vought make a lot of money with advertising, sponsorships, and special appearances. They use social media heavily in order to measure engagement. The Seven are all assholes, about as arrogant and spoiled as any other A-list celebrities.

The heroes in The Seven are kind of mockingly bizarro-world versions of well-known heroes:

  1. Homelander (Antony Starr): Superman, but with an American-flag cape
  2. Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott): Wonder Woman without the lasso and invisible jet
  3. The Deep (Chace Crawford): Aquaman, including an ability to talk to all denizens of the sea.
  4. A-Train (Jessie T. Usher): The Flash, but without science or humility.
  5. Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell): Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe. The name is delightfully stupid and no-one acknowledges it.
  6. Translucent (Alex Hassell): Impenetrable skin; can turn invisible
  7. Starlight (Erin Moriarty): Super-strength; emits overpoweringly blinding light

There’s a bit of a pro-wrestling vibe to the marketing, though there aren’t really any official heels. That is, they are all heels in real life but the public doesn’t see them that way at all.

Starlight is the newest addition to the seven, replacing the retiring Lamplighter. She hails from Des Moines and, like the rest of the nation, worships The Seven and can’t believe her luck. She soon finds out that they are a jaded, horrible bunch of people and that Vought is corrupt, through and through. They project a moral public image that has nothing to do with how they are or what they do. The Deep forces Starlight to blow him on her first day.

Over the next day or two, Starlight learns more about what it’s like to work as a “hero” for Vought, where everything is staged and she gets in trouble for saving someone who wasn’t on the schedule from being raped. She meets Hughie in a park—both were on the same bench—and she confides in him. He tells her to keep fighting, though he’s not sure what’s happened to her (he has no idea who she is). She takes his advice and is determined not to let the bastards get her down.

In a separate storyline, Hughie (Jack Quaid) works in an electronics store. He’s on his way out to dinner with his girlfriend when A-Train plows right through her at super-speed, on a mission of some sort. Robin disappears in a cloud of bloody mist and Hughie is left holding her hands and forearms. Hughie is devastated and starts to shed his milquetoast personality. He meets the Butcher (Karl Urban), the leader of the eponymous group.

Butcher gets Hughie to plant a bug in the Seven’s headquarters—he gets access by asking to have A-Train apologize in person as he signs his NDA and takes the paltry settlement of $45k—but Translucent sees what he does and tracks him down to the electronics store. Translucent is about to extinguish Hughie when Butcher comes back and they subdue Translucent with an electric charge. Hughie is reluctant, but Butcher convinces him that they have to keep Translucent as a prisoner.

Hughie comes up with the idea of putting him an electrified cage inside of an ad-hoc Faraday cage to keep the Seven from tracking him. With the help of Serge/Frenchie (Tomer Capon), they try different ways of killing Translucent, but none work. Serge eventually thinks of a way—jam some plastique up his ass. Translucent breaks out, wheedling his way past Hughie, who has the detonator. They have to be careful of setting it off because Homelander is near—and he has X-ray vision and super-hearing. Hughie lets ‘er rip and the Seven are, temporarily, the Six.

The beginnings of the Boys—Butcher, Hughie, and Frenchie—clean up the mess, discarding Translucent’s indestructible skin in a zinc trunk—Homelander can’t see through zinc—at the bottom of the harbor. The Deep eventually finds it, having been told about it by a porpoise, with which he can presumably communicate. They information Madelyn and Vought and The Seven realize that they might have a problem.

Starlight’s fortunes turn on a dime as the girl she’d protected comes forward and is effusively thankful, shooting her ratings to the stratosphere and pleasing the Seven’s media handler Ashley Barrett (Colby Minifie)—an absolute jackal of a person with a shark’s smile and literally no morals whatsoever. She is all about perception and couldn’t care less who gets raped. Now she’s happy to present Starlight’s new, super-whorish costume. Starlight must wear it or she’s out of the Seven.

A-Train is racing Shockwave for the title of the fastest man on Earth. He visits with his girlfriend Popclaw, who’s got some powers of her own. He gets really, really high on Compound V before the race, and then easily breaks his own world record. Popclaw also takes some and gets out of control, killing her landlord by accident during some rough play that she was bartering in lieu of rent. The Boys show up to talk her down after the murder. They’re joined by Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), referred to as “MM”.

The Boys track Popclaw’s tip to a Triad basement lair, where a super-powered girl is being held. It looks like she was being used as a substrate or conduit to produce Compound V. Actually, her captors were trying to turn her into a super-terrorist. The Boys let her out and she destroys the place, escaping without killing them. A-Train hunts for her, but so do the Boys. And A-Train’s an idiot so, despite his speed, he’s not as quick as they are. They eventually all meet, but they Boys get The Female before A-Train can (because he’s useless). A-Train is busy murdering her, but Frenchie gets the crowd over and he has to stop. They gas her and take off.

Stillwell sends Homelander and Queen Maeve to rescue a hijacked plane over the Atlantic, but they fuck it up royally. They break into the plane and take out two of the hijackers. The third is in the cockpit and he shoots the pilot before Homelander kills him with heat vision that also takes out most of the instrument panel. Homelander and Maeve fly off, leaving everyone else to die in the ocean.

The Deep, meanwhile, is trying to do more—he wants to help dolphins. He doesn’t do such a great job because, like A-Train, he’s an idiot. Starlight goes to the Believe Expo with her mother, returning to her roots as an evangelical, but is dismayed to find she doesn’t really fit in anymore. She goes rogue and reveals to the whole crowd that she’d been sexually assaulted (but not by whom). Stillwell is massively displeased and fires her “handler” Ashley, who’s also displeased. They both apply pressure on Starlight, but she’s not having it anymore.

The Boys are there as a sting operation on Ezekiel, the plastic-armed supe who’s headlining the whole festival. He’s gay in private, but speaks out against it for Vought/Believe. He’s also channeling all of the Compound V throughout the country using his traveling religious festival. Hughie confronts him and blackmails him into spilling his guts on how the whole operation works.

CR Booth Guy: I’m not really sure what you’re sayin’, son.

Butcher: I’m saying: if there is some geezer out there, with a big, white beard, he’s a real heavy white cunt.

CR Booth Guy: I’m sorry, did you just call God a C-word?

Butcher: Yeah, he’s got a hard-on for mass murder and givin’ kids cancer and his big old answer to the existential clusterfuck that is humanity is to nail his own bleedin’ son to a plank. That is a cunt move. C’mon, even you’ve got to agree with me there. We should lob a fuckin’ nuke at ‘im and get it over and done with. Know what I’m sayin’? […] Good talk. Think about it? I’m here all day.”

S01E05, 16:20: talking to the Choir Retreat booth guy

Later in the same episode, Hughie borrows someone else’s phone and then calls Mother’s Milk on his private number on it. They then discuss all of their plans over an open, monitored line. Hughie leaves his fingerprints on that other person’s phone.

Black Noir gets on Frenchie’s trail, but the Female protects him, leaping into battle with Noir and getting torn to shreds. One of her powers is, apparently, quick-healing, so she pops right back after Noir has left the scene. She and Frenchie are definitely burned now, though, and have to go into hiding.

Homelander also goes off-script (like Starlight), but does so to rally people to support letting the Seven (and Vought) be integrated into and funded by the U.S. military. Homelander is going off the rails, bit by bit. Starlight and Hughie are closer now that they have a shared trauma (he lost Robin to A-Train and she was mouth-raped by The Deep). When Annie/Starlight stands up for herself, Stillwell is forced to demote The Deep—making him publicly apologize and sending him to Sandusky, Ohio—reducing the original Seven now to the Five.

This doesn’t last, though, as Homelander and his network find out who the Boys are, including all of their identities. He reveals Hughie’s betrayal of Starlight in the most dickish way possible, but she ends up forgiving Hughie and meets up with him again.

With their identities in danger, the Boys try gather everyone to safety. A-Train gets to Hughie’s father first, but Hughie distracts him with promises of Compound V and the Female cripples him, shattering one of his femurs. MM gets Butcher to ask for help from the FBI to protect their families.

He reluctantly does so, giving his sample of Compound V to Raynor (Jennifer Esposito), who uses it to try to pressure Stillwell into capitulating on her company’s attempts to inveigle their way into the military. Unfortunately—and highly coincidentally—at the exact same time, the first Supe terrorist reveals himself, slaughtering an entire platoon of invading U.S. soldiers (who are, obviously, not terrorists).

There’s also a side story where the Boys use Mesmer’s (Haley Joel Osment) mind-reading powers to find out the Female’s backstory. She was part of a terrorist group named the Shining Light Liberation Army and was kidnapped and injected with heroic amounts of Compound V in an attempt to create a Supe terrorist. The Boys managed to stop this one attempt, but were proven correct in their assumption that there were others.

At the end of the first season, Starlight helps Hughie rescue the rest of the Boys from a black site. A-Train shows up but has a heart attack (because of a Compound V overdose) when he smugly confronts Starlight. She and Hughie give him CPR until medical personnel arrive. Hughie takes off with the rest of the Boys.

Meanwhile, Homelander admits to Stillwell that he’d distributed Compound V around the world to create super-villains for them to fight—guaranteeing Vought’s revenue streams and entrance into the lucrative international-military-contracting market. Butcher kidnaps Stillwell, wrapping her in bombs, but Homelander shows up, kills Stillwell himself, and then whisks Butcher away to reveal that he’s been keeping Butcher’s wife Becca in a suburban home—where she lives with Homelander’s son.

The Office (US) S01–s03 (2005–2007) — 9/10

The first season introduces us to Michael Scott (Steve Carell), the regional manager of Dunder-Mifflin paper products in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The pilot is almost a carbon copy of the UK version, so instead of Tim, we have Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) in sales, with Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer) instead of Dawn, teaming up with him in a half-romance/half-friendship to plague Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) in the same way that Tim and Dawn made Garrett miserable. Like Dawn, Pam has been engaged to Roy (David Denman) for three years—a relationship that no-one understands.

Over this first season, we meet Stanley (Leslie David Baker), the token black guy, who might be a salesman, Darryl (Craig Robinson), who works in the warehouse, who doesn’t put up with Michael’s shit, Creed (Creed Bratton), Phyllis (Phyllis Smith), Kevin (Brian Baumgartner), who’s in accounting and is roughly Keith without the scotch eggs, Toby (Paul Lieberstein), the beleaguered and often mystified HR representative, chatterbox Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling), straight-laced and judgmental Angela (Angela Kinsey), who is having an illicit office relationship with Dwight, of all people, office drunk Meredith (Kate Flannery), Oscar (Oscar Nuñez), the token latino and homosexual, temp Ryan (B.J. Novak), who Michael has an odd attraction to, and, finally, Jan Levinson (Melora Hardin), Michael’s boss from New York City.

As in the British version, the episodes revolve mostly around the psychotic hijinks of Michael, who is just as tone-deaf and deluded as his counterpart David Brent. Gervais and Merchant are executive producers, so you can feel their touch as well. The UK version was dark and brilliant and more difficult to watch, but this version can be just as dark, though it’s goofier. The show shares the single-camera, shaky-camera, breaking-of-the-fourth-wall style of its predecessor.

It grows on you and the episodes are really quite well-written and acted. Really only Michael is painful to watch. Dwight, like his counterpart Garret, actually grows into an understandable character and also kind of grows on you. Michael only very occasionally drop out of cringe mode, but it’s a welcome relief when he does. Like David Brent before him, though, he always makes you regret this trust.

Jim and Pam play pranks on Dwight, mostly leaving Michael alone. Michael is more than capable of undermining himself. The episodes hit a lot of the highlights of a year in a boring office: Christmas party, birthdays, drug testing, diversity training, health-care plans, sales awards, sexual-harassment training, halloween, fire drills, performance reviews, office and IT security, and much more. I’m not sure how they’ll carry it to nine seasons, but they’re doing very well so far.

The original constellation holds until the end of season 2, when Jim confesses his love to Pam and they kiss—with her ultimately rejecting him. In season 3, Jim is working in the Stanford, Connecticut branch and Pam has broken off her engagement with Roy. Ryan has been promoted to Jim’s position. We meet a couple of Jim’s new co-workers in Stanford: Andy (Ed Helms), Karen (Rashida Jones), and his boss Josh (Charles Esten).

Jan and corporate merge the Scranton and Stamford branches. Josh announces that he’s not going to head it up, so the job falls to Michael. Scranton welcomes a few employees from Stamford (Andy, Karen, and a few others who don’t last). Jim and Karen are dating, which leads to tension with Pam, who’s since called off her engagement with Roy. Michael and Jan are bizarrely in a relationship. At first, it seems like she’s dating down, but she turns out to be an abusive nightmare of a partner, playing directly into all of Michael’s weaknesses.

The season culminates with Jim, Karen, and Michael in NYC, all interviewing for the same job at corporate headquarters—which turns out to be Jan’s, who is being fired for poor performance. Michael melts down. Jim declines the job in order to stay in Scranton with Pam. Karen doesn’t get that job either. Ryan the temp ends up getting job (he has an MBA!).

Ted Lasso S01 (2020) — 10/10

Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) is the irrepressible eponymous title characater, a football coach from Kansas City who takes a job coaching a British Premier League soccer team, AFC Richmond. He arrives with his number two, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), a stoic, funny, and wise addition to the team. They are both much smarter than they let on, with very clever references to movies and books and history betraying their depth for those willing to be observant.

They arrive to meet team owner Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham), who knows quite a bit about football, but still hired a complete neophyte to coach her newly acquired team. She’d acquired it from her monster of an ex-husband, who loves the team more than anything. Her goal is to destroy the team. She engages the services of his former right-hand man—and back-office manager—Higgins (Jeremy Swift) to try to undermine the team.

Ted’s got an uphill battle with his team, but he is a genuinely nice human being and a master of psychological manipulation (as is Coach Beard). They quickly befriend Nate (Nick Mohammed), the kit man, eventually getting him promoted to assistant coach. Keeley (Juno Temple) is a bit of a football-player groupie, who starts off dating Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), a young and arrogant and brilliant player, but ends up with Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein), a brilliant footballer and captain of the team who’s at the other end of his career and not handling it well.

The rest of the team is less strongly represented, but Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh) from Nigeria is a lovely guy and grows as a player. Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) shows up mid-season to challenge Jamie Tartt on the field—and to demolish him as far as personality and lease on life goes. Initially very dubious Guardian reporter Trent Crimm (James Lance) is quickly won over by Lasso’s honesty and attitude.

The rest of the story arc is, roughly, Ted must make peace with his wife wanting to move on. He ends up sleeping with one of Rebecca’s oldest friends Sassy (Ellie Taylor) to tear off that band-aid. Something might grow out of that in the next season. Rebecca is won over by Lasso and learns how to live for herself rather than for petty revenge against her scheming and awful husband Rupert (Anthony Head). Lasso had baked her biscuits every morning, which helped. Keeley also helps and they become fast friends.

Roy has learned to accept that he’s no longer in the starting lineup because he’s too old and slow and accepts his mentor role. He and Keeley are living together by the end of the season.

The townspeople make their peace with their new coach—calling him a “wanker” in a friendly way now—even though, despite his best efforts, he can’t keep the team from being relegated in the final match of the season. It’s Jamie Tartt, now playing for Manchester City (he’d been recalled/traded…it’s complicated), who ends up passing the ball instead of hogging it for himself, letting his team score an easy goal and win.

This was a victory for Lasso, who’d been training Tartt to be part of a team instead just a brilliant ego. Lasso here plays a monk-like long game, congratulating Tartt on his goal, even though it relegated his own team. Tartt’s father is seen yelling at him for passing the ball instead of taking the goal for himself. The juxtaposition is perhaps a bit heavy-handed, but effective.

Rebecca rejects Lasso’s resignation—which he’d made after Beard had explained to him how bad relegation was—and Lasso promises that they’re going to get promoted again—and then win the whole thing. Things are hopeful for a second season.

The writing is lovely and intelligent and not patronizing. Sudeikis is brilliant, as are so many others. They’re really all great and an absolute relief to watch. It’s not that nothing bad happens, but that it’s uplifting in a non-dorky way, with real life lessons about not being assholes in there. Lasso is a revelatory character. It may sound schmaltzy and brainwashed, but you have to see it to believe it.

The scene in the restaurant where Lasso is dining with Crimm and they have to eat Vindaloo food because Lasso doesn’t want to offend his friend, whose father cooked it (and whom he’d met because he was his Uber driver from the airport, so of course Lasso chatted him up). It could have been stupid, but it was touching, and it was a show of self-sacrifice that didn’t feel fake or stupid. Lasso does almost nothing for direct gain. He’s just nice and hopes for the best—and then he gets it.

Or there’s the scene in the bar, playing darts with Rupert. It’s so well-paced and structured that even a jaded sonofabitch like me, who saw the setup a mile away, was grinning from ear to ear as Sudeikis unrolled the scene. Just lovely and fun.

Gaza Fights for Freedom (2019) — 9/10

This documentary was written and directed by Abby Martin. She interviewed people in Gaza, showing how they live, without enough food, with almost no drinking water (90% is toxic), and with no medical treatment unless the Israelis grant it. She covers Palestinian history from the Naqba in 1947 up to the present day. The Palestinians are forced into camps as their land and water is stolen.

The living conditions are nearly inconceivable. It is illegal to protest. The democratically elected government of Hamas is called terrorist. It is illegal to show the Palestinian flag. The Israelis occupy their territory, evicting those Palestinians who even still have homes. The Israeli population seems positively monstrous, gathering on a “cinema hill” to watch their military bomb civilians.

The entire place is hemmed in with razorwire and walls, encircled by troops, all movement monitored and controlled. The harbor is blockaded, a siege that has lasted for over a decade. Fishermen are herded by Israeli boats, illegally imposing limits in waters that are not their own. But might makes right. And the international community says nothing. Palestinians have little to no medicine and cannot get help. They have little food and water. They cannot import construction materials; these are blocked. The rubble of decades lingers with no hope of reconstruction.

The documentary is exceedingly well-made, with a lot of supporting material and native speakers (most of it is in Arabic). The video is shot in high definition, some of it with drones, to really bring home how poverty-stricken and flattened and miserable Gaza is. The people try to take joy where they can, but the opportunities are few and far between. This is deliberate.

The Israelis’ have expressed the intent to starve/dehydrate Gaza so that they can’t even grow any crops anymore. This strategy is working. With the capital of Israel now in Jerusalem, the IDF is scouring the city of its remaining 250,000 Palestinian residents—people who are legal residents, but are being ousted anyway.

It almost goes without saying that there are no jobs, no industry in Palestine itself. The unemployment rate is upwards of 60%. There are only a handful of jobs for those who are allowed over the border to work as servants in Israeli homes or in construction, where Israel depends heavily on their captive, slave population. Their commute is brutally long and often humiliating.

And, always, the Palestinians are to blame for everything. They are the massive underdog and have the moral high ground, but the west is in agreement that Israel is the victim.

Abby Martin shows many, many people hanging themselves with enough rope: Bill Maher (with Dan Savage sitting silently on his panel), Nicky Haley, many Fox News anchors, many, many Israeli officials, one of whom defends Israel’s shooting of civilians by saying that “we don’t have room in our prisons”, and, not least, Netanyahu, who accuses the Palestinians of “self genocide”.

At 35:00, we see Israel attacking a peaceful protest in the desert with tear gas. They are nowhere near anything. They are peacefully protesting. Israel attacks and disperses them. The camera work is spectacular. They are right there for it. I understand that it’s a documentary and they pick and choose their scenes—but the imagery backs up the facts: the Palestinians are grievously outmatched. Israeli soldiers snipe civilian rock-throwers while incurring no losses of their own—nor even having to fear any such thing occurring.

The Palestinian civilian protestors suffers thousands of gunshots wounds, paralyzing injuries and resulting amputations. The statistics and stories are numbing. Nearly all of them cannot be explained in any way that is moral. The Israeli soldiers just fire indiscriminately into crowds of people waving flags. The purest definition of state terror.

The Palestinians are unarmed save for slingshots. The Israelis don’t deny it. They don’t care. The Palestinians are resisting an illegal occupation. These protests are legal by international law, whereas the Israelis are engaged in murdering an occupied people to take even more of their land—ethnic cleansing, though slowly, slowly. It’s like watching ants fighting an elephant.

Some of the IDF footage is like the “Collateral Murder”, with the soldiers reveling in their kill shots. During the march that Martin filmed, 940 children were shot by snipers and permanently disabled. Several dozen were killed outright. Press are not safe; neither are medics. The Israelis shoot everyone. All of this is highly illegal by international law. No-one cares. Not enough people care. Other things are more important.

None of this is discussed or deemed salient in international news. Think of this the next time you hear someone like Biden or Macron defend Israel. Right now, they’re dropping bombs on civilian neighborhoods—all the while claiming self-defense or blaming Palestinians for “self genocide” by letting Hamas use them as “human shields”. It’s the same thing they say every time, like any other bully: “stop hitting yourself”.

Most of the victims are hundreds of meters from the borders, the soldiers presumably impressed with their skills at long-range assassination. In some cases, they use explosive ammunition that maximizes damage; these are strictly prohibited by international law. It doesn’t matter. In one of the final segments, we see footage of medics being shot at as they attempt to retrieve the injured and dying civilians who’d already been shot. It’s just a bloodbath in an open field, with no cover and the IDF in fortified, elevated sniper nests. To even be on the other side of that is a death wish, pure desperation, a complete capitulation to a cause because there’s nothing else to live for. You can defeat this, but not without losing your humanity.

Israel does not think that Palestinians are humans or worthy of respect or life. The anger they evince is like that for a cat that encroaches on one’s garden. They’ve given up reasoning with it and just want to kill it. They feel no regret because the animal brought it upon itself. And yet, it’s even worse than that. The cat is encroaching but is an animal and still doesn’t deserve to be harmed or killed. In the case of Gaza, it’s the Israelis who are encroaching and occupying and stealing—and they are also the aggrieved party who’s “had enough” and feel justified in killing men, women, children, civilians, journalists, medics—everything. Just clear them out. Make them disappear. This must be what the scourge against Native Americans was like. No wonder America sympathizes. There are myriad parallels.

There is nothing the Palestinians can really do to help themselves. They are penned in by an overwhelmingly superior power. The only thing they can do is to suffer publicly and try to get those outside of Gaza to help, to pressure Israel to stop. So far, it hasn’t worked at all. Israel grows bolder every year. Netanyahu has been in power on and off since 1995. 83% of the people support “Open Fire” policies; 95% support aerial bombings. The Israelis act with impunity, secure in the knowledge that they will never pay for their crimes and that they will, eventually, have the land they want and that the Palestinians will be gone. Facts on the ground. No-one will stop them until it’s too late.

Killing Gaza (2018) — 8/10

This documentary covers the bombings in 2014, with many, many first-person interviews of people who’d suffered attacks—either from being in buildings as they were bombed, or swept up by IDF troops later. Almost all of the interviews are in Arabic. The scenes they describe are partially reconstructed with animations (they reminded me of those in Waltz With Bashir, though not rotoscoped). Children lead the camera crews through neighborhoods that have been completely reduced to rubble.

The footage from Israeli soldiers is in Hebrew. They narrate coolly, describing the attack to come. They only show emotion after what looks like a gigantic bomb takes out an entire village—“Long live the state of Israel”. They celebrate wildly.

In one of the interviews, the filmmakers speak to a furious man, who matter-of-factly explains what will happen if the attacks continue.

“Since it’s an American news agency, firstly, we want to thank them. We thank the Americans, who are very good people, who treat us kindly and respectfully. They give us a loaf of bread and a sandwich, and they give Israel missiles, tanks, and warplanes.

“[…] This boy here will make an atomic bomb in his house in 10-15 years and erase Israel completely. Why? Because he saw his father die before him. He saw his uncle martyred before him. His family house was looted and, from now on, he has to live in a tent! This little kid won’t have food or water!

“So how can we lift the hatred from the hearts of these children? How can we lift it? In what way? Tell us. How do we teach these children to feel joy again? Should we kill them all with missiles? Or should we fool them with a piece of bread? Who wants American bread, young children? Obama is sending you some small balloons. Do you want them? No. That won’t work. That won’t do it.

“This is my message to the American people and the whole world. May God punish everyone that has wronged us Palestinian people. Palestinians are not terrorists. They are civilized.”

Almost all of the people they interview, they interview in rubble, where they tell their horrific stories of lost relatives, many of whom were trying to help others who’d been shot before them.

At 45:00,

“We have been suffering since the resistance began. We have suffered for 60 years because of Israel. War every day. Shooting every day. Every time we build a house, they destroy it. We raise a son; they kill him.

“Whatever they do—the Americans, Israel, the whole world—we’ll resist until the very last one of us dies. Even if they turn all of Gaza into rubble, like this, we won’t give up. We hand over Gaza to Israel, as rubble, then we give up. When the last one dies, then they can enter Gaza.

“As long as we’re still alive, and have strength, we will keep fighting and battling to get our rights. After they turn it all to destruction, only then can they enter Gaza.

“I’ve lost 2 houses, 2 martyrs, and a car. The house is destroyed, as you can see. I’m homeless now, but I ask the resistance to keep fighting until we get our rights.”

Just interview after interview with people in front of destroyed buildings, shattered towers. There’s an interview with a zookeeper who’s lost 85% of his animals—a place where many people sought refuge and joy is now a shattered desert, starved of supplies and water.

To their credit, the two directors/journalists (Max Blumenthal and Dan Cohen) interviewed a lot of people—and most of them were native Arabic speakers. In fact, most of them only spoke Arabic. Only the last couple of interviews were in English—with a “b-boy” crew and an artist. Several people thanked them for coming back after five months to see how they were doing again—noting that Hamas nor anyone from the PA in Ramallah had ever visited their city or town.