“What kind of weapon system is this guy operating?”
“He’s probably got a rifle.”
“It’s a high-powered rifle.”
Initial: I’m still recovering from my month-long horror-o-thon. I finished watching The Good Place and decided on a rewatch.
What Did I Think: The Bourne Legacy is one of my comfort movies, which means I love it more than it probably deserves. I admire its chutzpah: a Bourne film without Bourne. I love its exposition: there’s a lot of it and it generally does nothing to elucidate the plot. And, despite its uneven pacing, I’m along for the ride because it’s double competency porn. Ed Norton and company don’t fail because they’re incompetent; they’re just less competent than the operative they’ve created. I also appreciate the Frankenstein overtones. Dork turned bad-ass Rachael Weisz is a scientist who has to face the consequences of Doing Science.
And besides, isn’t a movie about a grand bio-engineering government conspiracy exactly the movie I want to watch after getting my second mRNA vaccine shot?
Production Notes: If you want to watch a more well-regarded Tony Gilroy film (and one of my husband’s frequent rewatches), I recommend Michael Clayton (2007) with George Clooney and Tilda Swinton.
I haven’t talked here much about the pandemic, because there wasn’t much to talk about. Eric and I have worked from home together for years, so that wasn’t a change. We also don’t have kids; we didn’t have to deal with homeschooling or what-not. Our families came through generally unscathed, although some disappointing decisions were made by a few members here and there.
But still… 2020 was a long, long year without library visits, restaurants, movie theaters, or ultimate frisbee. And it was a year with a lot of fear. I have some auto-immune problems and I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t go well for me if I got COVID-19. Also, the main health risk in my family is heart disease. I rely on staying active and (relatively) in shape to stave that off. Long COVID was definitely something I wanted to avoid. (Post-COVID lungs look like gerbils have run amuck in them—I have enough problems without post-gerbil lungs!) We played it very, very safe and I have no regrets about that.
‘Round about April (of this year), it started to feel like 2020 was finally over. Vaccination appointments had opened up in Arizona for anyone 16+ in March. I waited a couple weeks to get an appointment, figuring that there might be a crush of interest and I could wait a little longer, but as of today, Eric and I have both had our second shots. He’s at his appointment as I write this. I had mine on Tuesday. I’ve had very few side effects, other than feeling so much lighter mentally.
Last week, we semi-resumed eating out (drive through from Raising Cane’s—yes, we hadn’t even risked drive-through or delivery). In two weeks, I’m restarting the Wednesday/Friday frisbee game I organize. I can go renew my library card (it just expired) even if my shelves would prefer I didn’t. My parents are getting their first jabs this week. We had our first 100F day yesterday, so we’ll probably spend a cool day or two in the high country with them in a month or so.
If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet and can, do. It’s for your good and the good of your community. And if you need to get a second shot, do that too. This is the home stretch. This is December 31, 2020, 23:57:31. Get your vaccination and join me in 2021.
I didn’t finish many books in April, but I did keep (happily) focused on horror. I read to completion The Phantom of the Opera (which was my Classic’s Club pick) and Into Bones like Oil by Kaaron Warren. I also read volume one of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. I’m not counting that as finished because it’s a three volume collection and I do intend to read the rest. I started The Ceremonies by T. E. D. Klein and I’m in the middle of Nightmare Movies by Kim Newman.
Deal Me In
8♣️: “Let Shadows Slip Through” by Kali Napier Our narrator is a nervous mother, traveling with her young son in Australia. When they stop at the Hampton Arms tea room, her past catches up to her. A short, atmospheric piece with a haunting sense of place.
Reading Challenge Check-In
Didn’t I just do this? I guess April went by fast-ish, which is a change from any month since February 2020.
Goal: Read 6 books from 6 categories. Progress: 2/6
✅ Into Bones like Oil by Kaaron Warren counts for the prompt: Written by a woman! I decided not to count The Phantom of the Opera for “Monster or monsters” despite the OG being one of Universal’s classic movie monsters. The OG (Opera Ghost) is a guy with some issues.
Goal: Read Herbert’s 6 Dune books by October. Progress: Finished Children of Dune and started God Emperor of Dune. The chapter-a-day method is working well. ✅
Goal: Read at least 30% nonfiction. Progress: I slipped down to 27%. And then decided to right the situation by starting a 640 page book. I’m pretty sure I’m totally doing this correctly. 👍
Goal: Deal Me In each week and Cather Reading Project each month. Progress: Doing fine here. ✅
I spent all of April with an unusual (for me) posting schedule: (nearly) every day with Horror Movie A to Z posts as well as a couple of Reading Notes posts. But I wanted to get back to my regular schedule. So, here we are. It’s Saturday which means it’s Cinema Saturday!
First, I want to list my top five favorites from April’s event:
The Orphanage (‘El orfanato’, 2007, Directed by J. A. Bayona, Spain)
Rigor Mortis (‘殭屍’, 2013, Directed by Juno Mak, China & Hong Kong)
Blue My Mind (2017, Directed by Lisa Brühlmann, Switzerland)
La Llorona (2019, Directed by Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala)
Peninsula (‘반도’, 2020, Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, South Korea)
Honestly, I don’t go looking for international films. My criteria when I was making my A to Z list was 1.) films I hadn’t seen (or hadn’t seen in a long, long while) and seemed interesting/I’d heard of, 2.) newer films, and obviously, 3.) films with a certain first letter.
I actually didn’t watch any other movies during April. I did watch last year’s The Great British Bake-Off and am watching/catching up on The Good Place, since we currently have Netflix. I did watch one other documentary (thus far) on Shudder, Horror Noire, which I definitely recommend.
Stars: Zoë Tapper, Ed Speleers, Antonia Campbell-Hughes
Initial: Remember the early days of the pandemic when couples suddenly realized they were going to have to spend *a* *lot* of time with their significant other?
Production Notes: Danish/Swedish production.
What Did I Think: On one hand, this is a well-acted and generally well-made film that probably had a micro budget. Antonio Tublen is not only the writer and director, but wrote the soundtrack and is the editor. I’m reminded of Viggo Mortensen’s quip about his movie Falling (2020) where he filled a similar number of roles—it was one less person he had to pay if he could do the job himself. I also thought the premise was rather good. Karen and John’s relationship is in shambles after Karen’s pregnancy a year ago ended in a stillbirth. She’s ready to leave the marriage, but now they are forced to shelter-in-place while a zombie apocalypse is happening.
What left me a little cold was, unfortunately, the characters. Karen (Zoë Tapper) is almost an enjoyable psychopath—the type of person who, when all other entertainment has been exhausted, reveals a stash of drugs she’d stolen when she worked in evidence room (she’s former police?). But that sort of undercuts any serious thoughts about her mental health. I want to feel sympathy towards her, but honestly, she is so much of a psycho that I’m not quite sure why John (Ed Speleers) isn’t more weirded out by his wife’s surprising behaviors. The movie is dependent on these two characters, but I never felt on solid ground with either of them.
So, my A to Z ends on a bit of a sour note. I think I’m going to go watch Zombeavers now for a pick-me-up.
Stars: Michael Laurino, Anessa Ramsey, Alex Draper
“What are we watching?”
“Something to do with guns and tits and the end of the world.”
Initial: Y, also a letter with few choices…
What Did I Think: A few months back I watched a biopic about David Bowie that included no David Bowie music. YellowBrickRoad feels like a horror movie that wanted to hang its hat on The Wizard of Oz, but couldn’t include any mention of it other than characters mentioning it once in a while. While the doomed townspeople were supposedly obsessed with it before disappearing, it isn’t on the theater’s marquee in the “archival footage” at the beginning. Further, the characters are harried by big band music coming from nowhere. How much creepier would it have been is it had been music from Oz? Also, when the characters first start hearing odd noises, there is a delay in their reaction. I didn’t realize that the noises were diegetic sounds instead of soundtrack. Along the same lines, while this isn’t a found footage film, there are occasions when the filming camera glitches and dips at odd angles. It’s meant, I guess, to convey the disorientation of the characters, but considering the problems they’ve been having with their electronics, it feels more like a 4th wall break. These glitches always happen in a medium-ish shot from a point of view that isn’t any of the characters.
As is, the film is strangely claustrophobic for a story about open spaces. Closeups and medium shots abound. There are several moments of abrupt violence that weirdly have little lasting impact. YellowBrickRoad seemed too long while also feeling like details had been trimmed from certain scenes.
Stars: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone
“I’m blind to all but a tenth of the universe.”
“My dear friend, only the gods see everything.”
“My dear doctor, I’m closing in on the gods.”
Initial: Maybe more of a science fiction movie than horror, but X is a hard letter to fill.
Production Notes: In his book Danse Macabre, Stephen King claims there was a possible different ending to X. Roger Corman denies this rumor.
What Did I Think: Roger Corman always does what he can with what he has. The effects in X are not great. Most of what we see the world through Dr. Xavier’s eyes* is a confusing rainbow jumble. I shudder to think of the headache it probably would have induced on a big screen… But Ray Milland’s subdued manner sells the dread of seeing everything, maybe even things the human eye wasn’t meant to see.
And the plot asks: What would you do if you had X-ray eyes? What would you be allowed to do? Xavier starts out as a scientist, but ends up as a mentalist and a card sharp. The best performance in X, though, belongs to Don Rickles, playing a skeevy, menacing carnie.
*Yes, his name is James Xavier—fun fact Professor X of the X-Men comics debuted the same month and year as this film: September of 1963.