Good afternoon dearest. Did you see Annihilation? It came out a couple years ago, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, pre-pandemic, if you can remember? I do, because I saw it in theaters with MoviePass. Well, the director of that movie, Alex Garland, has gone on to make Men, which Jeff VanderMeer, the writer of the book Annihilation, has annihilated in his review below. In other news about men, a man (Dave Weigel) at the Washington Post has been suspended for retweeting a dumb tweet. Legacy media! As Leah Finnegan puts it, “Their indecisiveness creates a culture of snitching and loserdom.” Elsewhere online, Allie Jones dives deep into the question: What is Kourtney Kardashian’s website Poosh? Like jazz, it’s all the lifestyle commodities that Kourtney doesn’t add to a recommendations listicle. And like jazz, it’s all the silence that writers bequeath to us that make the rest of it beautiful. Advice to writers and arrestees is the same: Shut the fuck up. (Writers, keep it to the page; defendants, leave it to your lawyer). And finally, those people who care more about the length of cigarettes shot-to-shot or tracking the amount of liquid in the glasses… what the hell is wrong with you?
‘Men’ Is a Mess
Alex Garland’s latest feature is flat and heavy handed
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Alex Garland confessed to being a reluctant director who often feels like it’s something he must force himself to do. In the case of his latest film, Men, which he both wrote and directed, he perhaps needn’t have bothered. Unlike previous Garland-helmed projects Ex Machina and Annihilation (itself an adaptation of my book), Men suffers from a less structured storyline and a weak, ridiculously gory third act that feels both overlong and perfunctory. The third act also brings the movie’s already incredibly obvious subtext up to the surface of the film — a little like if a human being were walking around with their internal organs hanging off the outside of their body.
The film chronicles the retreat of Harper Marlowe (Jessie Buckley) to the countryside to recover from the trauma of an abusive husband falling past their apartment window in slow-mo before being artfully splayed out on the pavement below in a part of London with no other people or police or ambulances.
Once ensconced in a fairly opulent manor, Marlowe begins the process of being terrorized, gaslit, and mentally abused by a parade of men all played by Rory Kinnear — in bald face, naked penis, scruffy-head, and donkey teeth modes, most of them fleshed out to the rough equivalent of the level of writing you’d expect from a bad Monty Python sketch. Except serious. Continue reading
What Is Poosh?
Kourtney Kardashian's lifestyle website is not Goop, it's something else
In March 2019, Kourtney Kardashian teased a new project on her Instagram page. Alongside a photo of herself in which she appeared nude, obscuring her breasts with both a china teacup and a Macbook Air, she wrote, with confusing spacing and punctuation, “C O M I N G. S O O N. @poosh”
A little over a month later, Kardashian launched the project, which turned out to be a website about health, wellness, and “lifestyle” called Poosh. Critics noted that the site bore a striking resemblance to Gwyneth Paltrow’s website about health, wellness, and “lifestyle” called Goop, down to the all-important two O’s in the name. But Kardashian explained that Poosh is actually her daughter Penelope’s nickname. So.
Now three years later, Kardashian and Paltrow have teamed up to sell something together, specifically a candle that smells like Kardashian’s vagina. (It’s called “Smells Like My Pooshy.”) Conveniently enough, the process of creating this wondrous product was captured on camera for The Kardashians on Hulu. On last week’s episode, Kardashian introduced Goop and Poosh as if the brands were both spontaneously created and up until this point have had no influence on one another. Continue Reading
Writers Shouldn't Talk
Stop encouraging them
When do writers find the time to do any actual writing? It sometimes seems as though they are always speaking — delivering lectures, pontificating in bookshops, opining on talk shows. If they are lucky enough to win awards, they clear their throats and make grateful remarks; when the books they have somehow secreted between their speaking engagements are at last released, they discuss their “inspirations” and their “process” on podcasts or radio shows. More and more, the life of a professional author involves not writing but talking.
Of course, most people talk all the time and think nothing of it, life being a regrettably non-epistolary phenomenon. They explain their ailments to their doctors; they chat with their coworkers and complain to (and about) their friends. If they spew a few inelegant or inapt phrases in the course of all this nattering, well, they have no choice but to continue fumbling: conversation does not allow for revision or retraction. Why should writers be exempt from an otherwise universal indignity? They, too, are people, and people speak and misspeak. Still, I have always thought that there is something peculiarly invidious, even offensive, about the expectation that writers talk, at least in their capacity as writers. Continue reading
Who Cares About Continuity
Ultimately it doesn't matter that much
Continuity, canon, and lore have clashed as of late, and a tense atmosphere of defensiveness within and between fandoms is manufacturing dire, hyperbolic crises about properties that shouldn’t matter so much. The release of the new Disney Plus series Obi-Wan Kenobi and its apparent looseness with the established Star Wars canon provoked a debate at the series-spanning macro level, but people also love to argue about the small stuff. Cigarettes of differing lengths between shots, glasses fuller or emptier within the same scene, this guy with a briefcase running past Doctor Strange multiple times, or this woman repeatedly walking into the background of a shot in Spider-Man. All kinds of art criticism, but primarily film and TV criticism, has become the domain of smartasses on YouTube who are quick to argue why a given thing is or isn’t good based on how many times you can spot the same extra in the background. Why does anyone give a shit?
We can start in an obvious place: CinemaSins, the popular YouTube channel that tallies up a given movie’s flaws and rates them accordingly, often with special attention paid to continuity errors and other background errors. Often, the channel rags on bad movies no one would spend much time defending, like 50 Shades of Grey or Roland Emmerich’s 2012, and does so with self-effacing humor. And, after enough time spent watching these videos, which draw attention to some interesting mistakes (the rampant use of dialogue to describe things that should have been shown onscreen, bad camera blocking, lazy character development, unnecessary exposition, etc), you start to see similar errors in other things, in everything, from minor distractions to larger storytelling issues.
A little dose of observational awareness is one thing, but ten years in, CinemaSins has made a score-keeping style of understanding art mainstream. If plot beats and long silent moments between characters or odd, idiosyncratic flourishes of style and time-consuming conversations don’t add up, what’s the point of a movie? Continue reading
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