Let’s call it PUP-y love.

It’s been a long workday and I’ve got very little gas left in my brain. Let’s find out what it wants to talk about today.

I’ve never been hugely into punk. Even in my teens I veered hard into metal territory and didn’t look back until I hit age 20. Emo surged into popularity during my time in high school and by association, punk lost its lustre. The closest I came to punk fandom would’ve been my appreciation for Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come and anything by At The Drive In. If there’s any point to my preamble it’s this; I’m no authority on punk music.

That being said, yesterday I finally listened to PUP’s The Dream is Over and it has to be the finest punk album I’ve heard in years. Toronto hometown heroes kicked the shit out of their sophomore slump. Discounting the fact that it’s the only punk album I’ve heard in years, I’m still of the opinion that it’s a remarkable showcase of what the genre embodies. It’s punchy and energetic. The riffs are explosive and the growls are backed by short sharp harmonies. The lyrics are wry and aggressive, cheekiness to the core. The whole album clocks in at 30 minutes and, in my experience prompts an instant replay. I’ve listened about 12 times since yesterday morning. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long and I’m gutted as shit that, seeing as they’re Toronto locals, I’ve missed so many live performances over the years.

Once again, I’m taking a weird unearned amount of glee at hearing that another DCEU film is an expensive, bloated, tedious poorly directed piece of shit. Justice League sounds like its tagline should be “Better than Suicide Squad at least.” I’ll call my reaction exactly what it is: A holdover from the 90s where fandom came with this bizarre sense of tribalism attached. I was always a Marvel kid and now as an adult, it feels like my faith was justified. I can’t speak for my ardent defence of the Sega Saturn though. Surely I should want everyone to get great superhero films that showcase all the wonderful facets of their favourite childhood characters. Really though, I’m a petty, snide asshole who’s still rooting for the downfall of DC comics. Boring heroes who’re for the most part too pious for my tastes.

It’s like dumping on the newest DCEU film has become a sport and the winners are the readers.

From The AV Club:
“Don’t let the slick, well-chosen production stills fool you: This is for the most part a cramped and cheaply ugly movie, with crappy special effects. The nicest thing that can be said is that the producers have made it impossible for viewers to tell what is and isn’t a reshoot; a significant part of the movie is set in cramped, windowless rooms or in front of obvious green screens.”

From Variety, on Whedon’s late game additions:
“Whedon’s humor is grafted on in too-obvious ways; it sticks out incongruously amid all the stilted mechanics of this alarmingly basic movie. All these Whedonisms have the opposite of the intended effect. They give off a strenuous hum, the desperate sound of a turd polished in vain.”

From The Hollywood Reporter:
“Fatigue, repetition and a laborious approach to exposition are the keynotes of this affair, which is also notable for how Ben Affleck, donning the bat suit for the second time, looks like he’d rather be almost anywhere else but here”

Metacritic has it at a 51%, which is actually remarkably respectable for DC’s hit rate. I was probably never gonna see it anyway, I’m really only here for the reviews.

Anyway, I’m out. See you tomorrow, same Bat Channel.

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More like Dicks-ney. I said it.

You know what? I’m on team Fuck Disney now. They’re on my shitlist. You heard me. Move over Mr Smashmouth, go walk on the sun. From now on, the House of Mouse is my one of my prime rat kings. Or at least for today and periodically when I feel like it.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been an unnecessary class warrior. Something about large corporations instinctively makes my asshole tighten. It’s probably a safe assumption to guess that their prime consideration is to keep the cash flow coming in at all costs. That they care not for the little people beyond how their base earnings will be affected. That’s what being a business is all about, right? Some businesses are brazen about it. Disney, however, never has been. Disney is all about its image, about this magical evocation of a dream brought to life. Disney insists that it’s a wonderful place for the whole family and inserts itself into the lives of children and adults alike. How? Through careful image control and corporate pressure.

Disney’s a behemoth, it can afford to throw its weight around. While I’ve never had first hand experience with them, I’ve definitely felt the grip of its second or third one. Disney knows it owns all the most desirable entertainment properties and throws its demands out accordingly. Disney dealings go as Disney wants them to. Case in point is this investigative piece from Daniel Miller for the LA Times, which puts Anaheim in the palm of Disney’s hands. This will all be old news by the time I post, but the above article got the LA Times banned from advanced Disney film screenings (an important part of pre-press and promotion), which prompted a solid media backlash to Disney itself. That’s a total bullshit move, a company trying to bully journalists into submission over doing their job. Not saying it doesn’t happen, but it shouldn’t. Perhaps if they wanted to face less scrutiny they could conduct their business in a way that doesn’t invite scrutiny? Anyway, Disney quickly relented and rescinded its ban after all the opposition. It’s the happiest place on earth because that’s what the lawyers tell you. Also did you know tickets to the park are $110 each? That’s fucking obscene.

So why do I care about Disney so much when there are large multi-nationals and oil companies ruining the world? Because I’m a big dummy and Disney’s a lot more visible than they are. These huge corporations don’t do much to hide the fact that they’re bottom line entities, whereas Disney still tries to spread the message that they’re the bastion of hope and joy for families everywhere. Happily Ever After is their mantra, to the extent that some people shell out thousands and thousands to buy into it. Hey, good on them if it makes them happy, but the fact that this kind of package is so obscenely expensive is what bums me out the most.

My big pet peeve is that Disney will eventually own everything that Netflix doesn’t. Marvel, Star Wars and maybe 20th Century Fox soon? So Maggie and Lisa will be Disney princesses? It’ll all be behind a restrictive paywall and we’ll have to pay through the nose to get it. Think Tidal. Have you seen Lemonade yet? I sure haven’t. Though I’m sure if I wanted to that badly I could find it through other means. The internet is out there. Is my dislike of Disney Corp gonna have any meaningful effect on the way I consume their products? Probably not. I don’t see a boycott percolating in my brain. I already saw Thor: Ragnarok. I’ll most likely still go to the other MCU films that seem worth it. If Incredibles 2 ever sees the light of day, you know I’ll be straight in line.

But know that I’m doing it for the creatives behind the film, Disney. Brad Bird is my boy, not you.

Maybe it is the end of days after all.

2017 continues to be a year that brings the unexpected.

As a child I’m sure I didn’t expect to be eating brunch in Toronto on a Sunday around midday (though frankly as a child I didn’t know what brunch or Toronto were. I’d heard of midday though) and spy a familiar item on the menu. Right at the top of the page in big block letters: The Kiwiburger. Ripped straight from the menu itself “All-Beef Pattie, Aged-Cheddar, Pickled Beets, Pineapple Aioli on a Buttermilk Bun topped with a Sunny-Egg.” No kiwifruit to be found. Why then, would the burger be called a Kiwiburger. I had my suspicions, but it seemed too outlandish to consider. Back in the early 90s in New Zealand, McDonalds ran a memorable ad campaign for one of its new burgers dubbed, you guessed it, The Kiwiburger. How memorable? You tell me. It became iconic, even as its popularity waned through the years. It was frequently discontinued then resurrected. With little hesitation (to be honest, the fried chicken waffle sandwich sounded quite radsome) I ordered it. The addition of the pineapple relish was fantastic. Much better than the original fast food item. I asked the server as to the origins of the dish and she confirmed that it at least came from New Zealand, though she had no idea about the ad campaign. A slice of home, right down to the beetroot.

I couldn’t have expected that a Thor film would be one of the most enjoyable Marvel movies in some time. No real spoilers ahead. The character never did much for me. As a kid I was all about X-Men variants and Spider-Man (though mainly because I was so into Venom). The Avengers in general seemed kind of generic and milquetoast. Thor looked dumb to me as a child, from his silly armour, big cape and little wing cap. I didn’t care about the mythology that surrounded him. He was some heritage character that belonged to a previous generation. Every now and again he’d pop into a comic I was reading as a guest characters (it’s kind of a mainstay of the format) and I’d begrudgingly read until he disappeared. The first Thor film was rubbish and I never saw the second. As soon as I heard that Taika Waititi was attached to Ragnarok however, my ears perked up. I prefer not to watch trailers, but I figured it was worth seeing how he’d handled it. The outrun electro and art style was gorgeous 80s sci fi incarnate. The idea of heightening Thor’s buffoonery appealed to me, as the character had always seemed so self-important. Plus Jeff Goldblum sold me instantly. In retrospect, I would’ve rather seen the film in a vacuum without any spoilers, but without those spoilers I may not have seen the film. Catch-22. The movie entertained and did it well. It was colourful, silly and funny. It stuck to the traditional Marvel story beats and structure, but had a flavour of its own. Taika’s own character stole every scene he was in, and it looked awful pretty. The soundtrack was ace. Once again, 2017 had the capacity to surprise me.

What’s next, 2017? Are we gonna see a presidential impeachment? A meaningful shift in Hollywood’s sexually predatory patriarchal structure? A cure for cancer? Affordable housing in Toronto? Or more of the status quo? After 2016 we’ve all got the lowest expectations. Can you surpass them?

It’s all kinds of congestion ’round here.

I’m in a bus and quickly realising that it would’ve been quicker walking. I guess that’s what I get for leaving work on time. Do you think the person who created roads was pro or anti traffic? Were they all “wow, people love my creation so much they’re lining up to use it”? Or would they see it as a travesty (travel-sty), subverting the notion of speedy transportation? That’s gotta be a chief bugbear of creation, right? When you bring something into the world for a specific purpose and it gets twisted into a dark perversion of your initial vision. You’re like “I just wanted to improve our crop yield” then your plowshare is beaten into a sword. People are mowed down like wheat and the blood is indirectly on your hands. Did Al Gore cradle his head in his hands after Trump’s presidential win thinking “I enabled this”?

No swift segues today. It’s gonna be clunky and awkward because I’m in that kind of mood. I’ve been eating too much and been doing insufficient exercise this week. My body feels all over the place and it’s affecting my energy levels. Plus the temperature has fluctuated, the sun has basically disappeared as the wind has picked up. Mercury is probably in retrograde, I never have enough sleep and I got a rejection letter from an internal job that I really wanted, without getting so much as an interview. Work at the moment feels like relentless monotony (though that’s not a new development). I’m grumpy and having my own little pity party on this bus. Fittingly, I’m at the one set of seats with less leg room, which makes me feel like a sulky teen. The worst part is that an adult, I’ve got no valid structures to rebel against except myself. My parents stopped being responsible for my actions years ago. You know what’s worse than that? I wholeheartedly understand that I’ve got it better than so many other people, which undermines my ability to justifiably complain about any of it. I’m all “my job sucks”. But I have one. I’ve been eating shitty food, but I’ve had access to food. Being active is my choice, but I have the capacity to do so. What I’m saying is, my odds aren’t insurmountable here and I’m probably more complaining because it’s cathartic. I’ll go to boxing tonight, feel those endorphins and get over it.

You know who it must suck to be right now? Terry Richardson. Dude has always seemed like a right creep. Lecherous, pushing boundaries and taking advantage of women he’s worked with in a professional capacity. It must feel like a reckoning is coming his way, especially now that every second news story is about some male celebrity abusing their power and status to get what they want. I wonder if the recent culture of sexual abuse victims coming forward will result in a meaningful shake up of Hollywood and celebrity culture. My heart is saying let’s go, but my brain is saying no. It feels like this kind of stuff is only a problem to these studios when it threatens their bottom line. The fact that so many of these situations were well-known secrets highlights just how difficult it is for victims to come forward and be dragged through a gauntlet of negative press and character assassination. I heard some regular Jo say that they thought the whole Harvey Weinstein thing case was a matter of gold digging. It reminded me that while I live in a cosy liberal bubble that believes survivors, that’s not the world we live in. Society still has a long way to go before the industry really feels adequate pressure on its purse strings to bring about a thorough change to the status quo.

Is this what film pioneers envisioned in their hopes for the silver screen? A juggernaut of an industry where publicity and bottom line mentality are more important than the final products? Probably not. I’m sure they just wanted to show the world what their dreams looked like.

Some things are stranger than Stranger Things.

I’ve got nothing specific to talk about today, but let’s see where this goes. We finished Stranger Things 2 last night, but it feels a bit early to get into it. So let’s not.

While we’re on the topic of entertaining media, I’ve got a hot tip on a fun audio story. It’s kinda like an old-timey radio play, but streamable. A friend of mine is part of a local theatre group who produce fantastic plays. They’re a mainstay of Toronto Fringe each year. How to Build a Fire is the story of a small town dealing with the aftermath of tragedy and unpacking the mysteries behind it. It’s six episodes long, just under three hours in total. It’s well directed and acted, with clean and clear audio production. It also does a great job of making neat character moments and drip feeding you information at a solid rate. I loved listening along at work, hearing new clues come to light as it progressed. Enjoying how they weaved together various storytelling tropes with relatable character writing, lifting the words off the page. Theatre Brouhaha regularly put together some of my favourite on stage content, so any chance I get to promote what they’re up to is a bonus for me. If they keep on getting attention, I’m sure it’ll lead to them putting together more content. Win win, right?

It’s Halloween, which is rad. If you’re looking for something to watch tonight, might I suggest Braindead/Dead Alive? It’s a classic 1992 New Zealand horror comedy from our beloved Sir Peter Jackson. While he’s now better known as a large Hollywood director, back in the 90s his forte was the world of z grade horror films. Campy and over the top, silly as hell and funny as fuck. All set in the picturesque backdrop of small New Zealand cities. Braindead is a great zombie film with a ton of Kiwiana thrown in. Alternatively, Bad Taste revolves around aliens invading Earth to harvest humans for their intergalactic fast food restaurant. If you’re into hyper cartoony gore and insight into why Peter Jackson was such a curious choice to direct the LoTR films, they should answer some questions.

I went to the gym yesterday and noticed a peculiar occurrence. A woman walked into the free weights area (no, that’s not weird), talking on her phone. I assume. She was wearing headphones and talking, so she was probably on a call? She strolled up to a bench, put her towel down and kept chatting. I know she hadn’t just arrived, because she was on the exercise bike next to me during my warm up. I was free weights area adjacent for maybe the next half hour. She stayed on her phone the entire time. She wasn’t picking anything up, but neither did she move her towel. All of the benches were in use, but she didn’t budge. Nobody approached her, because they probably also assumed she was about to make use of the bench she’d dibsed. I didn’t understand it. Had she intended to work out, but got caught up in a call? What kind of call takes that long? Who has such confidence that they’ll take a personal call for over half an hour in a public place? Or was she just there to perv on people? No stress, but if that was her plan why would she monopolise equipment that other people could use? Was she crafting some kind of alibi to excuse her perving?

Or am I entirely wrong and was she just an oblivious dick without consideration for other people? Because the pieces fit.

Do androids post clickbait for electric sheep?

Spoilers ahead for Blade Runner 2049. My girlfriend posted this article on Facebook and it prompted discussion. I spent a while writing a response to the discussion and figured I’d done my daily writing. Here goes.

So I think these are all pretty valid criticisms of the movie. The one conceit that I’m not buying into is that the sequel’s box office performance is tied to its lack of representation. Films with shitty representation go gangbusters at the box office all the time. It sucks and it’d be great if that wasn’t the case. It’s a niche, long and contemplative Sci Fi sequel of a cult film released something like 30 years ago. Also like they said, the original wasn’t a huge hit either. Also how often are people buying tickets to films knowing how effective their representation is? Isn’t that something you learn after watching the film? Using its box office performance issues as a tag for an otherwise pretty decent article seems pretty clickbait-y.

So first off, I’m not positing this as me having some crazy hot take. Unabashedly I really enjoyed the film and kind of just want to have people to talk about it with. I’m also of the opinion that you can both love a piece of art and criticise it without detracting from the fact that it meant something to you. I think that this article’s author had a bunch of pretty salient points and I’m interested in a discussion.

She’s on the money saying that women in this film were primarily relegated to window dressing and signposting. I mean, Robin Wright, in typical Robin Wright fashion, was fantastic. She was certainly a Boss Ass Bitch, but even she was reduced to essentially a gatekeeper making sure to quell the uprising in a very motherly position.

So how would we go about fixing the script? First and foremost, I don’t think the gender of K is super important to the plot. I mean, the commoditization of female bodies is sort of a central idea, whether it’s the corporation mass producing replicants like some kind of big baby factory, or trying to obtain the replicant born child to cheapen the reproduction process. Having K be female could’ve opened avenues for her to navigate these themes as well as the nature of reality, humanity and all that jazz. Then again, it’s not like this movie needed a longer run time.

I don’t know where I sit on the whole JOI aspect of not having agency, because that was kind of the point, right? She was a product created by the corporation to sell to their own products (I mean, grow your own consumers? That’s gotta help your bottom line). The whole “I tell you what you want to hear” idea was central to the plot and eventual twist. I think it would’ve gone some ways to have depicted male JOI units too (because surely the corporation wouldn’t skip out on selling to half their market?). Maybe even including a scene with The Lieutenant using one? Could’ve added a nice layer. Maybe have male sex workers too? Sexy nude dudes on that Vegas planet as well?

I mean, the Vegas planet was a nice backdrop for a film obssessed with the nature of reality and illusion, the holographic performers, etc etc. I did think it was a bit much that we were only seeing female bodies sexualised.

As for the sex scene, it felt more like they were using it to show off impressive SFX than super important narrative pathos. Was JOI organising the sexual encounter an extention of telling K what he wanted to hear? Did it show how much he was tied into the idea of her as real? They had the rain scene, him pouring her a glass, that dumb “buckle up” line. Did it add enough to necessitate its inclusion? I’m not sure. It looked pretty, but felt kind of throwaway to me.

Luv is another matter. I think [my friend in the thread] made a pretty great point about the sociopathic relationship with Wallace. I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit sleepy when I saw the film, especially during the Leto scenes. This strikes me as a pretty astute read on the character. The details were either subtle enough that I missed them entirely or maybe dozed through them. It would’ve been great to have just a little bit of dialogue implying that she had agency in her decisions, or furthering her motivation along those abusive relationship lines. We know she was his tool. Hell, K was just a tool himself after all (and the question of agency was another big part of the film, right?) but the film was built around him. It could’ve done a ton to build her out as an antagonist if her motivations were more apparent.

I kinda want to watch this film again…

Spoiler: People actually floated this time.

Let’s get this out of the way, definite It spoilers to follow.

I imagine that anyone who’s been planning on seeing the It remake has done so already. If you haven’t, now’s your last chance to do so unspoiled before I enter what’s no doubt gonna be some kind of diatribe.

With me?

So. Firstly, I haven’t read the book. I recently watched the miniseries, so that’s the source material I’m working with. In general I thought they handled the remake really well. It was an enjoyable adventure film based around the kind of misfit outsider characters that’ve become Stephen King’s stand by. Any big changes made tended to be for the best. It made a lot of sense to me for them to shift forward to the 80s. If you’re between 30 and 40 now (probably the bulk of the target demo), it’d resonate a ton more than the 60s would. Plus there’s the whole Stranger Things buzz (which funnily is aping from similar kinds of stories as the original It) to jump on board with. Given that they’re doing a film and not a miniseries, they could do away with excessive backstory and details to fill in the time. It’s punchy and there’s a lot less wastage. Also they didn’t have to do a reaction shot from every single character. Beverly seems much better sculpted in this version, though holy shit it leant hard into the creepy dad thing. Still abusive, but much more explicitly. Mike was similarly buffed out a ton more. The dead parents housefire backstory added to the character, plus the homeschooling was a new touch. Lessons in ethos from his grandfather also came with a handy stunbolt gun. Useful.

Richie was still the constant scene stealer, with his colourful language taking centre stage. To that end, wasn’t it fantastic to have the kids overload on expletives? Upping the F-bombs, etc etc seemed so characteristics of teenagers who’ve just learned dirty words and seek any chance to push boundaries. Ben faded into the background a little more and sustained an absurd amount of battle damage. Overall the character beats seemed to mostly make sense. So he has both an “H” carved into his chest and massive claw marks? Kids get tossed around like confetti in this film. It’s brutal. Plus Pennywise and its newly improved lamprey mouth bite literal chunks out of these children. Quite graphic. Given the improvements of technology, Pennywise itself was much less campy. Some really nice touches in terms of quick shuffle movement (that seems to have become a staple of horror film. Fast zombies, anyone?) and bringing out the insectoid aspects of the monster.

Now, for some less important stuff. So Ben is an amazing researcher. Seriously, kid is exceedingly more thorough than I’ve ever been. How much did photocopying cost back in the 80s? Why did he have the money to copy all of those documents? Did he have a part time job? Or did he tell his parents that it was all for school work? To that end, did his parents know about his macabre fascination with child mortality? When Beverly says that she kissed a guy once and it was nice, was there anything more to read into that than a throwaway line? Was it meant to be just that she’d kissed some rando kid at some point? Because the only previous implications were that possibly she’d done something with psycho bully Henry (though that’s most likely some bullshit rumour he made up, right?) or that her father had sexually abused her. Which isn’t something nice to think about and most likely not the “nice” kiss she was talking about. So was it just a nothing line? When Beverly was lying in the tub and noticed the one drop of blood, how could there be a drop of blood? If they’d missed a spot, it’d be a smudge, not a perfectly round drop. Maybe there’d be a patch they missed, but not a visually pleasing drop. I was happy they got rid of that silly ‘imagination as a weapon’ idea (like telling Pennywise that his inhaler was battery acid and it working as such) and just stuck to beating the everloving shit out of Pennywise. Also those stupid chunks of silver working as magical bullets? Unnecessary. Glad it was cut. The house scene was super neat and the monster designs in general were leagues ahead of the original.

Failing anything, I’m just glad to have finally seen a film with a child’s dismembered head in a tree. Who knew I’d been waiting for that my whole life?