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MODOKbaby

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  1. MODOKbaby

    Episode 150 - The Avengers (w/ Jenelle Riley)

    I was surprised that the conversation in the episode was mostly limited to discussing the film within the context of the Marvel franchise -- basically "the Marvel movies are big and popular, and this is the most notable one of those" -- without ever quite hitting on what Marvel as a whole and this film in particular brought to the larger movie landscape. They pioneered an interconnectivity between seemingly disparate films, essentially figuring out how to use every movie they make to sell all their other movies, on an unprecedented level. It's something virtually every major studio and some smaller ones have bent themselves out of shape trying to chase ever since, to (so far) uniformly mediocre, disastrous results. What Marvel did is evidently quite hard to do well, and the magic of The Avengers is that it makes it look so easy that everyone else thought they could do it too overnight. It's easy to forget how easily this movie could have felt jumbled, too naked a money grab, or downright laborious. That it goes down so smoothly, integrating the various tones and concepts so seamlessly as to retroactively make it feel like a foregone conclusion, is the only reason we're talking about Marvel the way we are today. The Joss Whedon touch is not just that every character is serviced and gets their moments; I've seen plenty of movies where all the characters get a moment, but it feels like perfunctorily working down a checklist. The moments where The Avengers stops for one character to have the spotlight are relatively few and far between, and while those are good (Cap with the police officers' "why should I take orders from you?", Banner with Harry Dean Stanton, etc.) everything is so thoroughly derived from character that the 'moments' are usually shared by every character in a given scene. No one is there to be a sounding board for someone else's characterization. Whedon had only ~140 minutes to spend with this sprawling cast who could all be the star of their own movie, and he takes full advantage of it by baking characterization into every ounce of the film. Almost no line is purely functional; if someone is delivering exposition, they're doing it in a way that simultaneously lets you get to know them as a person. Mileage seems to vary on the cacophonous third act, but I'm in the camp that thinks it's a pretty incredible achievement, action wise. That the crazy tracking shot is achieved through "just CGI" takes away nothing for me -- a long take where the most interesting thing is the camera logistics doesn't say much for what's in front of the camera, and what's on screen here, be it captured by a camera or designed on a computer, is a joy in concept and execution. And speaking of that third act, my god is Whedon a master of setting up dominos throughout a whole movie (or episode or season, going back his TV work!) so knocking them over makes for a climax of nonstop payoffs. Rewatching it this time I noticed for the first time quick glimpses of the "St" and "rk" getting knocked off of Stark Tower during the melee; Whedon had to be so satisfied knowing he had that reveal of the remaining "A" in his pocket for the end. (Yeah, it might feel cute and cheap, but it's also kind of brilliant in how simply it stands for how Stark and the others have swallowed their egos for the greater good.) Yeah, pretty good movie. And so far the *only* good example of a thing so many others have tried to follow. (Unless you want to count the Jacques Demy cinematic universe. I think Avengers needs to be in there with Cherbourg.)
  2. His Girl Friday all the way! Philadelphia Story is nice, but it's not even my second favorite Hepburn/Grant joint (I actually prefer Holiday, and Bringing Up Baby is the best.) It's always a thrill to watch people who love what they do, and I think it's great how that obsessive dedication to journalistic craft is the entire crux of the Russell/Grant relationship -- they don't fall back in love so much as prove to be each other's only peers. The cunning, borderline-sociopathic dance that gets them there may not be the most typically romantic (or "healthy") courtship, but it makes them feel so much more full-blooded, actively fulfilled, and mutually understood than anyone in Philadelphia Story.
  3. MODOKbaby

    Episode 130 - The Room (w/ Paul Scheer)

    If this was the music canon I would definitely vote for Rebecca Black's "Friday". You have to celebrate the miracle that allowed this very small class of works to enter the world in all their pure, unfettered grotesque glory, acting as a funhouse mirror to these ubiquitous forms, like space aliens who have sampled only a few films or pop songs and are able to imitate their conventions without understanding the ways in which those conventions ostensibly convey humanity -- mechanisms we take for granted until we get a "Friday" or The Room that managed to bypass those unspoken fundamentals all the way to a finished product. (See also: The Shaggs.) But where "Friday" is amazing and weird for every one of its 228 seconds, there are minutes that pass by in The Room that are merely banal. Having watched it several times (often with friends but never in a raucous theater), I still feel like there is a lot of tedium, a lot of waiting for another solid gold line reading or for a new kind of weirdness the punctuate the offkilter key it coasts on for the majority of its run time. I bet a lot of people discovered the film through YouTube clips like I did, and that may be the format The Room was always destined for; it's hard to argue that it isn't the most enjoyable package for its highlights. Though, in its defense, it does take the whole film for Lisa's mom's breast cancer to never be brought up again. I would never say "just watch the YouTube clips" for any other film though, and the discussion on this episode makes a strong case for the macro of its message being as interesting as any of its isolated moments. I'm not sure Wiseau ever thought about his film in the exact terms discussed here, but I don't think that matters. I'm a big believer in artist intent only telling so much of the story, and I think its clear that much of Wiseau's particular worldview has permeated every facet of The Room, maybe in different ways than he had in mind. In the end, I'm voting yes, because I do think this is a singular work, as miraculous in its gestation as "Friday" or The Shaggs even if it's not as thrilling moment to moment. Little things like Wiseau's reading of "what a story Mark" or Sestero's "people are very strange these days" are burned into my mind and will probably never leave.
  4. MODOKbaby

    Episode 109 - Raising Arizona (w/ Ira Madison III)

    For how much I love both Amy and Ira's writing, and this movie, I was surprised that the combination led to a dissenting argument that was mostly 'I see why others like it but I'm just not into it.' Still cool hearing two voices I like talk about Raising Arizona for an hour, but it seems like it's been a while since the show attempted a really thorough critique of some sacred cow. Kind of miss it, even the ones going after movies I love! Anyway, I'm definitely voting yes. Raising Arizona feels in the lineage of a Duck Soup or Bringing Up Baby, as relentless and inventive in its screwball antics for 1987 as those were in their day. I also love how linked it is to previous Canon-inductee Evil Dead 2.. released the same year, they seem like they're in competition for crazy camera setups (Raising Arizona even seems to homage Evil Dead with that racing-over-the-ground POV tracking shot) and I recently found out that the Coens, Holly Hunter, Frances McDormand and Sam Raimi all lived together for a time leading up to these films, which just sounds like the coolest incubator of cinematic excitement ever.
  5. MODOKbaby

    Episode 106 - Fatal Attraction (w/ Heather Matarazzo)

    I do indeed enjoy the apparent complexity of the first two thirds, wherein Michael Douglas can be reasonably read as the villain, but the third act squashes that reading to an unforgivable degree. And I agree that if we're gonna put an erotic thriller in the Canon, even one starring Michael Douglas, it's gotta be Verhoeven! Finally, if Broadcast News isn't Canon-worthy then nothing from 1987 is. May as well strike the whole decade. (Kidding, sort of.)
  6. I voted for Fellowship because it's sort of the platonic ideal of what people think of when they think Lord of the Rings (well, with the notable exception of Gollum, which might make a strong case for Two Towers.) I know the precedent is for a single film to represent a series in The Canon, but if ever there was a series that deserved to live or die as a trilogy, I would think it's this one, given how they were filmed all together, comprising one hell of a studio gamble, ultimately rewarding beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The variations in quality over the long arc of the series are fun to parse, but all in all basically negligible; there's definitely no Godfather 3 or Return of the Jedi that makes its worthiness as a trilogy less than a foregone conclusion. So, whichever gets in, in my heart they all win.
  7. And, whoa, somehow I overlooked the previous post that compared the La La Land bashing to South Park's Kenny gag (which also came to mind, and is more apt, but Simpsons seemed like easier shorthand.) Glad to see I'm not the only one who appreciates the consistency. What will be the first Canon episode to subvert the trope? How elaborate will it get? Will it earn its own column on the "Episodes of The Canon" Wikipedia table?
  8. I just wanted to say I looove how Amy found a way to work in a dig at La La Land for the 4th episode in a row, and in reference to films as disparate as Sign O' the Times and Fellowship of the Ring. I mean, I love La La Land too, but don't mind other takes, and this is getting to be like the Simpsons couch gag of Canon episodes. I'll be disappointed the first time it DOESN'T come up.
  9. I actually wish this would happen, as I remember Oscar season saw David Ehrlich lashing back at the La La Land backlash. And hey, it's probably impossible to talk about Shakespeare In Love without getting into its Best Picture win, so that puts them part of the way there. (But not as close as it puts them to Moonlight. )
  10. MODOKbaby

    Announcing The Return Of The Canon!

    Amazing news! I've been missing the show, and this new edition sounds like lots of fun. Great to hear an encouraging update on Devin, and while there's no 1:1 match for his specific brand of crankiness, David Ehrlich is probably where I would have ended up if I tried to think of good foils for this type of thing. Armond White though, you really mean business! Hope you tear all my favorite movies to shreds.
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