- It’s tire pressure warning light season!
- Dad, the boys, and I caught a 40th anniversary showing of Alien on the big screen last night. It’s still such a masterpiece. Glad we made the effort.
- Lots of reporting on this, but no one’s really touching on the horror of Ron Ely’s son killing his own mother and then being shot to death by law enforcement officers. At 81 years old, Ron Ely lost his wife of 35 years and his 30-year-old son violently in the space of an hour. Wow. God be with him.
- El Camino was a well-done addition to Breaking Bad, even if it felt a little safe. The craftsmanship of the Breaking Bad universe is just about as good as it gets.
- I don’t know exactly what’s happening, but there is now little doubt in my mind that the quality of football officiating is declining, both at the college level and in the NFL. For most of my adult life I have been pretty philosophical about the occasional missed call, neither complaining about them when they go against me nor apologizing for them when they go for me. But now it seems we have games every week or two for which the outcome was unambiguously decided by incorrect officiating. Do we need to broaden what the booth can stop play to review? I’m sure the Lions would say so this week.
- Barring a significant upset, Alabama will run its winning streak over Tennessee to 13 on Saturday. All I have to do is summon my aural memory of Peyton Manning singing “We Own Alabama” to the tune of “Sweet Home Alabama” to not feel bad about that whatsoever. How much longer will we have Saban? Another five or six years, maybe? Wouldn’t it be great for him to leave the Capstone having never lost to Tennessee?
- I’m glad the weather has broken. There are no 80s forecast through the end of the month. Still, it’s a little warm. We went to a marching band contest last year at which I got so cold that I’m pretty sure I had a mild case of hypothermia. (Diagnosing myself based on the fact that I was still cold—like, cold inside my bones—four hours after coming inside.) It’s looking like a hoodie will be sufficient protection for everything this year.
The boys and I saw Joker at Bridge Street yesterday morning. It is another story of the titular Batman villain and how he came to be, set in a well-done Gotham City in which it seems to be about 1984 judging from cars and TV sets, but there isn’t particular rigor for anachronisms. You know how comic book movies are.
That said, this is only marginally a comic book movie. It didn’t have to be a Marvel or DC story to be effective. This is a tale of the beauty and the horror of the human animal. The trappings of the universe are secondary.
There haven’t been many films that have generated as much cautionary rhetoric as this one has. I wasn’t overly concerned about my well-adjusted teenage boys seeing it, but I wondered how over-the-top the violence might be. I thought it might tack borderline parodic—something like Natural Born Killers or Kill Bill.
It is a violent movie, and the depictions are graphic enough that I certainly would not want young children to see it. But at the same time, I think it stops well short of gratuitous. There are no cheap or easy shots. Everything we see advances the plot effectively.
Speaking of the plot, what is it? Well, there is a basic one, but it almost doesn’t matter. This is a character study, not a story. Every bit of exposition serves the transformation of Arthur Fleck into Joker.
That transformation is moving, electrifying, and bar-raising. Just empty your cabinet of superlatives for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. It’s one of the greatest turns I’ve seen in years. The power and emotion of this portrayal are so effective that I found myself a little teary-eyed. This is not a remotely emulable character, yet you will empathize with him. You will feel sympathy for him.
And that performance, not Joker‘s depictions of violence, is at the heart of what unsettles us. Though they are very different films, Joker is disturbing for the same reason Apocalypse Now is disturbing—it comments so poignantly and accurately on the human condition that we are forced to consider our lots. How did we get to this place? What could we have done better?
Most frighteningly: how much can we change our trajectory, even if we want to? Is there some significant level on which we are simply at the mercy of our natures? I won’t try to answer that question, but I believe this movie asks it repeatedly, from several different directions.
Joaquin Phoenix wins Best Actor for this, or it will be one of the most heinous misses in the Academy’s history.
Numerous circumstances conspired against us having a traditional fall break this year, so we kept it a pretty normal week. We did go to the new Cook Museum of Natural Science today. (It’s so misleading to call it “remodeled.” It’s much larger and much nicer than the museum it replaced.) We had a marvelous time […]
Well, that was one of the more extreme meltdowns I can recall. Sure am glad I didn’t have a dozen people over to watch the game. I was reminded of this 2014 post while Nathan dealt with something this week. He pulled his fat out of the fire, but it was close and stressful. Kids […]
I can remember most of the anxieties and uncertainties that I had as an adolescent and young adult, because, well, they were anxieties and uncertainties. They were unpleasant. They significantly occupied my consciousness. As I got older, naturally, they became easier to understand. I could more easily discern my role in them. I could evaluate […]