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Better Ghost
I’ve been watching a lot of films lately. Brief reviews to follow.

Wonder Woman – I wrote a much longer review of this shortly after seeing it, but it got EATED and I don’t remember everything I said. The comparison to Captain America: The First Avenger seems apt; they feel pretty similar, but this isn’t a carbon copy. The decision to move the setting to WWI works well, I think; first of all, there aren’t nearly enough WWI films, and secondly, the moral ambiguity of the war seems better suited to the character arc. This film remembered not to leave out the warmth and humanity, which distinguished it wonderfully from DC’s other recent film output. Overall, I can’t see much to complain about here. I definitely appreciated the film’s message that superheroes can’t save humanity; humanity has to save itself.

Dog Day Afternoon – I’m attempting to remedy gaps in my film viewing; this is the first of several films I’d inexplicably never seen. Pacino’s performance is spectacularly good, possibly a career best; if Cuckoo’s Nest hadn’t been the same year, I’d have said he’d gotten snubbed for Best Actor. It’s astonishing that a film this progressive on queer issues was made in the mid-’70s, and Lumet does a fantastic job making the film’s flawed characters relatable. One observation I made during the phone conversations in the middle of the film was how little any of the characters were actually listening to each other. Lumet was in the midst of an incomprehensible sequence of classic films here; it’s as though he could do no wrong.

Withnail and I – Cult British comedy featuring Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann as two dysfunctional, struggling actors. I feel as though I’ll probably need to watch this again to fully appreciate it; it seems like The Big Lebowski in that respect (I didn’t entirely get that film on first viewing either). There are some incredibly hilarious lines in this, though, and it’s ultimately surprisingly poignant. This is another film where all the major characters are extremely flawed people but ultimately end up mostly sympathetic despite their flaws. I haven’t seen anything else like it and I’m not surprised it wound up a cult classic.

Animal House – Another in the “how the hell did I not see this before?” list. A few of the gags haven’t aged well but overall it completely deserves its stature as a comedy classic. I’d honestly say it very nearly renders every subsequent college comedy superfluous; I think part of the reason is because it actually throws in some fairly cutting social satire, but it does so without oversimplifying American society or whitewashing its flaws. But mostly, it’s just much funnier than most of its imitators.

Psycho – Yet another film I’d inexplicably never seen. I’d seen most of Hitchcock’s other major works (Rear Window, Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest, The Birds), but somehow had never seen this one. I think this may be his best. This is another film I intend to watch at least once more; with Hitchcock, there’s almost always substantial foreshadowing you’ll miss even if, as I did, you know the main plot twists of the film ahead of time, and the framing of shots and cinematography and so on are always very deliberate and usually have symbolic intent. If more modern horror films were like this, I’d probably watch a lot more of the genre. Overall, my only complaint with the film is with the Hollywood psychology; the split personality trope is ridiculous. Then again, this was one of the first films to even use it, and it does so in a much better manner than most films that do so; it’s also a much more sympathetic treatment of violent mental illness than you usually get in Hollywood. (SPOILER) Bates is ultimately a sympathetic, tragic villain, as it’s clear that he was driven out of his mind by his heavily abusive treatment at his mother’s hands. Even today, abuse is frequently treated as far less serious a problem than it actually is; it’s kind of shocking that a film made in 1960 recognised how badly it can break people.

I now have Paul’s Boutique stuck in my head since it sampled the Psycho soundtrack several times and will probably listen to it later today. I also should probably go look for some of Hitchcock’s other lesser-remembered films (Rebecca, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Shadow of a Doubt, Dial M for Murder, Notorious, etc.).
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“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.”
-Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

“I never knew a man could tell so many lies
He had a different story for every set of eyes
How can he remember who he’s talking to?
’Cause I know it ain’t me, and I hope it isn’t you”
-Neil Young, “Ambulance Blues”
I’m armed to the teeth
Like a fucking animal
I ruin everything
I get my bony hands on

And here we go now over the bridge of sighs
We will get a cross like Christ, crucified
It’s like a birth but it is in reverse
Never gets better, always gets worse
Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose vis-à-vis an introduction, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.
Vaulting, veering, vomiting up the values that victimized me, feeling vast,
feeling virginal... was this how he felt? This verve, this vitality... this vision...

La voie... la vérité... la vie.
(SPOILER)
The Dead Flag Blues
The car is on fire, and there’s no driver at the wheel, and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides, and a dark wind blows. The government is corrupt, and we’re on so many drugs with the radio on and the curtains drawn. We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death. The sun has fallen down, and the billboards are all leering, and the flags are all dead at the top of their poles.

It went like this: The buildings tumbled in on themselves; mothers clutching babies picked through the rubble and pulled out their hair. The skyline was beautiful on fire, all twisted metal stretching upwards, everything washed in a thin orange haze. I said, “Kiss me, you are beautiful; these are truly the last days.” You grabbed my hand, and we fell into it like a daydream or a fever.

We woke up one morning and fell a little further down; for sure it’s the valley of death. I open up my wallet, and it’s full of blood.
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Smashing Pumpkins
we can watch the world devoured in its hate.
The late prophet Bill Hicks
I’m so sick of arming the world and then sending troops over to destroy the fucking arms, you know what I mean? We keep arming these little countries then we go and blow the shit out of ’em. We’re like the bullies of the world, you know. We’re like Jack Palance in the movie Shane, throwing the pistol at the sheep herder’s feet: “Pick it up.” “I don’t wanna pick it up, mister; you’ll shoot me.” “Pick up the gun.” “Mister, I don’t want no trouble, huh. I just came downtown here to get some hard rock candy for my kids, some gingham for my wife. I don’t even know what gingham is, but she goes through about ten rolls a week of that stuff. I ain’t looking for no trouble, mister.” “Pick up the gun.” Boom, boom. “You all saw him. He had a gun.”

moar I’ll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. “I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.” “I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.” “Hey, wait a minute, there’s one guy holding out both puppets!” “Shut up! Go back to bed, America! Your government is in control. Here's Love Connection. Watch this and get fat and stupid. By the way, keep drinking beer, you fucking morons.”

All governments are liars and murderers. Go back to bed, America! Your government has figured out how it all transpired. Go back to bed, America! Your government is in control again. Here, here’s American Gladiators. Watch this, shut up! Go back to bed, America! Here is American Gladiators; here is 56 channels of it! Watch these pituitary retards bang their fucking skulls together and congratulate you on living in the land of freedom! Here you go, America: You are free to do what we tell you! You are free to do what we tell you!

The Supreme Court says pornography is anything without artistic merit that causes sexual thoughts, that’s their definition, essentially. No artistic merit, causes sexual thoughts. Hmm… Sounds like… every commercial on television, doesn’t it? You know, when I see those two twins on that Doublemint commercial? I’m not thinking of gum. I am thinking of chewing, so maybe that’s the connection they’re trying to make.

I have this feeling man, ’cause you know, it’s just a handful of people who run everything, you know… that’s true, it’s provable. It’s not… I’m not a fucking conspiracy nut; it’s provable. A handful, a very small elite, run and own these corporations, which include the mainstream media. I have this feeling that whoever is elected president, like Clinton was, no matter what you promise on the campaign trail – blah, blah, blah – when you win, you go into this smoke-filled room with the twelve industrialist capitalist scumfucks who got you in there. And you’re in this smoky room, and this little film screen comes down, and a big guy with a cigar goes, “Roll the film.” And it’s a shot of the Kennedy assassination from an angle you’ve never seen before that looks suspiciously like it’s from the grassy knoll. And then the screen goes up and the lights come up, and they go to the new president, “Any questions?” “Er, just what my agenda is.” “First we bomb Baghdad.” “You got it…”

They don’t want the voice of reason spoken, folks, ’cause otherwise, we’d be free. Otherwise, we wouldn’t believe their fucking horseshit lies, nor the fucking propaganda machine of the mainstream media and buy their horseshit products that we don’t fucking need and become a third world consumer fucking plantation, which is what we’re becoming. Fuck them! They are liars and murderers. All governments are liars and murderers, and I am now Jesus, and this is MY compound.

The world is like a ride at an amusement park. It goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly coloured and it’s very loud and it’s fun for awhile. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, “hey – don't worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride…” And we… kill those people. Haha. “Shut him up. We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. Jesus murdered; Martin Luther King mudered; Malcolm X murdered; Gandhi murdered; John Lennon murdered; Reagan… wounded. But it doesn’t matter because it’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defences each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace. Thank you; you’ve been great.

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