There’s a half-joke I like to say to people who I feel would be comfortable enough to hear it from me that part of the reason I’m an atheist is because the idea of an eternal afterlife scares the hell out of me. Even if there is a heaven, and I get to go there, I think I’d prefer to just stop existing at some point – to sleep, “and by a sleep, to say we end the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks that Flesh is heir to.” When I’m done, I want to be done. However long I’ll live will have been enough and I’d just want to not. And there have been times in my life when – to put it gently – I have wanted to make that time sooner rather than later.
I left the theater for A Wrinkle in Time with my face wet from tears of joy that started from basically the first scene of the movie. Ava DuVernay and her cast and crew, working off Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell’s screenplay based on Madeleine L’Engle’s novel, have created a cinematic miracle so full of sincerity, imagination, and love that it will either eliminate every last ounce of cynicism in your system, or provoke an almost allergic reaction. And going by its Rotten Tomatoes score, I don’t think a large commercial film has been so misunderstood since the Wachowski’s Speed Racer, which also used heavily computer generated aesthetics to tell a story of a young person with a galaxy of potential inside of them waiting to blossom.
They say the only difference between comedy and tragedy is time, but they never specified how much time. Twenty-two years passed between Hitler’s suicide and Mel Brooks’ The Producers; but these days we’re finding out we can laugh at Trump while he’s ordering ICE to break-up families and intern innocent people for being from the “wrong” countries. I’m personally unsure whether or not its healthy that we can find the humor in the tragedy of incompetent and world-threatening leadership. But, if there’s one person who can reveal the humor in even the darkest of political circumstances, it is Armando Iannucci; creator of In the Loop, The Thick of It, and Veep; who brings his razor-sharp satirical wit to his latest feature, The Death of Stalin.
One of my most deeply held political beliefs is that there are no good rich people. That isn’t to say that people with money are incapable of doing good things, or that rich people are actively engaged in doing evil; rather, that for anyone to accumulate enough wealth to be considered wealthy, they almost necessarily have had to do so through exploitation of others, and always necessarily aren’t spending that money on the public good.
Amazing Spider-Man #797
After a few filler issues, Dan Slott begins his final arc of Amazing Spider-Man capping off a decade on the series. And he and his art team of Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Marte Gracia start it off explosively, with a first-person sequence from the point of view of someone kidnapped by the recently Carnage-infused Norman Osborn, interrogating them about their connection to Spider-Man. It’s a tense sequence, and Osborn comes across as genuinely menacing, especially as Carnage begins to peek through.
It’s an undisputed fact that James Bond is a terrible spy; both as an example of what spies do in the real world, and in-universe. He’s a secret agent who goes around telling everybody his name – and clarifying it to make sure they know it, unnecessarily fraternizes with allies and enemies alike, causes massive collateral damage, racks up massive expenditures on the taxpayer’s dime, has emotional and physical addictions that compromise his abilities, and wields his licence to kill with reckless abandon. James Bond is also the central player in one of film’s most enduringly fun action franchises, and his adventures have had a greater influence on the popular conception of espionage than almost anything else.
All that preface is to say that Red Sparrow is not a James Bond movie, and Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) of Red Sparrow is not James Bond, though the movie has left me unsure of how much better a spy she is. And the movie’s opaqueness as to whether an audience is supposed to come away thinking that Dominika is a master of subterfuge and manipulation, or that she’s kinda lucked out in slightly nudging things in a way where her problems solve themselves epitomizes how Red Sparrow stumbles over all the things the movie tries to be about over it’s bloated 140 minute runtime. Red Sparrow is a post-Cold War Cold War slow burn spy thriller that’s also a movie about the state-as-patriarchy where said state teaches a woman how to become empowered by weaponizing her sexuality, but only for state interests. Lie back and think of Russia – for better or worse. And that’s before even getting into the plot!
This panel, from Black Panther #170 is when I realized Ta-Nehisi Coates was running this arc using Dungeons and Dragons logic, and looking through that lens makes the rest of the issue – and the arc – click into place.