EIGHTH GRADE (2018) Broadcast Yourself

I posted my first video to YouTube in June of 2009. I was fifteen years old, two years older than Eighth Grade’s Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher), but no more self-aware of my own inexperience of the world I wanted to be seen as familiar with.

Kayla’s first vlog, which opens the movie, where she tells her viewers about how to be themselves while trying to negotiate her own shyness, immediately strikes on how much of the modern public adolescent experience is as aspirational as it is performatively inspirational. Kayla, through carefully considered lighting, rehearsed gesticulations, meticulously curated selfies, and all sorts of other filters, is trying to be the person she herself would want to take her advice from. She vlogs about being herself, being confident, putting herself out there, and making friends as a prelude to doing those things in her life outside of her constructed bedroom set. It’s easy to see the hypocrisy, and the humor of the situation – first time writer/director and comedian Bo Burnham mines both – but he also shows us the kindness and honest optimism in what Kayla does.

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Wednesday Reads 7/4, 7/11/18

Captain America #1

“The first country the Nazis invaded was their own.”

This quote, spoken by professor Erskine to a pre-super serum Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, seems to be the foundation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ first arc of his own run on the character. Steve, who shares the face of the Supreme Leader of Hydra who conquered the United States only months ago, still wonders how it happened, how the people of his country lost their way and fell under fascism. He knows that people still don’t trust him completely, understands their hesitation; this isn’t the first time he’s seen this sort of thing happen and failed to prevent it. At the same time, he tries to find where the dream he defends is still alive, in the people who fought back, in the children who survived it. And no matter what anyone else thinks, he’s going to continue to fight for that dream.

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THE WASP AND ANT-MAN (2018) Coulda Been Fetish-ier

The Ant-Man franchise is shaping up to be the palette cleanser of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, being smaller, self-contained, and ostensibly more comedic entries following major crossover events with generally darker tones. While this made this helped the first Ant-Man stand out from Marvel’s other offerings – following phase three movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok, it becomes more apparent how much Ant-Man’s flavor has been diluted with the rest of the mega-franchise’s overall tone and aesthetic.

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SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (2018) Our Current Dystopia

When you consider SAG-AFTRA, the WGA, DGA, PGA, and dozens of other unions and guilds that operate in Hollywood, it’s a little surprising that there are so few notable movies about unions and labor politics. Yes, organized labor movies are political, but so is war – and that’s an entire genre of movie. And surely labor relations contain at least as much drama, and historically, as much violence, to make exciting movies out of – and they’re sure as hell a lot more relevant to most people.

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Wednesday Reads 6/27/18

Black Panther #2

Two years after the first issue, the ex-slave now known as T’Challa fights with the rebel Maroons against the Wakandan Empire. But the Intel on the Maroon’s current mission was old, and they’ve flown right into a heavily fortified base. Nakia orders a retreat, but T’Challa flies ahead, eager for a dogfight. And against all odds, he manages to outfly the much better numbered and gunned empire defenses.
This is a trench-run issue that reads like a level of Star Fox. It’s amazingly propulsive and undeniably cool. While this is one of those comic issues I desperately wish I could see in motion, Coates still manages to script the still moments that tell us exactly how skillful T’Challa’s maneuvers are. And of course, Acuña captures the image of it. His art is slick and futuristic, and he neatly contrasts the Maroon’s nimble looking fighters with the empire’s fighters with hot neon purple accents that are all sharp lines and hard angles in gray and blue.

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LEAVE NO TRACE (2018) A North Western

The line I remember most from Leave No Trace, directed and co-written by Debra Granik, is near the beginning, when a social worker tells teenager Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), and her veteran father Will (Ben Foster), who have been living in Forest Park, outside of Portland, Oregon, that it is illegal to live on public land. Despite the social worker sincerely wanting to help this family find a home, and that Leave No Trace is a movie without a true antagonist, all the obstacles in Tom and Will’s life are summarized by that single line: It is illegal to live on public land.

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Wednesday Reads 6/20/18

Amazing Spider-Man #801
Dan Slott’s last issue of Amazing Spider-Man ranks as one of his best, as he collaborates with Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente to capture the importance of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in a single story.
It starts nearly at the beginning, with Spider-Man, just weeks out from Uncle Ben’s murder, foiling a grocery store mugging. Then we follow the life of one of the people he saves until the day he can pay Spider-Man back.
The issue is a happy reminder that no matter how big Spider-Man gets, he’s great because he’s a local boy. He doesn’t save the world, he saves your world.

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