Recent movies and TV

Watchmen: I did not expect this to be any good, but it is! There were many set-ups where I thought, "This is it, they're going to jump the shark now" and they did not. It's a worthy sequel to the comic, and it takes the right sorts of pot-shots at the earlier movie. It ended strong.

Living With Yourself: Screwball Clone Comedy. It's funny.

His Dark Materials: This show is dumb and boring. Everyone says that the movie version of it from a few years back, which was also dumb and boring, was a terrible adaptation of the book, and that this is better. But now I'm forced to assume that the book is also dumb and boring.

Mr. Robot: There were a few weak episodes this season, but overall, it's still amazing. The ending was... weird but good.

Rick and Morty: Still killing it.

Knives Out: This is great. There's a lot more class warfare in this "murder investigation at the will reading" movie than I would have expected.

Dolemite Is My Name: "The new Eddie Murphy movie is really funny" is not a thing I would have predicted that I would be saying in 2019, but here we are. He made his own Ed Wood! It's great!

The Witcher: Wow, this is bad. This is like, The Outpost bad. In fact, if you had told me that this was the new season of The Outpost I would only have wondered at the complete cast shake-up.

Wonder Woman (1975): The first season is really fun! It's set in 1942 and involves all the classic elements that any Wonder Woman story should have: punching Nazis, light bondage, and strident lectures on feminism.

I mean, it's literally only the second episode when Diana has to go undercover in a burlesque show. This is relatable content.

Season two is where it all goes wrong. They did a time jump to 1975, and they did a better job than I expected on the dumb explanations for "it's Steve's son" and "how did she infiltrate the government?" bits. It involved both hypnosis and computer hacking! Season two is also, to a large extent, about punching Nazis: after all, it was less than 30 years since the end of World War II, so Nazis were still around. It's not like today, where we don't have Nazis any more. But about halfway through season 2, it lost any sense of logic, and the plots got deeply stupid, even for a superhero show. Like, you work for a spy agency, why are you people Scoobying art heists? I couldn't even finish season 3.

La Femme Nikita (1997): Another misplaced-nostalgia re-watch. Back when I was still in season 1, we covered a bit of this in my post about Birkhoff's Sweet-Ass Laptop but here are some key takeaway points:

First, their computers are the greatest. These guys had only the finest WinAmp skins loaded onto their IRC clients and AltaVista searches. Second, wow, this is literally the same show as 24. Specifically, 24 was a halfassed, shark-jumpy Nikita remake. Both shows take the position that torture is a fast and effective way of getting reliable information, except that Section 1 is portrayed as "evil" whereas CTU is portrayed as "good". Which is odd, because they were the same organization, with the same goals and methods (and actors and set design). But one show had a protagonist constantly saying, "Hey, this is really fucked up" and the other didn't. Good versus evil almost comes down to the musical cues chosen. So 24 is what you get when Michael is the lead and Nikita isn't in the show. Third, it turns out that a lot, possibly most, of my nostalgia for this show was its soundtrack. It had a really good soundtrack, at a time when most TV shows didn't spend the money to get current releases featured.

But the writing really goes to shit after season 2. Birkhoff builds a Birkhoff Headroom. He's replaced by an evil twin. Everyone turns out to be secretly related to everyone else. It's like a telenovela in here. And then the series finale episode was about deadbeat absentee dad getting back with his infant. What I have learned from episodic television is that every showrunner is a 60 year old white guy with 3 divorces and regrets.

Hedy Lamar: I binged a whole bunch of her movies. She is always charming, but there is a lot of garbage in there. And a lot of it is really surprisingly racist, even for movies from the 40s! They put her in blackface, and she was nominally Asian and Mexican more than once. In nearly every movie she plays a broke refugee who has to fuck some guy to get her passport stamped. It's... a weird fetish. I slogged through about a dozen of them, but my favorites were:

Comrade X (1940): This is great! It's a comedy about a foreign correspondent who is secretly an American spy with a subversive blog pirate radio station. Hedy needs a passport so she can evangelize Communism in the US. Antics ensue. They should have let her do more comedy, she was good at it.

Algiers (1938): This is essentially Casablanca, and there's never anything wrong with that. Though it turns out that the inspiration went the other way around.

A Lady Without Passport (1950): In this one she's a concentration camp survivor stranded in Cuba and trying to get to the US. By the end, the undercover INS agent realizes that his job is bad and he should feel bad! So timely.

Then I finished it off with Bombshell, the Hedy Lamar Story. It was a real bummer to learn that she died in the same circumstance as Nikola Tesla: a penniless recluse who had alienated everybody, addicted to meth.

Speaking of huge stars at the ragged end of their careers, I also watched Judy and Stan and Ollie. Both were very good, and depressing, but at least they mostly stayed off the meth. Mostly.


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