I Know

The Mild Batch

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone, or Children's Day, if you're in Japan like me. It's more like The Children's Hour in film and television these days and last night brought the premiere of The Bad Batch, another new Disney Star Wars series seemingly designed to privilege the temperament of three or four year old viewers. It's a sad irony that the series it follows directly on from, The Clone Wars, was excellent for most of its run for featuring storytelling complex and mature enough to please viewers of any age--the irony deepens when you consider The Bad Batch is supposed to be about a military unit. The showrunner for The Bad Batch is Jennifer Corbett who, despite having a few credits to her name, has no Wikipedia entry. Probably because her most distinguished credit so far is Star Wars: Resistance and among the four or five fans of that series it's likely none is a Wikipedia editor. It might not make sense to you or me for Disney to hire anyone from Resistance for another Star Wars series, but I would argue that the infantilisation that has dragged down so much Star Wars media under Disney has more to do with rigid studio policy regarding story content than it does with the talent they hire. There's a reason so many of the great directors and screenwriters to-day refuse to work with Disney--not to mention their increasingly publicised petty dramas with the directors, actors, and writers who are willing to work with them. Just imagine all the things we don't hear about.

But the first episode of The Bad Batch isn't all bad. For one thing, they clearly had a better budget for visuals than Rebels or Resistance.

The show opens on some pretty gorgeous snowy forest. We meet some clone troopers and a Jedi General, Depa Billaba (voiced by the lovely Archie Panjabi), fighting one of the last skirmishes of the Clone Wars. The general's padawan runs up, a bright eyed boy of eleven or twelve whose voice sounds like he's 45. That's because he's voiced by Freddie Prinzzz11!!@ Jr. and he's supposed to be a young Kanan, one of the dullest characters from Rebels.

The episode has three credited directors--Steward Lee, Saul Ruiz, and Nathaniel Villanueva. Whichever one directed this first segment has no instinct for action sequences. Once Kanan (called Caleb at this age) jumps in the fox hole with Depa and some troopers (Dee Bradley Baker) the camera switches to boring head shots in which the tension of a battle sequence is totally absent from sound effects or the actors' performances.

They all sound like they're in a cool, quiet, recording studio.

The Bad Batch shows up to save the day and they've had an addition to their group since we last saw them on Clone Wars--the regular clone, Echo, who's now part man and mostly droid. The episode even quotes from Return of the Jedi when one character calls him "More machine now than man." I was happy to see him because I thought his story was one of the creepiest, most fascinating parts of Clone Wars, and certainly a bright spot in that final season. And I do like the concept of the Bad Batch itself, the idea of these genetic misfits having specialities beyond the scope of their regular kin.

This episode introduces another one, a girl called Omega (Michelle Ang). I kind of like her--when I saw her in trailers, I thought, "Oh, no, not another whiny kid," though I'm actually kind of an advocate for whiny kid characters. Luke was one, so was Ahsoka, and starting them off as petulant little dweebs is nice if you're going to watch them mature. Of course, when they go the route of Ezra Bridger and just leave him a whiny kid for the entire run of a series, it can be really frustrating. But two dimensional characters usually are, if they're supposed to be leads, which I'll come back to in a minute.

It's kind of refreshing that Omega just seems to be a sweetheart, though. And I like the idea of the Kaminoans making a female version of the Jango Fett clone. It takes way too long for the other characters to figure out what she is, though. When Tech, the brains of the Bad Batch, finally points it out and says he "thought it was obvious"--I mean, it really was. Excruciatingly.

The main character conflict is between Hunter and Crosshair, the leader and the sniper of the group, respectively. Crosshair is the only one for whom Order 66 registered in his programming and sadly it makes him a boring, flat, villain character, so obviously and consistently doing dastardly things the other members of the Batch look like idiots for not questioning it.

Tarkin (Stephen Stanton) shows up to be another disappointing example of Disney thinking the way to write villains is to make them all like Boris and Natasha. Tarkin tests the Bad Batch and is impressed with their abilities but instead of strategising about ways to utilise them he sends them off to a distant planet to kill a bunch of kids. It might have been more reasonable for Tarkin to have instructed them to kill Saw Gerrera (Andrew Kishino) who is among the refugees with the kids.

Saw is made to look a bit like a blend between his Clone Wars appearance and his appearance as Forest Whitaker in Rogue One. That's kind of nice but I wish the Batch and Gerrera didn't so quickly end up talking peacefully. But all of this makes Tarkin's argument that the clones should be replaced by conscripted, normal citizens even less sensible. If you don't want troops that are going to be susceptible independent thought, it seems logical you would stick with the programmable army you already have. Tarkin cites budgetary issues, but the risks of defecting units seems a bigger liability, not to mention the whole reason the clones were created in the first place, that the Republic didn't have the means to raise an army. The Empire might create a new military infrastructure from the ground up but it would take time and money.

I was actually more interested in the question of why the clones were replaced by stormtroopers than I was by the Bad Batch themselves. It would be nice if the show ends up having a more interesting final answer. The biggest problem, though, is this show needs more graphic violence.

The Bad Batch is available on Disney+.

Twitter Sonnet #1449

Distracted ghosts descend on painted stones.
The oil burned before the clock could strike.
The scratching sound denotes the moving bones.
Despoiled gates were crowned with spear and pike.
The loyal eyes discovered mists and pearls.
A clutching vine disrupts the tile path.
A marble face's hid behind its curls.
A written song was left describing wrath.
The voices never hidden march at dusk.
Amidst the ev'ning shrugs were quiet eyes.
The stone was watching wheels disrupt the dust.
A banner flew beneath the cloudy skies.
The waiting fae became a quiet rock.
Yet answered she the long awaited knock.
Strange Shame

The Weakest Man in Greece

1997's Hercules would be one of the least memorable Disney animated films, and one of the least memorable Hercules movies, if it weren't riding the wave of the Disney Renaissance. As it is, you could say this is when the heart of the Renaissance stopped beating while a few interesting vital fluids continued flowing through its veins. The Hunchback of Notre Dame soured the company on risk so there was clearly a desire to go back to something simpler and closer to the Little Mermaid formula. At the same time, composer Alan Menken's fatigue caused by writing the same songs over and over seems to have caused the film to borrow from his celebrated musical adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors. The end result is a film with a few decent qualities that overall fails to be really bad or really good. It's Spam--vaguely familiar meat-like substance in a can.

This version of Hercules probably owes more the TV series starring Kevin Sorbo than to the original Greek or Roman myths. The shlocky Italian movies from the '50s and '60s, with the likes of Steve Reeves and Alan Steel, are actually, tonally, not too distant from the original stories in their aim to please the audience on a more visceral, carnal level than on a moral level.

I don't think art should be morally prescriptive but I think me pointing to Disney's Hercules as an example of why morally prescriptive art is bad is a bit like people pointing to Pocahontas to say cultural appropriation is bad. It's a strawman. A more honest adaptation of Greek mythology would be fantastic because of the amorality involved but I would never except a Disney movie to be that bold (though Frozen nearly was). The trouble with Hercules is that it doesn't feel like there's much love in it.

It is somewhat ironic, though, considering it was sex that was the catalyst for the Disney Renaissance (as it usually is for births, come to think of it). Jessica Rabbit and Ariel showed how a sexy lead could propel a film above the likes of Oliver and Company and The Fox and the Hound. Hercules (Tate Donovan) and Meg (Susan Egan) are attractive and Meg is even sexy but not quite sexy in the right way. A Greek myth needs a bombshell, not a cynical comedienne. I say this despite thinking, like most people, that she and Hades (James Woods) are the strongest aspects of the film.

This would have been the right movie for a pin-up along the lines of Glen Keane's Pocahontas--it's notable that Glen Keane didn't work on Hercules or Mulan but he did work on Tarzan, a film with a pulse far more noticeable than Hercules' or Mulan's.

Like Little Shop of Horrors, Hercules features an R&B chorus of black women who have no apparent relationship to the characters and, like Little Shop of Horrors, the film features a number of seemingly Jewish characters, signified by the use of Yiddish by characters voiced by Danny DeVito and Wayne Knight. Unlike Little Shop of Horrors, neither of these elements fit the mise en scene. Along with a number of modern pop culture references, they do less to establish a sense of a people and place as to destablise the whole thing, as postmodernism, at its worst, so often does.

The sort of streetwise comedy antics would be more natural on the streets of New York, too, though James Woods' ad-libbed take on Hades is certainly a delight in itself. Conceptually, the character's not too far from Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective or even Cruella de Vil. But Woods brings a typically magnetic performance to the role. It's a shame his almost invariably terrific performances are so often featured in inferior films. Maybe in a Mel Brooks take on Hercules, he and Meg would have been right at home, but as it is, their ironic tone butts against the film's sincerity. Or they might have worked had the story been set in 20th century New York, as Little Shop of Horrors successfully combined tragedy and acerbic comedy.

But this is a movie with the most rote and tired "I Want" song, Hercules' "Go the Distance". The best song in the film is the one that parts most from formula, Meg's "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)", which notably was a late replacement for another song that had been cut from the film. Unexpected circumstances forced Alan Menken and lyricist David Zippel to think on their feet, thereby achieving something more organic than the rest of the film. Even so, it's no "A Whole New World" or even "Kiss the Girl".

Hercules is available on Disney+.


This is part of a series of posts I'm writing on the Disney animated canon.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Saludos Amigos
The Three Caballeros
Make Mine Music
Fun and Fancy Free
Melody Time
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Alice in Wonderland
Peter Pan
Lady and the Tramp
Sleeping Beauty
101 Dalmatians
The Sword in the Stone
The Jungle Book
The Aristocats
Robin Hood
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The Rescuers
The Fox and the Hound
The Black Cauldron
The Great Mouse Detective
Oliver & Company
The Little Mermaid
The Rescuers Down Under
Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Into the Bay

Clearly Spring

There are so many flowers around here right now. It seems like there are acres of wildflowers and then there are all kinds of carefully tended plots and planters everywhere.

And, of course, there are lots of turtles.

It's been getting a lot warmer, too.

I mostly see turtles in the many canals and rivers all over the place.

The mystery of abandoned shoes continues.

These are some of the carp streamers I'm also seeing all over the place lately:

There was a strong wind that day and a thunderstorm.

The streamers are decorations for Children's Day, which is May 5. It's part of Golden Week, a series of holidays in early May. To-day, May 3, is Constitution Day.

Twitter Sonnet #1448

The cactus curtain lifts before the horse.
A story drove the roving knife to drink.
The shifting sand diverts the sheriff's course.
A border town defines the crater's brink.
The pushing cloud induced the mill to grind.
In rigs of barley, scattered film was fixed.
The night restored a liquid dream to mind.
The leader danced, their swords were hardly mixed.
A shadow worm was lime and lemon work.
Authentic horses wait beyond the edge.
The money builds an angel's eye of murk.
Receptive flowers crowd along the hedge.
A million tombs beneath the flowers lie.
The ardent breeze inspires fish to fly.

The Shadow of Appetite

I can't believe it's been almost four years since Blade Runner 2049 came out. I saw it in the movie theatre but it was on a day when, due to circumstances I can't remember, I didn't have any caffeine before I saw it. I do remember refusing to take the movie theatre's expensive, instant pod coffee. To quote Deckard (Harrison Ford) in the movie, I know what's real. But do I?

Jared Leto's character floats the idea that Deckard was designed to fall in love with Rachel. Which is a possibility of you consider the theory that Deckard's a Replicant. I always thought it worked better to think of Deckard as human but the ambiguity Leto's character, Wallace, teases is interesting for how it undermines Deckard's sense of reality. Do our lives mean less if we're puppets? If so, why, exactly? Why do we need to think we're in control, that our emotional and intellectual responses originate with us?

So, yeah, I finally had a chance to watch the movie again last night, now that it's on Netflix in certain countries. I mostly stand by my original review. I definitely still think the subplot with Ana de Armas is the strongest part of a film composed almost entirely of strong parts.

It may be the aspect of the movie most like the first film. As Deckard struggled with the validity of Rachel's apparent sentience, so K or Joe (Ryan Gosling) struggles with the validity of Joi's (de Armas). There are two things about it that don't work for me as strongly as when I watched the film without caffeine, though. I don't like the black eyes the Joi advertisement has at the end and I don't like how director Denis Villeneuve deliberately avoided showing Joi's nudity until it was in an advertisement. I understand the motive in both cases--the dark eyes are to make her face eerie and less suggestive of human warmth, and the refrain from showing nudity is a demonstration of how sexual attraction is heightened more by what we don't see than by what we do see.

The ad slogan makes it clear--you pay, you get "everything you want to see (and hear)". No tension, only satisfaction. I think this is an astute comment on what makes someone sexy but not on what makes someone human or sentient. The thing with the dark eyes is a bit of a cheat--it telegraphs to the audience that an advertisement is colder than the relationship Joe built over time with his Joi. But the people who made the advertisement wouldn't want it to look cold--they're trying to tell you you can have everything. And showing her with human eyes would underline the sense of uncertainty about Joe's relationship with his Joi. Did they have something real or was it just his impression? Is it always just impressions?

A relevant comment could also have been made about people who are caught in a cycle of compulsively viewing porn or who are otherwise compelled to satisfy all questions and urges as quickly as possible. It's not the audience's job to be aware of the value of tension, which makes it a shame audiences now have so much authority over how and when they digest stimuli. I suspect this is why so many young people have anxiety disorders.

We're not yet at a point where artificial lifeforms are capable of the nuanced, dynamic facial expressions that suggest to the viewer a real, internal, emotional existence. The Blade Runner movies will probably take on a new relevance when that does, inevitably, come to pass but as it is now the stories are relevant for how they extrapolate from a problem we already have. How real is love, how much of it is genetic programming? And why does it matter?

As I pointed out in my previous review, this question is essentially the same as posed by Hitchcock's Vertigo. I was also reminded of the French New Wave, itself so influenced by Vertigo. The scene in Blade Runner 2049 where Elvis Presley songs flicker abruptly in and out of holographic existence in the middle of an action sequence is reminiscent of Anna Karina's musical number in Une femme est une femme, and it has much the same point. The filmmaker is demonstrating to us how our emotions are manipulated by the presence or absence of melody. It's somewhat admirable, then, that Deckard, in the end, resolutely says, "I like this song."

Bad Luck Bosch

And Now for Our Mugi Sacrifice

Happy May Day, everyone. As I often do, I watched 1973's The Wicker Man for it, this time while enjoying some wheat biscuit KitKats:

Who says KitKats have to be junk food*?

麦の恵みの translates to something like "The blessings of wheat", according to Google, so maybe it's not inappropriate accompaniment to The Wicker Man. 麦, or "mugi", is a word I've noticed tends to be used for wheat, barley, straw, or oats. A very popular, traditional tea is mugicha, with cha meaning tea, and in this case the mugi means barley. It's this ambiguity about "mugi" that's made it difficult to tell people what oatmeal is.

I normally watch the director's cut of The Wicker Man but my DVD is back in California. Amazon Prime is currently streaming the theatrical release so I settled for that and, you know, I think I actually kind of like the theatrical release. The director's cut fleshes things out more and there's more interesting detail about Summerisle--particularly good is the scene where Christopher Lee brings a virgin boy to Britt Ekland to break his cherry--but there's a narrative efficiency to the theatrical version that adds to the air of mystery while not allowing the viewer to become too comfortable. It's kind of intriguing, too, that we don't know anything about Howie (Edward Woodward) at the beginning. His appearance feels very abrupt and sort of gives a little credence to the idea that he's an arrogant interloper. However, I find the idea that Howie is a representative of Christian, white male evil holds no water. He's looking for a missing girl amid a populace that seems increasingly deranged, I don't think he oversteps in the slightest.

It's interesting to consider the movie in the context of the Manson murders which I suspect must have been somewhere in the filmmakers' minds. They both seem examples of hippie mysticism gone very wrong.

In addition to the great Christopher Lee, The Wicker Man features a dream team of British genre movie babes in Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, and Diane Cilento. They all have important roles but I kind of wish they'd had more time all together on screen.

Has anyone else noticed how often Christopher Lee wore houndstooth?

*This is still junk food.
Fish Knife

A Bounty Hunter and a Bandit

Rape, particularly the rape of a child*, is such a despicable crime that it provokes strong feelings of disgust for the perpetrator. This feeling of disgust comes with a desire to see justice done, or as close to it as possible, so to falsely accuse someone of rape could be a powerful political tool, as it is in the 1967 Spaghetti Western The Big Gundown. Anchored by a cool lead performance from Lee Van Cleef as a highly skilled bounty hunter, the film has some nicely edited action sequences and genuinely clever, darkly amusing, writing.

Jonathan Corbett (Van Cleef) casually accepts the job of tracking down Cuchillo (Tomas Milian) from a railway tycoon (Walter Barnes). No bounty ever approaches being slightly difficult for Corbett so he seems to think nothing of offering to get Cuchillo gratis.

But very quickly, Cuchillo turns out to be a suspiciously elusive quarry. Tomas Milian went on to play Tepepa, another puckish Mexican revolutionary, and perhaps Cuchillo was one of the parts that solidified his perceived aptitude for such roles. Van Cleef is so cool in this film and Milian is such a goofball, there's almost a Batman/Joker dichotomy at play.

The film's comprised of several episodes in which it seems Corbett is just about to nab Cuchillo only for Cuchillo to narrowly escape, often taunting Corbett while galloping away; "You'll never catch me!"

In one episode, Corbett finds Cuchillo under the protection of some Mormons and the 12 year old girl Corbett thinks he's rescuing from statutory rape at Cuchillo's hands turns out to be the fourth wife of a middle aged Mormon. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle warned us about this sort of thing in A Study in Scarlet.

In another episode, Corbett finds Cuchillo at the mercy of a beautiful ranch owner (Nieves Navarro) whom Cuchillo spurned--so Corbett can also spurn her in turn. A big gunfight ensues.

With each episode, a grudging respect and even a kind of affection starts to develop between Corbett and Cuchillo, especially as they both react similarly to the hypocrisy of land owners and respectable citizens. The tension surrounding the question of whether or not Cuchillo committed the crimes he's accused of is absorbing but it's also great when that question is gradually answered in subtle ways.

The Big Gundown features some exceptional work from Ennio Morricone (two tracks were used by Tarantino) and is currently featured in a Morricone collection on The Criterion Channel.

*Yeah, fuck all the trigger warnings.
I am the Terror that Flaps in the Night

Blended Cheese

A blowhard truck driver gets caught up in a story of magic and martial arts in 1986's Big Trouble in Little China. A more finely aged chunk of '80s American cheese you'll never find.

Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) actually comes off a lot like certain political YouTubers I've seen; he constantly complains and you sense he's not altogether as competent as he thinks he is. Well, you more than sense it in Jack's case--he's constantly at a loss, in one scene even knocking himself out at the beginning of a fight.

Sometimes the joke wears a bit thin because Kurt Russell does have charisma and Jack does seem like a basically decent guy so I'd have liked the bumbling toned down a notch.

The story is great fun, of course. What starts out feeling like some kind of spy thriller, where a girl is abducted at the airport, suddenly becomes a wuxia street fight film. And then there's electricity shooting from people's hands and some impressively grotesque monsters.

Director John Carpenter seems to have brought three sides of his personality to bear in this movie. There's the humour of They Live, the action/adventure of Escape from New York, and a little dose of Prince of Darkness fantasy horror. Also, I always like seeing Kim Cattrall. And she wears a groovy headdress in this one.

Big Trouble in Little China is available on Disney+ in many countries outside the U.S.

Twitter Sonnet #1447

Forgotten metal glowed beneath the lamp.
The night endures despite another dawn.
It's always time around another camp.
Let's sleep with Errol Flynn on Basil's lawn.
Electric proof commenced the rumble night.
Preserving lettuce broke the dark and strange.
Below the city, roots will fly a kite.
And coiled stoves'll roam the metal range.
But who decides the perfect flutes and drums?
A heavy butt collapsed the forest chair.
Beginning late, electric siren hums.
Or something short and little like a mare.
An em'rald dress adorned the lady's crown.
A giant truck was stuck beneath the town.
Cooper and Bowie

A Rainy Day in Ghost World

Before I left San Diego, I boxed up all the books, DVDs, and Blu-Rays I couldn't bear to sell, which was quite a lot. I packed most of them in boxes a little bigger than a hat box, I think about fifteen such boxes in all. I left most of them with my parents and my sister but I took three with me when I drove to Tennessee and left them with my grandmother. Recently, she mailed me one that was filled with some of my comics, a couple spools of DVD-ROMs with various movies and TV shows, two of my Blu-Rays (Repulsion and Riso Amaro), my porcelain mermaid, and a stack of my comics.

I hadn't actually finished Black Hole so I guess it's a good thing that ended up here. If I'd had my choice I'd have wanted one of the boxes with my Shakespeare, Milton, or books on 17th century England but this may have been the more fortuitous choice. A few months ago, I was talking to one of the teachers I work with here in Japan about how I use manga to study Japanese. She wondered if it would be valuable to read English comics to better her English and I thought about what to recommend to her. I said I wished I had some of my comics with me to lend her something and now here some of them are. I'm not sure any of these are fit for the task.

My first instinct was to recommend the Jaimie Hernandez comics, which I'd been in the mood to read, anyway, but I'd forgotten how many big blocks of text there are in those, not to mention how confusing it would be whenever the dialogue switches to Spanish. Over the past couple days, I read Ghost World again, and in terms of dialogue to illustration ratio, it may be the more suitable work to recommend to an English learner. But in terms of culture and character . . . as I was reading, I found myself thinking Ghost World would either be totally incomprehensible to a Japanese reader or an extremely valuable insight.

I've often heard people say that the Japanese don't have irony or sarcasm--even people who've actually been to Japan and interacted with Japanese people say that--but I can tell you it's definitely not true. Maybe it's more of an issue of irony itself not necessarily translating well. Sarcasm is easy enough to detect in the guys at school who, seeing English as a pointless subject, overenthusiastically scream "GOOD MORNING" at two in the afternoon at me.

What I don't think many Japanese people, or even many young American people, would understand about Ghost World is Enid and Rebecca's ironic/not ironic love for half-assed efforts. The "pathetic" comedian with the trendy shoes or the fake '50s diners. I always liked how Daniel Clowes connected this very adolescent '90s humour with a fairly simple story of two teenagers facing frightening, impending adulthood.

I kept thinking of the title "Ghost World" in San Diego in the few years before I left, as the homeless crisis became worse and more and more businesses I associated with the city were going under. Someone I worked with at J.C. Penney told me about how nice the department store had been when she started working there decades ago, how people in the food court used to send the employees free meals like they were part of a little community. The people who work there did still care about each other and I did feel like I was part of a community of sorts at J.C. Penney but I could remember how much more solid it used to be, how much more effort people felt they could afford to put into making things beautiful and pleasant for everyone else.

I suppose if I'd lived in Kashihara for forty years, I'd notice how things have changed here, in some cases, for the worse, too. I hear about how the shopping mall is driving smaller businesses into the ground, which is like deja vu from '80s America. I wonder if I'll leave Japan at some point and hop from country to country so that I can always see places for the good things that are new to me. But then, I have to remind myself that there's no massive homeless crisis in Japan, the country has an embedded respect for its elders, and all in all there's generally a feeling of solid earth maintained under everyone's feet. Though I guess this is changing. I spoke to one of the older teachers at the school I work at now and I mentioned how the deer at Nara park look like they're starving and she told me it's actually not only Corona behind this. There are now starving deer wandering into towns elsewhere in Nara prefecture because the older generation of people who lived in the forests are dying. These people who used to routinely chop down lumber, thereby creating new foliage for the deer to eat, are disappearing and their kids don't want these jobs. Japanese lumber is more expensive than imported lumber.

I think the transition from the world of school to the world of work may not be as rough on most Japanese people as it is on American kids. I've been in the buildings for the city water and for the city gas and I noticed all the people wear uniforms. Of course, they do in most of the sales jobs, too. For a lot of people, it must be just like trading one uniform and campus for another, except there's fewer pointless lessons. But I know a lot of these kids can dream big, too, so I don't know. Maybe it's always painful.


A Jason is Bourne

Well, I finally saw 2002's The Bourne Identity last night. It's a decent action movie. Maybe I'd have appreciated it more if I'd seen it when it first came out, before everyone imitated it. It has its own predecessors, of course. It kind of feels like North by Northwest on steroids with less humour.

Matt Damon looks so young. I hadn't realised how puffy his face has become.

He plays a mysteriously proficient amnesiac who wakes up on a fishing boat after having been dragged, unconscious, from the drink. The ship's surgeon finds a little laser pointer embedded in his hip that gives the location and password for a safety deposit box that later turns out to have a bunch of passports, money, and a gun. It never really becomes clear why things were set up in this way--was he planning to have amnesia and to be operated on by a trustworthy doctor? But it's an intriguing way to start a story.

The editing on the hand to hand fighting is really good and quick though not as effective as sustained shots of action--the corridor scene in the original Old Boy has aged better and the movies and shows that have imitated it look more impressive than the ones that imitated Bourne.

The car chase scenes are less impressive. Maybe that's partly because I recently watched Death Proof again. But the editing is strikingly limp, especially when it comes to matching reaction shots of the actors to action. This is exacerbated by some surprisingly conspicuous rear projection or blue screen shots in the car interior.

It's nice to see some romance in an espionage thriller, though, and Franka Potente as the love interest is pretty and has a low-key charisma. It does feel a little at odds with the main plot but romance subplots in such films usually were. Audiences simply used to be willing to suspend more disbelief in the name of experiencing a pleasant fantasy. Unfortunately, this is one of the pleasures audiences have lately been trained to abjure.

I'm not sure if I feel enthusiastic to move onto the sequels. I only ended up watching the first one because Netflix was the only streaming service I could get working last night for some reason. Criterion Channel keeps giving me this weird "Video cannot be played on an external monitor" error. Am I supposed to crawl inside my computer?

Twitter Sonnet #1446

Exclusive floss combined the special teeth.
A cobbled tusk commenced to clamp the cat.
A dizzy fly had crashed amidst the heath.
A letter sent arrived before the bat.
Excessive sweets combine to shake the earth.
The waiting coffee hugged the shadow man.
An empty ship arrived to fill the berth.
Amidst the colour strips they blurred a tan.
The districts sort a heat from colder reds.
A bubble swamp exists beneath the grass.
We rest as thoughtful hats in boxy beds.
Together, twine conducts a lively mass.
Forgotten felt returns to shape the head.
A bunch of scarves combine to make the bed.

Hearing the Unheard

I always remember it as one of the funniest episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but I guess, for many, the most noteworthy thing about season three's "Earshot" is that it didn't air when it was originally supposed to. The story involves a school shooter and shortly before its original air date the Columbine shooting occurred. I suppose it would have been insensitive considering the shooter plot ends up being misdirection for something sillier (but comedy gold), even though, within the episode itself, Oz (Seth Green) remarks on how school shootings are becoming so common they could be called trendy. And this was before they started to become even more common in the U.S.

Yet I always remember the episode better for the fact that Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) temporarily gains the power to read minds. This leads to funny moments like when Cordelia's (Charisma Carpenter) thoughts turn out to be exactly what she says, indicating her lack of filter, while Wesley (Alexis Denisof), the scrupulous new Watcher, is struggling with his attraction to a high school student, Cordelia.

Now that I'm working in junior high here in Japan, and I so often hear about scandals involving affairs between teachers and students, it's a bit surprising to see how casually Buffy treats the relationship between Wesley and Cordelia. But, then, I suppose I should remember the age difference between Buffy and Angel (David Boreanaz).

They actually give Angel a joke in this episode, maybe as part of a way of gearing up for his impending spin-off. It's also conspicuous how much more common demons are getting to be on Buffy at this point. Some of the costumes and makeup on random demons Buffy fights in the cold opens are pretty impressive.