Film and TV talk with the Brothers Wilson
June 5, 2021
Jim: Dude, you ready to try this thing?
Jeff: Yeah, I guess, man.
Jim: You sound less than enthused. What’s been going on?
Jeff: Cheezus, what a bag of hammers day this was. Woke up for work and immediately got allergy attacked. Pollen here on the Cape is out of control this year. So, had to take Benadryl, which proceeded to completely goon me out all day at work. Probably prepped about 50 different dinner items, without bothering to decipher the recipes. Then I finally get home and have to walk the dog, tidy up the kitchen, then I come down here and Digit the Silverback has chucked his drumsticks all over the floor, Caesar the chimp knocked over the gong, and Halotta’s breast pump is lying on my keyboard dribbling out Orangutan milk…sooo, just tidying up a bit. And hey, Apollo, what’s with the Sombrero and life-size doll? Fucking bipeds…
Anywho… Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, did you get a chance to check out any Love, Death & Robots, bro?
Jim: No, I have not got around to the Robot thing yet. I really don’t know where all you TV people find the time to watch that stuff. I manage my six to eight films a week, which are priority over any TV content, and a few series episodes at best. After that, it’s books and music time.
Jeff: Speaking of music, I also, listened to some Sula on the drive home. My Blue Guitar is an awesome tune.
Jim: Sula Bassana. Excellent choice. Yeah, that’s from The Dreamer album. Great old school Dave Schmidt! I’m just discovering a band called Squid. Look for them at Spotify, or Pandora, or wherever. I just buy the CD! They’re a unique blend of post-punk and psychedelic styles. Really fascinating band. Also loving something Clawson turned me onto, the album Nocturne, from the band Wild Nothing. Really awesome.
So before we go any further, I guess I should take a minute or two to introduce this thing we’re doing here. It’s a new written talk forum in the greater Dubthrone blather-verse. The point here is to cover film and serial TV content we’ve been watching recently. Books and music can enter the picture, too. Even politics, religion, overdue laundry, and other odious topics are welcome. But it’s all meant to be briefly covered. I hope we can be colorful and entertaining, at best provocative, about the cool art we love and want to promote to everyone of like sensibilities. We’ll shoot from the hip, tell stories, play characters, and push each other’s buttons, like only two brothers can. And if we’re insanely lucky, someone might actually like it.
So this is where I am with TV stuff. Mare of Easttown, of course, pondering where we are after episode 6, with only one to go. It’s gotta be John, right? I’ll really be bummed to see that show end, I’ve loved it so much.
Then I checked out this The Nevers thing, also at HBO. I heard Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly interviewed on Peter Rinaldi’s podcast, so I had to check it out. After enduring the pilot, I will not be returning to it. The two Irish ladies are great, but I really can’t stand anymore of this soulless steampunk nonsense about misunderstood misfits, who are also secret superheroes. Remember Carnival Row, with Orlando Bloom? That was an actually watchable version of The Nevers. It is both insufferably dull and confusing, at the same time.
Elsewhere, I’m holding out on the last episode of The Knick S2. I hate putting that one behind me, but you know, a new season is planned!
Jeff: Yeah, I just love Mare-Town. This is my favorite Winslet performance in a while. Her mother (Jean Smart)’s character is hilarious, their relationship adorable. Daughter Siobhan (Angourie Rice) is really good, as is Julianne Nicholson and Evan Peters (tough way to go, buddy). Guy Pearce, though his role is somewhat small, is like this fresh sea breeze that blows in through Easttown whenever he appears.
The overall, just typical downtrodden small mid-‘merica town feeling that drips throughout the show is really delivered so organically, I found it very refreshing, albeit…depressing…but hey, we LOVE depressing, don’t we? And I don’t know, I think Dylan is part of it, otherwise why is he still going after what’s her name. That Jack Mulhern, really creepy face. Yes, I will miss this show.
The Nevers, yeah, good title, like never watch it. I didn’t even get all the way through the pilot. What a chunk of canned ham. As you stated, it makes Carnival Row look like the greatest show ever, right? The second any character exhibits “superpowers” in any show/film I watch now I immediately junk it. It’s all such a lazy way to write/film a story. Oh, and whenever things get real bad, I’ll just sprout some fucking wings and conjure a goddamn Trident from Poseidon and put down these extremely random non-sensical evil people……so why is there ever anything to really worry about? Um, Concorde…My Wings and Trident please, the sloppy bad-toothed sodomites are descending on the castle gates again… it’s all just for insecure little brats to, for an hour or so, believe they could have some control over their crappy, pointless little lives… Wow, a little heavy-handed there, Hammerhead.
Really, a S3 of The Knick? Nice. I’ve got a few left of S2. Nurse Elkins is my favorite, she’s just so damn cute, ya know. Her dad? Crust I’ve never wanted to knock someone out so bad in my life, it’s all fine and well for people to confess all their shit to god in his presence so long as it’s not anyone in his family…in that case there’ll be no forgiveness because it actually hits home. An eloquent way of pulling back the veil of BS of religion/confession. I will say that i think the first 6 or so episodes of S1 sit on a higher level than all that come after, just my opinion.
So “Squid” is the new band, huh. Alright, I’ll dial that up…unless I forget.
And we should really discuss The Guilty soon, which you turned me on to, which was my favorite film of the last few weeks.
Jim: Sure. Let’s not delay. Tell me about The Guilty.
Jeff: Sorry, three days have gone by. Sorry. Been working. Here’s the scene:
Camera focuses on aging, hunchbacked, silver-haired chef in filthy, gore-encrusted jacket leaning heavily against door jamb, a 10-inch blade dripping blood clutched in his left hand…
(Line?….what’s my line?)
“Honey? I’m home.”
Ah yes, the blessed day off. God be praised (it’s just a model).
Hey there, Jeem, how was Dad’s birthday? Now that’s some real work.
The Guilty really grabbed me right out of the gate. Imagine being one of these people that answers emergency calls. What a mind fuck.
Asger’s first couple calls are kinda lame and he treats them as such, a bit. “What’s your address?” They won’t give it. “What’s your address? “My hooker mugged me.” OK, hold a minute…what a douche. Even though he seems in the right to be “judging” these calls, to some extent, when he gets his next call and proceeds to interject his “judgements” into it we are presented with a wonderfully exploding Pandora of events. One of the initial ideas I was thinking about early on was, “where is the line where it’s better to inject your opinions, based on some experience, into these situations as opposed to just sitting back answering calls like an emotionless robot following protocol?”
Jim: Dad’s b-day was fine. Wish you were there. Guess what? We had lamb! Some old folks’ troubles, but we’ll hash that out on the back channel.
That’s interesting. By initially considering The Guilty in the context of Asger’s bias, or pre-judgement, you can kind of see it coming, can’t you? Or at least that he’s likely to blunder into misperception. I think I’m a bit more of an innocent, or willfully naïve, viewer than you are, and trusted Asger to have the correct assessment of the situation. But I was disabused of my naivete soon enough. It’s an awesome film for the exacting pace at which it reveals each new twist. When Iben tells Asger about the snakes in Oliver’s stomach, I could feel everything come to a screeching halt. Oh. Fuck. Incredible. Still gives me chills. There is an almost direct lift from Locke, when Asger calls his partner Rashid to help him, and then gradually realizes that Rashid is drunk.
I know you just watched Oxygen, a film that shares a lot with both The Guilty and Locke. I love Mélanie Laurent so much. What a grueling shoot this must have been for her, don’t you think? Or maybe Aja made it easier for her than it seems.
Jeff: So yeah, on the whole The Guilty/Locke/Oxygen thingee. I just really find the “solo” focus/character films to be incredibly riveting. I’m gonna go ahead and include Andrea Arnold’s Red Road as well. I just feel so much like everything is happening to “me” in this film structure, and like, I feel like I really am actually expected to figure out the problems, like you’re “coaching” the MC. Also just observing the lead actor/MC remain in such precise character the whole way, while the directors keep it so constantly taut, is impressive. Yeah, when the Iben/Oliver twist happens in The Guilty it’s like a literal knife to the gut. And you realize Asger’s need to do something positive on the eve of his “shooting” trial crumbling to dust in his hands and how trapped he is within it all…of his making, even well-intentioned, such a sign of the way of the world these days. “Do I just sit and do nothing or do I over-extend myself to try to make a difference?”, which is incredibly hard these days because it’s impossible to ever know the true depths of anything you dip your toes into in someone else’s world.
Jim: Red Road! Nice! That absolutely works. What did you think of Oxygen?
Jeff: In Oxygen we’re immediately confronted with this mind-blowingly creepy scene of a humanoid form wrapped in some kind of cocoon mesh trying desperately to emerge/birth/excavate itself to the constant thrumming of some odd, throbbing sound/score/music. Aja and Laurent combine to construct, in my opinion, a seminal work of sci-fi-ish contemplative horror. The myriad of places this film takes you, all from the confines of her tiny “pod”, is really amazing stuff. I was on edge the whole ride. I’ll be interested to see what I think of it when I re-watch it. I almost don’t want to, want to keep this virgin, crystalline version of it tucked in my memory. I like your point about how grueling the shoot must have been. She really puts a lot of work into it physically, as well as emotionally, all while strapped down….and the fucking creepy ass arm thing that pops out to inject her, deftly/robotically chasing her around the slab, aaahhhh.
So I’ve got a couple for ya, Jim.
On Netflix: Bonfire of Destiny. A French production limited series from 2019. I’ve only watched opening 40 minutes or so but am impressed and will continue. Then there’s The Neon Demon, a 2016 film starring my eternal teenaged girlfriend, Elle Fanning. Christina Hendricks as well, so I’m all good. I’m only maybe halfway but thoroughly engrossed.
Jim: I have seen The Neon Demon. Refn’s still a tough sell for me. What do you like about it?
Jeff: I pretty much loved everything about it, except the Keanu Reeves part. Jena Malone was fantastic…and Elle…I mean…come on.
Jim: I’ll look out for Bonfire. Maybe the special thing about one-handers, like Oxygen and the other films we’re talking about here, is the degree to which they require the participation of the viewers to propel them. Like any carefully plotted story demands the application of logic, or illogic, to move it along, one-handers ask for a lot more. Whether it’s Ivan, Asger or Liz, or Jackie, these characters ask for complete immersion from the audience. It’s the only way they’re complete, and fully effective. The ability to affect the crossing of that barrier is entirely a function of the film’s craft, and the gifts of the performers. It is exclusively about audience immersion into a single character’s cognitive patterns, and their desire to remain there.
I want you to tell a story, while we wait for you to catch up with Mare. Or if you’ve caught up, we’ll do Mare first. But I want you tell the story about how you and I first saw Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky back in 1977. It’s a great story you reminded me of recently. We were what, fourteen- and twelve-years-old at the time, something like that?
Jeff: So, Jabberwocky. Yeah, you brought up re-watching this film recently and it struck me that I apparently had a deep personal recollection of seeing this film originally with you and our Aunt Pat (RIP) in a theatre somewhere in Minnesota. You and I were staying with her, which was very odd, I think for both of us, while our mother and father were finalizing purchase of family home in Boulder, CO. which we were moving to from our childhood home in small town Connecticut. I was 12ish and you 14ish (sounds like a The Sound of Music tune) and we were kind of tossed to our lightly known Aunt for what, a week, maybe? Anywho, looking back, it’s pretty easy to see how we ended up having certain “episodes” unfold during this stay. T was our first time living outside of our extremely secure, well-known family structure. Let’s see…, I kicked you in the balls, you smashed my face in, you sleep-walked across the road into a park, where I chased you, wondering “what the hell is going on?” All of this naturally bubbled up assuredly because of Pat’s much more “hey see ya later, guys” (non)parenting style. In hind-sight, it was probably as therapeutic as it was traumatic. And, I guess, our Wilson family guidebook said this meant the three of us should go see a fucked-up Gilliam movie. I think since I was the youngest, this all branded itself into my memory quite deeply. Of course, the film gave me some nightmares, but also was one of those early grains of cinematic experiences that led us to become lovers of film. I believe within this same year our father took us to see Alien in theatre and a year later Apocalypse Now.
Jim: Your memory of that stay in Minneapolis with Pat is impressive. I was telling Mom and Dad about it at the b-day bash. They have no memory of it at all, but they weren’t there, so why would they? Yeah, we kicked the shit out of each other, which our crazy aunt rewarded us by taking us to a disgusting Terry Gilliam film. But Jimmy Carter had just taken office, so things could only get better, right?
That sleep-walking business wasn’t actually sleep-walking, but something that plagued me occasionally from kid-ness, even up into my thirties, where I would wake up in a complete panic, convinced that I’d basically screwed up the entire world, so what better response than to run really fast in whatever direction provided the fewest obstacles? They were always horrifying experiences, and seemed to coincide with events in my dinky little life that were somehow disruptive or disorienting, as that time surely was.
Jeff: On the film itself, the first fifteen minutes of Jabberwocky feel like I just watched them, and can remember it almost line for line: the bickering and arguing with Dennis’s father and Fishfinger, and his visit in the dinghy to Griselda’s filthy stilt-shack home on the turbid pond, the little boy peeing on Dennis, her throwing the rotten potato at him. And then pretty much nothing about the rest of the film.
I’ll watch Mare-town tonight so we can wipe that up tomorrow.
Jim: You’re right that it’s only the opening sequences of Jabberwocky that are memorable. One of my friends at Letterboxd pointed out to me that Gilliam is really good at world-building, but when it comes to the business of story-telling within those worlds, he’s wildly inconsistent. I do love the design of the dragon, with its filthy, oily rags, and its beak. Only in a Gilliam film would a dragon have a fucking beak. Is that the part that gave you nightmares, or was it Griselda? And since we’re on Gilliam, I’m going to urge you again to check out Tideland. The world-building gets a little carried away in that one, but I kinda love it. Did I forget to tell you it sports Jeff Bridges playing a variation of his Dude self? Gotcha interested now!
I will correct you on the Alien and Apocalypse Now watches. We saw Jabberwocky in 1977, but it wasn’t until ’79 that Dad took us to see Alien and Apocalypse Now. In between, in 1978, he took us to see The Deer Hunter (or were you not there for that one?). It’s funny that the one film of those three that sticks with him the most, with Dad, is The Deer Hunter, because the Russian roulette stuff really upset him. He wasn’t crazy about the chest-burster in Alien, either. You know, as a kid, you think your father is the toughest, most unflappable person in the world. I never knew until then how squeamish he actually was. We’ll do some more storytelling around those young viewing experiences in a future Wiping Up.
Jeff: Hmmm, good point on The Deer Hunter. Maybe I was deemed too young for that one, LOL! I’m not completely certain I was there. (I’m not completely certain I am here, for that matter) While I, of course, have a vivid memory of the holding pens in river and the roulette scenes, that would happen whenever I did first see it. I can’t say I have the same memory of seeing it with you and Dad as the other films.
Jim: Well, my guess is that you had a previously scheduled event that kept you from The Deer Hunter, something that covered for “sucking Jacqueline’s face,” or somesuch.
Jeff: Ah yes, Jacqueline’s face, t’was a fine one at that, laddie.
I’m going to guess that The Holy Grail fell in place somewhere in this timeline as well as Return of the Pink Panther which we saw for your 12th birthday in 1975, featuring one of my favorite comedic roles ever pulled off by Peter Sellers here as Inspector Clouseau….now is not the time, Cato! Interesting note; I believe you picked this film to go see instead of the much more popular Jaws because of your insidious dread for sharks. I’m also very interested in your admission that your “sleepwalking” episodes derived from your thoughts that you had screwed up the world – this maybe explains your aptness towards over-seriousness, angst at certain times. That must have been quite an awful feeling to deal with, my friend.
Jim: It’s no fun. You may be right, that it’s a manifestation of my…heaviness. Thanks for being cool about it. You were at the time, too, even though you were the worst kind of 12-year-old imaginable.
Alright, so lay it on me. You’ve seen Mare S7 by now. How did the end work for you? I absolutely fucking love it, so you know we’re I’m going to come down on it. What do you see as the central takeaway from the show, and what parts didn’t work for you?
Jeff: Mare-Town. Yeah, I mean this show runs at a very high level no matter what. Lise and I were having fun thinking back on all the differing roles we’ve seen Kate Winslet transform. From Titanic and Heavenly Creatures to Sunshine of Spotless Mind, Mildred Pierce, Revolutionary Road, A Little Chaos, Carnage, Steve Jobs, Ammonite, Blackbird, etc., etc., just how “real” she is, no matter the role. And this one may be right near the top, this is an incredibly hard character to pull off convincingly, but she does just that.
As for E7, my only real “problem” with it was the Ryan boy’s motivation. In the moment of watching it,I had a bit of a hard time believing he would break into the old guy’s shed, steal the gun, then go confront a young woman with it. What, to stand up/cover up for his loser dad? I mean, I guess it could happen, but within the confines of this show it borders on contrivance to me, an invention to add one more twist. I will hand it to them that it allowed them to have the break up between Mare and Lori, and then their heart-wrenching, incredibly acted reconciliation scene which made it all worth it. Central takeaway? I’d have to say it’s something revolving around no matter how much everything/one around you is kinda broken and messed up the most important thing is to keep those you truly know and are kindred to close; keep those relationships going because it’s all you’ve really got. To not be too anxious/willing to blow up things based on unsubstantiated theories/feelings.
So, Jim, I must ask; What is the core thing you like so much about Mare-Town?
Jim: Mare of Easttown is about motherhood, dude. It’s all about mothers, and Mare (Marianne, Mary) is the ultimate mother/anti-mother rolled up into one. While refusing to deal with her own maternal issues, particularly her son’s suicide and how she had impacted his troubled life, she is involved, and interferes, with the relations between other mothers and their kids, throughout the seven episodes. The whole show is about mothers and their kids. It’s pretty beautiful just for that, and Mare plays a central role in many of them, for better and worse.
I like what I heard someone say about how Mare of Easttown sounds really close to Mayor of Easttown. Because that’s who she really is. Like Siobhan says to her in the final episode, Mare is critical to the well-being of the entire town.
I’ll tell you, dude, I can forgive all the excessive conceits of the show to get those few instances between Winslet and Julianne Nicholson – in the car, in that final kitchen scene, when they fall to the floor together. That, my brother, is acting. No matter all the shit and injustice of the world, we have to carry on, and it’s better to do that together than apart. The imperative of Mare’s and Lori’s friendship, of their love for one another, in the end, is given the central emphasis it demands, in a way I found gloriously devastating.
The final image of Mare climbing the ladder to the attic where her son died is pretty much perfection.
And you know, I don’t know if the accents are necessarily well done, and if the Dylan story ever makes much sense, but I love the effort. Jean Smart is brilliant, and emphasizes the importance of humor in the show. Winslet, Nicholson and Smart – they make this work. In an effort to stay polite, I won’t repeat past opinions about director Craig Zobel, who maybe, finally, had a moment of genuine inspiration here, though I give all of the original creative credit to writer and show-runner Brad Ingelsby. It’s a rumpled and shaggy show about how the fragments of broken lives manage to survive their own trauma by linking with like fragments and drawing them back together, or at least trying.
Jeff: And yes, motherhood, you nailed it. All the misplaced children, which is the real pandemic of our times, the one that will have repercussions for generations to come, and the heroic “grandmother” types who try keep it all together with roll upon roll of duct tape. Jean Smart’s performance was a treasure, she either had me crying or laughing my ass off every time she showed up. I have to say I am very much looking forward to re-watching Mayor-Town in binge fashion a month or so from now so that I can better get a firm, fluid grasp on all the myriad relations, the who’s/who if you will. with the week+ in between shows I find I spend first several minutes of new episode scrambling to remember what the fuck happened in the last and who the hell “Ryan” is and such.
So I gotta ask, what is the “thing” that makes you enjoy a select few “tv series” amidst your overall dislike of most.
Jim: I don’t know entirely. Probably just that they’re honest, and they feel like they’re about something that’s true, if not entirely real. We never talked about ZeroZeroZero, a show you enthused over and recommended to me. When I eventually watched it, I was entertained enough, if not more than a little confused by certain plot points, but it always felt completely artificial to me, an object performed for production and marketing interests. None of the performances, even from the incredible Andrea Riseborough, rose above the artifice and captured something essential. Just a bunch of shitty people doing shitty things, which endless market-testing indicates audiences really like. Maybe this comes back to The Neon Demon a little, too. You know me, I love dark shit, but If there isn’t a glimmer of real pain, of real desperation and despair, along with real humor and silly affection, then it’s just pointlessly grim. I doubt that’s really getting at the heart of it, but it’s close.
So let’s wrap this pilot edition of Wiping Up our recent watches, kick it out of the nest and see if it can do more than plummet straight to its own miserable death. I’m not sure when we’ll reconvene, but we’ll sense when the time is right, I’m sure. In a couple weeks we’re getting back together for the 20th Collokino, talking about Tarantino’s Death Proof, along with our good buddy Michael Clawson. That should be a proper blast. So I’ll leave it here to you for the final wipe. Turn off the lights on your way out. Thanks.
Jeff: Ok, well, yeah, I think I’m all done with this…wiping thing. With all the typing, working, car trouble (Lise’s car blew its belts & battery) and general knees-bent running about this place really in quite unkempt now isn’t it. Alright guys, Halotta…grab some towels and clean this place up…pick that up…over there…no….there…and WIPE that up…what is that? No, not…ok, nevermind let’s just wave goodbye to everyone out there, no this way, no don’t just slap each other…. ok, well just imagine that the band is waving goodbye (for the humor-challenged out there that is DOUBLE funny because you’d have to imagine the waving in the first place….as well as the fact that there’s a band of…oh, the genius, the layers of it all here, I mean it’s just incredible…isn’t it?….Hello?…. Wow, tough crowd. And don’t forget, video and t-shirts are available in the lobby on your way out, Crucifixion as well, one cross each.)
Bang the gong, Digit. (Extra credit to whomever can guess why the Silverback’s name is Digit. It’s film related).
Are you not entertained?
Thanks, Jim…I guess.