Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Wednesday

5

August 2020

0

COMMENTS

Gillian Jacobs carries I Used to Go Here

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Return visits to one’s alma mater can inspire many emotions, particularly those in the arts. Writers dream of the day they get to triumphantly return to their own stomping grounds to deliver a reading that will inspire a whole new crop of college students. That dream obviously rarely translates into reality, something that I Used to Go Here structures itself around.

Kate Conklin (Gillian Jacobs) is a 35-year-old writer about to publish her first novel. The film goes out of its way to make clear that this book is not supposed to be very good. Kate’s tour is cancelled, but she receives an invitation to speak at her alma mater by her old professor David (Jermaine Clement). David is a general sleaze, though generous enough to offer Kate a teaching position, despite not having any form of advance degree, something that would absolutely never happen in real life to anyone with her credentials.

Jacobs carries the entire narrative, making it easy to forgive the film’s otherwise lackluster execution. Kate is sad, but not necessarily a victim. She finds community in the form of the group of college kids who now occupy her old off-campus house, partying stoners with little obvious ambitious. The stakes are low, but it’s still pretty entertaining to watch.

Writing is not a very interesting profession to showcase on screen. Talking about writing often comes across as pompous, a mistake that director/writer Kris Rey repeatedly makes throughout the narrative. There is the sense that Kate was intentionally written to be a complete fool of a writer, but her obvious lack of talent undercuts her ability to function as a protagonist. It’s hard to root for someone who hasn’t presented a compelling case for success.

Where Rey finds more success is in the simple depictions of Kate and her newfound friends, fooling around. It’s hardly the most compelling drama in the world, but the sequences are fun to watch. For a low-stakes narrative, simple time spent with a charming cast can make for a pleasant experience.

The film likely carries the most appeal for fans of Jacobs, but viewers nostalgic for their college years may find something to enjoy in this meandering narrative. I Used to Go Here doesn’t have a lot to say, but it’s entertaining enough to get past the few eye-rolls that this not-so self-aware film has toward its star writer. The publishing industry is often over-glorified, generally at the expense of the material at hand.

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Wednesday

5

August 2020

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COMMENTS

Stargirl sets itself apart from the DC TV canon

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The historic nature of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover that celebrated the vast lore of DC Comics’ time on television, while consolidating the worlds its network offerings inhabit, presents a bit of a headscratcher when it comes to Stargirl. Initially envisioned at a DC Universe solo venture, The CW quickly partnered with DCU for next-day airings before ultimately assuming full-control of the show for its second season (it remains to be seen if DCU will even still be around by then).

With its young cast and high school setting, Stargirl is the kind of offering that feels at home on The CW, even if its tone, production values, and overall aesthetics paint a stark contrast with the broader Arrowverse. Set on Earth-2, Stargirl can comfortably inhabit a world far removed from the conventions of broadcast television’s preferred format of episodic storytelling. The show’s first season is one of the more impressive freshman efforts to come out of DC Comics.

Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) is a wide-eyed high school student looking to find her place at Blue Valley High. An accidental discovery of the “Cosmic Staff” leads her to take up the mantle of Stargirl, alongside her stepfather and Starman’s sidekick Pat/S.T.R.I.P.E. (Luke Wilson), affectionately referred to as Stripsey. Much of the first season revolves around Courtney’s efforts to reform the Justice Society of America to battle Icicle (Neil Jackson) and the appropriately named Injustice Society of America.

Though Starman, Stripsey, and the J.S.A. have been around for close to a century, Stargirl follows the more recent work of series creator Geoff Johns’ 1999 comic Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. The blend of retro and contemporary works well for the series, paying homage to DC’s vast lore while keeping plenty of distance from the franchise’s heaviest hitters. Though the series received a nod in the closing minutes of Crisis, it’s rather refreshing to see a series removed from the temptations of crossovers.

The acting is absolutely superb. Bassinger brings so much enthusiasm to the lead role, an eager protagonist who’s easy to love even when she’s not making the best decisions. Bassinger’s chemistry with Wilson is a highlight of the series. The formation of the new J.S.A. is a little silly, a notion acknowledged by the show, but Stargirl works mostly through its consistent ability to sell itself to the audience.

Johns paces the series well, never lingering too much on introductory exposition. Superhero teams aren’t built in a day, but it can be quite tedious to spend a whole season watching the construction of a group, only to be expected to wait another year for all the fun to begin. Stargirl knows how to have fun right from the start.

Streaming services often force an unnecessary mandate for their shows to be serious, particularly within the superhero genre. Stargirl is definitely darker than the bulk of the Arrowverse, but it doesn’t sink to Titans’ level of self-loathing either. Filmed mostly on location in Atlanta, the production looks visually quite different from Stargirl’s DC peers, allowing the show to full adopt its own distinct tone.

Stargirl occupies a singular niche among DC’s TV canon, a prestige production that isn’t afraid to show off its emotional range. Courtney Whitmore may be a name more familiar to comic book fans, but the show is easy to pick up even if you’ve never read a comic book. The Arrowverse is great for many reasons, but the homogenized storytelling across its shows can get a little tired. With Stargirl, you’re never quite sure what each episode will bring.

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Wednesday

5

August 2020

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COMMENTS

Waiting for the Barbarians is weighed down by a meandering screenplay

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Given the current political climate in America, J.M. Coetzee’s 1980 novel Waiting for the Barbarians feels as timely as ever. There has never been a greater public disconnect between society and the police ostensibly there to keep the peace, often instead stoking forces to serve the contrary. Broader national discussions have a tendency to single out the individual merits of those who exist to enforce the law, ignoring the institutional rot that enables injustice.

The film depicts a well-meaning unnamed magistrate (Mark Rylance) of a settlement on the edges of territory called “The Empire.” The local indigenous people live life peacefully, a town where crime is so law that there isn’t even a prison. The stink of colonialism rears its ugly head, but the magistrate is a decent man with genuine concerns for the locals.

The arrival of Colonel Joll (Johnny Depp), who wears sunglasses that are a marvel in this unidentified period setting, upends the peace that the magistrate has worked so hard to maintain. Joll cares only for The Empire, refusing to acknowledge the dignity of those in the settlement. To him, the magistrate rules with too gentle a touch.

Making his English language feature debut, Ciro Guerra delivers an extremely slow burn that’s rather difficult to penetrate. Penning the screenplay for his own source material, Coetzee provides no favors, too often scripting repetitive bland dialogue. There’s almost no exposition, which isn’t really a problem for the self-explanatory plot but the result presents a weird dynamic. Nothing is very hard to follow, but it is often difficult to parse the point of individual scenes.

The acting is very good. Rylance essentially carries the film on his back, a performance that drastically overshadows the subpar script. Depp, though quite a bit subdued, puts forth a solid effort, one of his better roles in years. As Joll’s operative Officer Mandel, Robert Pattinson delivers a very strong supporting performance in the film’s second half.

Guerra handles the production values quite well, staging his scenes like a stage play. The film uses almost no score, putting extra weight on the dialogue that the screenplay isn’t well-equipped to handle. There is barely an action either, further burdening the narrative that already doesn’t know what to do with its close to two-hour runtime.

The pacing is fairly atrocious, with long periods of time treading over the same territory. Coetzee is one of the best authors of the past hundred years, but he seems to struggle with the transition from prose to screen. There’s a lot here that a book could get away with that just doesn’t work for a film.

Despite Rylance’s best efforts in the lead role, Waiting for the Barbarians falters as a result of its sluggish pacing and meandering screenplay. There are some good scenes here and there, but the narrative consistently fails to piece anything coherent together for any significant amount of time. Guerra crafted a beautiful film, just not a very good one.

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Wednesday

5

August 2020

0

COMMENTS

Lendale Johnson, Professional Tennis Player & Actor

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Today we are joined by Lendale Johnson, the first openly gay male professional tennis player & star of the upcoming series “Deuces & Love.” Lendale talks about his experiences supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and participating in the recent protests. Lendale also shares his experiences acting in the pilot for Fox’s Empire and how the intersection of tennis and acting inspired his new show. Join us for a wide-ranging discussion on LGBTQ representation in sports & show business.

To learn more about Lendale’s career, please check out his website www.lendalejohnson.com

You can also follow Lendale on Twitter & Instagram @LendaleJohnson

“Deuces & Love” will premiere on Amazon Video later in 2020. Stay tuned for updates on Lendale’s website & social media.

 

Photo credit: Robbin Phillips 

 

 

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Tuesday

4

August 2020

0

COMMENTS

Legal Analysis of Trump’s anti-LGBTQ HHS Rule

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Today we are joined by Carl Charles, staff attorney at Lambda Legal, to discuss the ongoing case Whitman-Walker Clinic v. HHS, which centers around a recent rollback of LGBTQ healthcare protections within the Affordable Care Act by the Trump administration. Carl eloquently explains the case for a general audience and the dangers that this HHS rule presents to the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender individuals. This episode is a must-listen for people confused as to how such a rollback would be allowed after June’s historic Supreme Court ruling.

 

To learn more about the case or to support Lambda Legal’s great work on behalf of the LGBTQ community, please visit www.lambdalegal.org

 

Lambda Legal also posts great analysis on Twitter @lambdalegal

 

You can follow Carl on Twitter @oh_rarl

 

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Photos courtesy of Lambda Legal

 

 

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Sunday

2

August 2020

0

COMMENTS

CRSHD has nothing to say

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

College is an experience that constantly requires one to step outside their comfort zone. Trying new things is important, within moderation. That advice is not particularly helpful when it comes to certain perceived rights of passage for students, such as deciding when, or how, to lose one’s virginity.

CRSHD is mostly a film about that cringe-inducing time in young people’s lives. Faced with the end of the semester, Izzy (Isabelle Barber) sees an upcoming “crush party” (sort of like a real life Tinder gathering of people who have already swiped right) as a prime opportunity to do the deed. Izzy plays mostly as a stock character for these sorts of narratives, an awkward girl envious of the ease with which the “popular” girls glide through life.

Existing in the social media age, CRSHD includes many sequences that try to re-enact social media onscreen. Director/writer Emily Cohn handles the aesthetics of these cutaways well, using lighting and animation to depict lively text message conversations. It’s a cute way of framing the narrative, at least for a little while.

The problem with CRSHD lies mostly with its substance. Cohn has nothing new or interesting to say about college life, an anemic narrative riddled with clichés. The text message conversations hint at stereotypes about our hyper-focused digital age, but there’s nothing compelling about Cohn’s findings. For the most part, this film essentially states the obvious.

There are large sections of the film that could function without dialogue. Part of that is a testament to Cohn’s ability to frame scenes, albeit underlying the problems with the screenplay. For better or for worse, you could watch most of the movie on mute and still understand what’s going on.

The acting is pretty serviceable. Barber does an okay job in the lead role, albeit failing to give the audience much of a reason to care about Izzy. Her emotional range extends from indifference to mild sadness, hardly compelling territory for a lead. Deeksha Ketkar and Sadie Scott fare a bit better as Izzy’s friends, but Cohn doesn’t give them much material to work with.

CRSHD doesn’t necessarily need to win tons of points on the originality front. The college genre tends to recycle a lot of the same themes. Freshman year in particular is an awkward time for many, defined by constant doubt over practically every decision.

The trouble with Cohn’s work here is that she’s never quite sure which direction she wants to go, or what she wants to say about this period of college life. There are a lot of minor subplots that take up time, pleasant enough to watch, but don’t really add anything to the broader story. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if the whole experience wasn’t so very bland.

CRSHD is practically impossible to recommend, except maybe to current college kids who are wishing they were back at school. Ninety minutes with this narrative might squash one’s longing a bit. There are pieces of a better movie here and there, but Cohn never pieced them together into something worth watching.

 

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Wednesday

29

July 2020

0

COMMENTS

TTTE& Chill: Daisy

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Woo-woo! Grab your milk van and be sure to follow fitter’s orders, because it’s time for another episode of Thomas the Tank Engine & Chill. Daisy doesn’t get many speaking roles in TTTE, but everyone’s favorite female diesel rail car made quite the first impression. This collection also includes the infamous “Whistles and Sneezes” saga, where Henry fends off some evil boys using only his stuffed up smoke box. Trevor also makes his debut, dreaming of uncomfortable subjects…

 

This collection includes the following episodes:

 

  1. Daisy
  2. Percy’s Predicament
  3. Whistles and Sneezes
  4. Saved From Scrap
  5. A New Friend for Thomas
  6. Tender Engines
  7. Percy Takes The Plunge

Photo courtesy of the Britt Allcroft Company

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Tuesday

28

July 2020

0

COMMENTS

Everybody Wants Some!!

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Join ITM for a solo episode on the 2016 Richard Linklater film, Everybody Wants Some!! Ian talks about the college coming-of-age comedy and the ways it reminded her of her own college experience. Nostalgia is a powerful, often toxic force that suffocates people in the past. Nostalgia can be a particularly perplexing force for transgender folk, parsing the good from the bad with the understanding that longing for ones memory is a dangerous proposition. 

 

Ian’s review of the film: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2020/07/everybody-wants-some-presents-a-subtle-indictment-of-nostalgia/

 

Film poster courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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Monday

27

July 2020

1

COMMENTS

Everybody Wants Some!! presents a subtle indictment of nostalgia

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

Preseason is a magical time to be on a college campus. With classes on the horizon, there are seemingly infinite possibilities for new friends, fresh perspectives, and plenty of parties. Semesters are short, a handful of weeks before holidays and exams take hold.

Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! focuses its narrative on a three-day stretch before classes start, centered around a college baseball team arriving for preseason in Texas. The team is good, nationally ranked, but Linklater recognizes this period for its finite body of time. These players are on top of the world, a reign unlikely to last past graduation. Fortunately, most of them seem to know it.

Jake (Blake Jenner) is an artsy freshman pitcher, hardly the kind of talent destined for the big leagues. He finds mentorship in the form of Finn (Glen Powell), an upper-classman eager to enjoy life wherever he can. The film spends most of its time capturing brief snippets of the baseball team lounging around, partying, and gradually learning to tolerate each other’s existence.

Linklater’s wandering narrative beautifully captures a finite piece of the college experience. Your friends in August hardly need to be your friends for life. The passion brought out from the freshness of new beginnings doesn’t last forever.

We see little of consequence among the baseball team, a hardcore group bound to possess a few bad apples. Bad apples don’t need to rot in August. Time reveals true colors, but Linklater wielded time to his advantage.

Many narratives, in literature or film, unfold over weeks, months, or even years. Everybody Wants Some!! says what it needs to say in mere days. There is obviously more to the story, as there is more to every story, but Linklater takes comfort in the idea that you don’t need to see all of that to have a good time with these people, over this short period of time.

It would be easy to dismiss Everybody Wants Some!! as the product of an aging director fondly reflecting on his youth. The narrative is one that’s bound to resonate with most with viewers who can relate to the particular experience. Very quietly, Linklater introduced a powerful commentary on nostalgia.

As fun as preseason can be, with an entire ocean of possibilities still ahead, Linklater is careful not to frame these three days as anything more than a very fun time. Moments are born, destined to end. New beginnings give way to new adventures.

Linklater presents more of an indictment of nostalgia than a tribute at its alter, moments to be celebrated without needing to long for their return. The “good old days” can be fun to reflect about, as long as you don’t forget that these aren’t supposed to be the best moments of your life. Better days will come for Jake. It would be very tragic if they didn’t.

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Thursday

23

July 2020

0

COMMENTS

Transgender Storytime: One Wand to Rule Them All

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***Note this episode is probably not for everyone.***

There are many in the gender critical movement who think transgender people are sexless blobs, incapable of any pleasure whatsoever. Ian debunks the nonsense, explaining how her wand vibrator helped her rediscover her sexuality after bottom surgery. This subject is certainly an awkward one for many, Ian included, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there. The “othering” of trans people is based on a lot of myths and false theories.

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