Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Monthly Archive: January 2021

Tuesday

19

January 2021

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COMMENTS

Two of Us succeeds on the strength of its lead performances

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

The closet is a lonely place for LGBTQ people. An even lonelier place for couples, especially when one partner wants the other to break free from its artificial confines. Two of Us (original title: Deux), France’s official selection for Best International Feature Film for the upcoming Academy Awards, centers its narrative around the restraints that the closet imposes on an elderly lesbian couple.

Nina (Barbara Sukowa) and Madeline (Martine Chevallier) are looking forward to retirement in Rome, leaving behind a somewhat bad neighborhood in France. Hindering their progress is Madeline’s reluctance to come out to her kids, long after the death of her husband. The plans are further put into jeopardy when Madeline has an accident that renders her unable to speak. Nina is forced to watch her lover cared for from an uncomfortable distance across the hall, desperate to be the primary caregiver.

Making his directorial debut, Filippo Meneghetti leans heavily on his two leads to carry the narrative. Sukowa and Chevallier have a natural sense of chemistry. Chevallier does a fabulous job communicating emotion through facial expressions and gestures. Sukowa tears at the heartstrings with Nina’s desperation, a deeply powerful performance.

The story does leave a bit to be desired, a regressive premise that relies too much on homophobia in the modern era to be fully satisfying for LGBTQ audiences. Though Nina and Madeline are shown to have known each other for decades, the exact specifics of their relationship are far more muddled. That sense of uncertainty makes it much harder to understand how their relationship could be kept a secret from Madeline’s children, who live nearby.

Meneghetti finds success in his ability to capture the essence of a romance running on borrowed time. Love does not conquer all. There are plenty of external factors ready to sabotage anyone’s “happily ever after.”

Nina’s perseverance and creativity in the face of constant roadblocks is quite inspiring. Some of her antics are a bit cartoonish in nature, something you might find in a sitcom. Sukowa gives such an exuberant performance that you can’t help but root for her to achieve something that the circumstances could call a success.

In many ways, Two of Us might have worked better as a period piece, giving Meneghetti’s over-reliance on homophobia some better cover. This film has little to say about gay relationships, but it does make for a compelling love story Nina and Madeline belong together. With that notion so prevalent, it becomes a bit easier to forgive some of Meneghetti’s more foolish antics.

Sukowa and Chevallier elevate the film’s lazy premise, a powerful romance that shines brighter than the abundant cliches. France is one of the most progressive countries in the world on LGBTQ rights. You would hardly realize that watching Two of Us. Despite that, romances featuring elderly lesbians are quite scarce in film. The strength of the leading performances is more than enough to forgive the film’s shortcomings.

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Tuesday

19

January 2021

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Menstruation, From Moment to Movement

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We are delight to welcome Inga T. Winkler & A.J. Lowik to the show to talk about their work in the field of menstruation education. Inga is lecturer at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights and the Director of its Working Group on Menstrual Health & Gender Justice. A.J. is a non-binary trans PhD candidate and researcher at the University of British Columbia with a focus on trans people’s lives and health.

Inga & A.J. discuss their work and the ways to combat menstruation stigma, the challenge of moving the ball forward past “visibility,” and the ways to speak about menstruation in an inclusive manner for trans and non-binary menstruators.

Inga recently co-edited the Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies, which is open-access and wonderfully formatted for online browsing. You can access the book here, https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-981-15-0614-7

A.J. has written an article on trans & non-binary menstruators for the International Journal of Transgender Health, which can be accessed here: https://ianthomasmalone.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Lowik-Just-because-I-dont-bleed-doesnt-mean-I-dont-go-through-it-Expanding-knowledge-on-trans-and-non-binary-menstruators-2.pdf 

You can learn more about Inga at her website: https://www.ingawinkler.com/ and on Twitter @ingatwinkler

You can learn more about A.J. on their website www.ajlowik.com and on Instagram @thegenderoffender

Palgrave Handbook cover image courtesy of Palgrave Macmillan

 

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Saturday

16

January 2021

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Disneyland AP Cancellation Analysis

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Disneyland has cancelled the Annual Passholder Program, leading to many disappointed superfans clinging to their AP popcorn buckets and Halloween AP magnets for relief. Ian is pretty sad. She also thinks that the media is being ridiculous in criticizing APs for being Karens, hogging the park, and being too obsessed among other things. Ian offers some analysis on the current situation and why she thinks the AP program will be back pretty soon after the pandemic.

 

For more Disneyland fun, check out our other episodes including the three park ranking of every ride in Disneyland and our Galaxy’s Edge analysis.

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Thursday

14

January 2021

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TTTE & Chill: Thomas and the Magic Railroad

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Grab your gold-dust and your conductor’s whistle, because we’re going to Shining Time Station to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Thomas and the Magic Railroad. The Shout! Factory blu-ray set contains a number of wonderful bonus features, including numerous deleted scenes from the storylines that didn’t make it into the film. Ian & Tara talk about the legacy of the film and its place within Thomas lore.

Film poster courtesy of Shout! Factory

 

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Thursday

7

January 2021

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Ham on Rye is an eccentric, contemplative high school narrative

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High school life is not at all like a John Hughes movie. The “a-ha” moment where everything comes into place just isn’t a good fit for the realities of that time in our lives. Reality is messy, ever-changing, and uncertain.

Tyler Taormina’s Ham on Rye takes an unconventional approach to the high school narrator. The film uses a cast of mostly non-professional actors and a nonlinear plot to capture the waning days of a group’s high school existence. Taormina constantly presents surreal sequences that project almost like an acid trip, as if someone set out to make a movie and forgot about it while leaving the camera rolling.

What works best about Ham on Rye is its keen understanding of cringe. High school is not romantic. High school is awkward. Kids dance in delis because they have nowhere else to go. Young people often want to set out and grab the world by its horns, but in high school there aren’t really a ton of horns to grab.

Too often film sets out to project a deeper meaning onto this communal periods of one’s life. Ham on Rye understands the messy nature of adolescence, capturing this awkward stage at face value with a wide smile on its face. People who peak in high school are thought to be losers. Nobody peaks in Ham on Rye.

There is a certain degree of inaccessibility to the film, perhaps limiting its appeal to diehard cinephiles. If Taormina has a deeper meaning to his film, he sure keeps his cards close. With a runtime of just under 90 minutes, the film hardly overstays its welcome even as the novelty starts to wear off.

Few films capture the essence of high school quite as effectively as Ham on Rye, which refuses to paint this era as anything but awkward and absurd. The cinematography is stunning, often contrasting with the mundane nature of its subjects. That’s okay. Sometimes a piece of garbage on the floor is in fact worth looking at.

Ham on Rye is hardly a film for the masses, but it’s a lovely ride. Plenty of people wish their teenage years were just like a John Hughes movie. Life doesn’t work that way. Basking in its weirdness, Ham on Rye hits the mark better than most.

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Tuesday

5

January 2021

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The Mandalorian Season 2 Review

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Season two of The Mandalorian began with a fairly daunting task. The show built an enormous amount of goodwill during its freshman effort for crafting a narrative that carried the aura of being far-removed from the rest of Star Wars lore, even if the constant, subtle Easter Eggs tended to suggest otherwise. As the sequel series faltered, The Mandalorian suggested that the future of the franchise rested in standalone storytelling.

All the recent announcements of close to a dozen new Star Wars series throw a wrench in this whole thesis, but it’s clear that The Mandalorian had been inching toward this destination for a long time. The chance to feature series favorites such as Bo-Katan, Boba Fett, and Ahsoka Tano transformed what was once predominantly an episodic meme-factory for the hijinks of an adorable puppet and his adopted father. Season two will be defined as the point where The Mandalorian stopped explicitly being “The Baby Yoda Show,” and not just strictly because the cute little fella finally got a proper name.

The perfectly executed season finale should rightfully spark melancholic feelings toward the change in status quo for The Mandalorian, which now finds itself firmly entrenched in Skywalker lore. Season two featured plenty of episodes defined by their self-contained adventures, from the slaying of a Krayt dragon to the head-scratching detour to ice-spider planet. Individual victories from episode to episode are bound to take a backseat to big mic-drop moments.

The Mandalorian built an enormous amount of goodwill for moments crafted by its own characters. For a man who rarely shows his face, Pedro Pascal brought an impressive depth of emotional range to Din Djarin, subtly setting up the tear-jerking departure of the final episode, where he bucked his traditions and removed his helmet. Those are the kind of set-ups that The Mandalorian excels at, but it’s harder to recreate that dynamic when the complications of decades of fan-nostalgia begin to occupy the same space.

Season two benefited from an untapped reservoir of guest stars, rewarding longtime fans for their dedication in following the animated series, comics, and broader Expanded Universe. Soon there will be other places to find those highs, including The Book of Boba, which will air at the end of this year. The Mandalorian will hardly be the only game in town.

Show creator Jon Favreau improved upon season one in practically every way imaginable. The episodes felt more vital, even as they relied upon their own self-contained adventures. The show eased up on its love of rocky desert planets. Grogu didn’t lean too hard into his status as a walking meme, aside from perhaps the moment where he decided he’d practice the Force by swiping blue macarons. For all the moments in season one that felt like the show was dragging its feet, season two moved the ball forward in practically every episode.

Season two built on the strong foundation of the first while expanding the narrative to define The Mandalorian’s place in Star Wars lore. Favreau accomplished all of this while not losing sight of his two heroes that made all the magic in the first place. A cameo from Star Wars’ original hero may be the most noteworthy thing to come out of the show, but The Mandalorian ensured that the franchise won’t be defined by its first family.

It is weird think that The Mandalorian may have already established its legacy two seasons in. The streaming world it helped established will look very different when the show returns, presumably in 2022. It may be a bit overblown to say that The Mandalorian “saved” Star Wars, a billion dollar entity that can absorb some lackluster installments.

The urge to reach that conclusion comes from a fairly natural point. There may come a day when the show loses itself in endless callbacks, a fate suffered by the sequel trilogy. The Mandalorian is great TV. That’s pretty much the only thing that needs to matter.

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Tuesday

5

January 2021

0

COMMENTS

The Mandalorian Season 2 Review

Written by , Posted in Blog

Join host Ian Thomas Malone as she breaks down The Mandalorian’s excellent second season. The Baby Yoda Show covered a lot of ground this year, finally bestowing a proper moniker on the little fella. As Grogu heads for the Jedi Temple, Ian talks about what worked and what didn’t for season two.

Ian’s written review: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2021/01/the-mandalorian-season-2-review/

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