Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Blog Archive

Friday

14

August 2020

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TTTE & Chill: James Goes Buzz Buzz

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Ya boo snubs! Join Ian & Tarabelle for another edition of everyone’s favorite Thomas the Tank Engine VHS recap show. James Goes Buzz Buzz introduces the first hand-drawn animation into the show, perhaps opening the doors for its later reliance on CGI. BoCo features prominently, coparenting Bill & Ben with his husband Edward. Gordon spends the night at the harbor, potentially stranding all the passengers from the main line with him. Did the Lady with the Green hat get home safe? Tune in to find out.

This collection includes the following episodes:

  1. James Goes Buzz Buzz
  2. One Good Turn
  3. Bertie’s Chase
  4. Heroes
  5. Bulgy
  6. Wrong Road
  7. Percy, James and the Fruitful Day

VHS cover photo courtesy of the Britt Allcroft Company

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Thursday

13

August 2020

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The August Virgin captures the essence of the dog days of summer

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August is the perfect month for sappy sentimental feelings. With the last days of summer slipping away and the new beginnings that September brings just around the horizon, it seems like the perfect time for self-evaluation. No matter how stuck in a rut you might feel, August beckons for one to savor the last moments before you’re actually able to do anything about it.

Jonás Trueba’s The August Virgin sets out to capture the spirit of the month, when you’re worried about the future that’s thankfully not quite here yet. Eva (Itsaso Arana) rents out a room in Madrid, melancholic about her early thirties. The city is fairly quiet, perfect for the kinds of random encounters between strangers that you don’t see quite as often at other parts of the year, when people are consumed with their own individual distractions.

Eva doesn’t have a ton of time on her hands to find a new place of residence before September, but August isn’t really about solutions. Instead, Eva wanders, making new friends and enjoying good wine. The future can wait.

Much of the film depicts simple conversations between Eva and the various acquaintances she meets along the way. Arana is a captivating lead, giving an expressive performance that allows the audience to feel Eva’s sense of optimism in real time. She serves as a perfect reminder for the power of stepping outside one’s shell.

Though the film takes place over the course of only a few days, Trueba captures the nature of time as a transient force that alters relationships that we once held dear. Eva reconnects with her sister Olka (Isabelle Stoffel), who’s raising a small child. The bonds of siblings change over time, as hearts expand to make room for the new loved ones in our lives.

The film is perfect for this time of year, a relaxing romp through Madrid that should satisfy those of us who wish we could be similarly traveling. The film doesn’t try to reinvent Eva in a few days, but rather let her out of her shell for a bit. Most of us could use with some more opportunities to step outside our comfort zones.

The film does sputter a bit in its third act, as the narrative heads toward its conclusion. As a month, August represents the end of summer, but the calendar doesn’t necessarily produce the answers that people are looking for. As a film, The August Virgin has a somewhat higher mandate to produce something more tangible for its audience to digest, but it comes across as a little forced.

The August Virgin is a real treat. The runtime is a bit long considering the dialogue heavy narrative, but it’s a great way to spend an afternoon or an evening. This may have been a summer unlike any others, but film still provides the kinds of comforting retreat that’s timely for this part of the year.

 

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Wednesday

12

August 2020

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COMMENTS

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

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Grab your Switch and your Nook Miles Tickets because we are going island hopping! Join ITM & special guest Nat Sowinski, comedian, organizer and coauthor of Pokey the Penguin, for a wide-ranging discussion on life in everyone’s favorite quasi-capitalistic utopia.

Ian & Nat tackle the broader philosophical questions that ACNH. Are Tom Nook & Redd former lovers? Is Isabelle a neoliberal? Why doesn’t Dodo Airlines chart mystery islands for return visits? What is Gulliver(varrr)’s deal? All of that and more! 

You can follow Nat on Twitter @nuns_on_film

Be sure to check out Pokey the Penguin’s latest adventures by checking out Pokey’s website https://www.yellow5.com/pokey/ & @pokeythepenguin

 

Cover image courtesy of Nintendo

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Monday

10

August 2020

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Heather Reid, Musician & Cofounder of The Murmurs

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Today we are joined by Heather Reid, cofounder of the iconic 90s duo The Murmurs. Heather talks about her impressive career and life as a lesbian in an era well before gay marriage. Heather also talks about her recent projects, including a new single “Right Here Right Now,” and the musical she’s currently working on. A must-listen for 90s rock fans. 

 

Be sure to check out Heather’s new video for “Right Here Right Now” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY6nVP6KZIE

 

To keep up with Heather, be sure to follow her website http://heatherreidmusic.com/ & on Twitter @Heathmusic

 

Photo courtesy of Heather Reid

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Wednesday

5

August 2020

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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

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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

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COMMENTS

CRSHD has nothing to say

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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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