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The Pitcairn Review: “Contemporary View,” by Maze de Boer

Being approximately the size of a large shoebox, the Pitcairn Museum for Contemporary Art is, probably, the world’s smallest museum. I walk past it several times a week, and would happily say it’s my favourite museum. But I’ve never seen any kind of serious writing about it, so in the spirit of living the change, enjoy this recurring feature.

The Pitcairn typically asks you to imagine standing in the space it presents, but for Maze de Boer’s Contemporary View, no imagination is necessary, because we’re already standing in the space. In fact, from this side of the fourth wall, we appear to be the art.

A photograph of the exhibit described in this review. We see the back of what is, relative to the scale of the space, a large canvas, and, in the corner, a tiny fire extinguisher.
“Contemporary View,” by Maze de Boer.

Or, in other words: Ah, a meta one.

From Exhibition Continues Upstairs by Gerbrand Burger and No Show by Maurice Bogeart, which play with the gallery’s implied but non-existent space, to Michell Bows’ Sorry for the Inconvenience, in which the lack of exhibit becomes the exhibit, the meta exhibit is, at this point, a standing tradition at the Pitcairn. Even the fourth wall break of the art gazing back upon you is nothing new, with Jelte van Lente’s Kijkers previously having taken a much more literal approach.

But what we have here is much more pared down than those. There’s no stairwell, no mirror1Unless you count your own reflection in the glass., nothing looking at you. The only things in the space are a large2Relatively speaking. canvas, visible only from behind, a bench, a fire extinguisher, and, in the very back of the space, a sign.3I need to remember to transcribe the text from a better picture.

A lightly blurry photograph of the sign in the back of the space. The text on it can't be made out.

Mostly, I’m bored here. So bored that this review has been sitting here unfinished for four months. The next exhibit will have gone the way of the courier service back to where it came from by the time this review goes up.

So let’s just turn it around. If we are the art… what are tiny visitors to the tiny museum seeing through the fourth wall? Or, well, what did they see, back in November?

A photograph of the street as seen from in front of the Pitcairn Museum.

I walk past there three times a week. Maybe parked vehicles, the top bit of a trash can, and ugly construction fences are inspiring to you, but they’ve lost a little of their luster to me.

The Pitcairn does not publish images of its full exhibits until they’re already gone, but with limited local exceptions, I’m writing for a global audience here. To publish without an image of the full exhibit robs that international audience of context, and to publish with full images spoils the full exhibition for people who might still want to go see it. As a compromise, these reviews run one week before the exhibit closes or, uh, much later.

Some of my photographs of the space have been lightly modified only to obscure my reflection in them.

  • 1
    Unless you count your own reflection in the glass.
  • 2
    Relatively speaking.
  • 3
    I need to remember to transcribe the text from a better picture.

Review: “Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire” (2023)

Also on Letterboxd, based on the usual Mastodon thread.

I feel about Mr Snyder’s work like most people do about the dentist, every now and then you come out and go “that wasn’t that bad,” but most of the time it’s like somebody is just violently wrestling your face. And 2023’s Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire is the exact oral fistfight it looks like.

Backing up a little, okay, so, in Star Wars, at the same time Luke’s aunt and uncle are killed offscreen by Stormtroopers, the film is in the middle of presenting this whole galaxy of magic that you, the viewer, want, nay, need to see more of. Luke, this innocent, a survivor of imperialist violence, touches but the edge of an imaginative world full of funny droids and cool swords and interesting people, and immediately you’re desperate to see him explore it, to see him bring his innocence into the galaxy, to see it through his eyes. There’s pain and loss and greed and corruption — but it’s a world full of love and life, too.

In 2023’s Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire, Mr Snyder’s equivalent of Luke is a brooding badass, already a highly-trained ex-military fighter, whose backstory is that her entire family is already long dead and she was trained by a different brooding badass. Having retired from being an action here, now her fight is against the people1Imagine the Empire from Star Wars, make their costumes 10% more Nazi, and stop there. who want to tear her village apart with visceral violence and explicitly sexual threat. Before she sets off on her quest, the world around Kora is depicted only as unpleasant, dangerous, hard to exist in — even on a better day it’s hard to imagine her having a particularly good one. And yet her quest is to put together a team2Because this is doing Seven Samurai just as much as it’s doing Star Wars. to defend her way of life on her South African-coded3I’m sorry, it’s literally called “Veldt.” home moon — even though nothing about her way of life on Space South Africa feels particularly worth defending. certainly don’t want to see any fucking more of it. I’d like to see less of it!

The film truly never makes a case for her quest, or for anything at all, beyond that that’s… what you do in these. She doesn’t need to learn anything to go on it, she already knows who to reach out to. We get a cantina scene where they meet a pilot and get some exposition because that’s what they do in Star Wars, but the scene is homophobic, misogynist, and anti-sex work at the same time, and has none of the life in it you want from a cantina scene. We get episodic introductions to each team member because that’s what they do in Seven Samurai, but they’re all sketched so thinly that they might as well be cool action figures, clanking against each other plastically. The scene with the griffin-like bennu is straight from Avatar. You’ve seen every part of this before.

While the shift of focus to an already competent adult who knows what she needs to do might be an interesting flip on Star Wars in the hands of a competent storyteller — a Luke who’s blazing with righteous fury at the injustices of the world around him, discovering he has the power to do something about it4Wait, is that Anakin? — instead it all just serves to deliver the cold, oppressive bleakness Mr Snyder has so consistently forced upon the culture around him. It’s all just unpleasant.

I don’t want to accuse Mr Snyder of anything, but if I thought there was any kind of coherent ideology to this beyond “Star Wars and Seven Samurai are cool and Netflix will give me $166 million dollars to make a 2-part 5-hour crossover of those” I’d be extremely suspicious of a lot of what’s going on here.

On top of that it’s only half a film. In the rest of this review, I will

  • 1
    Imagine the Empire from Star Wars, make their costumes 10% more Nazi, and stop there.
  • 2
    Because this is doing Seven Samurai just as much as it’s doing Star Wars.
  • 3
    I’m sorry, it’s literally called “Veldt.”
  • 4
    Wait, is that Anakin?

Review: “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (2023), or, the Modern Cinematic Experience

Posted a few days after the fact — I saw it 27 October — because I reread it while compiling the first media roundup post and decided I wanted to preserve it in full. Other versions of this post have appeared on Letterboxd and Mastodon.

I have returned from the cinema subscription members only Halloween screening of 2023’s Five Nights at Freddy’s, where there was free Fanta and popcorn, approximately 150 giggling teenagers, and an attempt at an interactive pre-show quiz that just imploded.

Truly, the trinality of cinema.

Let’s do this in reverse order.

The quiz thing is kind of a shame because all the questions glitched past and I think I would’ve known most of them and so could’ve plausibly won something. (Test run these things, y’all.)

The 150 giggling teenagers totally worked for this movie specifically — I can’t help but see all the clichés, I metagame twists, I see story structure before me like it’s the fucking Matrix, but a teenager excited for the movie based on the video game they know from the YouTube videos doesn’t do that, and I think I would’ve enjoyed this a lot less without over the top “oh my god”s and “what the FUCK”s at things I, you know, might make fun of.1I was glad I was sitting front row, though, so I didn’t have to see the teenagers with what I’m sure were one hundred brightly lit cellphones in hand. Also worth nothing, the weirdly huge reaction at a random waiter — that I have now learned was portrayed by one Mr Mat “MatrickPatrick” Pat, who is at least a YouTuber I’ve heard of.

The Fanta2Orange. Both Zero and regular were available. was flowing so freely I came home with a full litre and a half of Fanta, I’m not even fucking kidding.

And the movie: Was good. Fun, solid, balances what I understand is fairly limited game play and deep lore in a way that works as a movie. The comparison to Willy’s Wonderland3I think of myself as on the record as a Willy’s Wonderland enjoyer, but I guess I’ve given it three stars and no review, so it may be due for a rewatch. is fair, but I think they’re doing different enough things that they can religion co-exist dot jpeg.

Anyway.

A perfectly cromulent time at the movies.

  • 1
    I was glad I was sitting front row, though, so I didn’t have to see the teenagers with what I’m sure were one hundred brightly lit cellphones in hand.
  • 2
    Orange. Both Zero and regular were available.
  • 3
    I think of myself as on the record as a Willy’s Wonderland enjoyer, but I guess I’ve given it three stars and no review, so it may be due for a rewatch.

The Pitcairn Review: “In my Sleep” by Nina Maria Kleivan

Being approximately the size of a large shoebox, the Pitcairn Museum for Contemporary Art is, probably, the world’s smallest museum. I walk past it several times a week, and would happily say it’s my favourite museum. But I’ve never seen any kind of serious writing about it, so in the spirit of living the change, I’m going to try to make this a recurring feature.

Let’s, as the Pitcairn asks us to imagine we’re doing, stand in the space for a moment.

A photograph of a large shoebox-sized L-shaped gallery space. From left to right, a white door, a collage piece of a person with black paper cutout tears on their face on a blue and orange background, in a black frame. Then, three black sculptures on white pedestals, the first two in the shape of the tears from the first piece, then the third approximately C-shaped. Behind these sculptures is a poem -- "There are things / I can neither talk /about nor forget. Not even in my sleep. And I realize / that there will be / things in life that / are impossible to / overcome." -- and then on the right wall there is another collage piece, of a person looking at the camera and then a blob of pink paint, all surrounded by cutouts of various unspecific black shapes and various fabrics. It's in a black frame.
Nina Maria Kleivan, In my Sleep, 2023, Pitcairn Museum for Contemporary Art

Right away, and I’m sorry to start this first Pitcairn Review this way, I’m bored. I’m sorry. This is where I admit a personal bias — I’m simply not big on collage.

Continue reading “The Pitcairn Review: “In my Sleep” by Nina Maria Kleivan”

The Locksmith

This anecdote originally appeared as my Letterboxd review of Wes Anderson’s The Rat Catcher.

My neighbour had locked himself out, no phone, no keys, so he knocked on my door to ask to use my phone to call his friend who, one, had his spare key, and two, was apparently in the Phantom Zone, seen recently by half the city and yet totally unreachable.

So we called a locksmith, just the top result in the search engine of your choice, who was here as fast as he could have been, and instantly jimmied his way in with some WD-40, a sheet of plastic, a rope, and my door as a cheat sheet.

Which we both found incredibly impressive — I applauded without prompting, which I never do — and also, our human doors might as well not be there for this man, nay, ghost.

Anyway, the rat catcher here looks like an English version of the locksmith, which is why I’m sharing that story here in this review in lieu of struggling to find something to say about this one. It’s good, it’s like the other Wes Anderson Roald Dahl shorts.

The locksmith was a lot nicer than this rat catcher, though. There was a fistbump.

Review: “Dogman” (2023)

Cross-posted from Letterboxd and Mastodon.

See, this is why you go to Sneak Preview. Most of the time it’s Bank of Dave or The Courier, but then every now and then it’s something you didn’t know existed and that hits you just right.

Sneak Preview was 2023’s Dogman.

After a brief worry that the picture would be Super Transphobic — you never know with these things, you gotta be careful — it instead turns into a glorious portrait of a beautiful, complex character, the titular Dogman, played by Caleb Landry Jones.

He’s called that, you see, because he has A Lot Of Dogs. And over those dogs he has an amount of easy control that borders on a psychic power. And that gets… a little silly sometimes? But even at its silliest — his beautiful drag performances are just voiced by real tape of the singers he’s dressed at — it manages to land as something very sincere, very beautiful.

If I have any issues with this one, it’s, well, the character uses a wheelchair, and Hollywood is often a little weird about how it depicts that. It might be a little weird here, depending on where your sensibilities lie in that regard.

The same is true for the ways in which this is queer — it might just land differently on you than it did on me, and that’s fine.

It’s also, in the end, unfortunately, forced to conform to the shape of a modern crime film — and as much as I think the climactic Dark “Home Alone”-esque violence is a hoot of a sequence, I think something lower scale might have suited the rest of the film better.

I think when this actually comes out you’re gonna see a VERY wide range of opinions. A lot of them are gonna be bad opinions. Mine might be one of those!

But by Dog, I thought that was terrific. Beautiful. Gorgeous. A masterpiece I’ll think about for a long time.

Dogman did nothing wrong. Long live Dogman. Dogman — forever.

Weird Soda Review: Coke Zero “3000”

An energy drink-shaped can of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Creations: 3000 Limited Edition.So I’ve had this one in the fridge since Sunday, but then on Monday I burned my tongue on hot soup, so it took me a few days of not wanting to waste it on my slightly numb mouth zone to get around to: Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Creations: 3000 Limited Edition, which claims to be a “future-inspired flavour co-created with AI.”

Now, I don’t know exactly what that means, but my guess is an ad exec somewhere got paid way too much to get a soda engineer to type some things into ChatGPT, or some other awful plagiarism generator. Whose artisanal soda recipe was this ripped off from? There may be no way to know.

Let’s get to it.

Expectations

I was pretty sure I’d seen this one go around when it was on shelves in America, but Googling it as I write this, it turns out this one is totally new, so I guess my vague recollection to expect a raspberry element in there somewhere, or maybe a blue flavour, that’s off the table. Neither the ingredients list nor the first sniff give any additional information — it’s just the same hollow smell as all zero sugar cola. The colour is the same as any Coca-Cola.

Now, a second sniff after a pour makes me feel like I might be onto something about the blue and raspberry flavours. Time to sip.

Taste

I’m very used to being betrayed by awful mystery Fantas, but I was really hoping this wouldn’t immediately send me there. And yet my first sip’s impression is… cotton candy? The vibe is definitely candular. Candesque. Of the Cand. But it’s not a specific cand. It’s just sweet. A little sour? Raspberry flavour candy as a touchstone is not a million miles off, actually. But it doesn’t taste like raspberry, not really. It’s like. You know raspberry. You recognise raspberry in the movie based on raspberry. And this is the third sequel to that movie, but now it’s all original material, and it’s not really anything like you were picturing based on raspberry? It’s like that.

Yeah, no, finishing the can, I have no idea what this tastes like. No. Wait.

Conclusion

Vaporwave. That’s it. Fuck me, it doesn’t taste like the year 3000 or like AI but like Vaporwave. It tastes: Like Vaporwave. And much like Vaporwave, it is indeed tolerable for a few sips, but quickly becomes tiresome from being so sugary and so overly produced.

I’m gonna go drink some water.

Review: Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84” (2011)

Original Japanese cover of the first volume.I was, chronologically speaking, about to graduate. Unfortunately, the work that led to that moment meant I’d caught up on podcasts. Nothing left to listen to1This is… relative, but the practical effect is as described.. That not having happened in some time, I panicked, decided I should listen to more of the kinds of books adults listened to, read, or at least pretended to listen to or read, and put a bunch (four) of Murakami novels and short story collections on my phone. 18 May, 2022, according to Overcast’s timestamp. I liked Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, I liked, mostly, the short stories I’d managed to find. Killing Commendatore seemed too imposing, which just left 1Q84.

Unfortunately, “catching up on podcasts” doesn’t stop podcasts coming and coming, or Big Finish dropping box set after box set, and soon enough, both 1Q84 and Killing Commendatore were but ideas at the bottom of a pile. Piles upon piles upon piles. So, this summer, more than a year later, having both graduated and finished the first half of a follow-up degree, I finally put it on. A choice, curiosity finally getting the better of me, not just because I’d run out of podcasts.

So. 1Q84. Tengo is a cram school math tutor with aspirations towards published authorship who is asked to shepherd a young writer’s amateurish manuscript to winning a new writers’ prize, only to discover the magical realist work of fiction is actually a true story meant specifically to disarm the real forces behind a dangerous cult. Aomame is a personal trainer slash personal assassin whose line of work eventually puts her in the position of having to take out the leader of a dangerous cult. They had a brief interaction once, as children, and long to reunite. 1Q84 is the story, told in alternating point-of-view chapters, of how they find themselves finally drawn back together in another world entirely.

Where Murakami thrives in his portrayal of this shared journey is in his descriptions of process, ritual, work. Whether that’s Tengo’s writing or Aomame’s killing, the ritual of reading to a comatose parent or of the departure from one world to get to another, or repetitive, boring time spent in isolation, it’s his descriptions of these two people going about their well-rehearsed business where the book really comes alive. Murakami really sells Tengo’s writing as an act of magic, Aomame’s killing as a cosmic duty. The travel to another world an accident, a spell tripped into, but a ritual nonetheless.

But it feels like the book reviews itself in its reviews of Fuka-Era’s novel Air Chrysalis. The magic2The magical kind, not the process, ritual, work stuff I describe above, which, in fact, gets pretty thoroughly explained., reviewers say, is left unexplained, the ending is too ambiguous. But that Murakami himself is clearly aware of the easy criticisms you could lob at 1Q84 — and a lot of his work in general — doesn’t mean they’re not true. If you don’t want people to say your ending is too ambiguous, you write a different ending, one where all the other plot strands don’t slowly fall away until even the A-plot falls away into another world.

So, yes, the ending is ambiguous. It would almost have to be. The magic, of Little People and Air Chrysalii, is vague. Would the book be better if Murakami explained what the Little People eat for breakfast? I haven’t even mentioned the absolutely impressively miserable sex scenes, which I’m pretty sure aren’t actually meant to be gross, they’re just written from a purely Male Writer’s Perspective, there’s truly no attempt made to see it from any other angle. But does any of that matter that much when the journey is so riveting? Does any of it matter when the prose — translated by go-to Murakami translators Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel — really, genuinely manages to engross in way that makes me go, oh, yeah, the absolutely wild thing that’s happening right now makes total sense? It really doesn’t.

Of course, the quality of the audiobook specifically also goes a long way to why I feel that way — narrated by Allison Hiroto in the Aomame chapters, Marc Vietor in the Tengo chapters, and then in the third volume by Mark Boyett in the Ushikawa chapters, each character’s respective reader so fully embodies both the story and the character that when Aomame and Tengo are finally reunited in the final chapters and their readers voice their dialogue in the other’s chapters, it moved me in a way prose never could have. They’ve not just reunited, they’re talking to each other.

Terrific.

  • 1
    This is… relative, but the practical effect is as described.
  • 2
    The magical kind, not the process, ritual, work stuff I describe above, which, in fact, gets pretty thoroughly explained.

Analysis: “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012)

Also posted as a review on Letterboxd, derived from a thread on Mastodon.

Never got around to the sequel, thought I’d go for a refresher on this one first.

Their respective games’ fellow characters are bigoted towards Ralph and Vanellope in essentially the same ways — total social exclusion through rigid enforcement of arbitrary rules designed to exclude them — but for different reasons.

Where Ralph’s exclusion is because he’s “the bad guy” who wants to be let into “good guy” spaces, approaching almost a faux “trans predator” thing, this idea that no matter what, in the ideas of Gene and the others he’s always gonna be pretending,

Vanellope is excluded because she has a disability, her “glitch,” when confronted she calls it “pixlexia,” the other racers’ mockery resembles common mockery of physical and learning disabilities, her peers make no effort to try to understand.

Felix, in this read, is the well-meaning cis liberal, the guy who on paper is totally fine with Ralph, but can’t bring himself to prioritise Ralph’s well-being over his own status because doing so would endanger his “hero privilege,” a limitation he only overcomes by figuring out a way to make himself the lead character of part of the story.

Unfortunately in the end Ralph and Vanellope’s conflicts are overcome not because Gene and the other penthousers learn to accept and love Ralph for who he is instead of who he was written to be, but because he “earns his medal” by saving the day, literally just trans exceptionalism, and not because reasonable accommodations are made to help Vanellope thrive but because her glitch is essentially brought under control, her disability “medicated,” the thing that made her unique transformed into something nobody finds too uncomfortable.

I realise 2012 is a different country, but there is simply no goddamn way anybody like me — trans, autistic — was involved in the production of this fucking movie.

We will never be able to look to Disney and truly see ourselves, it’s just never gonna happen.

Anyway, fun video game movie. Cute aesthetic, the fictional games fit right in with the real-world ones. Kinda proves these things can work as a movie in a way nobody has quite managed to do since. I say, actively not looking at the Mario movie.

Review: “The Blue Whale” (2020)

This is a necropost. This review of 2020 Egyptian internet challenge movie The Blue Whale was originally posted on Letterboxd. You should not watch 2020’s The Blue Whale.

The first sixty of these 77 minutes are trash. At best it’s disposable, and at worst it’s openly vile and toxic about mental health issues and what might drive a person to suicide. In the middle of those two extremes it’s also just very, very dumb about the internet. And not in the fun way a dumb slasher about a cursed phone or whatever can be, it’s more like how your parents or your dumbest uncle can be dumb about the internet.

And then, in the back 17, it drops the most truly unhinged, deranged twist I’ve ever seen. It’s not even a plot twist, because it comes completely out of nowhere, is never examined, and would have no time to go anywhere if it was going to, it’s more of a costume twist —

(And I’m not putting a spoiler warning on this because if I do nobody will read it, but look away and go watch it, even though it’s bad and you shouldn’t, if you don’t want to be spoiled for what is undeniably an absolutely damaged twist — )

But here I can do a read more.

Continue reading “Review: “The Blue Whale” (2020)”

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