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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.

On second chances

This is a necropost. A version of the following was originally posted as a Reddit comment on 7 August, 2023.

For context: This was in reply to speculation that an upcoming Big Finish announcement might involve the return of actor John Barrowman to the company’s Torchwood range after he was dropped, and a big anniversary story went unreleased, by the company in light of a pattern of repeated, open, and enthusiastic sexual misconduct. Wikipedia at this time calls them “allegations,” but Barrowman and his co-stars were openly talking about this behaviour in public on stage at conventions. It wasn’t a secret then, and it’s not a secret now.

If you’re a Doctor Who fan in the places where I’m a Doctor Who fan, you may have seen calls from other fans to bring him back in some way despite all this, because some people prioritise their fondness for a character over the safety and wellbeing of the cast and crew around the actor portraying that character.

This was my response to one such call, asking for Barrowman to be given a second chance.

I’m preserving it here mostly because I’ve got a feeling this will keep coming up, and I’ll want to be able to pull it back out to repost or reference.

John Barrowman has had his second chance. He behaved the way he did throughout the 00s until he was forced to apologise for it in 2008, both behind the scenes for how he was on set and publicly for doing it on Radio 1, and then… openly kept doing it, consistently, at least as late as his time on Arrow, where he was walking around his co-stars’ trailers naked and sending them pictures of, again, him naked, that he made a crew member take.

He claims in his 2021 apology that his behaviour has changed since 2008, but that’s clearly a lie, then, isn’t it. Perhaps it didn’t include crew members who might not have felt comfortable speaking up or saying no back in 2008 and that’s what’s changed? There’s “another chance,” and then there’s, why would you ever employ this walking liability again?

So, when I say, “RTD knows better,” what I mean is, RTD is a PR-savvy showrunner whose previous run on Doctor Who was mired in controversy that he has somehow managed to escape significant public scrutiny over. Even in the best possible scenario, after a thorough redemption tour for Barrowman — which could happen, but won’t start at Doctor Who — bringing him back, even just at Big Finish, would at the very least attach controversy to the show’s brand that, surely, RTD is sensibly trying to avoid. Why do that to yourself? Why do that to the show?

19 December 2023: Here’s a paragraph I think I might add in the future.

In general, I’m against the idea of permanent banishment as punishment for behaviour in different times, right, but there does come a point where I’m fine saying, actually, yeah, this person probably shouldn’t work in this industry ever again, and John Barrowman is on the wrong side of that line. Every opportunity given to him should instead be given to an up-and-coming queer person who’s not gonna commit sexual violence the second they get a chance.

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)”

What “Rashomon” is about

Lightly edited from Letterboxd.

My understanding of 1950’s Rashomon had always been that it’s about four witnesses of the same event sharing their contradictory good-faith accounts of it to a court. “That’s not how I remember it,” as one Homer J Simpson once famously put it. A tale of how human memory is subjective, and can not be objective.

But that’s not what 1950’s Rashomon is about at all: It’s about four witnesses of the same event choosing, one way or another, to actively lie about what they saw.

Tajōmaru the bandit lies to big himself up, regardless of whether he did it or not. He wants to be Tajōmaru the bandit, who killed a samurai in honourable combat. But it’s only in his own testimony that he’s ever presented as a person who’s even remotely capable of that.

The samurai’s wife lies because the most plausible account (the woodcutter’s) is, frankly, fucking pathetic. She comes off very poorly in it, and her husband dies a pathetic, pitiful death. A samurai’s honour is a thing that matters, dangit, is the thinking here — perhaps she feels she herself is to blame for what, and this is her way of reconciling those facts. (If the woodcutter’s account isn’t true, she may still simply be finding her own way to deal with the event.)

The medium lies because she’s a medium. It’s what they do. (Alternatively, the spirit of the samurai lies to preserve his own honour and let off his wife.)

Finally, even the woodcutter employs some creative editing to not get in trouble for stealing the valuable dagger — but his account, in which the wife spurs the samurai and the bandit on to fight each other and the samurai dies a pathetic, pitiful death, is by far the most plausible, and his motive to lie is only for not testifying. He has six kids to get back to — seven, now — and in the grand picture of things, that matters more than who stole the dagger.

Though there is some overlap, the accounts contradict so significantly that they can’t be reconciled. They simply can not be good-faith flawed accounts of the same event — the priest at the end isn’t losing his faith over the events described, but because each account is designed primarily to benefit the person recounting it, because this is a movie about what could make people who should objectively know the truth choose to lie about it.

Or at least, that’s how I’ll remember it.

Terrific picture. I regret to inform you all I’m going to be correcting people about it for the rest of my life.

Review: “EXIT Macbeth,” Noord Nederlands Toneel, at the Staddschouwburg in Groningen

Had to see a stage play for my theatre class. We’d been warned ahead of time it was essentially the best option of a season of shows that weren’t quite the best thing to take a class to.

Adapted from Mastodon nine and a half months after the fact.

As the title implies, EXIT Macbeth is, ostensibly, the story of Macbeth (the play) if Macbeth (the guy) were no longer the protagonist of Macbeth (play again.) Except it’s… not, because when Macbeth (the guy) fails to show up to be in Macbeth (the play) at the start of EXIT Macbeth, we get a quick recap of Macbeth (the play) and then the whole thing just implodes up its own asshole.

If there’s any cohesion here at all, it’s somewhere in, one, the framing device presenting the play as a sort of interactive choose-your-own-story museum, almost like if Macbeth (the play) were The Stanley Parable, (the video game,) whose exhibits are mostly obvious themes yelled out loud at you, and two, the character of the Porter, who in Macbeth (the play) has one short scene somewhere in Act 2, but here becomes the narrator, presenting the play (EXIT Macbeth) as an ode to the minor character, the porters, the walking forests, the women, of these plays. Sounds great. (The Porter character here is just tremendous, by the way, a hoot every time she shows up. For everything else I might say, terrific character, great performance.)

But that’s the problem — everything it says it is sounds great, but everything it actually does is, well, not the thing it’s saying it is. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and that sheep’s name is Macbeth. (This is the play.)


The thing it actually is is more of a soundscape, a large, audio-visual nightmare presentation of sort of the… dream of Macbeth (the play) collapsing in on itself. And I’m not particularly well equipped to talk about dance, but the dance performances, the soundscape, the minimalist staging, the puppets, it’s all great, every performer is very good at their job and a blast to watch. Like, the thing it actually is, everyone both on stage and behind it really seems to believe in it and stand by it, and you can tell from every seat in the house.

But what it is isn’t what it said it was or what I wanted. In the end it’s a mess that just about manages to border on the incomprehensible because it says all its themes out loud too hard to properly land on either side. But it’s a very pretty mess.

And I haven’t even mentioned the naked witch going through Mother Nature’s dating profiles.

Trailer content warning: Flashing images, taxidermy.

Review: “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (2021)

This is a necropost. A version of this review was originally posted March 17, 2021 on my Letterboxd.

What could I possibly even say about Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a film, if that’s what you want to call it, so dominated by its auteur’s oppressive vision that everything I thought was excessive or ridiculous about Man of Steel or Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is here, and turned up to eleventy-twelve.

I joke sometimes that I committed to the bit too hard on the Snyderverse, but I loathed Man of Steel and BvS, I loathed Justice League 1.0, and knew going in that I would feel very similarly about this one, so at a certain point, it just becomes punching myself in the face for no fun and no profit. At least I know what everyone’s talking about, right? I guess? Worth it? Is it? Is it?

It’s better than 1.0 mostly by virtue of not having its strong, if unpleasant, vision interfered with by things like “executive meddling” and “good taste,” but it also doesn’t have any footage of Henry Cavill’s face conspicuously refusing to acknowledge it doesn’t have a moustache on it. Pros and cons, you know?

Truly, Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

A Lake You Can’t See

A necropost. I remember this one feeling very raw, but it’s been a few years, and who knows how these things age, right? I haven’t reread it.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The green tent I’ve bought so as to not have to sleep in the big, shared tent had been advertised as fitting two people. Which two people exactly had been left to the reader and/or buyer’s imagination, but the people selling the thing certainly can’t have been thinking about me, being just a single, tall, fat person. When I put my bag inside, which is where it has to be, the space that’s left is exactly enough for me to be uncomfortable in pretty much any and every position I might choose. In addition, the mat I’ve bought is too thin and too small, so is the sleeping bag, and the way the tent gets incredibly wet on the inside at night is the straw that breaks the bag full of straw that had already made a victim of the camel some time ago. I will not sleep until Wednesday night.

I try, of course. I toss and turn. I wonder about the state the book I brought with me will be in when this is over. I toss and turn. I see my phone’s battery is nearly empty, and plug it into the portable charger, one with a huge battery that’ll last me all three days, making it the only good purchase I made specifically for the trip. I toss and turn. I never even get close to nodding off. I keep tossing and turning. It’s starting to make me feel like a salad. So I get up, and out of the tent (not that there’s any way to get up inside the tent) and try to figure out what to do, at night, alone, in a forest. I shower for longer than would’ve been reasonable if anyone else had been awake.

I make my way back to the dining area. There are people there, mostly around fires, a lot of them talking, smoking, drinking. I can’t see anyone’s face. I don’t learn anyone’s names, or even talk to them. It would’ve felt rude to try. I walk away, and look at the maps app on my phone to see if I can find the lake I heard people talk about earlier. It’s maybe a 10-minute walk. 15, at night, in the dark. I get to the lake, and I see a pirate ship, crewed by ghosts. This seems impractical, because I’m pretty sure the lake is landlocked. Except, of course, I don’t see a pirate ship, or ghosts. A trick of the moonlight, filled in by imagination. I briefly wonder if landlocked pirate ghosts are a metaphor for something. I walk back, because there’s not that much to do at a lake you can’t see.

On the way back I stroll around the area we’re in for a couple of laps. I overhear teachers talking. People have mostly disappeared from the dining area. I go sit down near my tent, listening to podcasts on my headphones. I shower again, and then go back to the dining area, to wait, in general for other people to show up, and specifically for the people who make the coffee to do so. It takes them ages.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

This is the day when a rich man at the campsite gives a speech in which he feels the need to tell us that shithead alt-right hero Jordan Peterson has some good ideas, actually. I stop paying attention, because the reminder of the world outside the forest sets the back of my head on fire. When I see an opportunity to leave, I run — well, walk fast — to the lake from the night before. I realise as my bare feet slip into the water that this is a panic attack, and that it’s happening because I have PTSD, and that that’s why I sometimes feel the need — not desire — to run into a lake. Or, at home, the forest, but I was already in the forest, and it seemed impractical to find a separate forest to run into. Internet hate mobs make you want to run into nature, I guess. I wonder if the victims people have actually heard of ever run into a lake because somebody brings up a discount psychologist.

For the rest of the afternoon, I separate myself from the activities at the site, the ones I can get away from. I tell people it’s because I haven’t slept. Second and third-years have been recruited to push the people sitting by themselves into the activities. I wonder if anyone else sitting solo has PTSD. At the end of the day, I join in on the bingo. We don’t win anything. We’re mostly relieved we didn’t win the inflatable woman, because what the hell are you going to do with one of those? Amidst jeering boys, agreeing with the friends I’ve made on the trip that we really don’t want to win the inflatable woman is the first time since the panic attack I feel okay again.

I never try to sleep. I do take another long shower, cleansing to exit the daylight. There’s a lot of lights in this night. Dancers, jugglers, all sorts of installations. These are here for the rich man’s corporate retreat I’ve learned we’re here in the oncoming shadow of. A silent disco — I recognise a lot of them as fellow students — jumps and thumps around in a field. It’s surreal enough that it’s a little like walking into magic. I never get tired. I’ve crossed the rubicon on tired. Tired is in my past.

After the silent disco ends and everyone wanders off again, I do what I did on Monday. I sit near my tent for a while. I take another long shower, which at this point has, in my head, become a ritualistic cleansing to be allowed back into the daylight. I wait for coffee. It takes ages.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Everyone knows I haven’t slept. It’s either the first, second, or third thing I say to everyone I talk to. “You know,” I wave slightly dismissively, as if it doesn’t matter, “I haven’t slept.” The rubicon has slipped back under my feet. I’m sore, and tired, and done. I destroy my nemesis, the green tent. While people pack up their stuff and break down the big, shared tents, I sit under a tree and I read more of my book than I have all trip. (Books are famously hard to read in the dark.) I go home, and decide against going to bed right away. Wouldn’t want to mess up my sleep schedule.

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