26 July 2019

A Movie, Some Netflix Shows

Midsommar: Twenty-something Dani is a fairly typical modern American white girl: an anxious, depressed, clingy mess. . .and that's before her sister and parents die in a murder/suicide.  After that, well, she's even more of a bummer, such a wreck that her boyfriend Christian (a typical American Christian, in that he's not Christian) wants to sneak away to a Swedish commune and enjoy its once-every-ninety years grand celebration of all things white and pagan.  But Dani finds out about Christian's little getaway, so Christian, burdened by guilt, invites her to join him and a few of his other pals for the holy pagan days under northern Sweden's never-setting summer sun.  Midsommar starts out as an eerie, creepily effective juxtaposition of modern scientific and ancient pagan treatments for the disordered mind, but soon melts under the hot Scandinavian sun into a muddled puddle of pagan nonsense. None of the rituals make any sense, but they do make for arty, gOOfy, gory daylight nightmares: for example, two old people dive off a cliff, one face-first, the other feet-first, onto boulders, and then have what remains of their skulls crushed with a giant mallet.  There is no point in bothering to wonder what any of Midsommar's bloody and/or kinky faux-rituals mean.  They are meaningless, and, if we want to give the sometimes black-humored script a credit it may not deserve, may simply be viewed as Grand Guignol placebo effects, which somehow manage at film's end to leave poor sad Dani with a smile on her face.  Midsommar is not a *good* movie, because it never seriously advances a homeopathic alternative to our xanax society, but only wallows in lurid/absurd camp paganism.  Still, one cannot deny it is an artfully constructed decadent distraction.  Perhaps one could even label it a prototype from an emerging À rebours school of film making, a celluloid version of Huysman's bejeweled tortoise shell.  

Chambers: A poor teenage Native American girl has a heart attack, and receives a rich white girl's heart in a transplant.  The Native American becomes haunted or possessed or some shit by the white girl, who died, as they say, *under mysterious circumstances,* possibly at the hands of one or more members of her weird New Age family.  Chambers is a slow-moving mess of racial and class cliches stewed in a convoluted crystals-and-shamans cult horror script. The show is too stupid and poorly acted to hold one's attention to its jumbled script.  The main character, the Native American girl, is played by a splotchy-faced newcomer named Sivan Alyra Rose.  She looks like an ashy-faced, cheaply-made Zendaya knock-off.  And her *acting* is the biggest horror of the show, she scowls and pouts through ten interminable episodes, making her character an unsympathetic victim of the heart transplant hocus-pocus.  It's hard to believe anybody watching this dreary supernatural mess could care whether her perpetual bummer of a character lives or dies.

Stranger Things, Season 3: And it's hard to believe how far this show has fallen. [If I were Rex Reed, I'd now call this an *ossified franchise*]  It has always featured a remarkably unappealing cast of pasty-faces, greasy-hairs, bug-eyes, anorexics and fat slobs, and the cast grows even more repulsive-looking with each season, and adding to the over-all ugliness of the characters in season 3, the costume designer has dressed them in the most hideous shorts and cut-offs from the '80s. . .if you love looking at spindly white legs, this is the show for you.  But the series itself has degraded from season one, which was a fairly fresh and decently plotted thriller, into season three's weird kiddie porn/sitcom/conspiracy/monster streaming bric-a-brac where Hopper spends an inordinate amount of time trying to catch the barely-teenage Mike and Eleven making-out and where shopping malls are actually a Russian plot to de-magnetize America's refrigerator magnets, or some shit.  The Mind Flayer also shows up to torment a fat old lady before possessing pool boy/gigolo-wannabe Billy, a preening bully of a character we are meant to, but do not, feel sympathy for because of one brief flashback scene showing his daddy yelling at him for being a shitty baseball player.  Anyway, other stuff happens, you know, Eleven holds out her arms and has nose bleeds in *fights* with the Mind Flayer, she gets a Mind Flayer boo-boo on her leg which Jonathan tries to fix but only manages to make the other kids take the Lord's Name in vain, two of the kids are revealed to be trendy gays, and they all squabble unmercifully for eight tedious episodes.  No show in the history of television has ever featured more screeching, shrieking and shouting.  The cast scream insults at each other in an ear-splitting atonal assault meant to mask, one supposes, the script's utter lack of harmonic development. Yes, season three's much-hyped *moving ending* is satisfying—because all the kids finally wear long pants.  That this show is still a *hit* and fairly-well reviewed, reveals just how stupid and undiscerning American audiences and critics have become.  

Dark: With an attractive cast of competent actors, this series about the apocalyptic events brewing in a small German town focuses on four dysfunctional families with more than enough skeletons in the closet to plot a dozen soap operas. . .although, given that each of the families sport a time-traveler or two, this is Soap Opera on a Cosmic Scale.  The intelligent, clever, endlessly thought-provoking script features time-traveling based on the Causal Loop Paradox, where an object or information from the future can be sent back to the past and creates a never-ending cycle in which each object no longer has any real origin, as if it exists without having been created.  The paradox of time's never-ending cycle also creates the show's heavy, tragic, fatalistic gloom.  No matter to what extraordinary lengths the characters will go to try to change the past and prevent the apocalypse, nothing avails (at least, through the show's first two seasons).  And trust me, this brief synopsis barely scratches the surface of Dark's thematic foundations.  There are cultic, biblical and mythic elements as well, that combine with the time-traveling soap operatics to create a remarkable philosophical meditation on the nature of Time and its consequences for man.  Unlike most of current movies and television, Dark is not easily forgotten.

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