Archive for December, 2021

New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2021

According to the recommendations from the local authorities, I am supposed to cancel my plans for New Year’s Eve.

According to the same recommendations, I’m supposed to stay home on New Year’s Eve.

Well, which is it [grin]?

Happy New Year.

Thoughts on “The Cleansing Hour”

December 30, 2021

“The Cleansing Hour” is another Shudder exclusive that I happened to pick up on DVD for a reasonable price.  I’ve watched four of them before this one.  Two of them — “Scare Package” and “Party Hard, Die Young” — were really bad, and two of them — “Stay Out of the Attic” and “Shook” — were actually relatively good, and also happened to be the later ones.  This movie, then, is effectively the rubber match for evaluating if the Shudder exclusives are overall good or overall bad.

And to spoil it, this movie is actually pretty good.

The main premise is that someone who was raised Catholic but who … didn’t take to it, given that he was in a very strict Catholic boarding school is running what is essentially a popular Youtube channel where he claims to be an actual Catholic priest who is exorcising demons live.  He’s working with his long time friend from that school, who does all of the technical stuff while the “priest” does all the on-camera stuff.  Of course, it’s all a fake, and he hires actors to play the victims and doesn’t really exorcise anyone.  Moreover, he was never a priest — and possibly never even tried to become a priest — and lives a very hedonistic life, and is clearly only using the show as a way to get that.  However, one night their selected “victim” is killed on the way to the show and the friend’s girlfriend — who hates the showman and wants her boyfriend to leave the show — steps in at the last minute, but then is actually possessed by a demon, who wants to torment and humiliate at least the showman in exchange for not killing the girlfriend.

The movie spends most of its time as a Virtue Horror, with the demon taunting all of them to revealing their terrible secrets live online, including that the entire show is a fake and that the friend is skimming the merchandising money.  However, along with this the girlfriend — in the brief moments when she is released by the demon — pleads with them to stop doing what the demon wants and just let it kill her, because the demon is playing them.  What’s nice about that is that it makes sense that the demon is trying to trick them to achieve some hidden end, but for most of the movie we can wonder what that end is.

However, like the other two decent Shudder movies, the ending is a bit disappointing.  This time it doesn’t seem like it was done to set up a sequel, but more that the ending itself doesn’t come together.  What happens is that the demon is revealed to be the actual Devil, and he’s tormenting them — and insisting that they not cut or lose the feed — in order to draw as many people as possible into watching the show.  At the end of the time limit, everyone who was watching ends up become crazed, violent psychopaths who attack anyone who is near them.  At the same time, the girlfriend is released from the possession and we have a touching reunion as they get medical treatment.

The problem with this is that even after all of this we still aren’t aware of what the goal was that would justify the Devil doing this.  While what he’s doing caused chaos, he managed to infect a few million people.  Is this enough to cause a major disruption to the world and a huge overall increase in evil, perhaps even to the point of an apocalypse?  Then the happy reunion of the couple will soon be for naught as they are dragged into this new world of evil and have to deal with it.  But if it only has a minor and temporary impact, then what was the point of doing it that justified all that effort?  If the Devil scored a coup, then the happy ending for the couple and potentially the friends isn’t really a happy one given that the Devil scoring a huge coup is never going to be a good thing for the world.  But if it wasn’t a coup but was instead a minor and temporary victory, then it doesn’t seem like it would be worth all the effort to achieve.  So the happiness of the couple and the happiness of the Devil really clash here.

Still, that’s a minor issue that doesn’t ruin the movie.  The psychological torment works and the movie is paced well enough that we have time to note that it’s probably some kind of trick but not enough time to work it out ourselves.  That being said, I don’t think that there were a lot of hints dropped about what the actual nature of the trick was, other than the obvious one that it wanted a lot of people watching, although trying to cause discord between the two of them and getting the showman to sell out the girlfriend might have been a better goal, if not as dramatic a one.  Given that there don’t seem to be any hints that I could discover on a rewatch, I don’t have a great desire to rewatch the movie to discover those hints, and the plot and performances are good but not overwhelming.  It’s a pretty decent Virtue Horror/Psychological Torment movie though, and so it goes into the box of movies that I might rewatch at some point instead of the movie that I want to try to sell at some point.

So, for Shudder, so far it’s three decent ones and two bad ones.  I really do think that they’ve learned which movies work and which don’t and also might have more resources to put towards finding better unheralded movies, and so the later ones reflect that.  So I’ve gone from thinking that I probably should avoid their exclusives to thinking that I should definitely give ones that interest me a try, which is a great improvement.

Thoughts on “Darkest Hour”

December 29, 2021

So, it should surprise no one that I was interested in the movie “Darkest Hour”, since I have some interest in the politics and details of World War II.  I think I found it for a relatively low price and decided that I’d give it a try at some point.  With some time to spare on Christmas morning before I decided to cook my meal for the day, I sat down to watch the movie.

The thing about this movie is that it ultimately ends up being a movie that follows the life of Winston Churchill between the time he was elevated to Prime Minister to just after the defeat of France and the launch of the operation to rescue the army from Dunkirk, when he fights off a challenge to his authority from Chamberlain and Halifax that could have gotten him removed as Prime Minister.  But the reason I say that it follows his life is that while in general dramatic retellings of history tend to pick one main thread to follow and filter everything around that, “Darkest Hour” doesn’t do that.  One would think that Churchill fighting off the political challenge, and that thread gets the most attention, but there are lots of other scenes that have little or nothing to do with that, and the Dunkirk operation is given both a time and emotional importance that is rather out of place for that idea given that it isn’t used as ammunition by Churchill against his opponents, or even as an example that the people wanted to fight and that his opponents and War Cabinet were wrong about the will of the people and about not evacuating their soldiers.  So neither the Dunkirk crisis nor the political crisis seem to be the main threads, since the two of them aren’t connected to each other at all and both are too prominent to be a mere side thread to some other main story.  And it can’t be the invasion of France, because that really is a side note to all the other things going on.

So it could be a movie, instead, that focuses on Churchill as a man.  And it certainly does focus on him and on his flaws and relations to other people.  But again we don’t get enough scenes exploring his character for that to be the case.  He does things and we find out about him, but the point of the scenes never seems to be to show us the kind of man he is — even as an ambiguous character — and the ending focuses on his fighting off the challenge and with a notable speech, but it doesn’t come across as a defining moment for his character.  The movie could be focusing on the view of Churchill from his new secretary, but while she’s prominent in the scenes she’s in she’s entirely left out of a significant part of the movie, so that doesn’t work either.

That’s why I say that it’s a movie following Churchill through those days, because there is no other consistent thread in the movie other than that Churchill is moving through some crucial days leading up to The Battle of Britain.

That being said, other than that lack of a main thread it’s a well-written movie.  The dialogue and scenes mostly work, and Gary Oldman gives a really good performance as Churchill.  All we’re seeing are things that are happening, and yet the things are interesting and given an emotional gravitas that comes entirely from the performances and what we remember about the times as opposed to coming from the main thread.  That made it an entertaining movie and one that despite its political subject matter didn’t leave me bored.

Which, then, means that the most interesting thing about the movie is about whether or not I’d watch it again.  I liked the movie and was entertained by it, so you’d think it would go into the closet of the movies that I would definitely rewatch.  And yet, after watching it and liking it, I don’t have any great desire to watch it again.  In fact, I have more desire to watch or read or get some kind of real historical biography instead of watching this again, at least in part to determine what things in it are invented and which really happened.  I think the reason for this is that I’m not really into historical dramatizations.  The closet thing that I have that is one is “Hogan’s Heroes”, and that obviously isn’t any kind of real historical dramatization.  I am more interested in the documentary-style books and movies about history than about the dramatizations, probably because I want to know more and also am interested in all of the political, personal and military aspects of such events (for a war, and I tend to prefer military history to anything else).  So the lack of a central thread makes it work less well for me as a drama and it is too much of a drama to work for me as a history.  So it’s good and enjoyable, but not something that I want to watch on a regular basis.  So it will go into my box of movies to rewatch at some point in the future, but not to rewatch regularly.

“I Could Never Get Past the Title”

December 28, 2021

That quote from “Batman:  The Animated Series” is Bruce Wayne talking about why he’s never watched the movie that I’m actually going to talk about in this post:  “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  I’ve developed a mild interest in watching some of the classic movies that I never got around to watching, and when I found this one on sale for a reasonable price — it’s labeled as the “Platinum Anniversary Edition”, which would mean that it’s a five year old edition — I decided that I’d give it a try.  And since it’s noted as a Christmas classic, it seemed appropriate to watch it on Christmas Eve (which is when Batman was supposed to watch it).

Now, as a Christmas classic, it’s obviously noted for being at least important, if not really good.  That being said, I’ve heard people complain about it dragging and being boring, although not that many people whose opinions on movies I really respected, so there’s that.  So I was interested in seeing for myself how the movie worked.

The one thing that is accurate is the fact that despite what everyone remembering about the premise is the part with the angel and with the angel showing the main character what his life would be like if he had never been born, that actually takes up a surprisingly small amount of the running time of the movie.  About an hour and a half of the two hour movie is instead dedicated to showing us the main character’s life up to that point and how he got to the point where he was contemplating suicide and all of his friends and loved ones were praying for him to get some help.  What the movie does do well is introduce the angel early and present that part of the story as the angel getting briefed on what he needed to know to help the main character, which then sets that up as a framing device and suggests that we need to know that as well.  The downside of that is that after bringing it up once in the first half of the movie as a reminder, we spend about an hour of the movie just following along with the main character’s life, which then causes us to lose that framing and turns it into more of a straight drama, losing the unique aspect that everyone remembers it for.

What this also does is make it so that there’s an imbalance in the movie between how the main character’s life went to get him to this point vs how things would have been if he had never been born.  The latter is given short shrift, but given the framing device and that it’s supposed to be what causes him to realize that his life really does have meaning it really would have been better to give it more time.  The movies and works that follow tend to do that, balancing showing us his life and all the characters and what has gone wrong to bring him to this point with what life would be like if he had never been born so that we can see that his life has had a strong and meaningful impact on the people around him and those he loves, and in this case on the town itself.  Here, we get a long look at his life up to this point, but what life would be like if he had never been born is a bit rushed.

This also, then, causes some issues with creating an alternate reality that can resolve all of the issues that were raised during the depiction of his life up to this point.  For example, one of the most important things that should make the main character want to live is the impact of his never being born on his wife, whom he clearly does love.  Except that the big issue for her is … that she ends up unmarried and working as a librarian.  Yes, in 1946 that would seem to be a worse fate than it would today, but even still that’s not exactly horrific.  It also doesn’t fit well with the rest of the story, because she was being courted by someone else — a wealthy man — and we would have expected that she would have ended up married to him.  Nothing in their history together suggests that she would have become some kind of wallflower or something, and so the only reason to think that she would end up unmarried is because she insisted that he was the only one she wanted to marry, which would probably not apply in a world where he was never born.  In other works, in general she would marry the rival and it would turn out to be a terrible life for her, but her beau there is actually ultimately a sympathetic character so that wouldn’t work here.  But it’s still a bit odd and a bit of a letdown.

His impact on other people is also a bit short.  He saved his brother’s life as a child, and the main thing they focus on is his saving a transport as a pilot in the war, and while their deaths when he wouldn’t be there are tragic, given the deaths in the war itself and that it didn’t seem to impact the battle at all it doesn’t really add any impact beyond the brother being dead itself would, which makes it superfluous.  While the impact on the pharmacist that he worked for is greater — he stopped him from making a mistake that would kill a child and get him sent to prison for a number of years — that’s just an aside in the story.  We don’t really see the huge impact that he’s had on individual lives that such a movie would generally demand.

The impact on the town is a bit better, as his work at his father’s Building and Loan business allows people to rise up from the “slums” of Potter and be able to own their own homes, which is something that they could take pride in.  However, again that only becomes clear because Potter is just a terrible person, and so seeing him win would make us want to see a world where he didn’t.  But the issue with this is that there was an underlying thread throughout the recollections of his life that the main character always wanted to leave Bedford Falls, but circumstances kept him there.  So there was an undercurrent that he cared for the people but not the town of Bedford Falls, and that if it wasn’t for the obligations that he felt to the various people in the town he would have left.  So at the end, what we would have liked was to see that he came to appreciate the town as it was and resolved that issue.  Instead, what we get is a callback to an earlier scene where he gives his honeymoon money to keep people afloat and keep the business open, as when his uncle has the money they need to keep the business running stolen and that loss would end up with the main character being arrested his wife manages to rally the town to put together whatever money they can to bail him out (and his wealthy friend also is tracked down and authorizes a loan to deal with more than the entire amount) and so we get to see that the people in the town repay him for his generosity in the past, which works well because Potter — who stole the money and called the police on him — actually says when the main character begs Potter for help that the main character should turn to the deadbeats that he supported in the past, and so they ultimately do indeed prove his faith in them.  But while that is heartwarming and fits with the movie, it does leave the thread of his constantly wanting to leave the town unresolved.

All of that being said … the movie does work.  The threads of the main character’s life are interesting enough and let us get to know him and his family enough for us to want to see him not commit suicide and get out of the jam he’s in.  Potter is also villainous enough that we want to see him defeated and can see it as a conflict between big, impersonal business and the local guy who cares for the people he serves.  So despite it running longer than we’d expect, the recollections of his life aren’t boring and aside from a few things that seem like asides do indeed seem to be things that we need to know to understand how he got to this point.  Once it gets to the point where we are seeing how life would be different if he had never been born, again the only real complaint is that it’s too short, and perhaps at times a bit too frantic and manic.  But the ending follows from a lot of the movie and is, indeed, heartwarming in its own way.

The movie, overall, is well-written and well-performed, which is why it could keep my interest for two hours despite losing the framing device for a while.  One oddity is that Mary — the main character’s wife — is supposed to be upstaged in terms of attractiveness by rival Violet, but Mary is actually always better looking than Violet is, although that can be explained by the fact that Violet is far more flirtatious than Mary.  Still, I think that most people and most people at the time would definitely prefer Mary to Violet.  At any rate, the movie is entertaining enough and I will likely watch it again at some point, although it is unlikely to become a full Christmas tradition for me.

Under the Mask: How Any Person Can Become Batman

December 27, 2021

The next essay in “Batman and Philosophy” is “Under the Mask: How Any Person Can Become Batman” by Sarah K. Donovan and Nicholas P. Richardson.  This essay claims that one must adopt the philosophies of Michel Foucault and Friedrich Nietzsche in order to properly become Batman.  Specifically, one must accept the idea that we have multiple identities that are constructed and that there’s no real self, and also the idea that truth itself is constructed and that there is no real, absolute truth either.  This, it seems, would then require them to accept that there is no real difference between the sane and the insane, as evidenced by how Batman and his Rogue’s Gallery are far more similar than Batman, at least, would really like.

The problem with the essay is that even given the examples they use there isn’t really a good connection between Batman and the philosophies they claim he had to adopt, which is a pretty serious weakness in an essay with the framing device that he had to adopt them in order to become Batman.  Tying together some representations of the bat that various characters encounter, they try to argue that only by adopting those notions can Bruce Wayne survive his encounter with the bat and come to adopt it as his symbol.  Except that even in their sources for the most part the bat doesn’t redefine him, but instead becomes the symbol of his redefinition, and as their own quotes show he uses it pragmatically:  to inspire fear in criminals the way it inspires fear in those who are not criminals.  The founder of Arkham Asylum sees the bat itself as a threat, and that fear drives him insane.  Batman squelches the fear, which allows him to harness it against the criminals.  In general, the question of identity when it comes to Batman is which of the identities is really him.  You can argue that this very conflict proves that there is no true identity, but Batman himself clearly thinks that he has one, even if he — and his companions — aren’t sure which one is the real one.  (In “Batman Beyond”, for example, at one point he insists that he knew that the voices inside his head weren’t a sign that he was insane because they called him “Bruce”, and he doesn’t call himself “Bruce” in his head, suggesting that he thinks of himself as Batman and not as Bruce Wayne).

That leads us to the question of whether sanity and normality are just socially constructed elements that are not in an important sense real.  Batman clearly thinks that there is a clear line between what is sane and what is insane, and his Rogue’s Gallery tends to demonstrate that quite clearly.  The question is not over whether sane and insane have any sensible meaning, but whether Batman, for all the good he does, falls on the insane side of that line, and whether someone would need to be insane to do the good things he does, or whether his own special brand of insanity is an impediment to the important work that he is trying to do.  But again, Batman does not accept that there is no such distinction, and so it doesn’t seem like that is required to become Batman.  Maybe the issues around him and the Joker show that sanity and insanity are socially defined concepts that could be reversed in the right sort of world or society, but Batman certainly doesn’t believe that.

So it seems like this essay is an attempt to explore or link those philosophies to Batman by the strong link of arguing that they must be adopted to become Batman, and yet it doesn’t manage to show in any way that Batman himself has accepted them, nor that they are necessary in order for someone to become Batman.  Thus, it doesn’t show how anyone can become Batman.

I’m Really a Traditionalist

December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the reader of my blog.

Don’t you mean “the readers”?

No, WordPress says it’s still pretty much just the one.

Comprehensive Comments on “Tales From the Darkside”: Disk 8

December 25, 2021

I think that what I thought about season three in the last post still holds here:  the performances are good and at times the dialogue and the like is really good, but ultimately pretty much every episode does something to pretty much ruin it and turn it from an episode that I might have liked to one that I don’t care for.  Sometimes it’s that the episode meanders too much in the middle that leaves the ending confusing or unsatisfying.  Sometimes the ending itself is the problem.  But to my mind almost every episode has a fatal flaw that results in it not being a very entertaining episode, at least to me.  And if it doesn’t do that, then it most often ends up being boring.

So let’s look at the second disk of episodes from season 3.

The first episode is “A Serpent’s Tooth”, where a mother living with her two children in their twenties is quite frustrated with their life choices.  The son dropped out studying to be a dentist to study agriculture (hoping to do something meaningful, which seems quite strange to me) and the daughter is dressed as a punk rocker and is dating what turns out to be a jock-type and seems to be clearly sleeping with him, and there are no prospects for him marrying the daughter.  There’s also a neighbour boy who comes over to borrow some salt but since his family seems to be moochers the mother denies him the salt and he makes a face at her.  She laments to a family friend that all she wants is for her children to listen to her, and so he gives her a serpent’s tooth that supposedly will do that, but he comments that she should be careful what she wishes for.  It turns out that the tooth is a pretty literalist genie, and so it takes her off-hand comments as wishes and so causes the son to lose his eyesight and catch a cold when she says that’s what he’s going to do reading so much, causes the daughter to sprain her ankle when the mother comments that she’s going to do that wearing the high heels that she’s wearing, and causes the neighbour boy’s face to stick in the funny face he makes to taunt her.  She then figures out what’s happening and declares that her chicken soup is the universal cure, which cures all of their ailments.  She then uses her wishing ability to push her children into doing what she wants them to do, and to push the neighbour boy to run errands for her, by threatening to wish bad things on them if they don’t.  However, when meeting her daughter’s boyfriend she makes an off-hand comment that he’s going to turn into a slice of some kind of dessert bread, and he does, and then comments about the ranting neighbour boy throwing a fit over only get a dollar for running around the entire city to get her some bread at which points he throws an actual fit and is in medical distress.  She talks to her friend again with the family and he says that this is how it works and that she needs to be careful, and her children convince her to give up the tooth … but then they start acting the way they did before and the mother picks up the tooth again, and the daughter calls her out on using it again and the mother declares that if any mother loves their children as much as she does may she turn into a pillar of salt … and so she does, but because of that the children listen to her now which means she gets her wish after all.

When this episode started, I thought that they were going to go for the standard line where she does make wishes for what seem to be the best interests of her children but the wishes turn out to have unforeseen consequences that cause disaster.  Instead, they went with the tooth interpreting non-wish statements as wishes which causes the issues.  Which, okay, fine, I think the other way would have worked better but this can work as well.  But they quickly forget that they discovered that she can use statements and wishes to undo wishes, and so when she’s all panicked about what she’s done with the latest round I was indeed thinking that she could just undo them, which she never does.  Also, it makes no sense that when she was turned into a pillar of salt that her children would start listening to her, and none of that was set up in advance.  The episode actually set up them killing her to escape her wishes better than that ending, so it comes completely out of nowhere and wasn’t all that interesting besides.  So, overall, the episode doesn’t work despite some good performances and an interesting if not entirely creative idea.

The second episode is “Baker’s Dozen”, where an ad man comes to a small bakery to try to negotiate for the bakery to give him their ad business since it would give him a huge boost in starting his own agency, and threatens to figure out and reveal the special ingredients in the cookies that make them so wonderful if she doesn’t.  She agrees, and the helper — who seems to be forced to work there — presses some special cookies on him to help him bring the owner down, which he derides since he’s hoping to make his fortune through her.  He discovers that the gingerbread men that he was given can be used as a sort of voodoo doll, and uses that to make his fortune.  However, as his supply of cookies dwindles so do his fortunes, and he returns to the woman to demand more cookies.  She points out that he never did get the surge in business from helping her expand as he expected, and notes that that was because of her.  He threatens to use his last cookie against her, and she laughs it off.  He goes home and his wife — who had expected that he was cheating on her for most of the episode — finds the cookie and sees lipstick on it, which makes her think that he is indeed having an affair with his secretary and crushes it, which crushes him.  Meanwhile, the owner notes to the helper — who was her father who abandoned her and her mother, which is why she is keeping him there with her magic — turns him into a rat again for trying to fight her, but he’s hidden one of the gingerbread men and eats it, which presumably finally kills her.

The ending resolutions don’t really make sense from the perspective of what the episode has done before, and are kinda anticlimactic.  Why did the helper try to solicit the adman’s help to kill the owner when he could have done that himself, especially given that the only reason the adman was there was because he thought being associated with the woman would be in his self-interest so he was quite unlikely to actually do anything other than what he did.  And the wife killing him off with the cookie isn’t really ironic, especially since he wasn’t actually cheating on her, and so doesn’t seem to follow from the rest of it except the brief scene where they establish that she thought he was cheating on her.  That makes the endings unsatisfying, which then can’t result in a good episode.

The third episode is “Deliver Us From Goodness”, where we meet a woman and her family where the husband is running for mayor and trying to get someone to manage his campaign, and in doing so the woman ends up glowing as she talks about what she can bring to the campaign and then summons fried chicken from the sky since he’s allergic to what she served, which chases him off.  Things like this and heavenly choruses following her around keep happening, which is putting a strain on her husband’s campaign.  It turns out that she’s a literal saint, and since it’s hurting her family she tries to sin enough to lose her purity and so not be a saint anymore.  However, despite breaking all the Ten Commandments it isn’t working, and so a family acquaintance notes that she’s still sinning altruistically, to help her family, and so needs to embrace being a saint out of pride which will then be a big enough since that’s also legitimate to eliminate the saintliness.  So she tries to embrace that and promote herself as a saint, which does eventually result in her falling from grace — but then it passes to her very sinful friend who gave her the advice for her rather small good deed.

This is an episode that is too silly to be taken seriously, but also doesn’t seem to be very funny.  Sure, there are some moments but for the most part it almost seems like they are playing it too straight for it to be really funny.  Perhaps they were hoping that simply playing the ridiculous premise straight would be funny on its own, but it really fell flat for me.  There is a consistent pattern in this show of having somewhat ridiculous premises that seem to mean that the episode was meant to be comedic but the episode doesn’t deliver the comedic payoff, and this is one of them.

The fourth episode is “Seasons of Belief”, where on Christmas Eve a couple are insisting that they and their young children are going to have a traditional Christmas, which means no television, which results in the children being bored.  The parents are asked to tell them a story, and decided to tell them a scary story about the Gither, who is a creature that lives at the North Pole and comes after people who say its name, and they end up soliciting the children’s uncle to help scare them into believing it.  This freaks the children out, but eventually they tell the children that the Gither and Santa Claus don’t exist — the children already didn’t think Santa existed, which I found a bit depressing given how young they looked — and so there’s nothing to fear.  And then the Gither breaks through the windows and kills the parents in front of the horrified children and uncle.

The show somehow managed to get really good performances out of children, and so out of the episodes many of the better if flawed ones involve children (“I Can’t Help Saying Goodbye” is the only really good episode featuring them, but the episodes with children often seem more tolerable than the ones without them).  The ending here is random and shocking, but it comes across less as the parents being hoisted by their own petards and more that these children will be traumatized by what happened when they didn’t do anything wrong.  This doesn’t really ruin the episode, though, but what most bothers me is that the parents seem awfully mean to the kids and spend the entire night traumatizing them, which ties into the ending doing that all the more and was a bit annoying to watch given that the children are pretty sympathetic.

The fifth episode is “Miss May Deusa”, where given the title and the introduction we quickly learn involves Medusa being freed from I think looking at herself in a mirror which keeps her in a mannequin form by a thief who looks her in the eye and gets turned himself.  She heads down to a subway station and meets a man playing the saxophone, and they get to talking and start to get attracted to each other, and then as they kiss he takes off her dark glasses and looks her in the eye, but doesn’t turn, which makes her think for some reason that she must be cured and so she destroys her dark glasses, only to discover that he’s blind which is why looking her in the eye didn’t cause him to turn.  At first, she’s enraged that he didn’t tell her, but then realizes that this could give her love but has to return to where she started for some reason to get a new pair of dark glasses before she can go home with the blind guy, but while there she looks at herself in a mirror, which freezes her and frees the thief, and when the blind man goes in to find out what happened to her the thief shoots him, and he dies on the floor of the warehouse calling out for her.

There isn’t much to this other than the interaction between the two, but the episode could have worked except for the ending.  There was no reason why she needed to get the glasses right away, and if she had gone to his place he probably had a spare set anyway.  And then it ends with the blind man calling out for her melodramatically when a more subdued idea where he simply loses her and doesn’t know where she went would have been more poignant.  Another episode where the ending makes the episode less enjoyable than it could have been.

The sixth episode is “The Milkman Cometh”, where a man who is struggling to make ends meet and support his family is told by his son that people are leaving wishes for the milkman and they’re coming true.  He starts leaving messages asking for a raise, money and for his wife to conceive — they had recently lost a baby — and he starts gaining money, which he claims he made at the track.  A friend of his is also doing that but has told his wife, while the man here hasn’t yet.  His wife finds out as he is trying to meet the milkman — which is a no-no — and gets upset by that.  He ends up asking for the baby to come quickly for whatever reason, and falls asleep across his threshold, but when he wakes up in the morning his son brings down the baby but it turns out to be some kind of horrible creature.

This is a nonsensical episode.  We never learn what the milkman’s deal was or why he did it, nor do we get anything more than an implication that those requests have a cost — the friend’s wife is killed in an accident and, of course, the horrific baby — and so we don’t have any idea what is going on, and so are stuck watching a fairly standard family do standard things, which isn’t that interesting for a horror show.

The seventh episode is “My Ghostwriter — The Vampire”, where a moderately successful horror writer is writing a terrible vampire novel while being chided for it by his assistant, who also wants him to get her novel looked at.  He is then confronted by a vampire who is upset about how he portrays vampires but offers a deal where the vampire will give him details from his past to write down as horror novels if the writer will keep him in the house.  He agrees, but after publishing one hugely successful novel kills the vampire with a silver knife (which might have been a reference to earlier when his assistant notes more creative ways to kill a vampire).  The assistant arrives and cuts herself on the knife, but discovers the vampire stuff and is intrigued despite the writer’s attempts to hide it, and then bleeds onto the vampire’s remains which resurrects him, and so he kills the writer when he runs into the room with the coffin to check (out of sight of the assistant).  He then moves into the room with the assistant and threatens to kill her to cover up his trail, but the assistant is wearing all sorts of crosses and the like so he can’t, so she offers to take the same deal that the writer had, and the vampire gets her to cover up and remove her earrings and looks like he’s going to bite her, but instead he just kisses her on the neck and cheek to seal the deal and they walk off together.

That the writer would turn on the vampire so quickly is never explained, and ultimately shows that not much happens in this episode outside of conversation as all the plot points seemed rushed.  This strikes me as being an episode where the idea was too big for the run length and the episode didn’t really do much with it to get it to work, even though the writing and performances are fine.

So season three does seem to be proceeding as expected:  decent to good performances and dialogue, but subpar stories. I’ll see how that works out in the last disk of season three.

Jonathan MS Pearce’s Critical Examinations: Joseph of Arimathea

December 24, 2021

So this is all covered in one chapter in Pearce’s book “The Resurrection”, but it takes up only about 10 pages.  The big thing that I’m not going to talk about in detail is the claim that we can’t find the supposed city or area of Arimathea that he supposedly came from, but that if the name is broken down one can read out a supposedly meaningful title which would then indicate that he was a literary invention.  That he’s in all four of the Gospels and so would have to start from Mark who is, as noted by Pearce, not as inclined towards inventing characters or tying things to prophecies works against this interpretation.  It might be true, but this is one case where we have to believe that this was part of Christian lore and the Jesus narrative for a long time across a lot of threads, and so that it was just invented would require a lot more evidence than that, even if that’s actually correct.  So the challenges to the narrative are more important here than what seems like an important contradiction of the facts.  If the story can hold up, then either the name was lost and replaced with one that might have that meaning or else it was a real place that we haven’t found yet.

Of course, Pearce doesn’t think that the narrative holds up, and since I’m focusing on the narratives that’s what I’m going to focus on.

The four Gospels are actually pretty close in how they describe the events here.  At the end of the day, Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body to be released to him.  Pilate agrees, and Joseph has him laid in a new tomb that no one else had been buried in yet.  The importance of this is to explain how Jesus was laid into a tomb so that He could be resurrected from it later, which is thus important to establish the claim of the empty tomb which provides “proof” that Jesus was resurrected and not just buried and forgotten.  So the narrative here needs to establish that Joseph had reason to claim the body, and the means to both claim it and have it be buried in a tomb.

Pearce, it seems to me, provides another example of digging too deeply into claims in an attempt to show them unreasonable when he claims this:

There is no reason why the Gospel author would mention Joseph as a rich man.  It seems this is another example of the prophecy fulfillment (page 150).

Pearce does point to a line in Isaiah that refers to Jesus having been buried with a rich man, but the claim that there was no reason for them to mention Joseph being rich otherwise makes no sense.  There are lots of reasons to mention him as being rich and/or prominent.  First, to provide an explanation for why he’d have access to a tomb (some accounts claim it was his).  Second, to provide an explanation for why he’d be able to get access to Pilate to be able to claim the body.  Third — although less critically — to explain why he would do that without having to fear reprisals from the religious authorities himself.  Being someone with power and authority but who doesn’t owe that authority to the Jerusalem leaders means that he doesn’t have to support their position and could toss the threat that the religious leaders threw at Pilate back at them (at least in my version):  they could go after him for giving the criminal a proper burial, but then his supporters would cause trouble for them.  And since Joseph at this time would be more popular with Pilate than they were and would still be a wealthy and prominent man, they would be quite likely to just go with it and avoid any new problems.

Now, I couldn’t see it in the quotes given, but there seemed to be some kind of narrative somewhere about not wanted dead bodies to hang on the crosses through the evening and/or into the Sabbath (Pearce mentions it on page 153 and talks about it a lot in the next chapter).  Pearce himself talks quite a bit about this, so I can use the idea that the Jews didn’t want the dead bodies hanging on the cross seemingly because that could bring a curse on them.  If this is true, then there is more to Joseph doing this and being a member of the Council than we might think, because this situation is a bit more complicated than Pearce thinks:

I can’t imagine that Pilate would normally care about such petty things as taking a body down from a cross to fulfill Jewish laws, as it would probably be happening every day or, at least, very often (page 153).

This is to question why a special request would need to be made at all.  And Pearce is right to say that under normal circumstances, we’d presume that some kind of standard procedure would be in place to deal with the fact that the Jews don’t want dead bodies to hang on an execution device into the evening (they believed that it ran the risk of them being cursed by God) while the Romans liked to leave the bodies hanging as long as possible as an object lesson to others.  However, given what happened this was indeed a special case, which I’ll weave into my narrative that tries to resolve the purported contradictions.

Jesus was, indeed, technically executed under the auspices of the Romans.  However, that execution was clearly at the instigation of the Jewish leaders, and as both the Gospels and my own account note Pilate made it abundantly clear that the responsibility for the deaths should fall on them.  So it’s easy to imagine, then, that the Council started to worry that if they are responsible for the execution of Jesus then that curse might fall upon them.  If they had performed the execution themselves, then they would clearly be responsible, but would clearly have the authority to take the dead bodies down.  If Jesus was just someone who violated Roman law, then they wouldn’t have that authority, but then the violation of Jewish law and the associated curse would fall on the Romans, which wouldn’t bother them that much.  So in cases where the execution was Roman, it’s actually possible that they just let the Romans do what they would normally do, safe and secure in the fact that any curse would fall on the Romans and not themselves, and in the cases where they did the execution then they’d obviously follow Jewish law.  But in this case the jurisdiction is a lot more complicated.

So I could easily see the religious leaders getting worried about this, and being unsure about whether the curse would fall on them or on the Romans.  But they certainly wouldn’t want to go against the Roman custom on their own, especially since Pilate was probably not all that happy with them at the moment.  So they needed someone to approach Pilate and ask for the body, and Joseph volunteered to do it.

Now, why would Joseph do that?  Well, at a minimum we’d want him to have a reason beyond just ensuring that they aren’t cursed, because otherwise Pearce’s comment that he would have just buried Jesus in a criminal’s grave would make sense.  So at a minimum he doesn’t think that Jesus was really a criminal.  He at least would have thought that if the Council wanted to execute a perceived threat to their power, they should have just done it themselves instead of trying to push the responsibility off on the Romans.  He also likely would have believed that what Jesus was saying wasn’t really seditious or blasphemy anyway.  He might even have believed that what Jesus was saying made sense and so secretly supported Him.  At any rate, he was pleasantly disposed towards Jesus, wasn’t part of the negotiations with Pilate and so wasn’t disliked by him at the moment, was prominent enough to get an audience without having to claim that he was from the religious authorities, and had a reason to want to take charge of the burial to avoid Jesus being buried as a criminal.

I think that Joseph wasn’t a disciple in the sense of being one of the Twelve.  The only mention of his being one is in John, and it doesn’t seem likely that he could be a secret member of the Twelve.  So at most Joseph would be a disciple in the sense that he wasn’t in any way official, at least, and still think it more likely that he was just a supporter.  This deals with Pearce’s arguments that if Joseph was a disciple why didn’t he co-ordinate with the others and with Mary and Mary Magdalene to tell them where Jesus was buried and why Joseph wasn’t mentioned in any of the later works.  As someone who was merely a supporter, he may not have liked or trusted the disciples enough to take them into his confidence, or even known enough about them to seek them out, and as merely a supporter despite being prominent he may not have done anything important enough to make it into the narratives.  As a member of the Twelve we might have expected it, but he almost certainly wasn’t one of the Twelve and so these aren’t interesting questions.

Anyway, to finish this off, Joseph likely wanted to ensure that Jesus was not buried as a criminal, and so took charge of the body to bury it in a tomb instead of a criminal’s grave.  He likely planned to leave it in that tomb for the year and then return it to Jesus’ family, which was allowed by Jewish law according to Pearce (in later chapters).  There are also the discussions about leaving it in the tomb overnight due to the Sabbath restrictions, and so Joseph may well have used that as an excuse and planned to never actually remove it.  As for the fact that others would likely have been buried there as well and that the families wouldn’t have wanted them to be buried with criminals, Joseph being prominent and respected could have pointed out that this was all illegitimate and so they didn’t need to worry about that at all.  And if the Council pressured him he could always push back with his wealthy and influence to get them to drop the issue.

Now, one final thing.  I don’t need to add the points about the Council needing to have the body removed and Joseph stepping forward.  I only added it because Pearce makes a big deal out of that.  As stated, Joseph is a prominent man who, finding that Jesus was already dead, asked Pilate if he could take the body.  His prominence would still protect him from the Jewish authorities, his support of Jesus would explain why he wants to save Jesus from a criminal grave, and his prominence would explain why Pilate would listen to him, and Pilate already has good reason to at least not care about whether Jesus was treated strictly as a criminal by Jewish law.  And being a mere supporter and upright man could explain why he participates in this scene and fades out afterwards.  So it actually holds up fairly well on its own, which is odd for a purported issue that gets its own chapter in the book.

Thoughts on Why I Like the Silent Hill Movies

December 23, 2021

So, let’s take a break from looking at new horror movies to talk about some ones that I’ve already watched and already made it into the closet to rewatch, and that I in fact recently rewatched:  “Silent Hill” and “Silent Hill:  Revelation”.  Now, neither of these are movies that the critics actually enjoyed, although they like “Silent Hill” a little bit better than “Silent Hill:  Revelation”.  So these should be movies that I graded low and tossed in a closet.  Of course, I watched and likely even bought them long before I ever started doing these posts, but even on rewatches I still do enjoy them, despite what the critics say about them.  So why is that?

I have to admit that I like “Silent Hill:  Revelation” a lot better than “Silent Hill”, but the latter is kinda required viewing for the former.  One thing that likely helps me enjoy them more is that while the story was changed significantly in “Silent Hill” at least there is a connection to a broader world from the video games that I can relate to.  A lot of the complaints I have about horror movies is that the plots are not explained and the elements of them aren’t paid off, but in “Silent Hill” there’s a background that I can easily rely on to get the gist of the world and fill in gaps that the movie might leave.  (The ironic thing here is that all of this is by osmosis from what people like Shamus Young have said about it.  I own a number of the Silent Hill games — including 3, which was the basis for “Revelation” — but I only played 2 for any significant amount of time, which is the game that is left out in these two movies).

But I have to also note that “Revelation” is the sort of horror movie that I really like, as I joked that it should be called “Exposition” because it spends most of its time explaining things with the horror sequences tossed in to remind everyone that this is indeed actually a horror movie.  But I really, really like that sort of horror, where we find out all the horrible things that are going on and so have an intellectual context for it.  That’s why I liked “Rose Red” so much, and why I really like the early sections of “The Blair Witch Project” where they are doing the documentary part and am not as fond of the later parts which are supposed to be the really scary ones.  So despite its flaws, it hits all of the notes that I want a movie to hit, which is why I like it so much.

For “Silent Hill”, the game gives me a background for the world and I like Radha Mitchell’s Rose, which lets me go through the movie and enjoy it, which is more than I can say for some of the other movies I watch.  So that’s why I like it as well.

And finally, despite the flaws, I’d argue that the movies are in general competently done, and basic competence seems to be something that’s rare in the movies I watch.  All you’d need to do, then, to get to the closet for rewatches is have a plot for me to follow and be generally competent.  That so many of the movies I watch may not reach that point may be a reflection of the fact that my selection process biases me towards what would be called “B-Movies” in the past — as I buy the cheap ones — but also may be a reflection of how so many of those movies can’t even manage that.

(Note that I’d consider “The Thing” competent in its movie-making, but find the plot and explanations for the elements insufficient in a movie where there’s really nothing else to do but wonder about that.  This is also an issue with some modern movies, but they do a worse job of it than “The Thing” did.  Part of my annoyance with that movie is that it could have been better and better used its premise and, in my opinion, didn’t).

So that’s what you need to do to get to the rewatch closet:  explain your plot and be competent.  Very few of the movies I’ve watched over these past years for these posts have managed that, which is a real pity.

More MMO Playing

December 22, 2021

So, it’s still the case that I’m giving three different MMOs one morning a week each to try them out and see how they’re going.  I’ve played a ton of The Old Republic and have talked about it a lot, so I won’t talk about it too much — except as a comparison to the others — and instead will focus on Star Trek Online and Dark Age of Camelot.

I finally hit a point in Star Trek Online where it seems like a mission is either too high a level for me or I haven’t upgraded my ship enough to complete it.  I did really well in the ground missions and pretty well in the first space missions, but I think in the last one — “Locked On Target” — I have to destroy a couple of Klingon Raptors and Vor’cha class ship and I find that I’m not doing very much damage at all to them, and have actually been getting destroyed in the fights, causing me to respawn.  The last time I was having even close to this much trouble was when I was brought to the future and didn’t manage to swap out my starting ship, so I suspect that the issue is with the ship rather than with my strategy, unless there’s a trick to it (using the metrion gas, maybe?).  Anyway, I also discovered that you can do patrols and the like completely by accident — I think you need to just fly around on your own instead of plotting a course to a specific system — and so might try to do that a bit the next time I log in.  But I was enjoying the missions and so am now a bit disappointed that I don’t seem to be able to continue the chain, at least for a bit.

The big problem with STO is that it doesn’t really explain, well, anything very well.  I pick up equipment from quests and the like, but have no idea how I’m supposed to actually use it or if it matters.  I don’t know how to get new ships, or when I need to.  I don’t know if a mission is hard because it’s too far above my level or because I’m underequipped or because I haven’t adopted the right strategy.  I don’t know if there are other quests out there or things that I could or should be doing to keep my levels and equipment up.  And so on and so forth.  I’ve looked through the help on occasion and it doesn’t seem to help all that much.  I like the Star Trek feel of the game, but that all goes away once I hit something that’s too difficult for me.

Amazingly, for an old-school MMO, Dark Age of Camelot is far, far better at this than STO is.  While I think I lucked out in that I completely by accident started doing extra quests before I discovered that I was supposed to go to Camelot and get a bunch of quests, so I ended up overlevelled for those quests, which meant that walking around in the world to get to those quests was a lot easier than it should have been.  But DAoC is really good at telling you what the level of the quests you’re facing are and what the level of the monsters you’re facing are.  So in some of the quests I came across the quests MOBs that were too high a level for me, and so knew to go away and do other things and come back later.  And I seem to be getting enough XP from the quests themselves to gain levels and so never get stuck.  And there seem to be a lot of quests around (more than I remember, actually) and so I at least at this point always have something to do.  And DAoC is pretty fun when I’m running around doing things instead of trying to find something to do.  I did manage to figure out how to ride a horse, but I’m not sure that the horse moves that much faster than I could run.

So I can compare the three games’ approach to their world and their open world.  Star Trek Online seems to be open from the start, but its quest line pushes you to the story missions and it isn’t at all clear if there are or where there are other missions or other things to do.  Dark Age of Camelot, on the other hand, doesn’t have an overarching story or story quests, and so it tosses you out into the open world, but it has lots and lots and lots of different quests to do, and quests that take you from area to area so that you can pick up quests in that other area, and so on and so forth.  I kept filling up my journal with quests and whenever I knocked one off I picked up another one or two.  The Old Republic strikes a balance between the two, because the class story takes you from area to area and planet to planet in a linear fashion, but it also has lots of other quests available in all the areas and makes them quite visible for the most part (especially the planet missions now which get the same kind of purple marking as the story quests).  So if you need to grind a few levels because the enemies are too tough, you can always pick up the sidequests and overlevel yourself that way, which is what I used to do until the combination of the easier difficulty, more XP for story and planet quests, and bonuses from resting and from Major Experience Boosts made it so that all I needed to do were the story arcs to get enough levels to max out my levels and beat the game.

TOR’s model makes for a more linear game, with some customization and extra quests possible.  DAoC’s is a nice counterpoint to that.  STO’s, right now, isn’t quite working for me, but it might get better as I come to understand the game better.  Right now, I think I’ll play TOR and DAoC regularly and might play STO once a month or so to get in some fun Star Trek gameplay.