Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Seen in… July 

Last month I started exercising regularly again and sketching more often which, between showers and suppers, didn’t leave a lot of time for regular movie going. Still. Two movies? That was it? A blockbuster, an “indie” rom-com and a Netflix series? I guess I just spent more time running around Corktown Common, making pickles and grilling stuff. Usually in the summer, the air conditioning of a theatre is enough to make me go see any movie. This is definitely a perplexing lack of cineplexing. Turns out, I saw more movies last weekend than all of July.

Typical New York City moment, Spidey hanging out on a fire escape. Image via themovieDB.org

Spider-man: Homecoming
To compare this Spider-man with others, I re-watched both Sam Rami/Tobey Macguire Spider-man films and the first of the Amazing Spider-man movies with Andrew Garfield and if I'm being honest Emma Stone who is the perfect Gwen Stacey. Spider-man 2, where a lovelorn Peter Parker battles Doc Oc is a definite favourite of mine. Yet, there was so much to love about the young Brit Tom Holland. Scenes of Spidey sitting on a fire escape, mask pulled up halfway eating a sandwich or whiling away time hanging in a hammock spun from his own webbing harkened back to what makes Peter Parker such a relatable comic book hero. He's just a kid and Holland's body language and his way of speaking firmly rooted the character in his teen years (despite Holland being 21). The inclusion of the Vulture as the nemesis sealed the deal. The only thing I didn't like was the gadgetry of Spider-man's outfit. Not so much because the suit had bits and bods but that it was created by Tony Stark and given to Peter. In the comics, Peter Parker is good at science and making his own ingenious kit which we sometimes see him tinkering with to fix (he's not Batman, he can't afford to waste gizmos). Though the story certainly didn't take that ability from him and in fact, part of Peter's appeal to Tony Stark is that Stark sees Parker as a younger version of himself. One last trope from the original stories that makes its way into the movie is just what a crap driver Parker is (he's a New Yorker whose father figure died before he could learn). In my dreams, Spidey’s getaway man is Baby Driver.

Alison Brie wondering what has she got herself into. Image via themovieDB.org

Glow Season 1
GLOW aka the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is a new Netflix comedy/drama that adds to the number of women's stories that have suddenly appeared this year, as if producers suddenly realized women watch television. The comedy is fairly low key however, as is the drama now that I think of it. It seems odd to say that a story based on an actual 1980's women's only wrestling league is low key but that's how it felt to me. Perhaps it's the portrayal of the drabness of the 80s that made it seem that way. This show is also another attempt by Netflix to mine a wave of 80s nostalgia. It's strange to have become the target audience for a nostalgia trend. The show revels in the irony of the women's personalities outside of the ring with the cartoonish outsized characters they inhabit inside it. The diversity of the cast seems unremarkable in some ways but is in stark contrast to the stereotypes of their wrestling personas. One of the leads, Alison Brie, will be familiar to fans of Mad Men or Community and this role combines both her comedic and dramatic skills as a struggling actress who is just desperate enough to try this pro wrestling thing. Of note, Brie gets her top off at least twice in the first half of the first episode which admittedly was kind of jarring mostly because it felt exploitative and really seemed like they were trying to show just what kind of grown-up show it was. That said, yes sir, may I have another.

Kumail and Emily up in a tree&ellip; Image via themovieDB.org

The Big Sick
I laughed until emergency services arrived and placed me in a comedy induced coma. I awoke refreshed! This film is based on the real events that happened in the first year of the relationship of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily. Nanjiani is an American comedian with Pakistani roots whose traditional muslim family were only patient with his stand-up career because they assumed it was a phase before he went to law school and settled into an arranged marriage. In the film, he's stuck between wanting to live his own life and his parents' expectations. Meanwhile as his career is flatlining and he entertains his parents' ambitions he meets Emily who sets his heart afire. At some point Emily discovers Kumail's cache of wifely prospects (candidates of arranged marriages have headshots and resumes - like offline OK Cupid profiles) and rightly asks if they have a future. She storms out leaving Kumail both crestfallen and angry about being in the situation he's in. Weeks pass and out if the blue Emily's roommate calls to tell him she's in hospital. As the only person visiting her Nanjiani is suddenly thrust into the decision of placing Emily in a medically induced coma. Then he has to call her parents (played by Ray Romano and the indomitable Holly Hunter) who, it turns out are not at all fond of him. I'm sure I could've explained this a lot faster but this just isn't your standard rom-com. Especially the final 20 minutes when everything goes awry. It's full of laughs, emotional torment, social commentary about family and culture and arrives at a time when the United States is battling its worse inner demons about what being American means. Years from now when we can look back in amazement at 2017 this film will be at the top of everyone's zeitgeist playlists.

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Saturday, August 05, 2017

Another Breath Before Sleep 

The run
“I’m a coach driver letting his team of horses run.”
I leave the theatre accelerated. Past the stilettoed women, laughing and confident, past the coiffed young men, sneering and arrogant. I find my bike and begin to glide. I’m never sure where my late night adrenaline surge originates but it’s there. My afternoon rides home are sluggish and doleful by comparison. Whereas late at night I’m completely awake and my legs are so full of spite they feel like they might tear themselves free of my body and ride on without me. Perhaps it’s the darkness of the streets, spotlit by dim streetlights strobing beneath me which gives an illusion of speed but I feel like I am ripping over the tarmac without touching the surface at all. I slip through stymied traffic like a dry wind and all the while my legs carry me ever faster. I’m a coach driver letting his team of horses run. My back tightens while my knees pump the steel crank. Maybe it is the thick close cool night summer air that wills me to pedal so hard that I can feel the bike’s frame twist in my assured grip.

It’s these humid turbid nights when the ride starts chilly but soon enough I feel the sweat forming on my back like morning condensation on the hood of a car. At some point I break from the Entertainment District and past the valets and hotels and the city quietens and I take the side streets where the breeze through trees sounds like water lapping on a shoreline and my thin rubber tires rolling through shallow reflecting pools flit like swift flying insects buzzing by.

I’m surprised by the size and brightness of the full moon which I mistake as a streetlight above rooftops of low darkened apartments. The dank green acrid smells of laneways and all their putrid water anchors me back on earth. I dismount, unlock the gate and pour my bike through the back door with an easy fluency. I’m home, the surge ends and my energy drains away like I’m leaking blood from a huge wound. I wobble momentarily, my head swoons slightly and my hands shake from the sudden shock of stopping. The creeping sweat I was aware of before is now a deluge with my shirt and jeans sticking to my skin. I let it take its course and breathe deeply while allowing my arms to dangle lifelessly and my legs to slacken. Another breath and the tiredness of the hour sinks in. A glass of water before closing. A rinse and stretch before lying down. Another breath before sleep.