An aged film actress relates her life story to an interviewer and cameraman at her house. She draws them into her memories so they appear to be watching/filming her life from the sidelines, as she starts by explaining she only went into acting to locate a cute revolutionary artist she once met. Chiyoko’s transformations and the stagings and transitions of the flashbacks are wonderful, sliding through Japanese history and cinema – the movie could’ve happily gone on like this for another hour. Instead it has to wrap up, Chiyoko explaining that she didn’t need the boy, she just loved the pursuit, and the interviewer confessing that he’s a stalker from way back, and returns a memento he found during her studio years. Satoshi Kon’s second feature after Perfect Blue; I’ve also seen Paprika, and feel like his movies are good, but not getting why people think they’re the most amazing things in the whole world. A few years after this movie, Kon made the series Paranoia Agent, which is the most amazing thing in the whole world.

I finished two of these shows on the same day, deciding that’s a good amount of TV to write about, and wondering what to watch next. Looking through the archives I started numbering these posts retroactively, just to amuse myself, and this is roughly the 44th roundup of TV shows.


The Knick season 1 (2014)

It’s so hard to decide which Prestige TV Drama I am gonna waste 8-13 hours watching when they churn out a hundred per year and I get around to watching maybe one. This seemed safe, since it’s where Soderbergh had ended up after “retiring” from the film industry. But it took me a year to finish watching, and in that time Soderbergh has released two new films to theaters, so his fake retirement needn’t have been a factor. First half of the season is rocky, mostly unfun, with gruesome surgery scenes (most patients die) and a hella unlikable lead (moody racist drug addict Clive Owen), establishing a whole pile of characters, then the second half lets loose raining down all the drama in the world upon their heads. The writing is trash, actors mostly good, and the style pretty cool, with a terrifically unusual shot every couple scenes and bloopy Cliff Martinez music. Mobile camera, longish takes, some crazy subjective shots and a couple wicked angles per episode. But that trash writing weighs heavy upon the show, and after hate-watching the last couple eps, I’m skipping season two.

Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen, last seen in Valerian) is our hero, a brilliant doctor thinking ahead of his time, addicted to cocaine and morphine and a huge racist, though he becomes enlightened and suddenly stops being racist in episode six, just in time to defend against race-rioting whites in episode seven.

Nurse Elkins (Eve Hewson, a Hanks family member in Bridge of Spies) is the new nurse, sent to awaken Thack with coke injections before surgery. They’re having an affair by the end, and she’s on the drugs but not as hopelessly as he is.

Nurse Elkins:

Cornelia (Juliet Rylance of Sinister) is one of the hospital’s all-important rich benefactors. She goes on adventures with the health inspector tracking Typhoid Mary through the city, is a childhood friend of Dr. Edwards, and they have an affair but she decides to marry another rich white person with a pervert father instead.

Cornelia in distress:

Dr. Edwards (André Holland, Kevin in Moonlight) is just as brilliant as Thack, but black, so nobody respects him except Cornelia and post-racism Thack and he ends up opening his own secret clinic in the hospital basement. He’s asked to abort his own baby after getting Cornelia pregnant, is an excellent boxer, and likes to get his ass kicked in bar fights when frustrated.

The hospital boss is Barrow (Jeremy Bobb of the show Godless and Under the Silver Lake) who sometimes seems underwater from all the drama but can be very determined, like when he hires Thack’s opium dealer Wu to murder the gangsters who punched him in the dick. Other major doctors include young upcomer Bertie (Michael Angarano of Red State) whose dad wants him to work someplace nicer with a better salary, and pissy Everett (Eric Johnson, Flash Gordon in 2007) who was supposed to get the position that Edwards holds.

Doctors Edwards, Bertie, Everett Gallinger, Thackery:

And the others… Dr. Christiansen (Matt Frewer: Max Headroom, Trashcan Man in The Stand) was Thack’s mentor, kills himself in the first episode after the failure of an operation that the others later perfect. Tom Cleary (Chris Sullivan of Guardians of the Galaxy 2) is an ambulance driver who steals other hospitals’ patients and starts an underground business with abortionist nun Sister Harriet (Cara Seymour, abused Aunt Linda in Jack & Diane). Everett’s wife Eleanor (Zoe’s sister Maya Kazan, who would play a character named Zoe on Sleepy Hollow) loses her baby, kills the adopted replacement baby, then is sent to the booby hatch where they pull all her teeth. Dr. Zinberg (Michael Nathanson of TV’s The Punisher) is the Jewish doctor who Thack feels is his greatest rival. And Bunky (Danny Hoch of We Own the Night) was the lead gangster/loanshark/pimp killed by foot fetishist Wu (Perry Yung of John Wick 2). John Hodgman does not appear, despite a bunch of people kinda looking like John Hodgman.

Cleary and Barrow:

Bad Medicine: a pregnant woman is told to stick her belly in ice water. A nurse dies putting out an electrical fire with a bucket of water. Barrow puts his head in an x-ray machine for an hour. Thack’s ex Abby loses her nose to syphilis and gets her arm and nose grafted together. Holes are drilled in peoples’ heads, limbs are lost, things are burned and severed and pulled, and towards the end it’s all done without anesthesia because war in the Philippines has caused a cocaine shortage, causing Thack to go increasingly mental from withdrawal and kill a kid with a bad blood transfusion after misunderstanding how blood types work.

The stinger ending is the hospital shareholders vote to move uptown and Thack is given a new drug called heroin to cure his coke addiction.

The lighting is often quite nice:

Weirdly, the writer/creators are best known for a Kate Hudson romantic comedy, a Tim Allen Disney remake, and short-lived sitcoms starring Tony Danza and Jeff Foxworthy.

To make sure I don’t watch season 2, I’m spoiling it on wikipedia… looks like the abortionist nun goes to jail and Cleary blackmails their former clients into bailing her out. Bertie goes to work for Dr. Zinberg then quits after killing his own mom during cancer surgery. The guys start a prostitute clinic, discover radiation therapy, learn how to cure syphillis, and separate conjoined twins. Thack studies addiction, trying lobotomy and hypnotism. Everett becomes a eugenicist, decides to sterilize the poor, and sabotages Edwards’ surgeries. Edwards’ secret wife arrives, and he considers black nationalism. Abby dies during nose surgery. Barrow kicks out his wife, who then blackmails him over the money he’s stolen from the hospital. Nurse Elkins murders her abusive preacher father. Cornelia’s rich dad dies saving her from a fire set by her brother. And Thack performs surgery on himself, passes out, and the show was mercifully cancelled before his fate was revealed.


Assy McGee season 1 (2006)

Animated cop-show parody starring a drunken, mumbling ass with legs who often shoots innocent civilians while failing to solve silly crimes. Not a good show, but the whole season is only an hour so I let it keep running. Larry Murphy (Teddy in Bob’s Burgers) does most of the voices, including Assy, his partner Sanchez, and his angry supervisor. The creators have cred: Carl Adams wrote for Dr. Katz and Matt Harrigan for Space Ghost C2C. Director David SanAngelo worked on Home Movies and WordGirl.

Related shows to check out(?): Ugly Americans, O’Grady, 12 oz. Mouse


BoJack Horseman season 2 (2015)

Maybe the most consistently funny show about depression. BoJack gets everything he wants in this season – a perfect girlfriend who’s never seen his TV show, the leading role in his dream film, renewed friendship with his first girlfriend, and a big-ass boat – and throws it all away because he’s a self-destructive prick. Meanwhile, Princess Carolyn starts a new agency with a coworker/lover, Diane falls into a funk and hides at BoJack’s house for months, Mr. Peanutbutter hosts a hit game show produced by JD Salinger, and Todd joins an improv-comedy cult.


The Good Place season 2 (2018)

I didn’t watch most of season 1, but after hearing about its ending (it was the Bad Place all along and the entire neighborhood is Ted Danson’s torture experiment, which is why there are so many frozen yogurt stores), I joined Katy for this one, which was terrific, opening with hundreds of “reboots” of the experiment, until a desperate Danson confesses and enlists the others to play along so they all don’t get sent to the real Bad Place. Also: Chidi teaches ethics classes, Janet becomes more powerful and erratic and creates a boyfriend named Derek, they sneak into Bad Place HQ and ask mercy from a goofball Judge, then are sent back to Earth for further study.


Tales from the Tour Bus season 1 (2017)

“Paycheck stole Patsy Cline’s car!” I only heard about this from a Robbie Fulks post, am assuming it mostly flew under the radar. Good-natured stories of the highs and (mostly) lows on tour with some country legends, with generous song clips balancing out the bad behavior, animated and rotoed by Mike Judge, who clearly loves this stuff. Will be interesting to see if the new Blaze Foley movie can stand up to his episode here, and how the less country-focused second season will go.

Tammy and the President:

Johnny Cash cameo in the Waylon Jennings story:


Master of None season 2 (2017)

Bookended by double episodes with Dev’s almost-girlfriend Francesca, first in Italy then New York, the middle half has Dev hosting a cupcake show. More movie references than ever, a couple standalone/gimmick episodes, some good flashbacks in a Denise-focused episode (with Angela Bassett as her mom) and lots and lots of food.


Big Train season 2

This belongs in the pantheon of absurd sketch shows, with Mr. Show and Kids in the Hall and Human Giant and Chappelle’s Show. Created by the writers of Father Ted… so maybe that show is good? The three guys from season 1 are now joined by The Dark Haired Woman (Rebecca Front of The Day Today, The Thick of It season 3) and The Woman With The Bouncy Curls (Tracy-Ann Oberman of EastEnders).

Scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Working Class”:


And we watched enough of the Great British Bake Off to last a lifetime – though I’m slightly curious to check out the Boosh-hosted season. Also watched a Todd Barry standup special, the Fred Armisen one about drumming, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten. With limited TV time we still haven’t finished The Deuce or the new Mystery Science Theater 3000, gotten back to Atlanta or Blackish or Steven Universe, or started the latest seasons of Kimmy Schmidt or Search Party or Black Mirror [edit: one of these things is no longer true – stay tuned for details in Season 45].

The opening scene sets up some teen school drama – girl who wants to fit in and act adult, lovestruck fool who obsesses over her, and his friends, the popular class president and their weirdo buddy Don. So it’s gonna be that kind of movie… except the lead girl (does she not have a name?) is gulping boozy drinks all at once, her throat bulging as they go down. The animation style keeps changing, and facial expressions extend off people’s heads when they get excited. It’s mentioned that the class president is famous for his cross-dressing and that Don hasn’t changed his underwear in six months. The lead dude lays out his scheme to follow the girl everywhere, bumping into her “by chance” until she thinks it’s fate that they should be together. Then she imagines she’s a train and cho-choos off into the night – this is all in the first four minutes. There’s singing and dancing, so I’m pretty sure it’s a sequel to Girl Walk: All Day.

Soon our girl is beating up a molester in another bar, meeting gamblers and gangsters and secret societies. She faces off against the droopy-eared elf leader of the criminal underworld, who she drinks under the table, the beginning of his rapid decline. There’s a nighttime book market with its own guardian spirit, a hallucinatory hot pot competition, the president using his panopticon to track down a guerrilla theater production rigged by Don Underwear to search for his missed-connection. I can’t tell if the movie believes in fate or is mocking its characters for believing in it. The night ends with everyone tired and sick, except our Girl, who delivers healing soup to everyone in town at once, Santa-like.

Don Underwear and his Apple Girl:

Based on the style of newspaper comics, the animation has unfinished backgrounds that fade away on the edges, reminding me (in a good way) of Ernest & Celestine. Married couple, older schoolboy, younger daughter and gramma appear in disconnected sketches, stories and fantasies. The most dramatic thing that happens is the daughter gets left behind at the mall and while the family is stuck in traffic trying to retrieve her, she’s taken home by a friendly neighbor – it’s very lightweight drama with an overall big-hearted feeling (the polar opposite of the previous film I’d watched).

The first animated work to make me consider trying animation because it looks like fun, even though I know plenty of animators so I should know better.

Me IRL:

Maybe it felt more emotional because we watched it in memory of the great Isao Takahata, who increasingly looks like Ghibli’s secret weapon, a patient genius who never made the same kind of great film twice.

Dear Basketball (2017, Glen Keane)

The most beautiful hand-drawn animation, illustrating Kobe Bryant’s motivational(?) essay about loving basketball all his life. The animation >>>> the words. My writeup is late as usual, so the winners are in, and now Kobe Bryant has more competitive oscars than Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman, Sam Fuller, Howard Hawks, Spike Lee, Wes Anderson, Terrence Malick, Abbas Kiarostami, Robert Bresson and Agnès Varda combined.


Negative Space (2017, Ru Kuwahata & Max Porter)

Poem about a guy who only knew his dad through helping him pack for trips, with a stinger joke at dad’s funeral. Poem > animation > movie. French short with a weak English voiceover… even though this didn’t work for me, the directors have three other shorts which I’m tempted to seek out.


Lou (2017, Dave Mullins)

Pixar’s entry – it must’ve played in front of Cars 3. “Lou” is a sentient lost-and-found box which sets out to reform the schoolyard bully. Funny that we got two lost-and-found shorts in the same program this year. The first writer/director credit for Mullins, who is credited on features dating back to Monsters, Inc. (and Bjork’s Hunter video!).


Revolting Rhymes, Part 1 (2016, Jakob Schuh & Jan Lachauer)

The long one – first half of a sixty-minute fairy-tale mashup TV-movie from the team behind Room on the Broom, so I dunno why it technically counts as a short. The animation is more functional than the Pixar, but I got into it – these two probably tie as my faves. Interweaving stories of Red Riding Hood and Snow White with some Three Little Pigs at the end, as narrated by a vengeful big bad wolf. The credits went by too quickly so I don’t know who Dominic West played, but this is already the second movie I’ve seen with him at The Ross this year.


Garden Party (2017, MOPA)

Beautiful 3D work of frogs in a garden, gradually revealing the sordid scene around them – a trashed mansion with a body in the pool. Made as a final project by six French animation students.


Lost Property Office (2017, Daniel Agdag)

Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’. Cityscape in lovely stop-motion reminds of More with its sepia-toned conformity. Guy at the Lost Property Office has spent the last eighteen years constructing wonderful things out of the lost property instead of making any attempt to return it to original owners, and after a suicide fakeout when he’s fired, he breaks out to glorious freedom. Writer/director/animator/DP/designer/editor Agdag is best known for making wonderful sculptures out of cardboard.


Weeds (2017, Kevin Hudson)

Dandelions on dry ground seek a better life for their children. It’s a metaphor! One nice shot of a dandelion head exploding into fluffy seeds, otherwise a clunky time-filler. The director has done effects for movies from Darkman and Cast a Deadly Spell to John Carter.


Achoo (2018, ESMA)

Another one by six different French people. There should be more cartoons about flying dragons, at least, but this was a groaner of a cartoon leading to “and that’s how fireworks were invented”. At least this was better than the interstitial pieces in between the main shorts about a hungry little guy and the oaf who keeps trying to help him. I hated these, but they cracked up my fellow moviegoers.

Winnie-the-Pooh (1969 Fyodor Khitruk)

The A.A. Milne books made it to Russia, but the Disney film versions did not, so Khitruk’s team removed Christopher Robin and imagined their own versions of Pooh and Piglet for a series of shorts. In this first one, Pooh fails to score some honey by masquerading as a small black cloud, all against charmingly hand-drawn backgrounds with lots of singing.


Winnie-the-Pooh Pays a Visit (1971 Fyodor Khitruk)

I love the voices so much in these. Pooh and Piglet visit their friend Rabbit to scam some food off him. Rabbit has exceedingly good manners, so keeps feeding his guests until Pooh can’t fit through the doorway to leave.


Curses (2016 Jodie Mack)

First light confetti blows across a white background, then it gets ever more complex, introducing different swirl patterns, until finally the last section is a rotoscoped dance swirl animation against color-strobe backgrounds. This is all a music video to an upbeat piano-rock song by Roommate (“I sing my curses in reverse and what’s worse, no one notices”). Happy flashbacks to Jeff Scher.


Blanket Statement No. 1: Home Is Where The Heart Is (2012, Jodie Mack)

Blankets, I guess… rapid stop-motion shots of fabric panels, swirling about. Only three minutes, but with more colors and patterns per second than any other film. The chirpy bloop ‘n crackle audio sounds like when I hit fast-forward on the minidisc player. Katy disapproved, said they’re not even blankets.


Blanket Statement No. 2 (2013, Jodie Mack)

Knit rows of varying colors, washing past the camera in patterns that look like abstract computer graphics, then flickering gradually to black, and back into colorful rows, the audio like the road noise in an 8-bit motorcycle racing game.


Lost Camel Intentions (1988, Lewis Klahr)

Transformation journey of a guy from skeleton airplane pilot to male silhouette balloonist to his final form: a photo of a Monty-Python-looking mustache dude against a series of automobiles. I suppose if you’re Lewis Klahr, people bring up Monty Python to you an awful lot. This was the first part of a series called Tales of the Forgotten Future which I’m not finishing right now because it kinda looks like low-detail VHS and I can find better-looking Klahr works elsewhere.


A Wish for Monsters (2012)

Forgot I’d done this… I ran the trailer for Gareth Edwards’ Monsters and the first few minutes of A Wish for Wings That Work on top of each other, setting one semi-transparent, and submitted it for Shorts Club one month.

The first film by Studio Ponoc is also Yonebayashi’s third feature based on British children’s lit, with much of the familiar visual style and same crew members as Ghibli, so it’s more a continuation than anything bold and new. We’d also just watched Castle in the Sky, another movie where a girl with unexplained powers is chased from a floating castle. We played spot-the-reference as Mary finds a flower that turns her into a super-powerful witch, rides to witch school, then gets pursued by the schoolmasters who want to harness the flower’s power to crossbreed animals, or do some Captain America kinda thing, I dunno. It’s all very attractive, and impressive on the big screen, but like its witchy predecessor, it started to feel like we were just watching a kids movie.

We didn’t want Downsizing to be our official final film of 2017, so we rewatched Inside Out on new year’s eve, then after a couple of attempts, managed to make this early Ghibli feature our first movie of 2018. The early ones are cool, but we’re more taken by their later works (Mononoke and everything after).

Pirates:

A couple of orphan kids from different backgrounds meet and end up saving the world by teaming with pirates to stop a power-mad government agent from harnessing the destructive power of an ancient and abandoned floating city called Laputa. The boy Pazu (pronounced POT-sue in the Disney dub) is from a factory town, and the girl Sheetah is descended from Laputa royalty, and that’s about all we learn about them before the movie erupts into battles, pirate humor, and tons of flying machines.

Every Miyazaki movie has a standout piece of character or vehicle design – in this one it’s long-armed bird-loving robots.

Emily Prime, a year older than last time, is visited by an incomplete backup copy of her third generation clone, who is using time travel to visit her own inherited memories. The clone hopes to copy Emily’s consciousness over her own, a process which somewhat succeeds, after some memory tourism, personality glitches, future history lessons, and of course, philosophizing on the meaning of life and our individual place within the universe.

The computer-animated mindscapes and off-world dystopian future visions are as great as in the previous film, which I’ve been known to call the best animated short of all time. So I had absurdly high expectations, and Episode 2 met them, feeling like a perfectly natural continuation of the first film. Not as many mindblowing new ideas in this one since he set up so much previously, but the writing (based around conversations with a six-year-old) is probably better, circling back to each idea and conversation in a self-conscious loop while expanding the ideas about memories and identity.