(adapted from an email to Neil)

Yesterday, Katy and I went out to a VIP opening of a guitar-based art exhibit cosponsored by my company. I brushed against St. Vincent’s guitar, and the one Jack White made in that documentary and one Cobain played on the In Utero tour, and a bunch of musicians and guitar-company bigwigs who I didn’t recognize so tomorrow I’ll ask Steve who they all were.

Anyways, Jarmusch has a new movie called The Dead Don’t Die, which is a star-studded zombie comedy three weeks into its three-week run in Atlanta, so we recruited everyone we know to go see it after the museum thing, and lemme tell ya, it’s not a good movie by any criteria, but it’s surely interesting. Casting Tilda Swinton to play a sword-wielding mortician from outer space (via Scotland) is interesting, as are all the third-wall-breaking references to the movie’s script and theme song and other films the cast members have starred in, and the decision to kill all the main characters, and the constant swipes at hipsters and materialism – none of it works, but it’s interesting. Afterwards, Katy said I’ve now picked two movies in a row which sucked, but at least the Jarmusch movie sucks in unique new ways. His odd, slow pacing and his tendency to comically overemphasize things worked for the vampire movie and his very dry comedies, but fights against the wacky mayhem here.

It’s extremely typical in a zombie movie to make a joking George Romero reference, so someone is driving the same model car as in Night of the Living Dead (and the metaphorical comparison of zombies to shopping-mall consumers is swiped from Romero’s Dawn of the Dead), and it’s typical in any self-aware graveyard-set auteur comedy to reference other filmmakers via gravestones, so Zombie Iggy Pop crawls out of a grave marked Samuel Fuller… and the references get more obscure from there… Jarmusch names his town after the one from Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels

Then there’s a scene near the end where Caleb Landry Jones and Danny Glover have barricaded themselves inside a hardware store. It may have been meta-humor, when the zombies finally breach the hardware store, that Jones and Glover, surrounded by weapons, continue their laconic conversation instead of properly defending themselves, and are easily killed by the consumerist swarm. But earlier, they’ve killed a couple of invading zombies whom they recognize… “That’s Dallas and Travis Good… the Good Family… those two brothers were great guitarists… it’s said they were born with guitars in their hands,” they say to each other robotically. I get the Romero and Fuller references, and the Trump joke, and Star Wars stuff, and the ultra-hipster Zappa quote, but why this extended Sadies plug?

And today, pondering all the bizarre choices made in that movie, I realized Jarmusch’s band SQÜRL and the Sadies played the same Hanukkah show in 2017.

Just another Hanukkah show that changed culture forever.

Placeholder post until I watch this again on blu-ray, since it didn’t stay long in theaters. Doomed adventure story in a hopeless land, like a post-apocalyptic Fantastic Mr. Fox. The animation, voice acting, production design all perfect, and an overwhelming joy to watch in theaters. Haven’t yet read the articles about how Wes’s representation of Japan and treatment of women are problematic, so I’m free to love the movie in blissful ignorance, for now.

Things I Can Remember: Yoko Ono is the scientist who leaks the government-suppressed cure for snout fever to the exchange-student leader of the revolutionary youth. The conflicted lead dog of the pack who finds young Atari is a long-lost brother of Atari’s companion/bodyguard Spots, who now runs with a gang of suspected cannibals. And I can’t think too hard about the ending when they swap dog-to-human translation devices because it makes me emotional.

EDIT: watched again two months later on blu-ray

“This is a distant uncle’s worst nightmare”

That familiar Fantastic Mr. Fox feeling… whenever I think about this movie for any reason, I have the strong urge to rewatch it immediately.

Nobody wanted to pick between the Rohmer and the Pasolini, so I brought out the dark-horse Disney flick as a sorry compromise. I heard it might actually be great, but it was… okay. Had to get used to the digital animals looking so cartoony in motion, though their speech and mouth movements were the most realistic I’ve seen since Whiskers, The Kitten Who Can Name Fruit. Admittedly this was probably better in theaters in 3D, but we watched in HD on our big screen with the volume up, so I feel like if there’s real magic, we would’ve felt it. Anyway it was fun.

Songs worked better in context of the cartoon, and were pried into this version, making it feel like it’s referencing the original – so not only a remake for new audiences, but one that wants you to have watched the original. Between that and the cartoony animals wanting so badly to be real, it’s a conflicted movie – one of Disney’s “live action” remakes without much live action (the kid was okay).

Usually I don’t notice celebrity voice casting so much, but it’s hard to miss Christopher Walken (King Louie) and Bill Murray (Baloo). Katy recognized Idris Elba (evil tiger), Scarlett Johansson (evil snake), and Ben Kingsley (fatherly panther Bagheera). Apologies to Garry Shandling and Giancarlo Esposito and Lupita Nyong’o, I guess, for blending in and not sounding distractingly like stunt celeb casting.

Ignatiy V.:

Its jungle is a complete simulacrum: Everything from the birds to the leaves is artificial, which means that nothing can ever stand out as unreal. The ironic exception is Sethi’s manic Mowgli, mugging on partial sets against blue screen; in a digital world realized by a dream team of effects studios, the one real thing seems fake.

Never before realized that Baloo is a sloth bear.

A Wish For Wings That Work (1991, Skip Jones)

First time I’ve watched this since its highly anticipated TV premiere. It’s like Rudolph but with Opus – he helps Santa with a problem and is rewarded with a fly-around by the ducks that used to laugh and call him names. Highlight is when Opus is injected into a scene from Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon after an ad break.

Opus was Michael Bell (Duke in G.I. Joe), neighborhood pig and ducks were Joe Alaskey (Plucky in Tiny Toons, Bugs and Daffy in Looney Tunes: Back in Action), and uncredited appearances by Robin Williams (botching a NZ accent) and Dustin Hoffman (goofing on Tootsie). Director Skip Jones was a Don Bluth animator.

Breathed was not happy with the final result, and I can see his point. Still the only appearance of Bloom County characters on TV – technically Outland characters at this point – though Breathed’s Mars Need Moms book was adapted as a crappy-looking flop feature film, and his story Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big was adapted into a short the author called “an unmitigated technical disaster – unfinished and unwatchable.”

Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno Live (2015, Jody Shapiro)

A weird hour-long mash-up of scenes from Rossellini’s Green Porno live tour, behind-the-scenes tour footage, coverage of the book tour, the original short films, and related stuff, like following a scientist to observe mating seals. “It is essential that what I say is scientifically correct. Otherwise I’m a nut – and who needs another nut?” I didn’t realize she’s done two other series called Seduce Me and Mammas, and an hourlong documentary called Animals Distract Me. Jody Shapiro also shoots and produces Guy Maddin films.

A Very Murray Christmas (2015, Sofia Coppola)

In which a bunch of our favorite actors who cannot sing very well, and a handful of actual singers, congregate in Coppola’s underlit Lost In Translation hotel to act sad, goof around and gradually cheer up. The band Phoenix was the best part, with Chris Rock’s off-time backing vocals a close second.

Chris Isaak Christmas (2004)

Watched in hotel while getting ready for the family Christmas. A million times more festive than the Bill Murray one, with more upbeat music.

Charlie Brooker’s 2015 Wipe

Funny look at a depressing year. Good bit on the media’s changing attitudes on the humanity of refugees, and Brooker finally got to address his spooky Black Mirror PM pig-sex prediction on the air. Stanhope got cut for being too controversial… hope his segment turns up sometime.

Shaun The Sheep: The Farmer’s Llamas (2015, Jay Grace)

Like the movie, but shorter, and with troublemaking nihilist llamas which are even worse than the pigs.

Not as packed with things as most movies are. It’s a comedy but the jokes don’t come fast and furious, and it’s an action movie but not full of action scenes. A pretty laid-back film. More movies should have theme songs. Good to see again in theaters.

The story of Tony Revolori, who loved Saoirse Ronan and grew up to be F. Murray Abraham, told his tale to Jude Law, who grew up to be Tom Wilkinson, whose book inspired many. Zero worked with Ralph Fiennes, who slept with Tilda Swinton, who was murdered by Willem Dafoe at the behest of Adrien Brody, who framed Fiennes by threatening Mathieu Amalric and later murdering Lea Seydoux and Jeff Goldblum (and his cat). Fiennes escapes prison with help from Harvey Keitel, runs into cop Edward Norton and military concierge Owen Wilson, clears his name but sacrifices himself to nazi authorities to save Revolori and Ronan. Jason Schwartzman is a Jude Law-era lobby boy, and Bill Murray, Bob Balaban and some others are shoehorned in.

See also: what I wrote on The Wind Rises.

Stefan Zweig (Letter From an Unknown Woman) gets an “inspired by” credit. Cowritten with the guy who drew the paintings at Eli Cash’s house in Royal Tenenbaums.

Katy liked it alright. My mom did not.

I know the top twelve billed actors except Sam Rockwell’s associate baddy Kelly Lynch. Who is she? The girl Matt Dillon’s hugging on the Drugstore Cowboy poster, love interest in Curly Sue and Road House, lead character’s mom in Kaboom.

You don’t see Tom Green much anymore.

Precocious children with parental issues, highly-organized secret plans and old-fashioned craftsy props surrounded by superstar actors including Bill Murray – so yes, it’s like any Wes Anderson movie, but it’s a good one. He has a unique talent for collapsing different locations into one hermetic snowglobe of a film. The visual/conceptual unity is helped by the soft, grainy 16mm cinematography, and that fact that all the action takes place on an island.

In the celeb-actor world, Frances McDormand is cheating on husband Bill Murray with local cop Bruce Willis. Edward Norton leads a troop of scouts, hopes to join his idol, scout commander Harvey Keitel, at the big convention where Jason Schwartzman is some kinda mercenary merchant. And Bob Balaban is a sort-of-present character/narrator.

But one of the movie’s strengths is that it focuses primarily on its young heroes, Sam and Suzy, who run off together and camp on the beach, leaving the celeb-actors as background players. Willis and Norton lead search parties as two threats approach: an epic storm, and Tilda Swinton of Social Services, coming to take Sam to a home.

Katy liked it more than she thought she would.

From the acclaimed director of Girls Guitar Club and Between Two Ferns, and the writer/producers of a reality prank show. Supposedly there was uncredited script doctoring by the writer of Dreamcatcher. So it wasn’t going to rival Shaun of the Dead for quality, but it was lightly amusing.

I’m not familiar enough with recent teen-sex comedies to recognize stars Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland) and Emma Stone (Superbad and The House Bunny). I might’ve known Jesse – he’s the older brother in The Squid and the Whale, someone or other in The Village and the main dude in Roger Dodger – but mainly he just reminded us of Michael Cera. Jesse is our nerdy rule-following narrator who meets badass Woody (really a sensitive guy who has experienced loss, and who loves Caddyshack) and then scam artist sisters Emma and Little Miss Sunshine (of Little Miss Sunshine). The movie’s world is impressively empty – no other packs of survivors except for a lone Bill Murray (and incidentally, I haven’t seen a celebrity-playing-himself get shot to death in a comedy since Harold & Kumar 2) and a cameo by Mike White in flashback.