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Thursday, September 03, 2020

OT - Catch-All Pop Culture Extravaganza (September 2020)

With Hollywood production sideswiped by the coronavirus pandemic for five months, TV networks and streamers’ pipeline is starting to dry up. There are promising signs, with a handful of series already back in production and a couple of dozen more on track to start filming in the next couple of weeks.

While the situation remains fluid as we swing into the fall season, here are the fall premiere dates for new series and new seasons of returning shows that have been set so far. It covers more than 200 broadcast, cable and streaming series bowing from September 1 through December 31 in various dayparts but does not include specials or movies.

Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: September 03, 2020 at 10:06 AM | 23 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: movies, music, off-topic, television, whatever else belongs under the rubric of 'popular culture'

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   1. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: September 01, 2020 at 04:20 AM (#5973591)
Was very careful to close all tags this month.
   2. giannis Posted: September 01, 2020 at 12:11 PM (#5973649)
It's another new month! Had some down time because my teammates decided to strike for 3 days. Here's what I saw in August 2020:

MASTERPIECE
1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper) -Leave your “it’s about the American family in disarray” essays for grad school, I don’t need em, this is just a near-perfect example of how to use image and sound in a film.
2. Miracle (Himala) (1982, Ishmael Bernal) - Considered one of the best Filipino films ever made, and for good reason. Story of a young woman who has a vision of the Blessed Virgin and believes she can perform miracles, it's a study of the dangers of blind faith, and the final enormous set-piece is pure nightmare fuel.

VERY GOOD
3. High Hopes (1988, Mike Leigh) - (staring at the giant gravestone statue of Karl Marx) "He's a bit big, isn't he?" "He was a giant."

GOOD
4. That Thing Called Tadhana (2014, Antoinette Jadaone) - Essentially the Filipino version of Before Sunrise. Small (it's a two-hander), but incredibly sweet.
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles (1990, Steve Barron) - Shocked to discover that this is very well-made. The flashback/backstory sequences are of course pure nonsense (it's about the birth of mutant ninja turtles), but don't tell the DP, cuz he makes it look like Citizen Kane.
6. Jaguar (1979, Lino Brocka) - treading very similar ground to material Brocka would explore in more detail in 1990's All Be Damned, but this is still quite good. This is the one that really made Philip Salvador a star, but my favorite performance was by Menggie Cobarrubias as Salvador's obscenely obnoxious rich boss.
7. Home Alone (1990, Chris Columbus) - A nice thing I didn't notice the other times is how often Columbus will re-use the exact same shots from the interior of the house early on, before the crooks break in. It helps you remember the exact layout of the house, which is, of course, very important for us to remember later on during the booby trap sequences.
8. The Living Desert (1953, James Algar) - The Disney documentary about the Tucson desert. It was cute!
9. Scorpio Nights (1985, Peque Gallaga) - Sorta the Filipino version of In the Realm of the Senses. I think sex is a profoundly uninteresting subject, but, well, fortunately this strives for more, exploring the political elements beyond the titillation. (1985 is the tail end of the Marcos regime, so the sense of fear and paranoia hangs over everything.)
10. Hope (Pag-asa) (1951, Lamberto V. Avellana) - Filipino melodrama that ends with a shot so cheesy and yet perfect I still can't believe it actually happened. The lead actor (Armando Goyena) steals the show here, giving the type of nervous, naturalistic performance we were only just starting to see come out of Hollywood at this time.

WATCHABLE
11. Man of the World (1931, Richard Wallace) -A pre-code William Powell/Carole Lombard pairing. Herman J. Mankiewicz wrote the script. It's dark!
12. The Sea Gypsies (Badjao) (1957, Lamberto V. Avellana) - "A PAGAN BOY AND A BEAUTIFUL MOSLEM GIRL FULFILL THEIR FIERY AND PRIMITIVE LOVE!" It's so incredibly well-meaning it's tough to hate. It's the type of movie that ends with this text: "What can unite us? The right to build a future. Free. Together. Whether Moslem, Christian. Brown or White."
13. True Confession (1937, Wesley Ruggles) - As far as screwball comedies go, this is certainly one of them.
14. Jewel of Pasig (Mutya ng Pasig) (1950, Richard Abelardo) -One of those Filipino romcom/musical/ghost stories/classical tragedy mixes, you know the type. Formally, though, this is identical to Hollywood movies of this time. Yay for colonialism!
15. Hands Across the Table (1935, Mitchell Leisen) - Romantic comedy with Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray and Ralph Bellamy, centered around that all-too-common male pastime of hiring women to give you manicures.
16. Eaten Alive (1976, Tobe Hooper) - Hooper's followup to the Chain Saw Massacre....it's very stupid and very red. Great atmosphere though.

WORSE THAN A BLANK SCREEN
17. Aishite Imasu (2005, Joel Lamangan) - This is the plot setup: "Inya, a heroine of the Philippine resistance against the Japanese during World War II, recalls events involving her husband Edilberto and their childhood friend Ignacio, a transvestite who, masquerading as a woman also named Inya, becomes the lover of the local Japanese commander, Ichiru, and is caught between a duty to be a spy for his country and friends and his reluctant but growing love for Ichiru." It handles that about as delicately as you would imagine. (It's also incredibly cheap and slapdash. A highlight: there's a shot of Japanese planes dropping bombs on our heroes, but the shot is so obviously stitched in from stock footage that they didn't even bother keeping the aspect ratio consistent.)
18. The Addams Family (1991, Barry Sonnenfeld) - Terrible, but the Hammer song still slaps.
19. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992, Chris Columbus) - The first one has these elaborate multi-step traps (he’ll make Marv take his shoes off in the basement, so then he’ll hurt his feet on the ornaments upstairs, etc.). In the sequel it’s “what if he throws bricks at the bad guys?”
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 01, 2020 at 12:22 PM (#5973652)
Japanese commander, Ichiru,
Could have won World War II...
   4. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: September 01, 2020 at 12:27 PM (#5973655)
Watched some of Teenage Bounty Hunters on Netflix. Despite all the positive reviews I expected it to be bad, but nope. It is well written and very entertaining.
   5. giannis Posted: September 01, 2020 at 12:42 PM (#5973663)
3- Ha. Won't lie, it was incredibly distracting. (I don't speak Tagalog, so the movie was all words I didn't understand with the occasional reference to a certain member of the 3,000 hit club.)
   6. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 01, 2020 at 01:07 PM (#5973672)
I've thought for the past couple of years that it was only a matter of time before Hitsujibungaku were signed to a major label, and with their new single "To You in the Desert", they've finally made the inevitable jump. The music is still really good, and that's all that matters. They've developed into one of the best bands in Japan. I love the tone and construction of Moeka Shiotsuka's closing guitar solo. I realize that Sony is the 900 pound gorilla of the Japanese music world, but it's interesting that so many of my favorite indie acts have gone there recently. Someone in their A&R department must have very similar tastes to mine...
   7. giannis Posted: September 01, 2020 at 01:16 PM (#5973676)
Letterboxd now has stats. For the year 2020, I've seen 206 movies. By country--

USA - 84
Philippines - 33
Hong Kong - 24
France - 15
Thailand - 8
Japan - 8

Most-watched directors:

Lino Brocka - 12
Frederick Wiseman - 9
Ishmael Bernal - 5
Wilson Yip - 4
Clint Eastwood - 3
Prachya Pinkaew - 3
Gareth Evans - 3
Panna Rittikrai - 3

Most-watched actors:

Anita Linda - 9
Gabby Concepcion - 6
Vilma Santos - 6
Tony Jaa - 5
Hilda Koronel - 5
Simon Yam - 5
Donnie Yen - 5
Christopher de Leon - 5
Jackie Chan - 5
   8. giannis Posted: September 01, 2020 at 03:31 PM (#5973697)
Watching Young Ahmed this afternoon, I'm a lucky man.
   9. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: September 01, 2020 at 03:45 PM (#5973701)
Okay, bookworms, I've heard good things about George Pelecanos. I'm halfway through a book called "What it Was", and it's okay. Any highlights from his catalog that I should read for a second try?
   10. BDC Posted: September 01, 2020 at 05:54 PM (#5973721)
The only other one by Pelecanos I’ve read is The Double, which is hard-boiled and larger-than-life. I kind of like the genre but there are better examples (George V. Higgins, Jean-Patrick Manchette).

If you mess up and order José Saramago’s novel The Double instead, read that instead, it’s better :)
   11. giannis Posted: September 02, 2020 at 12:53 PM (#5973870)
I hear you asking: Giannis, why the Philippines? Why'd I start focusing on that country? Okay, I'll answer:

My library mistakenly sent me a copy of Lino Brocka’s Insiang a few months ago. That was it. This was during quarantine and it was short so I just watched it anyway….it was one of the best movies I’d ever seen. Immediately sought out everything else Brocka had made, and once I reached the limit (I tracked down a half dozen others, but they are missing English subtitles), I moved on to his contemporaries.

What is it? I’m still not sure. These guys (Brocka, Bernal, De Leon, Gallaga, etc) were all fierce leftists who worked during the brutal Marcos regime…that tension helps. But they really believed in the power of populist art, so unlike the lefties in the French New Wave, these guys made movies with passionate left-wing messages that were also hugely popular with ordinary working people—Brocka was a hero to the extremely poor (it helped that he’d come from extreme poverty himself, the son of a fisherman), and they connected with his films because he worked within the popular cinematic styles of the time (namely, melodrama). These films have so much heart and urgency to them.

That’s the big one. There are other issues that repeatedly come up in these movies that are of mild interest to me (feminism/gender relations and homosexuality) ((Brocka and Bernal were both gay)) but mainly it’s the realization of the dream I’ve always had: independent artists making political art that connects with a huge audience.
   12. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 02, 2020 at 05:39 PM (#5973941)
Sometimes you encounter art (in whatever form) in a different language, from a different culture, that speaks to you in ways that you'd never have predicted, where you feel that it was what you were always looking for, but didn't know that it came in that form until you (sometimes randomly) found it.
   13. giannis Posted: September 03, 2020 at 10:54 PM (#5974449)
The new movie by the Dardenne Brothers (my favorite working directors), Young Ahmed, is by far their worst. Over-simplified and hyper-literal (one character literally puts on Ahmed's glasses to "see through his eyes"). And the ending is a cop-out, violates Carney's rule (“Action can never be a solution to an internal problem.”) The brothers have dealt with these themes much more thoughtfully in their earlier work (especially The Son and The Child.)

Also saw S Craig Zahler's Brawl in Cell Block 99. Zahler is just the best screenwriter working today, and it's not particularly close. So much style in his dialogue; his movies are like reading great crime novels--and not for nothing, Zahler has written some crime novels of his own (I picked up Mean Business on North Ganson Street from the library the other day, will read it once the damn Nuggets get swept by the Clippers here.)
   14. giannis Posted: September 05, 2020 at 10:56 AM (#5974666)
Just finished F. Sionil José’s Dusk (sometimes called Po-On), a historical novel covering a wholly ordinary Filipino family’s experience during the extremely eventful years of 1880-1900 (separate wars w/both the Spanish and the Americans). And it was fantastic.

Parts of it made me think of Malick’s wonderful A Hidden Life. For example, our hero waits for the advancing American troops in the Battle of Tirad Pass, and observes:

How clear his thoughts were now: here on this mountaintop, there is meaning to all this, bigger than life. None will thank me for this, nor will anyone remember. I have worshipped God. Is my salvation in my suffering? Or will suffering teach me of its necessity? I have become a new man. I have seen what can only be seen on top of a mountain.


Or this conversation (with real historical figure Apolinario Mabin):

”Don’t ever be a patriot, Eustaquio. Those who think they are or will be delude themselves. Patriotism is selfless. And it is not the generals who are the bravest—they usually have the means to stay away from the battle and thereby lengthen their lives. The bravest are usually those whom we do not know or hear about, those anonymous men who dig the trenches, produce the food. They are the corpus—you understand that word—the body and also the soul of a nation. Eustaquio, my words are just words, but all through history—and you have studied it—it has always been the faceless men, those foot soldiers, who have suffered most, who have died. It is they who make a nation.”


Dusk was the first entry in a series of 5 novels (called “The Rosales Saga,” after the town they are set), and I just ordered the other 4. Really loved this one.
   15. giannis Posted: September 09, 2020 at 11:02 AM (#5975305)
   16. 185/456(GGC) Posted: September 16, 2020 at 10:02 AM (#5976894)
First pot to BBTF in a while....

I've been working from home for months now. As someone who doesn't like earbuds, it's great. I can listen to all sorts of music, podcasts, et cetera. Lately, I've been getting into mallsoft. Not sure how to describe it other than it sounds like layered tracks of updated exotica being pumped into a mall circa 1993 after being slowed down. I hear hints of muzak and smooth jazz, but defintitely in more minor modes than major.
   17. 185/456(GGC) Posted: September 16, 2020 at 10:38 AM (#5976916)
12. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 02, 2020 at 05:39 PM (#5973941)
Sometimes you encounter art (in whatever form) in a different language, from a different culture, that speaks to you in ways that you'd never have predicted, where you feel that it was what you were always looking for, but didn't know that it came in that form until you (sometimes randomly) found it.


In a way, that's how I discovered mallsoft. I was looking up videos about reality on YouTube. That led to Mark Fisher, which led to the future being cancelled, which led to vaporwave, which led to the mallsoft subgnere. Earlier during Covidtime I was listening to a YouTube channel called Terminal Passage. It had a lot of electronic 70s prog. There's a hint of that in here; as well as the muzak and jazz.
   18. Der-K's emotional investment is way up Posted: September 16, 2020 at 10:55 AM (#5976923)
I had a phase where I listened to mallwave as well, GGC. Found it good as background music while I worked.
That said, when I played some for Der-GF, who used to be a bassist in a screamo band, I got so much sideeye...
   19. 185/456(GGC) Posted: September 16, 2020 at 11:20 AM (#5976933)
It is good work background music. I think there's some science behind that, if the philosopher Donald Fagen is correct. It is not something I listen to while driving.

I got into Terminal Passage because I was intrigued by the similarity of Night in Tunisia and Yes's Long Distance Runaround. It led me to explore the frontier between jazz and prog; which I had mainly thought of as influenced by 19th Century and earlier music.
   20. giannis Posted: September 16, 2020 at 12:48 PM (#5976961)
Oh, that Zahler novel sucked, btw. Dude tried so damn hard to give every line that Hammett-y punch, and it was pretty embarrassing.
   21. ckash Posted: September 20, 2020 at 01:55 AM (#5977747)
My 13 year-old has introduced me to anime. Started with Attack on Titan, now watching Assassination Classroom. I have loved both of them.
   22. Ben Broussard Ramjet Posted: September 20, 2020 at 12:56 PM (#5977766)
Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion are about as far as I've ventured into anime TV series, though quite a few anime movies in the last decade or so have been really interesting (NGE kind of crosses over with the Rebuild series, I guess).

I found myself smitten with the very straightforward charms of the Ted Lasso series on Apple+. Part of it is good old Bill Lawrence mechanics, but the show also gets a few things right about London that other US shows often get wrong (and quite a few things wrong, of course). Entering my fifth decade, I am becoming a real sucker for sincerity in my entertainment.
   23. Der-K's emotional investment is way up Posted: September 21, 2020 at 12:36 PM (#5977913)
it's september 21st, if you're into this series of fundraising videos.

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