They Came Together

The difference between loving homage and gross parody can be subtle, and what the movie ends up being usually depends on whether the author(s) actually like the genre they are spoofing. It is an easy guess, for example, that Edgar Wright likes zombie apocalypses and buddy cop movies, or that Joss Whedon is into horror films.

The people who made this thing must truly hate romantic comedies. It doesn’t wink at rom-com tropes — it blows them out of all proportion, the acting is even cheesier, camera work blander. I could pick out clips for these, but its’s the entire movie. Moreover, the comedies it references are dated, going with When Harry Met Sally (1989), You’ve Got Mail (1998), and Notting Hill (1999) over the more recent and even more ridiculous Love Actually interconnected plot wannabes. And the jokes are just too obvious.

Making fun of something that is easy to make fun of is easy. Making a good movie that is also a parody is hard. They Came Together (ha ha) is a decent parody.

Directed by David Wain, 2014

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The Autopsy of Jane Doe

A haunted house movie where the house has a morgue in the basement (America is weird) and the ghost is lying on a stainless steel cart, all peaceful and symmetrical until a father-son team of coroners begins slicing into her. Roose Bolton is again to blame, in a way, but has more sense at the end of this one while leaving room for a sequel (The Autopsy 2: Richmond Horror, a working title that I just made up, so you can stop googling it).

It’s a nice—if short—ride that would be much scarier for those who never attended an autopsy, but between the pacing, the acting, and the near-absence of jump scares, it’s the best horror movie I’ve seen since It follows. It gets extra points for being truer to the genre—no hipster soundtracks here.

And no, you can’t put a think chunk of freshly brain under a microscope and see cells, much less figure out if a neuron is alive just by looking at it for 1.5 seconds. Brian Cox can sell anything, though.

Directed by André Øvredal, 2016

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Brick

Twenty-somethings here are playing SoCal high-schoolers who talk like they are on the set of The Maltese Falcon; but it’s not Bugsy Malone with a slightly older cast, and it’s not sort-of-like film noir, either. This is a film noir, complete with a Gordian knot of a plot, gritty textures half-concealed in darkness, and telegraphed archetypes (the loner, the vamp, the femme fatale).

The teenagers seem parentless—save for a comic relief scene or two featuring the mom of our archetypal kingpin serving the boys cookies and OJ—and the few other adults in the world treat them as equals. Clearly a fantasy, but you will have suspended your disbelief long before then.

It fares well when compared to the competition—but then, most of it had been made in the 1940s, so I wouldn’t call it a fair fight.

Directed by Rian Johnson, 2005

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An Education

The Worst Father in the World, here played by Alfred Molina, prefers wedding off his smart and ambitious underaged daughter (Sally Sparrow, 24 going on 16) to a 30-something con artist of means (a smirking Skarsgard), rather than financing her studying English at Oxford. It is the 1960s—why waste money on tuition if her only reason for attending university is to find a good husband?

She likes his opera-champaign-trips-to-Paris lifestyle, he likes that she speaks French and looks at him like a God, so it looks like a win-win-win as she abandons high school for an engagement ring. But if you hang around scammers you will get scammed, and soon she learns he has a wife, a son, and countless past jeunes femmes like her, some of whom ended up with child. A deus ex machina in the form of an English teacher does help her get into Oxford, and she lives long and well enough to be able to write the memoire that Nick Hornby turned into this screenplay.

Not a masterpiece, but serviceable as educational material for preteens. I hope Dora will grow up not to be as impressionable to sleazeballs.

Directed by Lone Scherfig, 2009

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The Three Body Problem

Written by an engineer, and reads like it. It uses a broad brush—with not much description or characterization—to explore such trivialities as life, reality, human perception, and humanity’s place in the universe.

Much of it has a sense of odd turning into familiar: the bloodshed of the Chinese Cultural Revolution projected onto the book’s pro-alien human factions and real world’s opposed-yet-alike movements; virtual realities inside a nesting doll of x-dimensional spaces that may themselves be virtual; environmental dangers, imagined and real.

Einstein supposedly pictured himself chasing a beam of light before developing his theories of relativity. Liu imagined standing on the surface of a planet quite unlike Earth to come to this book and its two siblings. Based on the first installment, I can tell that investing some time in the trilogy will be worth it.

Written by Cixin Liu, 2012

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Children of Men

Children of Men has aged well. Too well. Between Brexit, Zika, islamist fundamentalists, and police brutality, 2017 is much closer to the version of 2027 the movie portrays than what Cuaron could possibly have imagined while writing and directing it.

Brilliant long tracking shots include Juliane Moore’s bloody demise in a post-apocalyptic British mini-car, and Clive Owen’s race through a desolate seaside town-slash-rebellious refugee camp to find the only baby alive on Earth. A lot of the movie could now be described as a Twitch video, though back then first-person shooters were decidedly less realistic.

If this were Interstellar, Owen would have lived through the end and be reunited with a resurrected Moore. Fortunately, it is not.

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, 2006

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The culture that is Nortwest Washington DC

I have cut my commute down to 40 minutes door-door (from ~2 hours), 25 of which are walking, and we only have to pay 1.69 times the rent. Yay?

Some observations about our new neighborhood from a Serbian/European/Baltimorean transplant.

Dogs are everywhere.

Runners and cyclists too.

And a couple of homeless people. One seems to have staked out a bench I pass by every day.

Very few children. Assuming all the little Audreys and Maddisons are attending their ballet lessons, or whatnot.

Restaurants with street seating. It’s like I’m back in Belgrade. Alas, most of them serve nothing but greasy American classics, only they call it Southern-style and put even more grease.

Are people who eat at these places the same ones doing all the running?

Why do two different streets in the same neighborhood have the exact same name? If you put a super-block that cuts a road in half, does it not make sense to rename one of them?

Safeway is a dump.

The title may remind you of Marginal revolution. That’s on purpose. Go read it.

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→ Annals of internal medicine: Curiosity

Old (1999), but still good.

When I was a house officer and installing one of the first right-heart catheters, the machine that showed intrapulmonic arterial pressures was enormous and was equipped with strain gauges rather than computer chips. Making it work was difficult. After the line was in, the attending, the nurse, and I tried desperately to adjust the machine to show the pulmonary arterial pressure waves. We could not get them. The line on the screen remained flat. We manipulated toggle switches and strain gauges for about 15 minutes. Nothing. Finally, I glanced at the patient: He was dead.

The story that follows is even better.

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Na ivici

NYT: Rak i klimatske promene

→ Esquire: Kada vam je kraj ljudske civilizacije svakodnevni posao

→ Guardian: Nivo mora raste najbržom stopom u poslednjih 2,800 godina zbog globalnog zagrevanja, pokazuju studije 

U engleskoj verziji ovog teksta nisam imao komentara. Na srpskom imam par.

Neće doći do holivudske katastrofe u kojoj za par dana planeta ostaje pod vodom. Čorba koju smo zakuvali sporo se greje, a homo sapiens je prilagodljiva vrsta (mi smo u toj priči žabe, ako analogija nije bila dovoljno jasna).

Srbija nema izlaz na more. Ono što ima su: sa jedne strane razvijene zemlje koje već imaju ili prave planove za odbranu od poplava i na dovoljnom su nivou razvoja da prežive, a sa druge milioni ugroženih koji će želeti da promene mesto prebivališta. To neće biti problem danas, pa ni u sledećih 10-20 godina, ali verovatno hoće za životnog veka moje generacije.

Pošto se ništa strašno neće desiti tokom mandata bilo koje sada zamislive vlade, srpski političari uvek mogu da slegnu ramenima—biračko pamćenje doseže par meseci unazad, a budućnost se proteže do sledeće plate. Sve i da neko postavi to pitanje, ovo je jedna od retkih situacija u kojoj najveći deo krivice može da se prebaci na nekog drugog—Amerika i Kina su najveći zagađivači, Rusija i Zapadna Evropa ne zaostaju. Pošto pređašnje iskustvo govori da se u kriznim situacijama mediji u Srbiji—a preko njih i javnost—više bave odgovornošću nego rešenjima, problem klimatskih promena će zauvek biti među poslednjima na političkoj listi prioriteta.

Što je šteta, jer će one dokrajčiti Srbiju pre bilo koje bele kuge, tropskih virusa, Velike Albanije, i širenja NATO-a.

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