Puzzle (2018)

Puzzle is a movie about the transformation of a mousey, suburban mom into a real person, complex and willing to stand up for herself. I love coming-of-age movies, but one featuring a woman in her 40s with grown children, was so much better for reasons I cannot quite put my finger on. Kelly Macdonald’s performance is inspired. Highly recommended.

Intro to Storyboarding

“Kevin Senzaki, confirmed sound wizard and also storyboard artist for VGHS and other RocketJump projects, covers the basics of what storyboards are used for and why. He also covers who typically creates them, what formats they come in, and the different styles and elements that are most often used to create clear and informative boards. If you are totally averse to drawing of any kind, you’re in luck– Kevin also shows you some alternatives to storyboards that can help you achieve the same goals in planning out your film.”

Rambo III

Colonel Trautman: You expect sympathy? You started this damn war! Now you’ll have to deal with it!

Zaysen: And we will. It is just a matter of time before we achieve a complete victory.

Colonel Trautman: Yeah, well, there won’t be a victory! Every day, your war machines lose ground to a bunch of POORLY-armed, POORLY-equipped freedom fighters! The fact is that you underestimated your competition. If you’d studied your history, you’d know that these people have never given up to anyone. They’d rather DIE, than be slaves to an invading army. You can’t defeat a people like that. We tried! We already had our Vietnam! Now you’re gonna have yours!”

Rambo III

Recently, I’ve been rewatching the Rambo series. The recent installment made me aware that there have been two more additions to the series since the original three, and I was curious how these films had aged.

The first film is still a classic of American action film. Its focus on police brutality resonates in the era of Black Lives Matter to the point of prescience. Or, as Bryant, the cop in charge in the original Blade Runner put it: “You know the score, pal. You’re not cop, you’re little people!” The original film cast the institutional structures of the United States as the villain, and it still feels relevant. It’s a popcorn movie, but there are ideas worth exploring in it.

It’s interesting how the subsequent films repurposed the character to work as an agent for the United States in Cold War conflict, where Cold War jingoism makes Russians into comic book villains with recognized tropes, such as the Husky Russkie and Torture Technician. But, this third film looks very different from when it first came out due to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan for almost 20 years after 9/11.

I don’t particularly buy this idea that Afghans are some kind of unbeatable enemy. The main difficulty is geography and the limited ability of conventional armies to project power within it. With the investment in the right infrastructure and troop size, probably on the scale of millions, it could be done. The question is: is it worth doing? And, no matter the time or place, it never is to imperial states.

That said, the quote above got me thinking about the American experience in Afghanistan and how it differs from the framing of Vietnam. In both cases, the outcome looks to be about the same. Vietnam has about 58,000 U.S. service members killed and 150,000 wounded. In the U.S. War in Afghanistan, it’s about 2,400 and 18,000 wounded. That figure doubles if you include contractors, which I suppose is the modern euphemism for mercenaries.

So, clearly the main difference is scale. Fewer people went to Afghanistan, so it weighs less on the national consciousness. Chances are that most Americans did not know anyone involved. And, I think that gets at one of the key ideas in the Rambo films, that beyond promoting the American nationalism and a token “thank you for your service”, veterans are mostly forgotten about, both during and after the wars they are asked to fight.

Rambo III is an exercise in cartoon violence. But, interestingly, it has become more relevant 30 years on. It’s not a great film, but it does provide some food for thought, given our collective experience of the War on Terror. It becomes much easier to draw the line from the first to the third film, and how American institutions are fundamentally correct, and perhaps have always been so since at least World War II.

Quarantine Double Feature: Judy followed by Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall (1961)

Judy, available on Amazon Prime for $2.99, followed by Judy Garland Live at Carnegie Hall (1961). The movie is an outstanding performance by Renée Zellweger that really helps in understanding why Judy Garland was such a beloved figure. Then, listening to her Judy Garland live in one of the greatest live albums ever recorded? Well, it’s not a bad way to spend a few hours.

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Mubi

“Every day our experts introduce you to a film they love and you have a whole month to watch it, so there will always be 30 extraordinary films for you to enjoy.”

Mubi

Streaming service of 30 films for $10.99/month. Every day, one new film is added and a film that has been available for 30 days leaves. Second time I’ve heard of it and thought I’d bookmark it.