Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

11 Feb 2019, 14:04 p.m.

Some Movies Are For Not-Me

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2019 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I haven't really been keeping up with reviewing movies here. Some recent joys: I loved Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which was astounding in its artistry and the marriage of story and virtuosic presentation. The Muppet Christmas Carol, which I'd never seen before I think, made me cry buckets and is an excellent adaptation of the Dickens! Won't You Be My Neighbor?, The Peacemaker, and Infinite Football are a sort of only-in-my-mind trilogy of documentaries about men's quests to improve some corner of our world.

But also: I've seen a few films recently for which I am perhaps not the target audience! Examples follow. Most of these were with Leonard so his film reviews are longer and more interesting.

  • The Jim Carrey film Man in the Moon about Andy Kaufman. Some quick impressions:

    1. The treatment of women in this movie, or in Kaufman's actual career, does not age well.
    2. Kaufman says he's not a comedian, but the ground he explored fed into areas people who comfortably call themselves comedians explore today, so I'm fine with including him under the comedian umbrella. Relatedly: I am currently impatient with people who "don't like labels" regarding the super-well-trodden work they do. You may be super uncomfortable with the fact that you are a comedian, an engineering manager, what have you. Deal with that discomfort instead of fleeing the truth.
    3. The fact that Kaufman meditated a lot is a hint that meditation, on its own and ripped out of any ethical framework, does not actually make someone a better or more loving person. If you use meditation as a technology to better separate yourself from illusions, you may just use it to be a better trickster.
    4. I also have, within me, the self-indulgent urge to mess with the audience, to confuse them and cause stirrings of unease. But, as Harry Josephine Giles points out, "Learning how to care for your audience is actually far more aesthetically interesting and politically disruptive than working out how to shock them."
  • Lilo & Stitch. This movie has multiple jerks in it, as protagonists, and does not sufficiently provide onscreen proof for assumptions that it assumes you'll go along with (e.g., the best way to make sure the orphaned child gets sufficient care).
  • Attack the Block. I think I saw this at the wrong time -- it was fresher when it came out, and I'd already seen films it influenced before I saw Block itself -- and it means more if you're steeped in the urban British context.
  • A Serious Man. A well-made depiction of certain kinds of agony.
  • Victoria & Abdul and Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, both of which seem to think the problem with the British oppression of India is that local subjects were deprived of a wholesome, classy, righteous queen (rather than, say, that Indians were deprived of representative democracy).
  • Beauty and the Beast, yes, the 1990s Disney animated blockbuster - I'd never seen it before. Wow, there are no men in this movie whom I would trust to buy 3 apples for me at the market.

There's more, I'm sure, but I don't want to go into a depressingly long list. I am not that much of a fiction author, and when I see people acting irresponsibly in fiction, I nearly physically want to reach into the screen and get them, like, therapy and a nap -- I want things that would make their lives better even if it would make the story worse.