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Welcome to the Blog [Reservoir Dogs]

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The idea of a heist where no one knows each other is maybe the best representation of internet life in film. I was immediately drawn to the characters in Reservoir Dogs, who were all dressed the same and brought together for the same reason, and also veiled their identity with the same pseudonym, ‘Mr.’+‘color.’ The whole practice is so Tarantino-cool and added weight to a heist that had no background or build. An amazing storytelling tactic.

Yet, by the end of the movie, as we learn more about the characters and they reveal more about themselves to each other, this cool practice also becomes vaguely ridiculous because when the heist went to shit, none of that mattered anymore. In other words, when they needed their anonymity the most, the mode of providing that anonymity was destroyed. That’s what’s so tragic about Mr. White crying over the body of Mr. Orange. At the only point in time where it would have served him to not know the truth, he found out the truth, and the points where it would have benefited to know the person, he did not know enough. 

This all feels a bit too analogous to our own existence in both the concrete world and the abstract one we create on the internet. We join this heist together, all looking the same and here for the same reasons, hidden by pseudonyms and constructed personas, weighed down by an unjustified sense of importance, and yet too often those personas and identities and flattened images of ourselves leave us inappropriately ignorant, or gluttons of information we’d be better off not knowing.

The long and the short of it, the philosophical and the bare bones, is that the pseudonyms in Reservoir Dogs are awesome and they suck, they protect and they harm, they feel like the double-edged sword that is so often wielded when we venture into public discourse on the internet. 

As an ode to the two-sided nature of this world, I have adopted the pseudonym Mr. Blue on this site because I think its cool (and maybe for other reasons, but if I told you those that would be defeating the point now wouldn’t it?). As I do so, I imagine anyone who reads this will get to know me devoid of background or build, based solely on the identity constructed through my words and thoughts about the stuff I write about, which is also cool. And it could be a great representation of who I am, or this might be a poor representation of who I am, and you could end up cradling my bleeding body as you put a gun to my head to end my rat-bastard life (Too much? That was probably too much). 

The Reservoir Dogs got to shoot the shit at the diner without any preconceived notions, and Mr. Orange claiming tipping is ridiculous made him look like a complete asshole, and they all got to feel like they were in it together without any of the messiness that comes with relationships. But those relationships formed anyone despite their misguided attempts at isolation. I want my writing to be like that. 

Enjoy it if you like it and hate it if you hate it. Either way I hope we get a cool poster made of us strolling down the street, looking like badasses, that every kid in college puts on their dorm room wall. And now this analogy has officially gone too far.

Anyways, these are the conversations I want to have on this site. The stuff that transcends the ‘is it good or bad’ bickering of most internet conversations about media. I love talking about the things I blank, but I don’t love the internet’s discussion about those things. It too often gets all blanked up. 

I would like to have the strange and useless conversations we have in real life after blanking something. Where we sit on crappy couches with nothing to do, so we talk about the uselessness of the pseudonyms in Reservoir Dogs. Those are the moments that make blanking so much fun. If you also enjoy these types of conversations come back as much as you’d like. After all, now we are all in it together.

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Is [My Week With Marilyn] True?: Based on a true story

Michelle Williams is so jaw-droppingly amazing as Marilyn Monroe, that when the movie finally ends, and the credits roll, and you remember once again that this was a film and not a documentary, it is impossible not to ask whoever was sitting next to you, or murmur softly to yourself… Was that all true?

It may be the most asked question in storytelling. How true are movies that say they are ‘based on a true story’? What are the liberties they took? What were the truths that are stranger than fiction? What is to be believed?

My Week With Marilyn is an extra tricky case. It was largely unverifiable because of how many people involved in the story had died and because the story was experiences shared between two people, one of which was dead, and the other is telling and profiting from the story. A context that screams that the movie cannot be ‘truth.’

And I think in the traditional sense of facts and accounts there is close to zero percent chance that Colin Clark (author/played by Eddie Redmayne in the movie) told the truth. And this is what most people want to know when they ask if a movie is true- ‘factually’ was it true? What happened and what didn’t? And here are four reasons why My Week With Marilyn probably wasn’t a factually true representation of Colin Clark’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe…

  1. I find it fishy that Colin waited so long to share this story. Yes, there is his built-in defense that if he shared it while Marilyn Monroe was alive, it could damage her reputation. But a large part of the story was dealing with her poor mental health due to abuses and liberties by her handlers. It seems negligible to be afraid she would look bad for… swimming naked with him? Giving him a kiss? Having a bad marriage to Arthur Miller? Not exactly a glass shattering revelation when it comes to Marilyn Monroe. Seems more likely that he waited until she and others died so he could not be refuted.
  • Colin ends up looking way too good in the end. He appears to be the helpful hero that Marilyn Monroe needed in order to get through her terrible ordeal and shoot this film when no one else understood her. He also is portrayed as this worker-savant who always has all the answers and impresses everyone around him against all odds. It all plays as a little self-serving which doesn’t make it false, but certainly harder to believe. These are symptoms of him using narrative license in his own portrayal. How much more was he willing to do so with Monroe?
  • This was every 1950’s movie-working male’s fantasy. Work on a film with Marilyn Monroe, have Marilyn Monroe notice you, helping Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn Monroe falling in love with you. If I could go back in time and ask any random film-worker in 1950 to write a story about working on a film, we would’ve probably ended up with seven duplicates of Colin’s story. 
  • The story had lots of implausible logical leaps in work and relationship. At first, it is impossible to get in the movie business, but then Colin ends up with a job. Then he is a ‘third’ that does nothing but gets stuff for the assistant director, but he somehow ends up doing massively important work for Olivier and every other important person. He walks in on Marilyn naked, and soon after he is known and appreciate by Marilyn for his work. Marilyn kind of knows who Collin is, and then she is suddenly swimming naked with him and wanting him to spend the night comforting her. I know that is reducing it, but not by enough for me to not think it’s all a bit vague and convenient and fast for the large advancements he underwent. I know not all interactions are portrayed, but you’d think there would be some more development in a man who rose to such heights. Makes for one hell of a movie though…

So that’s why I think he was almost definitely factually lying, and if that is why you were reading, hit like and stop right here.

However, movies and storytelling are in a strange gray area, where the truth communicated is often more important than the details that communicate the story. And I would like to look at the question of “is it true” from a broader perspective.

Here is what I think is true from reading the book and watching My Week with Marilyn (and considering a lot of this stuff is documented outside of those sources). I think Marilyn Monroe had confidence issues. I think she craved affirmation, she was a hassle on the set, and caused all sorts of logistical issues because of her insecurities. I believe she manipulated men around her in an effort to gain adoration and confirmation, she probably used and dropped a trail of men outside of her marriages as well as her husbands. I believe she had addiction issues that were encouraged and caused by her ‘handlers,’ and they managed her insecurities in ways that exacerbated them, and I even think Colin Clark grew close to her, maybe had some chances to help her and interact with her behind the scenes (but nothing to the extent in the film). And I think Colin Clark saw all this on the set of The Sleeping Prince, and he saw these truths in real and personal ways and wanted to convey them in a personal story that people would read. 

Films are fictional portrayals of true things. Colin Clark set out to tell a true story and he probably did, it just wasn’t with a true story. That’s probably what ‘based on a true story’ means most of the time. This movie communicates what is true with what is not. You might hate that or love that, but we all will go and watch that.

So I think Colin lied, a lot, but I think in those lies he was better able to communicate what he saw and learned on the set of The Sleeping Prince. Because any story lover knows, sometimes the truth is in the fiction.

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If you liked this, you may also like: This Is How I Win [Uncut Gems]; A Race of Peeping Toms [Rear Window]; The Shape Of Characters In Pixar’s [Up]; Animated Dogs…Who Knew? [The Call of the Wild]

Empathy Through Reading: Recommendations During Racial Unrest

Many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Race and politics used to be a faux pa in casual conversation. No longer. Rightly, the topic is on everyone’s minds and is being brought up in conversations big and small, with people you love and some you hardly know. The rule of thumb is forgotten, but the intensity of the conversation that blacklisted it from dialogue in the past still remains and may be stronger than ever before. 

As such, I have had conversations about race a lot lately. Sometimes I speak well, generating positive conversation that edifies both sides. Sometimes I do not, and let emotions get the best of me, benefiting no one. But regardless of how the conversations go, I always am happy when, or upset when I do not, rely on the experts and authors that have informed my opinions and thoughts. I can never lean on their words and experiences too much, and I too often try and pass of my ideas as my own.

Reading has been the outlet to charge my empathy amidst a discourse that often hinges on function and politics. It provides a place that reminds me some humans are in need, some are not, some people can help themselves and others need to be helped, equality and equity are not the same, answers are always gray, and our kindness to each other must be stronger than any ideal we wish to stand for.

The politicizing of humanity’s treatment towards each other has the power to divide us. Behind the movements and political decisions, laws and bills, it grows increasingly difficult to see the other humans with unique experiences that are affected by these decisions. It is easier to see concepts and ideas, right and wrong. We see politics not people.

To remind myself and others about the people behind movements and political decisions, here are the books and essays that taught me about a life experience that I never had and gave me empathy when I was lacking.

I put them in the order that I think is most impactful. By the end of reading through this list, you will not have a new political allegiance (that’s not what this post is about), but I find it hard to believe that you (like what happened to me) won’t have more understanding and empathy towards your fellow man. And for that, I will forever be indebted to these authors.

  1. “Just Walk on By: Black Men in Public Space” by Brent Staples

A short quick essay that shows immense measure and control in a situation that no man should have to deal with let alone show restraint and perspective about. This essay is a great place to start reading because it deals with the concept of racial inequality at the most fundamental level. Black people don’t even have the same experience as us when they exit their homes and walk past other humans.

2. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A profound book. Coates is, in my opinion, the leading voice in modern civil rights. Often harsh, always thoughtful, and rich in experience this poetic letter to his son shows how even his role as father needs to be different in order to prepare his son for the world. Because for him and his son, there is only the struggle.

3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

A powerful fiction book about the narrator’s experience as a black man whose needs and concerns are invisible to others. A fictional portrayal of exactly what the previous two reads are about.

4. Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

Amidst MLK and Malcolm X, it is easy to overlook the power of James Baldwin’s voice. This book of ten of his essays is a terrific way to hear what he has to say. I would say that “Notes of a Native Son,” a personal recollection of his experiences, is the can’t miss section in this book. Born from a preacher background, Baldwin dares to demand change rather than ‘wait’ as they were so often told.

5. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Ostensibly not about race at all, Gladwell’s most popular novel is basically a book about privilege. Not privilege provided by race, but by circumstance. However, it is not hard to connect the dots and see that certain races are provided with better circumstances overall, which is the focus of the next readings.

6. Evicted by Matthew Desmond

A book that looks at housing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this book shows one of the major systemic issues that prevent people who live in low rent housing in the city from merely being able to ‘pull themselves up by the bootstraps’ as I used to believe was possible. Comprehensive and fair, Desmond follows both renters and rentees and provides stats and statistics about evictions and rent that will show how far back some people have to start in the race of life.

7. “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Of all the powder keg topics of conversation when talking about race, ‘reparations’ may be the most hostile. Now we are addressing giving our money…to the government… to give to someone else… for something I didn’t directly do… without a clear ear mark for said money. It’s not easy, no one should think it is. But so often the difficulty of the conversations makes people default to ‘impossible.’ Coates, in this article, makes the case, and does so so well, it doesn’t only seem possible, but necessary in some form. To make the case, he provides a terrific history of the terrible red-lining of urban housing, which shows how people didn’t end up in the predicaments in Evicted by themselves. White people put them there. 

8. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

A book about issues in the justice system, with an emphasis on capital punishment towards African Americans. This is a tough read. The feeling of losing all your freedom for reasons that don’t merit that type of punishment or for NO reason at all sits heavy in your stomach. While the world is talking about the need for systemic change because systems are opposing black people, this book makes the case and has been affecting people for some time now.

9. “A Letter From Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr.

The most powerful and shared piece of writing about racial justice there is. MLK shows us why he was able to start a movement that had such an impact in such a hostile time. Sadly, his advice and insight is as necessary and prescient now as it was then. Afterall, he writes this letter from jail, which should give you a new view on his thoughts after reading Just Mercy.

10. “Small Changes: Why The Revolution Will Not be Tweeted” by Malcolm Gladwell

So where do we go from here? Gladwell’s provides a path to answering that daunting question. “Small Changes” is a single essay that shows off everything that makes Gladwell great. His keen insight and unique vantage point on popular topics can help us understand how not to affect change in a time period where we can so easily tweet our support or cancel that which we do not like from the comfort of our own homes. He also diagnoses what makes movements like the civil rights movement in the sixties so powerful. Both those points are good to keep in mind right about now.

These resources provide the point of view of black men and women in America today. I did not include books and resources to show the oppressed and downtrodden of other groups. This is not ignorance. I could have written about Hillbilly Elegy and Educated and Under the Banner of Heaven or Infidel and A Long Way Gone and I Am Malala, or many more, all worthwhile reads. But right now there is an opportunity for change in one specific group, because of one specific movement. And I bear in mind the words of Dr. King in his letter from a Birmingham jail cell…

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

On the flip side, there are other terrific books that people can read towards the same end goal as this post. This is not a comprehensive list (and is written entirely by males). These writings just had the most impact on me, and I feel can have the biggest impact on others.

I hope you will check some of them out.

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The Winds of Winter Support Group: When Will The Winds of Winter be released? [A Song of Ice and Fire]

I hereby begin the first session of The Winds of Winter Support Group. Welcome everyone. I am Mr. Blue, I will be leading this first session. 

So, a little bit about myself, I first picked up A Song of Ice and Fire in 2003. I remember waiting for the release of A Dance with Dragons and how long that seemed. Now we gather, nine years after that book was published, to wait for The Winds of Winter. I have officially been waiting for an A Song of Ice and Fire book to be released for seventeen years of my life.

I know lots of you have been reading the series longer than me. Can all those who have been waiting for an ASOIAF book for more than twenty years please stand and receive a round of applause.

*the room claps sadly while fighting back tears*

Truly incredible. My heart goes out to all of you. I want to begin this first meeting by addressing THE question. I think it’s important we start with this particular question because it hangs heavy over any meeting like this… “Will we get to read The Winds of Winter?”

*room mumbles and grumbles*

Yes. I know. I know. In light of GRRM’s announcement that he will finish the book by the end of the year 2021 we all prefer the more comfortable question of “When will The Winds of Winter be released?” but we should start our support to each other by addressing the toughest question first.

Would anyone like to share their feelings on this subject? No? Okay, I can share. 

Despite the recent announcement, I’m not sure we will ever get to read The Winds of Winter. The chances certainly don’t look great. GRRM has had every motivation and opportunity to release the book in the past decade. Would’ve been great to release before the HBO series caught up to what was written in the books…. would’ve been awesome to have it before the final season… would’ve been perfect timing to be able to read it after the series ended, when everyone was clamoring for a better envisioning of the story.

It sure feels like if he didn’t get it written for those momentous occasions, he is certainly lacking motivation to do so now when the dust has settled, and he has already made this much money.

Also, the wait between books is growing longer and longer as his story is getting bigger and bigger. There is always the possibility that all of the storylines and characters have created a Gordian Knot of a plot, and even the author is unable to untie it and reveal the story within. This is likely if you consider that GRRM has started and completed numerous other projects during the wait for Winds of Winter. I acknowledge all of these things when I say I choose not to believe GRRM. 

*room starts to get angry*

Listen! Listen! We are here to support each other! We need to acknowledge the situation! And in my heart of hearts I still believe that we will get to read Winds of Winter someday! And hopefully it is at the end of 2021.

*room murmurs in agreement*

However… this is a support group designed to help us deal with the wait. And having been someone who logged onto GRRM’s blog over and over again to see if he had announced his next book, having been someone who believed, not one…not two… not three… but who knows how many projected publication dates, I have to say…even though it pains me to say it… that when it comes to GRRM books and his projected timelines, hope is not your friend.

Hoping and waiting and looking forward to getting your hands on a copy of that precious novel- imagining yourself standing in line for hours for the books release, picturing yourself, with a cleared schedule, doing nothing but devouring the novel, will do nothing but lead you to despair my friends.

I offer you another route. One that is hard to grasp but infinitely more friendly to your psyche. Expect nothing. Hope for nothing. Instead assume that the book does not exist and will not be made available…ever. This strategy has helped me overcome the last seventeen years of waiting, and I know it can help you to. 

*members of the group rise and leave*

I understand, and I don’t blame you. But I know that if we stop expecting The Winds of Winter, then we can finally be at peace. We can move on to other things, maybe not better things, but newer things. And then, if someday, a day that we no longer can dare to hope for, if GRRM were to stop all of his seventeen other projects and release the book, we can all join together in surprise and happiness and read the book together, free from the bondage of waiting.

There a couple things, however, that one must do in order to be able to adopt this method of waiting. The first, and maybe the most difficult, is to come to grips with the end of the TV show.

*almost the entire room leaves*

It happened! We have to accept it. It wasn’t perfect. It had many flaws. But we have AN ending. Only by accepting this truth can one be freed from the bondage of waiting for The Winds of Winter as a pseudo-savior from the laziness of the last season of storytelling.

The second thing you must do, as I have already mentioned, is to find new stories. Watch new shows, watch great films, read terrific books. If you need a new high fantasy series, ask a nerdy friend. I personally recommend the Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever trilogy and two series that I read upon GRRM’s recommendation The Long Price Quartet and The Sundering books. You can also read Dune in preparation for the upcoming film. All of these stories will help us deal with a new reality that is not predicated on the release of The Winds of Winter. A healthier reality.

Some people dare to hope, which is very brave. But in the face of this obstacle, I dare not to hope. I dare to let go and enjoy my life without the projected timelines of a book we may never read hanging over my head. 

I thank you for joining me for this first session of The Winds of Winter Support Group. If any of you are willing to come back please let me know on your way out and we may have a second meeting sometime in the future.

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If you liked this, you may also like: Ranking Major Characters [Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire]; Ranking Minor Characters [Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire]

Can We Talk About [Fight Club]?

How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?

I know this title is in poor standing with the first two rules of Fight Club, but I started a series a while back called ‘Can we talk about [blank]?’ where we have conversations about movies with no clear topic in mind. 

Losing all hope is freedom.

Once I realized I wanted to write a post about Fight Club, it had to be ‘Can we talk about [Fight Club]? ‘

You’re the all-singing, all-dancing, crap of the world.

So here is the stuff I want to talk about in Fight Club for no good reason at all, other than, after years of being a good rule follower, I want to talk about Fight Club.

Getting Punched in the Ear

‘Have you ever been in a fight?’ is the great guy question of the modern era. I’ve been asked it, I’ve asked it, it’s a badge of honor to have taken a punch and, hopefully, delivered one of your own, so there is a hilarity in the accuracy of that moment between Tyler and the narrator. The way Tyler bops up and down, gets psyched up, makes him pause before he’s ready to take the shot, and his reaction to the punch are all perfection- maybe even some watcher’s own experience.

But the pies de resistance is when the narrator lets out a weak ass punch that drills Durden in the earhole. Nothing screams pampered, unfit male like whiffing a freebie punch into another man’s cochlea. ‘Have you ever been in a fight?’ might be a defining question in many men’s lives, but I will always be partial to Durden’s inquiry after taking his first shot and asking, ‘Why the ear?’

Give it a second…

This movie was ahead of its time. Let’s cut through the disgusting cliché packaging that covers that phrase and just imagine Fincher releasing this movie next year… 

I think it wins awards, I think it makes waves, I think Palahniuk’s (the author’s) books fly off the shelves, and I think Brad Pitt wins an award for Best Supporting Actor or maybe (it’s a stretch- I’m aware) his Best Actor that he has been gunning for, for what seems like forever. 

In this little thought-experiment he also made all the other movies that this movie enabled him to make, so its flawed, but I think he would get the Leo ‘lifetime achievement’ bump. Even without the boost though, this feels like a movie defining performance in a unique and impactful film. Tyler Durden is in movie-character legend and lore and it wasn’t because of the character alone, Durden existed before this but not many people had heard of him until Pitt brought him to life.

I also look at the cult following it had that often signifies a movie that needed to marinate before its greatness was fully realized. It happened with Pulp Fiction and A Clockwork Orange as well. So what happens if we were able to release those movies later? Would the world be ready for them yet? Or does it take these movies to show the world what can be done?

The Rules

Everyone knows the first two rules of Fight Club, both of which I am breaking right now…

  1. You do not talk about Fight Club
  2. You do NOT talk about Fight Club

But let’s look at the other rules for a second…

3. Someone yells “Stop!”, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over.

Tone setting to be sure… Also putting a lot of trust in these strangers in a dark basement. 

4. Only two guys to a fight.

This rule establishes order, which is important. There is method to this madness and the method is mano-e-mano. Seems subtle, but Fight Club is a very different place with Fatal Four-ways and Tag Team matches.

5. One fight at a time, fellas.

I really enjoy the delivery of this line- Durden is in control. And the collective chuckle from the ‘fellas’, like ‘yeah, we totally would start another fight while one is going on. Our bad,’ is on point.

6. No shirts, no shoes.

Maybe the most interesting addition. These fights seem like they could go on with shirts and shoes- not a huge safety issue. Although I suppose kicks are an issue if someone walks in with some clod-stompers, but the lack of shirt is pure machismo. Seems like an aesthetic man-choice more than a functional one.

7. Fights will go on as long as they have to.

This rule has a staggering passivity in the face of such aggression- as long as they have to. The fight is a thing unto itself, accomplishing its own purposes at its own will. The men must merely submit to it as its will is enacted. Even Durden submits to the fight’s desire.

8. If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.

Every time this rule concludes the reading of the rules, I imagine the one guy who went to Fight Club just because they wanted to be ‘one of the guys’, or wanted some friends, or just wanted to say they went, and then they heard this rule and went, “OH SHIT!”

Going to Fight Club

A man who goes to Fight Club is a man who feels dull in a world that softens edges. A man who unexpectedly becomes enamored with interior design and the smell of his bathroom. Men who hate jobs and people because they really hate themselves. Fight Club is for a man who wants to see what he is made of, discover what he is inside him when the comfortable office turns into a dank basement and his three-piece suit is traded for beltless pants. Then they can rest assured that inside of them still resides something they had feared didn’t exist. They have a place where they can go and test their mettle. A place they can go to be humbled.  

They want to rid themselves of the clutter in their lives. They want to remove the extraneous and get back to basics. 

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we are free to do anything.

Fight Club is for men who spend their time on things that if they really had a choice they’d rather not be doing, but that choice means getting rid of so much more than most are comfortable with, like blowing up an apartment, giving up on your cushy job, losing your looks to the fists of other men, living in squalor. But men who join Fight Club feel a freedom in the totality of their loss, in their revisiting of primal man.

Sounds like shit to me… but to each their own. 

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If you liked this, you may also like: Can We Talk About [Jaws]?

Babu Bhatt: An Appreciation for The Minor Characters of [Seinfeld]

My favorite of the minor Seinfeld characters is Babu Bhatt. His lines were good enough (“You bad man. You very very bad man.”) his actions replicable enough (that finger wag though- challenging Mutumbo for the finger wag heavyweight title), the episode funny enough, and my exposure to it early enough that I haven’t shaken it from my list of favorite episodes and, by extension, Babu Bhatt as my favorite minor character. 

But as time has gone by and my awareness has grown, I am surprised, at how prescient, relevant, and cutting was the commentary of that episode. It was couched in the hilarity and good humor Seinfeld of course, another testament to Seinfeld’s glory, but the subtext is obvious, and it makes me love Babu Bhatt and “The Café” even more (and is probably the reason I loved it in the first place- even if I couldn’t explain it).

If you have forgotten (even though no Seinfeld fan ever forgets) and to establish a basis for the reason why I love Babu and this episode, let me recap what happens. Jerry convinces a local Café owner, Babu Bhatt, a Pakistani selling American food, to turn his café into an authentic Pakistani restaurant.

Subtext: After all… America is the land of the melting pot. The country where all cultures and kinds and color blend into one indistinguishable stew. And of all places on the planet where those cultures and people are most melted, New York, New York is capital. There should be no Pakistanis staying open by selling very American hot dogs and hamburgers. We are accepting of all kinds. Bring us your tired and weary and biryani.

So Babu Bhatt listens, hoping that the meager success his café is making can be turned into an American Dream of restaurant aplomb. He closes down the café to be reopened as an authentic Pakistani restaurant.

Subtext: After all, which migrant wouldn’t hope that their homeland and culture could be so seamlessly integrated into the American identity that their cuisine would be accepted and eaten by all.

Jerry is on a comedy tour for the opening of the new Pakistani restaurant. But he returns as the benevolent American, wanting to taste every dish, and congratulating Babu on the success of his new endeavor.

Subtext: Jerry feels good about the narrative he has pushed. The support he has provided to the idea of a migrants’ success, and the collective acceptance of his Pakistani cuisine and thus his identity.

However, as Babu is quick to point out, there are no customers! No one, other than Jerry, is interested in his Pakistani food (and even Jerry thinks the shrimp is a bit…stringy), and his meager success as a café owner has diminished into a dismal failure as a Pakistani restauranteur.

Subtext: Every American loves the idea that America is where those from other countries can find their success and be their authentic selves, culture to culture, cheek to cheek. However, there is a disconnect when it comes to the patronage and support of those ideals, as seen by the New Yorker’s lack of interest in the new restaurant. 

The subtext of the show seems obvious now, however it was lost on me at the time. I just thought it was funny. But all humor that we can’t shake (like Babu Bhatt for me) sticks in our brains for a reason. And I think this was the reason (the truth behind the fiction) that made it a member of my mind for so long.

Jerry walking into Babu’s restaurant and being so oblivious to the restaurant’s clear emptiness and Babu’s obvious anger is hilarious, and his nitpicking of the food that only he is eating is outstanding. But Babu’s outburst never left me. His frantic questioning about the location of all the people that Jerry promised and his assertions that Jerry is a “very bad man,” and Jerry’s shocked innocence as a response, his immediate indignation as the American who showed Babu this ‘kindness’ and did not receive thanks in return are truly spectacular moments of comedy rooted in painful self-awareness.

And all of it is encompassed in that finger wag. That metronomic rhythm of rejection, correction, and shaming that they brought back for the finale. “Bad man?” Jerry thinks to himself “Could my mother have been wrong?” Of course not, Jerry. Don’t fret, my benevolent American.

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If you liked this, you may also like: The Language of [Seinfeld]: 22 Years Later

[Tenet] Release Date: A Christopher Nolan Production

In case you haven’t heard, Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s new film, is now set to be released on July 31st (for now). The waffling and wavering of when Tenet will be released amidst a movie theater shutdown has been one of the few pieces of movie news worth discussing. It is either that or the sporadic release of decent VOD films, and Netflix originals.

When COVID hit and film after film was delayed until late in the year, everyone seemed to wonder why Nolan hadn’t yet delayed the release of Tenet. There was never a chance it would be in theaters on its original date of July 17th.  Only a moron would think that a movie, in this climate, could be released on July 17th. Only a fool would wait this long to delay the inevitable.

But there was the genius. Why shouldn’t he wait? This is not a time dependent problem, at least not for a big money film like Tenet with a god-sized marketing budget. When not worried about spending more on advertising, the only consequence from being last to move your movie release date, is that people talk about your movie and its release date. Oh the horror! Get behind me free advertising!

So now people are decrying that they didn’t move it back far enough. And maybe they are right… I guess we will have to discuss Tenet and its release date for another month while we wait and see. 

HOWEVER… if the naysayers are wrong, and Tenet is able to release on the 30th before everyone else, Christopher Nolan gets every movie-theater in America all to himself along with an entire country chomping at the bit for something to do. I am not a man blessed with large intelligence, but even I can see a win-win when it kicks me in the balls.

It’s a genius maneuver. Making movie fans lick their chops at the possibility of seeing a film in theaters, and making those who ‘know better’ shout from the rooftops about how it won’t happen. Either way, everyone’s talking about Tenet. So I thought I might join in the conversation with a prediction of my own.

My prediction has nothing to do with when we see the film. Instead I want to predict the reaction when we do finally get to see it. Because, to be honest, these antics for publicity, the clear desire of Nolan to have theaters showing Tenet and Tenet alone, and the trailers for the film, have me worried. I think Nolan may have whiffed… And I think he may have whiffed at the worst time.

Nolan has always had critics, but they seem to have grown in number and confidence as of late. Don’t ask me why, or what their main gripes are. I hear a variety of opinions- I understand each individual complaint but disagree with the conclusion that Nolan isn’t a top tier filmmaker right now. 

His films are original, they are well-made, they are fun, they make viewers think, they have meaning, and they are consistent. I don’t believe the frustrating expository dialogue, the time theme, and the overwrought plots are enough to overcome those positive attributes, but for some they do. And that’s cool. Stories are great because we can all like our own things.

But my fear (based weakly on what I have seen thus far) is that Tenet will be an amalgamation of all the traits people don’t like about Nolan. The confusing layering of The Prestige, the ambiguity of Inception, the hard to follow time bending of Dunkirk, the shoe-horned exposition of The Batman Trilogy all rolled into one film. And if Nolan were to make that specific Frankenstein’s movie, it would be genuinely bad.

Part of the joys of modern communication is that fans can yay or nay anything they want, and I don’t think that the collective voice of Twitter or blogs could deter Nolan from making future films of whatever type he wants, action or otherwise. But from a personal view, I don’t like the collective naying of non-masterpiece movies. Most movie-goers recognize that there is something special about a Moonlight or Parasite or Birdman that make it an award-winning masterpiece that film majors can oo and aaah about for years to come. I have done my own bit of ooo-ing and aaaah-ing myself.

However, I am not a film critic. I didn’t go to film school, I don’t consume movies like I’m Tarantino, and I get more excited for Nolan-esque films than Best Picture contenders. I like films that add an emphasis on intrigue and fun over commentary and directorial perfection. 

I treasure moments like watching Unstoppable in theaters and being surprised at how invested I got in a train as a villain. I love that I saw Superman Returns three times in theaters (even though it wasn’t amazing) because I had three groups of friends that wanted to see it at different times. I was amped while watching Avatar on opening night in 3D with a packed crowd. I remember the feeling of seeing Inception on Imax and settling in as the waves washed over Cobb. 

And as those moments accumulate, I get more excited for those types of films because they capture a spirit theater-going that I enjoy so much. The spirit that was born (more recently) out of movies like Jaws and Die Hard and The Usual Suspects. Good, quality, unique movies that we will replay until the day we die. Do they have flaws? Sure! Should they have won Oscars? Some! But we don’t need to cancel every movie that we can find a problem with. We can enjoy films that won’t be on the 2050 version of Turner Classic Movies.

So here is to hoping Tenet is good. Not so that critics won’t attack it. Because they certainly can, and there will be people who hate it no matter what. But here’s to hoping, that in a period of questioning the necessity of going to theaters, in a time when we all need the type of release a fun movie can provide, we all can make another movie moment where we went back to theaters after a global pandemic and saw this fun, original movie, and really loved it.

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The Language of [Seinfeld]: 22 Years Later

Seinfeld went off the air in 1998. That is officially 22 years ago. And yet, Seinfeld-isms abound in our modern lexicon- words and phrases that were either invented or given a boost into the realms of common slang by the show. 

Language changes rapidly. Just imagine if someone was saying ‘groovy’ or ‘square’ or ‘far-out’ 22 years after it was popularized. The fact that we still incorporate Seinfeld into our language, apply it to our experiences, and recall it in our lives is a mind-blowing testament to the greatness of the show.

Here are the Seinfeld-isms, I still come across…22 years later…and how they have remained in our American lexicon for so long.

close-talker: As long as there are old people there will be close talkers. But this term is not isolated to the elderly. I come across many individuals with a smaller understanding of appropriate distancing during a conversation, and therefore, I have many people I label as close-talkers.

puffy shirt: This, upon first watching, felt like a fun singular storyline for Jerry as he struggled with a particular piece of his wardrobe with no practical application to life outside of television. However, I have found many people lamenting the ‘puffiness’ of their tops, to which I automatically reply, “That’s a puffy shirt. You look like a pirate.” If they speak my language (the language of Seinfeld) they will reply, “But I don’t want to be a pirate.”

giddy-up: Kramer’s antics made odd things acceptable, like bursting into rooms with a crazed look and a slide. But a more applicable element from Kramer is his catchphrase, giddy-up. It had a smooth transition into American language, fitting into all sorts of familiar scenarios like after deciding what to do, beginning a car ride, acknowledging something was done well. I giddy-up all sorts of moments in life.

yada yada: Yada yada was destined to die in the nineties. That phrase had no legs. But Seinfeld strapped a rocket booster to it by making it a more subtle phrase. Rather than primarily being used to skip boring parts of a story, it has now become a sly way of insinuating that something significant or major happened and it may be too secretive or salacious to share, making the phrase much more tongue-in-cheek, fun, and useful.

serenity now: As long as people are angry they will be saying serenity now, so I don’t see this going away anytime soon. But the brilliance of the phrase is how it fills a much-needed niche. I get worked up over all manner of things, some significant, but most not. In the midst of being needlessly frustrated amongst others and needing to transition out of that frustration and back into a normal conversation where you don’t look like an angry jerk, there will never be a better phrase than serenity now.

Festivus (for the rest of us): Who hasn’t hit the holiday season and asked about Festivus or declared a strange gathering a Festivus for the rest of us? Every year I am at a gathering where someone (it’s not always me…) tells the room, “I got a lot of problems with you people.” And every once in a while, when I get really lucky, someone will tell me that the night won’t end until I pin them.

these pretzels are making me thirsty: Seinfeld took us through Acting 101 with this phrase, turning it into empty words that people can fill with whatever emotion they are feeling in the moment. So therefore, we can use this phrase whenever. I often hear it as an angry outburst (the George interpretation), but most of the time, people will just be munching on a bag of pretzels and literally get thirsty. Their retroactive realizations that they accidentally quoted Seinfeld are some precious moments.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that: Thank God on High for this phrase. In our current climate and culture there is always a need for mitigation. If you ever find yourself saying something in the same ballpark as judgmental, just to be safe, let everyone know where you stand by saying, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” It works like a charm. 

bizzaro: This has become a handy prefix to tack on to anything that is acting different than normal or looks like something that it is not. For example, when your friend Jeff stops being an asshole all of a sudden, its bizarro-Jeff. Or when you walk into your old high school and its nothing like you remember, its bizarro-Jefferson High. 

Jimmy leg– For all people who have ever slept in the same bed as a restless sleeper, this phrase helps us communicate what is so irritating about it. “They kick in their sleep,” sounds so calm- as if the sleeper were the victim. But when you explain that they’ve got the Jimmy leg, the true annoyance of their constant thrashing comes through. And you can’t just say it, you have to twitch between ‘Jimmy’ and ‘leg,’ just for effect.

‘bout fi’ ten minute: Standard waiting times in restaurants are usually around five to ten minutes, which allows an easy application of the stilted language of the Chinese Restaurant host. Although be careful that not too many people hear you say this, it’s funny to Seinfeld fans, but could maybe be misinterpreted by those who don’t know its origins.

re-gift: Who doesn’t have a mom or aunt who uses every possible re-gift scenario. Encouraging you to re-gift presents you don’t like, or re-gifting to you a present they did not like. There is a lot of emotions and thoughts that go along with such a strange habit, but now we can summarize them all with one word and a prefix.

bro/manzier:  Based on the amount of debate on whether this man’s supportive attire should be dubbed the bro or the manzier, this is a clothing item that should be in more common distribution. Seinfeld permeated our culture so thoroughly that any time some man boobs jiggle we think of Kramer and Frank trying out the bro/manzier together (I vote for manzier by the way).

shrinkage: Seinfeld-isms have got our collective backs by allowing us neat exits from tough scenarios or simple ways to capture complex ideas. But nothing, absolutely nothing, will top the convenient excuse Seinfeld gave all men with small penises. It’s just a bit of shrinkage, nothing to see here.

The jerk store: Seinfeld also equipped us with the ultimate insult. Insults can be tricky because they need to be quick and clever, the quicker and the cleverer the better. But Seinfeld said screw that and provided us with a pre-planned and simple insult that will bring the biggest asshole to their knees. The entire insult (as we all know) is, “Well, the jerk store called and their running out of you!” Which is fun but rarely fits into our everyday interactions. But if Seinfeld-isms have anything in common with the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park it is that they will find a way. And so the insult was shortened and manipulated until all we have to do is say jerk store, or imply that someone belongs in the jerk store and the work is done.

Soup Nazi: The prevalence of this title in our lives does not bode well for the service industry in America. It seems everyone has a shop keeper or worker of some kind who resembles the Soup Nazi in behavior or demeanor. So here is to all the Frozen Yogurt, Sandwich, Coffee, and Pastry Nazis of the world. 

Hello, Newman: If you know a Newman (as I do) this phrase is a staple of your Seinfeld phraseology repertoire, if you don’t, just adding any two-syllable name with that vitriol and frustration that makes this Seinfeld-ism so great will do. “Hellooo… Jamie.”

double dip: These bastards had it coming. With the double dip episode of Seinfeld came an emboldening of all victims of polluted salsa and spreads. We noticed you from afar, we held our peace, but after Seinfeld blew the lid off the whole operation, no one hesitates to call these people out for what they are- double dippers.

in the vault: There is promising to keep a secret, and then there is putting something in the vault. The visual is perfect, but knowing your friend is resting their secret keeping on the holy ground of a Seinfeld-ism is the greatest type of insurance they could offer. 

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If you liked this, you may also like: Dictionary of Malapropisms [Sopranos]; Slang Dictionary [Mad Max: Fury Road]; Best Insults In All Of [Succession]

An Ode to Babu Frik: Hey-HEYYYY [Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker]

When to talk like Babu Frik

When walking into a room and introducing yourself…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

After completing a task…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

When someone is doing something wrong…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

As a pick-up line…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

When celebrating…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

When destroying Palpatine’s clone army…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

When not to talk like Babu Frik

At a funeral…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

When comforting a friend in distress…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

As a proposal to be married…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

When you find the book you need in the library…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

When you walk into a job interview…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

After Kylo and Rey kiss…

“Hey-HEYYYYY”

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Why Did Kendall Steal The Batteries? [Succession]

In the midst of the delay of shooting the third season of Succession, I have been wandering the internet realm of Succession discussions. In that wonderful world of Tom quotes, Roman/Gerri memes, and “Fuck offs” there is one topic of conversation that recurs frequently- Why, in episode two of the second season, did Kendall steal and throw away a back of batteries from the gas station?

It is a great question about a terrific scene that displays the subtlety of Succession. Plenty of the show is laid out neatly for viewer comprehension or smacks you in the face with blatant acts of aggression. But for those who want to dive deeper, there is always an underlying psychology that keeps viewers drinking from Succession’s well over and over again. This moment belies that deeper psychology and reveals a lot about Kendall’s inner conflict throughout season two.

Obviously, everything Kendall does after the final episode of season one should be viewed through the cracked windshield of a car underwater. That moment was the worst kind of baptism, and Kendall resurfaced as a different man (I wrote about this in The Many Kendalls). So when, not too long after, Kendall is needlessly shoplifting useless items only to toss them away, there must be a connection.

What happened in the first two episodes of season two also matters. Kendall is brought back from rehab after only two days. He was forced to spew propaganda on live TV, making himself look fickle and foolish. He was unable to drive his own bike and had to ride bitch on the back while chauffeured around town at his father’s bidding. He was told to deliver a message of war to his old business partners and best friend, becoming the object of their venom while unable to reach out for help. He was told to dismantle his business-baby, Vaulter, and delivered the news of the mass firing of their staff in person. 

There is an enlightening moment towards the tail end of this scene, not too much before Kendall steals the batteries, where a freshly fired journalist spits in Kendall’s face, to which Kendall replies, “Is that all you got?” Later on, Kendall tells Logan that he could take any heat people threw his way for the dismantling of Vaulter. 

All of these moments lead to and reveal two feelings in Kendall that illuminate his theft of the batteries and subsequent shop-lifting spree.

  1. He feels like he deserves punishment, or at least that he can get away with anything without punishment.
  2. He feels invisible.

These two emotions overlap, but they have their distinct places in Kendall’s psyche. 

The more obvious of the two is that Kendall desires or feels like he deserves punishment. Guilt can erode one’s mind. And Kendall is being eaten by guilt. He was beyond uncomfortable when Colin, Logan’s body man, took him into the laundry room and explained how Kendall is all clear in the wake of the car accident. Kendall obviously preferred not to think about it. Later on, he has a panic attack when he visited the boy’s home, a not so subtle reminder from Logan that Kendall should not get too comfortable, Logan will always own him. 

Kendall is a bad person, but he is not without a conscious. He desires forgiveness or punishment, as anyone would after such a life altering tragedy. So as he steals batteries (or dismantles companies) he is waiting for someone to react. To mete out the punishment he thinks he deserves. And spit in the face or wrist slaps from his father aren’t going to do it.

The further down the road one takes this psychological deep dive, the more we can understand how Logan raised children that he came to hate. He protected them from all of life’s rough edges, ones that he experienced his whole life, and in short, it created children with complexes. 

The fact that Kendall continually sought punishment or forgiveness for his actions, and continually received none led to a sense of invisibility. Kendall was reduced at the start of season two. There is a striking difference in the car rides at the start of season one and two. In season one, Kendall listened to music on large headphones, rapping along as he punched the back of a car seat in order to mentally prepare for a big business deal. At the start of season two, he shakily asked questions about what his father wanted him to do, uncertain and afraid while preparing for an equally important business operation. 

The reduction is so great he almost disappears. He couldn’t drive his own motorcycle. His business advice was no longer valid, all of the meaningful relationships in his life disappeared (Rava was gone all season) or turned on him (no more Stewy to save him), leaving him standing on the top of a building looking over the edge, wondering if he should jump. But even this decision was taken away from him when protective barriers (oh yeah, you should read into that symbolism) were erected to remove one more element of control from Kendall’s life. 

So let’s look at the scene where Kendall steals the batteries. He hops off his bike (driven by someone else) to ask for some smokes from a guy who is more interested in the television screen than him (can he see him? does he matter?) so he grabs some batteries (will he notice me now? do my actions have consequences?) and walks out (another crime unpunished) tossing the batteries into the trash (none of it matters anyway) before hopping onto the back of the bike and forcefully slapping his driver’s shoulder to communicate that he was ready to go (a move that feels like acceptance) and he is driven away.

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If you liked this, you may also like: Rulebook for ‘Boar on the Floor‘; The Many Kendalls; Who is more full of shit? The Pierces or The Roys (Pt. 1) [Succession]

The Shape Of Characters In Pixar’s [Up]

This piece is by a contributor to Did You blank It? (not Mr. Blue) who wishes to remain anonymous. If you are interesting in contributing to the site please don’t hesitate to contact.

Disney Pixar’s Up is a masterpiece that leaves sentimental saps, such as myself, in a state of emotional disarray. I rose and fell with the plot, channeling my anger at the greedy construction company, bracing myself during the thunderstorm, and celebrating as the villainous Charles Muntz fell from the sky. I’ve watched the movie enough times to quote scenes and conduct the brilliant score. With every viewing, I notice a new detail that makes me fall deeper in love. I realize Mr. Fredricksen brought his mailbox to South America, Ellie was scrapbooking for her husband on her deathbed, and Russell needed a father figure just as much as Mr. Fredricksen needed a son. The creators of this movie fired arrow after arrow into my heart and always hit their mark. When I watched the movie earlier today, I made an effort to notice how the makers of Up crafted these devastating assaults. I became fixated on the characterization, particularly how each character was designed. In “The Art of Up” by Tim Hauser, I read that each character was modeled after a simple shape, but I hadn’t realized how ubiquitous this tactic was.

Carl Fredricksen is a square. His box-like head is made possible by a 90-degree chin and echoed in his angular glasses. Even the wrinkles adorning his forehead are cut in straight lines. The theming continues with Fredricksen’s sharply creased trousers, rectangular belt buckle, and distractingly square knuckles. All these design choices highlight Fredricksen’s terse nature and lack of tolerance for nonsense. His sharp nods are sharpened by his angular chin, and his staunch determination is underscored by his crisp bow tie. It’s as though Mr. Fredricksen’s personality is so striking that it overflows into his physical characteristics and apparel. But it’s not just the design choices, but the contrasts in Up as well.

Carl and Ellie pose in their home

Ellie is Carl’s sweetheart and further evidence for “opposites attract.” Carl is angular and reserved and Ellie is curved and expressive. Age wrote its history gracefully across her features, granting her smile-lines and ovular glasses. Her head is round and soft, crowned with an elegant bun. Carl’s brows rest furrowed atop his glasses, but Ellie’s float in a constant state of curiosity and delight. Ellie’s chair is round and patterned, and Carl’s plain leather seat consists of right angles and straight lines. Ellie drinks from a teacup while Carl sips from a mug. Ellie’s coffee table is a circle, and Carl’s is a square.. Every one of Ellie’s portraits is a round shape, and as you can probably guess, Carl’s images are always framed with corners. Even the lamps illuminating their bedroom reflect their distinctions. Ellie’s lamp is a dome while Carl’s light comes from a modest rectangular prism.

Due to Ellie’s death, the two share less than ten minutes of screen time. However, the creators of Up developed their relationship through the tiniest details. This constant characterization submerges the viewer into the lives of Ellie and Carl, causing us to care so deeply about the couple that it hurts even more when death separates them. But the artists and animators did not stop there.

Carl is annoyed by Russel

Carl is continually confronted by a cast of contrasting characters (pardon my alliteration but I can’t help myself sometimes). Enter Russell: a lovable youngster in pursuit of his ‘assisting the elderly’ patch. Not only is age a distinctive difference between Mr. Fredricksen and Russell, but we again see physical contrasts. With a round face and soft features, Russell serves as another contrast to Mr. Fredricksen’s angular disposition. Russell is naive and undaunted, quick to trust and quicker to share personal information. His innocence is captured in rosy cheeks and unkempt hair. Where Mr. Fredricksen’s hands are gray and boxed, Russell’s are flushed and plump. These contrasts emphasize the lessons the two characters share. Russell demonstrates the importance of loyalty and honesty while Mr. Fredricksen leads with grit and resilience. Russell shares an optimistic perspective unhindered by past disappointments. Mr. Fredricksen teaches wisdom forged by decades of experience. They complement each other, continuing the precedent set by Ellie, rounding out Carl’s sharp edges.

Even the animals are shaped by contrasts. Kevin, the brightly colored bird who we later discover is a girl, is oval-shaped. Dug, the talking golden retriever, has a round body punctuated with a big, ovular nose and fluffy tail. Everywhere Carl Fredricksen goes he meets another character who is like Ellie and unlike him. These constant contrasts build and build until a pivotal moment. Carl pages through Ellie’s scrapbook and finds a message from his late wife thanking him for the adventure and encouraging him to have his own. Her note releases him from the obligation he feels to preserve their house, causing him to recognize the people in front of him right now. Perhaps he sees Ellie’s gentleness reflected in the way Russell cares for Kevin or how Dug refuses to leave even when Carl gives him every reason to or how much Kevin will do for her chicks. Or maybe he hates the way he resembles Charles Muntz’s cruelty with his sharply drawn wrinkles and angry eyebrows. No matter the reason, Carl rights his priorities and comes to the aid of his friends. Though loneliness and loss had carved sharp edges into Carl Fredricksen, the contrasting characters in his life softened those lines.

Carl flies his zeppelin

Beneath every charming character and plot twist is a host of tiny artistic decisions and creative detail. Up has heightened my awareness of the immense amount of work that goes into the art of emotional devastation. I love re-watching movies to catch a glimpse of that process, to understand the arrows lodged in my chest. The artists and animators responsible for Up are master craftsmen, and I will continue to be a target standing at the end of their archery range, taking in more arrows every time I watch.

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If you liked this, you may also like: Animated Dogs… Who Knew? [The Call of the Wild]