Things We’re Digging This Week – Week of 9/25/17

It's a cavalcade of existential dread, sci fi mysteries, and heart-warming podcasts this week in the Digs

Each week the Lewton Bus gang will get together and write up a brief account of something we’re digging hard on this week. It can be a movie, TV, a handful of delicious sausages, music, or anything, really!

Tanner Volz – ‘Blow Up’ and Films About Obsessive Artists Accidentally Recording Crime

Life is a performance. Nothing we do holds much meaning against the relentless impermanence of nature. Booze, parties, sex, money, none of it holds more than momentary court. Even the dandiest, foppish lad will confront and shrivel before death. It’s a painful moment, the realization that you mean nothing.

Blow Up is the first of the loose trilogy of films about artists accidentally confronting unsolvable existential mysteries, followed by Coppola’s Conversation and De Palma’s Blow Out. All three films follow a creative technician’s growing obsession with whatever crimes they discover that they have witnessed. Antonioni’s film is less explicit about obsession; David Hemmings’ asshole (and borderline sexually violent) photographer guards himself with so many layers of social defense that he only begins to recognize how lonely his existence really is when he determines that his mystery will forever elude him. He is alone is having seen what he saw, he is alone in wanting to understand it, and he is alone in failing. The final scene of the film seems to outright mock him, with its mimes playing at tennis, faking materiality so pointedly. His crap, his studio and models and music and art, all of the things with which he surrounds himself, they are useless beyond a few moments of gratification. None of it matters because he will die.

Each of these three films share a despair for the moment; their protagonists spiral into unsolvable post mysteries, sacrificing relationships, safety, even sanity in the process. I’ll next revisit The Conversation and share thoughts here as well.

Bee McGee Wonderful!

The newest addition to the McElroy family podcast empire, Wonderful!, features Rachel and Griffin McElroy talking about things they’re enthusiastic about for about fifty minutes while their baby is napping. The hosts speak in hushed tones so that they don’t wake their baby up, which makes the podcast really relaxing. And in our current climate, this is exactly what I needed.

H.M. FloresAmerican Vandal

This mockumentary series is built on the most juvenile premise possible: a delinquent that painted penises on twenty seven cars. And yet somehow, it managed to create a surprisingly complex whodunit with a brilliant and subversive use of school movie tropes and deadpan humor.

It portrays a very familiar environment as the battlefield of a cold war where reputation is the key to survival, which works perfectly to explore self-entitlement in justice, our identity in a social media world and the myth of objective journalism.

Adam BumasThat One Line from ‘Terryfold’

Diamonds shine their brightest in the rough. Rick and Morty creator-star Justin Roiland loves his meandering, seat-of-the-pants, unfocused and emotional songs, but his latest effort (with Seattle duo Chaos Chaos) contained a single line with an instantly memorable meter, all the more so with the way it surprises the ear. It’s just a really good line.

Jared EvesWestworld

I know I’m a little late to the party, but friends I’m here to tell you that I have finally watched Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s HBO adaptation of Westworld, and I have found it to be very good indeed.

Now, in the year since it premiered I’m sure about a billion words have been written about the show, espousing theories and digging into the more existential themes of the show, but allow me to add a few more because in the days since finishing the show I have been unable to shake it from my brain.

The questions the show raises are not new to us, and have been explored thoroughly in speculative fiction since it was a thing, but here they are presented in a way that is engaging, and within a context we haven’t seen outside of the original film. And with 10+ hours to tell the story, the themes and ideas are given time to breathe, and to live, and it all feels natural.

It’s a show that I loved especially for the ideas and how they were dramatized, but also for the acting and characters, the plot, the tone, and the fantastic score (how can you not love a jangly piano version of Black Hole Sun?).

I’ll be revisiting it before Season 2 is released, which I am now looking forward to with great anticipation.

Reiner van der ZouwStrange Days

A local cinema is holding a bit of a Kathryn Bigelow retrospective this week, which gave me the chance to see her sci-fi cult classic Strange Days for the first time. Even though some of the futuristic elements feel more than a bit dated, as is to be expected from a movie made in 1995 that takes place in 1999, overall I think it really held up. The central murder mystery feels slightly perfunctory, but the worldbuilding and sense of atmosphere are both indelible. It’s buoyed by a host of great performances, including a somewhat rare leading man turn from the ever reliable Ralph Fiennes, who’s really in his element as scuzzy ex-cop Lenny Nero. As well as a real murder’s row of talent in the supporting cast (Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, the list goes on…) and Bigelow’s knack for visceral action. Strange Days was largely ignored at the time of its release, but due to some staggeringly relevant themes, it really deserves a big audience now.

Side-note: The first person action sequence that kicks the film off blows the likes of Hardcore Henry straight out of the water.

There are our digs for the weeks, folks! Be sure to check in on our Fantastic Fest coverage. And let us know what you were digging this week down below, in the comments!

  • I haven’t seen Strange Days since its release. I’ve been feeling curious, lately.

    • jeves23

      It’s been a few years for me (like 10, maybe?) and I keep thinking about a revisit. But then I remember I just have a non-anamorphic DVD and I’m like “maybe I’ll wait for a Blu”.
      Which is a dumb reason to not watch it, but still….

  • ryanrochnroll

    I love STRANGE DAYS. I saw it in the theater and bought the soundtrack way back in the day. It’s a great movie.
    It’s so lurid and strung out. I just love it.

  • STRANGE DAYS is fucking great. I love that film.

  • Jamikel

    This week I’m digging the films of French director Celine Sciamma. I adored her film Girlhood when I saw it a while back, and finally decided to binge the rest of her filmography. Her films are mostly coming of age stories about young people figuring out their own sexualities, and they tap in to the raw emotion of that age in a way that will make your heart ache for her characters. Girlhood is on Netflix, as is a film she co-wrote, Being 17. I really cannot recommend them enough.

    • Girlhood is painfully good. Sometimes just painful. Great call J.