Things We’re Digging This Week – Week of 3/4/19

The gang is into some horror, criminal escapades, and iconic manga this week

Things We’re Digging is a weekly feature where the LB contributors put forth thoughts on anything they care to think about. It can be anything from movies, books, TV shows, to old Godzilla posters I mean got-damn did you see those??

H.M. FloresThe Haunting of Hill House

In Gerald’s Game, Mike Flanagan and Carla Gugino made for a wonderful team-up, taking a potentially uncinematic narrative and turning into a powerful examination of repressed trauma and taking back control of your life.

Naturally, I was interested in seeing their latest collaboration. This Netflix show, very much like Gerald’s Game, uses horror trappings for what ultimately is a carefully layered relationship drama about the events that define our lives and who we are, and what we do to cope with them. It’s a difficult watch a lot of the time, but that’s a testament to how bold it is in how it tackles the shattering conflict at its core. The structure (something Netflix shows often struggle with) allows each character to shine while complimenting the others and providing something valuable and unique to this world. And for all its bleakness, it has a deep humanity where you can perfectly understand the characters’ pain despite not being the nicest people in town.

Mavis Roberta McGeeRear Window

Well, if this ain’t one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had watching a movie. Jimmy Stewart is amazing, Grace Kelly is amazing, the set design is amazing, and the mystery at the center of it all is extremely compelling. Rope remains my favorite Hitchcock film for the time being, but Rear Window really gave it a run for its money.

Reinier van der Zouw The Witch

Until recently, I’ve always been a bit too much of a scaredy cat to really get into horror. So while some things I heard about Robert Eggers’ debut The Witch (or The VVitch, as it’s known to close friends) when that came out in 2016 intrigued me, I didn’t seek it out. In the last year and a half or so, I did eventually just bite the bullet and checked out a couple of high profile horror releases, which led me to discover that a) I really like horror and b) my tolerance for it is actually pretty big, with only Mother! coming close to actually keeping me up at night. So with those two things in mind, I slowly started making my way through the horror canon, checking out a lot of classics as well as more recent acclaimed titles. All of that is just to preface the fact that I popped in my recently acquired blu-ray of The Witch on a dark and stormy night last week and instantly fell in love.

Everything about this film is pretty much perfect. The subtly claustrophobic 1.66 aspect ratio, the highly period-accurate – and thoroughly researched — ye olde English dialogue, the score, the atmosphere, the acting, the gradual building tension, and last, but certainly not least, everybody’s favorite evil goat Black Philip,1 who instantly became one of my favorite horror characters. So if you somehow haven’t seen it either, please seek it out at your earliest convenience. And if you happen to be friends with the sort of person who considers it “not a horror film”, because it just “isn’t scary enough” feel free to just ignore them on this matter. Hell, you should probably ignore them on all matters.

Andrew Clark Nico Robin

Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece is the most popular manga in the world, and has been running consistently since 1997,2 so saying that I’m late to the party on this iconic piece of Japanese media is selling the situation very short indeed.

But thanks to Shonen Jump’s incredible $1.99 a month deal I now have the opportunity to dig into the massive library that One Piece has to offer. I used to think that Full Metal Alchemist ran for a long time. Nope! More fool I.

But One Piece has story to spare. It’s characters are fun and iconic, it’s stories full of panache and some of the downright best comic book action I’ve ever seen. And my favorite part so far? The character of Nico Robin.

Since the age of 8, Robin has had an $79 million dollar bounty on her head. She’s widely considered one of the most dangerous women on the sea and by the time we meet her in the comic, the World Government has been trying (and failing) to capture her for twenty years. The Robin we meet is the criminal counterpart of a pretty bad dude and when we finally see her unleash her powers, we get an idea of why she’s considered so dangerous.

Nico Robin’s powers come from one of the infamous Devil Fruit, superpower bestowing fruits that are scattered throughout the great oceans in One Piece. Robin’s powers come from the Flower-Flower fruit. That means she can make her limbs “flower” from anywhere. Absolutely anywhere. Other people or even themselves are fair game.3 Oda sensei doesn’t shy away from the horrific implications of such a power.

That’s Robin using her powers, having several pairs of arms emerge from the target’s own skin, to hold him in place and she breaks his back. It’s horrific and sudden the first time we see how dangerous she is in one-on-one combat.

But Robin’s stone-cold terrifying power isn’t why I’m digging her (although it’s pretty effing metal how she dispatches people). It’s that she’s one of the most complex manga characters I’ve ever encountered.

Manga has a large swath of fairly predictable storytelling beats, and often times the best manga aren’t about eschewing these beats but executing them in a way that feels so powerful and gripping that you can’t help but forgive knowing how things are going to play out. As often in the best genre work, it’s in the how and not the what that matters.

Though I am only in the midst of what appears to be Robin’s biggest chapter in the series (the Water Seven arc, for the curious), I’ve found myself unable to fit her into the usual beats of action-oriented manga. She’s a traumatized young woman who’s whole life has been violence and despair, but when the lead of the series saves her life despite her desire to die, she is suddenly met for the first time by people who don’t just want to use her for her knowledge or powers, but because they want to be her friend. Watching her slowly come to terms with what it means to be loved, and how deep a pit of despair depression can be, is relatable, powerful material. Oda handles her suicidal ideation and her emotional growth with a deftness that belies the mostly-comic tone of the series.

I had no idea what was in for Robin when she was introduced to the series. It felt like she was going to be a typical bait-and-switch villain who pretended to join the good guys for a while before betraying them. But Oda had something else on his mind, and I’m happy and excited to say that I have no idea where the character and the story will go next…and that’s pretty exciting.

Adam Bumas Crime

Shannon Ellery Hubbell Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

I guess I’m in a nostalgic mood. My dig for last week was one of my favorite writers when I was in high school. This week it’s a movie I first “discovered” in high school and is still one of my favorite movies of all time. George Miller’s 1981 masterpiece Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is one of the most thoughtful and influential action films ever made, largely defining the “post-apocalyptic” genre from then on. I don’t think any artistic depiction of Earth after a societal collapse hasn’t been influenced by this film. It’s also a total blast, with some of the best practical stunt work ever filmed.

If you’re going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area on the 23rd of this month, come by the Uptown Nightclub in Oakland. Lewton Bus, in conjunction with the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, are presenting Mad Max 2, along with a handful of the video games it inspired. No cover. There’s booze. A custom booze menu! Come watch, drink, game, and generally make merry!

Diane C. Captain Marvel

From my review:

Captain Marvel soars higher, further, and faster than I imagined it would. The movie is heartfelt, confident and hilarious. It’s like having your best friend sling her arm around to tell you she’s got your back. It has a lot to say about being a woman, self-doubt, and how we react when we’re told we’re not worthwhile or capable. It’s also about how we get back up when the world tries to keep us down. This is going to be a critically important movie for kids, girls, and women.

Kevin Kuhlman Evelyn Jane Kuhlman

I had a baby and she’s the greatest baby who maybe ever lived. At least a top 5 baby of all time. My dig is cuter than all of your digs. Just look at that picture and try not to melt.

That’s all for this edition of Things We’re Digging! Be sure to check out our future editions as we see what everyone here has been appreciating lately. And stop on down in the comments to let us know what you’re digging this week!

  1. Ed. Note: Just look at this handsome devil
  2. That’s seriously some Judge Dredd-John Wagner level shit
  3. The objects have to be solid mass, though, or big enough that there is a “base” for them to emerge from