Sunday Morning! “The Memory Police” by Yoko Ogawa

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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  1. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    I watched two movies this week that were 80s throwbacks but in very different ways.

    The Old Man and the Gun stars Robert Redford as an old man with a gun. More specifically, it is a loosely biographical movie about Forrest Tucker. Tucker was a habitual criminal who robbed banks well into his dotage, often while wearing a suit and being a perfect gentlemen. The movie takes place in the fall of 1981 as Tucker and his gang go on bankrobbing spree across Texas, Oklahoma, and some other states. The throwback nature of this movie is that it represents the kind of mid-budget movie that Hollywood no longer makes. A movie aimed at adults, maybe with some violence but not too much and largely sold based on superior script and acting. In other words, it is the kind of movie that Robert Redford acted in or directed through out most of his career. A brilliant swan song.

    Alita: Battle Angel came out earlier this year and is an SF epic that uses the latest special effects (as only James Cameron could, he also co-wrote the script). The plot is pure 80s SF throwback and based on a Japanese manga from the early to mid 1990s (insert debate about whether 1990-1995 are part of the long 80s). The film takes place in the 26th century in Iron City. Iron City is a kind of anarchist joint filled with cyborgs, humans, and everything inbetween. Above Iron City, is Zalem, an alleged utopia. The residents of Iron City produce stuff for the residents of Zalem. Dr. Dyson Ido finds a cyborg head and spine in the scrapyard. This becomes Alita, a sweet and kind of innocent teenage girl who also knows a legendary and deadly fighting style called Panzer Kunst. The plot throws more at you: there was a war with an event called the fall in which other sky cities like Zalem fell, there was a former United Republics of Mars, the residents of Iron City love a sport called Motorball which is roller derby where intentional murder and wanton violence is allowed.

    The throwback here is that the movie feels rather optimistic despite the dystopian atmosphere. Alita is not tough and gritty even though she can fight like hell. She is kind and sweet and likes puppies, chocolate, and oranges. Thanks to CGI, they were able to get a woman in her 30s to play a teenager with manga/anime eyes. It probably throws way too much plot at the audience. Alita did not do well in the American box office but seems to have done well enough abroad. The film is also set up on a clear cliffhanger because everything needs to be a franchise these days.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Saul Degraw
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      I’m really glad to see Robert Redford retiring on a high note. I’m hoping Robert De Niro finally makes another good movie before quitting. At this point, he’s more likely to end on Horny Grandpa 3.

      I really want to see Alita. The trailers made it look like sensory overload, which probably hurt at the box office. Same with Speed Racer. But I have a feeling it’s actually pretty good.Report

  2. Avatar PD Shaw
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    I finished watching the final season of the surreal Marvel superhero TV show, Legion, this week. I believe there are twenty super-hero movies coming out this year, so we have to have passed peak, right? But a number these are actually operating under multiple genres — war, espionage, space-opera, mythology, etc. I suppose this was the David Lynch genre, if Lynch could be contained to a plot structure and tamper the sense of weirdness for its own sake.

    The show opens with the titular character in a mental asylum, where he meets and eventually falls in love with a mutant named Sydney Barrett. There are drugs and mental instability, but primarily the story operates in a corner of the Marvel universe where mental powers are more important than physical, where identity is fluid, and travel to other times or other mental space create paradoxes. To some extent, the story operates within an unreliable narrator framework. We don’t know whether Legion is a hero or villain, or whether choices being made by characters are their own or the result from external nudges — the audience can decide. And always the question does it matter and why?

    Frequently in this type of movie, the end is the big reveal that explains what really happened, a character is revealed to have been someone or some thing else all along or the protagonist never left an earlier point in the story. It’s all a dream or delusion. But this is a super-hero story, and there is no need to conform the laws of the universe to the Marvel Universe.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to PD Shaw
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      Technically, I don’t think Legion is in the MCU, which gave them even more freedom to move. What did you think of the end by the way?Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to James K
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        Well, it’s in the X-Men universe, and Xavier makes a significant appearance. So, I think on the one hand it benefits from the world-building having been done elsewhere (people don’t need to know what mutants are), while operating on the fringe of that world with mostly newly-created and unknown characters.

        I thought the ending was fine. I don’t think that one should expect the ending to tie everything up neatly, though I feel that Aubrey Plaza got short shrift this last season. I should have mentioned above that the cast is very good. Also should have mentioned there are fun song and dance routines and a lot of neat visuals.

        Potential Spoilers: Not crazy about the villain having a non-credible redemption arc, but I’ve read enough comic books to know the villain says is subject to being challenged in the future. I had a lot of problems with the 2nd season ending and thought about not watching again. Examining the subtle differences btw/ internal and external motivations in the context of such an emotionally charged topic as sex is uncomfortable and permanently damaged a relationship I was rooting for.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to PD Shaw
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      That is likely the most confusing show I’ve ever watched. I saw the first season and then had to wait for the second, but by then I had mostly forgotten the storyline and had to rewatch season 1 to figure out what the hell was going on. Now I have season 3 on my DVR and I sincerely hope I remember enough of 1 & 2 to follow it.

      I just finished bingeing on S2 of American Gods. That one has a more straightforward narrative but still is definitely improved by bingeing in close order.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to PD Shaw
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      I’ve already passed peak superhero a while ago. However, I would love to see a David Lynch superhero film. Granted, their superpower would probably be transcendental meditation…Report

  3. Avatar pillsy
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    This premise seems somewhat reminiscent of that of China Mieville’s The City & the City, which is one of my favorite books of recent years. This in and of itself surprised me because I tend to dislike Mieville’s work, but this one wasn’t quite fantasy and that helped it a lot. The commonality is the premise where a terribly unnatural set of social restrictions are enforced by totalitarian means, with the work being done by a sort of secret police force.

    It’s a more conventional novel, though, though the underlying strangeness is not a great deal less… uh… strange. There are two cities (city-states, really) that share a common location, with some neighborhoods belonging to one city, and other neighborhoods belonging to others, and a few being shared (“crosshatched”, as they are displayed in a mix of two colors on maps), with people being disappeared by the secret police if they interact with denizens of, or objects in, the “other” city, with the distinctions being enforced through dress, mannerisms, and body language. It is possible to travel from one city to the other, but doing so requires going through certain fixed checkpoints, showing a passport, and clearing customs.

    It’s also a pretty good murder mystery, all things told, but the weirdness of the cities and the way their citizens take the setup largely for granted is really what makes them work so well.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to pillsy
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      Woah! Here’s a crazy thing- I got ‘The Memory Police’ from a new bookstore in town. Some friends moved to Hamilton last year and opened a shop in the Spring. Very good selection. They named it after *their* favorite recent novel. So I recommend The City & the City Books on Ottawa Street in Hamilton, Ontario!Report

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