Struggling to ‘Blow Up a Pipeline’

Images courtesy Neon.

8/10 Swedish ecology professor Andreas Malm published “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” in 2021 as an examination of the history and philosophy of political violence and a criticism of both pacifism and climate fatalism within modern liberal politics. How to Blow Up a Pipeline isn’t so much an adaptation as it is an abstraction, translating those themes into an onscreen narrative. It’s a serviceable heist movie made great by how well it captures the strange mood here at the cusp of the end of the world and what the people willing to change that actually look like.

West Texas- For various reasons mainly relating back to legalized land theft, pollution and enforcement of poverty, a group of eight disaffected youths independently conclude that the fossil fuel industry and all of its customers are destroying the world because it’s the cheapest thing to do and that sabotaging the entire supply chain to the point that it becomes too expensive to maintain is the only option. They come together to blow up a pipeline.

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‘Renfield’ stays in toxic relationship with Marvel movies

Renfield’s title font was inspired by the 1931 Bella Lugosi adaptation of Dracula, which it pays nice homage to, but holy crap does the font look out-of-place in a digitally shot color film. Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

2/10 Renfield ranges from boring to completely unwatchable aesthetically, and it expresses an incredible hatred of its own characters that’s deeply angering to watch play out.

New Orleans, present day- After traveling the world, sucking as much as he can out of every city until he’s finally driven out, Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage) has settled in the Charity Hospital that was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans with his familiar, R.M. Renfield (Nicolas Hoult). Renfield has also been sucked dry and is looking for a way out, but he keeps using the powers granted to him by Dracula to bring Dracula people to eat due to a combination of his own inertia, apathy and lack of self-respect and active manipulation by the vampire.

Also, a significant amount of the scant 93-minute runtime is dedicated to the Lobo crime family, and the mother and son play out a similar relationship to Dracula and Renfield’s, and also there’s a traffic cop whose father was killed by the Lobos because he was the only honest cop on the force, and she’s got a grudge, and, what? We’ve got a vampire, not just any vampire but Dracula himself played the greatest actor who ever lived, and we need this drug dealer plot, why? The way Tedward Lobo (Ben Schwartz) is used as a foil for Renfield turns out to be one of the better parts of the movie, and that’s not a compliment.

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Images courtesy Janus Films.

10/10 Godland, the Danish/Icelandic masterpiece that rounded major 2022 festivals and immediately raised writer/director Hlynur Pálmason into an international filmmaker to watch, is one of those movies that’s barley worth analyzing because it’s so obviously perfect on the surface. It’s not particularly revolutionary, there’s nothing this film is saying that hasn’t been said before, but it’s stated simply, inescapably and powerfully, a film that makes the mere act of living on this planet seem like a bittersweet but futile act with ruinous emotional consequences.

Iceland, 1860s- Lutheran priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) is tasked with traveling to Iceland to build and a church and maintain a ministry. Lucas only speaks Danish and seems unable to learn Icelandic, leaving him able to converse only with the translator and none of the Icelandic-speaking laborers who make the voyage with them, and when they arrive on the island, he clashes immediately and constantly with their guide, Ragnar (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson).

The film opens with text stating that it is inspired by the box of seven wet plate photographs taken by a Danish priest which are the first recorded images of Iceland’s southern coast, but this is part of the fiction. No such ambrotypes exist.

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‘Paint’ is one of my new favorite movies

Images courtesy IFC Films.

10/10 Paint is so funny I almost choked on my popcorn and died several times while watching it, but there’s nothing funny about how well-made it is. This is a beautiful, almost haunting film about personal stagnation, longing and missed opportunity.

I’m completely serious, this is a new “desert island” movie for me.

Burlington, Vermont- Carl Nargle (Owen Wilson), a painter modeled on Bob Ross, has hosted PBS Burlington’s highest-rated afternoon show “Paint with Carl Nargle” for nearly 30 years. Nargle is a man stuck in time in every conceivable way and more, known around town for the perm he’s worn for nearly 30 years and the custom orange van with no brakes or rearview mirrors that he’s driven for nearly 30 years. He dreams to one day have his work featured in the Burlington Museum of Art, and after hearing the director was looking for a painting of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s tallest peak that overlooks Burlington, he has spent every one of his broadcast hours painting the mighty Mount Mansfield.

Nargle’s life and career begin to unravel when the struggling studio hires a new painter, Ambrosia (Ciara Renée), to take up a second hour, who quickly overtakes him in popularity. The unwelcome change spurs Nargle to reexamine what’s important in his life and even his human nature itself on an emotional journey that’s been in the making for nearly 30 years.

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Deliberately overthinking ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ to play out the fantasy that someone is paying me to do this

Images courtesy Universal Pictures.

8/10 The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a manmade horror beyond my comprehension – not as an assessment of quality, but as a fact about its nature. As far as man-made horrors go, it’s pretty high-quality.

Brooklyn- Mario and Luigi (Chris Pratt and Charlie Day) struggle to start a plumbing business out of a cramped New York apartment with their extended family of first-generation Italian immigrants. The brothers rush to the scene of a water main break, hoping to seize a chance to save Brooklyn, but they descend deeper and deeper into the sewer in search of the break and are eventually sucked into a warp pipe. The pair are thrust into a brewing war as the evil Koopa king Bowser (Jack Black), who rules the Dark Lands, is launching an invasion of all local territories in order to win the heart of the Mushroom Kingdom’s ruler, Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy).

The movie begs a lot of questions about its own existence, but it begs them by demonstrating a lot of really solid answers. Maybe they aren’t the right answers, but there’s a consistent, observable thought process behind this movie. 

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