What’s Joey Been Watching? August 10 – 28 (minus the 25th and 27th because they don’t fit the theme well enough)

I’m back at university and have classes to go to and papers to write, and you know what that means…More time to watch movies and write this blog! Somehow I end up both watching and writing more when I’m busier than ever. That’s usually great, but when I’m trying to catch up on older things I’ve seen, it’s not helping! Anyway, let’s continue catching up with our first round of Lynch movies that me and my friend Noah watched, five to be exact, plus a game I couldn’t find a place for and a completely unrelated movie I thought would be funny to throw in here. Enjoy!

Aug 10: Moonlighter (Steam)

Why am I even talking about this game? Every other time I’ve talked about games, it’s been because there’s something notable and interesting from a story perspective. Moonlighter features nothing even remotely interesting in terms of narrative, other than a cautionary tale on how not to write stories, so I guess that’s why I’m even bothering to discuss it. It’s an obvious gaffe, but in the age of video games with fantastic stories, there’s no space for this kind of awfulness. 

I’ll spare you the details, but the game promises you some story at the beginning, only to lead you on for hours with no interesting content whatsoever. The game backloads all of its story in the last five minutes, and pulls so much stuff out of its ass I thought I was playing an enema. Space pirates, galactic police, and other shit that’s never even been hinted at shows up and puts a damper on an already mediocre experience.

If this were the 80s or early 90s at the latest, you might be able to get away with shitty, foreshadowing-less storytelling in games. People had no expectations of video game stories; they were all about what kind of wacky stuff the limited technology could accomplish. Nowadays, there’s no excuse. We know what games can do, we want to know what you can do with games. It’s a mainstream medium now, for better or for worse, and that means games are going to be under far more scrutiny for quality in every capacity. This is a blunder that highlights how far games have come since the time when crap like this was not only tolerable but the norm.

Art’s pretty, though. 

August 20: Eraserhead (random streaming site)

Y’know, I knew Lynch was weird, but holy smokes, Eraserhead is insane. I loved it. It reminds me quite a lot – and almost must have inspired – Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, another movie I adore. Much like Enemy, it’s pretty much impossible to take literally. What we’re seeing is one man’s struggle with postpartum depression and/or psychosis. He also has an extended dream in which his head is, well, turned into an eraser. Hence, Eraserhead, of course. I’m not sure I get all of it, admittedly. But it’s brilliantly unnerving, and has some hideous practical effects that hold up perfectly today. Jack Nance perfectly captures the bewilderment of having an unplanned child, and I see why Lynch wanted him for every subsequent movie he made before his tragic death in 1996. Well, he didn’t show up in The Elephant Man, but he wasn’t missing much.

August 20: The Elephant Man (DVD)

Lynch continues to forget that filmmaking in colour is a thing in The Elephant Man, a movie where John Hurt plays a horribly deformed man, and Anthony Hopkins is the man who saves him from a life of passive torture and disrespect. It says it on the DVD box, and that’s pretty much it. It’s heartwarming, I guess? Mostly boring, though. The movie brings up some decent moral quandaries, but never actually delves into them, making it all the more frustrating that this is such a simple feel-good movie, especially after the overwhelming and complicated horror of Eraserhead. It’s a disappointing sophomore effort for Lynch.

August 21: Blue Velvet (DVD)

I watched this movie weeks ago and that damn song is still stuck in my head. “She wore blue velvet, bluer than velvet was the night…” Considering how tame The Elephant Man was, we were hoping that Blue Velvet would up the weirdness factor to match the Lynch we thought we knew. Instead, Lynch gave us an entertaining, clever, and beautifully shot mystery film with only a few hints of Lynch being the master of the offbeat he becomes later. I wouldn’t say I like this movie as much as Lynch loves lengthy scenes of people singing on or near a stage, but I probably like it as much as Lynch likes villains who are over-the-top belligerent and violent. I like Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern a lot too, about as much as Lynch loves curtains of any kind. I don’t think it’s the masterpiece some people hail it as, but I respect those who do adore it about as much as Lynch respects the oddities of his characters without ever talking down to them. 

August 21: Wild at Heart (DVD)

Uuuuh, no Lynch, this isn’t what we asked for. Please, my friend, when we said we wanted weird, we meant good weird. Not… whatever the fuck this is. The movie begins in the most entertainingly batshit scene to ever begin a movie, in which Nicolas Cage brutally kills a man who tries to stab him out of nowhere. 

This is a romance. 

Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage are madly in love. Her mother wants to get in between them, and will stop at nothing to end her daughter’s affair with such a “dangerous” man. She ends up hiring a dude to kill him but backs out, much like Fargo, and all of a sudden everyone is trying to kill each other or run away.

This is a romance.

The Wizard of Oz is referenced every five minutes or so. Sometimes it’s subtle. Sometimes a character clicks red heels together three times. Sometimes Glenda the Good Witch shows up to give Nicolas Cage relationship advice. Something tells me Lynch is a fan. 

This is a bad, bad movie. No more romance for you anymore, Lynch. You’ve lost your privileges. 

August 28: Lost Highway (random streaming site)

Thank you David, this is exactly the kind of weird shit we were begging for. What starts off as a somewhat traditional thriller about a couple in a stale marriage getting sent mysterious videotapes from inside their home becomes an insane fever dream of indecipherable plot with an almost entirely new cast of characters 45 minutes in. I had a lot of trouble parsing it on my own; I unfortunately had to turn to the ol’ trusty internet to explain to me what actually happened, but I’ll let y’all have your own interpretations. It may not make a whole lotta sense, but Lost Highway is the most immediately enjoyable Lynch film so far. Much of the viewing experience involved us asking the screen questions we knew would never get answered, and I couldn’t be more fine with that. The only question I had at during The Elephant Man and Wild at Heart was “Is this really the David Lynch?” Lost Highway is the David Lynch, it just took him longer than we expected for him to get back there. I guess you could say that on the highway of filmmaking, he took a few wrong turns and got lost. Lost on the highway. Lost Highway. 

August 28: Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (Netflix)

To finish off part one of Lynch week, we watched the only film to ever be nominated for every single Oscar category. Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed unleashed the monster that is brilliance upon this world. Every frame of this arthouse masterpiece tells a billion stories, and that’s just when looking at each of them literally. There is subtext deeper than the Mariana Trench hidden within every “Zoinks,” every “Jinkies,” and especially every “Hey Scoob!” 

Alright, I unironically enjoyed this movie and I’m using extreme sarcasm as a coping mechanism. You caught me. But seriously, this movie has no business being as funny as it is. James Gunn may not have made the R-rated Scooby Doo he wanted to, but he still gave the script his all and came up with something that is somehow enjoyable to me at the ages of 11 and 21. It’s well paced, it’s structurally clean, and I’ll even praise some of the action despite the incredibly dated CGI. It isn’t even close to being perfect, but what can I possibly ask for from a freakin’ Scooby Doo movie?

What should I do about movies I’ve only seen part of? We watched the first 10 minutes of Lynch’s Dune, but used our one and only veto to end our suffering. But when we vetoed Julien Donkey-Boy during Korine week, I still reviewed it as much as I could. Just last night I watched Assassination Nation but had PTSD flashbacks to Spring Breakers and had to turn it off 45 minutes in; is that review worthy? These are the kinds of questions that keep me up at night.

This week’s shoutout goes to Maicer Izturis, former Blue Jays infielder. Though he was injured in 2014 and never appeared again in the major leagues, he will always have a place in my heart. His retirement from baseball in 2016 was so devastating to hear about 5 minutes ago. I hope he lives a fulfilling life.

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