Andrew Sullivan’s The Poison We Pick & Isle of Dogs

Opioids are just one of the ways Americans are trying to cope with an inhuman new world where everything is flat, where communication is virtual, and where those core elements of human happiness — faith, family, community — seem to elude so many.

The following is from a brilliant article by Andrew Sullivan regarding the Opioid epidemic, and one I cannot commend enough for its scope and brilliance. Andrew Sullivan is a terrific writer, but what makes this piece particularly special is his understanding and compassion toward users and abusers of opioids. It paints a picture of a country that has lost its way, and that has left people behind. Empty voids can be filled in devastating ways, and this is no different. If you want to understand the United States today, look no further than this brilliant piece of journalism.

 I couldn’t get past Anderson’s usual clumsiness when dealing with minorities. This is a film where a character is literally whitewashed, an act that makes him more agreeable afterwards. “Isle of Dogs” treats this as a sight gag. It plays more like a confession.

This is from a review of the movie Isle of Dogs by Odie Henderson, a great writer for the Roger Ebert site. The review dwells over a few characters including  who are deemed as culturally problematic, most notably a girl in the film named Tracy who is perceived by Henderson to be the “white savior” of the film.

To me, while there were oblique symbols used that may have been misappropriated, I really do not know understand why we have to look at Tracy’s race before dealing with her as a character. Anderson could have been more careful, but this is his world and he choose to have a character with unique story and connection to the case in order to make it palpable. If she was of color I do not think that would have changed anything, and she did not have to be if Anderson did not see it that way. I do not think characterizing it as cultural appropriation is fair, as it is a slippery term to begin with and directors should be able to write their own stories without fear of fitting into a narrow cultural frame.

I liked the movie overall, but was a bit underwhelmed at points. I think Wes Anderson is an incredibly creative mind, and I love much of his work. The animation in this film is particularly astounding including a terrific voice cast. Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Bryan Cranston are just a few of the voices for this film, and that is not even the tip of the iceberg. While this film could have been more well thought out, it is hard to be too angry when this film is as fun as it is with so many great performances. 8/10

The Favourite, Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse, & David Brooks’s Favorite Articles

The Favourite – Yorgos Lanthimos’s snide and narcissistic comedy about two women fighting to be Queen Anne’s confidant is hilarious and biting. Much attention has been paid to Olivia Colman as Queen Anne and rightfully so, but I was more impressed with Emma Stone as Abigail. Watching her duke it out and manipulate those around her in a way Machiavelli would be proud was terrific, and she makes the absolute most of her role. It ends in slightly odd and precarious way, but that does not take away from the overall quality of this movie. It is a very fun time, even if it is imperfect. 8.7/10

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Like me, I am sure many of you have Superhero fatigue, and yet this movie finds a way to be incredibly fresh and exciting as a superhero film. Cleverly written, it takes joy in playing with narrative and structure, showcasing different Spider-men and women from different dimensions. It makes for some of the most refreshing thrills in years, and allows for a unique take on a comic book staple. The animation is also incredible, as it literally brings comic book pages to life. Miles and the other spider-people seem to move at hyperkinetic speeds while also keeping a unique artistic quality that beckons comic books of old and new. It is hard to think of a movie more fresh and fun than this one, and one that I highly encourage you see in theaters. 9/10

Finally in this piece, David Brooks quotes some of his favorite long-form pieces of journalism, and all of them are worth a read. I would highly recommend both Andrew Sullivan pieces mentioned, as they are both terrific.

Film Blast!!

I have watched too many movies over the past few days and still have other things I want to write for this website and the Michigan Review. I still have other movies I want to see before I make my final list! So brace yourselves, here as your amateur film critic I will try my best to complete these tasks! Here are the three films I have seen in the past four days.

Annihilation – I saw this on the plane and yet I still was gnawing at my hands as the tension unfolded in the shimmer. This movie is a feat, a technical and storytelling marvel, one that seems to ask more questions than it answers. It is deeply dark and disturbing, and yet it is nearly perfect. It can be confusing, and my only negative is that my experience was clouded in plenty of “oh my god” and “what the ****” than I would have liked, but this is one of the most impactful films I have seen. There are scenes I simply cannot let go of, and now the song “Helplessly Hoping” has a whole new meaning. Simply put, watch this movie if you can stomach it. 9.3/10

Roma – While I commend Netflix for financing this incredible film, there strategy for releasing it simultaneously in theaters and on their service seems designed to lose money. Regardless this film is incredible, a small story told on an epic scale, that makes it perhaps the most remarkable thing to come out in recent memory. Alfonso Cuarón paints this film and this story with beautiful black and white, as well as unbelievable cinematography. The story, deals with not only the maid Cleo but also the men in her and her family’s lives and their impacts on them. If you can see it in theaters, you absolutely should, but regardless, this is a film that simply needs to be watched. One of the year’s best. 9.5/10

The Lobster This was a film I had read about and I had extremely high expectations for once I saw it on Netflix. Unfortunately, it did not live up to those lofty expectations, and perhaps that is part of my criticism. This film, about a society where single people have to go to a hotel and find a mate in 45 days, or otherwise they will be turned into an animal, is clever and absurd. It raises fascinating questions about the value of polygamy and monogamy, as well as what happens when society has an active say in what happens. My biggest problem with this film is its tonal register is confusing, and it simply just did not impress me as much as I would have liked. That being said, this is an experience that many will enjoy, and one I think for the right audience can be considered a masterpiece. 7.5/10

Free Solo & Meru should be watched together

When I went to see Free Solo I was amazed, bewildered, and shocked. It was a film so deep and emotional, something seemed to separate it from so many other films of its kind. Alex Honnold, Free Solo climber, someone who climbs without ropes or a harness, sets his sight toward El Capitan, a rock so huge it had never been free soloed let alone climbed before. The film follows the preparation and the people around Alex as he attempts to make one of the most incredible climbs in human history.

What is great about this film is not whether or not he makes it, but rather its focus on Alex’s preparation and difficulties as well as how the people around him deal with the possibility of him falling to his death. It is gripping and fascinating stuff, but the true star is not Alex but rather his girlfriend Sanni McCandless, as she becomes our voice to Alex in many ways.”I do not understand why he wants this.” When she asks would you rethink your climbing priorities with me he bluntly says “No but I appreciate your concern.”

Watching him climb is gripping and thrilling stuff but going through Alex’s life is what sets this film apart. The director Jimmy Chin, who after Alex finishes his climb says, “That is a huge weight off my shoulders.” In order to understand that weight you should watch Meruavailable on Netflix. Jimmy Chin directs as he and his friends Conrad Ankman and Renan Ozturk attempt to climb a Mountain that has never been summited before, the Shark’s Fin at Meru. Jimmy this time gets more personal focus and his family dynamic is once again fascinating. It is just as if not more brutal than Free Solo, but just as captivating. It gives the insight into not only Jimmy’s life but the climbing life as well.

I encourage you to watch both films as they are great showcases of not just the sport of climbing, but also the human experience. The highs, lows, trials and tribulations all add up to an incredibly brilliant set of documentaries that I think go together incredibly well. For Free Solo I give a 9.5, and for Meru I give up an 8.5. Free Solo is a better film but both are great in their own way and I recommend watching both together.

Also there are plenty of great reviews on Free Solo but my favorites are from David Sims and New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens!

My Latest Michigan Review Article & Teen Sex

After shocking many and winning the NCAA title, it would have been easy to stop and rest in his laurels. For Ben, however, he felt the passion and drive to keep going.

This is from my latest Michigan Review article about National Champion Ben Flanagan! I had an absolute blast interviewing him and you should definitely check it out here!

In other words, in the space of a generation, sex has gone from something most high-school students have experienced to something most haven’t.

This is from the fascinating article by Kate Julian regarding sex levels today. A seeming paradox is at the heart of her article, why teens are having less sex despite the seemingly increasing methods to have it. Her article attempts to draw some through-lines, and at times try to draw correlations that are simply hard to prove. Regardless, I would highly recommend giving it a read and listening to her appearance on the wonderful 2038 podcast in which she makes the argument for why sex will continue to decline 20 years from now.

I begin to wonder whether this is a good thing, as loneliness and something will be missing from many relationships. It would not surprise me, given all we know, that people maybe more hesitant to have sex. However, I still think much of society will participate, as there is some value from doing so. I am curious what your thoughts are on this as this maybe something I would like to investigate in the future. Let me know in the comments!

Kareem Hunt & Tua Tagovailoa

A video surfaced of Kareem Hunt pushing a 19 year old women, and it is not nearly as shocking. The NFL has once again shown itself to be incompetent to actually investigate its own problems, and the rash punishment of Kareem Hunt shows that no one, not the Kansas City Chiefs nor the Players and Owners, have changed when it comes to the subject of Sexual Assault.

The NFL currently has $14 Billion in revenue and yet they are absolutely powerless to actually get and obtain footage that would be tangible to actively see if there players behave in such a way. Instead they have punished people without evidence of anything taking place, and not taken action when they could have in the cases of Ray Rice and Kareem Hunt.

In a statement released by the Kansas City Chiefs, they apparently were alerted about the situation in February and the NFL “conducted an investigation” with law enforcement. How and in what world the NFL with $14 Billion dollars in revenue could not get the tapes but TMZ did is utterly absurd, and while the Ray Rice tape is objectively worse, this does not make the situation any better. The fans of the NFL who care about the character of the league should be outraged and should demand a response from the NFL.

He can go 15/15 and if he throws a pick it’s the worst game

This is a quote from a piece that came out on College Gameday describing Heisman candidate Tua Tagovailoa and his “ohana” or family. The piece starts with his dad Galu explaining that he made his son throw lefty even though he was a natural righty so that his son could be similar to him. They then go on further to admit that at home he learned from “bible and belt” and would be whipped if he did not perform well. The quote above is him describing his “discipline” toward Tua for lack of performance. The piece then went on to discuss that his Dad made the decision for him to commit to Alabama and they moved to Alabama with him.

Yes you read that right. Tua and his family admitted on a televised piece on College Gameday that they beat Tua and that it was all apart of their family character. This story reported by Tom Rinaldi, is a ridiculous display of a puff piece, one that does not accomplish its goals and attempts to make (albeit some) light or positive out of a family situation that is clearly toxic. While that could have been a story about familial ethics that could have been made fascinating, it became a shameful promotion of bad parenting. I do not have a child but if I did I would be horrified that this piece was displayed.

For the record I used to love Tom Rinaldi and he is a reporter I still respect. However, he should know better, and this promotion of toxic home dynamics should have been avoided. While I want to critique Tua’s dad, I will not tell him how to parent, however as someone who used to be an avid watcher of College Gameday, I would have hoped ESPN had better judgment. However, for at least that piece, they did not. ESPN and parents are allowed to do what they want, but we can and should question the reasoning and merit when we do not think something is up to parr. This piece deserves heavy scrutiny and I hope ESPN will make better decisions in the future.