2021 An Art Exhibit, Part III
Or: help, I can’t stop watching Adam Curtis documentaries.
The Power of Nightmares (Adam Curtis, 2004)
The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom (Adam Curtis, 2007)
Bitter Lake (Adam Curtis, 2015)
I appreciate that the thesis of every Adam Curtis film I’ve watched so far seems to be “America is awful [so is the UK] and comprised of a bunch of hypocritical war criminals in power who have seduced the grand populace into submission with myths, conspiracies, and bullshit.” Also, Kyle, if you read this, yes I only wrote my tweet here again because you were a total bitch about this tweet. Anyway, I think every Curtis film has at least one argument or insinuation that I generally find a little too far-fetched, but, otherwise, I think they’re some really fascinating pieces of filmmaking. Some parts of them blend together, but there’s so much to be pleasantly surprised by in the way he approaches the same general thesis. I’ve had trouble deciding which of his works I’m most drawn to at this point (of the four I’ve seen, maybe Hypernormalisation?), but each one has such striking montage work (and Curtis’ voice is just incredibly soothing) that I never really want to stop exploring every nook and cranny of his work, even when they retread information from another. Also, dude has some stunning music montages in these movies.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Junichi Murakami, 2003)
I should really play more Castlevania games. If I can make a confession: this is the first one I’ve ever played in full and it was refreshingly straight-forward and fun! A breezy GBA game (and the first thing I’ve completed since hacking my 3DS) that isn’t exactly challenging (though I’ll admit I got the “bad” ending instead of the ending that featured an extra boss because I had no interest in getting every soul possible) outside of some boss fights that require some smart navigation. I did pleasantly work through most of the map and optional challenges and, though there isn’t really much story to be found in this minor entry, it’s enough to make me wonder what else exists in this universe.
Real Housewives of Potomac, Season Four (2019)
My friend Kyle Turner once tweeted “REAL HOUSEWIVES OF POTOMAC: SEASON FOUR >>>>> TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN” and, while he’s an insane person that I love making wild claims, this season of Potomac is fucking wild. There is something riveting about watching the group dynamics of this season (including the presence of supporting cast members like Candiace’s mother) and exploring the way that what happens off-screen interacts with and distinctly impacts what happens on screen (Michael’s sexual assault charges being the most glaring of the bunch). The editing team also has been more playful than ever with this one, teasing at future events and then allowing the audience to watch the build-up to disaster (from the hoedown to the dinner party). Anyway, Monique is still my favorite here. That’s all.
Tattoo (C. Michael McCullough [AKA Michael Zen], 1974)
Ink Addiction (Erika Lust, 2020)
I won’t write anything about these two other than noting that they were both excellent shorts about tattoos. In our For A Good Time podcast episode about them, we discussed a lot about bodies and tattoos and the way we fetishize them. The cultural role of masculinity and body modification feature heavily, as well as getting pubic hair in your mouth while eating someone out. There’s something for everyone!
What We Do In the Shadows, Season Two (2020)
This season really continues an already delightful expansion of a solid film in a great way. All the characters are compelling to watch and the way they bring in guests to expand on an existing lore is just great. I don’t have much to say other than Jackie Daytona being the best.
Search Party, Season Four (2021)
I wish this was going to be a positive discussion. It’s not. Search Party season four isn’t good, it’s just kind of bad. There are some good ideas and jokes peppered throughout, but the season is poorly scripted and a mess of narratives that it doesn’t know how to tie together. Shawkat and Escola have chemistry and there’s an argument to be made for keeping them together (especially in their “day out” sequences), but the show doesn’t know how to properly frame their relationship and it almost seems like the writers forgot how to write for every other character. Drew and Elliot’s arcs are embarrassing and underwritten, with the latter especially getting a one-note joke that The Good Fight did leagues better with John Cameron Mitchell’s Milo stand-in. Portia thankfully fares better with her mini-arc, her comic timing and delivery of one-liners still impeccable despite lazy writing. But the real issue is that the show has lost track of how self-aware it needs to be and has no real identity to speak of. Where the first three seasons had a concrete understanding of what they were, mining a genre and works within that genre for all they were worth, this fourth season feels like a number of concepts shoved together haphazardly. The final string of episodes are flat out awful (Chantal’s bottle episode being the actual worst) and imply a series finale before tossing that implication out the window and ending on yet another bad cliffhanger (much like season three did with the kidnapping). There is no commitment to delivering a full story within a season anymore, which is a shame because that was what was so great about the first two; they could stand-alone perfectly while also working in tandem. Here’s what my friend Trae DeLellis wrote about the show this season and I agree with him.