Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Best of 2017: The Phoenix Scorches the Snake (Year of the Woman)

The age of the Woman has begun and there's no going back. Have they ever, aside from the last time, when Anita Hill and Take Back the Night got tangled up in The Rules-roosted third wave snottiness? That was just the launch pad, this time, baby, the outer atmosphere got penetrated and we're holding a solid orbit as decades of held-in rage is at last screamed out over the land like a purgatorial rain. The big Halloween costume pick of 2017 was a true WONDER, directed by a woman, and the best-reviewed film ever on RT is written and directed by a real LADY, and the coolest retro-feminist counter-intuitive mindbender since swingin' 71 was about a WITCH, and produced-wrote-directed-and costume-designed by a woman. Sure, there's been some newly iconic masterpieces made by men this year, but this list will focus on woman-helmed films, or movies with badass chicks in them, and TV comedy shows (cuz drama's too much a bummer in this unendurably bummer year, so don't wait for me to follow you deep into dystopian oppression. You heard me, MAIDS!) In short, Rejoice, I, a SWM, have affirmed your right to shine. Let the bitter misogynists jeer in frustration from the belly of their mom's basement, blind to that pathetic irony and therefore blind to it all. Ladies, it was your year, and if you find yourself sliding backwards in this next one, just ask a man to explain what you should do next, then sacrifice him to Kali. KALI!

PS - I finally made it to Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party" on permanent exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Here it was, a mere ten minute walk from my current apartment, and I haven't been... ever. It was a moving, spiritual experience, and clearly the right year for it, as the above rant makes clear. If you're in town, go, man, go... Kali gets a plate. Emily Dickinson gets a plate. Virginia Woolf gets a plate. Gets ain't the right word. They take the plates. This is the year they take all the plates

Written and directed by Greta Gerwig

Neither shying away from the romantic faux pas nor the cool little moments of triumph that come with growing up artsy but confident, here's a Catholic school girl movie that avoids all the tired (albeit necessary) sexual endangerment/obsession we get with all the 'women's coming-of-age' stories (the ones written by dudes). Gerwig allows us clearly autobiographical triumphant sing-outs like the take down of the visiting anti-abortion rally speaker, the brilliant and ridiculous aspects of an after-school drama club, the disillusionment and joy of teen sex. As someone who went to public school and lost my virginity at 17 to a drama club Catholic chorine who insisted on using both a condom and vaginal foam from Planned Parenthood but who is now an anti-abortion zealot, I can vouch that this is right up there with Superstar and at any rate way better than Little Sister or one of those things that seems cobbled together from contemporary lit adult education workshops more than actual life. This feels real, and tells the story, not of some 'average' girl buffeted by the winds of change in her rocky search for the right guy to surrender her freedom to, but of a specific strong-willed young woman, not quite as mature as she acts but totally free of anything resembling a cliche'd trait, a girl for whom the most important thing is not any one boy, but her own dream of going to New York to college instead of one of her local (state-subsidized) California options, despite her domineering-but-loving mother's protests. Lovingly filmed and acted, especially by star Saoirse Ronan, with brilliant vignettes and tiny moments zipping by too fast to stop and praise in any single viewing, its keenly observed connections between family members feels both well rehearsed and totally spontaneous, lived-in, and there's some dynamite sweaters and autumnal colors. It's an amazing achievement that fulfills the halo of stoner grace I saw over Great Gerwig as far back as 2009's Baghead, where she was unfortunately burdened by her inescapable mumblecore cronies, the various Duplasses, Partridges and Swanbergs, and later the self-indulgent and myopic (lately) Noah Baumbach (much as I love Bird I can't stand five minutes of his Gerwig-starred Frances Ha). Sure, Baumbach's ghost influence is to be felt here, but this is Gerwig's Live through This, her Exile in Guyville. It's the writing on the wall outside the gates of Eden, written in the blood of uncored apples.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

(PS - I snuck this in sshh) One of the trippiest, wildest, most insane biblical fables ever. Even if you don't dig the symbolism, it's also a perfect emblem of its time, considering the Woman as Avenger and seamstress of life theme, or something. What gets me is the editing and pace- the seamless evaporation of time so that we never really notice the sea changes wherein a single night elapses from a few fans dropping by to a full scale riot is one of the most terrifying and exhilarating extended sequences I've ever seen, perfectly capturing the nightmare vibe of an acid test party where all these people you don't know show up, you're too messed up to get rid of them, your pad getting trashed, packed with people, tearing it apart, robbing you blind, rending and tearing, calling their friends to come over and help themselves, everyone ending up, writhing in a pile on the floor, the rooms get full of strangers, you can't even hide out in your own bedroom, and you end up having a nervous breakdown for lack of privacy, maybe you even call the cops on your own party, except you can't dial a phone in your stage. I can't go on because to explain it or try to nail it down does it a disservice. It's too horrible. It's beyond horrible, back into blissful, and it's weird, but it's not as sadistic or pretentious as some of Aronofsky's earlier work, and it's above all, the truth. It's the allegory we need, and Jennifer Lawrence, so terrible in her last few 'big' pictures, like the X-Men reboot, redeems herself as her generation's golden wild child. You'll never look humanity in the eye again after this, but Aronofsky is a genius, for all our faults. 

Written and directed by Anna Biller

The drugs in this amber brew are potent, vibrant and rich, infused with an ingeniously stilted ceremonial acting style; thou cannot help but succumb to the film's cohesive look and sound, its adept deconstruction and Pagan rearrangement of the kind of pre-Quixote romantic Thoth Tarot blueprint for mythologizing reality into delirious love overload. Teen girls smitten with Disney and afternoon soap operas might imagine Love Witch while taking a mid-afternoon nap but never dream it could be a movie. Brechtian dissolution of the 'western eye' and a cohesive, eerily familiar beauty... Wait, is that even a sentence? Why am I getting so relaxed? What's in this flax, flaks... flask? I know now what love is, and it's fucking terrifying, but colorful, and Ennio is there. (See Bell, Book, and Hallucinogenic Tampon)

Directed by Kitty Green

Directed by young Australian auteur Kitty Green, CASTING JONBENET is a true story, on both levels, both the making of a movie about a real-life unsolved murder, and the meta making-of the recreation. Green kept the interviews and screen tests from the auditions by local actors culled from the Ramsey family's Colorado hometown, all with their own tangential connections to the events. The details of story unfold and the sidebars become the main content. Green's not after the truth but the elusive way truth vanishes in telephone game clouds on the horizon. Green trusts us to unpack the massive electric charge inherent in watching an actress audition by performing the mother's real life unconvincing (but possibly real) phone call to 911. Seeing more than one actress try to nail this weird ouroboros strip paradox is to realize an even broader canvas, the mutability of the truth along a mythological axis. Even if we've never heard the actual Ramsey phone call (and we don't within the film, nor do we see any actual images of the actual participants) we know the 'type,' and the child kidnapping/murder is a tabloid boilerplate fastened with adamantine bolts to the mediated public consciousness. Like jazz, the variations are endless but all recognizable as the same tune. (more)

Directed by Patty Jenkins

There's an ingenious long forward momentum sequence about halfway through this film --the camera trailing after Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and her male escorts as they weave through the empty wastelands of WWI France to the front line trenches, past starving desperate civilians, wounded men, and beaten horses, the filthy trenches, across no-man's land, and into the hail of gunfire from an occupied enemy town. Diana's never really let loose before this moment with all her goddess strength until now when adrenalin and anger triple her capabilities. Flipping over a tank, leaping from roof to roof, she's someone we both identify with and admire through Chris Pine's haunting blue eyes. Her determination to find the literal Aires, God of War, seems at first naive; she presumes he's presiding over the launch of a German poison gas factory (presided over by a disfigured/masked female gas chemist, based on the [maybe] real-life French lesbian chemist who had her formula stolen by Fraulein Doktor) and her man presumes he doesn't exist, but he sure needs her help. And there's a valid point behind her singular focus, coming from a paradise free of men and machinery, the horrifying atrocities we've gone blind to in the interest of disaster triage. While the look, time, and feel indicate that perhaps the CGI crew were borrowing steampunk hard drives from Captain America the First Avenger, this is a whole other thing, gender reversed (with the man here the insider spy and the woman the innocent superbeing). It's worth noting that this is directed by a woman, and as such it avoids countless invisible gender-based subtextual faux pas. And Gadot is gorgeous all get-out, when she smiles which is rarely she lights up the world, but her intelligence and ferocity come first and Pine never dares condescend. We're so used to seeing the old devil sexism come creeping back in the subtext or in the performance (we know from The Mummy how passive-aggressive Tom Cruise would be in that role) but as Pine proved in last year's Hell or High Water, he's a superb actor--even when rocking a masterful German accent-- who knows how to step back and support other actors' big moments and here lets Gadot blazes luminous and unrestrained. With massively large and diverse London crowd and Belgian front crowd scene chaos, cathartic action and character growth, and a score that includes a mix of ripping electric guitars and bottom-dropped-out brass, it's bound for glory - not just a superhero film but a legitimate road marker on both a social and mythopoetic level, and not a single glimpse of our bloated new Bruce Wayne. Praise Athena!

Dir. Agnieszka Smoczynska 

It's a few years old but never released widely here, and so 2017 is its real debut, the year its Criterion Blu-ray released, showing it to everyday America for the first time, and what a gem it is, mostly. With a great look, an elaborately realized nightclub full of green and blue lighting, wove through with tracking shots dazzling enough to evoke Magnolia, Polish provac-auteur Agnieszka Smocynska delivers a knockout feature film debut. In fact, I was going to put it at #1 except for the bummer ending, which--though true to the myth on which its based (a variation of the same source material that gave us The Little Mermaid) leaves a bad feeling in the air. Considering the more progressive resolutions of Frozen and the under-appreciated Maleficent, it feels needlessly punitive, like Stalin kettubg the Warsaw uprising partisans get slaughtered near the end of WW2. Either way, it's got some great songs and a special shout out to Aqua-Man, in an early film appearance!

Dir. Sofia Coppola

An endearingly-awkward mix of stiff period finery, natural/candle light photography, wildly disparate performance styles, lack of effective musical score (oh for some eerie drones ala There will be Blood), and downright sloppy editing, Sofia Coppola's Beguiled is reminiscent of late 60s-70s period pieces by Francois Truffaut, where the costumes never quite seem fitted or natural - more like a dress-up masquerade shot off the cuff with no sense of art direction or framing. But hey that's all OK, Sophia Coppola has always conjured feelings of being stuck in the 60s nouvelle vague in her Merchant-Ivory-Hal Ashby hybrid style, coaxing a female perspective from the raw materials of the boy's club around her, not well, perhaps but too wisely. Adapting the source novel more than the Eastwood-Siegel original film, her Beguiled has what Smoczynska's Lure lacks, a strongly pro-feminist Dogville-style ending, rather than some dumb 'throw your sisterhood under the bus for patriarchally-manipulated love' sacrifice, the maddening sort censors would have demanded in the 50s, or some 'maybe next season' promise of blood-soaked Atwoodian vengeance. At 90 minutes, it doesn't linger much longer than the average Corman horror movie before delivering the cathartic blow. The moral, like some bizarro mirror to Picnic at Hanging Rock: love and sex may soothe the savage beast, but he'll still wind up dead, roasted and plated on the ladies' banquet table before he gets a second chance to roar. 

7a. 68 KILL 
Written and Directed by Trent Haaga

The title is the only bad part of this wild midnight road odyssey of amok feminine carnality, this explores a terrain similar to Scorsese's After Hours or Demme's Something Wild but with far darker streaks of high-octane black humor, tactile druggy trailer park Spring Breakers wild women and Devil's Rejects-style methed-up sidebar freaks, as passive but sweet Chip (Mathew Gray Gubler) is roped by crazy hottie girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynne McCord) into robbing one of her sleazy clients (of $68,000) and going on the lam. It's never that easy of course, turns out she really exults in his death rattles, and soon Chip's on the run with a different girl, his first in hot pursuit, and it just gets darker and more darkly hilarious from there. I can't reveal any of the strangeness in advance as it's better to just roll with its crazy punches, reversals, and vividly etched sex-hungry madwomen - it's got the fuel of a dozen Faster Pussycat Kill Kill and Last Seduction viewings in its system, and evokes Tarantino when he still had darker shoot-from-the-hip noir edges. Haaga got his start writing stuff like Citizen Toxie so you know he knows how to deliver thrills far outside the morality-taste spectrum that so ensnares his fellows and despite its filthy darkness, 68 Kill keeps a fun summery feel (it's shot on 35mm or has a great cinematographer, or both) and a bravura turn by  Sheila Vand (the lead in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) as the psychotic gravel-voiced emo bitch Monica, and Alisha Boe as the sweet but equally psychotic Violet.

Dir. The Safdie Brothers

This is a certain strata of outer borough living a lot of us 'aging hipster' New Yorkers don't really get to know anymore, not since the advent of cell phones made buying illegal drugs a "we come to you" thing not a "let's take a subway up to the shadiest section of the Bronx and see if that guy who knows that guy is still there' kind of thing. And as rents rise, the lower world dregs are continually pushed farther and farther uptown, and marijuana more and more decriminalized, it becomes hard to find them. That's why --even if your only connection to it all is a few week-stint palling around with your roommate's glomming townie boyfriend freshman year-- scenes like the one with twitchy Jennifer Jason Leigh desperately trying to shout her way onto one of her mom's long-canceled credit cards from the bail bondsman's office, or hearing a monologue from a newly-awakened car jumper swept up in Connie's drama (probably no better such recap montage since the one in  Rules of Attraction), like a whole separate movie in a quick flashback form, will kind of blow your mind. The Safdies capture the mix of slumming thrills and the way these sorts of hustlers sweep you up in their drama so fast that what started as you buying a dime bag and getting the hell back to your friends downtown winds up in you putting up your car up as bail for someone you barely know after running from the police through a neighborhood you don't recognize, with a head full of angel dust you didn't know you'd smoked and taking another of your dealer's friends to a hospital ER waiting room, hoping to get him admitted before the cops show up and you have to run all over again, and you're too young and/or naive and/or nice and/or stoned to figure out how to make your goodbyes and extricate you from this hustler's Jenga hodge podge of quick fixes before it topples down into handcuffs or a bullet.

Dir. Sean Baker

For all her ratchet tats, foxy Bria Vinaite is hellfire and ice cream in the sexiest cutoffs ever, so I'm content to watch her frolic and expose her wild children to danger (the "project" is a cheap residential motel near Disneyland inhabited by various transient families eking by week-to-week while their children run amok in the parking lot). I generally avoid 'social worker' movies, but I actually liked these kids since they're allowed to be so wild and untamed they conjure a rare and vivid primal force that no other age can e'er exhibit. And the cinematography and sun-scathed imagery is so vivid and arresting. I liked Willem DaFoe's protective but vaguely annoyed presence as the hotel manager, suggesting another form of 'great 70s dad' as a kind of peripheral game warden, keeping the lion cubs out of the cooler and away from poachers, but otherwise letting them do as they will.  I even liked the CPS people - who try their best to do their job and aren't far wrong in their diagnosis of endangerment and unfit motherhood: these kids are running too wild - starting fires and panhandling and setting themselves up for all sorts of troubles, but it's the summer and the gorgeous Florida skies have seldom looked more candy flip delightful. The hotel is overrun with deep purples and greens that vibrate against the clear blue in some truly breathtaking panoramas, as when a rainbow surreptitiously arrives overhead. The kids and Vinaite have great rapport - all are real forces of nature and every scene throbs with a vibrant resonant life, for better or worse. Scenes wherein she, realizing the CPS are coming to take her kid, brings her to a hotel open brunch bar ("Just walk in like we're guests") and we just see jump cuts of the kids ex temper prattle glimmer with something of the profound mythic magic we used to get out of Tennessee Williams. A masterpiece.

Dir Rupert Sanders

Too often these days 'flash mob opinion' seems to so warp the actual film; we can no longer see said film as itself, it's tainted. Hopefully not forever; in this case it's the damning label of whitewashing in the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Major, a character who started life as a Japanese anime. Too bad the admittedly-valid cause picked this one to make a stand in, as it's the most underrated and appreciated film of the year, and way shorter than Blade Runner 2050. To avoid any residual guilt over this issue while watching, see it on a Blu-ray with a Japanese dub language track and English subtitles. Hearing a Japanese actress speaking from inside ScarJo's shell will likely make all the difference, and fit the thematic subtextuality with a poetic eloquence the film might otherwise lack. At any rate, it shouldn't be made into such a pariah for doing what every other mainstream Hollywood film has ever done, cuz it's fuckin' amazing. And there's the best nurturing friend relationship between a hotshot hottie detective and her coterie of tough men cops since Stendahl fucking Syndrome! (full)
OK - Women Section over, with a vengeance - come down in the basement to hang with the boys and the mounted deer antlers.

Dir. Christopher Nolan

The fusion of Christopher Nolan's three-tier approach: sky  three Spitfire Hurricanes shooting down the Luftwaffe; underwater (drowning in torpedoed ships), and the surface. The boys are all trying to get back to Britain so they can fight another day. And the captain of the small boat on his way to pick up some lads while Hans Zimmer's propulsive minimalist drum and eerie industrial drone score is like one long slow build up to mounting dread that compiles disaster upon disaster with tick-tock momentum, foregoing all the usual pitfalls (one shudders to think the pompous, anthemic drivel John Williams would have brought), going for a thumping relentless heartbeat industrial drone that seems to fuse with the rivets of the boat hulls and the terrible thuds of bombs and torpedoes. Seeing it in the theater you can feel the thickening metallic thud of bullets and torpedoes against steel hulls. The camera bobbing in the flaming oil-slicked waves while troopers swim desperately towards one torpedoed ship only to find it's already capsized from an arial bomb before they're all the way there and the next trick is to not get caught up in the burning oil slick. Nolan's eye for putting us deep in the thick of the action makes it a triumph of foley work, with big rippling sound you can feel in your belly.

And above all what registers--and is missing from most war movies--is the vastness of sky and sea; even in the throngs of desperate men, in hundreds of thousands of evacuees, the beach still dwarfs them all. Choices are made and are hard: a pilot dooming himself to capture by choosing to run out of gas on the French side in order to fight off a diving Messerschmidt about to strafe a barge loaded with British and French wounded; grabbing a random stretcher and using at an excuse to force your way through the crowded dock to get on a hospital ship, sneaking under the dock and crawling onto the hull and in on a lower level when that plan doesn't work; and then the ship is torpedoed a mile or two out from shore, and back you go, if you're lucky. The way friendships are made on the spot, a matter of desperate necessity. Nolan edits on the military ratatatat beat so well you wonder what regiment he served in. And of course, you realize something about your own self in wartime, and the way heroes are not made, or born, but shot.

Dir. Jordan Peele

When white writers and filmmakers try to voice the African-American experience we run into one of two thorny morasses at the end of two distinct paths, in the first we fantasize--seeing being black as a kind of freedom and increase in soul power, cool, confidence, and badass gravitas (ala Tarantino) and wind up in the morass of black intellectual backlash; in the other we solemnly celebrate some idealized portrait of the noble, spiritual blackness triumphing over racism and sashaying forth into a sunnier tomorrow (ala Stanley Kramer) and wind up in the morass of boredom (via Oscar). In each we're objectifying and simplifying our perceptions in ways that make us feel freer or self-congratulatory, positing our own sense of superiority in each instance in ways we're mostly blind to. In Get Out, Jordan Peele shows us how liberal whites look to a black eye when trying either of these strategies and in the process we're compelled to admire the way the black spirit endures even being expected to seem grateful for white attention to white racism. You can feel this movie coming together years ago during some similar weekends Jordan Peele spent meeting his Italian-American girlfriend's parents for the first time, and dealing with a kind of smiling oblique racism, where his blackness is as a flag no liberal can allow to pass unsaluted while at the same time leading to undoubted tension along the old school Spike Lee pizza parlor lines.

So it's keenly observed, and relatively new territory, for in Get Out racial identification erupts as a side effect, not as a direct focus. The conceivably objectionable idea of garden variety racism (i.e. a black man is sleeping with your hot young white daughters, doesn't that bother you?) is hardly broached at all here. We begin the film well past that, and before us loom a whole new set of hurtles. This isn't a movie about the white experience of blackness but a movie about the black experience of the white experience of blackness being experienced by affluent, liberal white people. It's that double meta-shift that makes the difference. Here the lead's blackness is not seen as some abomination or litmus test for white liberal acceptance but something far less obvious and more relatable and sympathetic. Not unlike Ray Milland grafted to Rosie Grier in The Thing with Two Heads, the overall message is that we can't ever possibly separate, we're merged and the only way to keep our heads on our own bodies is to gang up on terrorists, or North Korea, or in my personal Maryland camping experience from the early 80s, the Goatman.

As with his Comedy Central show, Key and Peele, the insight stems having a white mom and seeing the black-white divide from a perspective that's not quite all the way either one, coupled to a horror fan's familiarity with the way paranoia erupts from small, every day social occurrences and the way canny groups can obscure their evil actions by conforming them to the phantasmic outlines of everyday social paranoia. With Allison Williams (light years cooler than her character on Girls) rocking what are easily the sexiest bangs since Eleanor Friedberger or Chrissie Hynde and this is first time ever where a TSA agent named Rod (Lil Rel Howery) gets to be the good guy/cavalry --a tougher, more paranoid Arbogast / Dick Hallorann buddy initially assigned to just dog sit and provide phone call reassurance, he becomes the lifeline of all time, making us re-evaluate the TSA and our perceived indignities going though their airport checkpoints (where white people get a taste of what life as a black man is like).

Dir G.J. Echternkamp

This movie saved my life back in January when I was in the midst of a Trump-fueled alcoholic relapse. I came to it in despair, and in my despair it found fuel for a catharsis, and lo, I was reborn in the bloody joy that's always there at the core of our fucked-up nation. No matter if it's the food co-op co-op board protesting the political affiliations of their soy distributor, or the NASCAR beer-necks running up the sails, our great American craft of madness will find some fertile breeze to blow it. And then we'll set in on fire.

Evoking the great edgy fun pro-feminist approach of Corman slap-dash jobs of the past, this puts the man back into in the big leagues of the emerging realms of low-budget green-screen hipster sci-fi genre pastiche, ala John Dies at the End, Bounty Killer and Iron Sky. Don't even try to question why this kind of crunch car smash surreal green screen zip feels more real than most of Hollywood's gritty busters, that's just 'the future' talking and you're already in it. I bet even now, there's a difference between how you see yourself in your mind's eye (and the mirror with good lighting), and in a selfie. Don't listen to that selfie, son or daughter. Know that you look like everyone else in the rooms of your nearest beginner AA group, not some spectacular bleary-eyed butterfly. Floor it on through the illusions, jump that uncanny valley and fear no hard landing future, left or right, of the dial. Even if the next crunch you hear is your own hard candy coat cracking, thou wert only ever pixels. (full)


Everything from

You can argue all you want, superhero movies are the shit right now. You can't compare them even to the original comics, or any other adaptations --Marvel, especially, in particular the MCU (which is all of a piece and different than the universe occupied by the X-Men or the one with the apes). They are the truly enduring myths of our meta moment, especially for the alienated boys of the world, and the cooler women. Soaring with high concept wit but lacking the self-serious posturing of DC, Marvel hits every base required of great Jungian myth and do so with quips and succinct no-BS dialogue that make all competitors melt away. This year saw, finally, a good Spiderman movie, a hilarious Thor movie and a damn solid Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel is so hot right now they could even do a woman-helmed movie with someone other than ScarJo or the Scarlet Witch. What about She Hulk!??? Take a chance Marvel, give the Scarlets a rest and go green...

There's a moment in WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES where the main gorilla guy looks down at the captured human prisoners and his face has such an exact and miraculous mix of gorilla expressions met with human inquisitiveness, malice, curiosity, fear, and anger, it's like we're seeing the next stage in human evolution, the Uncanny Valley crossed, via a hidden rope bridge, via Darwin, with the profound bizarro force equivalent to when the first ape touched that black monolith all those years ago. Mark my words, history was made in that gorilla glance. The valley bridge shall soon be opened.


Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino
Amazon Prime

The quality of this eight part series is so high, the tracking shots and crowd scenes so sublime and intricate that the whole thing swirls with a high mix of Coen Bros Inside Llewyn Davis, and AMC's Mad Men, and all the loving recreations of the late 50s-early 60s era, when Lenny Bruce was getting arrested for using charged language. Every last dust speck of the Bleeker Street record stores and clubs are lovingly recreated, but unlike similar fetishist art director-cum-auteurs like Todd Haynes, Maisel's narrative line is never inert but instead flows like beautiful river. The violence is nil, the Big Life Lessons non, the laughs earned, the trauma naught, the charm high, the wit razor-sharp, the clothes heavenly, the lead actress Rachel Brosnahan staggeringly beautiful and talented. In her flawless dark red outfits, eyes alight with that distinctly NYC woman character that overflows the borders of gender prescription in such a way there's no stopping her, and though it's all very theatrical there's no musical numbers, unless you count classic period songs set to tracking shots so well choreographed they create something like a joyous earthy version of Kubrick. Even the pisher husband is sympathetic--to an extent-- and looks good without a shirt. The problems are all humorous without being overly-simplified yet it's not so subtle you struggle for meaning. It's so tight, from the interweaving camera that glides along through elaborate but seemingly breezy crowd scenes with the grace and panache of Midge herself, there's not a moment of dead space in the entirety of its season. Whatever all that other shit was trying to do, it's done right here.

BROAD CITY (season 4)
Created by Abby Jacobson and Ilana Glazer 
Comedy Central

Yo, these girls have electric comedic crackerjack chemistry, timing, and wit they crack open the borders of women in comedy and jab a giant stick through the eye of the basement trolls tweeting that women aren't funny. They may sometimes get roped into falling into some familiar sitcom-ish barrels, but overall they're the only ones to nail what so many 'young single ladies living just enough for the city'-shows try for - the type of girls who bite the big apple with the force of a steel trap, right through the core and out the other side, free of all liens, materialism and encumbrances. Whether howling with the witches in central park (including Diane Keaton) or shrooming through the West Village (some hilarious wiggling pop art animation), this was their year. They mostly got rid of one unbearably hammy roommate, now there's just one more who overplays and sends it all into a spiral only Billy Eichner could undo, but he was on Difficult People, so you'd need Hulu.

BIG MOUTH - episode 2 "Everybody Bleeds"

One of the genius touches of this animated Netflix series is to have the emerging male libido appear to young puberty-stricken Westchester Jewish boys as a furry but friendly monster, a mix of Looney Tunes lion, Will Arnett, and one of Sendak's wild thing.  Episode 2 goes one better: the girl version, voiced by Maya Rudolph, suddenly erupts with the first menstrual blood of the lead girl, and it's a truly thunderous and terrific moment. We can feel this smart young girl's sense of self, her power and pain widening to encompass her sudden mix of pain, shame, confusion, anger, and then flow past her own bedroom in a primal cry that mom heeds on instinct only to be shut down brutally. Rudolph invests the voice with such from-the-hips force as she sweeps through her charge's bedroom, throwing out the tomboy baseball glove and declaring that now is the time to "listen to Lana del Rey on repeat while you cut up your T-shirts!" You feel the parameters of social acceptance for frank discussion of menstruation and bodily female changes erupt into public acceptance with a devastating primal scream that shatters and widens social reality itself. The feminine use of temporary raging insanity as a defense against the mood-crushing inescapability of menstruation is made tangible to even the most cliched macho dumbass. What's done cannot be undone. Also, Jordan Peele plays the ghost of Duke Ellington, counseling a possibly gay kid on the pansexual liberation in the jazz age; I forget if he mentions Billy Strayhorn, but does he really have to for this to get eighty stars?

Cartoon Network

In a way I guess I'm lucky that my relative age-related social marginalization led me to not learning about RICK AND MORTY until the third season as I would have gone crazy waiting over two years for a new one to happen, with the first two seasons being only 10 or 11 eps each. Now it's all over and I have no choice but to deep freeze myself until season four finally arrives, presumably in 2020 or later. I'm already scratching my arms and wild-eyed grasping. I can't go on. I can only endeavor to forget. Isn't that, really, what 2017 was all about? The remorse of knowing our sci-fi ecstasy may well be behind us, thanks to a news channel more cruelly insidious than Goebbels and Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines combined?

The world is two separate paradigms now, depending on whether you watch Fox or MSNBC, or CNN or whatever else. One side still valiantly labors to keep facts straight and raise the alarm, the other preys upon the fault lines of paranoid white male consciousness until fissures erupt. When the president gets his briefings from the latter, we're truly in trouble. We may soon have no choice, change the channel and bask in the warm allure of denial, or go mad from the sluggish pace of clarity. Luckily, there's no hiding place better than the screen, and its accessible to all. God bless and deliver Robert Osborne to the heaven he so deserves, for he led us to ours.
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