Tuesday Open Thread 

The Walking Thread: Sing Me A Song (S7, E7)

TWD Sing

After nearly a half-season of setting up plotlines, “Sing Me A Song” is when they start to be threaded together. It’s not a perfect episode, and much of its enjoyment will depend on how much you like the character of Negan (because there’s a lot of him), but either way it’s a more entertaining and more engaging watch than the recent filler episodes we’ve been seeing.

As it starts out, Carl and Jesus have arrived at the Saviors’ compound, on separate missions (Jesus is merely looking to scout out the location, but Carl wants to take out Negan in one stroke, consequences be damned). Carl surprises the Saviors, mowing down two of them with a machinegun but failing to kill Negan and getting himself kidnapped in the process. Hey, give him some credit, it’s pretty good for a teenager with one eye.

He fully expects Negan to kill him in retaliation, but instead Negan takes an apparent liking to him (or he figures correctly that if he kills Carl, then he’ll have to kill Rick and his friends, too, to avoid reprisals) and decides to attempt to turn him to the Dark Side. He questions the kid, scares him (forcing him sing “You Are My Sunshine” while swinging his bat precariously nearby is a nice touch that adds some serious tension to the sequence), makes him take off his eye patch so he can see the bare eye socket (yuck!), and forces him to watch as he burns a subordinate’s face with a red-hot iron for breaking the rules – so now we know how Dwight got that way. Then, even more frighteningly, he makes Carl take him back to Alexandria, and the episode ends with the disturbing sight of Negan sitting on Rick’s porch, playing with baby Judith while Carl looks on. I suspect Rick’s forced loyalty will be sorely tested when he gets home to see that.

To keep the episode from getting too bogged down in the Negan-Carl plotline, we get several b-plots put into motion or resolved as well. Rosita talks Eugene into making her a bullet (very reluctantly, as he suspects her attempt on Negan’s life will end badly for everyone). Rick and Aaron go on a desperate supply run so that they have something to give the Saviors next time, and end up facing a trailer surrounded by a huge moat full of Walkers. Spencer and Father Gabriel have a disagreement on the road, which ends with Gabriel walking back to Alexandria and Spencer getting his hands on some supplies and a bow-and-arrow set. And Michonne goes off on her own, and ends up taking a Savior hostage and demanding she “take me to Negan”.

All in all, a very busy episode, so the supersized 90-minute runtime doesn’t seem too bloated. Plot aside, “Sing Me A Song” felt like a series of Negan character moments. We see him at the Saviors’ compound, playing headgames with both Carl and Daryl, parading out his harem of sex slaves to show them off like trophies, disfiguring his men to keep order, etc. Then as he moves to Alexandria (by himself – probably not a wise move), he uses threats and sick humor to throw his weight around – at one point, he threatens to do some unsavory things to an Alexandrian woman, and when she slaps him in the face, he replies, “I’m about 50% more into you now.” He’s such an unnerving, darkly funny character, it’s hard not to think of the Joker. But underneath it all, we see how he has managed to keep everyone in line, and we also see a fatal flaw: hubris. His ego has led him to believe he can always get the better of everyone, and I suspect Team Rick will be proving him wrong pretty soon.

TWD Sing 1

Random thoughts on this episode:

*Not a lot of zombie-killing action in this one, but Michonne gets some good Walker kills early on (and it’s always a pleasure to see her cutting through the undead with her katana), and seeing that tree Walker get his arms ripped off was pretty awesome.

*I like how Carl just flat-out asks Negan, “why haven’t you killed my father, Daryl or me?” It’s a question many fans have been asking, and it’s good to see the show taking it head on. A smart villain would have probably cut his losses and killed all these people by now, but as I said above, Negan’s ego leads him to believe he will always come out on top, and like all slave-masters he’s too lazy to do the work himself, so he sees Rick and his friends as worth keeping around.

*Conversely, I like how many of the protagonists are asking the obvious question, “why don’t we just kill Negan”? Well, why didn’t someone in Germany just kill Hitler? Some tried (and failed), the rest were too afraid to try. That’s always how evil survives: a combination of fear and luck. Even if someone does manage to take Negan out, the rest of the Saviors will surely wipe out everyone in retaliation. Rosita doesn’t seem to care; hopefully both Michonne and Maggie are thinking more strategically.

*After Spenser confesses he hates Rick and hopes he doesn’t make it back to town alive, Father Gabriel replies with a beautiful putdown: “What you’re saying doesn’t make you a sinner, but it does make you a tremendous shit.” Man, I love Father Gabriel.

*Rosita actually rates higher on the douchebag-o-meter than Spenser this episode (and I’m pretty sure Spenser just exists at this point to be the show’s designated dickwad). She doesn’t seem to care about whether her plot to kill Negan will get other good people killed, and even though Eugene has spent the last two seasons stepping up and being useful, she still mocks him as a coward to manipulate him into making her a bullet. Later, when she offers a half-assed apology, he shuts her down by saying, “I’d rather take it back to awkward silence”. Heh.

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From The Trailer Park - The Autopsy of Jane Doe

A father-and-son coroner team (Brian Cox and Emilie Hirsch) are performing an autopsy on a female homicide victim when they are unexpectedly drawn into a murder mystery by frightening supernatural forces. Directed by Andre Ovredal (Troll Hunter).

Monday Open Thread 

From The Trailer Park: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Does anyone have some tape?

Sunday Open Thread 

Top Five: Best Movies You've Never Seen

Per Scott M’s request, I am temporarily resurrecting the weekend Top Five (but don’t expect it to become a habit, y’hear?). Here are the top five excellent movies you’ve (probably) never seen:

1. Owning Mahowny (2003)

Owning Mahowny

The late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives one of his very best performances playing Brian Mahowny, an assistant bank manager with a gambling problem who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars to feed his addiction via frequent trips to Atlantic City, where an amoral casino owner (a great John Hurt) is more than happy to accommodate him without asking too many questions about where the money is coming from. Based on a true story, the film watches Mahowny’s inevitable downfall with utter fascination, and Hoffman carries the film as a man who lives for nothing other than the rush he gets as the dice bounce; as his co-workers and the police get wind of his scheme and the net closes around him, he remains hyper-focused on keeping the game going for as long as possible, a true addict to the end.

2. Santa Sangre (1989)

Santa Sangre

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s bizarre, surreal masterpiece of horror is utterly unlike any film I’ve ever seen before or since. His blood-soaked tale of a mute, damaged young man manipulated by his deformed mother into becoming a serial killer is like Hitchcock’s “Psycho” on acid. Jodorowsky fills the film with grotesque and haunting imagery: murders and dismemberments, circus freaks, weird religious cults, and just about anything else you can think of. One scene in particular, involving circus members holding a funeral for an elephant, is truly unforgettable. If you have a taste for bloody and off-kilter cinema, “Santa Sangre” makes for oddly compelling and hypnotic viewing.

3. Genghis Blues (1999)

Genghis Blues

A blind blues singer from San Francisco travels to Tuva to compete in a Mongolian throat-singing contest. A story so strange it must be a documentary, because Hollywood would never attempt to tell it in fiction. Famous bluesman Paul Pena hears Tuvan throat-singers (men who perform traditional Mongolian songs while manipulating their vocal cords so that they are singing two notes at the same time) over the radio one day and is instantly struck with an inspiration. He figures out how to perform the throat-singing himself, fuses it with his own home-grown blues chords, and then decides to travel halfway around the world to Tuva to compete in their annual singing contest. We follow his journey and become immersed in the Tuvan culture, a land of desert nomads mostly unchanged for the last few hundred years, still riding horseback and living simple agrarian lives. And in the process, we get to know Pena himself, a man who loves his art but is constantly driven to frustration and depression by his handicap. This is not a movie that whitewashes being blind. It is a difficult and sometimes maddening condition to live with on a day-to-day basis, and the film celebrates Pena’s ability to live with that struggle as much as his fearless musical talent.

4. Tokyo Story (1953)

Tokyo Story

Most of the time, when a movie is (a) in black and white, (b) in a foreign language, and (c) on many critics’ best-of lists but most regular moviegoers have never heard of it, that’s usually a sign that it’s an overrated, pretentious bore. Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” is a rare exception, a masterpiece from one of Japan’s finest filmmakers that really should get more attention. It tells a simple story – about an elderly couple visiting their now-grown children and discovering that the next two generations have drifted away from them – but it is told with such beauty, and such underlying universal truth, that it never fails to engage audiences. Ozu’s often-static camera observes the action quietly, letting the story’s emotional truths unfold without fireworks, with simply gorgeous cinematography. It’s a sad but lovely reminder that at the end of the day, family is everything, even if sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we lose sight of that.

5. The Dish (2000)

A heartwarming, delightful Australian comedy-drama based on the little-known true story of a small town (with a big satellite dish) that in 1969 is unexpectedly asked to play a crucial role in broadcasting the Apollo 11 moon landing to the world. The film focuses on the engineers operating the dish (led by Sam Neill, in a great performance as the kind of rock-solid team leader that anyone would be happy to work under) and the small town residents, who suddenly have to deal with hosting politicians and NASA officials. Naturally, there is one disaster after another, and the characters handle them in ways that generate some thrills, but mostly laughs. Thankfully, there are no contrived subplots or artificial villains to pump up the drama; the characters are all basically decent, good-natured small-town people who have suddenly been faced with the biggest responsibility of their lives, and do their best to meet the challenge.

Feel free to add your own list of obscure gems below.

Saturday Open Thread 

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