Ray: How do you even get to be king anyway?

Roast Beef: Just punch hell of suckers in the mouth and tell chicks straight up that you like them

Ray: What’s what the craziest dudes used to get sent to separate high school for!

Roast Beef: Schools are exactly designed to keep dudes from becoming kings

Ray: Now I’m actually wonderin’ if I even LIKE kings, man. I’ll see you later, I got to take stock.

— Chris Onstad

I recently reread the entire Achewood archive.

Our Greatest Living Film Critic, XIII

December, 2019

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Watched The Dead Don’t Die (2019), Jim Jarmusch’s unsuccessful imitation of a zombie movie and very successful commercial for Sturgill Simpson. The cast is too long to mention, but it’s got some winners in it: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Danny Glover. Tom Waits has a cozy little side hustle playing old men who live outside. This is a zombie movie where the metaphor for commercialism isn’t a metaphor, it’s a monologue. The dead walk around looking for the products they craved in life, and only eating people when convenient for the plot. If that wasn’t clear enough, instead of ‘braaains’ they say things like ‘coffeeeee’, ‘wiiiifiiii’, or ‘fashioon’. Must the best criticism be subtle? It gets meta when Murray and Driver literally comment on the script. I don’t think I’ve ever really liked a Jim Jarmusch movie. I give it 3 Smart Cars out of a possible 5 Smart Cars.

Hopscotch (1980)

Watched Hopscotch (1980), a dry comedic spy thriller starring Walther Matthau as an ex-CIA agent on the run from the agency while writing his tell-all memoirs. Compare it to Fletch (1985) in tone, though I think I like this one even better. The weakest part of the movie is when it tries to be too madcap. Hard to overstate how delightful Matthau is in this role, or in any role, really. A few years prior to this, Matthau got to play tough guy heroes: The Laughing Policeman (1973), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), and Charley Varrick (1973), but by 1980 enough had changed that the dark original novel, by the writer of Death Wish, was changed into a consequence-free romp. There were whole scenes added where the only purpose was to show off Matthau’s funny face. A young Sam Waterstone plays Matthau’s admiring protege, grudgingly tasked with bringing him in by weasely boss Ned Beatty. Interesting score by Mozart and Rossini. Notice that everybody’s driving left-hand drive cars in Britain. I give it 4 hectares out of a possible 5 hectares.

The Irishman (2019)

Watched The Irishman (2019), Martin Scorsese’s extended meditation on whether anything we do matters in the end. It turns out it doesn’t, but while making his point Scorsese demonstrates what it takes to get a great performance out of Al Pacino and Robert Deniro in the 21st century: you have to be Martin Scorsese. Young Deniro looks like he’s in The Polar Express (2004). Jimmy Hoffa sure loved ice cream. I guess that was supposed to be Don Rickles. I was waiting to hear "Joey" by Bob Dylan, but never did. Another plot thread I wish they’d followed was how Deniro’s character claimed to paint houses, but we never actually saw him lift a paint brush! I give it 4.25 watermelons out of a possible 5 watermelons.

The educated mind

He is an atheist, but knows how to interpret in orthodox style the most difficult passages of the Koran; for every educated man is a theologian and faith is not a requisite.

— Borges

“He” is Omar Khayyam.

Rule number one

Every big organization is set up for the benefit of those who control it; the boss gets what he wants.

— Robert Jackall, Moral Mazes


“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

— Orwell

According to their need

To be a communist [in the mid 20th century] had next to nothing to do with a desire to establish a government resembling the one found in the USSR … In working-class environments, leftist politics meant first and foremost a very pragmatic rejection of the experience of one’s own daily life. It was a form of protest, and not a political project inspired by a global perspective.

— Didier Eribon

I am convinced that voting for the National Front must be interpreted, at least in part, as the final recourse of people of the working classes attempting to defend their collective identity, or to defend, in any case, a dignity that was being trampled on, even now by those who had once been their representatives and defenders.

— Didier Eribon