Stuff I Watched on the Plane (November 7th Edition)
Plus some of that sweet, sweet Elon drama.
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I’m honored to be in Hawai’i right now where I’m going to be giving a talk at the Hawai’i International Film Festival to aspiring film critics and commentators. Knowing I was going to be taking a 5-hour plane ride here, I partook of a beloved ritual: downloading a shit ton of videos to my iPad, then watching almost none of them.
But I did watch a few extremely random things on the plane, and here are my thoughts on them. Also, if you don’t already, I’d definitely recommend following me on Letterboxd, Instagram, and Tiktok, where I also plan to post quick reviews on films/TV shows.
Pleasure (2022, dir. Ninja Thyberg, available via Showtime/VOD) - Pleasure is about the porn industry and what happens to the women caught in its wake. It is unflinching and brutal in its depiction of the psychological and bodily humiliations that women have to put themselves through (The film is graphic and upsetting — if this type of material makes you squeamish, I’d definitely stay away from this one). While its message may not be particularly revolutionary, Pleasure is valuable in that shows the female perspective in an industry that overwhelmingly caters to the male gaze. In doing so, it demonstrates the high cost of free(?) porn.
Thyberg’s direction is fascinating. Porn sets play a prominent part of the film and the film expertly shows how the object of countless male fantasies is just the clinical and often dehumanizing product of a bunch of people doing their day job. Sofia Kappel does an admirable job in a demanding role as Bella Cherry, a woman caught between the allure of fame and the truth and limits of her own desires. But I do wish I got a better sense of what it is this character actually wanted and what drove her.
Overall, I recommend this one. P.S. Don’t be like me. Don’t watch this movie on a plane.
Derren Brown: Sacrifice (2018, dir. Derren Brown, available via Netflix) - This is one of the most bonkers specials I’ve ever watched: Mentalist Derren Brown attempts to use the power of a suggestion to convince a racist white guy to sacrifice his life to save a Mexican person. On its face, the premise is ridiculous, but the methods that Brown uses to achieve his goal are truly out there and obviously unethical.
The end result is something in the vein of Nathan Fielder’s The Rehearsal, David Fincher’s The Game, or The Truman Show: You know that there’s something profoundly wrong with all of this but you can’t look away. For most of this show’s runtime I couldn’t decide whether to cackle with glee or hate myself for wanting to cackle (usually I did both).
At the end of the day, was any of this real? Is the guy who was selected to appear in the special really changed as a result of it? Does Derren Brown really believe his bizarre techniques can work or be broadly useful? Who knows. At least it made hour 4 of my flight go faster.
Sheng Wang: Sweet and Juicy (2022, dir. Ali Wong, available via Netflix) - Just a fun, enjoyable, laid-back comedy special! Sheng Wang opens with a bit about how buying pants from a Costco led him to realize he had reached the stage where he’d given up on life. Meanwhile, I’m over here having purchased my clothes from Costco for many decades, so…
That Elon Madness
Elon Musk is in the process of slowly running Twitter to the ground right now and for longtime users such as myself, it feels like seeing Burning Man or The Grand Canyon for the first time: you’re in awe, but it also feels like something that is so glorious it should be impossible. At the rate at which Elon is tweeting through it it’s basically impossible to keep up to date with what’s actually happening on the platform. Tons of people have written about what’s going on but here are a few of my favorite pieces:
First, some really sad details about the mass layoffs that happened last week from Casey Newton over at Platformer. (Also apparently they did an oopsie with the layoffs and need to call some of those laid off people back. Great planning.)
Dave Karpf describes Elon as a poker player on tilt, desperately trying to wing back billions of dollars he lost
Shortly after declaring that “Comedy is legal” on Twitter, Elon Musk started banning people who impersonated him. Slate has an interview with one of them.
Charlie Sykes explains just how far Elon has fallen in the public eye.
The Onion explains why all of this is happening.
Stuff I’ve made
Since I’m on a work trip/vacation, my output will probably be a little bit lower this week than usual, but you should still check out my recap of this week’s The White Lotus over on Decoding TV featuring Vulture writer Roxana Hadadi!
Decoding Reality continues to cover this extremely messy, messy season of Love Is Blind. Here’s our discussion of episodes 8-10.
Siddhant Adlakha and I recorded an impromptu podcast episode discussing the cancellation of Westworld, an event which was sadly met with a metaphorical shrug by both of us as well as the world at large.