#jocelin you won’t see this but I love these
Back to the Overlook
Title: “Doctor Sleep”
Release date: Nov. 8, 2019
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyleigh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, Jocelin Donahue, Alex Essoe, Cliff Curtis, Jacob Tremblay, Carel Struycken
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Run time: 2 hours, 31 minutes
What it’s about: Danny Torrance, whose father went mad in 1980’s “The Shining,” is a middle-aged man now battling alcoholism and dealing with his childhood trauma. He meets a teen girl who also has “the shine,” and they cross paths with a gang that preys upon similarly gifted young people and feeds on their shine.
How I saw it: Director/writer Mike Flanagan made many sound decisions when tackling a difficult task – making “Doctor Sleep,” based on the 2013 Stephen King novel which is a follow-up to his 1977 book, “The Shining,” which was turned into the 1980 film of the same name by Stanley Kubrick. He took great liberties with the original book, much to King’s chagrin, but made a film that is now considered a classic.
Flanagan could have made a film much like Kubrick’s, and that would have suited nostalgia-seeking moviegoers just fine. Instead, he set out to make a film that shares storylines, characters and settings with the original book and film, but is its own entity and more closely follows King’s follow-up novel than Kubrick did with the first book. He also decided against bringing back actors from the first film (it was almost 40 years ago, after all), resisted the temptation to digitally add characters from “The Shining,” and when the new film revisits the first, he enlisted actors who sort of look like the original characters and had them capture the essence of those characters instead of impersonations or caricatures. Flanagan set out to make a film that pays homage to the original without repeating it.
Those decisions pay off handsomely in the first three-fourths of “Doctor Sleep.” Even though it is evident from the get-go that the two films are related (we revisit the young Danny), this film has more action and more heart, and it doesn’t lean so heavily on tension. It has a captivating villain, and it plays more like a vampire movie/psychological thriller with a dash of comic-book superhero traits than Kubrick’s slow-burn study of cabin fever and insanity.
And then “Doctor Sleep” goes full-blown “The Shining” revisited in the final act, and though it doesn’t derail an otherwise outstanding movie, it makes for a bumpy ride, one that could have taken us to a better destination. Whether or not this shift bothers you depends on what you expected from “Doctor Sleep.” If you are watching because you want to be reminded of the 1980 film, then you won’t mind. If you were enjoying what “Doctor Sleep” promised for nearly two hours, then the final act’s shift will be noticeable, perhaps a touch disappointing.
Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) was a young boy when his father Jack went mad while snowed in at the Overlook Hotel in the first book/movie. “Doctor Sleep” is set more than 30 years later, and Danny, now a middle-aged man, still is trying to overcome his traumatic pass, mostly by drinking it away. He decides to run away from his problems and moves to New Hampshire, where he sets about getting sober. But Danny, who still has telepathic abilities known as “the shine,” is contacted by a teen girl, Abra (Kyliegh Curran), with the same abilities. Eventually she will be pursued by True Knot, a cult whose members kill similarly gifted young people and feed off their shine in an effort to stay immortal, and their leader, Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). Abra and Danny team up to defeat Rose and her followers, with Abra trying to convince Danny to embrace the shine and use it instead of viewing it as simply a link to the horrors of his youth.
McGregor is solid as current day Danny, but Flanagan does not ask him to carry the movie. At times that falls upon Curran’s Abra, and a scene in which Danny speaks through Abra while she is being abducted is one of the film’s best. But mostly Ferguson steals the show. She vamps it up as Rose and is as alluring as she is evil. Flanagan’s camera clearly loves her, as Ferguson gets many close-ups and delivers a star-making performance. Cliff Curtis is excellent as a kind man who befriends Danny and helps him stay sober.
“Doctor Sleep” isn’t a bloodbath, but it includes several disturbing images and moments. The most unsettling of them is when the True Knot pursues a young baseball player in Iowa, and his abduction (by people in a van while he walks alone on a rural road) is just the beginning of the unpleasantness. The True Knot will get more life from the boy’s shine if his death is as painful as possible, so Rose tortures the boy as he is dying, and then her cult buries him behind an ethanol plant. There’s no way to sugarcoat how difficult the scene is to watch.
Rose, now working alone, eventually tracks Abra and Danny, and they lead her to – where else? – the Overlook Hotel, where Danny hopes to defeat Rose and erase his past. It’s here that Flanagan veers away from King’s follow-up book and toward Kubrick’s film. In the 2013 book, Abra and Danny lead Rose to the former site of the Overlook. But Flanagan builds his final scene around a still standing but long-ago closed Overlook. The setting and characters will seem familiar to anyone who has seen the 1980 film – maybe too familiar, to the point of distraction. “Doctor Sleep” starts feeling like a trip to a museum dedicated to the original film instead of being its own movie, and that takes away some of the steam from what otherwise could have been a great final showdown. To complicate matters, Flanagan uses the ending from King’s original book (an ending that Kubrick sidestepped) to tie up the loose ends to this sequel movie.
Perhaps the heavy emphasis on “The Shining” couldn’t be helped. No doubt any reference Flanagan could make to the first film would help the box-office prospects of “Doctor Sleep.” But he had done such a masterful job of creating a balanced mash-up of books and a film until the final act that the climactic scene, while it doesn’t ruin an otherwise entertaining film, seems more nostalgic side trip than satisfying conclusion.
My score: 77 out of 100
Should you see it? Yes, if you are a fan of horror films that aim higher than just jump-scares and/or you are curious about the connections to “The Shining.” If you are sensitive to disturbing scenes that include young people, proceed with caution.
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5/12/21 DAB Chronological Transcription
Psalm 65-67, Psalm 69-70
Welcome to Daily Audio Bible Chronological, it's the 12th day of May, I'm Jill. It's wonderful to be here with you on this journey as we read through the Bible together in chronological order of events, historically speaking. And we have turned the page together today, as we do every single day. We're looking for God to speak to us in our spirit and our mind to our heart, and maybe, just maybe, we can even see the mirror of our own stories in the pages of God's holy word. Today we're reading in The Voice translation still Psalm Chapter sixty five, sixty six, sixty seven. And then we will jump over to Psalm sixty nine and seventy. Some sixty five.
Father, we thank you today for your word. We thank you for the Earth. We thank you for this beautiful earth, this beautiful planet, the beautiful surroundings that we get to see you in your creation every single day. We thank you, as David spoke of today in the Psalms, putting you in the setting of creation, remembering the importance of where we are, knowing that all the Earth praises your name, that we get to join with creation, praising you and worshiping you how easily and how quickly we can take it all for granted. But your vastness goes beyond anything we can imagine. Let us not take the view of the beauty of the Earth for granted to know that you paint every sky, you raise every sun at sunrise, and you lay the sun to rest every night at dusk. We thank you that hope awaits every morning. Every new mercy is available to us freely. Every single day. We thank you. We love you. And we worship you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen.
Daily Audio Bible, that is the main place. If you'd like to take a look around there, just hop on to the website. It is Daily Audio Bible.com. You can download the free app. If you'd like to partner with the Daily Audio Bible, we thank you so much. Could not do this without your partnership and we do not take that for granted. Do not take it lightly either. If you're giving by mail, it's PO Box 1996 Spring Hill, Tennessee, 37174. If you'd like to use the app, you can hit the Give icon up at the top right hand corner of your mobile app or your tablet, or look for the give icon on the website. If you have a prayer request, if you're calling for somebody that has previously called in asking for prayer, you can also do that. Those are either of you by heading the red circle button on the top right hand corner of your mobile app as well. Or you can go to the website itself and look for the prayer wall and there will be people there ready and willing to pray for you. If you are using the mobile app, make sure you hit, submit and turn the dial Chronological so that it can get to the right place. We sure appreciate your cooperation and that if you're calling by phone, it's 800 583-2164. I feel like I should go while the rain is letting up a little bit so I don't get soaked in a downpour. You know, when you're talking and the rain is going, you're waiting for that dry spot. It's been raining a lot and does you can you tell that's it for me today. I'm Jill. We'll turn the page together tomorrow. And I look forward to it every single day. Until then, love one another.
Community Prayer Line
Good morning DABC listeners. This is Duncan Holmes the Piano Man. And yes, one day maybe I'll just get on and play something in the two minute allotment that we would have today is May 7th. I know by the time if this is played, this day will have been history. But it is also my dear wife Sharon's birthday. It would have been her sixty seventh birthday and I lost her. Heaven gained her over a year and a half ago and I've had my days. Good ones and bad ones. I do ask your prayers as we approach these special days. My daughter's off in Kansas City. I don't hear from her much. She and her significant other. I seldom hear from her. Not that there's anything between us that I can think of. They are. They just had their little their lives as millennialist millennials and as artists, I do ask your prayers when I do go through these days, these special days, Mother's Day, this one is a double whammy. It's her birthday. Mother's Day is Sunday. And right now I don't have any today. I probably won't see but one or two human beings all day. I'm totally blind. I'm not housebound or anything that by any stretch I lead an active life. But I do need. But I would appreciate your prayers. And I am praying for those of you on here that I heard today while I talk to you. God bless you. I know my time is about gone. You take care and make it a blessed day for each other and for yourselves. And thank you very much, Jill, for what you're doing, and Brian too.
Hi DABC family. This is your nanny from Canada. And today I'm asking you all to join me in praying for God's yellow flower, my dear friend that her son Keith. But before you do, I just want to give you a little bit of history so you know for whom you pray. She's one of the most generous, important persons you'll ever meet. And she loves Jesus with all her soul. She's lost her husband. She's had to give up her nursing because of macular degeneration. Her body is riddled so often. The fibromyalgia. Three years ago, she had to give up her home. She had to leave her home to come to Winnipeg to take care of her son, Keith, who is a very rare type of cancer in stage four day in, day out. She takes care of it. He's gone through all the treatments and it's so overwhelming for her emotionally and every other way. As you can imagine, she's watching her deteriorate. And I'll ask you. Oh, yes, it's wonderful here. Oh, please. The seats, the throne of heaven for her and ask our heavenly father to wrap his arms around him and his compassionate nature touched their lives. You're a god of miracles. And so anything is possible. And so I am asking you to touch his touch, give her a piece of art as she's hanging on to your head. May your love and compass every day of their lives, and I thank you.
Hello, DABC family, this is Pam Hayes, Ransom Soul in New Jersey. Jill, I just heard the latest wonderful happy news for you, Brian, and your family. Congratulations on grandchild number four and granddaughter number two. This is so exciting. Girl power indeed. How wonderful that Miss Reagan, the brave, will now have a cousin close in age to grow up and be friends with. Congratulations to Christian and Jocelin on their good and joyful news, and it'll be a privilege to pray for them. There are two boys and this precious baby girl who will be making her grand entrance into the world this fall. What a blessing to be a part of this DABC family. And thank you, Jill, for allowing us to become part of yours. I love you all so much.
Hey, my wonderful dad fans, Daniel's and I am calling on Mother's Day as I head over to Atlanta to surprise my mom for Mother's Day. And I wanted to. Just acknowledge a few gaps, Sears, if I can. Mary Jo in St. Louis says, I so appreciated your words and your comments specifically around the point. Of worshiping through the darkest times. Oh, that is so profound, that has been the theme that the Lord has taught me and is still teaching me my church. So I just thank you so much for that precious reminder. And then Lauren in Beverly Hills, Florida, I'm praying that the Lord will bring your daughter to the end of her so that she would come to embrace the fullness of who he is and say yes to him. And know to her, to her world, encourage my sister and then finally, Leon from Illinois system friend at the local grant killing for breast cancer. I thank the Lord that the cancer has not spread even further, believing that they're not in your lymph nodes. So. I lift up all of you, all of you amazing, but this has to do more with less lady, too. God bless you. Very, very special. Happy Mother's Day to.
Hi, this is actually a soldier just calling to pray for the mother on Mother's Day and pray for the blessing of the food of a warm place for China and Jill and their precious one. And for those who lost their precious mothers of all their precious or precious woman or mother or those precious ones that the mother of that baby blessed, that God shines on them and give them life and be gracious.
Father, we thank you. Today we thank you for Mother's Day because no one could be here today without a precious mother. And we just ask you to touch those who lost their mother, those who have their mothers with them, so that the blessed throughout the world that don't have their mothers would know that the people that they remember the good things, to remember how good the Lord is because he gave us this precious mother and that he loves us so much. Oh, Lord, we just to touch and bless those, Lord, we should bless those in need. The Lord, we trying to work your miracle. We have to continue to bless our children. The fruit of our will be blessed that their children bind will be done in their lives in the name of Jesus we pray. Have a great day to enjoy your Mother's Day. But by.
(HW Diary #34) JoJo cuts herself on that edge V: The Timey-Wimey Dark Knight
There’s still a Temple Knight in the area, and he says he’s realized Joceline is A-OK... and needs to come help him. His call for help is actually a trap, because he’s freaked out by Esteem and wants to put me down. Yeah, I rode on Hraesvelgr. Wanna make something of it?
...oh, wait, a level 50 quest would take place way before that. I guess I should pretend this is a flashback.
A third dude, who looks to be the same race as Yugiri and who wears the same armor as Esteem, walks up and wants to fight the knight too. Get in line, you. Nobody fights the knight, because he runs away. Now the new guy wants to know about JoJo’s time with Fray. He’s surprised at first, but he’s heard of this happening before. Apparently everyone who plays with a Dark Knight crystal has a small part of themselves yelling for freedom.
Hol up. This is that same man who thinks I’m trying to steal his table! JoJo goes back to the Forgotten Knight and finds about three other dark knights on their job quests. Sidurgu says everyone who trains as a dark knight needs to be ready to sacrifice and endure ingratitude of those who will call them vigilantes. Well, I’m pretty used to ingratitude. He also chews me out for not finishing off the dude who ambushed me (he took care of him for me).
Sidurgu orders JoJo to look at him and tell him what she sees. A man working hard to balance single fatherhood with the thankless job of cleaning up Ishgard one scumbag at a time? When Au Ra -that’s Sidurgu’s race -first came here trying to get away from the Empire, people started yelling “DRAGONS!” just as I wondered they might if they met Yugiri. And when the Au Ra won the fight and let them go, they were rewarded with a massacre. Not even the kids were spared. No wonder this man is against showing mercy.
Sidurgu and Fray both trained with the same man, who gave them an interesting riddle right before dying. They never figured it out, but they did save the cute kid from some Temple Knights. JoJo agrees to help. Rielle won’t talk about her parents, just like her new not-dad doesn’t talk as much since his friend was killed. She does say that the men chasing her had claimed she was an abomination. The Vanu are supposed to have a guy who can examine Rielle and figure out what would cause them to say that.
I was wrong -the Vanu have a LADY who can figure out what’s up with Rielle. Whatever she finds, she‘s astonished by, but before she can explain just what our little friend is, more Temple Knights follow us. JoJo fights guys on the way out of the clouds, then more guys on the way to the Observatorium. Someone at the Conjurers’ Guild should be able to help us, so that’s where we’re headed. E-Sumi-Yan says there’s a chance somebody might have fed this kid dragon’s blood. We go to the Carline Canopy and get her a nice snack. Rielle looks adorable with her little apple! ...then she talks about how she’d be okay with getting executed over being locked up again.
One road trip later, Vidofnir asks us to bring her flowers. They’re not just to gain her trust (I like Sidurgu, but he’s not the warmest person); we show them to a dragon who’s at the end of her life, and she tells us that her love’s blood is in Rielle’s veins. According to her, a parent or grandparent or some family member other than the kid must have drunk it, or else she would have transformed already.
We head back to the Forgotten Knight and barely have enough time for a drink before one of the inquisitors rolls up. Sidurgu asks if it’s the Fury’s will that a little kid die for what her parents did. Ystride literally says “yes it is.” She demands a trial by combat, promising to leave us in peace if we win. I think she’s lying, but if we say no she’ll burn down the tavern and behead everybody inside, followed by anybody else who helps us. As she leaves, Rielle calls her mother. SAY WHAT?
Sidurgu is understandably not happy with this information being withheld. He yells, Rielle cries, and JoJo... looks excited. As she gets her new ability, the game lets me know that her dark side is reacting to the presence of pain. I admit I would like to hear from Esteem again. But right now? I’m not so sure.
Sidurgu went digging for more information, and he learned Rielle’s mom’s family has been involved with the church for ages. The dad was a heretic. When he got busted by his wife, he tried to fight her and failed horribly, and their kid got locked up. In order to stop said kid from dying horribly, we’re supposed to go ask moogles for help. This means more chores. It also means Rielle shouting at her not-dad for constantly putting himself in danger.
JoJo is supposed to meet up with one of the moogles she helped, but instead she finds Sidurgu. Uh-oh. The moogles jump us and brag about never giving Rielle back, so we beat them senseless. I’m as ready as Sidurgu is to GTFO when they start singing a cheesy love song. Too bad Esteem won’t come out now. Rielle chews out her not-dad again for acting like he cares about her when he’s more interested in stabbing more Temple Knights. I have secondhand shame. Sidurgu tells the kid she can decide what happens after this mess is over. But for now, he admits that yes, he has been about vengeance after they told his family they could choose the order they died in. Back at the tavern, he elaborates on Fray’s story about the first dark knight, who sacrificed his honor and the life he led to go after the sicko who didn’t listen to Frank Reynolds.
Oh, yeah, we finally get to wail on the unfit mother, out in the middle of nowhere with zero witnesses. She sends wave after wave of dudes at us, and they all lose. Sidurgu makes like he’s going to carve her up, but then he tells her she can run because she’s Rielle’s mother. There is no gratitude shown for this, although we do get some... interesting faces similar to the ones that other guy was making before he dropped that poor kid off the Vault. Religious fanaticism: not even once. Rielle realizes her mom is never going to care for her again, so she says a prayer and lets her not-dad go through with it after all. Since this is 14+ rated Final Fantasy and not M-rated Mass Effect, all we see is a black screen.
Only Ystride still has her head connected to her body after. She didn’t get Television’d, either. What’s up with that? Where exactly did Sidurgu cut her? Anyhow, Rielle wants the three of us to head back to Church City. Her not-dad plans to keep fighting crooks, and she will stay with him -but he needs to talk a little more than he has been. Sidurgu asks JoJo what she is fighting for... I’m tempted to say “myself” because there are way too many ungrateful/corrupt/stupid people in this realm for me to ever want to fight for it as a whole again, but I make her say “my friends” because that’s who I would like to avenge. He says “and so you shall.”
GS 2016 lists #7: Top 10 new-to-me films
Jeepers, this took way too long to finish, but I finally got that last of these lists done. Nearly eight months into this year, but fuck it, what can you do. These are shorter, so they’re all in one post.
10. Strozsek (1977)
I went into Werner Herzog’s Strozsek with little knowledge, other than a general sense of its critical acclaim. I later learned about its unfortunate claim to fame: Joy Division’s Ian Curtis committed suicide immediately after watching it. And Strozsek is a bleak film, which gets exaggerated when discussing Curtis. It’s a depressing film, no doubt, but it’s not as though it drove him to suicide. This false correlation is insulting to Curtis, but also undersells Strozsek and what’s great about it. For all its bleakness, Strozsek is filled with humanity and warmth. The characters are continually beaten down by overwhelming circumstance, but they’re granted small moments of reprieve and reflection—not ones that make the suffering worthwhile, but ones that show that at least there’s more than just suffering. Herzog skewers the promise of the American Dream, and the way language barriers and economic realities prevent immigrants from accessing that dream. The ending is bizarre and enthralling, capturing the odd space road-side kitsch occupies in the dark spaces in which it lives. The film also features what I think may be my absolute favorite performance by a non-professional actor—the near-anonymous Bruno S. in the lead role.
9. You Are Here (2010)
I used to live in a house with a second-story door to nowhere like the one in this film. And I loved to come up with scenarios to explain why it was there. One of my roommates suggested I just ask the landlord instead of guessing, but I didn’t. It was more fun to guess.
You Are Here poses similar questions about the world it depicts. Cockburn presents different settings (you could think of them as storylines, but narrative is barely a part of the film), each equally plausible as the “real story.” But it’s never really clear who’s story we’re seeing, which characters guide the experience of the others, or to what extent they’re on the same plane of existence. Ultimately, it shows that all its events—and all consciousness—is layered, incomprehensible, and contradictory. And solving the riddle won’t change that.
You could also look at You Are Here as being about the relationship between film directors and their audiences. The film begins with the instruction, to an unseen audience, to follow a laser pointer on a projected film, but not pay attention to it. A necessary, but impossible task. Film viewers are always torn between what the director wants them to see and what they bring to the viewing experience. They’re never going to be all the way on either side of the spectrum, even when try. You’re always receiving archival footage depicting riddles, but how are you supposed to read a riddle without wondering what its answer is?
There’s never a real answer. Or not just an answer. The whole film’s a door to nowhere. The joy is in wondering about the possibilities, even if you have to accept you’ll never know for sure.
8. The House of the Devil (2009)
Ti West’s The House of the Devil gets discussed as a genre throwback more often than not, but something gets left out of those assessments. West doesn’t distance himself from the time period he references, nor does he apply any amount of irony to the proceedings. The House of the Devil feels like a late 70s/early 80s religious panic movie, rather than a similar film passed through a modern filter. The throwback elements are more than a wink and a nod, they’re carefully executed details that bring the audience back to the Satanic panic of the era, whether they lived through it or not. West’s use of 16-millimeter film is the most obvious retro element, which gives the film a seedy film grain that brings out the film’s self-awareness, even while its stakes climb higher. The camerawork adds to this feeling, being shot primarily on handheld, without the use of dollies for zooms, which makes them feel a little quicker than you’d expect, especially since the film’s so slow otherwise.
But as much as West plays around with period aesthetics, he’s just as much committed to making a film that’s great on its own. There’s a remarkable amount of tension, particularly in the large chunk of time (over half an hour) in the middle of the film with no dialogue. But West makes the stakes clear, killing off one of the few characters without batting an eye early on. A similarly gruesome scene shows up later, showed in full, while the protagonist remains ignorant. But West makes sure we spend enough time with Sam, the heroine, to feel her general sense of unease along with her, even though we happen to know the specifics about why this place is so creepy.
The performances are great, especially Jocelin Donahue in the lead role and Tom Noonan as the house owner, doing disarming-creepy as well as any actor could. Jeff Grace’s score, aided by a few carefully-placed pop songs, stirs up the tension, as it progresses from barely noticeable to full-on Bernard Hermann. The costumes and hair styling is surprisingly subtle—Greta Gerwig alone sports acid-washed jeans and Farrah Fawcett hair. Sam wears a plaid shirt tucked into high-waisted jeans and has sort of big hair, but feels a little less stuck in 1983 than her friend. Everything locks into place, though, in the end. West finds everything good about early 1980s horror and distills it into a solitary experience, while never trying to place himself or his films about those that came before him.
7. Death in the Garden (1956)
A lot happens in Luis Buñuel’s Death in the Garden, but there isn’t much of a narrative. The film begins with a miner uprising in an unnamed South American village, which forces a cluster of unlikely compatriots to run into the unknown wilderness for refuge. It becomes a Canterbury Tales-style narrative, which places archetypal characters into a scenario where they travel a long distance, with plenty of time to reflect on who they are, internally and to each other. Buñuel explores the hypocrisy of the priest, the depth of the prostitute, the failing naiveite of the deaf girl, all through brief, illustrative moments, with little expository dialogue.
Before 2016, I had only seen one Buñuel film, Un Chien Andalou, so the surrealism in Death in the Garden didn’t catch me by surprise. But Buñuel applies it with a light touch and the more noticeable connection is the attention paid toward individual images. My personal favorite happens early on, during the revolution, where a man douses a set of stairs in gasoline and drops a match onto it, which lights a fire at the top stair that climbs downward, stair by stair. It has little impact on the narrative or even the politics of the film—it’s purely for mood and aesthetic appeal. But it’s an astounding image, an effect so natural it may have been accidental. But given Buñuel’s eye for detail elsewhere, I doubt that’s the case.
The scene where the protagonists find the crashed plane with a surplus of luxury goods on board stands out. It’s a brief reprieve for the characters, a chance to emulate the lives they lived before, and shows how ready they are to escape their current reality, even without the context the luxury once had. They’re so set in their worldviews, they won’t even realize how their situation has changed. Over the past year (into 2017 as well) I’ve seen a fair amount of “white idiots getting in over their heads in the Amazon” films. Death in the Garden, among many other virtues, shows the way an unflinching worldview gradually leads to this specific sort of self-endangerment.
6. Moon (2009)
Duncan Jones’s debut feature, Moon, hits the 2001: A Space Odyssey angle pretty hard as it begins. It features a man alone in a gleaming white space station, full of empty space, accompanied by an AI with whom he has an adversarial relationship. And those clear, laid-out references are fun, but Moon blossoms into a much larger experience.
When Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) rescues another astronaut in peril, he finds that the other astronaut is actually a clone of himself, with a slightly more aggressive personality. He realizes that he’s been cloned, time and time again, so that there’s an endless supply of versions of him to operate the station when he dies. The clone shares his memories of his time on Earth before he left, and after the similarities to the original Sam become apparent, it becomes clear that both of these beings might be clones, the original Sam Bell long gone.
Moon morphs into a philosophical study on the nature of humanity and the threshold a being must meet to be considered “human.” Jones also explores the way corporations treat people as a resource, literally seeing personalities as interchangeable facets of their workforce, an unfortunate side-effect of human labor. The clones, fabricated only to serve a greater cause, retain personalities in spite of their usefulness. And those personalities are consumed as though they’re a product. Identity is a powerful enough force to be seen even in fabrication, but capitalistic greed still erases humanity, using it as a means to an end. Outside of Alien, this is one of the most incisive criticisms of corporate consumption of personal labor I’ve seen. Any description of Duncan Jones’s film work that begins with his family or his mainstream film projects does him a great disservice.
5. The Wicker Man (1973)
I first saw The Wicker Man about a month before its director, Robin Hardy, died last year. I didn’t even hear about his death until a few months ago—he was left out of the Oscars In Memoriam and everything. But his weird, exciting debut feature The Wicker Man lives on, almost like a burning effigy for other equally specific and unique folky horror (see number five on my top ten 2016 movies list, for example).
The Wicker Man begins by showing a Scottish police officer, Neil Howie (Edward Woodward), arriving on an isolated island in the northern UK to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. He’s shocked to learn the inhabitants of the island have abandoned Christianity in favor of older Germanic paganism. While Howie’s Christian beliefs and his disdain for paganism seems initially to be part of his English identity, accepting Christianity as a default and reacting with culture shock to any other set of beliefs. As the film progresses, his piety emerges more and more, and it becomes clear that he’s just as dangerous in his beliefs as he believes (correctly, to be fair) the pagans to be.
Hardy presents the paganism—particularly in terms of its sexual openness—with a level of directness that almost makes it seem like a personal attack on Howie. Considering the final reveal, that may in fact be the case. It’s so matter-of-fact, as though the people of Summerisle don’t even realize that outsiders could be any other way. And while Hardy does narrow in on Howie’s prudishness and inability to express sexuality in a normal, healthy way, he doesn’t lionize paganism or treat the people of Summerisle. Not only do they engage in human sacrifice, they perform some needless cruelty toward animals, which Howie calls out. To a modern audience (in 2016 or in 1973), it’s hard to relate to Howie’s views on sexuality and just as hard to see why the pagans take such a reckless view on life solely because of a belief in reincarnation. Even as Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee, a magnificent villain) chooses to honor Howie’s religion in his last moments, saying that Howie’s being given a martyr’s death, acknowledging that his use as a human sacrifice might possibly be unjust, that doesn’t change the fact that his people still killed a man for the sake of the health of their crops. Lord Summerisle tells Howie his grandfather purchased Summerisle and reintroduced paganism to encourage labor and grow produce for his own gain. Hardy never clarifies whether this is true, with Lord Summerisle going as far as human sacrifice to maintain a lie for profit, or whether it’s false information, part of Lord Summerisle’s long con to get Howie to sacrifice himself, which might be more unsettling.
With so many versions of The Wicker Man available, I should specify that I watched the 88-minute theatrical version. The scene of Howie back home in the church comes a few minutes in, rather than at the very beginning, which feels like a strength, as it lets his religious fervor enter the film more gradually. This version, like some of the others, includes the opening title card that references the producer getting help from the people of Summerisle, who provided information on their rituals for the film—despite Summerisle being a fictional place created for the film. The same trick the Coens used for Fargo to make it feel like a ripped-from-the-headlines crime thriller works here to make The Wicker Man feel like an urban legend, maybe even a snuff film. One downside to this version—it skips an early scene where Howie receives a letter he references later detailing Rowan’s disappearance. Excising it might make the film a little brisker, but the detail of post arriving on a Sunday provides an interesting little hint that the letter-writer doesn’t recognize Christian and Scottish practices and that they’re deliberating subverting them.
Whichever version you see, The Wicker Man rightfully earns it cult classic status, providing a somewhat fantastical vision of what’s presented like a real event, filled with an ethereal lightness on the surface that belies its equally present sense of dread and unease. With only three films to Hardy’s name, The Wicker Man proves you can make just one great film and still be a great director.
4. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
John Carpenter’s sophomore feature, Assault on Precinct 13, bears a lot of the artistic hallmarks that would come to define Carpenter’s work. Simple plots and often archetypal characters make way for mood and visual storytelling, with little exposition. Some great wide shots that contribute to a clear, effective use of space. A menacing, synth-laden score that plays over the opening credits before dropping into the background for most of the film proper. An appreciation for the cinematic impact of an underexposed image and its relationship to extreme interpersonal violence.
Assault on Precinct 13 begins with a handful of members of an LA gang being shot by police and other members of the gang subsequently taking of a vow of vengeance against the city’s police. They test out a cache of newly stolen automatic weapons on the first target they can find, an ice cream man and a preteen girl. While it’s barely graphic, by today’s standards, the gang member killing the girl is still one of the most unexpected moments of violence I’ve seen in a film. It’s not just because of the victim, it’s the banality of the act. It does seem as though they’re willing to kill just to try out their new weapons. While the gang’s white member actually does the shooting, the other gang members have no reaction to the act, never distancing themselves from him, internally or otherwise. It sets the tone for the rest of the film and clarifies that the whispered fears about this part of LA are completely founded.
The girl’s father chases after the gang, looking for revenge, ultimately killing the white gang member, but in doing so, incurring the wrath of the gang, who chases him to a local police station. This happens to be the same precinct that the film’s protagonist, Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker), is monitoring for his first night as a lieutenant and the precinct’s last night of operation before it closes down. The gang, already committed to unrelenting violence against anything related to the police, call in reinforcements and attack the precinct. This leaves Bishop to defend the station and the people in it: the man who killed the gang member, two secretaries, and two detained death-row criminals. Clearly outmatched, Bishop quickly enlists the help of the secretaries and inmates to fight the unending hordes of gang members. As much as the film draws from the Howard Hawkes film Rio Bravo, it’s just as inspired by George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, where the unending stream of antagonists put a strain on the protagonist’s resources, which amplifies their interpersonal tension. Along with these films, Assault on Precinct 13 helps shaped the siege film subgenre, which overlaps with home invasion films.
Beyond its grim subject material, I loved how physically dark this film was. Outside of the daytime exteriors, much of the film takes place within electricity-deprived precinct and the shadowy grounds around it after nightfall. This style of cinematography is basically extinct in modern film. The night scenes are legitimately dark, to the point where’s it hard to see what’s happening at times. It’s easy to see how film would have “evolved” past this practice, to a point where night scenes in most modern films look like how day-for-night would have been shot decades prior. But the shadowy exposure lends a sense of mystery and danger to Assault on Precinct 13, one that promises the audience will never quite figure out the motivations of the street gang nor be free of their indecipherable menace. It wouldn’t do much good to plea for a return to this style, so maybe it’s best to relish it in films from the era from which it originated.
Assault on Precinct 13 is not only a marker in the genre history book, for its use of violence, for the seed it plants for subgenre film, and for kickstarting John Carpenter’s career, it’s also a unique, exciting piece on its own, one bold enough to grapple with the consequences of gang violence. One that can pair a black police officer with two white women police administrators, a black convict, and a white convict, and pit all them against an intentionally diverse cast of young gang members and still feel sure of itself, not quibbling about the optics of those character dynamics, but not closed off to a discussion of race and economic opportunities in modern-day Los Angeles either. It drew heavily from films before it and contributed as much or more to films since. And yet, it feels like something completely unique and out of the ordinary.
3. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2004)
Someone recommended Judy Irving’s The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill to me years while it was still on Netflix, but I never got around to it because it looked like a typical nature documentary. Not that I don’t love those, but there was no shortage of high-quality nature docs on Netflix at the time, so I put it off. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill has a lot more going on, as much a look into a fascinating person as well as this flock of wild, displaced parrots.
Irving catalogues the life and work of Mark Bittner, a former musician who came to San Francisco as a vagrant looking to start his music career, but eventually finding a home among a flock of wild parrots in Telegraph Hill, right by the San Francisco Bay. The film’s title obscures Bittner, the real focus of the film. Dealing exclusively in interviews (occasionally playing the audio of these interviews over archival footage Bittner took of the parrots year prior), Irving touches briefly on who Bittner was prior to finding the parrots. He talks about his music aspirations and the writers and thinkers he admired that brought him to San Francisco. And there’s a bit on how he gets by day to day, having no real job and staying in a place that isn’t his and doesn’t pay rent for (some descriptions of the film call him homeless, which isn’t quite true). All of which is interesting, but it’s not the focal point for Irving. Irving brings the focus back to the parrots and how Bittner relates to them.
This is what makes the movie work: seeing Bittner’s unabashed affection and appreciation for these birds and seeing how well he understands them. When he first mentions the birds’ individual personalities, it sounds a bit like he’s projecting, like he wants so badly to commune with nature that he assigns it human qualities so he can relate to them. And even without him addressing the topic, he knows a lot. The more he talks, the more it’s clear that he has both experiential and zoological knowledge of the flock. And yet that doesn’t distance him from the birds individually. He always wants to care more than to observe.
And Irving welcomes that. She includes few dissenting voices, never wanting to show Bittner as unhealthy or dangerous. She invites the audience into her process, discussing over voice-over why she wanted to try out a more personal story than her previous environmental films. But she also brings the audience into her mindset, one that sees someone reacting to nature in a peculiar way, and pursuing the weirdness, trying to understand and accept it, rather than dismiss it or treat it like an exhibit.
The photography is beautiful, maintaining some ties to the nature documentary it seems to be on the surface. The parrots are almost entirely red-headed conures, which have lime green bodies with a splash of blood red plumage on their heads. Irving, also the cinematographer and editor for the film, captures the natural beauty of the birds, while occasionally catching glimpses of them amid the trees, where the manage to blend into the foliage, as exotic as they are. She often shows them in what I suppose counts as a mid-shot (their whole bodies are in the frame, but the camera can’t be more than five feet away from the birds) that feels more intimate and seems to reflect their individuality, as Bittner describes their personalities in voice-over. The intimacy makes the flock’s lone blue-crowned conure, Connor (just got that), stick out even more. We’re just as close to Connor physically, but he’s so different and it’s harder to find that same warmth. We feel Bittner’s frustrations in trying to connect with Connor but being unable to, and Connor’s emotions about being unable to find a mate. It’s closely observing someone distant, which isn’t an easy trait to convey in an animal, but Irving manages through contrast with the other birds and showing their behaviors so clearly.
There’s some parallels to Grizzly Man in The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Both follow a self-exiled man who’s convinced he has a unique talent to commune with a certain kind of animal. And like Timothy Treadwell, Mark Bittner was somewhat accurate in his assessment of his own abilities. Ultimately, both have their connection to nature taken away—Treadwell by the force of nature itself, Bittner by rule of law. Irving makes less of a statement about nature than Werner Herzog does, but similarly emphasizes the ephemerality of such undertakings. Very little has to change for everything to be taken away. And all that’s left is the lessons from that experience. The two depart from one another when it comes to how they view their subject. While Herzog pitied Treadwell and had a lot of empathy for him, Irving got into Bittner’s world and felt what he felt about the parrots along with him. It’s a formal difference, to some extent, between interviewing a person directly and connecting to them through second-hand sources. But it’s also a product of Irving’s approach, fully hand-on, getting involved as much as she feels compelled to, with little attention paid to the objectiveness of her film. Of course, there’s no disrespect to Herzog there (as I hope I made clear elsewhere in this list), but Irving’s approach to a potentially similar topic makes the whole film spring to life.
One last thing. I won’t give it away, but The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill has a fantastic twist at the very end, one of the final seconds of the film. That’s not something I ever expected to say about a documentary, but that’s exactly what it is. And I suppose that’s one of the reasons why it’s so shocking. That’s a narrative device usually reserved for fiction, even with documentaries that cover less familiar topics. But not only is there an honest-to-goodness twist, but it’s one that calls into question what a twist can be. Because it’s not sad or horrifying or mind-bending. It’s sweet and joyous. And it comes without any kind of foreshadowing, but is still substantiated by the text. It’s not some showy coup de grace, just a pleasant surprise. Which is really emblematic of the whole work. It doesn’t call attention to itself or speak about obviously important truths. It keeps things simple and small, and finds the beauty and value within small moments and small creatures.
2. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
When I finally got around to reading Dracula by Bram Stoker, I was surprised that it didn’t capture my attention the way its film adaptations did. After seeing the story through the vision of F. W. Murnau, Francis Ford Coppola, and most recently Werner Herzog, the book felt at times like a synopsis of a story I already knew, one where the actual narrative matters least. It was still good, but it wasn’t the moody, slow-flowing experience I expected.
The actual story has never been what’s attracted me to Dracula adaptations. It’s more about the visuals and mood, which happen to be painted onto this familiar narrative backdrop. Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre is generally considered a remake of Murnau’s 1922 film and it’s easy to see why. Herzog brings back the Count Orlok character design (though he’s called Dracula) and erases any degree of sexual magnetism for the character. He dials back the focus on Jonathan and does even less with Van Helsing, bucking the trends that had been in play since Tod Browning’s 1931 film. The best aspects of Nosferatu are also present in Nosferatu the Vampyre, though it never feels like Herzog is aping Murnau.
Herzog throws in a few references to the orginal—a long, creeping shadow cast onto a wall, a sepia-like splash of light when Jonathan first arrives at the castle—but he mostly succeeds by following Murnau’s artistic goals, namely the focus on mood. Nosferatu the Vampyre’s mysterious, oddly inviting atmosphere lays over every minute of the film, making all the plot details feel like a recent dream, where fact and fiction still blend together, not yet sorted out. Maybe it’s because I’ve only watched the film late at night, but I’ve found myself nearly drifting to sleep every time I’ve watched it. Not out of boredom (sure enough, I’m always wide awake at the end), but rather something closer to hypnosis. Oddly enough, more so than Heart of Glass, another Herzog film I saw for the first time in 2016, wherein Herzog actually hypnotized his cast.
The imagery is so strong in this film and is the main contributor to the feeling it gives me. Dracula’s head against his black cloak in night scenes, where he looks like a head floating in mid-air. The sheep and pigs wandering the village ravaged by the plague, some of the few survivors left. The opening shots of actual, real-life mummified corpses. I didn’t find Nosferatu the Vampyre particularly scary (and I do scare pretty easily), but with these unexpected images that seem to pop up with no context, it’s definitely nightmarish in some ways. It’s a substantial accomplishment for Herzog regulars Jörg Schmidt-Reitwin and Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus (DP and editor, respectively), who make the images the center of the film, while the narrative falls in place around it.
I saw Nosferatu the Vampyre after seeing both Woyzeck and Fitzcarraldo, two of other collaborations between Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski. Kinski brings some melodramatic flourishes to his performance, but it’s nothing like those other performances. Kinski conveys some real emotion—impressive under all those prosthetics—portraying Dracula not as a suave mastermind, but a pathetic, world-weary addict, whose powers keep him alive, but produce no real satisfaction for him. He’s not quite sympathetic, but his pain comes through in Kinski’s performance.
On the other side of the conflict, Lucy Harker resists Dracula’s pull, out of her love for Jonathan and wanting justice for what Dracula did to him. She can’t sway Van Helsing, whose insistence on sticking to science ignores her clear experiential knowledge. She’s left to fight Dracula alone, as Jonathan’s health slips even further and everyone around her starts dying off. Even though she expresses some doubts about God and the impact of divinity on her life, what faith she has gets channeled into the cross and repels Dracula. As with her conversations with Van Helsing, it’s a statement about the power of authenticity and the value of experiential knowledge. Lucy makes it clear that she has some doubts about her faith, but it’s real, and it makes a difference. She could wear the cross and hide her doubts to keep up appearances, but she doesn’t, and she’s (momentarily) rewarded for it. Isabelle Adjani is great in this role, her cool demeanor staring down Dracula belied by her screams waking up from prophetic nightmares. Her last scene has her sacrifice her sexuality and potentially her life for the sake of her husband. She knows she has to keep Dracula’s interest, as much as she’s repulsed by him. She maintains this pained, hopeless look on her face, while reaching up toward Dracula’s head to pull him back in, providing this relatable, human moment in the midst of this bizarre, supernatural moment. She’s a woman forced to adapt the ancillary gestures of enthusiastic consent in order to appease a man too concerned with his own needs to track whether those gestures relate to real feelings or not. She makes this sacrifice for a man, who is too damaged to appreciate it or recognize it. And the weight of that situation is captured in a seemingly still moment on Adjani’s face. It’s incredible.
A brief note on availability. Herzog shot both a German and English version of the film, with the same actors (all bilingual) delivering both lines. So much of the film’s impact exists beyond the dialogue (outside of an uncharacteristically hilarious moment at the end), so it doesn’t affect much. I watched the English version and recommend that, but I’d bet the German’s as good or better, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. The important thing is seeing it.
1. Wait Until Dark (1967)
Terence Young’s Wait Until Dark, an adaptation of the Frederick Knott play from the year prior, maintains the intimate qualities of a stage production while still utilizing elements provided by film that are absent from live theater.
Suzy Hendrix, a blind woman (Audrey Hepburn), whose husband is away for a weekend, gets caught in between a trio of criminals (Richard Crenna, Jack Weston, and Alan Arkin) after a heroin-stuffed doll that’s wound up in her possession by chance. The film unfolds almost entirely in Suzy’s apartment and the street just outside.
While Young holds back on the claustrophobia until the climax, but stays in the space because that’s as much as Suzy can manage. She became blind due to a car accident about a year before the events of the film. Her sudden loss of ability generates anxiety for her about leaving the house and being self-sufficient. Her willingness to accept any help she can gets her in trouble, leading her to believe one of the con men is, in fact, her husband’s old friend, despite receiving very little evidence to confirm that. She knows he helped her, and that makes him an honest, caring person to her.
Her capability to fight for herself later on, once the con turns into a full-on home invasion, relates to her blindness in a similar way. There’s a little bit of her other senses being heightened, but not to the lengths other films with blind characters go. In fact, there’s just as much evidence to the contrary, the ways in which her other senses fail her because she’s so used to relying on sight. Most notably, she fails to feel out in front of her when she walks in her apartment, and trips over slightly out-of-place chairs. Her body has adjusted to accommodate her blindness but she hasn’t. She manages to gain an advantage against Roat—the sociopath among the criminals more interested in harming her than he is in heroin—because he’s attacking her in her most comfortable space, one she knows better than anyone. With Young’s thorough exploration of the space throughout the film, the audience has just as good a lay of the land when the lights go out. But this familiarity isn’t enough. Roat wears sunglasses throughout most of the film, even at night, and is no stranger to darkness. It’s only when Suzy accepts that she’s not getting any help and has to figure out a solution on her own that she’s able to defeat Roat. There’s definitely some issues in casting a non-blind actress to play a blind woman, but it’s what you’d expect for a 1967 Hollywood film. And Hepburn turns in a great performance, not only finding the physicality needed for the role, but conveying the terror and desperation that Suzy feels, which bring those last fifteen minutes or so to life.
Arkin is even more incredible as Roat, who comes off conniving yet professional at first, taking over the situation from the moment he walks into the apartment. As the con gets going, he turns into a comedic figure, seen primarily as two exaggerated characters he’s playing as part of the con. And in the final act, he turns into a full-on sociopath, his fake-friendly mannerisms all the more chilling viewed under a different light (or lack thereof). The film captures a great performance from Arkin, though it’s just as impressive that it didn’t put him on a different career path where he’d play countless other icy, scheming villains.
As the title suggests, Young plays with light in a major way, as a representation of visibility. For all the dramatic irony Young injects into the first two acts, freely giving information to the audience that other characters aren’t privy to, all that’s taken away as Suzy smashes out the lights right before the criminals arrive at her apartment. It’s possible that she’s taking back the high ground, but we know Roat’s dangerous and there’s still questions about what he’s capable of. And it’s hard to shake the legacy of horror and thriller films and what protagonists being deprived of light usually means. Young lets some of the action play out in the dark, which sound and dialogue briefly carrying the story, then brings images back in brief flashes, a couple seconds at a time. This would be a daring decision for theater as well, but there’s such a strong association between film and visual storytelling. Taking visibility away from even the audience entirely seems like a hard sell, but absence of visuals is a kind of visual storytelling of its own.
Wait Until Dark is a big film with a small space to work in, a visually memorable experience because of the visuals it withholds, a stagey film that needs a camera to come to life. But all that said, it often gets remembered these days for one reason: its famous jump scare. There’s a lot more to it, but I don’t really have a problem with that. It is a hell of a jump scare, after all.
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Day 81 - 31/03/18 Hi! Today I was doing mostly nothing, but managed to do something other than vacuuming. So, I was creating a character for our friend, that may join us (NPC #1). On the photo you can see repaired figures. I glued Elthreshar's braid to her hand, because it was risky. And I think I decided that I won't layered them in nail polish. I definitely need to make another Jocelin. I can't use this one as NPC due to her eyes (ah, honestly I love letting players decide about characteristics of each other characters, really), but I already have a plan in my head about what to do with this version. Stay creative! - Fay with a scar
(HW Diary #28) Ascian-blocked
Joceline talks a little with Alphinaud and leaves the house to find that there’s a message for her: Aymeric wants to eat dinner with her.
At his house.
I waste two hours looking for nice enough (and reasonably priced, because I wanna buy a house too) clothes and dyes on the market board and head over to speak with the steward.
Aymeric’s house is freaking gorgeous! (The steward informs me that the staff can be counted on one hand, but that’s still 4-5 more servants than JoJo has.) Aymeric looks so elegant and classy! And he smiles and laughs as he cuts his salad and talks with me. He says he would like to come along on an adventure one day when his responsibilities aren’t as pressing. JoJo has three different goblets in front of her, which is why I guess she refuses the bottle of wine offered to her. She and Aymeric even toast. No doubt she’s having a great time, but just as Aymeric asks her what she would like to do for herself one day, a knight from House Fortemps shows up with bad news, asking for her. At least Aymeric comes too. Even the Count’s memoirs have a passage here that pretty much says “poor broad couldn’t catch a break.”
Thancred helped Alisaie get away from the haters, but she still got shot with a poison arrow. Poison again? Next bastard who poisons somebody I care about is gonna have their insides used to paint my Gae Bolg. She lets us know the Warriors of Darkness are on the Ascians’ payroll and killing primals is part of their evil scheme. Their next stop is Xelphatol, where Garuda will be summoned. She’s (Alisaie, not Garuda) quickly taken to the infirmary.
I already wanted the Ascians dead, but now I really want them dead. Warriors of Darkness can all catch this lance too. JoJo bought pretty underwear for this evening, and she didn’t even finish her dinner! What she does to bleach boy will make what she did to Iggy look like schoolyard bullying.
Ishgard and Xelphatol share a border, so the Count directs us to Camp Dragonhead, where some knights will escort us and take out the Ixal. I had thought Xelphatol was a whole other area on the map, but nah, it’s just a dungeon. (While I wait, I have JoJo pat her little wind-up Haurchefant, only to look up and realize she’s standing in a place where all three Elezen are looking right at her. Somebody else’s Midgardsormr even picks this time to fly over as if to silently judge.) The ritual does not take place, and I get a commendation!
The Warriors of Darkness are mad that JoJo killed Garuda before they did. Yeah, and JoJo is mad that you tried to kill her friend and kept her from seeing what Aymeric was going to have for dessert. Some new guy is with them, and the knight wants to blame him for me beating them there. The ranger is relieved that Alphinaud is a twin and she didn’t miss. Welcome to the top of my kill list! When she’s about to deal with that, the new guy says the man in white doesn’t want needless bloodshed. The lead hater explains that they are from one of the other worlds created after Hydaelyn vs. Zodiark, and there they were chosen by her. Their world had much more light than darkness, so they killed the Ascians without much trouble. Unfortunately, that caused so much light that everything there started to be destroyed by it.
Or so he says.
(I know, I know, I had the same initial reaction to Yugiri and I took my sweet time trusting Ysayle. But neither of them were on the Ascians’ payroll, so my suspicion is 500% justified this time.)
Another world (#13) became full of dark and turned into the void. THAT void. Our world is what he calls the Source, and the haters let the Ascians bring them here. If this man is to be believed, the only way to save his world is to destroy the barriers and put all the worlds back together... by killing a ton of people in the calamities. So needless bloodshed is bad, but mass deaths are A-OK! I’m done with these people. Alphinaud wonders if they’re even going to be alive if they achieve what they want. But they won’t answer, they only teleport away.
I just helped stop 1000 years of lies and death, at a great cost, and that was just something I did in/around one city-state. IDGAF what that guy says. JoJo is not sacrificing the people/dragons/friendly beast tribes who live here for what may very well be a lie. An Ascian-backed lie at that. Alphinaud says something similar before we go check back in with Aymeric. Alisaie is okay now because Y’shtola was on the case. Since Thancred and Tataru are also present, we give everybody the bad news about the Warriors of Darkness. Thancred doesn’t buy their story any more than I do. Alph has been thinking about it though...
Alisaie says she was following the haters because she’d heard stories about a group of people who wanted to kill primals instead of the Scions. Oh yeah? Well, I’ve killed twenty-one. (We don’t talk about #22. Or would that be #22 and #23 since Louisoix turned into Phoenix? And should I be counting every guy in the Heavens’ Ward as his own primal? Anyway...) That’s not something to be proud of in this case. The beast tribes will keep summoning stronger and stronger primals if they keep this up. Then they’ll give up on their unhelpful old gods and start praying to a new one. You mean Zodiark? Thancred says they’ve found some people who have been sending lots and lots of crystals to the beast tribes. I say we find them, stab them, and stop them. When the Ascians show up, we break out more white auracite and kill them too. Thancred proposes we do just that (minus the auracite part) as he punches one hand into the other.
The Scions plus Aymeric decide to split up and check various sources of the crystals. Alphinaud wants JoJo to come see Urianger with him. Yeah, let’s ask Urianger to share *everything* he’s been up to lately! I’d LOVE to hear the logic behind his decisions! Although no one notices, Alisaie becomes nervous, and pleads to come along with her brother. Come on, Alisaie, you know we’ve gotta confront the man at some point about his sneaking around. Tataru says she can go after she puts on her new clothes. (Apparently it was the kids’ parents’ idea to make them match all the time.) JoJo is jealous and a bit salty, but reminds herself of the nice coat one of her Ishgardian friends gave her.
(ARR Diary #21) Give them back!
Joceline’s fellow Scions also share the good (definitely better than what we’ve been having recently) news that an Imperial aircraft was spotted going down in Winterfell, and some people escaped from it. Some of the guys at Whitebrim point JoJo to some footprints. It’s snowing today, so she hurries to follow them...
...and finds herself at the bridge, where a terrified Wedge is hiding! I need to get him to calm down, see that I’m a friend, and move to a safer (and warmer) spot in the watchtower. Eventually he tells me Biggs went to draw their pursuers away from him. JoJo hurries to offer backup. She’s not the only one; Y’shtola and Yda hide nearby, planning to crack some skulls. I’m so glad I’ve started doing stuff with my people again. We three queens dash through the snow to join Biggs in whooping Garlean booty and it feels GOOD. Unfortunately, Biggs is tired and injured. When he clutches at his side and begins to sag, a concerned JoJo puts her hands to her mouth and backs away. It would be adorable if it wasn’t because of one of her friends being at risk of bleeding out.
The best thing about of this bit of the quest? The engineers sabotaged the airship because they were NOT going back to the Empire. Ha! Speaking of making things hard for the Empire, on the way out of the snow level, I get a sidequest where I look for traces of Imperial scum hiding in Winterfell. JoJo finds communication tech, plus one dude hiding behind a tree who swears he isn’t with them. She sneers at him and slaps him before using /doubt like she’s meant to. He runs when he realizes I know he‘s full of it. I rather like slapping disagreeable NPCs.
Mor Donuts is one of the most dangerous areas I’ve been to in the game... which makes sense, since I’m running out of territory to explore. JoJo navigates a morbol-infested swamp to where some pipes are. If this was Banjo-Kazooie she could climb up one of them and find something cool, but what she can do here is eavesdrop on random Imperials chattering about the prisoners. This proves it -the rest of the gang is here, and so is the harpy who took them. I’ve got something for HER.
Although I’ve previously run around in there farming soldiers for exp, we can’t exactly walk through the front door and nicely ask for our buddies to be returned to us. The people of Revenant’s Toll are as ingenious as they are adventurous, so they come up with a plan: steal some uniforms and one of the magitek armor units. This way, Biggs, Wedge, and JoJo will look like any other patrol. Getting new clothes is the easy part... although they need some repairs after I stab their original wearers. We also need to learn their salute by observing the guys out front. One soldier frets that his wife is blowing the money he sends home on expensive stuff. Oh, buddy, not only is she wasting your money, but she’s probably cheating on you too. Do they have milkmen in Garlemald? Another man is excited that his wife is having their first child. Um... I guess I’ll try not to stab this one? I feel a little bad now.
Cid asks me to go to a big old crystal formation out in the wilderness and set up several devices he’s built in order to jam the communications of the guys we’re preparing to trick. Then I set off a smoke signal and lure the suckers in. He actually helps me beat them up!
In the room Cid has taken over to use as his lab, he and his assistants start going over what needs to be done to make sure our stolen ride can run properly when we need it to. The three of them want ME to go to Gerudo Town and pay through the nose for machine parts. JoJo rides Steelbeak like always, because she’s always cheap and now spending even a few hundred gil on teleportation sounds like a terrible idea. But when she reaches the Goldsmiths’ Guild, the lady there says payment isn’t necessary, because Alphinoob has been supporting them for years. Apparently he called ahead and said his SERVANT was coming to pick it up. At times like this, a part of me wishes I had just yeeted His Worshipfulness over the side of the Enterprise when I had the opportunity. I could have blamed it on turbulence or something.
The engineers do their thing, and JoJo gets to take a test drive. Because it’s a particularly advanced piece of technology, Wedge thinks it will help if I welcome it, as if we’ve gotten a new team member. Well, the last of JoJo’s dignity was probably gone by the time she had to dig through those spriggan guts. Welcome to the Scions, Maggie.
No response. To make matters worse, some more Garleans come looking for the missing patrol. They see Cid punching his hand, looking as if he’s excited to lay another beating, and next to him, the woman they call eikon-slayer. Even though they’re probably soiling their uniforms, they take us on. You know, Cid’s not half bad at fighting. He and I might be able to become good friends. Between the Imperials yelling to destroy the Magitek Armor if they can’t reclaim it (her?) and us fighting to save it (her?), Maggie activates at last and helps take them out. We’d better get out of here before even more guys show up.
Now that our uniforms are fresh and our ride is working, Glaumunt, one of our brainy fellow adventurers, comes to wish us luck... and to share a story about what happens when Garleans get their way. He used to be an ordinary guy who lived a humble but happy life with his mom and sister till the Empire came; while he was forced to do hard labor, the ladies were abused so badly that when the family’s escape attempt failed, they chose suicide over one more day of rape. Twelve be good. Who wouldn’t long for revenge after that? While he hasn’t been able to do the kind of damage JoJo has, he hopes we can save our friends and crack plenty of Imperial skulls. Speaking of saving and cracking, on my way in I see a cutscene of Livia kicking poor Minfilia for not talking, threatening her with torture if she won’t cooperate. The woman who signs JoJo’s paychecks, who told her she was part of her family... All the toes on that foot are getting broken. (For the record, Sark Malark’s family is fine, back in Gerudo Town with their piles of money. He just prefers the adventuring life, and we’re glad he does.)
We get in without incident. We need a card key (evil team hideout, anyone?) to get to our friends. I look around for all the Imperials I need to salute, and stumble across one soldier who is thirsty for Tataru. He hopes he’ll be able to get the key from his boss so he can see her. JoJo could probably get away with slapping a “coworker” for being dumb and horny, but the thought doesn’t really occur to her, what with her friends being so close. A few minutes later, we’ve got them! (Wedge hopes he will look cool in front of Tataru. Go on, my guy!) Urianger and Papalymo want me to untie them, despite the trash mob slowing me down. Well, they are my buddies. It takes a little while to work on whatever kind of rope they’ve got, but after one interruption I manage to free Urianger. With him fighting alongside me, I have less trouble helping Papalymo, and then it is ON.
Livia finds herself confronted by Yda and Y’shtola, who have snuck in while we were causing chaos. They’re even angrier than JoJo is about what she’s done. Makes sense. They’ve known everyone longer than I have. Unfortunately, like RPG bosses often do, she takes advantage of the entrance of reinforcements to make her escape. Run while you can, bitch. I’ll tear your kneecaps off later. (Or Y’shtola will. I just get the impression that this woman is absolutely merciless when pushed too far.)
More trash mobs come after us. Because these robots now love them some shields, JoJo needs to hunt for shield generators as she’s hacking and slashing and her friends are casting. Man, I love this fight. We’re fighting our way out, but we are in control!
...we’re in control for a little while, anyway. We all have to run too, to the bottom of the map. Y’shtola puts up a shield to save us from being lit up. Oh great, we’ve come to the edge of a cliff. JoJo has Cid speaking into her ear; he wants her to get her friends to count to five and then jump. Good job, Cid! Everybody jumps on to the Enterprise and we fly to safety. As we leave we can see Lahabread down there. His hood’s off... oh crap, it’s Thancred in that cultist outfit. No one is happy with this revelation. Minfilia calls somebody named Krile for help.
(ARR Diary #12) Procrastination Crusaders: Robot Pirate Island
(I didn’t do all these things at once, but I can’t remember which sidequest I did when, so here are the things that stood out the most to me from all the times I stopped by.)
I’m giving the place this name because they are fighting against the Empire, whose fortification contains robots. I have to visit about fifteen times before I quit getting lost. A lot of the citizens are drunk, horny, or looking for a fight... so it really is a city of pirates. There’s also some poor guy getting mugged near the restaurant. The game will not let me help him. An interesting thing about the city is that whoever you are, whether you’re from a beast tribe or a town full of men, you’re welcome to trade as long as you follow the laws and fill out your paperwork. Well, except for Imperials. It’s open season on those guys’ ships. As it should be.
The island is my favorite place to fly over (this happens much later), especially on a clear day! My favorite area to fly over is Costa del Sol. There’s good music all over, but the music in the area nearest the city proper is my favorite.
- A captain has Joceline participate in what he *swears* is a legal venture. I deliver samples of his goods to two customers... and find out the samples are just spices. I feel slightly guilty for assuming what he was up to. (He wants to be a privateer, not a pusher.)
- I help bust a dine-and-dasher. Can’t be messing with people’s money post-Calamity.
- There is a bar called the Missing Member. The owner is captain of an all-female crew, some of who like to Slav-squat on the walkway outside.
- While searching for missing booze, JoJo has a dance-off with some pirates who “liberated” the libations.
- Some overdramatic soul got careless and lost the tools he needs to work with, and has been terrifying the townsfolk since then. After I track down some replacements for him, Jandelaine offers me one free makeover and zero need for reservations in the future. (I asked Mash “is this how people see JJBA fans?” and he said “pretty much.”)
- JoJo rounds up some escaped dodos, and the man who watches them is so happy he asks her to stay and be their mommy for a while. This will be the best proposition I get until I reach Forgotten Springs.
- I also get talked into squishing more ladybugs. Innocent, defenseless ladybugs, as the item description reminds me. Their insides are supposed to help keep aphids away from crops, but even the quest-giver acknowledges that they could just let the ladybugs keep defending the crops. No more ladybug-killing for JoJo.
- A smuggler has been bringing in exotic animals for pirates, AND there’s a coeurl problem in the area. After JoJo gets involved in trying to clean things up, she finds herself responsible for a cute wolf pup and an adorable coeurl kitten. (“Who is this Gaius dude the wolf pup looks up to? Probably nobody important,” I said to myself. It took WAY too long before I made the connection.)
- There’s a paleontologist here! The skeleton he’s studying is called Thalaos.
- JoJo visits a facility where wounded soldiers can recover in the hot springs. There’s also an annoying rich dude who treats the place like his personal resort. I end up having to rub him with salamander oil, and when he passes out I’m made to dump freezing water on him three times in a row. WAKE UP ALREADY! At least I get a nice ring for my trouble when he finally leaves.
- There’s also a FATE involving a Mamool Ja who has been banned from the facility. It’s not because of racism, it’s because he won’t stop flashing everybody there. JoJo drives the classy man away.
- Bloeidin, who is in charge of Camp Overlook, has been gifted a nice fat fish, which he decides to share with some of the guys under his command. JoJo grills the fish and listens to the men’s complaints while they gobble it down anyway.
- One violent sidequest with a wholesome twist has me looting the helmet from a defeated kobold priest. When this particular group of kobolds attacked Camp Overlook, the new guy, who was supposed to be guarding the place that night, got injured so badly he had to go to Camp Bronze Lake. The other pirates-turned-soldiers want him to keep the helmet while he recovers. Awww.
- Wandering through Bloodshore, I spot somebody fighting a huge crab and head over to help, with other players coming soon after. This FATE is more challenging to me than some boss fights, but it is so worth it. The person I run over to help is a fellow dragoon, and both of us live. Ha! I also get a precious little crab to follow me around. I will call the smallshell Valeria, because reasons.
- JoJo escorts an escort past some killer birds. One of us gives men the little death, and the other gives them the big one.
- I don’t know if I want to live here because of all the crime, but I love the energy and YOOOOOOO, the housing area is flipping gorgeous. I certainly would LOVE to visit, both there and the island as a whole. Good job, Square!
Fun fact of the day: among all the pirates operating out of here, only the Serpent Reavers are crazy enough to worship Leviathan like the Sahagin do.