There is an analogy to be made between Peter Jackson’s movies and giant predatory robot cities

Wait, what? Peter Jackson is actually making a movie of Mortal Engines, the novel about giant predatory cities roaming a post-apocalyptic landscape?

Ambitious. Let’s hope he doesn’t plan to turn the first novel into a sprawling nine-movie series with buckets of extra ideas poured in. I don’t know if he can make a lean, exciting story any more.

Why am I seeing this everywhere?

It’s odd. Suddenly, in social media and email, I’m seeing this little cartoon everywhere.

Why does Trent Reznor have a reputation for ruining Christmas? I had Nine Inch Nails cranked up on the stereo all weekend — I’m home alone, and it’s great music for grading. I’m in the godless Christmas spirit already!

Also, I found Nine Inch Nöels. Finally, some good Christmas carols.

Definitely not safe for work, though.

The star war was…OK

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was one of the better ones, actually, which isn’t saying a heck of a lot, but it does mean you won’t be embarrassed by it, as you were by the horrible prequels or the patent marketing ploy of the Ewoks. It also survived the most unpleasant test of a movie ever.

About halfway through the showing here in Morris, someone in the theater crapped their pants. It wasn’t too near me, so all I suffered through was the occasional eddy of air passing through bearing the odor of hot buttered popcorn and poop, and fortunately I hadn’t bought any popcorn or snack food, so it was only sporadically unpleasant — but no one left the theater. Not the poopy pants person or anyone seated near them. So I think we can say the movie was at least that engaging.

Just a hint of etiquette, though: you may think it’s a good idea to test the dedication of an audience, but still, when you’ve shat your drawers please excuse yourself and clean up.

The burning question, though, is about the plot. No spoilers here, but remember how the last one was practically a remake of the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, and you could slot all the characters into analogs of the first movie’s cast, with some of that cast also making significant appearances, and the plot was just “blow up the Death Star”, only with an even bigger Death Star? Yeah, this one shows it’s bones are the same as the second movie, The Empire Strikes Back. Those bones have been creatively jiggered around, so you’ll still get some surprises. The ice planet battle with rebels in trenches fighting the oncoming, ponderous army of massive imperial battle machines is still there, it’s just been put near the end instead of the beginning, for instance.

It’s such a clone that there’s even a scene where the whiny Darth Vader copy, Kylo Ren, breaks the heart of the Luke version, Rey, by informing them of their parentage during a climactic battle. Don’t worry, though, it’s not something like, “I, Kylo Ren, am your third cousin twice removed” and Rey goes, like, “NOOOOOO. It can’t be!” It’s a little more realistic than that.

Also, the movie is overstuffed with irrelevant side-conflicts and tangents and sudden swordfights which turn the whole story into a sloppy turducken of confusion, but it’s OK, they’re entertaining, just go with it.

The porgs were clearly tossed in as comic relief. They weren’t very amusing. That’s the level of humor we’re working at here, so don’t expect much to laugh at. Do not buy the inevitable porg toys, or I will have to unfriend you.

The primary plot devices are all about Force magic. The hokey religion angle is wearing thin, but OK, it’s a fantasy story, I guess we need to allow it.

By the way, is it now a requirement that every sf/fantasy movie include one character rendered so badly that it breaks all suspension of disbelief? In this one it’s Yoda. He still looks like a cheesy foam puppet made in the 1970s, and his scene just goes on and on. He’s dead. He’s a Force ghost. Let him rest in peace, ‘k?

Bottom line: if I were twelve years old again, I’d probably be saying “This is the greatest movie ever!!!” I’m not, unfortunately, so I’m just going to say it’s fine, light, forgettable entertainment. It would be improved by having an audience that could control their bowels, but otherwise it’s exactly what it says on the label and as long as you don’t expect depth or greatness, and it truly is a nice representative of the Star Wars genre.

The Hayek revelations

Good grief. I just read Salma Hayek’s piece in the New York Times. It’s a horror through and through — Harvey Weinstein is a terrible human being. There was the familiar constant pressure for sex, and his anger when denied, but what’s new here is how Weinstein, who had a reputation for sponsoring great art movies, was in active force in compromising the art. What he did to Hayek’s movie, Frida, was unconscionable.

Halfway through shooting, Harvey turned up on set and complained about Frida’s “unibrow.” He insisted that I eliminate the limp and berated my performance. Then he asked everyone in the room to step out except for me. He told me that the only thing I had going for me was my sex appeal and that there was none of that in this movie. So he told me he was going to shut down the film because no one would want to see me in that role.

Frida Kahlo did many self-portraits, and her striking appearance was part of her identity, and Weinstein wanted to reduce her looks to something more conventional? She was afflicted with polio as a child and severely injured in an accident in her teens, and lived her whole life with a disability and chronic pain, and Weinstein wanted to erase that in a biography? How clueless is he, and how many of the good Weinstein-produced movies were made in spite of his interference, and how much better would they have been if he’d never been allowed to say a word?

He offered me one option to continue. He would let me finish the film if I agreed to do a sex scene with another woman. And he demanded full-frontal nudity.

Christ. Hayek gave in on that demand, reluctantly, and with much anguish. But now you’ll need to keep this in mind next time you watch Game of Thrones or some cop show which features a stroll through a strip joint. The nudity isn’t some critical part of the story, or even a part of the atmosphere added for verisimilitude. It’s probably because some guy high up in the production likes the power of being able to compel the women acting in his show to expose themselves. It’s not that nudity and sex can’t be a natural part of a story, but that there’s so much of it, and it’s almost entirely gratuitous.

It sort of turns out well, with regard to the movie, at least…except for the part where Hayek’s success was added to the Weinstein luster, and that he then intentionally stunted her career.

Months later, in October 2002, this film, about my hero and inspiration — this Mexican artist who never truly got acknowledged in her time with her limp and her unibrow, this film that Harvey never wanted to do, gave him a box office success that no one could have predicted, and despite his lack of support, added six Academy Award nominations to his collection, including best actress.

Even though “Frida” eventually won him two Oscars, I still didn’t see any joy. He never offered me a starring role in a movie again. The films that I was obliged to do under my original deal with Miramax were all minor supporting roles.

It seems just to me that Weinstein’s reputation as a patron of the arts is going down in flames, along with his reputation as a decent person.