Various and Sundry 8/7/23

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend; here’s what’s on my mind today:

William Friedkin, RIP: He was the director of a number of significant films, The French Connection among them, which won Best Picture and nabbed Friedkin a Best Director Oscar in the bargain, but the film of his that has proven to have the longest staying power is The Exorcist, the horror film that rewrote the rulebook on cinematic horror so completely that it’s still spawning sequels 50 years later (The Exorcist: Believer is coming out later this year, with Ellen Burstyn, the original’s lead, in a supporting role), admittedly to much lesser effect, but even so. The Exorcist is on my own personal list of “Greatest Films of All Time” and certainly one of the great films of the 70s. If you’re going to have one film as your calling card, you could do much worse than the single most iconic horror film of all time.

When I was a film critic I got a chance to interview Friedkin for the film Rampage, which was shot in 1987, but for various reasons didn’t come out until several years later. I remember him being a really interesting interview, and even this most minor of his films had some genuinely excellent moments. He had a bit of a resurgence in the 2000s with some smaller-scale films, Bug and Killer Joe most notably, and as a cinema person I was glad about that; it’s good to see artists still making relevant work decades into their professional lives. Hollywood is notoriously difficult about second acts, and he managed to get one.

Ron DeSantis Finally Says Something I Agree With: Specifically, that “of course” Trump lost the 2020 election. Now, let’s be clear that the only reason DeSantis is saying this out loud at all is because Trump is crushing him in the 2024 Republican Presidential Candidate polling, and DeSantis needs something, anything, to poke at the Great Orange One. Also, DeSantis is a real piece of bigoted shit. But for all that, stopped clock, etc. And perhaps the second-best-polling presidential candidate clear saying out loud what everyone else actually knows is true, in defiance of the GOP Reality Distortion field, might actually do some good. I mean, probably not, who are we kidding here, but let us live in hope, if only for a stolen moment.

Trump Having Another Bad Day in Court: His countersuit against E. Jean Carroll has been tossed, you know, the one where he claimed she defamed him by saying he raped her. This led to, among other things, the judge clarifying that, irrespective of the details of New York state law, what Trump did to Carroll would generally be considered rape “in common parlance, [and is] its definition in some dictionaries, in some federal and state criminal statutes, and elsewhere.” Basically the Judge wasn’t going to let Trump use the courts to harass Carroll on a technicality, and good for him.

Meanwhile, Trump has been busy on social media trying to get a venue change for his DC trial, or at least get the judge to recuse herself, because of reasons that I’m sure don’t have to with racism or sexism or the fact that Trump is shitting himself over the fact that at least one judge he’s going to be in front of in his various trials isn’t grovelingly deferential to his nonsense to the point of needing to be slapped down by the circuit court above her for terrible legal reasoning. Also, he appears not to have conferred with his latest lawyer about this tactic, which, come on, is not terribly surprising, now, is it.

Billionaire Barbie: Much to the pain and confusion of professional incel Ben Shapiro, who predicted the movie would flop miserably after its first weekend, mostly because he wanted it to flop sooooooo much, y’alll, stomp stomp stompy stomp stomp, the Barbie move has now grossed over $1 billion worldwide, making it the #2 movie of 2023, both globally and domestically, behind only The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Given that Mario has pretty much ended its theatrical run, it’s possible Barbie could close the (admittedly pretty hefty) $320 million gap between the two films and overtake Mario before her run is over. Regardless, $1B+ globally is nothing to shake your head at, unless you are, in fact, Shapiro or one of his whiny contingent. Let ’em stew!

US Women’s Soccer Out At the World Cup: Much is being made of the usually-dominant US team washing out in the Round of Sixteen stage of the World Cup, especially as they were previously the back-to-back champions, but my own (admittedly less than fully-versed) take about it is: Eh, it happens. My understanding is this year’s edition of the team has a number of new players on it getting their legs, as it were, and in general the state of the competition from other countries is higher, and ultimately, you can’t win them all, even if you are clearly expected to. Disappointment? Possibly, given the team’s previous successes. But, life is like that, sometimes. I suspect they will be back. 2027 is not that far away.

— JS

28 Comments on “Various and Sundry 8/7/23”

  1. With the USWNT, they were completely undone by the loss of their best striker in spring and best defender in early summer. The replacements just couldn’t manage to step up.

  2. USWNT’s loss wasn’t unexpected, given last fall’s friendlies losses and the lackluster win at the SheBelieves Cup this spring.
    Hopefully the federations revamps selections a bit (retirements will help, just like the last time they imploded) and they can more forward.. and maybe learn this time: nostalgia is great but it doesn’t win matches.

  3. I’m hoping the Women’s National team bounces back for the Olympics next year.

  4. Saw some commentary about the USWNT being out and the general glee some sports reporters had about it and was like, “they’ve still won more than the men’s team, and they also won their fair pay.” So, yeah, it happens. It’s a building year for them, as is next season. But I expect them to do much better in 2025.

  5. I predict that more and more GOP presidential candidates will start to state that Trump lost in 2020; incited an insurrection in 2021; and isn’t fit to be president.

    I know Liz Cheney already did this but she has a vagina and that means typical GOP won’t give her any credit.

  6. Hadn’t you heard? Donald assured us that the USWNT lost because they were a) too woke, and b) not Trump supporters or MAGA enough.

  7. I was in HS when The Exorcist came out and a friend and I saw it at a large, packed theater. The lead-up hype for the movie was so intense prior to its release that as soon as the title screen appeared (black background with huge red block letters or maybe visa versa) a guy about 10 rows in front of us and as many seats over projectile-vomited! Dude couldn’t even wait for the stuff worth hurling over!

    (Guy probably cried every time they showed the masks in the Scream movies. Lightweight!)

    My friend and I watched closely for the much-publicized subliminal images, seeing it at least twice (once behind Regan’s bedroom door) but I didn’t lose any sleep over it. When I got the movie on DVD years later, with some effort and good timing, you could pause during the 1/8th second images and I’ll admit they were a lot creepier when you get a good, long look. Not as scary as an 1/8th of a second flash of a can of Pepsi or bag of Doritos, though!

  8. WRT: the Women’s National Team and the World Cup. This was always going to happen someday. The US is, to put it mildly, not a traditional soccer power. That it HAS been a power in the women’s game is due to sheer size, generally being ahead of the curve in building an organization and a general lack of seriousness about the women’s game in many of the traditional powers. The first will be an advantage for the US in basically any sport for the foreseeable future, the others are ephemeral and already vanishing.
    Basically, the traditional powers of the soccer world were going to translate that to the women’s game sooner or later, combine that inevitable fact with aging stars, ill timed injuries and a coaching style that did little to use the teams strengths and well, you get ousted in the round of 16. They’ll be back.

  9. In 1974, my parents picked up and moved with my younger sisters to California. My wife and I were tasked with entertaining my younger sister (then 12) while my other sister had a farewell party with her friends. So we took her to see, you guessed it, The Exorcist.

    Perhaps not the best choice, and she hid her eyes frequently, but I’ll tell you…she never forgot it.


  10. With the USWNT it seemed to me that their dominance over a number of years forced other teams to step up. The overall skill levels in the game is now at a level that several team can lift the trophy, which is no bad thing for the sport.

  11. Go Barbie! I saw it today. Normally I don’t bother with movie theaters, I just wait for used DVDs to show up. But the anti-work freak-out over this film inspired me. I can’t begin to even comprehend what the complaints–I’ve seen several youtube rants now–are based on. Usually the hysterics make some kind of idiotic sense (green M&Ms are too sexy, Ghostbusters remake ruined childhoods, blah blah duh duh) but here? Not a clue.

    As a bonus, my movie munchies consisted of three bags of M&Ms. It seemed appropriate. I’m actually surprised there was no pink M&M tie-in.

  12. The Women’s Soccer World Cup is getting a lot of attention over here in .au, mainly because the Matildas are doing so well in it (and also because it’s a bunch of events in all the various cities of Australia – there’s even been games happening here in Perth). It’s a great thing to see. Not being a sports fan myself (and not having the TV set up to receive broadcasting – it exists to display the gaming consoles and that’s it) I haven’t been watching it, but a lot of people in my orbit have, and really enjoying the event.

  13. People I was talking with were opining as to whether the ex-President was looking for a bail revocation and pre-trial detention with his Friday comments (for witness/jury tampering). That would be interesting – if he has to cool his heels in jail, 1) campaigning will likely be difficult and 2) he might push for a rapid trial to spring him from said detention, which would have a pretty good chance of making him an actually-convicted GOP Presidential nominee and covering he and his party in even more glory than they have already earned.

  14. Soccer is the dumbest of sports. People love the game best when there’s no score, and when the game ends in a tie, as they often do and this one did, the outcome is decided by a procedure completely unrelated to how the game is played.

    Professional sports, in general, are played between people and teams of roughly equal capability. There is no moral victory when a team wins; it’s a matter of both skill and luck, not the gods deciding to smile on one side or the other.

  15. Friedkin’s To Live and Die in LA (1985) is excellent, but apparently not streaming anywhere, because we live in a fallen world of sadness.

    He also directed Sorcerer (1977), a remake of the also-excellent Wages of Fear (1953) by Henri-Georges Clouzot.

    The bridge scene! The soundtrack! Important life lessons about sweaty dynamite. Sorcerer is available streaming.

  16. I think you could credibly argue that the team that beat that beat the USWNT was MORE woke than the US team was (very much into taking the knee and just as feminist…)

  17. Watching the Matildas is fun. Sorry cohost NZ exited early. Lots of elite teams from across the world. That’s why I watch the Women’s and Men’s international cups.

    Watched the Exorcist. Hated it. Turned me off horror movies for decades. However the Tubular Bell sound track was pretty groovy.

  18. I enjoyed Barbie, with my wife and daughters. The whole patriarchy story line was very stereotyped and over the top, but hey, stereotypes in a Barbie movie, who’da thunk it. It was very effectively played for laughs and the ending put a really good twist on it.
    Having said all that, I can totally see why the macho/incel crowd are triggered.

  19. In other film news, the Qanonvolkisch movie “The Sound of Freedom” has projection issues — and not the kind that theaters have to deal with.

    Tim Ballard, the subject of the anti-trafficking message movie, resigned from Operation Underground Railroad following a human resources investigation into him. (What the allegations were have not been reported.)

    Also, Fabian Marta, who claims to have gotten the film to market after Disney would not back it, was arrested July 21 on child kidnapping charges in Missouri.

  20. I think the Barbie movie has a longer tail than Mario. As reviews roll in, especially personal, friends and family type, more folks are going just to see what the hype is about. The guys setting dolls on fire have also been great advertising. Not what they intended, but this is a case of any/all publicity being good publicity, IMO.

  21. Never did see The Exorcist, and haven’t regretted it, as horror is not my genre. I am going to see Barbie this afternoon, due to rave reviews from my sisters. Reading Slim by Slim Keith, married to Howard Hawks and Leland Hayward successively, insights into the Hawks films vision.

  22. What I’ve read in various places is that the USWNT hadn’t been playing particularly well this competition, but going to Sweden was a combination of bad luck and a great performance by the Swedish goalkeeper.

  23. @ gwangung:

    “I think you could credibly argue that the team that beat that beat the USWNT was MORE woke than the US team was”

    I mean… they’re from Sweden. Of course they’re more woke. But since when did facts influence white supremacist worldview?

  24. Just thought someone on a Friedkin thread should mention Sorcerer, which bombed, was really the reason Friedkin needed a second act, but has come in its dotage to be seen as a hell of a movie–which it really always was. And included for the price of admission is the eerie T-dream score!

    Also: well done Mr Scalzi. Bug is extraordinarily weird and dissociative with tremendous direction by Friedkin and an absolutely unhinged performance by Michael Shannon.

  25. I have never seen The Exorcist (like Jennifer above I am not a horror fan), but living in the Washington, DC area as I do I have driven by the infamous steps probably hundreds of times!

    Key injuries and improved quality of competition notwithstanding, poor coaching – especially questionable substitutions – also appears to have been an issue. The USWNT quite possibly will have a new coach in short order.

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