Category Archives: Story Pile

Here’s where you’ll find the blog entries that are about examining – specifically – TV, movies, and other forms of participatory media that interest me. This is the space you’re going to find talk of characters in TV shows, or specific moments in greater narratives, or why you might want to watch a particular show or why I love – or hate! – a particular movie.

Story Pile: 16 Bit Sensation (And Another Layer I Guess)

Ah, Talen month, Talen month! A month where I celebrate media I love, or maybe media I really want to talk about. Media I want to talk about possibly because I think it’s a topic I would normally find too mean, or too cruel to focus on. After all who wants to hear me vent or complain or just drag something for being mediocre.

I do!

It’s Talen Month, and this time around I’m going to do something different in that I’m going to talk about something amazing, something I love, a manga that I think is genuinely, wholeheartedly excellent that you can blitz through in an afternoon, and also, uh, the anime spinoff of it that serves in my mind as one of the examples of how 2023 just was a mid freaking year for anime. I want to talk to you about one of my favourite genres of media, ‘people making things from an insider perspective, with a dash of economic structures,’ and then one of my least favourites, ‘spinoff that is embarrassed to be associated with a much, much better piece of media.’

A cover from the 16 bit sensation manga. It shows Meiko resting her head on a computer.

Up front before I dive in, I’m going to talk about both the manga 16 Bit Sensation and I’m also going to talk about the anime with a similar name, 16 Bit Sensation: Another Layer. I’m going to spoil details about the storyline of Another Layer, which I don’t think should be a problem because I don’t think it’s any good and it’s not like spoiling it would be in any way a diminishment of your enjoyment of it.

Because I don’t find it very enjoyable.

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Story Pile: You Were Never Really Here

It’s entirely possible for an immaculate vibe to be of something that is, itself, rancid.

The movie poster for You Were Never Really Here.

Content Warning: This is a movie with a lot of suicidal ideation and the sexual endangerment of children and teenagers. You don’t see anything but it’s absolutely part of the plot. I’m also going to describe things that involve the later part of the plot. If all you want to know is ‘did I like it,’ I liked it a lot and I consider it a very good example of a very specific kind of media I like.

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Story Pile: Hazbin Hotel

sigh

so I like this a lot I guess.

It wasn’t like I approached Hazbin Hotel expecting to find a thing I loved. It was something a friend was interested in and I watched it with them because I love them to pieces and it seemed interesting enough. I wasn’t expecting to really enjoy myself so much – in fact my predominant thoughts about Hazbin Hotel prior to that was that it was media made for someone younger than me with a reference pool shallower than mine, an Edgy Cartoon made by someone who bootstrapped their way into heading up an animation studio. Quite frankly, the story to me of how Hazbin Hotel happened was so much more interesting than anything Hazbin Hotel was offering me!

Here’s your line though! This is your Spoiler Warning for a series that’s got hidden information in it (though doesn’t every story), and your Content Warning for a series that’s pretty heavy on cartoon sex references, drug references, and over-the-top violence. It’s pretty funny in terms of what kind of show it is in that okay, aside from more f-bombs than you’d assume and more c-bombs than I’d ever expect, but other than that I don’t feel like it does a lot with its higher rating. Still:

  • Parental neglect
  • Drug addiction
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Gambling addiction
  • Sex work
  • A friendly local neighbourhood serial killer
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Story Pile: Christine

Christine is a 1983 horror novel and movie about Stephen King’s ongoing fascination with What If A Thing Was Evil. Having done clowns and spiders and dogs and being alone with your wife, Christine wants to bring this powerful critical tool to bear on the question of What if A Car Was Evil? Would That Be Fucked Up Or What?

Set in the 1970s the story –

The story –

Look I’m going to spoil some things, so like, spoiler warning.

A screencap from the movie Christine.
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Story Pile: Buddy Daddies

There’s a lot to be said for mid anime, in quality and in scope. Not an epic sprawling story meant to spin off for multiple seasons. Not a mystery that promises a resolution that it may completely bottle. Not trying to change your life, just trying to get you to tune in and look at some ads and maybe buy a wall scroll or two. Or fill out the extensive entries on the Internet Movie Firearm Database.

Buddy Daddies is a fundamentally a more ‘realistic’ show than you might imagine. It’s an unreality of high speed car chases and gunfights in cities, rather than grand political drama or telepathy and future sight. It’s grounded in that the characters have to spend time dealing with things like day care and clothing options and Japanese cultural assertions about how to blend in. Sometimes there are anime made because it lets them represent transitions between worlds and remarkable special effects and build on a particular visual language, but Buddy Daddies is an anime that doesn’t do anything you couldn’t do in a live action TV show, except doing it very cheaply and conveniently.

Here then, is your pitch: It’s an action comedy about a pair of single dads who adopt the same daughter, and also, they’re professional murderers. Hilarity ensues. Well, mild hilarity. Well there are jokes.

Modest spoiler warning ensues. I’m not about to tell you anything that you couldn’t predict looking at the poster.

A screencap from the anime Buddy Daddies!. It shows the principle cast standing in a line.Miri has been subtly edited to be higher in the frame and nobody is going to comment on this to me ever.
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Story Pile: Bee & Puppycat Comics

Up front, I guess I should say that after finishing the article, I found Bee And Puppycat an incredibly disappointing set of comics because I made the fool mistake of beliving they were ever going to be something they never told me they would be. I saw the cover art showing happy people in an energetic state and the idea of a temp magical girl resulting in perhaps something like an adventure or a quest or a hijink and never considered how many pages would instead be about comparing poo and chocolate. Still, there’s an interesting history to what these comics are and I’m sure you might like them if you try them and you know you’re only getting the packing peanuts between a story rather than any kind of story in and of itself.

the cover of bee and puppycat volume 1
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Story Pile: Skip & Loafer

Why Talen, you may say, this isn’t smooch month any more. This is plain out ordinary March! March is a time for pi day and references to ‘march forth’ and more resentment of American culture for its permeating omnipresence! What’s with this anime, which is obviously a smooch month anime, set apart from its normal and natural habitat of the month where I talk about people doing smooches? It is, after all, so very, very obviously, an anime about a pair of characters who smooch, right?

Skip and Loafer | OFFICIAL TRAILER 2

Right?

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Story Pile: Insomniacs After School

Introducing excellent things is hard. It’s hard for me because I naturally stray towards the understated or the contrary. You’ve probably heard me call something ‘boringly excellent,’ for example, and that means when I call something incredible or amazing, you might think that puts it on the same category as a really good sandwich or a really interesting academic concept, as opposed to here, where what I want to say is this romance anime is so good I find myself periodically nostalgic for the childhood it depicts that I never had even though it’s about kids with anxiety struggling to make a lot of friends.

This is an amazing story, it has lovely moments, it brings me joy, and I want to share that with you.

Spoiler Warning: I’m going to disclose some facts about the end of the series, and the nature of the kind of show it is, and what kind of show it’s not. Like, if you think ‘this series doesn’t include a mech battle’ is a spoiler, then yeah, you got me, it’s a spoiler, but I don’t plan on going deep on revelations about the eventual plot, okay?

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Story Pile: A Tail Of Love

As is tradition here on press.exe, I feel it’s important that any consideration of smooch media include something that’s complete crap. To that end, I watch a Hallmark movie, a bottomless trove of skidmarks, and I bring along Fox to talk about it with me. Since Fox needs a hook to watch a Hallmark movie, we inevitably watch a movie that is about Dogs, because you can rely on Hallmark to make dog movies that are completely bananas.

The poster for the Hallmark movie Tail of Love. It depicts two generic white people looking out at the camera, holding dogs, in front of a neutral blue background.

Story Pile: Tomo-Chan Is A Girl!

This time last year I wrote about the at-the-time meme-of-a-show, Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie. That anime was ‘renowned’, because it had a really good trailer, and by really good I mean it made a bunch of lesbians sigh. Perhaps because it was first brought to my attention by a bunch of women saying ‘I want to be her’ or ‘I want to be hers’ I first approached that series wondering if this was going to be an ultimately unsatisfying experience for y’know, queer women. This meant I watched all thirteen episodes expecting or imagining something else was going to happen, attentive and focused for some possible insight into whatever this anime was doing that was a bit different, a bit cleverer, and in the process, I wound up really enjoying the series. I liked it, I liked the characters it showed me, I liked a lot of the jokes (even wound up sharing a few of them) and I thought it was a really good launching off point for some discussions. I still think that it’s one of the better articles I wrote last year, and part of why was because I took an anime about a subject I’m normally not interested in – romantic comedy – and gave it a fully focused, critical look.

the promo poster for Tomo-chan is a girl, showing Tomo and whats-his-name back to back. The tagline is "I may be tough but I still want to hear him say 'I love you.'"

That was the lens for Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie, and it encouraged me to try the next thing in the same genre that caught my eye, which is why I watched Tomo-Chan’s A Girl, another anime that promised to be about relationships to gender, relationships, and how difficult it can be for two completely compatible people to get over their own hang-ups and actually talk to one another about how much they want to kiss. This is a great follow-up to Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie, though, because it means now I have a point of contrast for Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie with a much, much dumber show.

Content Warning and Spoiler Warning! Tomo-Chan Is A Girl is a series that has some low-key gender feels (a woman wondering about how she can be legitimised as a woman) and some pretty lousy ways for people to talk about girls, and oh also, an incident of sexual assault in the second episode.  I’m going to spoil things in this series, as indicated by that mentioning of something from the second episode.

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Story Pile: D.E.B.S.

The term ‘cult classic’ gets used more than I’m comfortable with what with having been in a cult and not being considered classic by anyone, but I do think it’s important to recognise that the term has some weight. For example, this movie, D.E.B.S, pronounced ‘Debs’ is considered a cult classic of LGBTQ media. It does this in a way that if this movie came out in 2023, it would be considered a pretty funny epsiode of a TV Show, with no edge or bite to it. It looks like a pretty fun Onlyfans promotional poster. It has the overall aesthetic of The Porno Version Of Itself. D.E.B.S. is a lot of things and one of them is cheap.

A screencap from the movie D.E.B.S. It depicts the principle characters posing with guns.

But it’s also a lot of fun.

Content and Spoiler Warning: I think it’s important to say up front that despite being a pop-punk comedy movie from 2004 renowned as a ‘cult classic’ in queer communities, this is a movie that both asks and tells, and to my surprise featured just one instance of ‘oh well that didn’t age well’ in the form of an incidental drop of the r-word. I’m also going to spoil the whole movie’s plot but don’t worry if you’ve ever seen a TV Show you’ve probably already spoiled it for yourself.

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Story Pile: Afterschool Dice Club

Hey this is a blog where I tell you stories about games so what if I told you about a story that tells you stories about games? Well, would you believe there’s an entire anime in the Cute Girls Doing Cute Things genre that’s just… about games?

No no no – not videogames. Nor making videogames. Not any of those anime about MMORPGs. Not even the ones that are tie-ins to games like the Atelier or Persona or Legend of Mana anime. I mean an anime about board games. Yeah, I found one of those!

It’s really mid! And I love it!

A screencap from the anime Afterschool Dice Club showing a blue haired girl looking at a board game.
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Story Pile: The Traitor, Baru Cormorant

The Traitor, Baru Cormorant is an exquisitely detailed book about a queer woman from a colonised people striking out to use her wits and her brains to try and topple that empire from within, and it is written very clearly and well to explore those ideas. You spend a lot of time with Baru herself, which means if she is a character that resonates with you you get to feel her emotional state very deep and true, the constant cleverness, the non-stop backbiting of things she wants to say but won’t because it’s not part of the plan, and her emotional depths when things go badly for her. She is a character who really writes in large letters the struggles of Designed Femininity, where society has mandated a way you can be, and she has to operate within those parameters, all while rankling against them. If you’ve heard me talk about living a life under surveillance, Baru Cormorant is a protagonist who lives that way and what she does to take command of her life. I need you to know this up front because that’s all I’m going to tell you before I start on the Spoiler Warning.

I’m not kidding. Yeah I know. I know! And I’m not even planning on spoiling much of the plot or anything. Yeah it’s that kinda book! Really! I’m going to discuss spoilers for the book, but not in the most specific of ways. Still, this is a book where being surprised is an important part of it, and if you’re the kind of person who wants to feel smarter than the book you’re reading by outwitting it, even knowing the kinds of spoilers can feel like I’m robbing you of some of your fun. I absolutely do not want to diminish the fun of anyone who aims to enjoy this book. And you might! It’s very raw, it’s very real, and it’s extremely high quality work that you should consider reading if any of that seems exciting to you.

I would really recommend reading the audio book, because a lot of the book is dialogue between two characters and I think a good audio book reader would be able to help differentiate those voices in a way that makes it easier to follow. No small part of The Traitor Baru Cormorant is people having important, ideologically loaded conversations with one another in reasonably similar character voice because they’ve almost all been trained to speak that way.

the book cover for The Traitor Baru Cormorant
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Story Pile: Appare-Ranman!

When you’re an anime fan you have the beautiful luxury of being able to talk about ridiculous ideas that most people in your normal media sphere turned into something pretty pedestrian or never really expanded on, given a level of seriousness and gravitas that allows for a truly adult-level presentation that then usually also has some banging music and maybe a great combat scene or two. Such is the case of Appare-Ranman, which is an anime that can best be summarised as ‘Wacky Racers if it was a serious crime action drama,’ and you may think they did that, it was called The Great Race and it came out in 1965, to you I must say, why are you killing my buzz here. There’s only so much room to get excited about this speedrun of an anime and by providing that example of how my opening joke isn’t actually that good you’re forcing me to present a blunt metaphor for the way that Appare-Ranman! is an anime that’s about exactly as good as this opening paragraph.

Like it starts fun. There’s definitely something fun happening here.

But wew.

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Story Pile: Godzilla Vs Megalon

Godzilla is a venerable franchise of modern cinema, that serves in its own way as part of the spine of all cinema of the 20th century. An intense, thoughtful, iconic movie with exciting special effects and a grim, painful perspective that seems informed by its relationship to  a very real place and time in history about a cultural pain. I mean that’s what informs what I know about Godzilla, which is to say, I have studied the same 1954 movie everyone else has and read the same cultural critiques from non-Japanese authors.

Since then, Godzilla, as a character, is just an icon. Godzilla signifies Godzilla. Godzilla is used in so many different ways to signify so many different things that Godzilla is less of a character with its own distinct personality and values and more a sort of genre signifier of its own. ‘Godzilla shows up’ is a way an entire genre of media works now. Godzilla was special effects movie star in the 60s, a spectacle fighter in the 70s, a kid’s cartoon icon in the 80s, a gritty reboot in the 90s and a metatextual signifier throughout the 21st century. There is a wealth and a depth to every single one of the Godzilla movies that can be put into a greater and broader context of its appearances and what it means to be a Godzilla movie.

Anyway, nuts to all that, let’s talk about Godzilla vs Megalon.

A screencap from the movie 'Godzilla vs Megalon' showing the robot Jet Jaguar waving at something offscreen.

Godzilla Vs Megalon is a 1973 film, made out of scrap parts over what you would probably consider ‘the rush season’ of a retail work period. Three weeks of filming, with upwards of months of pre-planning, script-writing, character designing and buying props from the local toy store. The whole movie was designed to be a star vehicle for Jet Jaguar, the robot in the movie, who was not named Jet Jaguar when the child that made it designed it. When they realised they didn’t have the star power they wanted in this little robot, they decided to, in a way that reused stock footage, bring in two completely unrelated ringers from a previous movie, Gigan and Godzilla, and then, they fight.

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Story Pile: Cobra Claws Are Coming To Town

Once more into Decemberween product, this time I recruit the help of Canadian Wildermyth Doc Destructo to talk about the shockingly enjoyable christmas special episode of the 1985 GI Joe Cartoon!

A screenshot from the episode of Gi Joe 'Cobra Claws are coming to town' where the Cobra Commander stands in front of a banner. The banner has been edited to read 'mental health.'

Here’s the audio of the conversation:

And here’s a link to the episode in question:

Cobra Claws Are Coming to Town | G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero | S01 | E39 | Full Episode

And here’s a link to Doc’s Youtube and Patreon!

Story Pile: The Christmas Shepherd

This Decemberween, Fox and I continued our tradition of watching a Hallmark movie, about Christmas and Dogs, with the amazingly named The Christmas Shepherd. Did we get dog training weirdness like we saw last year?

No.

We got something way weirder!

Content Warning: Dog Theft?

Story Pile: Do It Yourself!!

If your particular thing was anime about cute girls with a special interest where you could very easily interpret pretty typical social engagement as in fact, boilingly obvious non-heterosexual romantic attachment, then this time last year, you were probably one of the many people extremely into the extremely good anime Bocchi The Rock. Funny, energetic, vibrant and extremely focused on its own particular aesthetic representations of a hyper-real relationship between the modern capitalist landscape and why we are people who are not suited to exist in it when there are far more important things you can do, relating to one another, and how difficult it is to say what you really mean when what you are really trying to do is to reach out to another person, someone you may have never met before or someone you may know deep as your own family and tell them hey, I want to be loved, by you.

And that obviously arch and highly poetic description of Bocchi that I’m using in a way that definitely elides some of the details and decentralises some of its more obvious themes is nonetheless also a summary of Do It Yourself!! an anime from the same season, same time slot, but a different channel, meaning that at least in the time when we make anime fight for our attention in capitalist landscapes, meant that Do It Yourself!! got to lose to Bocchi’s immense stardom, a fact that I am sure would leave Bocchi herself so overwhelmed she would hide in a box like a Metal Gear protagonist.

A box that could be made exquisitely well by the crew that make up Do It Yourself!!

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Story Pile: Bocchi The Rock

Deep breath Delightful, charming, lovely anime, great, thought it was funny, songs are a banger, basic premise is really well iterated on, minimum of Anime Bullshit, characters are all well realised and have interesting dynamics that relate to one another and the story is satisfying as it covers a number of small distinct enjoyable story beats and yeah okay, good. Good! Great! I really liked Bocchi The Rock and I think that if you like anxious girls and music and anxious girls who make music, then you’ll probably find the series pretty enjoyable!

I want to get that out of the way first because I don’t think you’d be well-served in any interesting way to see me talk about what happens in Bocchi The Rock! or if you ‘should’ watch it because it is ‘good.’ Anyone can tell you that, and so far, we have yet to find a ‘good’ anime, in part because no anime is good, and in part because the idea of ‘good’ media is silly. Instead what I want to do is talk about the things that Bocchi The Rock made me think about as I watched it, and the ways it made me feel, and why.

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Story Pile: Willy’s Wonderland

Hey, you heard about the Nicolas Cage Five Nights at Freddies knockoff movie that was made in a single month? Have you heard it’s good?

Spoiler Warning of course, I’m going to discuss things in this movie. But also, Content Warning! This is a movie with a lot of your typical schlock tropes, there’s a needless sex scene where you Don’t Get To See Anything, there’s a lot of splashy, gory, wet violence against angry animatronics.

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Story Pile: Halloween (1978)

Continuing my ongoing experience of watching the classic horror movies that all the horror movies I saw was referencing, I decided to investigate what’s probably the dawn of the horror-slasher-serial killer genre of movies that fascinates me. I grew up in a world shaped by these movies, and the movies of my adolescence that wanted to be scary were often made in response to, or conversation with, these classic movies, so it’s time to pop open a movie about a relentless, unstoppable super-human killing machine that will not stop hunting you or delivering interesting, creative kills, until you’re dead.

This… is Halloween (1978, because I have to specify, because there was a 2018 movie).

Content and spoiler warning! I’m going to talk about some general suburban horror themes, and also, stuff that happens in the movie and its conclusion. You might not feel this particularly merits a warning, but in case you haven’t seen Halloween and wondered if it’s worth watching, and want to check it out without knowing what I think ahead of time, I liked it a lot, and it was very different to what I expected.

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Story Pile: Jujutsu Kaisen (Spoiler Free)

Ya heard of this Jujutsu Kaisen thing?

It’s pretty good, I like it a lot.

Don’t worry, there are no spoilers after this point. Not even for the first episode. Jujutsu Kaisen is a really approachable series, if you accept up front you’re going to watch a violent horror anime full of likable characters who you’re going to see suffer as the show climbs to the latest peak of the latest heap that is The Next Big Shonen Battle Anime.

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Story Pile: The Lighthouse

As with Knives Out, Breaking Bad, and Old Boy, there is some media where I am concerned that by having an opinion, my mere me-ness is very much part of how that opinion is (and should be) perceived. Simply put, there’s a canon of media that I think millenial white guys are a little too excited to talk about, like they’re markers on a talent tree. I feel like there’s an envelope of time, now stamped down into wikis and articles, where people spilled all their thoughts and their feelings and then everyone else who was feeling a bit of the same stepped into the same space and sought some way, any way, to capture that they were feeling the same way, that they were also tangled up inside about this thing and what it meant and they weren’t thinking about it, they were feeling about it, but feelings are hard, and pointing out the reference to Sascha Scheiber’s Hypnose is a fact that can be collected and cleaned and pinned and then…

The feeling has a place to go.

Not going to spoil anything about this movie beyond its broad genre and invocations. You should watch it on your own if you think you can handle two hours of grown men losing their minds in isolation. I’m not going to tell you about what’s in it, as much as I’m going to try and tell you about how I feel about it, and what I feel about what it’s not.

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Story Pile: Bloodthirsty Hearts

I feel like pre-emptively, there’s a lift I have to ask of you. Bloodthirsty Hearts is a horror podcast. Wait, no, it’s a horror fiction podcast. Wait wait wait no, no, it’s a horror comedy fiction podcast. Oh, wait, no I missed a bit, it’s a horror comedy fiction podcast about zoomers engaging with popular media that feels definitely like it’s millenial stuff.

Did I scare you off?

There is a chance that you never listened to radio plays growing up. You aren’t the kind of person who finds it adorable, charming and narratively acceptable to hear characters giving semi-naturalistic dialogue that’s meant to handle transitions and setting and reacting to oh no! there’s a monster in the room! We’re going to scream in a way that won’t blow out the mic or clip the audio, while still trying to convey meaningful emotion!

I think, inherently, there’s a strong chance, that just this whole form of media, is a hard no for you. And that’s okay. You should not imagine that anything I say about Bloodthirsty Hearts is going to change your mind about it. It is 100% exactly what it is, and it’s not about to elevate the form. If you don’t like fiction podcasts, this is not going to change your mind, and it’s a very classic example of it.

Also I guess, spoiler warning, but nothing too explicitly important, just generalities until right at the end where I mention the way that a plot point is woven around other things. If you’re immediately curious to check it out, and want to talk about it, you can check it all out, for free. I liked it! I think that if you like the style it’s projecting, yeah, it follows up on it, and that’s good!

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Story Pile: Nobody

Y’know how Knives Out is one of those movies that I was concerned about discussing because I knew I was going to be repeating boring details rather than focusing on the movie’s message? That I was contributing to a noise complex because I loved it and I wanted to be able to love it in all angles and share that love for it and hopefully encourage you to love it too? Nobody is a movie in that same genre, but in this case the actual plot, sure, whatever, you’ve seen this, you know the kind of movie it is. It’s a physical stunt based action movie about a Dangerous Man Pushed Too Far. You don’t need spoilers for this, that’s how the movie’s trailer presents it.

And for a movie about physicality in stunts, its physicality is amazing. You can see best-of scenes on youtube, of moments of an entire movie’s worth of holy shit combat scenarios, and they’re the kind of scenarios where you’re meant to regard the world as full of physical objects that are by default stronger than a human’s body, more dangerous to a human than a human is to it. For a surprising number of desks and people using them, you are not tougher than your desk in a straight up fight. That means that when Nobody wants to represent a person engaging in violence with another person, the world around them matters in a wholly material way.

And that makes me think about how easy it is to make a movie like this. Or isn’t.

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