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Minus Forever is my attempt to reconcile the filmic flow and world-building of my novel practice hitherto established with the fragmented logic of the classical comic strip (or gag comic) whose efficiency means every ‘strip’ delivers both setup and closure.

What this means is that ‘world’ has to be repeated through backgrounds and verbal encounters instead of interactions or even ‘shots,’ which will be a challenge for me as I in every other project have cut straight to establishing shots for silent character interactions. Employing a 2×2 grid for efficiency over the 3×3, leading to a greater severance of temporal flow and more of an investigation of ‘closure.’

For the sake of my brain, the focus on the work as a single page will mean quicker and more regular feelings of satisfaction, as well as the opportunity to experiment with different line and pattern types that are all over within four frames.

It’s gonna be wild!

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Tetro

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Tetro (2018)
Dir. Francis Ford Coppola

Antonio Canova hired workers to carve marble into sculptures, and then he, the sculptor, polished the surfaces. This is not uncommon in the arts: for centuries the unnamed hands of artist workshops or atelier committed much of the labour to producing artworks, and the artist whose name you know might have offered its final touches- the colour blue, a hand, an eye. Even just the under-sketch: your favourite painter might not have laid their paintbrush on your favourite painting. Often if you know the artist’s name it’s because they took on a role that we might now associate more with a director, overlooking a coherent vision across the various people involved in the works’ production. When we look at a number of these works we look for the consistency of concern, and then the artist flourish. This should not be shocking: it’s not Beethoven himself playing the piano on your recordings, it’s not Sofia Coppola acting in every role or running every camera, and it wasn’t necessarily even McQueen laying every stitch. The reason that I have highlighted Canova is because his name is entirely synonymous with that final bit: the marble’s polish. The forms of his sculptures are beautiful but typical of his time, and it is the surface touch that differentiates the artist from his peers.

Coppola, to me, has always seemed a Canova type. Compared to most of his contemporaries (e.g. Altman, De Palma, Malick), who explored their hangups and artistic whims across the many hundreds of hands involved in each production, Coppola’s most celebrated works offer something that from a distance typifies the Platonic ideal of New Hollywood, but which up close go hazy with a Coppola sheen. This is not a criticism of the director; in fact, I have always admired his commitment to the solid and reliable over the scrappy and experimental, even if this is not to my taste. There is a real kick to be had from something that seems so obviously good that its ineffable flourish is just the sense of making complete sense. It’s almost artless in how much sense it all makes. I know this will read as sacrilege to fans of The Godfather, but even his fairly bizarre take on Dracula seems somehow to suggest that Dracula movies should look and feel like this now. Apocalypse Now is a horror movie with surreal bits, but it also shrugs and says Hey, I’ve got an idea for all war movies from this point on, what do you think? Unlike his peers who might’ve slummed it in genre to see how far their aesthetic could bend, Coppola seems to go in as a student genuinely wanting to learn, and then surprises even himself with how quickly he finishes the curriculum. The humility of it all just makes the confidence that much more compelling, the artfulness of the mechanics that much more artless. The production difficulties behind some of his best works just add to their professional anti-charm: like Canova, it’s all too good to seem daring. But unlike Canova you don’t see any of this stuff before Coppola, making him a kind of pioneer of artful artlessness, of professionally good popular art.

Half a century on a host of younger directors (Villeneuve et al.) are aspiring to their nostalgic idea of New Hollywood and in the process are producing formally conservative but very well done films. Coppola has been displaced as maker of well done popular films, but rather than taking this as a cue for retirement, he has become liberated from the solid and reliable. As a consequence he is now one of the best we’ve got. Whether he thinks popular cinema needs a bigger kick now than it did half a century ago or if it’s that he can no longer be bothered being polite about it, he is no longer being polite about it, and that’s what matters. He has recently become scrappy, stylised, broken, and against all expectation, personal. He messes with genre to squeeze every bit of melancholy he can from it, and he comments on film not because he makes movies for a living, but because they’re a memory we all share. Because where once long-shots seemed radical, now it’s an interrogation of our soul. Now that he has changed tact, he has gone from nineteen seventies America personified to a director that you know will break your heart.

Tetro‘s straightforward bio reads that a man travels to Buenos Aires to find his older brother, a failed writer whose unfinished play holds a great family secret. The way that the film negotiates the expectations of these promises (rather than delivering on them exceedingly well as the director did in his so-called prime) is why Coppola is now so revolutionary. If it suggests something noir-ish, something metatextual, something roman à clef, Tetro delivers. But it does so by undermining the now safe rhythms of the first two things using the third. He reintroduces a more immediate darkness to the noir, rescues the metatextual from the smug mindgame, and then in a virtuoso move, uses them both to universalise the autobiographical. As complex as it sounds it’s actually a dream arrangement: the more personal for him, the more personal for us. And the more the surface breaks, the more it gives way to a flow that sweeps and dives through feelings with the structure of an essay and the character of a piece of music. As Tetro slowly self-destructs on a dramatic level its images and ideas swell like the powerful middle act of Sans Soleil, doubling back and marching forward. Only without voice over narration and with its linear narrative still hanging on, the way he pulls it off is a complete mystery.

Ehrenreich has the gummy face for noir, but Gallo’s skull jars framed that way. Neither of these things matter too much, as Coppola directs Ehrenreich like Emile Hirsch, and Gallo, clammy as ever, snivels his lines less a Broken Genius than a dork student of Coppola’s nephew Jason Schwartzman. The way he rebukes Ehrenreich for using his ‘real’ name, They call me Tetro here, communicates the mystery, while its cutesy awkwardness makes it a believably alienating exchange between estranged brothers, rather than strictly a twee send-up. The black and white initially unsettles as well, and while this seems like a back to basics indie film setup for the director so that he can frame interiors in a stagey way (lamps to the left or right in the foreground, action in the mid, the placement of windows in the back, all become pleasingly obvious in black and white), it comes to mean more texturally. This world gives way to personal and film memories (here one and the same) rendered in full sticky colour. These memories are more conventionally cinematic than the film housing them, and this is emphasised by the boxier aspect ratio that turns the majority of the screen into a frame. We become a second-order audience to a film that is also a memory, feeling and remembering what we need to so that we can make more informed decisions in the present.

The director treats the melodrama seriously, even as it becomes tonally incongruous, rewriting the rules of Tetro as it plays out. Its use of lush cinematic drama and jarring perspective shifts to sincerely express familial wounds reminds in places of Twin Peaks: The Return, particularly with Coppola’s use of digital technologies to mimic the forgotten manual effects of film’s bygone era. It’s then dusty, melancholy, but shockingly contemporary. Although that’s the tingle at the top of your spine by your skull, it’s not the sum of it. Its rigorous structure, as much essay as poem as song, is the propulsive drum that you can feel and not hear, pushing you ceaselessly toward increasingly uncertain actions and images, conclusions that you can feel and not read.

Hereditary

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Hereditary (2018)
Dir. Ari Aster

Shifts critical-fashionably between polarities of dumb. Hereditary has a secret desire to lose itself to black blooded horror, but it is restrained by Ari Aster’s smothering auteurism. The twist is that it’s the latter impulse which manifests in ham-fisted cries and hollow shocks, some so shrill that the film inches towards something like a satisfying genre piece. It’s kind of hysterical: Collette’s gravity defying agony can’t steal focus from the smug master crafting callous scenarios in his very own miniature named Hereditary.

Like fellow dollhouse director Wes Anderson he figures there is exactly one angle from which to view the world and that is symmetrically in the middle of a space. Where Anderson employs literate retrograde crashes and montage however, Aster is entirely enamoured with slow pan and zooms, as though Hereditary was filmed in a world where It Follows was actually the genre re-defining moment its press release said it was. It wears what it doesn’t do with pride, but even its design by deduction comes shielded with citation- Aster, like anyone who watches movies, knows what he likes in the ones he likes, but on being tasked with putting his likes into action, struggles to display a knowledge of why, much less what can and should be achieved through, to be fair, fully capable mimesis. The set-up and denial of the ever-reviled jump scare for example becomes more of a focus within the film than actually coming up with ways to scare in its place, and the aforementioned symmetrical compositions make a clever miniature out of the house but at the expense of an eerie geography. Colin Stetson’s music, so angry and afraid in The Rover, so terse, becomes noise. In Aster’s world, art galleries call and harrass miniaturists like the art world depends on it, and in our world, film critics call Asters to make accomplished but vacuous miniature fetish products like the artform needs it too. It’s kitsch, a hideous replica.

It is fair to say that we might as well encourage over-confident filmmakers with no ideas in their heads to continue in the direction of exploitation ooze, because eventually they might stumble their way into negotiating pop horror kineticism with nu-horror portent. Aster, entirely without anything to say about anything (but with a tab open on One Perfect Shot), unconsciously begins hacking a path here. And if that fails, and atmosphere remains ‘atmosphere’, and the occult remains the last resort of those without content trying to cover their thematic bases, then we will at least get more laugh out loud deluded ultraviolence screening at mall cinemas and less mean-spirited family dramas in the festival circuit, which is a win-win.

Kids See Ghosts

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Kids See Ghosts (2018)
Kids See Ghosts
GOOD Music | Def Jam

At a glance the middle act of Lemonade to ye‘s wounded first and tender last, its battle drums, guitars, and dry late sixties textures expressing timeless its desire to be cleansed on one listen, and to demonstrate its rebirth on another. A work fluctuating (internally, as well as in the listener’s day-to-day life) between fiery assertion and lacerated appeal. This might hold in a sense, and unlike the photographic yeKids See Ghosts contains both minute joys and a host of durable frameworks for said joys, poignant discursions, and circular questioning. It is, in effect, a hugely successful jam session by two artists who brought shambling with them everything they ever were and wanted to be.

Their own sense of excitement at seeing it come together is infectious. We’re caught off guard when ever consummate Pusha T introduces the record, but understand intuitively that it’s Cudi moaning from somewhere above and Ye screaming along to his own drums below that is Kids See Ghosts‘ statement of intent. He leaves us with this bizarre and volatile duo and locks the door, hoping things will go well. They do. Kanye quickly reasserts his role as beatmaker on his own terms, standing back from the drums with a huge grin and seeing what colours he can throw around. Vietnam War era Fire shepherds a bummer with its playstation flutes, 4th Dimension spins Christmas backwards into a rubber hose spiritual being performed on a fictional island in Scooby Doo (the Wicked Witch of the West is also there), and Marcus Garvey watches as Ye and guests destroy themselves just to know themselves. Kanye’s an intoxicated hack magician skipping around the junkyard and freaking out that there’s now magic shooting from his palms, but also thinking Let’s see how far this goes. He plays the part perfectly, but once he gets everything he needs from it on Freeee, he moves on.

Although Cudi’s distinctive contribution to ye‘s Ghost Town met broad criticism, Kanye evidently believes wholeheartedly in the man’s blurry monotone and the clarity of his lyrics. Peace is something that starts with me isn’t much on paper but when Cudi sings it it might well be Shakespeare, and by the time it’s God, shine your love on me, save me, please, the record slows and the temperature drops even as the drums keep going. The record’s rise in intensity is inversely proportional to its musical aggression- ultimately Kanye turns Cudi’s voice into a disembodied instrument for repetition, with the beats as their guide. Altering the music-making relationship in this way might initially seem like the producer asserting dominance, but here it’s for neither Ye nor Cudi specifically but in service of a kind of meditative space where everything becomes clear at once. Its pain, its desire, and its furious belief in rebirth (in second chances), all become unavoidable, repeated so as to slow the heart instead of racing it through big purgative moments.

Cudi is still best as an instrument, and as an instrument here he weeps, mourns, and pleads in a way that a vocalist would smother. Kids See Ghosts has him as a kind of reluctant protagonist who has less to do in the space than whoever he’s with, but who with effortless sadness makes it known that we’re seeing and feeling this all through him. He’s both more exposed and more preoccupied than his shape-shifting foil, waiting politely for his guardian angel. That’s the relationship: Kanye the magician summons environments for Cudi, gets his best angles, pokes and bandages his wounds, and changes costume so much that it becomes a game trying to see what he does next. On Cudi Montage he even reminds us that he can rap outside himself for a tearjerk verse so unimpeded by formal experiments and satirical barbs that the both sides lose somebody outro could believably have been co-authored by Lil B. It is of course the best song on the album alongside Reborn which thanks to Cudi’s gorgeous sustained ugliness could repeat itself another ten times and get better. Ye and Cudi both seem surprised by the fact that it all goes so well, and they appear revitalised, making Kids See Ghosts feel like a fleeting transitional thing.

This is not to undermine its power- it is a strange release full of mysteries and unconscious gambles, its questioning and moments of affirmation, confident and not, strike in ways that make more conscientious poets appear ineffectual. It’s earthbound even as it aspires to the cosmic, painted and glued together from shaky pasts and imagined futures. The nature of works such as these is that they are born of turbulence, and it is up to the listener to find and hold onto the moments that make sense to us, that mean something to us, and it is incredibly touching to know that the junkyard kaleidoscope Kids See Ghosts will forever be that fiery lacerated moment for so many.

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ye (2018)
Kanye West
GOOD Music | Def Jam

He would have it no other way than to be characterised as the patron saint of mental illness. Although his iconoclast compulsively destroys idols made of him, this one might as well be carved in stone. In an interview c. Yeezus the artist describes the thug motivation-ish superhero that sits opposite the saint: he is there in the song whenever Kanye pretends to be super so that the listener can feel super too. Anyone paying attention to the music had of course noticed that by Yeezus his sustained cries of loneliness had permeated his sound as well as his words. Escapist motivation was no longer viable, nor did it need to be. What this means in terms of differentiating saint from performative superhero, of creating music that is inspiring for listeners yet honest for the artist, is an uncertain area that ye lays bare and cautiously begins to resolve.

It is another release by the artist that is interested in process over product, spontaneity over deliberation, sincere expression above all else. It has been eight years since he’s cared about demonstrating a composer’s virtuosity in bringing about a coherent whole. As listeners we’re encouraged to see his body of work as a thing in progress, as a network of ideas, feelings, and moments that reignite and recontextualise themselves as time passes. ye is what it sounds like when the superhero tips closer to the saint- when he makes music as himself, living in a world with us. Its essence is fragile, an unguarded hope that has always been there but has routinely been corrupted in its expression: amplified and mocked by the artist who is always neurotically guarded, particularly when he tells you that he’s being honest. His superhero anthem Power topples as it transforms so excited into suicide; one of many polarities exposed across My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with strategic clarity. It’s a virtuoso move: the mess was planned from the beginning. He later admitted that record was for his critics and not himself, its mess represented as superherodom, and he knew every step of the way it that it would be hailed as a popular masterpiece upon release.

ye moves quickly to slip past this neurotic performer who organises messy emotions into their aestheticised representations. It is small, intimate, simple, like a single photograph alone on the museum wall just over from a big dick artist installation work. It might seem meagre but it isn’t. The analogy holds- speed in the photograph is critical, along with scale and cropping. With Yeezus, the first break from the virtuoso or super-Kanye, the artist stripped layers from the finished product and left as much work as possible to spontaneous performance. This revealed a vitality that over-composed works lack, and aimed to capture raw performance instead of showcasing best takes. The Life of Pablowas its inverse: stitched grandiose from pieces roughly sanded back, built to feel unfinished, a perpetual work in progress where the proper take is ever yet to come. It is a sprawling collage of photographs, journal pages, unused musical notation. A light breeze could enter the space and remove a piece of the ephemera and it would be interesting instead of disastrous. As quick, as liberated as these works are, they heave and move and change shape in front of us. They also contain in them the shadow of the composer who might one day add or subtract more, to finish them.

ye has no sense of that authoritative shadow, and it’s jarring- you can feel its absence immediately. It’s just the one photograph and he’s in it, looking sick, sad, happy, embarrassed, recording. It’s undeniably brief, but it begs us not to make it fleeting. The song, as with the photograph, finds its meaning in what it decides to include and exclude from a take. In Berger: “a photograph bears witness to a human choice being exercised. This choice is not between photographing x and y: but between photographing at x moment or at y moment.” Yeezus is built on the absence of completed sounds, and Pablo the presence of negated sounds. ye on the other hand feels like unaffected reportage; more about its moment than minute creative details and exposed structural narratives. Why this moment in particular matters is clear from the start- it’s a cry not for anything, but from this place where gravity has kicked in: nothing hurts anymore / I feel kind of free (a humble comedown from the frantic workouts of I just wanna feel liberated two years earlier). It’s a shift from look what I can perform living with mental illness and I live with mental illness. That photograph alone on the wall is powerful in the space that it leaves- we wonder what other images might have been taken around the same time and added to the wall, but ye‘s power is in its solitary vulnerability.

The ghost of the superhero, the composer, who suffers and performs power for us can be found in traces around the room, but he’s lost: Niggas say they hero- I don’t see no cape, and later That’s my bipolar shit, that’s my superpower, ain’t no disability I’m a superhero. The former is a clear enough denouncement of the superhero concept, and the latter (compared to something like Power) is guided by the fragility of human belief rather than a concrete assertion of knowledge. Because it’s effectively naked, signature embarrassing Kanye jokes fluctuate between gross drunk uncle gags (none of us would be here without cum), and bland awful dad ones (I love your titties ’cause they prove I can focus on two things at once). They’re moments of insipid reprieve in a room that might need them: I can feel the spirits all around me (…) They know I got demons all on me is as chilling as when Future muttered I know the devil is real on DS2, and Ye’s gallows humour never felt bleaker than on Yikeshospital band a hundred bands, fuck a watch. He provokes himself to continue, to get shrill, but there is something awful in the image of Ye outside of the verse: They don’t know they dealing with a zombie. These are interspersed with candid reports that add to the photographic quality of the album where poetry can only be heard if poetry was there at the time. What moves most are the tender and mundane specifics of bankruptcy, of gratitude for your loved ones standing by you, of finishing a record with a song about your daughter. There’s no poetry in these parts because there was no poetry at the time, no ghosts or demons, and so they’re left bare, as in a domestic photograph. ye smiles.

It is no surprise that as rapper-producer it’s the presentation of voices that matters most here. What is surprising is how the artist has responded to Tim Hecker’s question of what liturgical music should sound like post-YeezusPablowas an exploded view of possibilities, of rough-cut gospel, sound poetry, and transcendental autotune. The standout however was Rihanna’s flat, unadorned rendition of Do What You Gotta Do on Famousye takes Rihanna’s bit as a starting-point for uncomfortable, candid voices delivering uncomfortable, candid words: before we even begin picking apart the contents of a bar the photographic quality of the record has done the affective heavy lifting. I Thought About Killing You is like a blast of cold wind in the way that the rapper allows himself to be foregrounded- nasal, unsure of himself, exposed in the cold mountain air. Ghost Town is a post-All the Young Dudes glam anthem with Rihanna’s Famous and Lil B’s All My Life (Remix) as foundational text- a worshipping Shirley Ann Lee sample checks the liturgical box, before his guests deliver the weirdo performances of a lifetime that have the listener shudder, laugh, and then a few listens later weep tears of happiness. Wouldn’t Leave has a baptism from sixty years ago enter the song-space in the scattered, clipped form of howls and claps that would be right at home with Moodymann, but the difference in texture is harsh, like holes torn in the fabric of the song. The distinction between the sacred and profane is something Kanye has methodically deconstructed since day one, but post-Yeezus the two have coexisted in this earthly space, invading each other’s worlds.

ye has new and old answers, and it’s explicitly for Ye, as someone who lives and suffers the same as we do. It’s the first of his that’s not major in the sense of defining a cultural zeitgeist and influencing what comes next. Instead it’s by and for the individuals that might need it. And like everything he does, it breaks your heart. Because even as he destroys your icons and starts fires, the pain that’s there in the music is immediately relatable, and it makes you feel less alone when you hear something so messy and awful, so familiar, coming from this kind of a platform. I think about killing myself every day, and have done for as long as I can remember. How can you describe the feeling when someone says I love you and that breaks you, for like two and a half minutes, out of your year-long spell as a zombie, and it makes you rush to feel more again, to breathe in that freezing cold air, to climb up high even though it might destroy you, and you slip and come crashing down again. What are the right words when that person rolls you over so they can look you in the eye and say again I love you. No matter what, I love you. You might find that there’s no poetry present in these moments, nor does there need to be: I love you. Thank you, and I love you.

ye, cautiously, smiles.

ye is inspiring- it’s a moment in which we can believe that even if our disorders don’t make us superhuman, understanding and living with them might.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

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Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
Dir. David Lynch

Geared to free-fall with nothing in the way of surrealistic detour or arthouse roadblock- Lynch’s pop cultural uncanny was employed in seasons one and two to have the viewer drop their guard, to have them feel as though the horror implied might exist somewhere in their own memories- the ubiquity of television sets in living rooms meant a spectral house guest in the form of figures and beats stripped from their spatio-temporal contexts and brought into an endless flow of laughs and suffering, greasers and Batmen, highschoolers and aliens- Twin Peaks exists in accordance with the logic of the viewer’s everyday life if the viewer grew up with a television in the house, hence its unprecedented invasive horror- in Fire Walk with Me it’s not the viewer wondering what lurks inside and around our (in significant part) televisual memory, but that figure taken for granted as dead (setting our hallucination into motion) addressing face-to-face that which exists right in front of her. Indeed it’s different this time around- it’s not for us- familiar locations are shot outside of the usual camera and lighting setup, Dana Ashbrook is finally in on the joke that is Bobby, James goes from annoying/sweet/dumb to always wanting something (everyone in this wants something), Leland is aggressively evil, the suburbs take precedence over the woods. It’s also though probably an artistic freak out, a response to those who misread the show’s delirious unease (activated through camp) as quirky, ironic, the central tragedy as a mystery to be solved, a person to be fixed or saved. This is a fear that never went away: if the director provides the nerves it’s Sheryl Lee that makes it scream (and anyone can tell you this is what matters most)- all the way to finding her angel again. Until twenty five years later, out of nowhere, this happens:

Laura: Where are we going?
Cooper: I’m taking you home
(Cooper turns around, Laura is gone)

Laura: Where are we going?
Cooper: I’m taking you home
(Laura screams the stars out of the sky)

So concludes this whole body of work- a wound reopened that will never ever heal. But that’s The Return. It’s different here again- the intergenerational abuse that stalks Laura and Leland is in the first two seasons a tragic ghost that hides smiling in the fibre of the world and deforms all of its joys- by presenting it here in concrete we’re beaten with it for two hours, which however harrowing means that we’re able to name the abuser, to begin to cope. All four visits to Twin Peaks are vastly different, even to the point that they can seem oddly separate- this one’s either the cruellest or most compassionate of them all.

Avengers: Infinity War

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Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Dir. Anthony & Joe Russo

The days of Dorothy Gale’s naive predicament are long gone: we now desire a humanity behind the spectacle. The idea of something being big and broken is one that currently endears as it suggests an impassioned work by an imperfect creator rather than a detached streamlined output of algorithms generating audience satisfaction. Like the Davids in Prometheus or A.I., we’re anxious to draw back the curtain but we need to believe that somebody is behind it all. Everybody will receive in their feed a different set of takes on Avengers: Infinity War that are tailored to appeal to whatever taste/demographic pattern their data-trail presents, and from my media-bubble the film is unanimously a strange, impassioned work that critics and audiences alike are drawn to and repulsed by for its big broken qualities. It is the same angle that was pushed with DeadpoolSuicide Squad, and Guardians of the Galaxy, but unlike those films which were actually the more dully conservative films of their kin, Infinity War only reveals the impressions of a creator when the film is most quiet- when it is least big and broken.

This is not for lack of trying- following the criticism that Marvel films have ugly flat lighting (which defenders point out comes down to visually dull sets more than the lighting setups- it’s both and the point is that it’s dull), the Russos inject anonymous concept art moodscapes with garish colour palettes which are a welcome change from daylit monochromes, but neither the colours nor the forms ever alter the playing field- these are sets in the sense that they look a certain way and actors stand in front of them. They are ostensibly there for context, and their context is activated through fights, and the fights are justified through talking. To say that the fights are not good fights would require a discussion of choreography and editing, and both of these things are of secondary importance to the talking, which means that each blow landed or missed comes down to where Infinity War‘s dramatic stakes need to be at that precise moment, resulting in rote bludgeonings on either side. It is broken as these things have been since at least 2012, which is more the result of cynical compulsions to audience satisfaction than any sort of human touch. To cut out the middle (the fights) would be to disappoint those wanting action, but none of this is action any way; it’s a sustained cartoon opera where even the arias are covert recitative. This excuses the sets which are the monumentally expensive equivalent of an opera’s painted backgrounds, and the nondramatic wizardry which is nondramatic wizardry, but focussing on context and talking should result in something dramatically satisfying seeing as there will be no catharsis from action in this loud action film.

Thumbhead Marvel overlord Kevin Feige and screenwriter McFeely have said that Brolin’s genocidal Bad Guy is the protagonist of the film which clearly marks Infinity War according to its creators/processes as a film about failure (a la last year’s The Last Jedi). Unlike some other viewers, I found the faint tremble of a heart in this as I am always drawn to failure(s), but unfortunately McFeely et al. use Thanos’ perverse hero status as an excuse to not delineate any clear alternative to genocide in the Good Guys, and this results at best in a kind of aimless teenage angst and worst in the sickly familiar feeling that this is all opposition for the sake of spectacle, and spectacle for the sake of generating content. Looking down the middle where Infinity War so safely aims, it turns out that rather than feeling as a consequence conflicted, painful, this results in something dramatically inert but melodramatically shrill, like hypothetical emotions or queue emotions cues. Yes, the Bad Guy is sympathetic but unlike Killmonger, this is because no effort has been given to showing or even telling anything about his opponents- as far as villains outside of Marvel films go he’s still a genocidal maniac. His Big Decision is echoed in the Good Guys too and is given a drawn out conflict and even poetic denial of closure, such is his curse forevermore, and we know why he’s making hard decisions. As for everyone else the question of Why is answered early on (Star-Lord: Because we’re nice), but never Who or What. In that other blockbuster about failure, conditions are clearly drawn, options are made available, and agents according to their perception of Good choose which options to pursue in order to improve things. Infinity War has none of the patience required to draw the conditions for success or failure beyond Stop the Bad Guy getting the Things, which makes it difficult to identify why certain individuals are involved in certain conflicts, others in others, and what anyone desires or stands for.

Maybe this comes down to the scale- it’s the second most expensive movie ever made because We want more, We want everything, Yes of course we do, and so an intimate and horrific hero’s journey into large-scale genocide (!) is forfeited for more and everything. I remember an interview with an electronic musician who said that with new technologies the artist has every sound, every texture, at her disposal, and so freedom in the creative act only comes about through clearly defined parameters. This will obviously never happen where these films are concerned- where consumers demand and content administrators listen and then bait, generating content that exists to generate interest, interest existing to justify the generation of content, this toxic relationship, this carrot and stick, this perpetual trailer. Tony Stark gets hurt and the whole theatre gasped, I shit you not.

I like what it is for seconds at a time, those seconds where I detect a person behind the curtain, although Infinity War expresses in a very long two and a half hours not a single cinematic idea much less a dramatic, narratological, philosophical one, is loaded with insufferable meta jokes for the kind of people who say I like meta jokes, and is a kind of embarrassing time-capsule in which every scene begins and ends with a bearded guy Doing Things (pointed out via meta joke btw) so if for whatever reason people still watch these things in the future they will look upon Infinity War and say I thought you reached peak beard around the time of Iron Man.