In Which We Were Jewish Once and Young

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Passed Over

by ETHAN PETERSON

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
creator Amy Sherman-Palladino
Amazon Studios

maisel threeUntil she takes the stage Midge (Rachel Brosnahan, House of Cards) is unlike any character we have ever seen before on television. Her outward face, delicately applied during the early morning while her husband believes her to be asleep, is that of a Manhattan housewife whose parents (Marin Hinkle, Tony Shalhoub) live floors above her in the same building. Her two children consist of a young boy named Ethan who may be autistic and a baby with a massive head. Her husband Joel (Michael Zegen) depends on her completely, and so when he announces he is leaving, we are not the least bit surprised.

Midge measures her calves and thighs, and claims she goes through this intense process on a weekly basis for ten years. When she cooks, it is with a hat that a woman twenty years older would be far more comfortable in. In other words, she is not really comfortable with herself at all.

We saw far more of truly ethnic portrayals of Jews in decades past. Most were contrived by Woody Allen, who did the work of the ADL in showing that traditional stereotypes about the characters of Jewish people were sometimes true, sometimes false. The ways in which they were true were charming personality quirks which allowed them to survive the difficulties if their lives as American immigrants, Allen explained, and the ways in which they were false painted Jewish-Americans as hard-working, patriotic citizens in therapy for the rest of their lives.

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Midge Maisel is also somewhat religious – she refuses to eat nuts in the early morning of Yom Kippur, for example. It will be intriguing to see if she leaves her religion behind as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel goes to series, since almost every white person we see on the small screen has zero relationship with religion of any kind. Amy Sherman-Palladino’s father was Jewish, and to some extent her ways of speaking have always been rooted in the cultural and environmental proximity that forced Jews to adapt by talking quite a bit.

It is strange that the women Sherman-Palladino writes so well for rarely struggle with poverty. But then, few shows on television deal with this theme in general. There was a time in the past where Rory and Lorelai were really living hand-to-mouth, and I will never forget the astonishing episode when Lorelai’s mother viewed the place her daughter and granddaughter were living all that time. Lorelai made it, however, and hopefully The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel will show us what it takes a single mother to survive on her own.

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Sherman-Palladino has never received sufficient credit for the amount of visual perfection she achieves in her hour-long dramas. Gilmore Girls had a wonderful camera and the small Connecticut town of Star’s Hollow where Rory turned into such a tragic figure was particularly evocative. On her short-lived masterpiece Bunheads, she gave us the porcelain charm of California, although we were unfortunate to spend so little time there. Given the task of creating New York in the late 1950s, Sherman-Palladino spares no expense in detailed stormfronts and meticulously wrought apartments. She never forces her characters to inhabit anything less than a fully realized world.

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After her husband peaces out, Midge takes up a stand-up career of her own. She is not completely terrible, but it is still hard to watch stand-up routines written for other people. Even being forced to view her husband stealing wretched Bob Newhart bits feels like an excruciating waste of time.

It would be better not to have to watch her perform at all, since her life off-stage is so much more exciting than what she explains of herself when she is on it. Her struggle relating to her children seems a mere proxy for her inability to directly address the world at large in something other than a costume. We completely understand why her husband left her, and we are surprised that he even made it this far. What kind of person toasts herself at her own wedding? We are wanting desperately to find out.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

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In Which Dan Stevens Is Your Rumpled Warden For Now

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Attack by Wolves

by ELEANOR MORROW

Beauty and the Beast
dir. Bill Condon
118 minutes

beauty eightBeast (Dan Stevens) looks like a vaguely unkempt man, the sort who sleeps on a couch. He is starved for female company, or any company at all to be completely honest. His bestial qualities are not many, basically he doesn’t use utensils or say please. In this reenactment of the 1991 film, the fantastic songs of Alan Mencken and Howard Ashman are supplemented by new music that adds about as much as Emma Watson does to the role of Belle.

Now 26, Watson’s girlish charm evaporated quickly. She is now a woman in middle age. “They think I’m strange in the village,” Belle informs Dan Stevens, who is looking at her like, is it really kind to compare our two situations? The only odd thing about Belle is that she always wears the same dress. Belle does not seem to understand the reason she is stared at is because of a man: specifically her father (Kevin Kline).

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Kline’s role is rather thankless. The fact of his poor parenting makes substantially more sense in the Bill Condon version, since while an animated character pissing away her day reading books seems fine and dandy, Emma Watson doing the same is a less enviable life goal. Belle doesn’t want to marry Gaston (Luke Evans), which makes sense, since in this version Gaston is a decade her senior and Evans’ face implies he has had a hard life.

None of these actors can sing worth a shit outside of the specific ones that Condon has recruited for the purpose. Whoever is doing Watson’s vocals is particularly inept, making some of the numbers sound like the sea chantys you might hear from actual reenacters at a local seaport. The visual look of the film also suffers from this pseudo-realist aesthetic. Instead of giving us these characters reimagined in an actual society, the environments look staged and reduced from their original versions.

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Stevens is a fine Beast to the extent that he makes voice acting into a character beneath the effects. Watson is particularly awful as Belle – perhaps because she has never actually been anguished or agonized in life, her method of showing any displeasure comes to simply pursing her lips as if she is suffering a mild ulcer. She never really touches Beast or invades his personal space at all. During the sequence where Beast is recovering from an attack by wolves she seems vaguely uncaring towards him, like the main method by which any human being relates to her is one of inconvenience.

Using magic, Beast takes her to Paris, where the power of imagination allows Watson to whine about her mother dying in the city. Thus she does not ever want to return to society. Instead of forcing her to change and adapt to the world, as the lyrics of the film’s signature song suggest Beast does, it adapts to her. In Beast’s immense library, he tells Belle that she can have it if she wants. What isn’t given to her? Given that theme, maybe the choice of Ms. Watson for the role does not seem so strange.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.

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In Which We Used To Pinpoint Our Sadness

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The First Full Year

by SARA BIVIGOU

1. Everything I know about drunk dialing I learnt from my father. Of course, the booze is always an excuse.

Once you’ve got it into your head that you are going to call someone then you will. You feel playground emotions: happy, mad, sad, bad, lonely, are overwhelmed by them. Giddy, you pick up your phone. A surge of useless adrenaline when you dial. The beats that your heart skipped when the person answered are now throbbing in your head. Your head is a banging drum. You speak and only listen to respond. What you’re saying matters little, that you’re talking, that the person you are talking to is entertaining this conversation with a drunk you, that’s important. If you’ve done it right and drunk just enough the talking is a blur. Words out of your mouth faster than thoughts. What even are thoughts anymore? Just speak. How do these conversations ever end? You never remember. Regret in the morning.

2. The last time my father called me, slurring but peppy was to catch me up on his day. My father the doctor, the doctor who lives in a small bachelor’s flat in Libreville, Gabon. He lives in the centre of the city alone. But he is thinking of moving to Moanda, now that he is 60. He is thinking of moving to where he has more friends and some family, a cousin maybe. He doesn’t need the fast pace of capital city life anymore, he doesn’t need the big airport. Last time my father called me about a week after his fourth fiancee broke up with him was to tell me he had a brain tumour.

3. A list of the illnesses my father has called to tell me he is afflicted with:

gout

arthritis

pneumonia

presumed heart attack, as in darling I’m calling you now to tell you I am unwell. Your father is sick. His heart is pumping heavy. I can hear the blood in my head. It hurts when I breathe. Listen *and he breathes deeply, exaggerated, strangled* At which point I begin to panic and shout at him. Why is he calling me? He needs to call his doctor. Or an ambulance. I am going to hang up, I say, I am loud and elaborately slow you’re going to call someone to take you to the hospital.

4. I haven’t seen my father since I was three years old. Which is to say I don’t ever in all my life remember seeing him with the eyes in my head. To me he is a voice over the telephone. An idea of a person. A presence felt as an absence. A square of air where a man should be.

5. My favourite family story is the one of how my parents met, in 70s London, on a foursome date gone askew. Good only slightly lapsed Catholic girls that my Mum and her friend (and fellow Modern Languages student) Sylvie were they’d never first date alone, they’d always bring each other. My father asked Sylvie out and respecting her arrangement would invite his friend Didier, for even numbers. The four of them met at some tourist trap restaurant in West London, had drinks and sat down for dinner. By which time Sylvie had demoted my father from conquest to fourth wheel, realised she fancied Didier more. Didier and Sylvie flirted insanely, intensely and are still married with 2 children today. My parents chatted politely, fell in immediate like and all consuming love over the course of the following year. My grandparents begged mum, to the point of almost disowning her, not to drop out of university, to wait to get married. She ignored them. My father was in the process of becoming a doctor, she was going to be a doctor’s wife who could learn many languages at home, while looking after their four children. They had it all planned out like so many 22-year olds do.

A small wedding, maybe 40 people, at mum’s stepdad’s house in Port-Gentil and they moved back to London very shortly after. Within a year my mother was pregnant with her first son and two more after that with me. My father qualified. Something happened. I probably won’t ever know what exactly – his pride, her annoyance, his wandering eye, her hurt. Mother pregnant again in 1984, another boy. But father left before he was born, did not meet him until 2008, when he was taller than him and thin like he used to be and still somehow his exact likenesses. The lesson that my mother drilled into all of us so solemnly that it felt like our family’s pledge: never get married in your twenties.

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6. My first full year not in my twenties I got married.

7. Things I’m sure love isn’t:

a feeling

uncalculated

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contagious

singular

8. When you grow up without father a heavy myth engulfs you. There is this gross familiar idea of daddy issues, which is a wariness of your needs. The fear that they are bigger than those of others. Can any man love you enough? Will he be crushed by what you lack? You yourself are constantly checking to see if the hurt is showing. Jutting out like a broken hip bone, revealing itself embarrassingly like spinach between your teeth. You worry that your dadlessness will be used to pinpoint all your sadness. That it is the cause for everything that is wrong with you.

I wonder if my romantic history would be the same. So full of silly strife, of messy longing. I have stalked boys. Been infatuated too many times. Let them cheat on or with me. Shimmed up drainpipes into their bedrooms. Done everything they’ve asked me to, even when that’s meant nothing that felt good. I collected their moods and eventually always took revenge whether it was offered or I had to hunt it down. Found a way to cut the sleeves of all shirts, thrown a lot of records at walls. I’ve been hung up on too many feelings, belly full off useless pride. For a time the saddest most sentimental sort, bad at letting go, even of the worst fucking stuff. And always tired. Eyes either sore from crying. Or itching from the need to cry.

I only know for sure that when you grow up without your father it is possible to fantasize him out of all proportion. The first lies I ever told were all about my dad. He was an astronaut, then he was the one who put the pictures in children’s books, then he was busy and I saw him yesterday and he’d be back soon. And now what?

9. Things I’m sure love is:

amorphous

10. One long afternoon-evening home alone, two-thirds of a bottle of medium sweet merlot down. I don’t know why I dialed my father’s number. 11 digits. What did I want to say to him? Maybe I was sick now? No, I was angry. I had a story to tell. The click that connects an international call, then ring ring, ring ring.

The giddiness, the banging in my head.

Ring ring, ring ring.
Ring ring, ring ring.
Ring ring, ring ring.
Ring ring, ring ring.

11. He did not pick up.

Sara Bivigou is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in London.

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In Which Josephine Baker Endures An Overlong Childhood

So Far

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Before he permanently disappeared from her life, Josephine Baker’s white father did her one favor. He paid for her mother Carrie to receive six weeks of treatment in a white hospital in St. Louis. Josephine Baker’s given name, Freda, was German and so, probably, was her father. Three letters on her birth certificate testified to his identity, letters she would not see until the document had to be procured when she left the United States: edw.

When she was five, Josephine Baker’s mother was finally ready to take her and her brother Richard into her own home. They called their mother’s new husband Papa. The poorest neighborhoods in St. Louis were composed largely of Russian Jews, Italians or blacks. Josephine and Richard slept with Carrie’s two other children on one mattress, riddled with bedbugs. For food they raided the trash of a local outdoor market. Oddjobs occasionally made them a dime. With her brother, she tossed coal to the rest of the kids from freight cars.

As Josephine got older, babysitting was a safer way to make money. Sometimes she would be screamed at by black housekeepers for kissing their white babies. Weekends brought the ghetto alive with massive street parties. Josephine told a redheaded street urchin that she considered him romantically. He responded, “You’re a nigger!” and dashed off.

She found consolation in animals, once picking up a snake she found and bringing it into the house, where it was quickly stepped on. Later, she was very close to a pet pig. At seven, her mother sent her away to work in a white family’s house.

with her daughter and Golda Meir

Her new mistress beat her ferociously, and then woke her up at 5 a.m. to start work the next day. She did not last long in service, and was sent back. Her next employment was nearly as brief: she screamed when the man of the house tried to fuck her at night. Her mother only asked her, “How could you ruin such a wonderful chance?”

Josephine Baker’s first experience of school was at the segregated institution sometimes called Dumas, often referred to as Colored School No. 1. Richard and Josephine had to pass by white schools to get there, and would be heckled with various slurs on their way. Meanwhile, Josephine’s mother’s drinking had gotten out of control, and she criticized her daughter for the girl’s lighter skin color whenever she could. The girl’s only relief from this life was the local black theater, named after Booker Washington. Her friends there would cover for her when she ditched school.

A local family of musicians offered to take Josephine in for a time, and her mother instantly agreed. The matriarch of the Jones family was a virtuoso on trumpet, and the Jones children played instruments as well. She was relieved to be out of the company of her natural family, which was further ripped apart by her mother’s frequent infidelity, but she was still dreadfully poor. “When I think about the troubled days,” she wrote in her autobiography, “I feel like crying: it is so far.”

Many whites in St. Louis were convinced of their racial superiority; they harassed black woman and men in the streets without fear of reprisal. Riots broke out frequently, killing as many as seventy people of color. Many blacks were driven from their homes into Josephine’s neighborhood. The year 1917 accounted for 38 lynchings in St. Louis.

By the time Josephine was 13, her mother decided it was best to simply marry her off. Her new husband Willie Wells was nearing thirty, and he had a job as a steelworker. Their furnished room cost $1.50 per week. This marriage lasted a better part of a year before Josephine cut Wells’ head open with a beer bottle. Her next job was that of a waitress at the Old Chaffeur’s Club. She performed at the Booker Washington when she was allowed.

This job let her leave St. Louis on a tour, and she could not have been happier to be gone. In Memphis every hotel had bedbugs and the traveling blacks weren’t welcome anyplace decent. The “theaters” Josephine played in usually served other masters: one was a blacksmith’s shop, another a salon. New Orleans excited her more, and Philadelphia the most. She could not follow the cast to New York, since you had to be sixteen to perform there. So she stayed behind in Philadelphia and married a light-skinned dancer named Billy Baker.

After Josephine was old enough to hit Broadway, she made her way to Boston, too, where local families would take in chorus girls. Critics noticed Josephine’s act even in the background. “One of the chorus girls is without question the most limber lady of whatever hue the stage has yet disclosed,” wrote one admirer. In racially divided Chicago the production had to advertise that it did not want. blacks to attend.

Instead of returning to St. Louis, Josephine went to Atlantic City for the summer, where she hit the stage at the ominously named Plantation Cafe. Atlantic City was also deeply segregated, and hotels had signs that read “NO DOGS, NO JEWS.” That no blacks were permitted to enter was implied.

Josephine Baker was living in Harlem when she was discovered by a rich American woman named Caroline Reagan. Mrs. Reagan had an amorphous gender identity – Gertrude Stein said of her that she was “neither fish nor flesh nor fowl.” Lacking any appreciable identity, she looked to black culture to provide one for her. This plan entailed bringing African-Americans to Paris, where they would entertain the French with their very different type of show. Mrs. Reagan offered Josephine $150 a week and was turned down, but $250 sealed it.

In order to get her new black friends to Paris, Mrs. Reagan used all the connections her diplomat husband possessed. Josephine had never been divorced, but that is not what her passport said. She was terrified the amorphous circumstances of her marital past would prevent her from setting sail on the massive Berengaria.

Josephine’s farewell happened at Club Bamville on 129th Street. She was deeply ambivalent about leaving the only country she had ever known. “I can only recall one single day of fear in my life,” she wrote. “One day, which lasted only one hour, maybe one minute… it was over between America and me.” Caroline Reagan described the scene of the Berengaria‘s departure: “A quarter of Harlem was on the docks.”

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

In Which There Are A Variety Of Simple Ways To Fly

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com.

Hi,

At the company I work for, new employees are brought into the flow in groups. My group had a lot of people around the same age and we all bonded and became friends quickly. (My company allows relationships in the workforce as long as they two people aren’t in the same section.) In those early months I became close to Becca and we started to go out. After around a year, we decided to break up.

Recently Becca has started dating another employee who I work closely with. I have tried not to let this bother me but I think my true feelings are starting to show. In the end, it seems difficult to see her every day and I feel that I have not really gotten over the relationship even though I pretend otherwise. Do you have solutions to this issue?

Craig A.

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Dear Craig,

The idea of someone we were with being with someone else is always a traumatic situation. When Becca’s new relationship turns into a steaming pile of garbage, you will perhaps be somewhat reassured, but the pain will never fully go away. That fact that Becca is moving on in front of you is what John Ashbery termed a blessing in disguise.

Moving on is difficult, but until you have accomplished that long term goal, there are some things you can do to alleviate this present pain. Conventional wisdom would have it that the less you know about the situation the better, but considering your circumstances, that is never going to be possible. Take things in the entirely opposite direction: be incredibly supportive of your co-worker’s relationship and try to establish a friendship with Becca, if possible. This will take the edge off until the pain eventually just fades away.

Hey,

Lately I find that I am really quick to anger. When passengers were very slow to disembark a recent plane I was on, I felt myself wanting to lash out at them. This is balanced against a deep desire not to enter into open conflict with others, especially strangers I do not know.

I’m starting to think that there must be something wrong with me, to be made so angry but such routine and common frustrations.

Jackie R.

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Dear Jackie,

Such anger feels like the fancy of a negative moment, but it is in reality a product of prolonged frustration, bubbling to the surface. If you travel a lot, you can see how people let off their frustrations in various ways. Recently, I watched a man who missed his flight throw a temper tantrum by stomping and crying in front of the flight agent. A security guard covertly approached from the rear, sensing that a further breakdown was perhaps in the making. Eventually the guy settled down – his feelings were completely out of his system, and he had moved on to the next way he made other people’s lives as unhappy as his own.

I am not saying you should throw a tantrum, but it is important to let people know if they have annoyed you in a specific way. You might as well start becoming the kind of person who frequently tells other people how the world should be, and it is better that you make this change in the company of people who you will never see again in your life rather than your close friends and relatives.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

In Which He Returned From Heaven To Reclaim His Fortune

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Think Tank

by ETHAN PETERSON

Iron Fist
creator Scott Buck
Netflix

vlcsnap-00020.pngDanny Rand (Finn Jones) is a small man who does not wear shoes. He lives at the edge of Central Park where men cruise for other men, and drug addicts can occasionally find the private time to shoot up. One such fellow Danny Rand meets offers a sandwich he has fished out of the trash of a local deli, and Danny Rand eats it, with reservations. Later, he finds his salami benefactor deceased by way of a drug overdose. He leaves the body where it lays.

The three men and one woman who form the defenders have an intense love of New York. What do they like about it, exactly? Compared to the massive sprawl of Los Angeles that serves as the home of the people who produce these weird love letters to the Big Apple, Manhattan is only a reflection. Crime proliferates. Meals are had in massive, open-air restaurants totally unlike anything found in New York. Asians of unspecified origin dominate the local criminal milieu; they employ children in their drug distribution networks and plot something indeterminate for a place that can never be their home.

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Rand is the presumed deceased heir to a massive company, suggestive of the actual RAND Corporation, which is engaged in the sort of research that it is better not to openly acknowledge. This sort of scientific research has deep impact across sociological and technological fields, merging them together amorphously while never stepping into the public eye. Despite having zero experience running any kind of business, Danny Rand returns from fifteen years living in a monastery in Heaven and hires a lawyer right away.

We know this attorney Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Anne-Moss) from Iron Fist‘s sister series Jessica Jones, where she is a well known piece of shit. Oddly, she is Danny Rand’s guardian angel. Even though every other person in Danny Rand’s life refuses to believe that he is who he says, she is convinced in thirty seconds. She tells him that he needs to lay low while they negotiate with the previous heirs to the Rand fortune, Ward (Tom Pelphrey) and Joy (Jessica Stroup).

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Danny Rand’s only friend is Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), although she is repulsed by his general odor and lack of footwear. As soon as he can, he defeats her in a martial arts battle, because without establishing his physical superiority, a man can never be friendly with a woman. In her free time, Wing runs a dojo where she educated the local youth in hand-to-hand combat. For some reason this is more important to their lives than, I don’t know, studying.

Danny’s father’s best friend Harold (David Wenham) is secretly running Rand Co. from a magnificent penthouse apartment. “Hire someone talented and pay them twice what they’re worth,” Harold explains to his son. “They’ll always be loyal.” Iron Fist is full of these Hollywood bon-mots. Whereas Luke Cage was a tribute to Harlem and Jessica Jones was more about downtown, Iron Fist is all about New York as Hollywood. Sensing this basic displacement, critics have savaged Iron Fist.

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Why do so many people hate Iron Fist? At first I wasn’t really sure, since nothing about it is particularly worse or better than anything else on Netflix. After entering into deep meditation, I concluded it is more a general fatigue of watching so many shows with a similar theme. Each of these people has only Rosario Dawson, portraying herself, to turn to in their time of need. They all fight against the exact same foe with the exception of Krysten Ritter, who battled against David Tennant because he committed the sinister crime of telling her what to do. At some point these Marvel shows start to become a lot more trouble than they are generally worth. Personally, I love a man who does not feel the need to wear shoes.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

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In Which Brie Larson Triumphs On The Merits

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Tom H. Kong

by ETHAN PETERSON

Kong: Skull Island
dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts
118 minutes

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 9.45.22 AMKing Kong had a gentler side. He wanted to be with a woman in order to satisfy his emotional and sexual needs. This is deemed too reductive and animalistic. Now we need a new reason for Kong to protect a woman, in Kong: Skull Island a photographer named Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). This new reason is as follows: Kong respects her.

You see, one afternoon he comes upon Brie Larson, wearing the sort of top that is so crudely described, after the 1970s era events of Kong: Skull Island, as a wife beater. He sees this tiny woman attempting to lift the wing of a plane off of an oversized moose. She can’t move it an inch, so he does it for her.

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Later, his faith in this incredibly strong photographer is rewarded during his fight with a massive lizard. At a distance longer than a football field Ms. Weaver strikes the beast in the head with a flare gun. This magical shot indicates she has a future in the Olympics, and in fact the 1976 iteration of those events was held in Quebec. I hope Mason Weaver made it there.

Her other love interest is a human being named James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston). Hiddleston’s upper torso is even more impressive than Larson’s. The two project their chests outwards constantly in a subtle mockery of apes. At one point Hiddleston is patrolling an ape graveyard where the bones of Kong’s family are scattered. It is not his custom to bury the dead. Hiddleston’s chest area protrudes far out as he slices tiny pterodactyls out of the air.

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Kong: Skull Island is kind of going for a Jurassic Park-type vibe, but the film struggles to be either scary or funny. A platoon of soldiers exiting South Vietnam is enlisted on a scientific mission. The film’s most exciting sequence occurs very early on as Kong swats about ten helicopters out of the sky. Helos prove to be a very poor choice for the island, since Kong barely notices human beings when they are not in the air firing bullets at his face.

In the island’s interior, we meet a fighter pilot (John C. Reilly) who crashed on Skull Island’s beach during the last war. Coming across the comic aspect of this extremely serious film is a relief to everyone involved, although we quickly notice that Hiddleston has zero interest in any of the people around him. Some of the hot jokes Reilly is given include wondering if the Cubs have won the world series yet, and the names he has given to the local fauna and flora. He lives with an ancient, silent civilization who, along with Kong, have kept him from harm.

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The depiction of these native people, suggesting that in one thousand years they haven’t developed a spoken or written language of any kind, is distressing. Reilly aludes to the possibility that the group has a primitive form of telepathy, or maybe he is just saying that they can only understand each other through body language. This is even less advanced than dolphins.

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Samuel L. Jackson is given the thankless, pseudo-satirical role of a commander who never wanted to leave Vietnam. He hates Kong and plots to destroy him, eventually managing to burn the monkey quite seriously with napalm. As Kong writhes from his wounds, it is hard to feel too bad for him, given that all he really does is mope around the island and kill foes. What kind of life is that, even?

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Mr. Jackson is murdered by Kong’s fist before he can achieve his goals. We never get to know anyone else half so well – I think Hiddleston has like six lines in the entire movie. Now that Kong is just a pathetically whiny beast, the entire theme of the original has been overwritten. The replacement for this allegory of man as beast is that Kong is only a man after all. It is almost impressive in a way that Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) is even able to construct a film this insubstantial, this devoid of plot or character. It is like eating a marshmallow the size of a human head.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

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