Glass Onion, the Movie: Thoughts

I saw “Glass Onion” on Netflix last night, because it was Christmas and that’s naturally the right time to watch a Christmas movie.

I laughed, I cried, I wrote bad checks, and it made me think a little bit.

I saw “Glass Onion” on Netflix last night, because it was Christmas and that’s naturally the right time to watch a Christmas movie.

I laughed, I cried, I wrote bad checks, and it made me think a little bit.

It’s a good movie. I enjoyed “Knives Out,” and while the tone of this movie was different, I neither expected nor wanted it to be the same movie as “Knives Out.”

If you’re allergic to spoilers, this is a good time to stop reading. Turn back! Click away!

Click away now!

I don’t wish to delude you
I always thought I knew you
Knew me well enough to know my heart
I’m likely to describe you
Things you didn’t want to know
And I’m warning so I’ve done my part

The neat thing about poetry is that it’s my song set to music in your head, so I hope you enjoyed that snazzy little elegant tune, but if you’re still here, that means you’ve been sufficiently warned that I’m likely to spoil the movie for you.

I’m also going to assume you’ve watched it. If you haven’t, but you’re willing to endure spoilers anyway, well, that’s fine. But go watch the movie. You’ll enjoy it, I think.

I assumed I knew who it was almost as soon as the setup was done. The movie has two “mysteries,” one of which was solved almost immediately by the pseudo-protagonist (the detective), and the best part of that was that I did not anticipate the solution of the first in such fashion. (Actually, at the start of the movie, I expected the billionaire to be dead on arrival at the island, and when he was alive and well, I was thinking “… okay, this is going to be a story of a suicide,” and it wasn’t. Not in the sense I thought, at least.)

However, that assumption played out. It was not played out like I thought it would be: I expected a labyrinthine morass of detail and observation, careful unpacking and mental gymastics.

Instead, Alexander’s approach of cutting the Gordian Knot with a sword would be a better explanation of the mystery. It was unexpected and enjoyable, really, except for a few minor aspects.

The problem with “Glass Onion” is it’s timing, more than anything else. I have seen a number of factoids about “Glass Onion” that say that the billionaire is based on Elon Musk, a”genius” who “relies on others to do the actual work.”

Combine that with my feed on Mastodon ( if you’re interested) having a significant number of posts all trying to drag Musk through the mud for his management of Twitter, including distrust of everything he’s ever done, ever, and it makes me wonder.

I’ve said here (and on the Fediverse, and on Twitter itself) that I don’t think Musk is managing the Twitter acquisition well. However, I think there’s a method being employed that mitigates some of the criticism. I still think he’s managing it poorly, but I think there’s more to the story than we’re seeing from the outside.

What’s more, his acquisition of Twitter is one failure, if it fails. Possibly a major failure, certainly not the only failure, but Musk has PayPal; I would classify that as “a success.” It may not be perfect, but it’s successful. Further, Musk has Tesla, which I would also classify as “a success,” even if it’s ongoing and the metric for success is malleable; if Tesla has accomplished nothing else it’s done a lot to popularize electric vehicles and shown that they can be commercially and existentially viable. Further, Musk has SpaceX, which is probably the preeminent private space-faring company; there are others, to be sure, but people think of SpaceX first.

Again, the metrics for success of all three of these are malleable, but I think it’s safe to say that PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla have all been massive successes, and I’d bet that most of the people whining so acidically about Musk on the Fediverse today were singing his praises about SpaceX and Tesla a year ago.

So my suspicion is that a lot of them have revised their definition of success to include something like “I have to approve of the owner for the business to be considered a success, and I have decided I don’t like Musk any more, so they were all massive failures. He’s done nothing but fail!

You’ll pardon me for not quite signing on for that particular line of thought, I hope. If you don’t, I probably won’t notice, and if I do notice, I probably won’t care unless you have better data than I do, and you show me in a way that I can understand.

So the movie bags on “Elon Musk” – note quotes – rather dedicatedly, based on raw timing. My thought is that the timing was merely unfortunate, and that the director/producer/whoever created it was actually trying to demean the “billionaire class” as being less effective per dollar than most people are – a claim that would probably be accurate, honestly.

But that doesn’t actually assert that such people are ineffective; it just says that they’re less effective per dollar, and that’s unrealistic as a measure. If it weren’t unrealistic, a poor person of relatively poor ethics – i.e., he steals only enough to keep his family alive, and no more – is a giant among us regular people, because his “effectiveness per dollar” might skyrocket. He has no money, but he’s very effective at his purpose – keeping his family alive – and thus his “ratio” would be fantastic, whereas a billionaire might waste his money on a yacht, which has little bearing on his “effectiveness.”

The movie also suggests that the CEO, the imaginer, deserves little credit for what his companies do. Bron – the CEO here – tends to send connected ideas over fax (yes, fax!) to his underlings, and expects them to make something out of them. That’s his “genius,” and it so happens that some of his ideas expressed this way actually had merit, even though he didn’t communicate the actual ideas, just sparks that turned into ideas (and in at least one case, those sparks turned into explosions.)

Bron is a moron, and I think the movie represents that well, but it also implies gently that a lot of tech geniuses are morons in the same way, and I’m thinking that might be a non sequitur. A lot of movies, classic ones, had the same kind of germination, where someone said something like “What if we … hmm, pocahontas + space,” and WHOA, WE CREATED AVATAR. (Did I just damn James Cameron? It wasn’t intentional.)

So: I enjoyed Glass Onion, and I think people who enjoy mysteries should watch it. My only criticism is when it was released, which corresponds a little conveniently to a cultural moment around Elon Musk, and that may have been intentional; I don’t know. (It’s not a new trope, after all, but … still.)


The Saddest Scene in Star Trek…

Star Trek, as a series, has a lot of really sad implications in parts – the wreckage of Captain Pike, for example, and worlds committed to remembrance of tragedies past. But the saddest of all of them to me right now is the cold open of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

The movie was not received well, and I don’t really remember it fondly myself, but the opening still bothers me.

In it, an alien – whose name is J’Onn, although from where that name comes I could not tell you yet – is digging a hole with a primitive auger of some kind in a field of dirt, dust rolling through the wind.

A rider approaches. J’Onn slowly and ungracefully scrambles for his weapon, leaning against a sparse and dead tree, and defies the rider.

The rider approaches, and says, “I thought weapons were forbidden on this planet. … Besides, I can’t believe you’d kill me for a field of empty holes.”

And here, J’Onn breaks my heart:

“All I have.”

This movie may not have done well at the box office, and historically it might be seen as one of the lesser Star Trek offerings, but that opening scene justifies its existence.

Rating Movies

My youngest son and I watched “Godzilla” last night. As a movie, it was a fun experience, I guess – giant monsters! Destruction! Catchy one-liners! Woo! – but I struggled to watch the movie.

I struggled because there were things that just didn’t make sense, even in the context of the movie itself. There’s an … apex vegetarian. How does that work?

I think what we need is another way to measure movies. We already have the “thumbs up/thumbs down” method – Star Wars gets a thumbs up, Jurassic Park II gets a thumbs down – and we add to that by adding another thumb (“Siskel likes it, Ebert doesn’t”) or by going to a number of stars. (“Raiders of the Lost Ark gets four stars, Transformers gets negative two stars.”)

But that’s really an indicator of how fun the movie is to watch. Godzilla was fun to watch. If I was giving it stars, where you had zero stars to four stars, I’d probably give it at least a three. I’d really want ten stars to work with, where I’d probably give it seven stars. It was probably 63-ish percent fun to watch!

But I want another scale: a “suspension of disbelief” scale. It should measure how many times I have to decide to suspend disbelief as I watch a movie. Lower is better.

The thing is: this score should represent internal coherency. Godzilla is a show about giant monsters; Transformers is a terrible movie (and is also about giant sentient robots). You can’t enjoy those movies without suspending disbelief.

I’m okay with saying “look, I’m going to accept the premise of this movie as a whole, because I’m dropping cash on it and I don’t want to waste my ten bucks.”

Godzilla is a movie about giant monsters – I’m going to assume, for the sake of my ticket price, that they’re able to move without their hearts exploding or their bodies combusting from the heat generated by their own muscles, and I’m going to assume they can move all of that body mass fast enough to see them moving.

At the very least, I’m going to try, because otherwise my brain will reject every scene in which the main attractions appear. Every scene would be a giant “… nope,” even though logically and realistically every scene should be a giant “nope.”

But … even given the suspension of disbelief required to accept giant monsters, things have to make sense. Godzilla’s a giant walking… lizard-thing. He can’t fly. There are no wings, and there is no supposition of magic in the movie.

So if Godzilla suddenly leaps in the air and all the dumb humans within visual range shriek, “Er! Ma! Gerd! He can FLY!” then… there’s a break with internal consistency.

(For the record: Godzilla does not fly in this movie.)

Movies that break with their own internal consistency get higher “suspension” scores. Higher numbers are bad.

I don’t know how to measure the numbers yet; if I was rating Godzilla, I’d give it seven stars and a nine on the suspension scale. Fun to watch, but broke its own logical sense many, many, many times.

For the record, a preview actually got a higher suspension scale: the Hobbs and Shaw trailer has a clip where … someone, either Hobbs or Shaw, I presume, is holding on to a utility vehicle, a truck of some kind, and also a chain connected to a helicopter, dragging the helicopter down. I’m sorry, but … no. Never. Maybe if he was a superhero in a Marvel movie, but… I don’t recall the Fast and Furious series doing that sort of thing.

That preview was an example of the suspension scale going off the charts. As a preview, it’s hard to gauge how fun to watch the movie might be, but the high suspension score works against it.

What do you think?

More Peter Gabriel, The Upside, Police, CSS

Things I’m thinking about wondering:

  • One of the reasons I like Peter Gabriel so much is that, as a lyricist, he’s willing to ignore rules that I try to, like, pay attention to. In “Big Time,” for example, there’s a line: “And my heaven will be a big heaven, and I will walk through the front door,” with the only concerns the meter and the content – the rhyme scheme doesn’t exist. I try to write like that, but nowhere near as successfully. Peter Gabriel is amazing.
  • The Upside” was a good movie to watch, but not a great one. It had a hallmark of, well, many Hallmark movies, which is not really a compliment in context: dropped story aspects, where I expected a resolution of some kind, but instead the idea got brought up to the viewer and then… put on a bus to Nowhere. However, like many Hallmark movies – and this is a compliment – it left you satisfied with the result, not frustrated or distressed or angry.
  • I wonder: would you blame a policeman for pulling you over if he seemed to honestly believe you were in the wrong somehow? What if you believed you were not in the wrong? I find that I’m generally okay with the idea as long as I believe the policeman was acting honestly; I’m okay being pulled over if he or she thinks I’m in the wrong somehow. That’s his function, and if someone else were acting improperly (or, well, illegally) I’d want the police to pull them over. The fact that it’s me instead of someone else changes nothing about the responsibility of the police. What about you?
  • Sites that change the way links look – by bolding them instead of underlining them, for example – are annoying. I know what a link looks like. When you change that, you make me wonder what I’m seeing. Bolding them instead of underlining them is particularly annoying, because I can’t tell where one link ends and another begins. Confusing readers is bad, site authors. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but still… (There was a site that had two links in a row: a reference to a person and then a recommendation about that person, but I couldn’t tell visually that there were two links in a row as the links were merely bolded and not underlined.)

Consistency, Aquaman

Things I think I’ve learned today:

  • Aquaman was a fun movie to watch with my youngest. This surprised me. DC is trying to be more fun and failing but at least they’re trying… and it’s a better movie than we’ve had overall. The Chris Nolan Batman movies were great, Wonder Woman was good, the other DCEU movies have been kinda downers.
  • Consistency is hard. I keep forgetting to write these up. I start them in the morning and then get surprisd the NEXT morning when I haven’t published them yet. I’m not sure what the ideal pattern is, but I’m fairly certain this isn’t it yet.
  • It’s good to have my oldest son back home with us for a few days. He’s in and out – he actually has to travel back to the coast for work for two days – but he’ll be back again soon.
  • Kittens have tons of energy. Who knew?
  • I don’t care for Rotosound bass strings much. When you first put them on, they’re bright and quite good… but they wear out too fast. For me to keep them sounding good I’d have to replace them every few days, assuming I was trying to be gentle with them; even playing with “proper technique” (i.e., not driving the strings hard) they dull down fairly quickly with tension. Also: the strings are harsh on my fingers! I prefer Ernie Balls or D’Addario bass strings, I think. (I tried the Rotosounds because they’re what Geddy Lee used; I think his string budget is a little larger than mine. They sound great, but they’re too much work to keep on the bass, and the harshness on my fingers is irritating.)
  • Merry Christmas, everybody!