Netflix in 90 minutes or less

A “timely” Times article… I love good short films. Conversely, I greatly dislike being dragged down by overlong bad ones. If you’re going to make a bad movie, better to keep it short so as to inflict minimal pain.

I can’t vouch for any save two of the films mentioned; further, I am unfamiliar with the author. My interest is piqued, though. The two I saw, Obvious Child and Jiro Dreams of Sushi, were very good, which bodes well for the whole list.

A note or two on Emma.

I had a number of notes on the disappointing Emma., which was the last movie I saw in-theater. All my thoughts on this insignificant film seem as trivial as the film itself in the wake of the coronavirus collapse. The biggest note on this film is its theater viewing and the accompanying visit to Stater Bros. that Friday evening, March 6, when shelves were just starting to run empty.

With that, my notes on Emma.:

“Trifle” unto itself cannot support a film. The central problem is that there is no real plot, no story thread weaving through the picture. None of any import, that is. The final act, “Summer,” does provide salvation — to a degree. Things of mild interest happen then. And throughout, the whole smarmy smug entitled attitude exuded by Emma (the character) is something to relish, I concede.

I also liked the graphic style of the titles, until I learned that the period (“Emma.”) is explained by the director as to signify a “period piece.” Get it? Ha ha. So clever. As lame an explanation as the overall effort put forth by Emma. 4/10

Comparison Notes: Recommended, much better options: Dangerous Liaisons/Valmont/Cruel Intentions, Howards End, The Little Hours, The Favourite; Not recommended and even worse: Much Ado About Nothing

An entirely different kind of “Hallelujah Day” at Trader Joe’s

Imagine that — my first post on Trader Joe’s is followed immediately by another post on Trader Joe’s. But then we could not have imagined armageddon. Certainly not the type of actual armageddon that came down the pike for the whole world to experience.

Since my previous post, I had stopped in TJ’s just once — on the morning of Friday, March 13 — just as the great coronavirus shutdown was sweeping through California. Between then and today social distancing became the norm, as did supermarket shelves everywhere going bare.

I chose mid-day of mid-week for my first venture into a TJ’s since the insanity took over. And I figured — rightly — that the SDSU outpost of TJ’s would stand the best chance of being resistant to hordes of shoppers. That TJ’s is the newest in the area, and not everyone is readily cognizant of its existence. SDSU having been shut down helps a lot too. So, lo and behold, no queue required for entry:

Once inside, it was indeed sparsely populated while more or less fully stocked: full selection of bread, dairy, produce (of course) and most everything you could ever want. The employees gave off an easy relaxed vibe, a nice contrast from the tension I’ve felt in other markets in the last week or so.

No TP, but that’s not something I would normally ever get at TJ’s. Had they had any, in these times, I would have bought a pack.

A sign as you enter Trader Joe’s requests that patrons not pick up more than 2 of any item, a smart proactive approach to prevent running low of the next great hot item. TP remains that rarest commodity (commode-ity?), so this was still not enough to prevent bare shelves in the paper section.

My experience today clarified that just about any trip to TJ’s is a “Hallelujah Day.” Why so?

Because Trader Joe’s is far and away the best food market in the country. At least of any I’ve been in. It’s not even close. Whole Foods used to hold that title, but lost it long before the Amazon takeover. Whole Foods is still a great supermarket in many ways, but is an abomination in so many others. The might of Amazon could still not render a single can of soup on Whole Foods’ shelves this past weekend. What the hell happened to AWS analytics on that one? Abomination.

A “Hallelujah Day” at Trader Joe’s

OK, first time posting about TJ’s on the movie blog…

Today was a “Hallelujah Day” at Trader Joe’s. A few key products made their appearance, and it was nothing short of joyous:

1) Greek Sheep’s Milk Feta Cheese in Brine returned after a brief hiatus which coincided with the emergence of a new product, Israeli Sheep’s Milk Feta Cheese in Brine — a vastly inferior feta. So I was concerned that the Greek feta was being permanently replaced, as Trader Joe’s is wont to do. I am thankfully saved from finding alternatives at the various ethnic supermarkets etc. in town. The Greek Feta in brine, besides being utterly delicious, keeps nearly forever in the fridge (what with the brine) — so I bought two.

2) Frozen Petite Peas made their return, after a 6 months plus-long sabbatical. I was concerned enough that I wrote to TJ’s to express my displeasure at this staple’s absence. TJ’s auto-replied with a boilerplate explanation that nobody wants anything that they choose to no longer stock, so I’m in that rare minority of shoppers who give a hoot about frozen petite peas. With that, I’m not sure if I should credit myself or not for bringing them back to their senses. May as well take the credit.

3) Red Boat Fish Sauce 40°N – I’m quite satisfied with Thai Kitchen fish sauce, an ingredient I use in many dishes, Thai-based or not (e.g., a great boost to add umami to tomato pasta sauce). America’s Test Kitchen crowned Red Boat the best, with more complex flavors, so we’ll see. More of an “ah, good, nice to see” moment here than a full Hallelujah.

4) Tartar Sauce. The legacy product that TJ’s has had for years and years was the ″Tartar Sauce with dill and jalapeño,″ an abysmal concoction. I love both dill and jalapeño, but they should never be put together, and neither should be in tartar sauce. Don’t know if this new product will be any good, but it’s TJ’s, so probably. If it’s half as good as their superb Cocktail Sauce, I’ll be satisfied. I hope this one sticks as a permanent replacement.

I’ve been saying for some time now that Trader Joe’s is like Apple Inc.: they mostly do a lot of things that I like or love, but boy they do things that irk me too. On balance, both are much better than their respective alternatives.

With TJ’s, when an item disappears, you never know if it is temporarily out of stock or if it will never return. I’m keeping an ever-growing list of beloved items forever gone, and may post if the time is right.

Can you see The Invisible Man?

I was surprised and delighted at the start of The Invisible Man to see the Blumhouse studio animation, and then the pointed, smartly-executed titles. I like good titles. And I felt like I was missing out on the other current Blumhouse picture, Fantasy Island. This way I could get my BlumHouse in, and with the promise of something a lot better than Fantasy Island. Not that I’m a rabid, die-hard Blumhouse fan; there’ve been some clunkers, to be sure, and I refuse to partake in any of The Purge due to the ridiculous premise. But there’s a lot of fun, cheap thrills too, and I admire the Blumhouse spirit.

So it was that I was with The Invisible Man from the get-go, if it seemed a little slowly paced. Something less than captivating. Like the titles, the film is very well executed. Capably done. Elisabeth Moss, as usual, was very good. But with one major exception and maybe another minor one, the story was predictable and not terrible original, and worse, flawed in places. For example: often the invisible man seemed to exhibit super-human strength. Hmmm.

LESS THAN CAPTIVATING

The Invisible Man definitely didn’t wow me. There were certainly some excellent parts to it, even excellent story elements. Good but hardly great. Just wondering if I should still go for Fantasy Island, even with the cavernous ratings aggregate… 6/10

* * *

Oodles of Comparison Notes: first and foremost, Sleeping with the Enemy; Gone, Gone Girl, The GiftTerminator 2, Upgrade, Rebecca (Hitchcock), Side Effects, Bloodshot (yes, the movie that hasn’t even been released yet), Us, Get Out, Searching, Prisoners, Thoroughbreds, A Simple Favor, Gaslight (credit the Times for reminding me: this story goes back to 1938), and credit to the otherwise inferior A Quiet Place: when you walk, jump, or stomp around, you make sounds, invisible or not. There are hints of sounds in The Invisible Man, but you need more sounds.

Gaslight was a little different story, though. Tricks were being played on her, and a cloak of invisibility didn’t factor in. The whole film was much more clever. And it had set-up. Set-up was seriously lacking in The Invisible Man — another symptom of overall story weakness.

That was also the thing with Sleeping with the Enemy: a lot of good, crucial set-up. No, Manohla Dargis, The Invisible Man is not some profound statement on the #MeToo movement. This is just a remake/take on Sleeping with the Enemy, from almost 30 years ago, long before #MeToo.

Film Brief: The Lodge

The Lodge presents a lesson in a lesson taken too far. It’s not with a couple flaws, and has a cliché or maybe two; nonetheless, it’s compelling and does a couple things that are new and interesting. Compelling, yes, but not quite “scary as Hell,” as the poster touts. On the low side of 7/10

Comparison Notes: Hereditary, The Uninvited, First Reformed, Misery, The Blair Witch Project, Criminal Lovers, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Paranormal Activity, The Mist