4 Stars Movies

Falling in love at the end of the world, in Wim Wenders’ Submergence

Ladies, if your fella isn’t returning your calls, maybe he’s a secret agent on a tippy-top secret mission for queen and country. Fellas, if your girl isn’t liking your posts, maybe she has zero bars because she’s doing science stuff on the ocean floor.

I went into Submergence fully aware of the generally negative reviews, but I’m willing to watch anything by Wim Wenders, who directed at least two of my most beloved movies: Wings of Desire and Until the End of the World.

I suppose I can see how many (most?) people would find Submergence frustrating, but to me it is intriguing update to one of Wenders’ longest-running themes: falling in love, despite — or perhaps accelerated by — looming death. In Wings of Desire, an immortal being contemplates earthly concerns like suicide and the legacy of Nazi Germany, and chooses mortal love. The characters in The End of Violence and Until the End of the World live under different kinds of technological swords of Damocles: drones in the former, and nuclear disaster in the latter. After all, it’s right there in the titles.

Alicia Vikander and James McAvoy in Submergence

In Submergence, two beautiful people (Alicia Vikander and James McAvoy) meet cute and fall in love, but each is haunted by their own particular view of immanent environmental apocalypse: hers primarily scientific and his political. Lest the Anthropocene Extinction and potable water crisis be insufficient cause for existential anxiety, there is also an eerily prescient prediction of a virus not unlike COVID-19. Submergence was released in 2017.

She is more optimistic than he about mitigating the disasters sure to come in the near future. Given how his mission goes drastically awry, with him a powerless prisoner while she remains actively in control, perhaps she is right.

The one key Wenders ingredient that is lacking in Submergence is his usual A+ primo taste in music. So many of his past movies have utterly superb soundtracks, particularly the sublime Until the End of the World, the cd of which was effectively one of the best mixtapes of the 1990s, and famously outsold the movie. But the score for Submergence is disappointingly generic and overbearing, and the only needledrops are the classical music that Danielle blasts through her bluetooth speaker.

4 Stars Movies

Darren Aronofsky’s “mother!” earns its exclamation point

Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is an allegory so undisguised that it barely qualifies as one. It’s more like a cinematic smoothie: blend one (1) King James Bible, the Big Bang / Big Crunch Wikipedia article, a heavy splash of Lars Von Trier-esque literal-as-metaphorical torture of a beautiful woman, season to taste with climate change science, and suffer through it.

A male filmmaker portraying a male artist as god, simultaneously elevating and exploiting the woman that supports him is, in a word, problematic. When I couldn’t willfully look past those misogynistic aspects, it brought to mind the risible Lady in the Water. At least the circumstances aren’t so grim that there’s room for a little comedy, as in portraying Adam and Eve (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) as the worst houseguests ever.

But… but… but. Wow. Just, wow. I fully respect and understand many of the negative reviews, but I have to admit I found its punk rock spirit flat-out astonishing. What audacity to make something so deliberately confrontational, rude even. I quite literally watched most of the film with my jaw hanging open.

If nothing else, you can’t deny mother! earned its exclamation point.

Stray Observations:

  • I’ve previously been ambivalent about Jennifer Lawrence as an actor, but she is superb here.
  • Anyone else catch a whiff of Lindsay Anderson’s If…, another over-the-top allegorical phantasmagoria? But admittedly I am probably by distracted by the punctation.
3 Stars Movies

An Excerpt From the Sequel to Mike White’s Brad’s Status

An excerpt from the screenplay to Mike White‘s forthcoming sequel to Brad’s Status, under the working title Get the &%#$ Over Yourself, Brad:



BRAD slumps in his sofa, staring morosely at his TV as the end credits of Mike White’s movie Brad’s Status scroll past. An array of remote controls are on a coffee table.


I was watching Brad’s Status, the movie Mike White made about me, but all I had to eat today was Pringles so I tried to pause it go grab a snack. But I accidentally clicked the regular TV remote instead of the AppleTV remote, and my system got all fouled up. I thought about how my more successful friends never use the wrong remote. I saw a copy of Middle Aged Bro Digest at a dinner party, and it had this whole article on how rich people get beautiful young women and men in bathing suits to operate their remotes for them. And provide sex and cocaine too, I assume.


Don’t drag me into your midlife crisis, Brad. Look, it’s not my fault if you click one of my buttons and nothing happens because I’m not even on. You’re only using the AppleTV because streaming movies online makes you feel younger and “with it”, but I remember when antennae and co-ax was all you had.

BRAD eats a Pringle.


I think the cable TV remote hates me. When I was younger, more virile and idealistic, I didn’t care what any of my gadgets thought about me. But then I realized that was before AppleTVs and DVRs and whatever were even invented, and I could just watch a movie without having to keep track of all this crap. But that just made me sadder as I pined for a simpler time when I played hacky sack on the quad all day, with friends that respected me. I’m such a sad pathetic failure.


Check your privilege, Mr. Patriarchy. I don’t see what we have to do with your feelings of inadequacy. You can’t even tell which way I’m facing, which let’s be honest, is a sign of your mental decline.


Hi guys! Long time no see! I saw on Facebook that you’re having a fun-looking party on Brad’s coffee table. I guess you just forgot to invite me, which is OK. Or NBD, as the kids say, right AppleTV? I’m sure you’re all busy.


Not now, Roku. And you shut the &%#$ up, AppleTV Remote. NOBODY can tell which way you’re facing. I saw your Instagram selfie, looking all clean and shiny in a sunbeam on Brad’s coffee table, when EVERYBODY knows you’re always covered in gross fingerprints and lost in the sofa cushions.


Well, to be honest, it’s true that I did only find the AppleTV remote because I was cringing so much during Brad’s Status that I practically sank into the sofa too.


This is fun! Are you guys talking about Mike White? I was a little troubled by Year of the Dog, but I loved Enlightened, and thought Beatriz at Dinner was one of the best movies of the year until it kinda went off the rails in the last few minutes. Did you ever wonder that maybe White has a better feel for female characters than male?


Zip it, Roku! Look, how about we all go out and get so drunk we say really embarrassing stuff and give Mike White more material for his next movie?


&%#$ off. It’s so cute that you think movies are made just for you.


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