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Fourth Wing is a Cosmic Brownie (February 2024 Round Up)

Fourth Wing is a Cosmic Brownie (February 2024 Round Up)

This weeks feature image is a photo I took during my trip to the Philippines. I bought a point and shoot camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100, for that trip and to use as an "everyday carry", but this photo was shot with my Nikon D5600 with a 35 mm prime. I do plan to put out a post (and photos) about the trip, but I waited too long to write this Round Up. Committing to these posts forces me to at least publish at a monthly schedule which is great, unfortunately, it does mean I have to try really hard to write other things. Until then, here is February's Round Up. I’m quite proud of this month's spread, there's virtually no overlap in genres or styles. I hope you enjoy!

Hot Fuzz

Edgar Wright

After ending January with Alien, it was quite the stark turn to watch Hot Fuzz, a comedy film about a London police officer who is transferred to a seemingly crime-free village until as a string of murders strike the town. Hot Fuzz is stuffed with British comedy, sarcastic and self-deprecating word play with deadpan deliveries.

Simon Peg’s performance as Nicholas Angel, the newly promoted Sergeant who takes his job very seriously is so absurd, it carries over the lull that is the first 1/3 of the movie. British humor can only keep me engaged for so long, although the I’m not Janine scene is great writing. Fortunately, the movie picks up quickly, with surprisingly dynamic cinematography and great special effects once the murders start.

The climactic battle the end of the film is peak absurdism. It starts with drop kicking an old lady and features a village shootout with an eclectic cast of antagonists. Overall, Hot Fuzz is a solid comedic cop action film and an entertaining watch that won’t disappoint. 3.5 Greater Goods out of 5.

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino

Immediately after watching Pulp Fiction I found myself on this Quora post, asking Why is Pulp Fiction Considered a Great Film. It’s certainly not a formulaic film, it’s split up into nonchronological chapters, the action is gritty and comical, and the dialog is unconventional. By the end of the movie, I had to rerun the scenes in my head and ask myself what the movie was about and if I enjoyed it.

Responders to the Quora post said that Pulp Fiction’s popularity is less about its meaning and entirely about its form and style. Released in 1994, Pulp Fiction challenged storytelling and genres. The non-chronological narrative structure and dynamic stories disrupts your expectations of a film. The movie starts chronologically in the middle of the story moments before a couple stages a diner robbery. And it’s only during the epilogue where the couple and the diner scene is recontextualized within the story that was just told. During the epilogue, we complete Jules redemption from a life of crime and Vince’s rejection, which provides more context to Vince’s death, which the audience witnessed two chapters prior.

Pulp Fiction’s appeal is also anchored by its dialogue, which mimics true conversation and possesses a rawness that does more than push the plot forward. Jules and Vince talk about a quarter pounder with cheese (called a royale with cheese in France) in the car, and Fabienne tells Butch that a pot belly on a women is sexy. The dialog often meanders and feels irrelevant, but as a technique, it grounds our story in reality and adds complexity to the film’s many characters.

After immediately watching the movie, I would have rated Pulp Fiction a 3/5. Despite its unique form, some scenes overdid the unconventionality to me, such as the Vince and Mia’s dance scene that played for a bit too long, and much of Jules’ and Vince’s meandering conversations. But I’m glad I let the movie simmer for a few weeks before I wrote this review, because Pulp Fiction made me realize that there’s multitudes to a film’s (and in general, a story’s) experience. It’s not only about the themes and characters— elements I weight heavily—it’s also about form, dialogue, and subverting expectations.

A few days ago I found myself at McDonalds during a road-trip. Never my first choice at fast food, but I couldn’t help recall what Vince told Jules in the car.

I scrolled the digital menu and made my order. In a few minutes, order number 772 was called. I give Pulp Fiction 4 orders of Royale with Cheese out of 5.


Bennet Miller

Based off a novel, Moneyball is a biographical sports drama about Oakland A’s GM Billy Bean and his attempt to challenge baseball’s conventions by assembling a low budget team with analytics.

Following Pulp FictionMoneyball was a comforting return to conventional storytelling. It’s a well packaged film, the plot is apparent (the 2002 Oakland A’s can’t compete with larger market teams and can’t retain talented players) and the character motivations are clear (Bean believes that an analytical approach to baseball can overcome their small budget and build a winning team, while others adamantly rejected this idea).

Whenever I watch biopics like Moneyball, I’m wary that the truth is often manipulated to achieve a better story. Biopics exaggerate conflict and rearrange true events to hit specific story beats, or even fabricate characters to complement the narrative. In Moneyball, Bean’s conflict with the A’s management was largely exaggerated and Jonah Hill’s character, Peter Brand, is a fictional character based roughly on Paul DePodesta.

Maybe it’s for these types of decisions that Moneyball feels so perfectly packaged. Exaggerating conflict raises the stakes of Bean’s approach and highlights his determination, while factionalizing Peter Brand as an unknown analyst emphasizes the odds the duo were facing. Biopics prioritize entertainment not information, and I suspect Moneyball wouldn’t be as engaging if there wasn’t Bean’s conflict with management. To me, those changes are within the bounds of artistic truth even if they detract from reality. I give Moneyball 4 baseballs out of 5

Fourth Wing

Rebecca Yarros

Fourth Wing follows Violet Sorrengail, a bookish and fragile 20-year old, who’s nearly abut to join the Scribes Quadrant, until her mother, the fierce, cold, and unforgiving commanding general, forces her to join the Riders Quadrant as one of many candidates willing to risk their lives to bond to a dragon and become an elite of Navarre.

Miraculously, Fourth Wing is a New York Times best seller, despite being a highly flawed and mediocre novel. The dialog reads like high school banter, there are bouts of shameless exposition, and many of the characters either lack nuance or are completely forgettable. I lost count over how many times Yarros describes Violet as small and fragile, or how hot Xaden Riorsan (Xaden, really?), the main love interest looks in his armor.

But hear me out, once you get past all its flaws and take it for what it is; a silly little romance novel with dragons and magic and literal electrifying smut, you realize it’s like bad TV—so bad that it’s kinda fun. Or better yet, Fourth Wing is like a Cosmic Brownie, or any of those Little Debbie dessert snacks. Wrapped in plastic, it somehow feels more like play dough than an actual brownie and probably could survive a nuclear bomb. I wouldn’t be surprised if Zebra Cakes contained more carcinogens than essential nutrients, but somehow they still sometimes appear in my grocery basket. Little Debbie snacks are 100% garbage, but I can’t hate them.

That’s Fourth Wing. 3 out of 5 broken bones.

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