Friday, February 28, 2020

CoronaVirus Special: The CoVidEo Plague Film Bonanza: Part 1

Well I'm a bit weird, I guess. While most people respond to an epidemic scare like CoViD 19 by buying facemasks and hand sanitizer, and adjusting their weekend plans, I went and found every movie about infectious diseases I could and have been watching them one by one. If you're housebound anyway, why not pass the time scaring the crap out of yourself, right?

Now, I'm writing mini-reviews of some classic, less-than-classic, and absolute garbage plague films, and after the summaries, I'll finish off with a big ol' countdown from worst to best... so stay tuned!

Also, if you have a suggestion for a film I should include, please mention it in the comments!

Now not every film I mention will get a score. A few films just couldn't hold my attention all the way through. If a film was so dull, poorly made, or cliched I ended up skipping to the "good parts" it gets DNF (Did Not Finish). I tried. Also, some films that seem to be plague films actually aren't. I'll use some discretion in the margins here, but sometimes a film that seems to be about a plague actually isn't. For example: if the vial of plague in Mission: Impossible 2 were replaced with a computer chip, or a piece of microfilm, the rest of the film basically wouldn't change. Mission: Impossible 2 is a MacGuffin chase, not really a plague film. A lot of the plot of World War Z is about Brad Pitt trying to figure out how the zombie virus works, and that focus of attention makes it a plague film, while Dawn Of The Dead is more about people escaping zombies and less about the workings of the virus, so it's off the list.

A good pestilence film is scary, but any connoisseur of scary films can tell you there are two kinds of scare. One is like oatmeal: it sticks to your ribs, and hours later you're still full. Days after a scare like this, you're still checking the closet, adding locks to your doors, and changing your passwords. These scares are often a slow burn, and they spend a long time building that feeling of dread before finally paying off and messing you up. It Follows, Fulci's Zombi, Paranormal Activity and We Need to Talk About Kevin are like this. The other type of scare, the jump scare, is like wasabi: it sure is intense, but five seconds later, its impact has dissipated entirely. For sudden noises and things jumping out of the closet, films like Drag Me To Hell, It 2017, The Grudge, Final Destination and most slasher movies are examples. The best scary movies do both (The Shining, The Thing, The Ring, It FollowsA Quiet Place). Personally, I prefer the first type, but I'm easy. A scare is a scare.

Scoring: Of course I need a scoring system.
Frightening (How scary is it the first way - the ominous, the creepy, the "I'm never leaving the house without hand sanitizer again" way?) (Scored out of five)
Scary (How scary is it the second way? Is it startling, chilling, or gross?) (Scored out of five)
Plausible (Does the film make me believe this could actually happen? Does it make sense and at least have some modicum of logic? Does it follow its own rules, and unfold believably within its premise?) (Scored out of five)
Awesome (Is the movie awesome? Like, is it an actually a good movie? Do the payoffs pay off? Are the scary bits scary and the sad bits sad?) (Scored out of five)

Does it end with a cheesy "but wait, there's more!" stinger? (negative one or two points, depending on the cheesiness)

It's unlikely that any film will get a 20/20 on this scale, because frightening and scary are generally a trade-off: films that make me jump like a cat usually don't also make me fear door handles.

In this review:
Carriers (2009)
Deranged (연가시) (2012)
Patient Zero (2018)
Outbreak (1995)
The Bay (2012)
Perfect Sense (2011)

Skip to Part 2
감기 (The Flu)
Black Death
Extinction: The GMO Chronicles
괴물 (The Host)
Viral (2016)
The Girl With All the Gifts

Skip to Part 4
Antiviral (2012)
Maggie (2015)
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Pandemic (2016)
Stephen King's The Stand (1994)
28 Days Later (2002) / 28 Weeks Later (2007) duology
The Invasion (2007)

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Hot take: Mitt Romney Made a Calculation


Mitt Romney was the first US senator ever to vote to convict a president of his own party in an impeachment trial.

And... there's been a lot of praise for him. Here's Stephen Colbert, for one example.

And for the record, here's Mitt Romney's speech about why he would vote to impeach on one of the articles of impeachment. He talks about posterity and his vow before god.

I'm not interested here in re-litigating Trump's guilt... it seems pretty clear the Republican Party has decided that he's guilty but it doesn't matter, because they have the power to make it not matter. This is a pretty damn dark time for US democracy, and from there, for the world, as over the last century or more USA has positioned itself as the city on a hill for democratic process and principle, and is now telling everyone who looked to that city on a hill, "Naw. We said rule of law matters, but it doesn't. There's just power now, and who has it." This will speed along the end of America's half-century of post-WWII hegemony faster than anything could, short of catastrophic war or economic collapse. It's amazing watching a country blow off whatever moral capital it had previously claimed so enthusiastically.

That said... I'm not entirely persuaded by Mitt Romney's vote, either, and here's why: