What the HELL did I just see?!

starchild

At the premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey, according to many sources, including The Guardian– https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/oct/21/space-odyssey-kubrick-science-fiction  — there were hundreds of walkouts, including Rock Hudson, who asked, “Will someone tell me what the hell this is about?”

The title of this blog is an ode to Rock Hudson’s 1960s frustration and confusion. But not for 2001. Just replace Kubrick’s masterful space odyssey with Mother!, The Book of Henry, and The Lighthouse.

Mother! from 2017, starring Jennifer Lawrence. A large rambling house. A poet with a mysterious crystal object. A woman who is his muse.

Strangers with no listening skills or manners who keep appearing, invited in by the poet while his muse remains wary and struggles to keep order as chaos unfurls, slowly at first, then gaining momentum toward incredible havoc and ultimate violent destruction.

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If Rock Hudson had been at this movie, I guarantee he would have walked out at least one half-hour earlier than he did at 2001.

Not that I hated it. In fact, I admired the undertaking immensely, considering how difficult it would be to represent symbolically in film “God” and the Earth and the birth of mankind and the fall from Eden and all that ensues after our “innocence” is lost—namely our descent into petty narcissism, world wars, and the wholesale rape and destruction of the environment and Mother Earth.

But the repetiveness of certain phrases, scenes, and actions meant to build and layer tension just irked my senses and my brain. I know a lot of people who can’t stand Groundhog Day with Bill Murray from the ‘90s–probably for the same reason–although I thought Groundhog Day handled the issue of repetition well. Same with the more recent Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise.

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Though the over-stimulation of Mother! was unpleasant and unwelcome for me–kind of like jerking open a door and having thousands of bats unexpectedly fly at your face–the film was courageous and innovative in its daunting mission to cover eons of (Christian) Earth history in just two hours. Probably without the religious slant it might have felt more inclusive, but I think the general story still works with anyone’s personal beliefs exchanged for the Christian lore.

The Book of Henry from 2017, however, was a bizarre cobbled-together Frankenstein’s monster of tones and plot which I can’t find within myself to compliment in any way.

Picture genius-level Henry, who’s sort of “running” everything in the family himself, a family consisting of his younger brother and single parent mother. Listen to Henry say to his mother at one point, “Stop playing video games and go to bed.”

Is that your jaw dropping open? Yeah. ‘Cause mine did. How laid-back do you have to be to not jump to your feet and say, “What did you say? WHAT DID YOU SAY?” But she doesn’t. She just does what he says.

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And then it’s devastating tear-jerker time and then a weird plan hatched by Henry is carried out by his mother to deal with the bad things going on next door with the neighbor girl and her father.

The director was slated next for Star Wars, Ep. IX, but right after The Book of Henry came out, he was no longer slated for Star Wars, Ep. IX. Although insiders say it was due to “creative differences” over the story, we know what it was REALLY about…..don’t we? Sources say the director just got “too close” to The Book of Henry and lost his perspective.

You might want to watch it just for curiosity’s sake to witness firsthand, with your own eyeballs, the crazily uneven tone and completely unbelievable plot that would never, in a million, gazillion years, ever actually happen.

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I had been looking forward to Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse because I had enjoyed The Witch from 2015. The Witch was a weird, eerie, tense, atmospheric period piece and The Lighthouse turned out to be all of those things, too.

But for some reason, The Witch felt like a mild marijuana trip compared to the salvia divinorum-infused freak ride that was The Lighthouse. I looked up hallucinogens and found salvia divinorum, an opioid-like plant with psychoactive properties, because mushrooms and mescaline–and certainly weed–just didn’t seem strong enough as words. The multiple syllables and dramatic spelling of salvia divinorum got a little closer.

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I love that Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame broke free of typecasting and has turned out to be a pretty damn good actor, and nobody can fault Willem DeFoe in that arena. They were really great in this movie. A coworker was pointing out that director Eggers focuses on isolation and what happens to ordinary people when unhealthily separated from the rest of society.

I get that. But what the hell part of it was actually happening and what was just going on in their minds? That bothered me. The same could be said of The Witch, but for some reason I didn’t come away unsatisfied. Possibly I’m just closed off to some avant-garde stuff—which Mother! definitely was—and it’s just me. I’m willing to accept that.

Or maybe I should blame my husband for slipping salvia divinorum into my tea when I wasn’t looking. Maybe not for Mother! ‘cause we saw that together. But during The Lighthouse, he made me some tea and then was suspiciously missing from the room most of the evening…

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What movies in your lifetime made you say “What the HELL did I just see?”

22 thoughts on “What the HELL did I just see?!

  1. There was a time in my life when I wanted to believe I could embrace the boundary-pushing ambitions of the avant- garde and weirdness for weirdness’ sake – maybe even deriving something approaching enjoyment along the way.
    Sitting through the Daniel Day-Lewis-starring THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING back in 1988 well and truly killed off that lofty ideal.

    That movie was long, unbearable and much like watching paint dry. I sometimes wonder if I saw it again all these years later whether I’d be able to see anything more in it than I did back in the day. But then I remind myself that more times than not the films I liked 30 years ago are still liked by me today and the films I disliked three decades back I have even less patience and taste for nowadays. So much for personal growth eh?!

    I recall a fellow staff member at my place of work in 2017 who’d just seen the total mind f–k of a film known as MOTHER and trying but failing to summarize for the small group gathered one morning what the film was about.
    A little saddened to hear the misgivings regarding THE LIGHTHOUSE. I’d been looking forward to seeing that one. I may now have to rethink that choice.

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  2. Hey, I think you missed an opportunity for a cheap laugh, Glen: The Unbearable Lightness of Being was The Unbearable Burden of Watching This Movie or Being Barely Able to Stay Conscious…….!!!! Weirdly, I never saw this one, and Daniel is one of my favorite actors ever. Now I’m curious to see how bad/boring it is.

    And hey–don’t let me stop you from The Lighthouse. There’s always the possibility you’ll see it and love it. The acting is worth tuning in, for one thing. Maybe I was hormonal that night–who knows. If you have a couple of hours to spare one day, definitely give it a go. (But maybe have a few beers with it, lol )

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  3. I loved “Mother!” quite a bit and though it was so maddening at times,the truth is,our history has been maddening.
    I thought it was a brave movie and Jennifer Lawrence may have given her best performance in my opinion.
    I have “Book Of Henry” and have yet to hear anyone like it so that doesn’t bode well for a viewing anytime soon.
    The Lighthouse seems a little too “A Ghost Story”for me and I’m going to wait til I find a used copy to invest in.

    I so rarely ever walk out or stop films midway through a viewing but I did it last year with “The Snarling” which was just beyond horrible.

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  4. “The Snarling”, huh? Have not heard of it. But if YOU walked out, I’m not gonna see it.
    A lot of people I know loved Mother! And like I said, I didn’t hate it, and I appreciated what they were doing. For sure our history has been maddening and representing that on screen—what an undertaking! I thought Jennifer was really good, too, and I love Javier Bardem in pretty much everything. I just wasn’t in the mood, I think. I’ll see it again in the future and see if things change appreciably………..

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  5. I met a guy 18 months ago who wanted me to try out salvia with him. He reckoned it gave rise to a sixth sense, just as real as touch/taste/smell/hearing/vision, and totally indescribable when back in the five sense world. I never took him up on it, and regret that a little.
    Anyway, the Lighthouse sounds like a fascinating ride, Stace. I think the title alone would induce me towards a viewing. Is there not something starkly alluring about those beautiful structures, sitting strong and alone in the maelstrom of sea spray, rocks and sky? They are a metaphor waiting to be described, or did I just ingest salvia?
    Interested in why you picked two 2017 movies to review?

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  6. There is something extremely alluring about the lonely solitary structures of lighthouses and the inherit unspoken wild poetry of their location and purpose. Part of me probably loved The Lighthouse, and I’ll see again someday, I’m sure. But I DID ingest salvia while watching–I must have! That’s really funny that someone offered that drug to you recently. How weird, lol !!!
    No reason for the 2017 dates other than chance. Just where the weirdness dice happened to fall, for us, at least. Except hubby didn’t watch Lighthouse with me. (too busy spiking my tea, you understand….) 🙂 🙂 🙂

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  7. Well, of the movies you mentioned, I’ve only seen Edge of Tomorrow which I thought was surprisingly great. Surprising because I usually don’t favor science fiction or Tom Cruise.
    I’ve heard a great deal about Lighthouse–that it is very good–and I’m going to watch it, but I know I have to be in a specific mood for it.
    Though I am a fan of Blue Velvet, I am not a fan of David Lynch, per se. I walked out of Wild at Heart and played pinball and Galaxia in the lobby of the theater while my husband finished the movie. He liked it.
    Likewise, I slept on the couch while my husband watched Eraserhead. He liked it too. I was horrified.
    That chicken! That baby! So disturbing.

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  8. Same here! Edge of Tomorrow was such a nice surprise, wasn’t it?
    Lighthouse should be seen, regardless of my confusion and frustration. i definitely wasn’t in the mood, so I’m sure that’s part of it. But nobody can diminish the creepy, gloomy atmosphere and fantastic acting, no matter what I say.
    I also disliked Eraserhead immensely. The only movie I’ve walked out of was Octopussy. I took a nap on a bench in the lobby. I DID walk out of Hardcore Henry, but only out of necessity. I broke out into a cold sweat and thought I was going to vomit, so I had to wait in the hallway, taking deep breaths, and then spent the rest of the time walking around aimlessly while I waited for my husband and our neighbor to emerge.

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  9. PS: It was a common issue with Hardcore Henry, having to do with rickety, shaking shots and rapid angle changes that made a lot of people sick. It was like being seasick, I guess. But on regular TV, later, it was fine. Only on the big screen did it result in such a violent physical revolt.

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    • Yeah, I looked up Hardcore Henry. I don’t think it’s my kind of film. I do like some Catherine Bigelow movies, she employs some of these techniques, but more thoughtfully and tastefully, I think. Of course I haven’t seen Hardcore Henry, sooo…
      Anyway, I heard about your book publishing via Observation Blogger. Congratulations, Stacey! I can’t wait to read Day for Night! (You should know that I carefully regulate exclamation points. I don’t like to use them but I do–mainly as a softening technique since I refuse to use emojis. My use of back to back exclamation points is heartfelt and sincere.)
      Looking forward to it.
      –Pam

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey, Pam, thanks a lot for your enthusiasm re: Day for Night! I gotta say, though, it probably ain’t your kinda thing. It’s paranormal and I know you shy away from all things sci-fi/fantasy/make-believe……….but…….it IS still America (at least for the moment–*sob*) so….of course, up to you in the end. But thanks to O.B., and thanks for your kind words.

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      • You’re welcome, Stacey. And yes, you are probably right in terms of personal taste. Don’t worry about me. I’m capable of discernment and objectivity. Ha! I know good writing when I see it. And I know your are a good writer. I’m happy to purchase and read your novel.

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    • Blegh indeed, Stacey, bleeeeehhhh…
      I knew it was garbage pretty mush as soon as I heard the name Lynch. Only question for me was what do other people see in this charlatan, where do they find joy and intellectual satisfaction in Lynch’s flicks?

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  10. It’s one of those things sharply divided, I think. You love him or hate him. Even though I like and enjoy weirdness, I’ve never quite jibed with Lynch. And I’ll NEVER forgive or forget Sting in those little white diaper-looking panties in Dune. COME ON!

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  11. Ahhhhh. I haven’t seen any of the movies you mentioned, but you do a sparkling job with running your rule over them Stace. I was unfortunate enough to go and watch Blair Witch Project!!! Not only did I think “What the actual F$%#%#” I was also disturbed by the constantly runny nose of the woman in it. And the cameraman zoomed in on it!!!!!

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  12. A lot of people hate BWP, so you’re not alone, John, lol !!! Now that you mention that sniveling, whimpering woman and her runny nose and the close-ups of it that we were constantly treated to….yeah! I remember now! I think I hated this one kinda too. It made one kind of HOPE the witch would just kill them all so we could get out of there, right?!

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  13. Great post 🙂 My choice of film regarding the words “what the hell did I just see” at the moment, although I actually mean this as a compliment cause I love the film, would be Ken Russell’s 1980 Science-fiction masterpiece Altered States, which was based on Paddy Chayefsky’s novel of the same name. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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    • Hahaha. I think I agree exactly here ’cause Altered States is one of our guilty pleasures. I had no idea it was a novel first, tho.

      Mason Parrish: [examining an x-ray of Eddie] It looks to me like the architecture is slightly abnormal.

      Dr. Wissenschaft : Somewhat? This guy’s a ****ing gorilla!

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