Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

146: ‘Pale Blue Eye’: Worth a Laundry-Folding Watch?

January 24, 2023
Notes
Transcript
On this week’s episode, Sonny Bunch (The Bulwark), Alyssa Rosenberg (The Washington Post), and Peter Suderman (Reason), ask what it means that Chinese theaters are apparently open again for Hollywood business. Then they discuss Netflix’s new murder mystery, The Pale Blue Eye: Is it a cut above Netflix’s standard hashtag-content, or something to watch while folding laundry on a Wednesday night? Make sure to swing by Bulwark+ on Friday for our bonus episode on Edgar Allan Poe. And if you enjoyed this episode, share it with a friend!
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:11

    Welcome back to Across the Movie aisle presented by Bulwark Plus. I am your host, Sunny Bunch Culture Editor of The Bulwark. I’m joined as always by Elizabeth Rosenberg of The Washington Post. Theater suit a bit of reason magazine. And what’s the future?
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:21

    How are you today?
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:23

    I no longer sound like I have consumption, so that’s something.
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:27

    I’m happy
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:28

    to be talking about movies with friends who are not dying. Hopefully, yay, mostly. Mostly. First up in controversies and controversies Marvel. Looks like it’s welcome in China again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:41

    At least that’s the takeaway from news that Black Panther Wakanda forever is getting a release in China on February seventh, which is like three months or so after it was released in the rest of the world. And more importantly, Ant Man and the Lost Qantamania will get a release in China ten days later, which is the same weekend that it’s coming out in the United States. I say more importantly because there’s a one hundred percent chance that anyone in China who wants to watch Black Panther Wakanda forever could literally go out and find a copy of Wakanda forever just like on street corners, just in the gutter’s, probably, you know, on on Pirate Bay or whatever. I I would be kind of surprised if we kind of forever grosses that much in China with this sort of release date, but you never know. It might be just enough to push the sequel over Doctor strange too in the worldwide global box office, but we’ll see.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:30

    Quantum mania, however, is where there’s more money to be made, how much more open question. Right? It’s kind of hard to judge the state of the Chinese box office right now as grosses have cratered in the midst of widespread COVID lockdowns. And being, you know, if you go to a theater and somebody there has COVID, you could get sent to a literal prison camp for months. Maybe weeks, days, but there’s some amount of time.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:55

    Nobody wants to do that. Avatar the way of water, open though, over there, but it’s held pretty well. It’s grossed up more than two hundred million dollars in China, which is a number that would have been disappointing to studios eighteen months ago, but now they’re like, hey, alright. We’ll take what we can get. Regardless, there are some who suggested that one of the reasons Bob Iger was brought back in to run Disney was to repair relationships with China, which he improved greatly during his first tenure there and lo and behold what have we here?
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:26

    On the one hand, I’m pro going to movies and theaters. I’m pro people seeing movies and theaters. I’m pro doing whatever it takes to ensure that theatrical window can maintain. On the other hand, I’m anti cow towing to China bad. Nobody nobody should be doing that.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:44

    Peter, is there a way that Disney can really square this circle to do two things at the same time. Protect theatrical releases and not, you know, given to Chinese Sensors and new to their own art. I think the headline
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:58

    here is Marvel movies. Get back into China. Some a bunch hardest hit. Because
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:05

    this but also but it’s also a win for me. Right. But that’s but
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:08

    this is the point is that, like, it’s it’s it’s a deeply inflicted thing for you because we did a whole segment about China being under, you know, serious COVID lockdowns and, like, the the thing that you pointed out that was you’re sort of that most affected you. Right? Like, that small thing was the people that the person who was, like, I want movie freedom. That’s what I want, is I wanna go to, like, walk around and be out of my apartment and see movies and part of the, you know, the the the point that I made during that conversation was, in order for that to happen, on the one hand, China has to give up on its zero COVID policy, which it now has. Like that that policy is over at least for now.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:48

    You never know with the Chinese government, whether they’re gonna, you know, go back on things. But that policy is over at least for now. But order for them to see movies or then they’ve gotta have movies and that means letting Western American films and now it doesn’t all always mean that because one thing that’s interesting about Avatar is even though it has performed pretty well in the Chinese market, it’s not the number one film not doing fast in the Furious or Transformers level business where it’s just dominating the box office like some of the big, you know, Chinese driven blockbusters have in the past. It’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:22

    not even doing Wandering Earth too. Right. It’s it’s which is, you know, homegrown Chinese the sequel to a homegrown Chinese blockbuster that, you know, I think, took in, like, seventy million dollars last weekend, if
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:35

    I’m correct? And so the alright. This this is exactly right. And so maybe the way to square this circle is China listed zero COVID policy, but then Chinese citizens choose to go see Chinese movies, and that’s what that Sunny bunch wants to happen. At the same time, doesn’t Sunny’s?
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:50

    Doesn’t that like, offend your sense of American, you know, a cultural hegemony here. Isn’t there something that, like, your you know, I I don’t know. I I think this is I think that this is, you know, a a sort of it it’s exactly what you said. There’s something that is obviously very good about it in the sense that, like, this is this is part and parcel with the end of the zero COVID policy. This is Chinese audiences getting to see these movies, which, like, there’s no reason for the Chinese like, the Chinese government should not be in the business of making that decision one way or the other.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:23

    These films should play if Disney wants them to play, and theatrics, and theater owners want to wanna show them. And there’s an and there’s a market for it. But to the extent that that China is in that business, like, this is, you know, it’s good to see, you know, American cultural products back in China. At the same time, this is going to perpetuate the dependence of Hollywood Studios specific and big entertainment conglomerates generally on the Chinese market. At the same time, I do think the experiments or whether or not it was intended clearly wasn’t.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:53

    But the experiment of of releasing movies for a couple of years without the Chinese market has at least shown probably some of the executives in Hollywood. There’s another way and maybe they should pull back somewhat especially for things based there are certain of the big Disney style tentpoles, fast and furious, transformers, the the handful of franchises that just do outsized business in China. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:18

    I mean, Alyssa, isn’t isn’t the the real lesson here to treat Chinese money as, like, found currency as something is like money that you find on the street. And if you you find it, great. But if not, you can live without it. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:32

    I mean, look, I think the healthiest equilibrium here are statistically, financially, geopolitically, would be one in which Hollywood is confident in a business model that not rely on Chinese box office and therefore results in a sort of more diversified slate of offerings, movies that are, you know, costless to make or expected to make less, you know, a situation where the entertainment environment is not dominated by a handful of movies that effectively cost a half a billion dollars to make in market and therefore need the Chinese audience. But also for there to be a situation where Chinese audiences want and are excited about American movies and are impatient by about the censorship and weird pampering things that Chinese sensors often made the made American directors and studios insert in movies in the pre COVID era. So a situation where the American movie industry is strong and confident enough not to need China, but where Chinese audiences still want American movies because they are the best, the franchise is the most interesting, they’re the creative. It that is an equilibrium that I think Hollywood and, you know, the US in general should be striving for.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:53

    Yeah. I mean, I I I think the the kind of underappreciated factor here is is the impact of piracy and kind of how how much studios fear that. Though I I read an interest six story the other day about how Gen Z doesn’t know how to pirate, that they, like, can’t they they don’t understand the files and and all that So
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:18

    is there a proof of a new generation’s fragility and softness?
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:21

    Yeah. I was like I was like, you know, back in my day, we had to string together different files off cassette. Into one into one, you know, file that works.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:30

    The confusing hasn’t heard of bit Torrance.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:32

    So I so so I actually think that bit Torrance has declined in usage. Both it both and usability. Right? Like, in terms of my sense is that Bittorrent just doesn’t have the kind of selection that it used to have. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:44

    Like, that where, like, literally, when I was in college, some of these file sharing networks would have first run big studio films a week or two weeks or even some cases, a full month before their release, not just, like, right afterwards. I mean, just sort of but this that wasn’t necessarily the most common thing. But certainly, like, I hung out with IT guys, you know, and was like a sort of in the, like, early computer nerd, like, world in the, like, late nineteen nineties and early odds. Those guys pirate did so much stuff. And so I was just constantly of, like, aware of of of what was going on with with all of that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:22

    Right? And my sense is that those those old style networks don’t exist anymore. However, there’s just a a whole bunch of just space basically sites that you can go to to kind of stream stuff. This is what I hear from younger people who I like, who who is sort of don’t think about it all that much. In the same way that, like, this has been true now for twenty years, is that twenty two year olds are like, I feel like I don’t have money.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:45

    I’m just gonna watch it. However, I can for free whether that means either using my parent’s Netflix account or whether it means something that’s less legal than
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:54

    that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:56

    Kids, this is how you used to build a like an eclectic music collection before YouTube and Spotify and when you had no I don’t know. Because these days gotta learn how to make To the extent
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:06

    that that’s true, it is really a case for streaming and one of the arguments that people made for streaming was that that, like, if it was easy to just, like, pay one flat fee and watch stuff, then people would do that and they wouldn’t pirate things. And if people are actually forgetting how to sort of do the cumbersome pirating, then that’s in some ways, that’s a win for the streaming market.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:26

    Yeah. We’ve gotten a little off track. But yeah. Look, I think the the problem with Hollywood’s relationship to China has been that the the sort of flows of power and desirability that have gone sort of in the wrong direction. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:40

    I mean, Hollywood, which is supposed to be, like, the greatest entertainment generator in the world, has been of subservient to Chinese sensors and has built a business model around built around Chinese dollars flowing back, and the confidence should be reversed. Right? I mean, Hollywood should be confident it can it can live without China, but also confident that it’s producing stuff that Chinese people want to see so much that the government will feel pressure to let it in. And so to the extent, I mean, look, I don’t think the COVID pandemic has been good for anyone’s confidence in the entertainment straight nor should it necessarily be. But, you know, I think if we get to a place where people realize that that is the more desirable state of affairs, that would be very healthy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:24

    What do you guys make of the Bob Iger return slash return to trying to kind of coinciding almost almost simultaneously because I do think that that is an underappreciated part of the story. He is he is something of a China whisperer for a while. He he was floating that he wanted to be ambassador to China under Joe Biden. You know, that that I I I have very mixed feelings about all of this. But I but I’m curious what
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:56

    you guys Genuinely
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:57

    understand to
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:57

    me whether this is a result of Bob Iger of the first Bob returning or whether it is mostly a result of the end of China’s zero COVID policy or whether it’s some combination of the two. But certainly, when Bob came back, right, that there were multiple reports that mentioned that what people were looking for was a return to the Chinese market. At
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:22

    the same time, didn’t Bob Chapek help stand up Shanghai Disney? It’s not like he’s unconnected there. Yeah. And so, I mean, I think, look, it’s, I mean, it’s possible that the Chinese government would have done it anyway, and the timing is such that, like, other, like, might as well throw our favorite Bob a Bone. I mean, the slate was set, you know, China probably, you know, the zero COVID policy was coming whether it’s a happy coincidence or proof of, like, Bob Wands, Machiavellian, you know, geopolitical power, it sure works out nicely.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:56

    For him. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:57

    So what do we think? Is it a controversy or a controversy that the mouse house is getting cozy again with the Middle Kingdom, Melissa?
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:04

    I think it’s a controversy just in the sense that it seems a pretty predictable business decision. Bader, it’s
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:10

    a little bit of a controversy. And that it is going to extend and if not deepen Hollywood’s relationship with China in ways that are gonna continue to affect film production at least at Disney at at the blockbuster level.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:27

    I think it’s mostly an controversy unless we get into another one of these situations where everybody is very much tailoring. They’re material to please Chinese sensor which is bad. That’s like the one thing I cannot abide. I can abide a lot in this world, but not not that. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:43

    Make sure to swing by a work plus for our bonus episode on Friday in which we’ll be discussing Ed Graeme and Poe. Speaking of Baltimore’s Dipsa maniac, poet laureate. On to the main event, the the pale blue eye which is Netflix is kind of weirdly positioned late year prestige picture that redeems director Scott Cooper and Star Christian Bale in a murder mystery. It’s Starz Bale as Augustus Landor who teams up with one cadet Edgar Allen Poe. He’s played by Harry Melling.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:13

    Two, saw the series of murders at West Point during Poe’s tenure as a student there. Augustus is a drunk. Got a sober up for this job. And Poe is a much disliked outcast, the murders which involve killing and then ritually removing parts of the victims are the sort of thing we might suspect the younger Ed Grau and Po to be involved in, you know, given all this weird Macabre writing that we know of. His his classmates certainly seem to think he’s involved.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:41

    But again, that’s mostly just because he’s kind of a weirdo loner. The truth much more horrifying than anyone can guess and all that good stuff. It’s murder mystery folks. Gotta figure out the mystery. As a murder mystery, I think the pale blue eye is mostly effective though.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:56

    I don’t know how you guys felt about the end. Mild cheat. Thought, but we’ll discuss that maybe. As a film, it mostly serves as a reminder that Harry Melling is the best of the child actors to come out of the Harry Potter franchise. Weirdly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:10

    And also that Bale is always fun and interesting to watch. He has the best arched eyebrows in the game. Like, he just he like, when he looks kind of like at someone off camera. He’s got that arched eyebrow thing going on. I’m always like, yes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:22

    That’s what I want my eyebrows to look like. The last said about Jillian Anderson as the aging housewife the better. I I I I don’t wanna pick on Jillian Anderson and her turn in this
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:34

    Sounds like you’re about to pick
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:35

    on Jillian Anderson. Except to say just the phrase that kept flashing in my mind was TV actress. I’m mostly interested in this movie as it relates to Scott Cooper’s Place in the awards system ecosystem. Like, he he’s one of these directors who, like, I will open an award screener DVD pack once every two or three years, and there will be a movie by him. That has no real chance of winning much of anything.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:04

    But is it’s just in this kind of weird, liminal space between award season acclaim and commercial viability. Right? And he burst onto the scene with a crazy heart, which finally won Jeff Bridges his Oscar right, and it’s it got a few more nominations and I think another win for best song. And every couple years, we get a movie from him that, like, should be an award season thing, but never quite pans out. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:24

    Previously Cooper worked with Bale on into the furnace and styles. He directed Johnny Depp as whitey bulger in black mask. And then there was this elevated horror movie antlers that got lost in the Covidara shuffle. He was supposed to come out like like, two weeks after everything closed for COVID and then got pushed back to, like, late twenty twenty one and nobody ended up watching it, which is too bad. It’s not terrible.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:47

    I don’t have a grand point here. I just think it’s like kind of interesting that here we have a director who’s like the pay to be prestigious guy. Don’t I don’t quite understand his place in the ecosystem. It just it doesn’t make any sense to me, but I’m glad he keeps gets to keep making movies that are most okay. I don’t know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:04

    Anyway, the pale blue eye, Alyssa, what did you make of it?
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:07

    I thought it was sort of funny that this movie is positioned for a prestige play in any way because it’s a handsome pulp. Right? I mean, it’s a sort of tarted up, you know, literary mystery. It’s like Ed Gremlins, you know, superhero origin weirdo superhero origin story. Bill is good in it, but, like, a little broad, you know, all the like Or
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:30

    or less broad than in Amsterdam.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:33

    Less broadband in Amsterdam. Oh, okay. I mean, like, I I feel like if we’re doing, like, Christian Bale, broadness, like, amsterdam is one end of the spectrum. Right? It’s like, you know, maybe maybe Patrick bateman’s like a little bit beyond that, but pretty broad at Amsterdam.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:53

    But it’s I mean, it’s, you know, you’ve got all these nice sort wind tree shots of West Point. You know, in that area of New York, like, does look like that in winter. It’s, you know, it’s kind of crangy and beautiful austere. But the story is fundamentally kind of silly. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:10

    It’s like it’s got, you know I mean, it feel sort of substantially ripped off of our tour pros, rev rechets, the club dubaix, which is a similar, like, Here’s a book for, you know, summoning the devil. It’s, you know, it was it’s like there are a couple of copies available. It was supposed to be destroyed, but there are a couple copies available plot you know, the twist I think is like pretty obvious. And it’s just like it’s like a slice of deli meat. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:38

    It’s like it’s it’s delicious. It’s not like fried and cuisine. And, you know, I in a weird way, I think it would have been smarter to release this in, like, mid February, you know, as like sort of elevated horror. Rather than presenting it as like a serious movie or like an acting showcase. It’s one of those movies that I feel like it was sort of stirred up as like a slice of American cheese might have actually gotten more people talking about it, but the idea of it is like, you know, you know, a late season contender for bail or whatever, and it feels very weird to me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:18

    And you mentioned Henry Milling. Oh, I just have a I have a lot of sympathy for because I have a lot of sympathy for all the kids who were in Harry Potter movies because that’s just a really weird way to start your acting career. And I actually think a lot of them have done fairly well. I’m not sure I agree with you that mailing is the best of them. But I think it’s sort of impressive.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:44

    The number of them who both stayed in acting and made, like, fairly interesting or at least substantive choices and managed to sort of get beyond what really could have ended up being some incredibly intense typecasting. I mean, it’s also funny that Timothy Small, who is also in the Harry Potter movies is in this movie as well. And it, you know, seeing him on screen doesn’t have the same sort of weird charge to it in part because he was somebody before he was in the Harry Potter movie. Oh, yeah. Somebody after he’s also, you know, lost a lot of weight, looks different.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:19

    But it’s you know, I think I give I grade all of those in their adults now. They’re not kids. I grade all of those young actors who are in Harry Potter movies. Just on a substantial curve because of the degree of difficulty of becoming someone different on screen under those circumstances. So I do think he does a really strong job of, you know, holding his toe at this weird knife edge balance between weirdness and normality.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:49

    Right? Like, he’s, you know, he’s someone who is poised to fall one way or the other, and he doesn’t quite, you know, make that fatal tip in either direction in the movie, but you can sort of see how he is being set up to become the person who, you know, has this strange captivating imagination. And I do think mailing does a nice job and consistency with a somewhat tough accent.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:14

    Yeah. I will say, I will in I I really do think that he is this discount not including, like, Daniel Radcliffe. Or Hermione.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:25

    Emma Watson.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:26

    Emma Watson who, like Yeah. Like, I feel like they were better positioned being leads, whatever. I I I I just mean mostly the other kids who were kind of there through through the the series. I mean, he he’s great in the bow to buster Scruggs. He’s he’s very good in the old guard weirdly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:42

    Remember remember he shows up in the old he’s the villain in the old star. That’s right. Which is which he’s very very good. And and he’s great here, I thought. I mean, I I think he and bail are really good together on screen.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:55

    It’s hard. I’d like it is hard to hold your own with Christian Bale in a movie like this. Yes. And I we’ve seen
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:02

    a girl
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:03

    who couldn’t quite do it before, like, as much as I like, the fighter. I don’t know that Mark Goldberg is quite quite in the same level. Quite at quite at same level as Christian Bale, but, like, I think mailing totally does it here. And he’s he’s very good. So I I but but no, you’re right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:22

    It’s total it’s total pulp, like, the sort of thing that probably should have been, you know, a February release, except, like, what difference does it make to Netflix?
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:33

    Yeah. Okay. It just
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:34

    exists right right, Peter. It just exists there on the surface now. It’s just a little rectangle on your screen. It’s always gonna be there. So what difference is make if it comes out hour.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:43

    Yeah. It’s a
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:44

    February release if you watch it in February.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:47

    Yes. Exactly. It’s always gonna be there in February.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:50

    Every February. No. This actually I actually feel like if we’re gonna talk about release dates, this movie should have come out sometime at the in the last two weeks of October. The last two weeks of October No. It’s not just that it’s sort of a horror film.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:03

    It’s that the last two weeks of October traditionally have a somewhat elevated moody rated, thriller, horror mystery type thing. Rates a little smarter, a little better made than, like, the kind of thing that you might get in mid March or, you know, early February. But, like, also still kind of fundamentally pulpy. That is this is like a prime late October film. And so I agree it’s a little bit weird to release it at the very, very end of the year.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:31

    I didn’t I didn’t think this is this was like oh wow, must see, but I guess I was sort of pleasantly surprised in some ways while also being underwhelmed. The thing that I liked most about this movie was the mood of it. Right? It’s just it’s really effectively sort of wintry and chili and cold and dark. And there’s all this great candlelight photography, where you’ve got these, like, deep blacks and these you know, the the light is flickering on the actor’s faces and you can see exactly as much of their eyes and their skin and their face, you know, as you wanna see.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:04

    And even when it’s not being necessarily directly candle it, you see, there’s great sort of window light in this movie, even in some cases where it’s obviously it sets. Right? Like, the this you know, they’re replicating this sort of thing. And it just has a great tone and mood to it. You know, that’s sort of chilly and reserved.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:22

    I think in some ways to a fault. Because this movie, as much as it sort of does a nice job of capturing a mood, it also never quite engages in the way that it needs to. It never builds the momentum that you wanted to have. It’s not slow exactly. It’s not poorly paced that sort of, you know, moves along and checks the boxes.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:44

    At the same time, I never felt I never felt pulled in in the way that I I I want to with a really great mystery. Right? With a with something where, you know, you’re sure, like, oh, oh, what’s going to happen? These people are in danger, and I wanna know who’s like, I can’t tell what’s gonna happen or I have some idea, but, like, maybe this movie has something sort of even smarter cooked up. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:05

    There’s this sort of perfunctoriness and also this kind of like Well, we’re just going to keep going at a nice measured pace till we get to the end when inevitably there will be a big twist. I I also Here’s here’s something I I mentioned to you guys before the show, but I I just wanna raise here because I I thought it was a little weird that Ed Gral and Poe was in this. Yes. I getch. The Edgar Allen Poe went to, you know, the the military academy, like, that he was a real historical character there.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:35

    Yes, I get that this movie involves elements from, you know, that are sort of co esking. Right? The the the the removal of the hard, the dead people, right, that sort of thing, that sort of occult elements. Yes, I get that that that it was true that Poe was in the novel that this was based on. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:54

    But you can It’s This seems like the sort of story that wouldn’t It’s not obviously better because that character’s name is Edgar Allen Pope. If if this story was just about a young poet who had sort of dark interests and was weird looking and was made fun of, who happen to be named, I don’t know, John Smith. Right? Like, would it really be to any difference would it be a better or worse or like like, the the pro aspect of it to me seemed like, oh, if we put pro in this, that will signal to people what kind of movie this is gonna be. They’ll, like, tell you something about it or what kind of story, I guess.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:35

    And it will give people an element that they already know while allowing me to sort of tell, like, you know, an original detective dive story. And I guess, like, as a as a hook for getting attention for your novel, it totally makes sense. It’s hard to get people to pay attention to novels. And like this one was nominated. I think maybe even one for the the Edgar.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:57

    Right? Like, it was well respected in the mystery world. Right? Like and, you know, it’s hard to get people to pay attention to those things. At the same time, it just sort of seemed like a kind of a — It seemed like a sheet.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:08

    — a marketing hook Maybe a smart one, but I I couldn’t figure out like it would make more sense to me if this were the starch of a series of novels about, you know, the the Bal character, about sorry, what’s his about Augustus Landor and Ed Graland Poe solving mysteries together. Right? If this was gonna be a franchise. But it’s just sort of like, well, here’s a here’s a detective story and it hap Ad Girl and Poe happens to be at
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:33

    it. Little odd. I wonder I I I think I I I I understand what you’re saying. I I mostly agree with you, to be honest. I do think you could make the argument that having power in it makes sense as a certain kind of broad statement about, you know, America one of one of the great American authors, and here’s a uniquely American setting, the kind of upper New York, you know, barren.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:04

    I don’t know. No. I I mean, it doesn’t it doesn’t it doesn’t it’s not necessary. It’s it is mostly I think just to be like, oh, and grandma imposed on this.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:13

    Right. It doesn’t matter. It there’s there’s nothing that depend on it being Edgar Allen Poe. If you made it, not Edgar Allen Poe, if you made that character, not Edgar Allen Poe, the story would work basically the same way. It would just lack some of the literary resonance that Poe being in this in this story gives it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:32

    And that, to me,
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:34

    Like,
  • Speaker 3
    0:28:34

    I I guess I just wanted something more out of that illusion. Again, I this is not a bad movie exactly, and got a it’s got a nice mood. Christian Bale’s beard is great. The twist is good enough.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:48

    And
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:48

    is it? Can I I wanna I wanna
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:49

    interrupt you? Because
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:50

    when I when I mentioned the twist, a alyssa made a face. Alyssa made a face. And I I know that we need to actually give away the twist here to feel like we’ve done a good job of kind of dancing around, and and let’s see if we can continue that. But I Here’s my issue with the twist at the end is that the whole last twenty minutes of this movie is just Christian Bale and Melling talking to each other. It’s just Ed Grall and Poe and this Augustus Landor talking to each other and talking and talk and talk the it’s it’s all tell.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:21

    It’s all tell not show. And I know that this is Look, this is I’ve I’ve complained about this before in relation to some other movies like you know, this is this is how the Brannna Christie movies kind of end with, like, large, long, secures. Just here’s what’s here’s what actually happened. And that is the way that these things usually pan out, and I get it. But at the same time, it is just a lot of standing around and talking and explaining.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:49

    Right, Alyssa. Am I am I wrong that that’s not
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:51

    No. I don’t think it’s wrong. I also think the movie I mean, you know, Pierre, you talked about the movie relying on the presence of Edgar Allen Poe for a sort of literary tony ness that it doesn’t earn on its own. And I think the movie also relies on a lot of sort of drop in dialogue about, like, sort of the threats to West Point’s existence from politicians to preserve its reputation that the movie doesn’t develop but sort of relies on for the idea that something more than a murder mystery is at stake here. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:23

    And, you know, it ends up being there ends up being sort of this irony that, you know, the diff like, trying trying to figure out how to say this with a spoiler in the movie, but that the whole quest to sort of preserve West Point’s reputation is in part carried out by people who have actually damaged that reputation. The the movie doesn’t really with in part because it doesn’t explain really what, like, the sort of, the political situation of West Point is it doesn’t explain how old the military academy is or like what the, you know, what the politicians in Washington don’t like about it. And so all of that is just sort of undercooked in the same way, you know, the presence of posts in the movie is a bit undercooked. And it makes it makes the twist and the very sentimental way it’s handled at the end feel sort of insubstantial.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:22

    Cheap and todgery almost. I like I was like almost a little annoyed by it. Peter, I
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:28

    don’t know. I was not annoyed by it. I I guess I felt like the it didn’t have the emotional impact that a twist that like this should have had because again, it was it was designed as a sort of
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:52

    it
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:52

    was designed for maximum cleverness. Even though the thing that it’s about is something that should be a gut punch and it’s not. And that’s, I think, the biggest. Yeah. That’s that’s what I was sort of talking about this movie’s mood like, effective moodiness, but also its reserve.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:10

    It’s like it’s it’s inability to truly engage you on the stakes and the seriousness for both the the list is totally right about the way that it just kind of asserts the stakes to the institution without in any way dramatizing them. But even our our detective character, even, you know, Christian Bale’s character is just not someone who you feel all that much for. Even if you’re kind of interested in what he’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:39

    doing. Alright. So what do we think? Thumbs or thumbs down on the pale blue eye, Peter.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:47

    Mostly thumbs up though it’s certainly not a must see or anything close, but it’s not a terrible way to spend two hours. Minutes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:54

    Alyssa. Perfectly acceptable laundry folding
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:56

    movie. That is the that is Netflix, Metaguer, right there. I I would say, a thumbs up because it is fine, but I I would not rush out to go see it. I mean, it it really is, like, inessential movie viewing, but not incompetently done or unentertaining necessary really. It’s just it’s
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:20

    I would I would describe this not quite as a laundry folding movie, though, I totally accept that. But as like a it’s nine PM and you can’t think about anything, movie. But you’ve you’re not gonna go to bed for another two hours. You just need something that’s like serious enough without being goofy. And that don’t but that doesn’t take up too much brine space if and you like mysteries that are sort of kind of grim.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:44

    A perfectly acceptable diversion. The across the movie aisle sealant. To approve
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:50

    what’s that? On the DVD box. Oh, wait. They don’t make activity is anymore especially of Netflix movies.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:56

    Certainly not for Netflix. Alright. That is it for this week’s show. Make sure to head over to Bulwark plus for a bonus episode on Friday. Make sure to tell your friends.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:04

    Strong recommendation from a friend is basically the only way to grow podcast audiences. Ferro will die. If you did not love today’s episode, please complain to me on Twitter at study about and chukka mentioned that it is, in fact, the best show in your podcast feed. See you guys next week.
Bulwark+ members enjoy weekly bonus episodes here.