business news in context, analysis with attitude

Sound of Metal is a fascinating film about what happens to Ruben, a punk metal drummer (played by Riz Ahmed) who begins to suffer dramatic hearing loss while touring around the country, with his singer girlfriend (Olivia Cooke) in his RV.  Ruben is a recovering addict, and the diagnosis - the only possible solution is cochlear implants, which are not covered by any sort of insurance, and Ruben has little money - threatens his life and livelihood.

Much of the movie focuses on Ruben's stay at a rural shelter that specializes in deaf recovering addicts, run by a Vietnam vet named Joe who is a stern taskmaster, unwilling to let Ruben feel sorry for himself;  Joe believes that deafness is not a limitation but rather just a characteristic, and that's a hard premise for Ruben ton accept considering that music  has been his entire life.  Ahmed delivers a skillful performance, caught between limitations he cannot control and desires he cannot fulfill.

The plot of the movie is engaging, but - and this may be ther first time I've ever written this - what really makes the movie is the sound design.  The way in which the film uses sound - sometimes scratchy, sometimes muted, sometimes silent - to make us feel what Ruben is going through is positively brilliant.

Sound of Metal is an unusual piece of filmmaking, and I heartily recommend it.  (It is on Amazon Prime.)

I'm here to admit that when ti comes to Justice League, I got it wrong.

When the movie came out in 2017, I wrote that it was better than most comic book movie.  That was largely, I wrote, because of the contributions of Joss Whedon, who co-wrote the script and stepped in to finish the film when director Zack Snyder had to step away to deal with a family tragedy. Whedon brings necessary humor and light to the proceedings, and the film is measurably better because of it.

Now, as almost anyone who's been paying attention knows, Justice League is back.  The original 2017 version was a financial disappointment, and in the intervening time comic book fans launched a social media campaign to have Warner Bros. release the original Zack Snyder version.

Through a variety of machinations too complex to explain here, but at least in part because Warner Bros. has a new premium streaming service in need to fresh content, the studio gave Snyder $70 million to complete his version and even do a bit of fresh filming to make things more cohesive.

Snyder's version is decidedly less sunny, and it also is a lot longer - four hours, compared to the original two.  What's most interesting about the film is how so many of the characters are dealing with parent issues - it actually makes the characters accessible in a strange sort of way.

But I have to admit that Snyder's version is a lot better - it is thematically stronger and more consistent, offers stronger performances from all the actors, gives needed time to subplots that  flesh out the story, and avoids the stylistic schizophrenia of the first go-round.  What is now called Zack Snyder's Justice League won't be for everyone (I was a Superman and Batman fan when I was a little kid), but if you're up for a marathon, then go for it. 

Also, I'm just going to say it - Ben Affleck may be my favorite Batman ever - an aging warrior, struggling to remain hopeful and fight off despair, grim but resolute.  

One more movie to recommend.

I read a piece the other day in Deadline about a new TV series that likely will be going to streaming, called "Monsieur Spade." It centers around writer Dashiell Hammett’s fictional detective, Sam Spade, originally played by Humphrey Bogart, now played by Clive Owen, "who has been quietly living out his golden years in the small town of Bozuls in the South of France. It’s 1963, the Algerian War has just ended, and in a very short time, so, too, will Spade’s tranquility."

Sounds great.  It also sounds a little like "Only to Sleep," the 2018 novel by Lawrence Osborne about an aging Phillip Marlowe solving one last case, which I loved.

But … reading about "Monsieur Spade" made me want to go back to the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon, written and directed by John Huston and starring Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.  And so I did … and wow, was I glad.  The Maltese Falcon  crackles with smart dialogue, strong pacing, and tons of foggy San Francisco atmosphere.  

Great stuff.  If you're in the mood for an oldie and a goodie, watch it.

I have a couple of wines to recommend to you this week …

There's the 2019  Les Athlètes du Vin pinot noir from Touraine, France, which I thought was a nice light and drinkable pinot.  (Mrs. Content Guy wants me to tell you that she found it too light, and prefers heartier pinots from Oregon.  What can I say?  I've trained her well.)

And, there's the 2017 Hillersden Pinot Noir from New Zealand, which is both complex and highly drinkable.

That's it for this week … Have a good weekend … and I'll see you Monday.

Stay safe.  Be healthy.