10 thoughts on “WHY YOU LOVE MOVIES

  1. It makes perfect sense if Hulk does want to wade into this, particularly when Hulk just made a wonderful squee list of cinegasm. Clearly, it is a shout out of a few of Hulk’s favorite things. As with any list, whatever asshole (Ooh, ooh, me! Me!) comes along and picks as many nits as he cares to finger, but there was one that stirred something in the dark recesses of my mind: the pool scene in “Let the Right One In”.

    SPOILER (Why are you even reading the comments if this needs clarified?)

    Granted, Hulk makes it clear that it “SATISFIES HULK ON EVERY CONCEIVABLE LEVEL” which doesn’t necessarily preclude my issue, but I just had to check: doesn’t the moral reprehensibility bother Hulk just a bit? The movie makes it clear that none of the bullies are true sadists. Both of the younger accomplices show discomfort and regret whenever a line, physical or emotional, has been crossed. Emasculation is de facto in the household of the lead bully, not an exculpation for the bullying, but it grants a measure of empathy for him. His family emasculates him so he lashes out at somebody less powerful. Our protagonist follows the same path when he imagines upsetting the balance of power in order to emasculate the bully. Furthermore, the older bully is retaliating for the physical disfigurement of his younger brother. It matters very little that they’re both of them pieces of shit. Disfigurement and decapitation are completely out of proportion for their crimes. These bullies–of the everyday, schoolyard variety–get ripped limb from limb for bullying. The movie lost me in this scene. Like all the violent greats, I rooted during the anticipation of violence then I was horrified by the fact of it. However, I have yet to see an audience revulsed. What was a matter of survival for both Oskar and Eli has morphed into an escalation of personal vendettas. The audience is expected to root for a long-term serial killer, currently recruiting her next serial-killing apprentice. Frankly, I was waiting for Oskar to realize he was being manipulated and, you know, stake the bitch.


  2. You know, I totally know what you mean about the problematic nature of LTROI and the relationship between Oskar and Eli. Something that might be worth thinking about is thatOskar is not just a victim/passively manipulated actor in this drama. He seems like a potential psychopath all on his own, that Eli then cultivates and makes her own.

  3. Thank you for this, Mr. Cushing. I doubted Hulk would want to address it because then he’d have dozens to address, neither the point nor the inclination of the post.

    That Oskar seems like a potential psychopath does not grant his character any agency. He is a victim: at the beginning, of bullying and emotional neglect; at the end, of cultivation and exploitation by a serial killer.

    Eli preys on Oskar’s insecurities to ensure that his darker instincts take root so that he may be of use to her. She couches it in terms of self-reliance, that he needs to stand on his own. In fact, she worsens his situation then swoops to his rescue, ensuring that he relies not on himself but on her as his savior. How else does she know to be at the gym? She knows his actions will lead to a reckoning, and she prepares to mete out “justice” in order to firmly ensconce the loyalty of a little boy with whose emotions she has toyed.

    Eli is as much a tormentor to Oskar as the bullies and his parents. He just does not recognize it as readily. She frequently plays coy to him: their first meeting, the shared bed where she’s naked and in charge, her supposed departure, et al. She senses his vulnerability, plays on it to capture his interest, then uses it to an end that the bullies and his parents cannot conceive. They do not even see Oskar, let alone perceive his problems.

    Ei’s previous “caretaker” is evidence enough of her methodology and Oskar’s prospects for the future. In all things, Eli is a predator and Oskar a victim. Because of her intervention in his life, he is now groomed to prey on other innocents. (Among other readings, the movie plays as a metaphor for the cycle of molestation. It doesn’t fully work because she’s always the source of new victim-predators, rather than the victim becoming the predator and creating new victim-predators, but it can still read as that metaphor.)

    I have not read the book, but many people comment on Oskar as a psychopath. Have you read it? Does the book elaborate on that? Strictly as a viewer, I do not see much evidence. He’s a 12-year-old boy who plays with knives and fantasizes violent revenge on a bully. Grown adults do the same thing, and while they clearly should have outgrown it, the habit hardly qualifies as psychosis, not until the fantasy manifests in reality. It is Eli that fully intends to bring it into the real world. In dorky words, her intentions for Oskar do not make that “his first, best destiny”. If Oskar realizes her manipulation and stakes the monster, then he does stand on his own. He claims agency in his life.

    Please forgive the length of my response. If you have the time or inclination, I await a response.


      1. I frequently share the same concern entering a discussion, but one day and soon, Hulk will wistfully recall the day that Hulk ever believed my arguing might stop dead. A good argument? Even a heated one? I love it. God help me, I do love it so. I love it more than my life.

        Also, I was not blowing smoke or calling Hulk out. (What madman would knowingly invite such smash?) Hulk did not compile that great list to spend the rest of Hulk’s month defending individual selections. I just had to throw this one out there in the hope that a fellow user might toss it back. I do not want to be responsible for a miasma of comments making Hulk rue the day Hulk shared some favorites.

    2. Mmm. You know, one of the things that I enjoy most about this website is that it draws people who are truly interested in Socratic method, and believe in actual argument. Comments are well thought out and mostly well reasoned. I suppose we have Hulk to thank for that, since he emphasizes both empathy and reason in combination to achieve a greater understanding of movie truth.

      I agree with you that Oskar is a victim, ignored by his parents and abused by his peers. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the pool scene is in fact that, before the older bully comes in, Oskar is smiling as he paddles awkwardly in the pool at the instruction of the younger bully, not realizing his impending danger. I see this as his desperation for contact of any kind with other people.

      I agree with you 100% regarding Eli’s ensnaring of Oskar–I think it’s easy to forget that she is an aged and crafty predator who looks like a little girl.

      But I don’t agree with you that Oskar should stake her to achieve agency and assert control over his life, although I think I understand why you feel that way. Oskar isn’t ever going to fit in–the budding psychopath diagnosis isn’t entirely fair, since he doesn’t actually do anything other than fantasize about revenge and play with knives. But he’s more than a little weird, clearly, in terms of his obsession with death and murder (his scrapbooks). He’s not just a victim, but a true oddball. Now, I would be the first to admit that being weird doesn’t make you a killer, but it’s not just that he is abused, ignored and manipulated by various people until he ends up as the vampire’s protector. As grim as it is, the symbiosis (for lack of a better term–I am not sure if you can have that kind of relationship with the undead–symnecrobiosis?) may be Oskar’s best available choice. He is always going to be a target. Always ignored. Given his life and his options, I do believe that he achieves a kind of agency when he chooses this (un)life. And that, to me, is the most terrible and wonderful part of the movie–a little boy, riding away on the train to a predictable future, occasionally knocking on the suitcase to let his master and companion know that everything’s OK. We already know how it’s going to turn out, because we saw what happened to her last protector. But in a sense I think Oskar knows what he is getting in to.

      It’s been a while since I saw this, but those are my thoughts.

      Oh, and for HUlk, since my computer at work won’t let me comment on the badass digest section:

      I think that the first cinematic iteration of the Story of Love and Hate was depicted by Charles Laughton and acted by Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter, which I have to say is one of the creepier psycho killer movies ever. but the Radio Raheem version is definitely more cinematically mesemerizing.

      As for me, I love movies because Eddie Dane and I can maybe have tea sometime, and because it drove me absolutely crazy that Jimmy Stewart spent the whole movie looking out the back window instead of smooching Grace Kelly when she is in his lap. What an asshole.



      1. Symnecrobiosis is the Word of the Week, possibly the Year. It’s early yet, but I don’t foresee a whole lot of comers to challenge it.

        Hulk cultivates wonderful, rare conversation. My childhood home had a computer from the early 80s (dad was a CS instructor) and internet access not long after (the userid [same one today] is in the mid hundreds). In over two decades, I can count on one hand (possibly on a single dick) how many bulletin boards, sites, and blogs have compelled me to comment or post. Even then, I’ve never posted more than once or twice. Hulk has built something special. Even as I enjoy its current bounty, I mourn its inevitable SMASH!

        I’m not sure how Socratic we users are (lots of statements, considerably fewer questions), but establishing and maintaining actual dialogue, particularly in argument, is a stunning achievement. I don’t know how Hulk manages it. Too often, we cushion ourselves among likeminded individuals and exclusively consume media that reinforce our beliefs. It bores me to tears. I know why I think what I think (well, mostly). I prefer to read and discuss with someone who thinks differently. If I already understand his view, his argument may reinforce my conviction; if I misunderstand or I cannot conceive his viewpoint, his argument may help me. Even if at the end we disagree, there is no reason we cannot coexist. A man’s empathy must take over where his sympathies end. Otherwise, we’re just terrible to one another.

        Also, it’s a great relief (albeit a significant hindrance) that neither of us read the book, and we’re both rusty on the movie. At least we’re on an even keel. (Though a couple times, I caught myself thinking of the wrong film version. I think I removed all incorrect references.)

        I cannot tell you how many times I added and redacted my comment about a staking in the original post. The comment drifts into a less useful area of inquiry: what the artist should have done. It’s always among the first questions a defender asks, but identifying an alternative does not weaken the artist’s choice and attacking a proffered alternative does not strengthen it. Furthermore, an argument that identifies a problem is not strengthened or weakened by offering a solution to said problem; that’s a different type of argument altogether. A writer can diagnose a problem without having the slightest inkling how to fix it. (Hulk has written several articles which touch on the destructive confluence of description/prescription. I hope Hulk writes an article about the specific phenomenon one day.)

        Though I believe that LROI would be better served by a staking, if you do not mind, I’d rather not delve into it because, without having written it, I suspect it will be even more longwinded than this post. I don’t know about you, but I’m plenty sick of my voice already, and I haven’t even gotten to the argument yet. (Christ.)

        A boy’s fascination with the macabre does not strike me as odd or unhealthy. Oskar’s scrapbooks do not provide reason for much concern beyond perhaps explanation and gentle correction. However, I may have a twisted perspective on death because I grew up in rather a rural setting. As kids when we found a dead, well, anything really, it was just plain cool. A kid does not alarm me even if he reveals a stash of dead animals (not my thing, but I knew some kids.) After he is found out, his elders cannot allow the habit, but they cannot demonize him for the confused expression of his interest. A person’s interests do not dictate his predilections. They need to nurture in him a more appropriate reaction to death. His fascination is natural, but how he copes is a lesson that is taught and learned. It only becomes problematic if no one bothers to discuss death with the boy or if someone directs and encourages his impulses toward nefarious ends. Unfortunately, Oskar suffers both misfortunes.

        More than the scrapbooks, the strongest indicator of Oskar’s potential imbalance is that he demonstrates no shame for scarring the bully. It excites him at the moment, and his excitement does not abate when he relays it to Eli. His reaction shows more sadism than his fantasies and scrapbook ever could. Unlike the other two, this event takes place, and he is an actor in it. He displays an agency that he lacks elsewhere. Even though he’s a pawn, he feels empowered. Eli pushes Oskar, and his transition from fantasy to reality alters the moral considerations. When an average person hurts someone, even if he intended to hurt him but just went too far, he regrets it almost immediately. Oskar gets off on his power trip.

        “[Oskar] is always going to be a target. Always ignored.” Wow. It’s not that I disagree per se, but the statement took me aback a bit. Is Oskar’s situation so hopeless? The effect on the audience derives partly from the story’s common, almost prosaic, setup: broken family, isolated child, mysterious new friend, HOLY SHIT SHE RIPPED OFF THAT DUDE’S NECK!! Oskar’s circumstance is nigh ubiquitous until the undead appears in it. There is a half-life on the lousy parenting and even shorter one on the bullying; only Eli offers half a life.

        Oskar does not seem to grasp much of the consequences of his actions or the motivations of others. Really, what 12-year-old does? Their lack of empathy tends to be stunning. (In our increasingly infantilizing culture, we can safely bump that age up to at least 20.) To me, Oskar just seems an innocent naïf. He suspects but does not know that his father won’t come for him. He realizes that he likes girls, but he doesn’t know what to make of the fact that Eli isn’t one, other than to ignore when she implies as much and to be taken aback when he sees as much. He is clueless why the caretaker is standoffish; Oskar believes the caretaker’s Eli’s father, but he does not follow up when she corrects him, and later, he doesn’t ask where the caretaker went. Most importantly, though his parents and bullies have used Oskar for some time to displace their own issues, he does not recognize Eli’s manipulation. Her methods are not far off from the other abusers’ in his life, but she presents them in a façade of caring and concern so Oskar does not question her motives. Most tellingly, he does not question exactly how she knew to be at that gymnasium.

        Thank you very much for this discussion, Mr. Cushing. If you have the time and inclination, I await a response.

        (Congratulations on your daughter! Have you bought your shotgun yet? Best get to practicing on the sides of barns; 15 years isn’t much time. I don’t know if you’ve met any these days, but I sincerely doubt any of these 4-month-old boys will ever deserve your little girl. God, let’s pray she’ll have enough sense not to fall for that creepy shit who’s in kindergarten now.)

  4. Oh, and I haven’t read the book. Sounds like it might be worth the time, but I have been halfway through Cadillac Desert for four months since the birth of my daughter, and I haven’t been making much literary headway. Just reading kids’ books and playing Skyrim when she naps.

  5. I love movies because it is both cruel yet kind, selfish yet selfless when Michael’s thugs shut Kay out of the room.

    Also because I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops.

    Uh, depending on the breaks.

    1. My favorite line in the latter is : ” Well, Colonel Batguano, if that REALLY IS your name…”

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