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Joker ~ A Capsule Movie Review

Joker ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

There’s no Batman in Joker. Let’s get that clear. Batman is yet to be. The character who will be Batman when he’s grown up, Bruce Wayne, is a child in Joker. Bruce Wayne is the son of Thomas Wayne, mayoral candidate of Gotham City. Gotham City is a sort of fictional New York City, only grittier, uglier and more crime-ridden. Thomas Wayne says he can clean up Gotham City if voters will give him a chance. He doesn’t seem very trustworthy. He seems like just another phony asshole politician who will say and do anything to get elected.

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) lives with his invalid mother, Penny Fleck, in a squalid apartment building in Gotham City. Penny Fleck used to be employed by the Thomas Wayne family as a domestic. Arthur bears a physical resemblance to Thomas Wayne. Do you get the connection here without having it spelled out?

Arthur is a study unto himself. You don’t even need Batman. He is a former mental patient (why did they ever let him out?) who takes seven medications and, yet, he “feels so bad all the time.” He is a professional “party clown.” He goes wherever a clown is needed, whether it’s to children’s hospital or to carry a sign on the street to advertise a going-out-of-business sale.

The thing with Arthur is that the world has not been very kind to him. He has been (or believes he has) largely mistreated. Funding is cut off for his psychiatric care and his drugs. When he is savagely beaten and kicked by thugs on the street, a co-worker gives him a gun for self-defense. A mental patient with a distorted view of things carrying a gun? I don’t think so. Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

One night when he is going home from work dressed as a clown, Arthur Fleck has an ugly encounter with three bullies on the subway and ends up killing all three of them vigilante-style. The three dead bullies are elite Wall Street types. By killing them, Arthur becomes a hero to the downtrodden. A kind of class warfare begins between the haves and the have nots. People all over the city begin dressing as clowns to show their solidarity with the subway killer. This is just the beginning for Arthur. He has had enough and he’s not going to take it anymore. He goes from being Arthur Fleck, the sad little man who lives with his mother in a creepy apartment building, to being the “Joker,” the arch-villain of the city and nemesis of the yet-to-be Batman, who is still just Bruce Wayne, child of an affluent family.

Joker is not just another superhero movie (there have been too many of them) based on comic book characters. It’s not for children; it’s dark, violent and sad. At the core of it all is the characterization of the Joker by an actor who obviously immerses himself in the role. We see before our very eyes the evolution of an arch-villain. He puts on a happy face. He dances. He sings. He kills.

Copyright © 2019 by Allen Kopp

1908 ~ Mississippi River Levee at Memphis, Tennessee

1933 Rolls Royce II Alpine Tourer

A House for Mr. Biswas ~ A Capsule Book Review

A House for Mr. Biswas ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp

Trinidad is a small island off the coast of Venezuela. Tobago is an even smaller island to the northeast of Trinidad. The two together make the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the southernmost island country in the Caribbean. V. S. Naipaul was a Trinidadian and Tobagonian British writer of works of fiction and nonfiction in English who lived from 1932 to 2018. His 1961 novel, A House for Mr. Biswas, was the first of his many books that brought him international acclaim as a writer. It ranks number 78 on the Modern Library’s List of the Hundred Greatest Novels in English of the Twentieth Century.

Mohun Biswas is the “everyman” protagonist of A House for Mr. Biswas. He is the son of immigrant parents from India, a Hindu, living in the Caribbean country of Trinidad. Mr. Biswas (the title by which he is known throughout the novel) is a the “little man,” the “one against the world.” A House for Mr. Biswas is the story of his unspectacular life. We are told on the very first page of the novel that he dies in his mid-forties. He marries Shama, a woman from a family of many daughters. It is a strictly matriarchal family, dominated by Shama’s mother, Mrs. Tulsi. He doesn’t like being dominated by his wife’s family, but he doesn’t seem to be able to help it. He and Shama never seem to care very much for each other, never seem to share any kind of an emotional bond, but they have four children, one boy and three girls.

Not being particularly well-educated, smart or competent, Mr. Biswas seems to have trouble making a meager living for himself and his family. He manages a “rum shop,” works as a sign-painter, and works in his wife’s family’s store, which seems to be kind of “everything” store. His main ambition in life is to be independent (from his wife’s family and from anybody else) and to have his own home that belongs to him and nobody else. About midway through the novel he undertakes to have his own house built by an anything-but-reliable builder, but it doesn’t go well, and his unfinished house is destroyed in a storm. In the second half of the novel, he gets a job as a journalist for a small newspaper, where he writes a column about “deserving destitutes.” This is a step-up for him, where he makes about $150 a month, and he eventually he owns his own car, but still lives by his wife’s family’s dictates (especially his wife’s mother) in a house they own.

Despite its length (568 pages) and exotic setting, A House for Mr. Biswas isn’t difficult to read. It’s in clear, concise, easy-to-understand English. There are no tangled sentences, no tortured descriptive passages. There are lots of character names, though, sometimes difficult to remember and keep straight because many of them are similar (Shama, Sharma, Savi, Chinta, etc.). This is a minor quibble, though, and no reason not to read the book. For American readers, A House for Mr. Biswas is a glimpse at a life in another country, on another continent, in another culture. If you think life is difficult for you, consider the life of Mr. Mohun Biswas.

Copyright © 2019 by Allen Kopp

1941 ~ Central City, Colorado

Rare Yellow Cardinal

Death of a Cyborg

Death of a Cyborg

A parody of William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s 1888 painting The First Mourning