Qt3 Movie Podcast: Under the Skin

Title Qt3 Movie Podcast: Under the Skin
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Movie podcasts
When May 5, 2014

Minds. Blown. At the 1:35 mark (!), this week's 3x3 raises the question of which are the best interrogation scenes in movies..

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This dropped too late for me to get onto my Ipod for today. Will have to listen tomorrow. My movie buddy and I saw this a couple of weeks back, and our minds were blown, too. Looking forward to it.

Fantastic! Can't wait to listen. What a crazy, awesome movie.

Great discussion, perfect opsis. Thank you making this week's movie something I can't stop thinking about.

Looking forward to getting to see this movie at some point. Here in middle america we don't get to see these types of movies till they release to on-demand services.

In other news, Amazing Spiderman 2 would have made a fantastic opsis, but was 100% forgettable. The only thing that recommends it is the spark between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield. Seems as though Marc Webb is good at making a romance movie about the two of them, and they have great chemistry, but doesn't know how to handle the blockbuster moments. Too much CG in this one, really going over the top for the premium 3D crowd. There were some cool moments but ultimately this movie shrugs off all character development of its villain(s), and feels like a set-up for the next two movies, the sinister six movie, and the venom movie. Franchise fatigue, anyone? The movie felt like a two hour me-too all the way down to the credit sequence which was the now-overdone gadget/blueprint porn that has been done superbly in the Disney Studios Marvel movies. I wish Disney could put together enough money to buy this franchise back and take a crack at it. Frankly, I'm just not interested in these movies anymore. Sam Raimi's Spiderman 1 and 2 were far superior takes on the tone and humor of the franchise.

Man, in all good humor, there's nothing better than hearing three people who haven't read a book talking about how much better the movie is.

Having actually read the book, I can say that Tom is completely wrong to say that Glazer just threw it out. Both the book and the movie use the strengths of their respective mediums to keep the reader in the dark for a protracted period of time about who the main character is, what she's doing, and why. The book takes particular pleasure in inhabiting a character's head, making you privy to her thoughts, but using the elliptical nature of prose to keep you from knowing how her thoughts connect to the actions taking place. Glazer's adaptation draws strongly from these very things, which was a pleasure to see.

I have to admit, having read the book first, I missed a few of its themes in the movie. The book pairs the themes present in the movie about sexual predation and violence and juxtaposes them with a lengthy commentary on agribusiness and factory farming, with both having something to say about self-image and body issues. Having liked that so much, it was hard not to find the movie a bit sparse, but I've come to think of it as focused, and I have room for both in my heart.

I really wonder which is more effective in terms of the wonder of discovery present in unraveling the main character's actions and purpose, but it's impossible to experience both thanks to their deep common roots, so I'll just have to wait until my friend, who bought the book after seeing the movie like Christian, finishes reading in order for me to talk with him.

EDIT: Ugh, the derision in Tom's voice when he talks about it being a "silly book" that uses made-up words. This really is a black mark in an otherwise great podcast. Seriously, if you don't care about source material, don't spend a sizable part of the podcast ridiculing how inadequate Wikipedia has led you to believe it to be.

Dude, I read the Wikipedia summary and the last page. I know all I need to know!

Seriously though, thanks for your comments. I'm a pretty snooty reader and I don't really care for fantasy or sci-fi, so always take my comments with a grain of salt. Kelly and Dingus are really the go-to guys on the podcast for being better read than me in those genres. But I will admit that it speaks volumes that Glazer and Campbell wanted to adapt the book, so I know it's got that going for it.

Ha ha, you saw Amazing Spider-Man 2. Was the scene about the lack of a chimney as good as it is in the trailers?

The thing is, it's Michel Faber's only genre work. He's much better known for The Crimson Petal and the White, a postmodernist novel about women in nineteenth-century Victorian England. As I understand it, he specifically never returned to sci-fi, fantasy, or horror after his debut novel because he didn't want to be pigeonholed as "that genre author" in literary conversations, which is whatever.

Personally, I'm just glad that I have another example of what a good adaptation is, something that takes the strengths of a work in one medium and uses the techniques of a different medium to capture and even enhance them. I was getting tired of saying the best adaptation was Apocalypse Now for Heart of Darkness and having people reply, "But that's about Vietnam..."

Honestly there weren't any memorable scenes. My wife and I went to see it simply because we saw the original on our honeymoon in California, and it was a nice date to reconnect to those feelings. I skipped the trailers for this one, but watched them after. Holy cats, the trailer has a lot of stuff that is just simply not in the movie, and a TON of spoiler material. Really feels like Sony didn't have faith in this movie (and for good reason). Sadly there were no "I agree with the music" moments in this one, but I couldn't stop myself from laughing when they announced there was an "off the books" department called "Special Projects." Who writes this stuff? C'mon, we can't think of a better code name than that? Please...

And the chimney bit? It got a decent laugh, but that had no place in the movie. Plus, the bit in the trailer is waaaaay better than with the accompanying set-up that was in the actual movie.

I'm a huge Jonathan Glazer fan. My dad and I always used to pretend to be Don ("You'll just have to turn this opportunity yes!") Logan around the house. I can't wait to see Under the Skin and hear what you guys have to say about it. I assume it's pretty positive since Tom and Christien are big fans of Birth.

I hope Glazer doesn't disappear for another decade trying to get his next project off the ground.

"The British Government is winning its own lottery and using the money to make science fiction movies?" Pretty much, Kelly Wand. And we're all winners, my friend.

To expand slightly on this, the British Film Institute -- one of the "names" behind this movie -- is essentially a well-established charity here in the UK. It is funded mostly by the government culture ministry but also takes a few million from the nationwide National Lottery organisation. This is a bit of a red herring though. It's not the funding of the BFI itself that gets movies like this off the ground, it's because the BFI is the agency for distributing a separate pot of National Lottery funds, to the tune of £20m+ annually. It's at all not a huge amount of money, and I'm sure they wish they could do more, but I think the cachet of the BFI is enough to get good projects in the eye line of bigger investors like Canal+

I definitely wasn't complaining, just being envious. Lotteries in the U.S. are kinda more Shirley Jacksonian (and I'm really hoping to win this year). We also make science fiction movies but they're called Noah.

Tom was the only one kvetching about a book he hasn't read (I think). But he's scorned not only every book I've foisted on him but every book. Here are some of the ones he thinks I'm dumb for liking: Blood Meridian, Game of Thrones, House of Leaves, Salem's Lot, Eyes of the Overworld, every science fiction novel ever, anything by Joe Hill, and anything that even looks like a comic book. Although he said 50 Shades of Grey makes him want to be a better man.

Kudos for including Plaid in your opsys' Scawtlund cultural touchstone list, KW. As if I didn't love you enough.

I think Tom is on point with the gender roles interpretation, but I wanted to expound on it.

I take from this film the idea that, to men, females acting outside of their "female role" prescribed by men are viewed as something alien. I also believe this is somehow mirrored in the aliens' ideas of gender roles, or whatever their equivalent would be. The aliens are somehow selecting a subset of themselves to take on women's skins, and then are seemingly only told enough about the world to complete their task. They know how to drive cars, select lonely/alienated men, flirt with them, and bring back to the house for processing. But it seems that she hasn't been told anything more about her existence; I'm not even sure that she knows in the beginning that the men she brings back are being killed (it's possible death means something else to the aliens as it does to us.) Her male alien (malien?) handler seems to obviously know more about what's going on, and has some way to track the female aliens. They are using the female aliens in a similar way as to how the female aliens use male humans, which is further similar to how men traditionally use women. The ones being used are recognized as being good only for certain pre-selected tasks.

At some point, Scarlet's character recognizes something, either that she is killing humans, or that she is being used by the male aliens, or that there's more to humans than she was originally led to believe. That causes her indifference/repulsion to what she is doing, which makes her break out of her submissive role, and attempt to run away, and figure out if it's possible for her to live as a human. Upon reflection, I loved the ending. I think the trail guide predator guy was a representation of traditional male values in regards to women. When he sees her as simply an attractive woman, all he wants is to use her for sex. But as soon as it's revealed that she is something complex, something that can be learned from, he instead decides to instantly destroy her, to eradicate the idea that women can be something more. I don't think a showdown with the male alien was necessary, as we already know what happens in that case. As we saw with Scarlet's predecessor at the beginning of the film, who gave up and decided to instead lie in the ditch, the female aliens who no longer accomplish their tasks are brought back in, replaced with a new model, and presumably reprocessed. Furthermore, I think the female aliens task to only bring back men reinforces the idea that the aliens understand our gender roles. They want men's skins, to imitate men, as men are the "superior" sex.

One last note: I think her being entranced by the mirror was a reference to the mirror test for self-awareness, traditionally used for animals. She sees herself as a unique identity, the question being, is the identity as the female skin she is wearing, or as the alien underneath? Or does it make a difference? The male alien doesn't do the same thing when he later looks in the mirror, I assume because he hasn't reflected upon the self as she has.

If it's not obvious, I loved this film, without even going into the cinematography or music.

I was bummed later that I forgot Iain M. Banks.

Thank you guys for breaking this one down a bit. Not gonna lie, this one was over my head in the theater but I stuck it out and am sure glad I did!

So glad to hear that, Mike. This movie was such a pleasure to sit with for a few days after seeing it, just letting it percolate in my brain. Writing about it a bit, thinking on it, writing some more. I love movies that hang with me like this one does.