808s and Bold Takes Issue 33: The Knight is Green and Full of Terrors
A review of "The Green Knight" plus quick thoughts on Rand Paul and the new Jeopardy host
Hey everyone! I’m back! Some of you are reading this for the first time, others for the first time in a while, so I’d like to officially say it.
*In John Hammond’s voice*
Welcome to 808s and Bold Takes.
Let’s get started!
A review of “The Green Knight” that’s only partially about the movie
It will not shock most of you that it’s been a very long time since I’ve gone to a movie theatre, pandemic and all. I have to say, it was nice to go back.
There’s something magical about the movie-going experience, the plush leather seats, the enveloping darkness as the lights dim and the screen hasn’t lit up with the movie yet, and the overpriced popcorn that doesn’t taste quite as good as you remembered it.
I guess not every part of it is magical.
Anyway, I went to see “The Green Knight” with my friend Abhi. The two of us had wanted to watch the movie for a while, ever since we saw a trailer that wasn’t a trailer as much as an oral history of the story behind “The Green Knight.”
I recommend you watch the video. It's only about three minutes long and narrated by Ralph Ineson, who I didn’t know before this video, but who has a fantastic cadence and it turns out has been in such illustrious productions as the British version of The Office, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter.
For those who don’t trust my judgement (buzz off) or are just lazy (much more relatable), there are three main aspects of the video and the idea of this movie that spoke to me. First off, the movie’s plot isn’t an original tale, it’s based on a centuries-old legend shrouded in epic mystery. There’s only one original copy of the story of the Green Knight (that we know of) and its author still remains unknown. To add to the drama, that copy was nearly burned in an 18th-century fire but somehow survived.
So to recap, there’s a story that reverberated through time to the point that it’s still being told today, only has one original copy that we don’t know the author of, and that copy was nearly lost to history in a blazing fire and somehow survived?
And it has Dev Patel as the lead?
Sign me up!
And so, Abhi and I set off to meet up at the movie theatre, except we weren’t specific enough as to which movie theatre so he ended up at the wrong one before driving and sprinting into the seats right as the film began. In my time waiting for him I dropped and had my small popcorn replaced, so once again I’m doubting just how magical the movies actually are.
*SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE GREEN KNIGHT*
But enough of that, let’s get to the movie, which this part of the newsletter is ostensibly about. First things first, it’s a visually stunning film. The shots of King Arthur’s castle being covered in the powdery snow of an English winter, the Green Knight’s torch-extinguishing entrance into the middle of the round table, or Gawain’s dive into the lake to retrieve a skull and so many more leave you making a square frame with your hands to try and capture the grandeur of the moment.
The performances are similarly stunning, Dev Patel needs no introduction and he shines throughout the film, playing the part of the charmingly arrogant Sir Gawain, whose desire to prove himself and earn a great tale gets him in way over his head.
Sean Harris plays King Arthur, one far past his adventuring day pulling swords out of rocks and leading the knights of the Round Table into battle. Instead, this Arthur is bogged down with the weight of wisdom, hindered by old age and desperately trying to impart his knowledge onto his young nephew Gawain.
But of course, Gawain doesn’t listen.
And how could he? He spent his entire life admiring the legendary knights of the round table. He heard of their exploits, a litany of achievements that envelop and choke him, eventually forcing him to find one of his own.
So when the Green Knight comes and delivers a challenge of restraint, telling Gawain that he can strike any blow on him but will have to receive the same blow in a year, the young knight shows no prudence and foolishly chops off his adversary’s head.
After a year of joy, Gawain faces his journey to the Green Chapel, and on his path he’s tested by robbers, spirits, and his internal conflict between his desires for glory and self-preservation. The ending, left intentionally vague, focuses heavily on that battle but gives mixed messages as to what your takeaway is meant to be.
REAL BIG-TIME SPOILERS AHEAD
Should Gawain take the route of the pragmatist, like the wily fox who had accompanied his journey and at the last moment speaks in a human voice, begging the knight to return home rather than face the Green Knight and his almost certain doom?
Or should he be the hero, taking the honorable death at the hands of this ancient warrior, giving up all external forms of protection, and surrendering himself to the fate that he unknowingly wrote for himself?
Gawain eventually answers his own question, after a clever montage that shows him fleeing the Green Knight mere seconds before the fateful killing blow. He returns home and lives what on the surface looks like a successful life, becoming king and amassing power after King Arthur’s death. But as time passes, the cracks begin to show, as he abandons his previous lover after she has their child, sees that child die, and eventually dies himself with his castle under siege from subjects who do not love him.
Except, in a cheeky “it was all a dream” bit of subterfuge, director David Lowery brings us back to the chapel, the Green Knight's imposing stone axe positioned above our heads. This time, after seeing what his future portends, Gawain instead takes the “chivalrous” route as he steelily waits for the cold feel of the blade, leaving the audience to wonder what’s real and what’s not.
It’s a fantastic film, one that explores that question but leaves the answer open for the audience’s interpretation without a clear judgement in either direction. In a time where much of cinema feels cut and dry with clear heroes and villains, right and wrong, Lowery and Patel seem content to operate in the middle.
You’ll leave the theatre wondering, what exactly I’m not sure, but I’m sure you’ll end up wondering.
*SPOILERS END FOR THE GREEN KNIGHT*
Quick Hits ahead!
Rand Paul - Generally speaking, when a senator has stock and uses that to influence their decision it’s quite bad! That’s what happened here with Paul, whose wife bought stock in a drug that treated COVID-19 in his first stock purchase in about a decade. In what I’m sure is a total coincidence, Paul has also made a plethora of decisions downplaying the seriousness of the virus over the past year and change, allowing many others to become infected.
Senate rules say you’re supposed to disclose stock purchases within 45 days of purchase.
It took Paul 16 months.
Totally a coincidence I’m sure! The cherry on top, Paul likely lost money on the trade, meaning he’s probably both corrupt and incompetent.
Jeopardy - Did you know that the new Jeopardy host is the guy who was in charge of the search for a new host? Another suspicious coincidence.
The show had the option to pick any number of electric candidates and instead went with its producer, Mike Richards.
Richards has a bland personality on camera that didn’t impress anyone in his short time as a guest host. He’s also been accused of creating a misogynistic workplace in his prior stops and was allegedly heard on a since-removed podcast making sexist and anti-Semitic comments.
To add to it all, he wasn’t even on Alex Trebek’s list of desired successors.
In other words, what is a royal swing and a miss?
(Update: Richards resigned Friday morning)
Music Recs: This week I’ll drop you a couple of Kevin Abstract singles and a delightful tune from Aries.
Thank you to Eva Mehta and Ronan Tegerdine for editing and thank you all for reading! If you’re new, please subscribe, and if you’ve already subscribed, please share with a friend!
Until next time, stay safe friends!