Spectating Wimbledon Spectator Fashion

Berries and cream
Berries and cream
I’m a little lad
Who loves berries and cream
       -Little lad from Starburst commercial, 2007*

I deeply identify with this song and dance by the wee page boy’d page boy extolling the virtues of berries and cream. To me, it applies to Wimbledon and the famous strawberries and cream of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. When this tiny chap claps his hands at the prospect of a sweet treat via berries and cream, I clap my hands at seeing outfits and style at this annual tennis tournament. I’m convinced the royals and celebrities carefully calibrate their appearances, allegiances, and sartorial statements – Jude Law would never go on a day someone more famous will get more camera time, and Meghan supports Serena while other randos vie for the secondary coverage. Some berries and cream is better than no berries and cream. Forthwith, some fashion! (Player clothes choices are a different conversation altogether.)

The Duchesses

Clearly these women will generate the most buzz when appearing at Wimbledon – together and separately. Into the hive!

Joint Duchessing

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One glorious (Earl of) sandwich (and everyone wins at sunglasses!)

Kate: Buttons! Bows! This dress has it all! The buttons say “I’m here for the business of tennis;” the bow says “I’ll also make small talk about your boat.” I don’t understand the forest green but I do understand Kate’s fashion choices tend toward militaristic influences. Carry on. 

Meghan: Our Ralph Lauren princess is back at it. I don’t know if this is actually Ralph Lauren and I shan’t be googling it but it has that classic silhouette. The simple, crisp white shirt shows off the glorious pleated skirt to wondrous effect. Duchess Markle shows us once again she is Queen of Subtle Sophistication. 

Pippa: I’m a sucker for toile but this looks like she got a last-minute invite to appear with the Duchesses while staying at her cottage in the English countryside so she had some mice and birds make a frock real quick out of her country chic curtains. I would like to stage a picnic on that pattern. 

Distinct Duchessing

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Meghan: Has anyone so successfully pulled off a fedora since Paul Newman in The Sting? Doubtful. What other powers does she possess if she can effortlessly slay a fedora look on a random Tuesday? Apparently the jeans are a no-no at Wimbledon, but if I were a duchess, I’d wear jeans any chance I got. I make the rules, you plebes! The light-checked blazer is a tennis homage, to my untrained eye, and I appreciate the casual cool.

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Kate: Bows and buttons continue, but I love this. It’s Kate’s tennis whites with a little black to set it off. She looks like she’s going to underground to crack some codes for WWII Britain whilst tricking the Axis into thinking she’s just visiting her soldier. Some serious spy chic. 

Kate and William: Once again we see the royals sunglassing hard. See this Everyone Looks Hotter in Sunglasses (ELHis) rule. They coordinated! Kate in a powder blue Fraulein Maria-esque frock – the sleeves, what is the folding there? Royal curtains again. But overall, a lovely summer look. I also like the flowery clutch, like she’s stashing seeds for her secret garden in there. William powdered his blue, too, taking cues from his Queen, as he should. 

Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch

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It absolutely delights me that a man who gets paid to lurk in movies and Benediction Corksnatch sat near each other at Wimbledon. What did they talk about? The intricacies of the Marvel universe? Their respective British private schooling? How much Pimms to consume before retiring to the yacht? Oh yes, sorry, their fashions – Mr. Hiddleston appears to have come straight from the investment bank he moonlights at, complete with navy suit. Really throwing caution to the wind there with the polka dot tie. I don’t understand the hair and I won’t respond to it. Mr. Cucumberbench is captivated by something on the court, and was clearly tipped off somehow to Kate’s outfit, because he brought out the powder blue. No competing with the Duchess, however – the is just boring. I’ll expect a better showing next outing, Mr. Corkybang.

Adwoa Aboah

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An expert deployment of the Editor Drape, in lemon, no less. A delicious confection.

Jude and Phillipa Law

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Of COURSE Jude Law’s wife (a psychiatrist) has the most British name ever. I would like to note Mr. Law’s choice of a double-breasted suit. I’ll give him the navy, which as Mr. Hiddleston shows us, mostly belongs to the banking crowd, but the white tie on white shirt and artfully folded pocket square elevate it to…tennis-level pleasantness. Phillipa is what I will aim for the rest of the summer but never achieve.

Bear Grylls and David Beckham

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Who sold all the famous British men the same navy polka dot tie? How is this a problem when you can have pretty much anything you could want at your beck and call? Or is that the only problem when you reach these levels of wealth and fame? Anyway, the beige and navy combo on Mr. Beckham is not my favorite. He’s catering drinks on Bordersnooze Cranberry’s yacht. Mr. Grylls is just boring. Again, what could they be talking about? How to survive in the wilderness of fading into middle-life fame?

Janelle Monáe

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Ms. Monáe is both train conductor and the fashion referee for the rest of you amateurs.

Claire Foy

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I don’t have any comment on this straightforward couch-inspired ensemble but I do love this expression. I like when celebrities go to Wimbledon and actually watch tennis.

Hugh and Anna Grant

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Was there a run on navy suits and ties in the UK this summer? Is there really no other option? Step it up, male celebrities. Hugh is laughing at my need for more interesting satorial choices from men. 

Woody Harrelson

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Corduroy in summer, so brave! If there were any fires I’ll direct the detectives to Mr. Harrelson, who surely started some just by walking around. I have no idea what the fabric up top is but it also looks non-flame retardant. How does someone who lives in Hawaii dress like this in summer?

Pixie Lott and Oliver Cheshire

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I don’t know who these people are but I appreciate their names and Oliver’s pink sherbet suit.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

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Camilla, you saucy minx! Whose wedding do you think this is? Sorry, she’s Queen of Cream at the Strawberries and Cream event of the year.

Twiggy

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AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU, TWIGGY! This is exactly what I needed. Leave it to an iconic supermodel to bring the fashunz. Very into the two-tone pink ensemble – it’s already on my list of the best looks of summer 2019.

THAT FAN
Ms. Thompson is bringing us Beatlejuice and I want all of it. She gumshoed her way into my heart. Can’t wait to see what she wears next.

Matthew Goode

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I know I’ve been railing against navy suits but Mr. Goode here gets a pass for showing us that fashion is not just about clothes but also attitude. That smirk says it all. The sunglasses don’t hurt, either.

Maisie Williams

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MAISIE! Gurl coordinated head to toe with the strawberries and cream and for that, I salute her.

James Middleton

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Well played, sir. A fashion ace. Please continue with your King George V/Tsar Nicholas drag.

Ruth Wilson

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Welcome to the circus, in a good way.

Mary Berry

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Ms. Berry is a bounty of festive flowers, and I love her for it.

Keeley Hawes

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Yes, ma’am! The Bodyguard star goes for…the triples court…combining a cream blazer, patterned dress, AND sneakers. A tricky combination to pull off, but she aces it. All the strawberries and cream for you, Keeley.

Ellie Goulding and Caspar Jopling

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Caspar. Jopling.

Kendall Jenner

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Kendall has switched out her tiny sunglasses for post-eye surgery protective lenses. Working what I like to think is a fresh-from-the-stables blue equestrian shirt, she keeps it low-key.

*Yes, I still think about this commercial constantly, along with the Quiznos singing hamsters

On Not Running

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Hurting

I was running and running, but at some point, I simply couldn’t run anymore. I didn’t think I could be injured. Not in an invincible sense, but there was no event, no precipitating jolt that signaled a malady. It was a gradual erosion. Something was off, had been off, but I was denying it with a stubborn power that only grows with time. The hurt wouldn’t wear off, no matter how hard I willed it to. I wasn’t psychic, just psycho.

Since February, I’d been training for a marathon, pounding the treadmill in the face of an unending cold snap. Something painful began to creep into my right leg, but I ignored it. The pain was temporary, I told myself, just a symptom of the treadmill belt and a bleak winter. Epsom salts cure everything, right? You can run through the pain, right? I wasn’t listening.

This was in the bone. I started feeling a bump on my tibia, sickeningly visible through my skin. I could feel it even more when it rained, like a soothsayer trying to block out all the signals. I didn’t want that particular information.

I kept building my mileage, dutifully carrying out the training plan I made for myself. I rose every morning in the arctic dark to run closer to my next goal. Here, on this piece of paper, was a plan that perhaps the gods wouldn’t laugh too hard at. But the pain in my leg built, too, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it out of existence. I wouldn’t even let myself consider the prospect of not running this marathon in June – no, never, not me! Running is what I have, what I aim for, the habit that gives my life shape.

The knot in my leg persisted. Falling further into delusion, I thought I could make it through the rest of training and the marathon, and then see about getting help. If I could only pretend to be okay for a couple hundred more miles, then I could acknowledge what my body was telling me. Then the low buzz of hurt turned into a bad garage band.

Continue reading “On Not Running”

Bubble Bob

Something happens to you when you watch Bob Ross for an ungodly amount of time. Like his perm, all lines are blurred, and you start thinking of blues as “phthalos” and baby deer as potential pets. You want all beings in nature to be happy and all clouds to have feelings. And the colors – he uses a base arsenal of 13 and goes all over from there. I’ve spent so much time with these colors that I had to map them all out.

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Continue reading “Bubble Bob”

Mike’s Mural

In the welcome sunshine of a Sunday morning, a wall went up. Not the structure, but the substance. A wall with a door in it, except this portal was painted on the outside. Twisting tubes, faceless figures, one large bear, a Superman, and many, many bricks. For a day, we marked. We painted. We made a mural, but it was one person’s vision.
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This is Mike Turner’s work – look at this. And this. And THIS.

Based on a piece called “Vertical Suburbs,” the mural is a black-and-white expanse of brick walls, windows, tubes, and vignettes that invite and compel, leading places but not resolving. You can start anywhere along its length, but never really know where to end up. You can look at it up close, or from across the street – either way, it offers up a sort of labyrinth. You can stare at individual lines and shapes and not know what it put into your brain, but sit in that uncertain wonder for a while. It does things to whatever your thing is.

Vignette / Mike and Gina / Bear!

This mural was conjured on facade of the Violet Hour, a cocktail lounge in Wicker Park. Each month, they let a different artist muralize the exterior. Mike graciously let a group of friends help him put his up, thankfully in June, post-polar vortex. We pulled up on Saturday evening, a nice blank wall ready for us to reinvent it. As it turned out, weather and technology had other plans.

Mike and his fiancee Gina had planned the operation like a guerilla standoff – plenty of weapons at the ready to execute a quick(ish) mission, with all the backup needed to head off any issues along the way. However, you can’t reason with power converters that have previously tested fine in all readiness phases, only to fail in the moment of need. What had been planned as a projection of the original drawing onto the wall coalesced into a frantic search for a generator to rent, and ended in a parking lot of futility.

After having waited out a tornado-shaded downpour, ready to wipe every inch of the wall down with paper towels and get to work, we sat in the car, shadowed by a hulking Home Depot, talking about extension cords and batteries. (Also Patton Oswalt’s impression of Tom Carvel, somehow. Fudgie the Whale saved our sanity that night.) We resolved to try again in the morning, urgency nipping at everyone’s heels.

Sunday came with sun and breezes – cool even away from the lake. With a ladder bisecting the car, we drove back to the blank wall. Fueled by donuts and iced coffee, we faced that void again. The people in the group who actually knew what they were doing attacked it with renewed zeal, quadranting that sucker with tape and free-handing pencil outlines while Mike filled in details. A vision took shape. (In this phase, my contributions entailed playing seminal saxophone solos on YouTube and petting as many dogs as possible.) If someone had told us the night before we would end up Free-Soloing this mountain, we probably would have laughed with tight faces. We would have pretended not to scream inside. But today, in the sunshine, we did it because that was all we had left.

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In the beginning

This was an experiment in a lot of ways – how do you prepare art for greater consumption? Do the weather gods want you to succeed? What happens to meticulous planning in the face of unforeseeable technological glitches? How many Home Depots are there in the greater Chicago area, and how long do they stay open? What do you do when Things Go Wrong?  How do people act around a mural in progress? (They say things. Out loud. A lot of things. Their opinions WILL be heard.) A collective mindset held the answer to all of these questions.

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The figure in repose: homage to Burt Reynolds? 😉

A bit of a mindmeld cloud collected over our group. Mike was the piece’s mastermind, and we went to him with questions, but we also trusted each other to work in between. We all tuned into the same buzzing sound, and worked off of that. A radio frequency was born. If this is what it feels like to join and be in a cult, then I am deeply susceptible to it and should probably seek help. Possible Cult Joiners Anonymous? Local Lemmings?

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Bricking

At one point, I joined forces with a friend to erase some of the remaining pencil marks – we went around with two brushes and one can of white paint between us, talking to ourselves and conjoined twinning up the place. The world melted away even more as we painted and painted. Nothing else mattered but to keep space open.

Things happen to you individually, too. You make so many bricks you become a line, just wanting to connect other lines. You think and say things that only make sense to the people working alongside you. Your only goal, your single-minded dream, is to do whatever it takes in this moment to get this work just a tiny bit closer to realization. It’s a little universe.

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Drawing bananas (the boot is for fashion purposes only)

Passersby want to peek into this tiny cosmos. People walking by on the street tended to say whatever they were thinking out loud, whether alone or in a group. I couldn’t decide whether they wanted us to hear, or thought we were like zoo animals. Some seemed to be performing for their groups, remarking that this wall contained the passageway to a bar with “amazing cocktails.” “You knock on the door, and it opens!” (No, sir, that is not how it works.) Others wanted to name artists the work reminded them of, or explain how we were making the mural. Other people would just yell “THANK YOU” – for what, exactly? One woman went up to my partner in erasing and quietly said it, a hand on her arm, like this was a conspiracy. In slightly more sinister fashion, a man said this loudly while hugging me from behind as he kept walking. NO thank you. A couple of drunk bros demanded high fives and then said Mike should paint the apartment building one of them owns. In decidedly the most charming show of curiosity, a little boy took one of the stepstools and sat on it, clutching his lil drink, sipping through a straw and observing the goings-on. Like a tiny king, he surveyed the workers, then summarily dismissed the whole thing and walked off, his dutiful parents trailing behind.

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When we finished the mural, hours had slipped by, and sunset was imminent. We went to eat pizzas so big I could have used them as sausage-y blankets. We went home so full and so tired. This was easily one of the most satisfying, fulfilling days of my life. I got to help create something with a group of excellent people – even if I’d never picked up a marker or brush, I’d have been thankful just to be in that headspace. It really was a storm on a sidewalk. I was most floored by the fact that Mike took some of his art, secured a public space for it, and then let other people help him put it up on a wall. Even though the mural is only up for a month, it adds a layer to the city, and I hope many people will walk by and take a piece of it in. It doesn’t have to envelop them like a blanket pizza, but it’s something new to process.

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Mike Turner’s mural “Horizontal Suburbs” will be up through June 30 at the Violet Hour (Wicker Park, Chicago, IL).
Mike’s website: GravelPlayground.com

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Mike Turner
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Mural crew

 

Out of Context Werner Herzog

“When I met him, I wanted to tickle him.”

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“If you do that, I will buy your station and fire you.”

“It’s difficult and painful, but should happen somehow.”

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“A shock went through me of delight. A moment of great elation inside me.”

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“I do believe you have a great alternative and that’s the internet. But you have to be prudent in navigating the internet.”

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“Inconceivable.”

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“I don’t know, I’ll probably have a sailor’s grave somewhere in the ocean. By the way, I shouldn’t die anyway.”

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“I was paid to be terrifying. I do it well.”

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“But there’s a great joy, awe – all my feelings I feel with awe.”

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All quotes from an interview with the director after a screening of “Meeting Gorbachev” (May 10, 2019)

Book Time: April Titles

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland – Patrick Radden Keefe

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One of my favorite books of the year so far. It’s about The Troubles in Northern Ireland, as seen through the lens of a family whose mother was taken by the IRA (AKA disappeared) in 1972, and select IRA members themselves. Radden Keefe unfolds disappearance as another weapon of war -deployed on a smaller scale in a tiny country but still sending giant aftershocks into the community and decades ahead.

A code of silence undergirds everything about both the IRA and living in Northern Ireland at this time. Everyone knew things, whether what they had witnessed or information they picked up, but had to be very careful about using it. So silence it was, for years on end. Radden Keefe also uses this thread to explore repression and lying, noting especially that Gerry Adams, once a key IRA operative and then a leading member of Sinn Féin, still flat out denies ever having been a militant.

Information – both in withholding and wielding – is the weapon that can’t be contained or defeated. Radden Keefe is a measured but giving storyteller, and the research and time that went into gathering all these details is staggering.

The Friend – Sigrid Nunez

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A beautiful book about the nature of grief. Well, about a woman who inherits a Harlequin Great Dane from her friend, who died by suicide. The woman wonders how she’s supposed to keep living without his presence, all while the years go on and on, and she loves the dog more and more.

Stay Up with Hugo Best – Erin Somers

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A somber look at comedy. June is a writer’s assistant at a late night show (it’s Hugo’s, you guessed it) wrapping up its final episode. After the final party, she wanders into an old haunt comedy club, not so much wondering what she’ll do next but more sliding into a fog. After her impromptu set, Hugo Best himself comes up to her and asks her to spend the long weekend at his house in Connecticut. Sort of an “Odd Couple” setup with a mystery edge. Off they go, and the weekend unfolds more or less moment by moment.

Somers populates the story with entertaining details and fully realized characters, and there are some excellent one-liners. It just made me sad – I don’t know what I expected; perhaps I was hoping for more head high and fuck ‘em all from June and less middle-aged-white-man-has-an-identity-crisis from Hugo. Maybe that was the point. I liked the humor and sadness mixing to an extent, but Hugo Best wasn’t a nut I wanted June to have to crack. In any case, I think this book will go in the pantheon of millennial literature, because I’m still experiencing existential tinyshocks after reading it.

We Don’t Know What We’re Doing – Thomas Morris

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After gobbling up Conversations with Friends and Normal People, I needed more Sally Rooney in my life immediately. So I dredged the internet for her interviews, looking for mentions of what she reads. She mentioned Thomas Morris, and here we are.

The stories are all set in Caerphilly, Wales, and are an examination of ordinary lives. Everyone is grappling with averageness, but there are moments where the banality mixes with happiness. Overall – yes, also depressing, but great stories all the same.

The New Me – Halle Butler

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This book also made me almost irrepressibly depressed. Something about my reading selections this month, I guess. I couldn’t stop reading once I started, though, so I just had to endure the feelings.

Millie is an office temp in Chicago, and Butler’s descriptions of cubicle denizens and workday mundanity are something to behold. Millie keeps spiraling down into unemployment and despair, with Butler keeping up the ever more manic voice in her head. I really can’t articulate a better reason why this was so compelling other than it looks you straight in the eye.

The Authentic Lie – Pandora Sykes

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This is technically an essay, but the Pound Project bound it into a beautiful little book, so I’m counting it. Sykes tackles the maelstrom of self, culture, and social media, and what it means to be real. These topics encompass a lot of what I think about all the time – philosophies of pop culture, the nature of gossip in society, and how the social sausage gets made. I also love the podcast Sykes hosts with Dolly Alderton, the High Low, so I suppose I was primed to like this essay.

I love that Sykes and this outfit collaborated – I’ll read anything she writes, and I can’t wait for the Pound Project’s future campaigns. I wish I had known about them earlier so I could have a little library of their titles going.

 

Bathroom Fights

The first rule of Bathroom Fight Club is that I get to talk about it.

When you fight in the bathroom, there is so much at stake. The amount of porcelain alone is a threat to anyone’s well being, and no one wants an Elvis-esque death in such proximity to a toilet. But I want to see it – how are people going to have an altercation in a small space? No room for error, it’s just you and some fists and a lot of tile.

This is an ode to the commode fight. Bathrooms are a kind of cathedral. Often marble-y, with different kinds of founts, for holy water or regular water – you get doused all the same, ritualized cleansings occur. So why not fight it out in there, too? Ashes to ashes, bust to bust.

You’d think the genre is restricted, but no, like a stained glass window, the possibilities tessellate. Movies with bathroom fights are inherently creative, as you have to put a lot of action in a smaller space, and my god, the camera placement alone is a logistical puzzle I love to contemplate. There should be an Oscar category for this. I’m calling the Academy right now. In the meantime, here are three of my favorite dust-ups in water closets that have informed my cinematic universe. [Contains spoilers, duh.]

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

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The fight scene: I’ve mentioned an element of this particular bathroom fight on this here platform before, but the full tableau is too good to not discuss. (On YouTube this scene is titled “bathroom brawl” or “toilet fight.”) Plot points aside, all you need to know is that Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill parachute into the Grand Palais in Paris and go in search of their target. They follow him into an impossibly clean bathroom. Tom has a fun secret knife-needle thing he’s ready to deploy, but this being a public restroom, he and Henry run into issues trying not to bust their target apart in front of any witnesses. It’s almost physical comedy. Henry does the shortest, fakest hand washing. Finally, Tom goes in for a hit. The target sees him coming from a French bathroom mile away, but luckily Henry clocks him with his briefcase. More physical comedy ensues as the pair has to hide their hit from more plebs, and eventually the target regains consciousness. This is where stall doors get busted, Henry gets punched in the throat, and the target gets thrown through a mirror.

He somehow survives this relatively unscathed, and grabs a sink pipe to wreak more havoc (a tip I’ll have to remember). Henry recovers from having his windpipe smashed, winds up his fists, and goes in for the body punches. He still gets owned, and Tom gets backwards kicked in the stomach. There’s some more wall smashing and the target gets hold of an errant gun, then Rebecca Ferguson comes in and saves the day.

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Why it’s the right scene: The gauntlet for the genre has been thrown. Henry Cavill and his Tom Cruise-mandated moustache Wind It Up, throwing themselves around the lavatory like teenage boys at a middle school dance, but a woman gets the last word/bullet. She brings a dose of efficiency to the drag-out fight, and probably could have saved the guys some work and internal bleeding. But then we wouldn’t have had this magnificent scene, so she gets to be their deus ex machina. I like this setup because the target is a worthy adversary, and cannot be dispatched with a quick one-two. If he hadn’t had to die in a bathroom, it would have been fun to see him and Rebecca team up and start their own international spy ring. Another call I need to go make.

Continue reading “Bathroom Fights”