Movies of the Week #8 (2018)

Refined and improved. Or so I hope.

The hundred meter dash to the Oscars. And Nicolas Cage.

MotW8

 

The USsr we deserve

  • The Death of Stalin (2017): I’ve awaited Iannucci’s latest movie with great interest. Being a huge fan of The Thick of It (2005-2012) and In the Loop (2009), and a moderate fan of Veep (2012-), my appreciation for his take on the intersection of the political and the ridiculous is considerable. In Stalin he picks a great background to provide stark contrast between the monstrous (persecution, deportation, execution) and the pathetic (kiss-assery, under-the-bus-throwery, cluess-politicary). Excellently cast and characteristically witty, the film is more allegorical due to its (accurate) historical placement, but it applies to the unchanging tides of political transitions of power, to the ‘boldness’ of embracing change when it is convenient. 8/10

Strangers in the night

  • Phantom Thread (2017): Love is complicated. Hey, I could leave it at that and be on my way. But it’s especially complicated for artists, who keep looking for inspiration all the time. In PT Anderson’s take on a dressmaker’s struggle between the bound and the unbounded, Dan Day Lewis portrays Reynolds Woodcock, one hell of a self-entitled guy. As he picks up Alma (Vicky Krieps) from a bed and breakfast hotel, the modest, run of the mill girl proves quite the unexpected match to the creator. On some level, love is a matter of dependency, which is not derived from the trivial (shared interests, appearance, compatibility), but from sheer desire to belong, to own and be owned. A psychiatrist might not recommend this form of bonding, if a psychiatrist were asked about it. Who cares? 9/10

The generational struggle

  • Mom and Dad (2017): Crazed Nicolas Cage produces a not-complete-throwaway of a movie in Mom and Dad, thanks to a clever take on, I’d argue, the zombie formula, even if no undead are present. In a movie that feels like the first ten minutes of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, parents go nuts and feel the overwhelming urge to kill the life-sucking bacteria that run their lives – i.e. their children. The first half of the ride is very well executed, with director Brian Taylor showing off real skill in setting up the mood. The second half, where most of the violence takes place, is not as impressive, but in spite of its obnoxious IMDb rating (5.6), I’d say the film has a stickiness to it. 6/10

The Catholic school experience

  • Lady Bird (2017): Perhaps I expected something different of Lady Bird, given the rave reviews and my appreciation of almost everything Greta Gerwig has been involved with. Ultimately, the coming-of-age story of Christine has enough depth to stand out from the plethora of high-school flicks and a certain cinematic beauty, the kind that makes characters of places. However, that’s not enough to etch it in my memory as one of the best films of 2017 and it’s these expectations I held that probably lessened my experience with the movie. There’s nothing at all wrong with it, characters are likable and the mother-daughter relationship feels true to life, with Christine a great rendition of the self-referential nature many own up to in high-school. Somehow, though, it wasn’t enough. 7/10

Movies of the Week #7 (2018)

Hey, I made a something to stop writing too much in the facebook posts. Already failed in that the title of the movie of the week didn’t quite fit. Also, the poster is kinda small. Hm. I’ll contemplate further changes.

Movies of the Week

Ka-pow!

  • Justice League (2017): I wasn’t much into Batman v Superman (2016), so my excitement/fawning over Justice League proved equally feeble. To be frank, I don’t care much for any of these gangbangs (oops?), the big superhero mash-ups and smash-ups that even at their best are procedural, sprinkled with the minimum of wit and the maximum of spectacle. Justice League, beyond the debacle of its production, suffers due to the underwhelming presence of the new characters, who have a hard time gelling with the more established figureheads – i.e. those with already produced franchise movies. A terrible villain doesn’t help, with JL proving even less of a show than BvS. 6/10

I failed to emote properly

  • The Shape of Water (2017): Guillermo del Toro is lost in fantasy land and nobody can get a hold of him. Talk about branding and packaging. This, his most acclaimed movie since the spectacular Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) is a kind of love story, set in a time where being different was unacceptable to the American frame of mind. If anything, it’s a movie against the social and, implicitly, emotional hierarchization and sidelining that occurred during the 60s, with all its stubbornness. Unfortunately, I didn’t get into the groove here, neither for the suspense, nor for the emotional introspection, though they are both well articulated. Sometimes too well. So for me The Shape of Water is no Pan’s Labyrinth. 7/10

Where are all the good football movies we deserve?

  • First Team: Juventus (2017): A Netflix documentary on the inner life of football club Juventus turns out to be just your usual puff piece on the mighty conglomerates of modern football. Never really digging deeply into anything, be it the organization, the science, the glory or the tradition, the movie just brandishes all the usual football cliches, while stretching itself out by forcing a narrative out of the least exciting bit of Juve’s 2017-18 season, the months between August and December. Sure, it’s competently made and Buffon will provide the odd piece of wisdom, but most of the thing is just self-promotion of the ‘renewed’ Juventus brand. 5/10

Art imitates art

  • Loving Vincent (2017): The beautiful visual style goes a long way to detract from an unconvincing narrative and a less than exciting lead character in Loving Vincent. In this letter-delivery story turned detective story, the film never reaches some form of transcendental lightness – or at least the opposite thereof, either of these things being expected of a story on Van Gogh and his art. It instead tracks a lackluster plot, aimed solely at describing the man’s suffering and yet never getting us close to it/him. 6/10

The many Oscars go to!

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017): Martin McDonagh does it again! After In Bruges (2008) and Seven Psycopaths (2012), Three Billboards is bound to cement the man as a non-fluke director with a sharp wit and a touch for mysantrophic characters. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell portray two people suffering from different kinds of anger issues, but in spite of their unlikable excesses, they still manage to charm the heck out of you. It’s this capacity for redemption that stems from an equal capacity for error that hands them the winning cards. The unusual plot keeps you guessing all the way, making for a terribly worthwhile experience. 8/10

Movies of the Week #6 (2018)

Nothing outstanding this time around, but several interesting picks nonetheless.

Movie of the Week

My Friend Dahmer (2017)

my-friend-dahmer-poster-wide

When the boy comes into town

  • Darkest Hour (2017): I was pretty sure Gary Oldman would rock it out as Winston Churchill and that he does indeed. To such a degree even, that there’s little room for anyone else in the movie, be it Mendelsohn’s King George or Lily James’s typist character. It might sound unflattering, but that’s really all the character is and all she does is introduce the viewer to those hellish days – well, that and pander to a particular demographic. It’s a movie about scruffy old men, with Churchill a fascinating character, so easily judged now, as opposed to the time when he was elected as prime minister. Hindsight’s twenty-twenty, innit? It doesn’t help much that Dunkirk (2017) was released last year and there is some overlap as far as the historical content is concerned, even if the two movies are quite dissimilar. Ultimately, though, Oldman did enough for me. 7/10

Slash my soul or hope to die

  • Tragedy Girls (2017): A very well executed, new take on the slasher genre, Tragedy Girls boasts two appealing leads and manages the unlikely – to stay true to its characters. In another take on how “social media creates monsters”, the movie is smart enough to be worthwhile and not just an exercise in film aesthetics. It could definitely have boasted more bite, been more engaging than it ultimately panned out, but this high-school slaughterfest has its charms. It’s hard to argue rating it similarly to Darkest Hour, but that would be like comparing apples and oranges. Life is relative, so are movie ratings. 7/10

Second less than satisfying AC adaptation in two weeks

  • Murder on the Orient Express (2017): Failing so badly at an Agatha Christie adaptation is an unusual feat. Kenneth Branagh though tries to put too much of himself and modern times into a timeless tale of revenge, which falls flat in the end. It’s because of the unlikable cast, the impetuous action sequences and the presumptuous interpretation of the finale. Shame, really, for all its nice looks and the modicum of suspense that survives this adaptation. 5/10

Slightly Oscar-bate-y

  • Wonder (2017): I had really hard time getting behind Wonder. It’s tale of Auggie, a young boy with a genetic birth defect that required countless surgeries to ensure his survival and left him scarred for life, starts off in generic fashion. As the protagonist is sent to public school by his parents, he is faced with the usual American school experience. But as the movie trods along, it begins to feel authentic, offering up a bunch of charismatic people who, it might seem at first glance, are anything but. That’s just…nice. And I’m not even being insulting. What I generally dislike about movies similar to Wonder (and Wonder too, if we’re at it) is how physical deformities are so frequently compensate with some special ability, in an almost superhero-esque fashion. It’s just phony to me. 6/10

Those serial killers have all the charm

  • My Friend Dahmer (2017): I’m pretty much ignorant about the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, whose name I only vaguely attached to something heinous. Yet this movie felt unsettling on a sort of personal level, with its compassionate take on the youth of a troubled Dahmer – the elements are familiar, toxic family life, social reject at school and just no support at all, really. It’s not necessarily a great story of how a serial killer might come to be, given that so much is imbued with the personal take of John Backderf, whose comic book on Dahmer was the source of this picture. Backderf, one of Jeff’s almost-friends from high-school, is clearly dealing with his own guilt and asking ‘what ifs’ throughout. There’s just something about a person not belonging at all that gets to me, even if it’s no justification for anything. Just a sad story. 7/10

Movies of the Week #5 (2018)

It’s been a while since I last had such a high quality week strung together. A lot of the stuff could have made a run at the movie of the week title, but in the end it was really hard to argue against…

Movie of the Week

The Florida Project (2017)

TheFloridaProject

When you watch a movie about a movie that you haven’t seen

  • Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (2017): It’s funny, I had not seen Man on the Moon (1999) when I decided to watch this Netflix docu. The main reason behind it is that I always had a hard time keeping MotM apart from Jim Carrey’s previous movie about alternate realities, The Truman Show (1998). So every time it came up, I thought I’d seen it, when in fact I had not. With this docu in mind, it all feels terribly appropriate. Carrey was otherworldly on the set of MotM, inhabiting Andy Kaufman and his alter-ego persona Tony Clifton to an extreme degree. The way the movie manages to frame the questions about where a performance stops and where it ends (!), how Kaufman influenced comedians around the world and what it meant to Carrey really makes for a fascinating story. I do enjoy documentaries that play with the factual, go all out meta on our asses, which is what Jim&Andy gloriously achieves. Sure, it might be a matter of taste and Carrey isn’t that interesting when he straight-out philosophizes, but it doesn’t do much harm to the experience. 8/10

The Emperor of anime is in da house

  • Tonari no Totoro (1988): I’m overdue with a bunch of anime movies and every time I watch one, I feel stupid for not having watched the rest yet. Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro is an exploration of childhood glee and angst (the allegorical equivalent to The Florida Project, detailed below), a sweet, little movie that thrives on its dreamlike features. It’s one of those experiences that take you away for a while and shelter you from harm. 8/10

Check…erm, mate?

  • AlphaGo (2017): The human fascination with AI and games is something that periodically pops up as an important theme. I still recall Kasparov’s defeat against Deep Blue, even though I was a mere youngling at the time. AlphaGo is a different beast, in the sense that it is a more accurate example of AI and AI learning than Deep Blue ever was. It’s the human elements brought to the table by Go champion Lee Sedol that make for a good movie – his conviction bordering on cockiness and its gradual transformation into an almost tangible despair. All in all a great story that showcases, first and foremost, human ability and ambition, be it on the side of Sedol or that AlphaGo creators, Deepmind. 8/10

When God comes a-knocking in your dreams.

  • Frailty (2001): This pic, starring and directed by Bill Paxton, takes on a deluded father who believes he is chosen by God to destroy demons roaming the earth. He pushes his two boys to assist him in a riveting example of the power and influence parents hold over the characters of their children. Three quarters of the movie amount to a taut thriller and some really exciting filmmaking. Unfortunately, the twisty finale is underwhelming and only manages to take away from the subtle unknowns hinted at throughout the build-up. In spite of this, I would still recommend Frailty instead of your weekly Sunday sermon. Just kidding. Or am I? 7/10

And the Oscar doesn’t go to

  • The Florida Project (2017): Sean Baker rocks. He really does, he’s one of the most exciting directors working today. I adored Tangerine (2015) and, somehow, had not doubt The Florida Project would be equally special. It’s hard to put into words how well this movie captures the extremes, the bad, the good and the normal, of a really complicated childhood situation. The harsh reality of the story is imbued with this force of life that comes from the boundless energy children have, perfectly balanced and nuanced, avoiding the sappy or the melodramatic in a masterful way. In spite of it’s more gut-wrenching moments, there’s this relief that TFP is littered with good people caught up in tough places. 9/10