We are now 33 days into the new year, and with much regret, I have to stop the bit where I start every post the same way. I could wait for it to come around and be funny again, but I’ve weighed the pros and cons and it just isn’t worth it. That being said, I’ve seen 6.2 movies this week and have at least a little bit to say about all of them, so here they are:
Jan 26: the first 20 minutes of Tag (Crave)
The only thing more embarrassing than this movie existing is the fact that I lasted 20 minutes. The concept is so frustratingly boring, and never for a second was I actually curious as to what would happen. There are no stakes and no interesting characters, but all of that could be brushed under the rug if it’s even somewhat funny. It’s not. It’s just lazy. Would not recommend the first 20 minutes of Tag under any circumstances; can’t speak for the rest of it.
Jan 27: The World’s End (Netflix)
The last in the trilogy of completely unrelated stories follows Simon Pegg joined by a litany of hilarious and well-written characters as they attempt to make it to the end of the pub crawl they started as teens, and also save the world from aliens that are replacing the residents of their small town. This is something like my fourth time watching this movie, and it never gets old. The action is well choreographed and I can actually tell what’s happening, and everyone is hilarious. I can’t put my finger on exactly what makes it superior to Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, I just find it has a charm that draws me in more than the others. (Warning: spoilers for Gone Girl ahead) It’s also fun to see Rosamund Pike not play a psychopath like she does in Gone Girl. That’s a fantastic movie, too.
Here’s a feather ruffler for ya: The World’s End is the best of Edgar Wright’s Simon Pegg/Nick Frost trilogy. Yeah, I said it. You know what else? Hot Fuzz isn’t all that great. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but whenever people say it’s “the perfect movie”, I question their definition of perfect. Drive is perfect. In Bruges is perfect. Hot Fuzz ain’t.
Jan 28: Ex Machina (Netflix)
Upon this viewing of Ex Machina, I have decided to promote it to my top 10 movies of all time list. I believe this is my fourth viewing (lots of 4ths, hmm, this is also the 4th weekly post), and there’s still never a second when this movie doesn’t intrigue the shit outta me. I know exactly what’s gonna happen, and it’s still so satisfying to see it all play out so horrifyingly perfectly. I also watched this one with my friend, Vic, and as I’ve said before, there’s nothing like introducing someone to a movie I love.
It takes a wildly skilled writer to keep a movie that involves 3 speaking characters not only interesting but absolutely riveting for two hours, and Alex Garland did exactly that and more. Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson are incredible, and Alicia Vikander plays a robot as well as she can. I have zero complaints. My only problem is I wish Garland could have continued his writing prowess in Annihilation. That movie has pretty much everything going for it except for what made Ex Machina so incredible: it lacked good characters and good writing, but had some fantastic visuals, especially during the last unforgettable 20 minutes. I highly anticipate whatever Garland does next, I just hope he can get over his sophomore slump.
Jan 30: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (random streaming site)
The one thing I thought I would hate about this movie ended up being one of the only things I didn’t mind. Melissa McCarthy, star of one of the top 10 worst movies of all time, Tammy, stars, and despite my hatred for her, she was not bad at all. Richard E Grant I was skeptical about at first, but I also thought he did quite a good job. Other than that, there’s not too much to say. It’s extremely generic, it looks uninteresting, and I didn’t spend a second rooting for the main character. The movie keeps trying to make me feel sorry for this woman, and I wasn’t buying it. She clearly got where she was at the beginning because she was an asshole to everyone around her, and deserved all the bad things that happened as a result. When she starts forging letters, I was glad to see her downfall rather than enjoy her rise, but not in an entertaining Scorsese movie way. Imagine you’re watching Cops, and out of nowhere the show tries to make you think that the asshole criminal is actually a good guy and deserves to be let off with a slap on the wrist. Could you imagine if Nightcrawler’s structure treated Jake Gyllenhaal like he’s the good guy just because he’s the protagonist? It’s kinda twisted that this movie is completely romanticizing forgery, and just plain strange that they try to make us actually feel sorry for this scumbag. I know it’s a true story and all, but from what I gather having done no further research on Lee Israel, she’s irredeemable as far as her actions in the movie. She doesn’t change at the end, either! Why write a movie where your main character doesn’t change one bit!? They go out of their way to show her still being the lowlife she always was, but this time, she… what? She has an idea for a new book? That’s not even an attempt at character development.
So why did this one get great reviews? I saw the trailers beforehand, and didn’t see any black people, the surefire way to inflate critic scores*. This movie is poorly written, boring, and full of white folks, so why the love? Oh, both main characters are gay. Now it all makes sense*. I thought for a second the critics were doing something unpredictable, but no, the same patterns just keep showing up. Thank you, film critics, for being the unrelenting, pandering, moronic, neanderthal hacks I know you are. RIP Roger Ebert, the last of the species known as the “Honestius Criticus”.
*[Disclaimer: I am not homophobic or racist, I’m just not skewing my review in favour of a movie solely because it has gay or black characters. Black Panther sucks. Sorry To Bother You is a god awful clusterfuck of disparate ideas despite some great performances from Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson. Green Book is the worst movie of 2018, and that’s specifically because of how poorly and simply it deals with complicated race issues. And yet all those movies got glowing reviews. Nuanced, well written movies that deal with these subjects, such as Call Me By Your Name and Moonlight, are fantastic and deserve all the praise they get. Diversity should never be considered a negative aspect of a movie, but it’s arguably just as offensive to ignore all shortcomings and simply laud a film for being diverse or progressive.]
Jan 31: Hiroshima, Mon Amour (Cultural Studies House, McGill)
This is the first of four movies I’ll be reviewing over the next few months that are for one of my classes rather than for pleasure, but don’t worry, that won’t affect my opinion in any way whatsoever.
This 1959 movie fits in surprisingly perfectly with a couple other movies I’ve seen lately: Roma and Cold War both of which came out in 2018. I’d describe this one the same way I do those two: a foreign language, black and white, ordinary story told in an extraordinary setting. This time, however, the setting is far more relevant to when the film was made, having been only about 14 years since the bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The movie starts with one of the best opening shots I’ve ever seen, and then continues to shock with about 10 minutes of confusing dialogue over terrifying images of the aftermath following the bomb. It then becomes a love story of sorts, with a Japanese man and a French actress meeting to have some fun in Hiroshima the day before she goes home to Paris. It’s basically just one long conversation between the two of them, predominantly involving the woman (who has no name, and neither does he) recounting her own tragedy at the end and following the war in her home town of Nevers, France. While it bored me just the tiniest bit at times, it’s a fascinating movie that stands the test of time, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Jan 31: Incredibles 2 (Netflix)
I’ve already gotten a lot of shit for this, but Incredibles 2 is just not a good movie. Brad Bird said that he’d only make a sequel to Incredibles if he had an amazing idea (I’m paraphrasing; if anyone could find me the quote, that would be awesome), and it’s sad to see that either he’s lost touch with the greatness he used to have, or he just wanted to cash in a massive check.
The animation is phenomenal, I’ll absolutely give it that. At times it almost seems like a two hour long tech demo; there are scenes that look darn pretty but don’t actually advance the plot or flesh out characters in any way. Similarly, the main problem in the movie stems from the fact that the main characters don’t do all that much. In concept, it seems like it could be interesting to see Mr Incredible have to sit at home watching the kids while Elastigirl is out fighting bad guys, but it ends up being kinda boring and pointless. I saw this movie in theatres over the summer, and me and my friends got a little bit high beforehand (don’t tell my parents). I claimed afterwards that the movie was completely forgettable, but ever since I’ve always had a feeling that the weed had more to do with that than the movie. But having watched it again, sober, it’s clear that weed actually made the experience far better, and it is an utterly forgettable couple hours. The villain is boring and has one of the weakest motivations I’ve ever seen, and the heroes sit around, waiting for the next big setpiece to show up. At first, the action setpieces are at the very least entertaining, but once it reaches the climax, I’m burned out on masterfully animated action, and am begging for some fun dialogue and interesting characters.
But all that pales in comparison to my biggest nitpick ever: The movie presents us with the fantastic idea of having superheroes in the 1960s, and does fuck all with its setting. Me and Vic are sitting there and about halfway through I mention how much I hate that they ignore the fact that it’s the 60s, and she says “wait, this is the 60s?” The movie is so bogged down with stupid futuristic technology that it almost seems like they’re intentionally trying to hide the awesome setting, and no bigger sin has ever been committed by a Pixar movie (that I’ve seen). This, and a lack of new and interesting ideas, makes Incredibles 2 a mediocre-at-best movie. Unfortunately, saying so once drove a girl to ghost me after a date (that’s what I tell myself, anyway).
Feb 1: Velvet Buzzsaw (Netflix)
Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is the best movie I’ve ever hated. I appreciate that it’s tense and well written, but I couldn’t get past the idea of the protagonist being the most despicable human being ever, so I was cautiously optimistic about Gilroy’s next film.
The word that kept running through my head while watching Velvet Buzzsaw was baffling. The first half hour or so messily sets up these characters and establishes the ruthless politics of the art scene in Miami. Sure, take your time, get to know the cast, it’s not awful so far. Then, Billy Magnussen dies (I have no way of proving it but I called that he was dying first as soon as he appeared on screen). His death is so silly and uninspired that I spent the next 15 minutes thinking the movie was going to be some kind of horror satire, but eventually realised that it takes itself far too seriously to be anything of the sort. That’s right: a movie in which a man is killed by monkey arms protruding from a painting is taking itself far too seriously. A few other deaths happen, all of which I genuinely laughed out loud for, thinking maybe somehow Gilroy would appear in the scene like he’s in a Shakespeare comedy and tell us what’s actually going on, and that we should not be taking any of this seriously. But it just keeps going, and going, and going, and I just keep laughing and laughing, baffled as to how someone actually thought this was a good idea.
Ever see that episode of Spongebob in which the eponymous sponge doodles a doppelganger that comes to life and wreaks havoc on Bikini Bottom? Velvet Buzzsaw is a loose remake of it. I expected it to try to say something at the very least; maybe the art is killing people to prove a point about consumerism, maybe the art is trying to save its soul by killing the unworthy, maybe the art is killing people because it hates those gosh darn liberals*? But no, there’s never an explanation, or maybe I was laughing too hard and missed something. Either way, this movie is a genuinely entertaining piece of garbage, and I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood to see some pathetic horror and a wacky Jake Gyllenhaal performance.
P.S. Product placement doesn’t usually bother me, but the amount of Starbucks in this movie is just absurd, to the point where it genuinely detracted from the scenes I noticed it in. One scene I swear one scene was shot entirely in long shots just so the Starbucks cups someone was holding would be constantly in view.
*I’m a gosh darn liberal.
A week of ups and downs, it has been. I pretty much crapped on or fawned over every movie this week, making it a very fun one to write about. This week’s shoutout goes belatedly to Green Book, Black Panther, BlackKklansman, and Bohemian Rhapsody, for sucking super hard but being backed by studios with tons of money for massive Oscar campaigns! So great that the Oscars are sacrificing quality for slightly better viewership, I hope it’s worth it!