Kubrick Week is a tough act to follow. Can we top it? Let’s find out! I saw 5 movies this week and have at least a little to say about all of them, so here they are:
April 6: Snowpiercer (Netflix)
[Spoiler warning] We begin the week by watching my favourite Bong Joon-Ho movie, which is saying a lot. As good as The Host and Okja are, Snowpiercer is brilliant and perfects everything that made those movies work so well. On the surface, it’s a tense action drama with a fantastic twist that happens to take place on a train containing the last remaining humans. What makes it so incredible, though, is the little details and quirks Joon-Ho slips into his characters to make them bring his world to life.
Chris Evans appears to play his usual generic action hero. In fact, for a good half hour or so, it looks like that’s all he’s going to shape up to be. But Joon-Ho takes a massive turn at a pivotal point that flips the traditional protagonist on its head, turning Evans into a human being rather than another John McClane after Die Hard 1. He’s given the difficult choice between holding the villainous Tilda Swinton hostage, and saving Edgar, a man who is like a son to him. He subverts all tropes, here, and chooses to keep Swinton as a hostage, thereby killing his friend. It’s a devastating choice, but there are real, positive consequences to his actions. Taking Swinton gives him a valuable bargaining chip that he uses to prevent the rest of the men, women and children from getting decimated.
Later, many of his fellow caboose-dwellers do get wiped out, and in a fit of genuine rage, murders Swinton without a second thought. Again, Joon-Ho is writing a human being rather than an action hero; a man who, like all of us, lets his emotions get the best of him sometimes, but knows where his priorities lie. All of this leads up to Evans’ final heroic moment. In any other movie, you could’ve seen it coming. Of course the big hero guy has to make a sacrifice for the greater good. But his previous decisions are so fascinating and understandable that it makes his heroic gesture infinitely more satisfying, spelling the perfect end to an imperfect man. I could go on all day about the various character details that make the movie so much more than the sum of its parts but we have four more movies to get to, neither you nor I have time for that.,
April 7: American Psycho (Netflix)
All I knew before watching American Psycho is that Christian Bale plays a psycho killer and that the ending has everyone confused. I was really hoping to be in the tiny camp of people who weren’t confused, but alas, I’m not as smart as I thought. Apparently neither is the screenwriter, though, since he’s gone on record saying that he isn’t a huge fan of the ending.
American Psycho is actually a hilarious satire of corporate America? I think? The “do you like Huey Lewis and the News?” scene had me dying, as well as every other scene where Christian Bale goes all out in giving the silliest and most over the top performance of his career. Well, save for the Batman movies but those weren’t actually supposed to be funny. So American Psycho is a strange critique of how all white people look the same and have generic names? Or maybe it’s a traditional slasher with a vague comedy twist? I honestly have no clue what to make of it, but I enjoyed the hell out of the ride.
April 8: The Death of Stalin (Netflix)
How is this the worst movie I saw this week? The calibre of movies I’ve seen is off the charts these past 7 days, and it’s giving me shitty movie withdrawal. I’m doing a Harmony Korine marathon next week, so I might get my fix of crap if I end up hating the guy.
The Death of Stalin is a historical comedy that gives us insight into the political turmoil that followed the eponymous event. It’s a bold idea for a movie, and it does a good job of never making light of the fact that literally millions of people died at the hands of some of our main characters. My only issues come when scenes devolve into “look at Steve Buscemi, he’s a super serious Russian politician but he’s doing a silly!”, which it does infrequently but enough to be bothersome. Jason Isaacs shows up about halfway through and steals every scene he’s in. There’s something about that dude that’s so captivating, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Anyway, watch this one if you want to see mass murderers bumble around and negotiate power dynamics like they’re discussing who really won that Bridge game last night.
April 10: Arrival (Amazon Prime Video)
I’m running out of positive words. How many different ways can I say I love something, or that something is great? I haven’t used a negative word in two weeks, and my outlook on life has started to change. Everything is bright and colourful. I’m friendlier. I donated to the Humane Society last week. This is awful. For this review I will exclusively be using negative vocabulary sarcastically to regain my sanity.
Arrival is “so awful”. Denis Villeneuve has “no clue” how to direct a movie, and has the talent of a “donkey standing under a window for shade”. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner “ruin” the movie, and give “stiff” performances. The movie involves a “lazy” twist in which Amy Adams receives an idea that has no inception which creates a “mind numbing”, “purposeless” paradox.
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April 12: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Netflix)
Noah Baumbach continues dealing with his daddy issues with The Meyerowitz Stories, a movie about Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller trying to reconcile with the fact that their father kinda sucked. The now disgraced Dustin Hoffman plays their pa, and it’s ironically revealed that he did nothing about a friend of his sexually assaulting his daughter as a child. Other than some awkwardness surrounding Hoffman being a major creep, TMS is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from another Noah Baumbach movie, and I mean that in the best way possible. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but like every Baumbach movie, you get sucked into watching these characters and you never want to leave. It’s not as good as Frances Ha or The Squid and the Whale, but it’s funny and features a rare great performance from Adam Sandler, which makes it worth watching by itself.
It’s a good week. No, it’s a great week. Next week will be far, far less great. Full disclosure, I’m writing this after having seen a handful of Harmony Korine movies and I am less than impressed. I’m so excited to finally be able to shit all over movies, but y’all will have to wait a little bit, sorry! Shoutout to Disney for continuing to succeed in taking over the world.