We’ve got some catching up to do. You know what’s not gonna help? Incredibly long reviews of movies I’ve already reviewed. But here we are. We have a mix of reviews and more analysis-like segments today, harkening back to my old posts where I wrote far too much and forgot that people should actually enjoy reading this blog. So, uh… enjoy! I saw 3 movies and a TV show during this randomly selected time period that happened to be under 2000 words, and have at least a little to say about all of them, so here they are:
July 29: Snowpiercer (Netflix)
Okay, I’ve already reviewed this movie, so I need to find something specific to focus on rather than simply review it again. You already know I love Snowpiercer, and watching it for a 4th time certainly hasn’t changed my thoughts. Last time we discussed how amazing Chris Evans’ character Curtis is, so this time let’s talk about a pair of characters: Wilford and Gilliam, “The Head” and “The Shoe”. Gilliam warns Curtis: “…Don’t let Wilford talk. Cut out his tongue.” It’s a rare show of violence from such a peaceful man, an ancient man who lopped off his own limbs to provide sustenance for the starving. Who is Gilliam, really? Wilford claims that they are old friends and agreed to run the train from end to end, from Shoe to Head, from Tail to Front. He says he was in on it the entire time, but Curtis got too far and Gilliam had to “pay the price” with his life. He says that Gilliam knew that fear and death were necessary.
If we’re to believe Gilliam, this is all a lie. A lie to what end, though? Isolating Curtis makes sense to an extent. Everyone he knew from the Tail except a child is dead, and while he would often turn to Gilliam’s wisdom, even from the dead, ruining his mentor’s reputation would make him more alone than ever, and far more willing to become the new Conductor. “Have you ever been alone on this train? When was the last time you were alone? Can’t remember, can you. So please do take your time,” says Wilford. He’s using loneliness as incentive. It doesn’t matter, though, Wilford. Curtis made his mistakes already, and regardless of whether Gilliam did too, it’s in the past, and they took their chances at redemption. Gilliam gave his limbs and his life. Curtis closes the cycle, offering his arm and his life, and in doing so, saves what may be the last two people left on the planet. And what’s Wilford doing during all this? Finishing his steak. “Nice,” he says, as he’s engulfed in flames unceremoniously. Give and take; Gilliam understood that when Wilford didn’t. All he did was take as he left the giving to those who have none, and he dies never realising that the balance he created was the undoing of his life’s work, which to him, was far more important than his own life.
July 31: Twice Upon a Time in…Hollywood (Theatre)
Violence. That’s the word that made me love, made me absolutely adore, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood. Last week, I said that I didn’t understand the movie and had to see it again because I was positive there was something I was missing. One week after seeing Once Upon a Time, I saw the same movie from a far different perspective, and it revealed its brilliance to me.
Knowing what’s going to happen can often take away from a movie. Some, like The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects, are great even knowing the twist. Some suffer on subsequent viewings, like Donnie Darko and Remember Me. Okay, you got me, I’ve never seen Remember Me, but the end of that movie is so hilarious and over the top for a romance that I can’t help but mention it. Once Upon a Time is a special kind of movie, in that knowing what happens at the end puts such a fresh new face on the entire movie that it actually improves the more you see it. You begin to see the movie as a commentary on violence in 1969, violence in Hollywood, and violence in Tarantino movies themselves. The Manson Murders is known as one of the most gruesome and horrible events in American history, and being Tarantino, you pretty much know it’s gonna be as over-the-top as it can possibly get. Instead, every scene that includes Sharon Tate is almost sedated in tone; she parties, she sees a movie of hers, she hangs out with Jay Sebring and Roman Polanski, all while smiling wider than I thought was possible in 1969. Knowing Sharon Tate, you “know” it has to end in tragedy, because when we’re looking at history, everything is predictable. But back in 2009, Tarantino killed Hitler in a hail of gunfire and actual fire. He doesn’t give a shit about historical accuracy, and leverages your knowledge of it to shock you. In Once Upon a Time, though, he doesn’t just shock you: he’s telling you something. He’s telling you that in 1969 Hollywood, there’s a constant sense of entirely unpredictable violence. He’s telling you that in Tarantino movies, films known for consistently brutal violence, he can still make his violence shocking. He lulls you into a false sense of security by barely having a drop of blood spilled in the first two and a half hours, and knowing that you know this story has to end in violence, he pulls the rug out from under you, slaughtering the exact opposite of who you’d expect.
What makes this about violence, however, is the scenes without any of it at all. The juxtaposition of having Sharon Tate, known less for her acting career and more for being murdered, strutting around Hollywood like there’s nowhere she’d rather be, says to me that there’s violence around every single corner of the entertainment capital, but where it actually manifests itself is entirely up to whether you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cliff Booth and Rick (fuckin’) Dalton are fictional characters caught up in a real life event, and we’re not just seeing Hollywood from their perspective, we’re seeing how two people, two people escaping their cycles of violence (Cliff’s wife being [probably?] murdered by him, Dalton’s career rut of playing villains), using everything at their disposal to annihilate who, to them, are just some freaky home invaders from a freaky commune.
Speaking of the commune, let’s talk about what I like to call the Bruce Dern Blue Ball. the longest scene in the film is a slow build of tension as Cliff Booth visits and becomes more and more suspicious of Spahn Ranch, culminating in his attempt to visit George Spahn himself. Squeaky (played by an unrecognizable Dakota Fanning) does everything she can to stop him from seeing the man, making it more and more obvious that something fucked up is happening not just among the community, but to George himself. Cliff Booth is poised for violence. He opens the door, and is surely expecting what the audience is expecting: a dead George Spahn, or worse.
Nah, it’s just Bruce Dern as the old and blind yet sexually active George Spahn.
Sure, the scene ends with Cliff Booth socking Tex in the face a few times, but it’s hardly what we thought we’d be getting considering how much buildup there was, not to mention the fact that the tension had already subsided. In 1969 Hollywood, violence is around the corner, always, just not necessarily where you’d expect. In Tarantino’s ninth film, violence is around the corner, just like always, but he dares you to expect when and how, turning it against you. Which brings us to our visceral climax.
A Chekhov’s Gun, the last thing you’d expect to see in a movie that some complain is a bunch of only loosely related scenes stitched together. The second scene of the movie introduces us to a flamethrower. Another early scene introduces us to a can of dog food. These are our weapons, and this is our violence. Every time violence peeked its head out only for it to run behind a different corner, every time Sharon Tate put her feet up with lurid nonchalance, it’s all in service of one brilliant finale, a culmination of every violence-less moment. Knowing that this sudden insanity is coming is one of the many things that made me love Once Upon a Time so much more a second time. Cliff Booth introduces a metal can to a nose at the speed of a Cy Young winner. Rick Dalton wields his flamethrower and torches a young woman in a swimming pool as she flails around, stabbing the searing air. It’s anarchy, and it’s exactly what you didn’t know you were waiting for. Tarantino knows what you want better than you do. See it twice, see it thrice, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood is Tarantino’s best understanding of his own work he’s ever achieved, and my favourite movie of the year.
Aug 3: While We’re Young (Netflix)
Despite being my least favourite Baumbach, I enjoyed a lot of what While We’re Young has to offer. For one, this is the first Baumbach movie I’ve seen that actually has a plot. Part of the movie feels like a meta-commentary on his career: [Spoilers] it ends up being about Ben Stiller trying to expose a young documentarian (Adam Driver) for manipulating the stories he supposedly came across by coincidence. Noah Baumbach loves to make movies about hyperrealistic characters in a hyperrealistic world, and in the real world, we don’t have plots with beginnings and ends. Movies with plots require a certain suspension of disbelief, and Ben Stiller isn’t willing to suspend his for Driver’s documentary much like Baumbach never attempts to hide his characters behind a plot, allowing them free reign to live their lives how they really would. While We’re Young also employs a fantastic couple plot twists; first, that Adam Driver isn’t making his documentary by the unwritten rules, and second, that nobody cares when Ben Stiller presents the Big Reveal to everyone who he thought would do the movie thing and bring justice to the “villain”. It’s a movie making fun of movies while also having some trademark Baumbach characters. You know what, I think I just convinced myself that I really, really like this movie. Baumbach is too clever.
Aug 7: Crashing (Netflix)
Before Phoebe Waller-Bridge made the brilliant Fleabag, she created, wrote, and starred in Crashing, a show about a bunch of assholes living in an abandoned hospital. It’s only 6 episodes, and we’re introduced in the first to a fun cast of wacky and loveable characters. The next five episodes are spent slowly making you despise each and every one of them, save a few unlucky enough to have met the rest. My god, these people are horrible. Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays the endlessly manipulative childhood friend of Damien Molony, who is madly in love with her. But he’s just kidding. Or is he? He is. But what if he’s not? Well, he’s engaged to someone else, that’s for sure, and his fiancée is being tortured by their joke of a relationship. It’s all pretty hilarious, and the show never tries to convince you that these characters are in any way redeemable. It’s worth watching if you love Fleabag, which I know you already do.
I know, I promised some Lynch last week. I couldn’t give it to you, not because I haven’t written anything, but because I want to keep my posts relatively short for your sake. We’ll catch up eventually, I swear. Just not this week. And probably not next week, either. There’s too much Lynch. Maybe the week after that? Eh, we’ll see. I never promise anything, remember?
This week’s shoutout goes to this sentence right here, the one you’re reading right now, because I’ve edited it in such a way that this post is exactly 2000 words.
Dammit! I went over.