It’s a week. Six movies, one TV show. I caught up. This is cause for celebration. Hooray!
Sept 9: Dazed and Confused (Netflix)
I wonder who Richard Linklater’s character is in this. I mean, you don’t make a movie about high school kids during the summer of ‘76 if you’re not gonna insert an homage to yourself, right? So is he one of the over-the-top asshole jocks? Or maybe he’s the cool younger kid who gets his ass whooped and earns the big kids’ respect? Or he could be the nerdy guy who constantly criticizes all the students who party but still shows up to all of them?
Dazed and Confused is a nice, fun movie. It starts off with some absurd hazing tomfoolery, but eventually becomes an honest look at what it was like to be a teen during the ‘70s in Texas. If you were white, of course.
August 25: Border (Netflix)
very ugly Swedish doing sex on each other
Wait, shit, this isn’t google. But I found this movie called Border? And it ended up being really good! Not because I’m into that kind of stuff. No, it’s just a really well made movie. I swear, I really liked, uh, the cinematography and stuff. And the story, and the characters, and the hermaphrodite sex, and the plot that goes absolutely batshit insane, and the deformed babies, and I especially liked the border patrolling. Yep, that was the best part. No further questions, please.
August 27: It (Crave)
I thought we were past this. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Ari Aster, Robert Eggers, and Jordan Peele these past couple years, but my standards for horror have been raised significantly. Movies like It just aren’t acceptable anymore. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, people adored this unruly mess and made it the highest grossing horror movie of all time, and then went to see the sequel these past couple weeks.
It features a surprisingly talented cast completely wasted on painfully boring scenes that follow the exact same formula each time: Kid walks slowly and cautiously into [insert location here]. Kid is scared by [insert laughable CGI monster here]. Kid runs away. Rinse, repeat. Sometimes there’s more than one kid. Sometimes they walk slowly but not cautiously. Sometimes they walk cautiously, but not particularly slow. It doesn’t matter. It’s the same monotonous crap for well over two hours, with some admittedly decent character moments interspersed, making it all the more frustrating to have absolutely nothing happening during 95% of the movie.
What makes this “horror” movie even more egregious, though, is the fact that Pennywise the Dancing Clown doesn’t make any goddamn sense. He mentions that kids taste better when they’re scared, and I guess he wants to scare them enough to make them taste as good as possible. But my god, could Pennywise be any stupider? He never eats any kids! He barely even harms any of them! All the moron does is give them the heebie jeebies, all while allowing them to rally against him! Instead of intercutting the adult bits with the kid bits like in the original book, director Andy Muschietti decided to do a different movie for each time period, which completely ruins any narrative stakes. The first film is completely useless on its own, and there is absolutely no justification for making these two separate and incredibly long movies. I have no plans for seeing the sequel, and you shouldn’t either. It is boring, shallow, and worst of all, not scary for a single second.
August something?: 22 Jump Street (Netflix)
A movie like this deserves better than me forgetting it for over a month.
A few movies I’ve talked about recently share the same issue: They criticize tropes, and yet adhere to them under the guise of irony, making them hypocritical rather than critical. That’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, that’s Kick-Ass, but it is absolutely not 22 Jump Street. 21 Jump Street was both a criticism of tired and unnecessary remakes and a fantastic remake in itself, with a hilarious spin on the traditional buddy-cop genre. 22 Jump Street knows that it mined all the humour it could out of remakes, and sets itself up perfectly to make fun of unnecessary sequels instead, and makes sure that it’s still a great sequel. Upping the stakes and introducing fun new characters, 22 Jump Street does everything a sequel should do, and manages to be a witty satire on top of that. It’s so difficult to strike that balance, but 22 Jump Street manages it brilliantly. That end credits sequence remains and most likely will remain the funniest epilogue of all time, and ends this perfectly brief series in the most apt way possible.
Sept 16: Undone (Prime Video)
Once again, I’m writing a full review for my university paper, so I won’t be saying all that much in this blog, but I’ll post it here for you to read once it comes out. You can find my full Birds of Passage review here: http://www.mcgilltribune.com/a-e/birds-of-passage-is-a-disappointing-misrepresentation-of-wayuu-culture-091619/.
Undone, from the creators of Bojack Horseman, is a quick little animated story of mental illness and family. Oh, and time travel. Alma, a young-but-going-on-not-so-young woman, is lost in the world, stuck in an enjoyable but dead-end job, and hoping that the universe has something more to offer. Following a car accident, she begins to see her late father, and he begins to teach her how to manipulate time, eventually instructing her to solve his own murder that happened when she was a child. What appears to be a sci-fi mystery is actually an intimate character study, delving deep into Alma’s psyche and how she sees the world. The question of whether she’s schizophrenic or truly a time traveler is constantly lurking in the corner, and is ambiguous enough to allow for valid theories either way (though it’s clear to me that one of those possibilities is far more likely than the other).
The animation blends rotoscope animation, where animators paint over real actors, and original paintings for many of the setpieces, making Undone both beautiful and somewhat uncomfortable to look at. It’s the perfect way to convey the story that’s being told, constantly shifting between realism and wacky time hijinks. Undone isn’t on the level of Bojack, but still manages to stand out from the massive influx of new TV with its unique depiction of mental illness (or time travel?) and the complement of a strangely endearing art style.
Sept 17: In Bruges (Prime Video)
I can’t believe this is my first time reviewing In Bruges. It’s my 5th viewing of this masterpiece, and I only saw it for the first time during the summer of 2018. That means I was seeing it nearly once a month until the beginning of this year. Like all the films in my top 5 (no particular order: Drive, Airplane!, Fargo, In Bruges, Blade Runner 2049 [although I’d put Blade Runner 2049 as #5, it’s not as perfect as the other four, and it’s possible that Ex Machina could replace it if I wanted it to?]), In Bruges is perfect. Flawless. Entirely genius.
Colin Farrell, despite having been in so much garbage in his career, can do no wrong. When you’re as brilliant as he is in In Bruges, there is not a single movie that could tarnish my view of this man. No, not even The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Farrell and Brandon Gleeson are a match made in heaven, a buddy-assassin duo who do far, far more strolling around Bruges than they do assassinating. Then Ralph Fiennes shows up and somehow makes the character dynamic even better, and proves he can do no wrong either (though he’s been in much less garbage).
How does Martin McDonagh make me absolutely adore a character who murdered a priest and (accidentally) a little boy? McDonagh is a masterful writer, who knows exactly how to create characters who are terminally flawed, yet understandable enough to love them. This could have just been a fluke, but then he does it again in 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: My entire time in the theatre was spent wondering how he was going to redeem Sam Rockwell’s character, and just when I’d deemed the feat impossible, he goes and makes me love him. McDonagh is the Anti-Hero Whisperer.
Great plot, too.
Sept 20: About Time (Netflix)
I just spent a little while talking about incredible characters and writing, and a few words about plot. Now, let’s take what we just talked about and strip it all out of a movie and see what we get. What’s that? A movie needs characters and a plot? But Saw has a great plot and bad characters, and nearly every Noah Baumbach movie has great characters and no plot! So, I suppose, a movie needs to at the very least have one or the other, that makes sense. About Time tests this theory.
I think we can promote our theory to a law.
About Time is as close as you can get to – and I don’t like using this word here – an objectively terrible movie. There are filmmaking rules that can be broken: The three act structure, the rule of thirds, even the 180 rule can be broken if you want to disorient the audience on purpose. But to think that it’s possible to write a movie where every character is flawless and every conflict is solved within five minutes is braindead filmmaking. About Time begins with Domhnall Gleeson, an average looking and lonely young dude, finding out he can travel back in time. The first thing he wants to do is use it to get a girlfriend. Well, it takes about half an hour for that to work, and all of a sudden him and Rachel McAdams are happily in love. Before meeting her he was somewhat awkward, and after meeting her he becomes less awkward. That’s the extent of the character development About Time allows. The next hour and a half of the movie is spent following these characters we don’t care about anymore solving issues that become non-issues within minutes due to time travel shenanigans, and I’m trying to tune it all out, wondering how a crappy, generic half hour short film is being dragged kicking and screaming into over two hours before my very eyes.
I watched this one at my friend Vic’s recommendation, and about 45 minutes in I started to guess what the conflict would be, because it had yet to show itself. My first guess was that Gleeson would accidentally go back in time way too far and have to get her to fall in love all over again. My second guess was that Gleeson would let slip that he could time travel, and his father would become the villain and try to break them up since she knows too much. My third desperate plea for anything to make me care about this abomination was that maybe he would realise he’d abused his time travel power and Rachel McAdams would be better off with the guy she was with before he put the kibosh on it, and go back to right his wrongs. I’m so silly for thinking this movie wouldn’t let me down at every opportunity.
I can’t even appreciate Bill Nighy’s great performance as Gleeson’s father. In a movie that doesn’t fucking suck, he’d have been a great character, but in this one, he’s wasted, trying to inject a hint of emotion into a world I’ve been given no reason to give a damn about.
I’d love to say that I’m adding a movie to my top 5 worst movies list right after watching a top 5 best entry, but I just can’t dethrone the likes of Downsizing, Up in the Air, That’s My Boy, Death Note, and Spring Breakers. It brings me great pain to see those titles all together like that. But I do hate About Time a whole lot, I think I made that pretty clear.
Okay, looks like this one’s gonna be exactly 2000 words this time. I screwed it up a few weeks ago, but I’m gonna nail it. This week’s shoutout goes to the guy preaching insane Jesus ramblings outside McGill yesterday. I stayed and listened for nearly an hour; am I okay? He was saying horrible stuff, but he got a decent crowd and we were all laughing and jeering, it was oddly fun.
Word count: 2065