For the first time in months, I saw 7 movies in a week. This made it difficult to put together prior to Thanksgiving, so instead I’ve released it on a Wednesday, the second best day for blog posts according to respected statisticians. Here are my slightly statistically inferior reviews.
Oct 5: Training Day (Netflix)
It’s a clash of cultures, or so it seems. Ethan Hawke has been working on getting a spot on Denzel Washington’s police squad, and ultimately wishes to make detective. Hawke’s first day on the job with Washington starts off with a hostile and antagonistic conversation over coffee, and only gets nastier from there. Washington’s unorthodox methods of police justice appears, at first, to be just that: unorthodox, not necessarily malicious. But skirting protocol quickly descends into moral ambiguity, and that ambiguity disappears as Washington’s unlawful deeds become more and more deplorable, and a good ol’ battle between good and evil ensues. Strong, well established characters make it more than acceptable to have an all out, brutal fight ensue at the end, a final standoff between lawfulness and corruption. The black and white nature of the characters’ conflict brings to the forefront issues of gross police behaviour as a scourge on American society, and that message has never been as clear as it is today. Training Day is a snapshot of America that extends past when it was made nearly 20 years ago, and holds up today as an important, gritty, and most of all entertaining piece of cinema.
Oct 6: Joker (Theatre)
There’s a bit of smaller, more traditional stuff I didn’t get to say in my Examination of Joker, so I thought I’d give it the What’s Joey Been Watching? treatment even though I’ve already said plenty.
I mentioned in my review of Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot that editing is an aspect of film I seldom notice unless it’s fantastic or terrible. The same goes for lighting, and I found the lighting to be particularly spectacular in Joker. The colour palette adds authenticity and personality to the time period, and combined with the lighting, it makes for a beautiful looking movie. Add in some wonderful cinematography, and Joker may be one of the most visually appealing films of the year.
Something minor but consequential about Joker I really appreciated is its use of pathos. More often than not, pathos is done by people who don’t understand how to use it, and it ends up ruining a scene or even an entire movie, in the case of Black Panther. Joker utilizes it to create an extremely jarring juxtaposition between Fleck’s violent crimes and his delusional mindset of his life being a comedy. When Fleck murders the clown who set him up with the gun, we’re allowed to stew in morbidity for just a few moments before we’re laughing as Fleck has to open the door for a little person who can’t reach the lock. Following Fleck’s live TV murder, the audience sentiment is that of shock, but only for a handful of moments before Fleck is abruptly and comically cut off before he can reveal his crazed manifesto to the world. In the final, cryptic scene, we see Fleck in a mental institution, blood on his shoes, running away from a guard in such a way that the Benny Hill theme would be more than welcome. Once Fleck himself realises his life is a comedy, every serious scene is intentionally undercut with a joke, and Joker strikes the perfect balance between making a subtle point and not ruining its darker moments.
Oct 8: Hot Summer Nights (Netflix)
I told Vic, I said, Vic, it’s been too long since I’ve seen a terrible movie. I spotted something on Netflix called Hot Summer Nights, it stars Timothée Chalomet and Maika Monroe, I know nothing about it, and it looks awful. We should watch it. And guess what? My instincts have never been wrong. Hot Summer Nights is a hot mess.
I know what it’s trying to be. Hot Summer Nights wants so bad to be the coolest kid on the block, but tries way too hard and only ends up getting made fun of. Hot Summer Nights is a loser, but doesn’t have the social awareness necessary to realise it for themselves. The movie clearly thinks Timothée is playing some kind of badass who becomes an ambitious drug dealer, when in reality the movie fails to ever establish a consistent personality for him, leading to moments in which we see him awkwardly stumble over every word while with a cute girl, and then it immediately cuts to him being all suave and “cool” around some intimidating drug dealers. I can’t care about a character who is never treated like he’s a real character, so when shit hit the fan in the most predictable way possible, I was tuned out already.
That’s not to say this wasn’t a great bad movie, though. Timothée gives an embarrassing performance that I’m sure he’s gonna try to scrub off the face of the earth as he gets more famous, and Maika Monroe is, well, you know how I feel about her from my Baby Driver review. The fact that Hot Summer Nights wants so bad to be part of the cool movie gang makes it a fantastic target for ridicule, and I don’t even feel bad about it like I would if it were just entirely incompetent. Don’t check this one out unless you feel like a nice evening of film bullying.
Oct 9: Memories of Murder (Prime Video)
In preparation for Bong Joon-Ho’s new movie, Parasite, I’m finally getting around to seeing the rest of his filmography. Despite Prime Video claiming Memories of Murder came out in 2017, it actually came out in 2003, and is one of Bong Joon-Ho’s earlier works. It’s effectively the Korean version of David Fincher’s Zodiac, albeit with a fair bit more police misconduct and illegal imprisonment akin to Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, enough to make me think it must have inspired the brutal treatment of Paul Dano’s character. Memories of Murder follows three fictionalized detectives as they attempt to solve a string of real life gruesome murders in rural South Korea, an area that has never seen anything even close to as horrible as a serial killer. The inexperience in the detectives is apparent, in that they latch onto any “evidence” they find, and each suspect they bring in is immediately assumed to be the culprit and is treated accordingly, that is to say, with extreme brutality. As usual, the character work is incredible, and each new murder brings out the worst in each of our protagonists.
While I don’t want to start ranking Bong Joon-Ho’s work just yet, I can safely say this is near the top. It’s the most grounded and uncomfortable work I’ve seen of his, and despite it being earlier in his career, Memories of Murder shows an unparalleled understanding of character and natural plot progression.
Oct 9: Moneyball (Prime Video)
Moneyball is a baseball nerd’s wet dream. Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, who takes a sport that some people already consider tedious and analyzes the endless statistics available, combines it with economics, and voila, you have the recipe for most boring movie of all time if you’re not a diehard fan of America’s national pastime. But with a script from Aaron Sorkin and a great performance from Brad Pitt, there’s no doubt Moneyball can win over even the most anti-MLB moviegoers. I went in with the expectation that Moneyball was about the groundbreaking new strategy Billy Beane and Peter Brand created and attempted to implement, and while that is one of the focal points of the movie, it presents itself as more of a Billy Beane biopic than anything else. The fact that we end the movie with an emotional moment for Beane and his daughter rather than him being victorious in his managerial endeavours really accentuates the fact that Beane is the real reason this movie was written, and all the baseball stuff is just complementing Beane’s arc.
Moneyball is never boring, though I did have to turn it off for a while for the most ironic reason possible: there was an important real baseball game going on that I had to see the end of. It was worth it, seeing Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam to essentially finish the Dodgers’ season was fantastic. Sorry, Dodgers fans, maybe next year.
Oct 11: The Game (random streaming site)
The Game is Fincher’s most insane movie. It’s off the walls madness from start to finish, and Michael Douglas makes the whole ride so much fun. Douglas is an insanely rich but lonely businessman who gets a giftcard from his brother, Sean Penn, to a suspicious yet intriguing company that promises a specialized “game” for each customer. While hesitant at first, he decides to finally spice up his monotonous life and signs himself up. Immediately, strange things start to happen, and strange quickly becomes dangerous. Let’s get into spoilers now, since I’m having trouble dancing around what makes this movie such a classic Fincher masterpiece: The Game is, well, just that in the end. It’s a game. All the insanity was part of an elaborate game, and he was never in any real danger. Every move he made to get away from these people was predicted and/or improvised by talented actors, making sure he went where he needed to at the right time. And after all that, after his life is upended by a supposedly criminal company, he thanks his brother for doing it, because he finally acknowledged that he needed something new and exciting in his dull, empty life.
What’s so brilliant about this ending is how obvious the movie makes it, and yet you never, ever could have suspected it. First of all, the movie is literally called The Game, of course it’s a game, but it’s tough to keep that in mind when it appears to go so much further than a simple and innocent recreational event. Second, Douglas is told exactly what the company does at the beginning of the movie, but both he and the audience are so overwhelmed with confounding information that we forget that sometimes, the correct answer is the simplest one.
Oct 11: Between Two Ferns: The Movie (Netflix)
BTF:TM is effectively just a bunch of short episodes of Between Two Ferns with some scenes parodying road trip movies interspersed. And since Between Two Ferns is pretty damn funny, somehow the movie works! It’s 82 minutes of nonstop jokes and cameos; it knows exactly what it is and embraces the absurdity of making a full movie out of an interview segment.
Shoutout to the film Training Day, it’s a movie I saw this week, maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s good, maybe I’ll talk about it some day.