It’s a short week, but I wrote a lot to compensate. Two movies, a play, and a dash of love are included in this week’s post.
Oct 13: The Flick (Crow’s Theatre)
It’s pretty fitting that the first play I’ve reviewed here is one that revolves around a movie theatre and an encyclopedic film nerd. The Flick is the incredibly mundane tale of the minimum wage workers at an independent, failing movie theatre, and their struggles in navigating loneliness, love, and connecting Macauley Culkin to Michael Caine within 6 degrees of separation. They solve it in the play but I found my own path: Culkin to Joe Pesci in Home Alone, Pesci to Robert De Niro in Goodfellas, De Niro to Anne Hathaway in The Intern, Hathaway to Michael Caine in The Dark Knight Rises. Easy.
The Flick goes on for over three hours, and much of that time is spent simply watching the three characters go about their routine: sweeping floors, tossing out gross old food, and sitting in silence, stewing in poor decisions. It’s a bold choice that would surely alienate an entire audience if the play were not written as well as it is. The quiet moments add a distinct sense of realism, an aura that’s aided by a set that recreates exactly what a filthy theatre feels like. There isn’t much of a plot per se since it’s an extremely character-driven play, but I did feel the narrative wrapped up in a suitably bittersweet and tense moment. Then the play went on for another 20 minutes, and fizzled out rather than ending with a bang. I have no problem with lengthy productions, what I do have a problem with is any piece of entertainment outstaying its welcome, especially when a perfect ending is already there. It puts a damper on an otherwise great play, but doesn’t take away from the fact that The Flick is one of the better plays I’ve seen in my life, and definitely better than a student play I saw this week. Yikes.
Oct 14: Her (random streaming site)
I really hope the near-future reality of Her never comes true. It’s my worst nightmare. I wouldn’t be able to make it, I don’t think. I mean, a world where creepy, bushy moustaches are the new big style? Joaquin Phoenix and Chris Pratt both flaunting theirs around, implicitly mocking anyone who can’t grow one as creepy as theirs? I wouldn’t last a day with my perpetually mid-pubescent upper lip region.
I’m totally cool with fucking my phone, though, that part sounds sick.
Her is a love story between a man, Joaquin Phoenix, and his Siri-adjacent computer AI, Scarlett Johanssen. In the context of the movie, it’s not even that weird, and Jonze does a great job of justifying and normalizing this absurd relationship. In The Shape of Water, a woman fucks a big fish man. This is obviously insane, and I’m sure Guillermo Del Toro knows that, so he, too, attempts to get the audience on his side using Octavia Spencer’s character, who cheers Sally Hawkins on as fish-boy’s genital slot opens up for a real, sentient woman. Spencer only serves to make an already insane plot even more absurd and uncomfortable. In Her, Jonze uses the same type of character in a far more effective way: Amy Adams plays Phoenix’s good friend, and she encourages his sexual relationship with his non-human companion, exactly like Spencer. The difference is that she’s got her own AI who she has become close pals with, which makes her acceptance of a somewhat taboo behaviour much more understandable, and puts the audience on their side. When we see Rooney Mara’s character chastising and belittling Phoenix for his odd relationship, we as an audience could never agree with her since we’ve seen the genuine connection between the man and his love machine. In The Shape of Water, we see absolutely no signs of love or even any connection that goes beyond master and pet. It’s gross. She fucks a fish! Anyway, this review is about Her.
I like Her a lot. It’s a beautiful looking film about a love that transcends traditional rules, and it does so without ever being saccharine or boring. The performances are fantastic, especially considering the disconnect of Phoenix and Johanssen not actually being together physically. Jonze has experience with people acting with people who aren’t in the room with them, though: Adaptation had Nicolas Cage talking to himself, and Being John Malkovich had Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich. He’s an extremely talented director, I just wish he’d make some more damn movies!
Oct 16: Mindhunter (Netflix)
Mindhunter is one of the finest crime shows of all time. I can’t say the best, since I haven’t seen The Wire or any season other than the first of Fargo, but there’s no way Mindhunter isn’t way up there. What sets it so far apart from the generic procedurals you see on network TV all the time is the fact that Mindhunter puts its characters before the cases. There are plenty of episodes of Mindhunter where there isn’t a case at all, it’s simply Holden and Bill interviewing killers or dealing with things in their personal lives. When there actually is a case, they’re the most enthralling and fascinatingly morbid situations, and the procedure is handled in what seems to be the most realistic way possible. [Spoilers] The glacial pace of solving the Atlanta murders in season 2 due to all the administrative work paired with maintaining a positive public perception is an element of cop shows that’s seldom seen. That’s most likely because it takes only the most talented writers, actors, and directors to make those aspects interesting, and Mindhunter somehow excels at that as much as it does everything else.
Unlike season 1, the second season primarily focuses on a single, major case in Atlanta. While there are plenty of shows that follow the case-per-season formula, Mindhunter changes it up drastically. The Atlanta case isn’t introduced in the first episode, nor in the second. Instead, it’s brought up as what appears to be a B-plot in the third episode, something Holden would try to figure out on the side. And for a couple of episodes, it’s just that. Slowly, deliberately, the urgency of the case grows larger and larger, and finally, the FBI are officially called in to help. This changes the entire structure of the show, with each subsequent episode focusing almost entirely on this case. It sneaks up on you, because it snuck up on the characters. They had no clue this would get so big, and we were none the wiser. It’s brilliant that Mindhunter can change itself over the course of a season and maintain its ridiculously high quality throughout the transition. Even if you’re not a fan of serial killer related entertainment, you owe it to yourself to check out the entirety of Mindhunter.
I only saw a couple movies this week, but I have some good excuses. First, I was finishing Mindhunter, which as I said a couple weeks ago, is very time consuming. Second, I started playing a game called Disco Elysium, and it’s absolutely wonderful so far. You’re playing as a depressed, alcoholic detective who has to solve a murder in the midst of a massive strike by the workers’ union that effectively runs the fictional country of Revachol, causing a stir in the already unstable and poor society. It’s depressing, hilarious, and artistically beautiful. It’s pretty much just a really, really long book with interactive pictures, and I highly recommend it.
This week’s shoutout goes to the Fermi Paradox. We can’t be alone, can we?