I know that all of you have been praying for my situation, and a few days ago, our prayers were answered. The Irishman is playing in Montreal. It’s a gosh darn miracle. Marriage Story is playing here, too. Every angry bone in my body has fled, for the universe is a kind place. Oh, and I watched some movies this week, but who cares about those.
Nov 9: Project X (Netflix)
Look, it’s not a good movie. But to sit there and play a game on my computer while I half-watch people party for 88 minutes makes me feel like I’m half-at a party, so I endured. Ok, Project X is awful, but also kind of fun. It’s not good, it’s not, but Miles Teller plays Miles Teller in it. It’s a bad movie, but I might find a couple characters entertaining. Alright, there are a couple of scenes that genuinely made me laugh, but the movie sucks. I hate Project X, but it does the found footage style better than most movies. Project X is the worst movie of all time, but it’s literally perfect.
Nov 11: The Mortician of Manila and Beastmode: A Social Experiment (Theatre at Concordia)
I’m reviewing a couple documentaries for the McGill Tribune this week. You’ll be able to find my article on the Tribune website on Tuesday, but this review is available right now!
Each of these documentaries is a different depiction of the current crisis in the Philippines following the election of Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. The Mortician of Manila is a short film focused on a 24-hour funeral parlour run by a pro-Duterte man named Orly, and the horribly depressing goings on of his business. The morbid matter-of-fact manner in which he treats the customers, many of them mourning their sons or daughters who were killed by police for drug related crimes, make this film a terrifying view of the Philippines.
The second film, Beastmode, takes itself far less seriously, and yet paints an even darker picture of the country. It’s a film about violence and how the public tends to consume it as entertainment rather than address it genuinely, either a symptom or the cause of the ongoing unrest within the Philippines. I don’t like to throw around the word “important,” but both of these documentaries are a fantastic way to understand the crisis on a more personal level, making them incredibly important whether you’re already knowledgeable on the subject or not.
Nov 12: Boogie Nights (Amazon Prime but actually it’s Starz)
My roommates definitely thought I was watching porn late at night on the TV in the living room. And, to be fair, I literally was. Boogie Nights follows the rise and fall of Dirk Diggler, a young, up-and-cumming pornstar navigating his way through the cocaine-fuelled late 70s and early 80s. It’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s take on the classic rise and fall story, and that means fantastic characters intertwined in the most satisfying ways. Almost the entire cast of Magnolia is here for its predecessor, though all of them are playing such vastly different characters that they’re nearly unrecognizable.
Boogie Nights is by far PTA’s funniest movie, and I’d even go as far as to call it a comedy, but what PTA always excels at is blending tones seamlessly. About half an hour near the end of Boogie Nights is reserved for the brutal rock bottom each of our characters face, and the film feels more akin to Requiem for a Dream. Okay, yikes, it’s not that frenzied and upsetting, but it’s still pretty rough to watch. Interspersed within the more comedic sections, though, are hints at a far darker world hiding just below the whimsical wonders of pornstardom. William H. Macy is the subject of a hilarious running gag in which he keeps finding his wife having sex with other men, and his dejected look every time is hilariously sad. I won’t spoil what happens with that gag, but let’s just say PTA knows how to flip your laughter on its head, much like he does with 2017’s Phantom Thread.
PTA is a genius, and Magnolia has recently usurped Blade Runner 2049 on my top 5 list. Will he dethrone Denis Villeneuve himself? Well, first I have to have seen all of his films, and I’m missing The Master and Hard Eight. I’ll be back with my verdict once I’ve seen those, and I gotta say, I don’t think it’s looking great for my friend Denis.
Nov 13: Insomnia (Amazon Prime but actually it’s Starz)
Christopher Nolan could have made this into something great if he’d made it today. As it is, though, Insomnia is a mediocre mystery/character study featuring a sleepy, out of place performance from Al Pacino. It came out in 2002, and while I expected a Nolan film to transcend that early-2000s feel, it unfortunately embodies a fair amount of it. Pacino plays a detective sent to a tiny town in Alaska where a vicious, methodical murder has taken place. Him and his partner, as well as a local cop played by a version of Hilary Swank who has never acted in her life, attempt to hunt down the killer. They track him to a cabin where a fog-covered chase ensues, and Al Pacino shoots and kills his partner in the confusion. The only witness is the killer himself, who then taunts Pacino with mysterious phone calls, and Pacino blames the shooting on the murderer. Robin Williams plays the murderer, and almost single-handedly carries Insomnia; this movie is far less intriguing without his performance.
There are two things in particular that bother me about Insomnia, other than the subpar performances. First, Hilary Swank’s character consistently makes awful decisions, leading to her character becoming a mere device to redeem Pacino. At the end of the movie, she’s going to visit Robin Williams to pick up some letters between himself and the victim, and since he’s not even a suspect at this point, she goes alone. First boneheaded move, and one of my least favourite film tropes. Cops go everywhere with a partner, especially when going to the middle of nowhere to visit a man they don’t know. Then a bunch of fighting happens, Pacino comes to save Swank and he ends up getting shot. She’s furious at Pacino because she recently discovered evidence that he killed his partner, and… you know, he’s literally a criminal? But as he’s laying there, presumably dying, she says that she’s willing to throw the evidence away for him but he makes her keep it, saying it’s time for him to face his mistakes. So Swank has spent the entire movie investigating this shooting, finds out it was perpetrated by the detective she met a few days ago, and is for some reason more than willing to destroy evidence, an incredibly illegal act, just because she sees that Pacino is willing to admit to his misdeeds. That’s bad writing that Nolan surely would have amended today. I know he didn’t write this movie, but he still would’ve changed it.
The second problem I have is strange and frustrating: If Pacino didn’t have insomnia, this movie doesn’t change a single bit. At the end, there’s a brief brawl between him and the killer, and he holds his own despite having gone six entire days without sleep. He hallucinates once after a day or two, but he never does again. “At about 4 to 5 days without sleep, expect extreme irritability, hallucinations, and delusional episodes,” says the first result on Google regarding extended periods without sleep. Pacino’s mental health never really falters; he continues to be hot-headed and prone to angry outbursts like he was before, without much of a sense that he’s deteriorated. Naming this movie Insomnia draws attention to how little that aspect of the film actually affects the overall plot, and how inaccurate it all is. Considering Nolan is known for the absurd research and accuracy of his films, it’s crazy to see how little care went into so much of Insomnia. And this is after the fantastic Memento! What an odd mark on an otherwise incredible career. Oh, and Interstellar. Fuck Interstellar.
Shoutout to Edward Snowden. Is there a reason we don’t consider him some kind of American hero? He didn’t just risk the life he had, he knew full well what would happen when he blew the whistle, and he did it anyway to make sure the American people knew what their government was doing behind their backs. It’s an entirely selfless act, and despite there being multiple movies made about the incident, I feel like we’ve collectively forgotten what this man did for the citizens of his country.
Also, shoutout to Deontay Wilder.