Denouement 2019: Movies

denouement Jan 21, 2020

You’ll be able to tell that I do a terrible job of selling movies, but I hope you trust me when I say that these are good, if not great.


I Was Impressed By

usafactory
American Factory

Growing up I was always fascinated with factory workers (and by extension the Industrial Revolution). They are a large part of society that has become invisible and will start disappearing in the next couple of years due to automation.

In the meantime, this non-fiction film covers the experiences of workers in the great Super Consumer (i.e. USA) and the great Super Producer (i.e. China), as well as the cross-cultural experiences they both have when Chinese-based Fuyao buys an old GM plant. An act that saves some of the Americans from being unemployed, but comes with a few interesting……..quirks.

It is a stark reminder that capitalism in its current implementation is bad. The system itself is amoral, and no, I won’t get into debates about how Marxists see it. But, a good watch.

endgame
Avengers: Endgame

My favorite superhero is Batman, but I have no qualms in saying that I generally enjoy the world of Marvel a lot more. Be it in comic form, video games, TV shows or movies. There’s no amount of superlatives I can use to describe how the movie made me feel.

As a child, I never thought I would see all these superheroes on screen. Even when I went to watch Iron Man in the theater all those years ago, it felt surreal to me.

The last 15-20 minutes of the film had me literally quivering in my seat as I experienced a rush of emotions. I prefer Infinity War as a film, but Endgame served as not only a capstone to some of the best experiences I have had in front of the silver screen but also for better-or-worse an important chapter of my life in more ways than one.

Consumer junk? Probably. But it's junk that brought the final aspect of nerdery to the masses (the others being high-fantasy and science-fantasy).

kkk
BlacKKKlansman

The trailer got me when John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington) said, “With the right white man, you can do anything.” I chuckled, but it is, unfortunately, a harsh reality. Finding humor in despair, yadda-yadda.

It seems to be a dramedy about police in the 1970s, but then it dawns on you that there are people around who hold these antiquated (read: racist) views TODAY.

If anything, it reminded me that America, more than any other place has learned to flexibly ignore the legacy of the pain of black people and other minorities unless it is convenient for someone. The wounds might have healed, but the scars have remained in the form of direct racism and institutional racism.

Erm…go watch it? Okay?

blindspotting
Blindspotting

Gentrification. Noun. The process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste.

But what is middle-class taste? Who defines it? Plus, it often fails to recognize and/or preserve the history and charm of a place.

It also the deuteragonist behind the two leads who do a fantastic job playing friends who both have different experiences based on how they look, but act in ways that people expect from the other. The chemistry between both is palpable, and a large part of it is due to them being real-life best friends.

It can get heavy-handed at times, but this won’t be a time you regret spending.

parasite
Parasite

I went in blind. You should go blind in too. Don’t read about it. Don’t see a trailer. Just watch it. Thank me later. Best movie of 2019.

raisingkratos
Raising Kratos

Sony released a feature-length documentary on the process of making God of War (2018). For free. It’s bonkers. Highly recommended for both fans of the game, and those who don’t know what making video games is like. Gamers, unfortunately, are toxic and throw a lot of hateful words when a game is not received well. Hopefully, it will make you a bit more considerate when people dedicate years of their life to a project. Just as people dedicate years of their life to a relationship…before you go up and tell them that there is someone else.

Also, I would like to highlight how prominent women were in the documentary, and how integral their role was in keeping things on track (and keeping game director Cory Barlog sane). For an industry dominated by men, who are sometimes misogynistic, this was highly refreshing.

Watch it here.

roar
Roar

So one fine in 2019, I had some free time (I had a lot really, I was unemployed). I looked at movies I had wanted to see for a while, and then ROAR popped out at me.

I watched with my mom and my cousin, and we still can’t believe this got made.

I’m going to steal the next lines from Reddit user JiletteBeckPete:

“A movie made with 150 untrained lions and tigers. 71 people were injured. The director caught gangrene. The cinematographer was scalped. An actress fell off of an elephant.”

Oh, and it’s the director’s real-life family. Everyone in this movie except the black guy: is crazy.

The movie itself is bland and terribly placed. But it was oddly mesmerizing. And please look into how it was made, as well as the IMDB trivia page which details all the injuries.

Insanity.

farfromhome
Spider-Man: Far From Home

Peter Parker's latest adventure is a fun, romp that serves as a contrast to the end of the 22-course meal that was Endgame. It's not perfect, but it scratches the itch in all the right ways. The visuals on the big screen were fantastic.

uncutgems
Uncut Gems

To do comedy effectively is a difficult task. Many have tried but only a few people have managed to do so consistently. Doing so requires a keen understanding of your audience, and of society at large. This is why comedic actors often have no problem transitioning to drama (the opposite occurs but far less often).

I usually rag on Adam Sandler for the type of juvenile comedy he produces. I am definitely not his audience anymore, but I can appreciate the fact that his films pay the bills, and usually cover the bills for his friends too (link to interview).

This year, he decided to surprise us with another drama that is right out the gate magnificent, and even better than the already-good Reign Over Me released in 2007.

It is a riveting watch, where you can’t help but root and yet feel repulsed by the main character’s actions. There are not many films that do it well, but Uncut Gems does.

Also, a shout out to Kevin Garnett with a surprisingly good performance!


I Was Disappointed By

fastcolor
Fast Color

I think Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a pretty good actor, and she's gorgeous to boot. After seeing it being recommended on many different blogs, I thought I was going to be in for an interesting time.

It's about a superhero on the run. It's about a country that has not seen rain in 8 years. It's a family drama. It's a slow burner that ultimately goes nowhere. Well-acted though.

joker
Joker

Joaquin Phoenix comes with a great performance (though I vastly prefer him in Her and The Master, the former being one of my favorite films).

In this world, the Joker is a homicidal narcissist who craves attention. And that's it. The movie wants you to think it has a message, but it has none. The plot seems as though it was written by edgy teenagers, and made me wonder why American mental health is such a problem.

Also, casting a dwarf actor for that horrifying gag left an extremely sour taste in my mouth; and I'm not the most PC person around.

I personally found it a flaccid experience.

hollywood
Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood

As a big Tarantino fan, this movie was highly disappointing.

The 161-minute run-time is too long, too self-indulge and requires significant background knowledge about:

  • Tarantino’s filmography
  • Hollywood in the 60s
  • The Manson murders

This last point is the one that bothers me the most. Is it fair for a filmmaker to expect the audience to know about a frankly obscure murder that took place over 50 years ago?

It’s a well-made mess though!

tros
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The Force Awakens was the first Star Wars movie that I saw in theaters. I was super excited, my heart was pounding when I saw the opening crawl for the first time. My girlfriend at the time didn’t really understand how this was important for me.

It wasn’t a perfect movie, but it was special to me. Clearly, things were going to get better from here.

Then The Last Jedi happened. I avoided marketing material like the plague and left the theater in silence. Most of my friends were that way too. There was a time and place for what Rian Johnson did. I just don’t think Episode 8 was that [time or place].

I went in with low expectations after seeing The Last Jedi, after hearing Darth Sidious in the trailer, and after getting feedback from my brother. And I was still disappointed. Hell, I started getting worried the moment I read the opening crawl.

Everyone will argue that these movies are for kids, but let’s be real here. The main audience for this trilogy was 30-40-year-old men and women. Our collective intelligence was insulted.

It is a hollow and soulless movie that didn’t even have the courtesy to leave me angry or sad. I just shrugged. This trilogy is a failure of long-term domino world-building.

It’s not all bad though.

I really enjoyed Adam Driver's performance as Kylo Ren here. The Sith Lord was a man possessed, and his actions showed it throughout the movie. Never have I ever wanted a villain in Star Wars movie to win before.

‘’It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” - Rich Evans

Oh, there’s also this:

  • The woman next to me fell asleep for about half the movie. I joined her for about 10 minutes.
  • It didn’t help that my theater had terrible audio mixing.
  • It retroactively made me appreciate TLJ more as a SOLO film.
  • I think they wrote some parts of the movie around the Carrie Fisher’s scenes from TFA.
  • Rogue One is still the best of the new movies.

Please watch MauLer's take down of the movie here.


Best of the Rest

  • Finding Neverland - Fuck Michael Jackson and his supporters.
  • Game Night - A bit messy, but a thoroughly good time.
  • Marriage Story - The last movie I watched last decade was pretty powerful. I have never been married before, but I was touched by the examination of love, its meaning and how little misunderstandings can take you to a point of no return.
  • Mid90s - I always wondered how 80s movies made me feel nostalgia for a world I had never been a part of. More a slice-of-life movie than anything with a specific narrative intent. The 90s seemed so much simpler.
  • Midsommar - Is it possible to fear for your soul in the daylight? Yes. Yes, it is.
  • The Founder - Michael Keaton shines as Ray Kroc, the ruthless businessman who made McDonald's what it is today. It's no Social Network, but it's pretty gripping before losing some steam at the end.
  • Us - Not as good as Get Out, but pretty intense and will leave you at the edge of your seat. Please don't look up any explanations by the creators though.

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