I beckon you to enter the world of my imagination (my Dark Place, as it were), in which I’m picturing a plucky young screenwriter preparing to submit the final draft for his character-drama to the studio on the eve before his deadline. He leans back in his dormitory-style office chair, stretches, cracks his knuckles, and emits the sort of self-assured “ah” that’s normally uttered by varsity athletes following a quickie. He’s given his baby a thorough polish, our screenwriter – the formatting is sound, the dialogue is the stuff of Shakespearean soliloquies, and every line has been assiduously checked for amateurish grammatical, errors and spellinkg mistaekes.
2018 started with such promise, but much like that one Thanksgiving where I attempted to make beef wellington for my loved ones, it ended with decimated expectations, disillusionment in the promise of good things, and a round of pumped stomachs. Though a few worthwhile releases certainly caught me by surprise, by and large this was a tedious and mediocre year marked by bitter disappointments, even where my beloved Indie market was concerned. Many of the films I had high hopes for fell flatter than grandma after that aforementioned Thanksgiving dinner, while other movies I had no expectations for whatsoever taught me to never again ask “How bad could it possibly be?” unless I’m planning on French kissing a pencil sharpener.
Ahh, the holidays. A season of shared mirth, mutual generosity, brazen consumption, and the intentional counting of one’s blessings. For those who perhaps did not have a particularly #blessed year, the latter can be an especially difficult practice. When I personally looked back on 2018, I was dismayed to see that it was mostly full of anguish and misery… theatrically, I mean. Overall my life was quite nice, because I’m a product of middle-class white privilege that I refuse to check because I have no idea what the hell that means. Anyway, there were some horrible, painful, excruciating, nauseating, and outright boring movies this year – the sort that I love to express my loathing for publicly because it gives me a fleeting shot of self-worth. However, in the spirit of the holidays, I’m now going to talk about a recent film I actually loved, and not just because nobody seems to have heard of it and it’s barely surpassing its production budget…
I’ll make this quick.
I saw Bohemiam Rhapsody this month and was pleasantly surprised to find that, contrary to those early scathing reviews, it was just bland and unremarkable, making it one of the best films I’ve seen all year by default. Critical reaction towards the Freddie Mercury biopic has been polarizing since its wide release, with some lauding it as a pitch-perfect representation of Mercury’s life and others decrying it as disrespectful to the point of homophobia. As with The Last Jedi, I find myself balanced in the middle of the critical teeter-totter, not hating it, not loving it, but also not remembering most of it despite having seen it last week. Then again, I can’t really recall what I had for breakfast on any given day, due to the inordinate number of head injuries I’ve had in my life.
Now that we’ve identified five different Character elements across a few different titles – Relatability in Star Wars, Driving Need (and Introductions) in Curse of the Black Pearl, Vulnerability and Stakes in Die Hard, and Change across The Terminator films – it should be obvious that few protagonists, even the most effective ones, embody every element simultaneously.
It’s Saturday afternoon in my rural, central-Albertan hometown — Thanksgiving weekend, 2018, to be precise. Autumn is in full swing. The foliage has transitioned to a dazzling array of orange and yellow hues, the fires that had been ignited in the preceding week by up-and-coming arsonists have finally been quelled, and our local millennial population is collectively intaking a potent narcotic compound known as ‘pumpkin spice’ through every orifice in their bodies. How does one spend such a picturesque afternoon, you ask?
Why, at our Theatrical Symposium for Degenerate Fancies, of course!
When I was in college I saw Blade Runner for the first time. I didn’t love it, but I pretended I did in an effort to impress my fellow freshmen with my supposed intellectual prowess. Thus began my Communications and Media major and my ardent exploration of films, which soon whisked me into the wondrous worlds of David Fincher, Ridley Scott, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alfonso Cuarón, David Cronenberg, and Stanley Kubrick. In those days my primary interest was in seeking out films with aesthetic merit in order to analyze them thematically, decipher their symbolism, and interpret universal meaning.
Come with me on a journey through time and space, to the world of 2015 –
When I looked back on 2015’s release schedule in preparation for this saunter down memory lane, I was frankly appalled at how dismal most of the year really was, especially since I actually once compared it favourably to 2016 when penning that year’s Top Ten. There was a lot of garbage and mediocrity this year that I had apparently repressed until now. That being said, most of the films on the Top Ten itself still hold a special place in my heart and in my film library, but everything else? Cinematic flotsam and jetsam. Incidentally, this was one of those rare years where I decided to watch (nearly) every movie nominated for Best Picture, so make of that connection what you will.
Having taken a brief hiatus from the Summer of Effective Protagonists to denounce Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom as a steaming triceratops turd, I now return to my ongoing series with renewed vigour and depleted rage tanks. Incidentally, despite not being the only critic to refer to Fallen Kingdom as a triceratops turd, I have yet to meet anybody in person who didn’t unequivocally adore it. To liberally paraphrase Professor Farnsworth, this pervading lack of taste makes me not want to live on this planet anymore, but alas! I have far too much to do before I may leave it in good conscience – like analyze a new Character element in the Terminator films.
Imagine, if you will (in your best Rod Sterling voice), a precocious four-year-old boy with a wooden crate brimming with toy dinosaurs – the sort with zero points of articulation because it was the 90’s and kids were still capable of using their imaginations, dammit. This boy spent his languid preschool afternoons guiding his motley herd on epic journeys through valley-like ditches, rainforest-esque gardens, wasteland-ish gravel lots, and oceanic sloughs – occasionally by way of the Millennium Falcon. The stakes were always high for this heroic herd and dangers lurked around every shadowy corner – from monstrous plush t-rexes with mint Beanie Baby tags to vicious velociraptors that had been bloodied with a red Sharpie to swarms of oversized bugs from a dollar store bucket to the mighty and terrible cat-god-of-wrath Whyskerssa (whose tender mercies hinged on proportionate blood offerings). These adventures were the sort of masterful works of fiction that village elders recount to wide-eyed youngsters over late-night campfires – noting, of course, that any resemblance their tales may bear to characters or events from The Land Before Time is purely coincidental.