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.
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.
There are few things in this world I hold in greater disdain than stupid movies. I’m talking about the action-dependent, spectacle-driven, CGI-saturated, studio-spawned, soul-sapped, Frankenstein’s monster-type movies that dominate the summer cinemascape by pandering to the lowest common denominator. Movies like the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and The Meg, which both already look more nauseating than a bucket of KFC chicken in a carnival Zipper and so thinly-written to have only used single-sided script paper.
A Ghost Story is the exact opposite of those sort of action-heavy movies. In fact, it’s so far in the opposite direction of those movies that there’s almost no action in it at all – not even simple actions like moving, talking, or facially expressing. That featured image heading my article? That’s a GIF!
Today we’re going to deviate from my usual analyses of Plot and Character and delve into something I seldom have interest in discussing – theme. Thematic analysis has its place, of course – mostly in the hands of arthouse critics who relish the death of the author or sociology students who labour under the delusion that Crash was somehow good – but for myself I’m generally less concerned with the question “What does it mean?” and more interested in the questions “Does it work?” and “Why or why not?”
Then I saw Ingrid Goes West. Obviously too late to include it in my 2017 Top Ten, which is a damn shame because if I had even known this film existed when assembling that list it would have bumped Thor: Ragnorok down into the dishonorable mentions and nestled itself somewhere around sixth place. Beyond merely being a great film and an effective Character tale, Ingrid Goes West deserves attention for having something important to say – something an entire generation of phone-slinging, social media-inundated hashtaggers desperately need to hear.
Recently I took a reprieve from my usual lineup of Schwarzenegger films and Seinfeld reruns to view a movie that I’d slotted on my cinematic hit list years ago but had lacked all conviction to actually sit my ass down and view. That film was 2010’s The Fighter, which stars Mark Wahlberg as a man with a Boston accent and Christian Bale as a person with intense emotional problems and possibly bulimia. Oh, there’s also some boxing in it too, I guess.
I did not love this movie – which apparently puts me in a minority group with less representation than Asian stand-up comedians – but neither did I think it was necessarily bad. I’ll concede it was competently made (until the finale – we’ll get to that), well-acted, and presumably well-written (it can be hard to tell through all that wicked pissa Bostonspeak, yah suh). My immediate problem with The Fighter is that it represents a crossover between two genres that I take greater pains to avoid than personal interactions with the elderly – sports-related movies and dysfunctional family dramas.
Ahh, Christmas time – a festive season of peace, love, and goodwill extended to everyone you spent the rest of the year flipping off. Families congregate under chintzy decorations and pretend to tolerate one another over extravagant feasts, Die Hard loops endlessly on an impulsively-purchased 4K TV, and everyone represses all their inner rage that’s been mountain since the last election and forces some good cheer on a holiday that’s devolved into a cynical capitalistic cash-grab.
Seems like a good a time as any to discuss Mayhem – no, silly reader, not the state of Warner Bros’s accounting department following Justice League’s opening weekend; I’m talking about the new action-horror-comedy extravaganza by world-famous director (reads off cue card) Joe Lynch. Since premiering at Cannes back in May it’s been heralded by critics as Office Space meets The Purge, and since viewing it myself I’d personally add the endorsement ‘on cocaine’ to fully capture its spirit.
Marvel’s latest popcorn-muncher, Thor: Asgardian Rhapsody, premiered this month to critical acclaim, serving audiences a god’s portion of colourful, lighthearted, and (barring a few ‘edgy’ words) family-friendly entertainment and proceeding to earn Disney somewhere in the vicinity of ninety-two zillion dollars.
I wrote that paragraph at the end of October in complete confidence it would prove itself to be true – not because I’m some kind of absurdly intelligent Sherlock-figure who can determine the outcome of any given scenario courtesy of a supercomputer brain coupled with increasingly lazy writing – but because Disney is at the top of its A-game in regards to its Marvel properties and has yet to truly fail.
With something like seventeen bloody installments of the MCU in the can, Disney has all but mastered a formula for bona fide theatrical enjoyability combined with a guaranteed financial return that largely consists of making everything look and feel like Guardians of the Galaxy, and after a glance at their future release schedule it’s evident they’re only gaining momentum. Strap on your seat belts, kids, because we’re going to get nine Marvel movies a year until we’re all rotting in the ground.
Having established in my inaugural piece that I’ll largely be using my shiny new digital soapbox to dissect films with little immediate relevance, I’d like to dedicate the next few pages to a movie that filled me with fear and loathing upon release and continues to gnaw at me today.
That movie is 2015’s Jurassic World, a soft reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise that spent its opening weekend grossing a cool half-billion and the remainder of its theatrical run somehow convincing an entire planet it was something worth seeing.
After the logical yet disjointed walkathon-turned-Godzilla-homage that was 1997’s The Lost World and the poorly-rendered incremental snooze-fest that was 2001’s Jurassic Park III, the series returned to Isla Nublar and its theme park roots with Jurassic World for a brand new adventure that, not unlike The Force Awakens, basically repackaged its first one, minus all the emotional resonance.
As far back as I can remember I wanted to be a gangster—I mean, film critic. Ahem, yes of course, that’s what I meant (though now that I mention it, it’s relatively easy to confuse gangsters and film critics — both operate within exclusive secret societies, neither can claim to have a legitimate job on their tax returns, and their members are known to die unceremoniously before their time).
This no doubt comes as a shock of defibrillating proportions to anyone in my life who’s ever attempted to watch a movie with me for more than seven seconds, but it’s true – writing professionally for a major website (that may or may not rhyme with PlogerPlebert.plom) is a gig I’d basically kill for. Unfortunately, until some media mogul decides to pay me for my opinions, I’m afraid I have minimal interest in devoting my free time and extra money to reviewing contemporary films in time for them to be relevant to Joe and Jane Moviegoer – even if I did, they already have Rotten Tomatoes or Half in the Bag for that. Continue reading Get Out: A Lesson in Effective Storytelling