Let’s Talk About: The Irishman

Well, finally.

The Irishman (or, I Heard You Paint Houses) is one of those eleventh-hour releases that manifests itself to weary cinematic sojourners like a chilled, glistening bottle of Aquafina on the final stretch of the barren, hostile, morale-shattering wasteland you’ve been trudging through since January. Not only does it revitalize you so that you can finally complete your arduous journey, it imbues you with enough energy and hope to begin a new one come 2020. Suffice to say, the only question I had for The Irishman once the curtain fell was, “Where the hell have you been all year?”

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Let’s Talk About: The Lighthouse

2019 is certainly proving to be the year for emerging Indie horror directors’ follow-up films, isn’t it? Jordan Peele followed up his universally-acclaimed quasi-horror-comedy Get Out with the much more sci-fi-leaning Twilight Zone tribute Us (which I adored); David Robert Mitchell followed up his eerie sex-themed after-school-special It Follows with the polarizing neo-noir Under the Silver Lake (which curiously went to Cannes unedited); and Ari Aster followed up his demonic family portrait Hereditary with the psychedelic, bloodletting Eurotrip Midsommar (which should never under any circumstances be viewed with grandma). Now, Robert Eggers has followed up his highly-effective period horror The Witch with a fresh article-noun arrangement called The Lighthouse, a psychological horror that is already being hailed as a masterpiece by those who have acknowledged its existence.

Alas, the proprietor of my hometown’s Theatrical Symposium for Degenerate Fancies was not one such person, having deemed the Zombieland sequel that no one asked for the preferable feature to screen. Incidentally, our Symposium bears many striking similarities to Eggers’ nightmarish lighthouse – it’s filthy, it’s drafty, it’s beset by cantankerous seagulls, and its employees are presumably forbidden access to the proprietor’s inner sanctum that is the projection room under pain of an axe murdering.

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Let’s Talk About: Joker

A few years back a series of single-sentence plot summaries surfaced on the Internet that recontextualized the premises of famous films, often with the result of casting the protagonist in an ironically negative light. For instance, The Wizard of Oz was reframed as a crime thriller about a teenage girl who, upon being transported to a fantastical land, promptly murders and loots the body of a community leader before teaming up with a trio of locals on a quest to kill again. Finding Nemo was reinterpreted as the horrific nightmare of a man whose wife is brutally murdered by a serial killer before his physically-disabled son is kidnapped, compelling him to embark on a rescue mission with the aid of a chronically-amnesiac transient. In a true thematic reversal, The Dark Knight was recapitulated as the story of a deranged billionaire who copes with his crippling PTSD by dressing up like a giant rodent and victimizing an extremely troubled, mentally ill man in a clown costume.

These twisted plot rewrites are, of course, meant to give us a hearty chuckle as well as prompt some reflection on the underlying messages and themes conveyed in our favourite films, not to mention showcase how imperative context and perspective are.

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Let’s Talk About: Ready or Not

“Do you like playing games?” asks patriarchal board game magnate Tony Le Domas to his new daughter-in-law Grace in the stately family music room following the ceremony. “It depends on the game,” the bewildered bride replies, still begowned in her wedding dress and eager to ingratiate herself to her strange new in-laws, who are the sort of hyper-aristocratic, tradition-obsessed, monied WASPs who make a point to advise outsiders that they prefer the term ‘dominion’ over ‘dynasty.’ The game in question, it turns out, is determined by a mysterious puzzle box that was presented to family founder Victor Le Domas during the Civil War by an enigmatic benefactor named Justin Le Bail, who is casually implied to be Satan. Anyone marrying into House Le Domas must, by order of tradition, participate in the game chosen by the box, which might be as innocuous as checkers, as archaic as old maid, or as deadly as hide-and-seek. Grace, who was unaware of this little household custom before her nuptials, regrettably draws hide-and-seek.

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Let’s Talk About: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

When I first heard that Quentin Tarantino’s ninth motion picture would take place in Hollywood during the late 1960’s and feature characters with names like Roman Polanski and Charles Manson, I admittedly had some misgivings. Setting aside my love for Tarantino’s filmography as well as my undying zeal for gratuitous violence, I just wasn’t sure I was ready to watch Sharon Tate get murdered by a cult of psychotic, LSD-addled hippies. Even if I were up for that from a purely biographical standpoint, I had doubts that Tarantino would approach such a tragedy with restraint or decorum, given that his prop sheet to date has been topped by the line item ‘Literally all the fake blood and maybe some real blood too if you happen to have some on hand.’

As it turns out, I should have given dear ol’ Tarantino the benefit of the doubt. This is, after all, the man who rewrote World War II so that Hitler got gunned down by Tommy Gun-toting Jews in a French theater in 1944.

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Let’s Talk About: Under the Silver Lake

It’s a sad indictment of the collective temperament of the human race that those in the public eye are often remembered best not for their triumphs and achievements, but for their blunders and missteps. Where directors and writers are concerned, oftentimes the most calamitous of these blunders and missteps have directly followed the greatest of their triumphs or achievements. Michael Cimino won Best Director in 1979 for The Deer Hunter, which he immediately followed up with 1980’s Heaven’s Gate, a disasterpiece that by all accounts ruined the industry for everybody. Kevin Smith defined slacker culture with Clerks in 1994, which he has since been following up with everything else in the View Askewniverse, which is apparently a thing that people take seriously. Robert David Mitchell was lauded in 2015 for his Indie horror flick slash cautionary tale about sexually transmitted diseases It Follows, and has now followed it up with Under the Silver Lake, a movie that admittedly might have been good had a modicum of restraint been exercised at any point in the editing process.

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Let’s Talk About: Pet Sematary

The ultimate appeal of reading a Stephen King novel is not the coherent plots or the gruesome depictions of death that make the Red Wedding look tame or the bizarre ways their author manages to draw attention to a particular character’s penis – it’s the diction. King has a very folksy, down-to-Earth writing style, like a conversational old-timer who’s greeting a newcomer to town from behind the counter of a mom and pop shop. “That blue house up on I-95, past the old Shell station? Belonged to a friend of mine. Sergeant Perry Dewall. He was the town taxidermist after the war, ‘afore the Voices of the Forest told him to butcher his family and mount ‘em around his yard like a topiary garden. We lynched him without a trial and his vengeful spirit now haunts a Speak & Spell. Here, friend, let me light that for you…” His prose has a very familiar and welcoming quality that makes you feel like you’re being regaled by an old friend over a cold beer on the porch. In essence, he’s like Jud Crandall from Pet Sematary.

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Let’s Talk About: Us

The words “Let’s talk about us” may not bode well for whoever they’re spoken to, depending on their source and the context in which they’re said. If uttered by a significant other over the dinner table, they may herald both heartbreak and a literal break from contact. If spoken by the president of Us Weekly at a shareholders’ meeting, they may indicate that profits are spiraling down the potty and everyone should start calling dibs on stationary supplies before the IRS rolls in. If said by anybody who’s seen Jordan Peele’s new film Us, they may lead to either an ardent discussion about how amazing it is or a no-holds-barred fistfight because one of the parties involved thought it was stupid.

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Let’s Talk About: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot (Slightly Abridged)

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the spirit of writing significantly shorter pieces (i.e., not fourteen pages long) I would like to kick off a new phase of Snooty Film Critiques with a revision of my piece on The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot… now slightly abridged.

When the title of your movie is a whopping eleven-syllable salute to exhibitionism like ‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot,’ I would argue that it’s not unreasonable to expect it to feature Bigfoot prominently, or even occasionally. Curiously, this debut feature for writer/director Robert D. Krzykowski – which premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montréal last July – has surprisingly little to do with Bigfoot. Or anything at all, for that matter.

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