Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Blackhat - I'm not a huge Michael Mann fan, but I usually find most of his movies at least entertaining, to some degree. He's got a clear sense of style, which I can always appreciate, and his movies usually feature some interesting casting/acting choices. I was disappointed, already, with the cast of this movie because Chris Hemsworth (as the lead) is so dull. Sure, he's handsome, and the Australian accent is sexy (but not even close to my favorite accent). He's just got no charisma or screen presence at all. In Blackhat, he is stripped of his accent, he has the weight of making computer hacking interesting on his shoulders, and he fails miserably. As you may know, I usually watch movies at home with subtitles on and most of the movie can be described by these two subtitles that exist throughout the movie: "keyboard clacking" & "computer beeping". I was so bored, and I honestly lost track of the plot because I don't understand computer hacking, and this movie didn't convince me enough to even try to learn about it. There is one stand-out, amazing, "wow" moment in the movie involving typical Mann-style explosions and shootouts. My eyes were glued to the screen for it, but then I lost interest again. Overall, it felt pretty passionless on all levels, making it my worst movie of the year so far.

2. Adult Beginners - I watched this for Joel McHale, so I was pretty disappointed that he's only in it for maybe ten minutes. I'm confused as to why he is even featured on the poster. He did have the very best line of the whole movie ("You're not an appropriate place for a child!!" - was the way he said it). The movie isn't all that funny, but I liked parts of it. I liked that it was about siblings; instead of a love story. It was sort of like The Skeleton Twins, but much, MUCH, much lighter (you know, no talk of suicide). I liked most of the cast (McHale, Rose Byrne, Josh Charles, Bobby Cannavale...), but the main guy, Nick Kroll, is very dull. I don't really think I've seen him in much, but I guess I always assumed he was funny. He's not funny in this. I like that it took place in Westchester, and that it felt like a very Upstate NY movie. Kroll is from Rye, NY and he created the story, so it felt very genuine. Them going to the local bar and dancing to that Toad the Wet Sprocket song is just soo....perfect. I felt my mind flooding with memories; not only of living in Upstate, but of going back after I left. I liked this movie, I just wish it had a little more substance; something to make me care.

3. Two Days, One Night - I waited and waited and waited for this movie to be released, and as I waited, expectations increased. It's really not what I was expecting. Still good; just not anything spectacular. I think the reason that I didn't enjoy it as much as I was hoping is because it is very repetitive. The plot is that this woman, after taking a leave of absence due to depression, learns that her job is being eliminated. Her colleagues have a vote and if they vote her out, they would receive a bonus; if they forego the bonus, she can keep her job. Now that is a pretty shitty decision to make. She spends the movie tracking down her colleagues, trying to convince them to vote for her to keep her job. It's pretty much the same conversation, over and over again ("gee...I kind of need the money", but more eloquent and French-like). Marion Cotillard is superb, as usual. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses. I really liked the end, but after it was over, I realized that it would have had more of an impact if it ended differently (*spoiler ahead*). She gets the offer to keep her job, however, someone else will lose their job, and she declines. While, it's a "nice" ending, to insist that there are people in the world who aren't selfish assholes, but in reality, she should have taken the offer (and the only reason I say this is because she has kids). It would have emphasized the moral "grey area" decision-making that the struggling working class has to deal with every day. We would love to believe that our decision-making is always based on compassion, but sometimes that is not reality.

4. Dear White People - This is another movie that I had really high expectations for. It won a lot of praise at several festivals, and the trailer was refreshingly honest. Overall, there are some really strong points made in the movie. It invokes dialogue about racism that clearly needs to be addressed in this country, NOW. However, the movie is a little bit dull and unmemorable. I think it's problematic that it takes place at a seemingly wealthy private college. That already isolates more than half of the audience. I understand the motive behind it (the tagline is "a satire about being a black face in a white place"), but I don't think many people will. It takes away from the white privilege argument because all the white guys featured are elitist assholes. One can easily counter-argue that they are privileged because of wealth not because of race. Wealth is not something that most people in America can relate to, so I think the impact is lost. Personally, I think it's scary that there are white people who refuse to believe they are of privilege. I learned this at a very young age. *story time* When I was 10, I was caught stealing from a convenience store along with my two black friends. The store owner called the police, then waved for me to go. I was terrified and really confused. One of my friends, Jessica, was older and obviously understood what was happening, turned to me and said "Michelle, nobody cares about a pretty white girl stealing. Just go". So I left. With a bag full of stolen goods. (and to address the stealing part, I have no excuse except that I was 10 and I was hungry. It's not something I'm proud of or ever did again). When I think about defining moments in my life, that is one memory that always springs to mind, because it's a moment in which I wish I could do over. I should have stayed and faced the consequences. I should have spoken up. But now I do and I will continue to until the day I die. I am white. I am privileged because I am white. This is not the way I want my country to work. I think it's natural for people to look out for their own interests, and that's where the problem lies. It takes a lot of fortitude (not the word that I'm looking for, but I've literally spent 20 minutes trying to think of the word that's at the tip of my tongue and honestly, that's far too much time. I barely spend 20 minutes writing a whole post) to step back and think of what's best for the human race. My first instinct, when voting for a political candidate, is to look at where they stand on women's issues, so it's understandable that a wealthy, white male would vote Republican. The whole country needs to step back and stop thinking "me, me, me". Anyway, I think the movie did a commendable job in showing different view points, asking questions, and utilizing thoughtful dialogue, but it just doesn't go that extra mile to really dig deep into racial injustice.

5. Catch Hell - I'm such a huge Ryan Phillippe fan, so I was excited for this movie that he co-wrote and directed. So, first, I will focus on the positives. 1. I like that it is somewhat of a personal story. It's about an actor who is not as popular as he once was, taking a job he doesn't really like just to stay relevant (and earn money to maintain the lifestyle he has become accustomed to). There are a lot of references to Ryan's real life - working with Clint Eastwood, starring in a teen movie where all the teens fuck each other, etc. The character has the same initials, R.P, and Ryan even films some of it in his own home. It made me wonder if he actually feels guilty for fucking some guys wife, or if him cheating on his own wife was a little "too" close to home (sidenote: I couldn't give a fuck that he cheated on his wife. He's still perfect.). 2. It's rare, but interesting, to see a movie about a male actor worrying about getting old. He's told that he didn't get a role because "they went younger", but I don't think that's the norm for male actors. Most male action stars are over the age of 40. I don't know why Ryan's career went cold for a little while (there is definitely a resurgence now), but perhaps it was because he chose a different path than some actors would. He didn't play the game that the media wanted him to play (while you can find images of him with pretty blonde actresses, most images are of him doting on his two adorable children or walking his dog - not exactly headline making images). He's never said a bad thing about his ex-wife, and when they were married, he never responded to the incredibly misogynistic articles about her being the "bread-winner" of the family. In fact, he is a self-proclaimed feminist, and did I mention that HE IS PERFECT? 3. There are some lovely shots at the end of him reflecting on his life, shirtless and soulful. So, now, I will focus on the negatives. There are too many too count, to be honest. It's not a good movie at all. The plot is absolutely LUDICROUS and not believable in the least. There is a scene where an alligator (or crocodile. I don't know the difference) is strangled, then skinned and cooked (fucking groooossss. No-one needs to see that.). The camera-work feels amateur; almost like a home movie. But worst of all, it's homophobic. I don't think it's intentionally homophobic, but that doesn't make it ok. Come on, Ryan, you are better than this.

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