NYFF 2020: Gunda and Time

‘Gunda’ is a pig, and the star of a documentary executive produced by Joaquin Phoenix.

This year’s New York Film Festival is taking place at drive-ins throughout the city and at Film at Lincoln Center’s virtual cinema. Tickets for the virtual screenings are available Nation-wide. Here are a few reviews of what I’ve been watching:

Director: Garrett Bradley
“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Easier said than done. Fox Rich has been trying to get her husband Robert released from prison for twenty years. He’s in prison for robbing a bank, a crime in which Fox was accomplice but served a much shorter sentence. Robert’s sentence is sixty years. Let’s set aside the fact that robbing a bank is essentially a victimless crime as long as nobody gets shot and killed. Robert committed the crime, but what Time asks of us is to consider the repercussions of a sentence of sixty years. Director Garrett Bradley documents Fox as she goes about her life; going to work, taking care of her kids, and making phone calls to attorneys, judges and other officials, hoping this will finally be the day Robert gets released. She’s done this every day of her life for twenty years. How long is twenty years? The movie is packed with homemade videos shot by Fox and her kids throughout the years. The absence is felt. The life of this family has been defined by incarceration. Time has established a whole different relationship to them – it moves slower as they wait, it moves faster as another year goes by and there’s no release, but it always moves relentlessly, unstoppable, indifferent. By asking me to consider life in Fox’s position, Time became one of the most emotionally overwhelming experiences I’ve had with a movie… and that was only 90 minutes.
Time will be available to stream on Amazon Prime starting Oct. 9

Director: Viktor Kossakovsky
I went on my friend Lou’s podcast to talk about Spielberg’s A. I. the other day, and our conversation brought us to the topic of Anthropocentrism – the belief that humans are the most important creatures int he universe – and how that affected our views of the film when we first encountered it as dumb teenagers. Viktor Kossakovsky’s Gunda tries as effectively as any movie I have seen to dismantle our human bias and present the world as experienced by a different kind of creature. This is a documentary that follows a series of farm animals, including a group of cows, a one-legged chicken, and most importantly a sow named Gunda and her piglets as they go about their lives. The film is made up of long takes, shot at the scale and from the perspective of the animals and features absolutely no narration. We’re just there, encountering the world from the vantage point of these creatures, seeing what they do, and projecting our own human bias onto them. This approach, paired up with the involvement of Executive Producer Joaquin Phoenix suggests Vegan propaganda, which is kind of a fair assessment, but also beside the point. I have long struggled with documentaries that claim they are depicting any kind of objective truth because the filmmaker has tried to make his presence feel invisible when the truth is every documentarian is selecting, shaping and restructuring footage according to their own agenda. This is not a criticism, but an acknowledgement of how filmmaking works. What makes this movie great is that the silent, observational style is not an affectation, but part of an essential gamble to present its argument from the perspective of its subjects. Gunda appeals to our Anthropocentric selves not by showing us cute piglets (though the piglets are incredibly cute), but by revealing a surprising level of emotional complexity to animal life. I don’t want to spoil anything, but near the end of the movie Gunda – the leading lady of this picture – breaks the “fourth wall” in a moment as powerful as anything I’ve seen a human do on screen.
Gunda is distributed by Neon, no release date is available at the moment.

2 Great Comedies: Real Life and Monsieur Verdoux

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Albert Brooks reinvents cameras (and comedy) in ‘Real Life.’

These reviews were originally posted in my Letterboxd account, and have been edited for this post.

Real Life (1979)
Director: Albert Brooks
In the running for funniest movie ever made. Albert Brooks plays “Albert Brooks,” a Hollywood celebrity who wants to make a movie in which he follows a typically ordinary American family for one year, capturing the simple profundity of everyday life. Of course, this being a mockumentary, all pretense of serious social experiment quickly dissolves into the sensational dramatism that we would now call “reality television.” It’s not exactly that Real Life predicts so many things that would define the landscape of American pop culture in the years since it came out, but rather that Brooks and his collaborators had already observed and considered everything that was inadequate, problematic, and alluring about this “reality television.” It’s not surprising Roger Ebert gave this one star, not quite knowing what to make of such a forward-looking movie – one that looked like nothing made in ’79, but that feels like the kernel for all comedy since. The movie is deeply observant about the futility of trying to capture reality with a camera, turning the debates about ethical representation that are usually reserved for documentary theorists and Jean-Luc Godard into a source of endless cringe. For all of its virtues as a satire of media past and future, the movie shines brightest by being so fucking funny.
Available to stream on Criterion Channel

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
Director: Charles Chaplin
By this point Chaplin had gone from the most famous man in the world to a deeply controversial figure – he was at the center of a paternity scandal, which might have been provoked by the FBI wanting to soil Hollywood’s most famous socialist sympathizer. Thus, Monsieur Verdoux was Chaplin’s first true flop – an even more direct critique of capitalism than any of his previous movies (all of which are concerned with poverty and are deeply critical of the capitalist status quo.) This was also Chaplin’s first movie after World War II – Neil Bahadur wisely points out how we learn about Verdoux’s first victim by seeing dark smoke coming out of a furnace. Chaplin plays a man who, after losing his job due to the financial crisis, goes into the “business” of marrying and killing wealthy widows. In a shockingly chilling moment, we see Chaplin make that typical Little Tramp gesture where he puts one leg over his knee and smiles pretending nothing is going on, only the thing he’s covering is the fact that he’s about to drown a woman in a lake. Here we have Chaplin finally playing someone other than the Little Tramp, someone who has succeeded at playing in the Capitalist machine, and he is a literal serial killer. You can’t get much more blunt than that. And yet, the movie is deeply poignant about the dehumanization that occurs when everything is seen through the prism of money, of survival, of business. It’s not necessarily the darkest of Chaplin’s movies – even the movies with happy endings show horrible inhumanity – but it’s definitely the most bitter. It’s also an absolute must-see that belongs in the pantheon of Chaplin’s masterpieces.
Available to stream on Criterion Channel

Short Review Round-Up (I’m Thinking of Ending Things, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, A Hidden Life)

Jessie Buckley plays the “young woman” in Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

These reviews were originally posted in my Letterboxd account, and have been edited for this post.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Strange feeling when such an unusual and idiosyncratic movie leaves so little impression on you. Charlie Kaufman has explored straight men’s idealization and projection of their female partners plenty of times, but now the story is told from the perspective of the woman. The “young woman” played by Jessie Buckley changes names, clothes, and fields of study throughout the film, making us wonder how much of a person she is, and how much she (and by extension us) are nothing if not our surroundings. She is driving into the farmland to meet her boyfriend’s parents. Once she gets there, the movie confirms itself a mind-bending, unsettling mix of Get Out and mother! Toni Collette and David Thewlis have a lot of fun playing the deranged parents, but despite plenty of extra-textual references to art, literature, and philosophy, Kaufman’s critiques seem less specific and resonant than usual.

I’m thinking of a small but indicative moment in which a mysterious janitor sits down in front of a television to watch a cookie-cutter romantic comedy. The superficially romantic movie-within-the-movie not only contrasts with our protagonist’s frail relationship, but with the audacious formal antagonism of Kaufman’s filmmaking. The punchline – as it were – of the scene is the revelation that the movie was directed by… Robert Zemeckis? This is perhaps the most puzzling element in Kaufman’s surreal box. Zemeckis has spent the past two decades of his career making strange, and often misbegotten, technical experiments with exorbitant budgets. I can’t think of the last time he made anything close to the rom-com presented here. The only explanation I can come up with is that Kaufman sees a dire cinematic environment in which formerly A-list directors like Zemeckis are forced into making television-ready pablum. But what does that have to do with anything? I guess you can ask that of a movie whose fans are already decrying negative reactions from people who cannot “solve’ Kaufman’s puzzle. I am not quite sure what to make of such an antagonistic experience if there’s no puzzle to solve. Still, I suspect I would have loved the movie had it been 45 minute shorter.
Available to stream on Netflix.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
A delightful ‘one crazy night’ teen comedy about four girls trying to get tickets to see The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Not to make comparisons that don’t give the movie its due, but this one is obviously embedded to American Graffiti, which came out only five years earlier, but feels like it was made in a completely different era. The earlier movie takes the painful part of nostalgia to heart. As melancholic as it is fun to watch, it becomes a quintessential New Hollywood object. I Wanna Hold Your Hand, meanwhile, is an anachronistic object that looks at the past but belongs in the future. This is Robert Zemeckis’s first movie, and it shows all the ways in which he would change Hollywood movies. The movie came out in 1978, but feels like something made in the late eighties. It is slick, it is fluffy, and it moves with perfect, unstoppable precision. The low-key nostalgia of the early seventies is transformed into something that doesn’t look back in regret but in excitement. The past can be relived and recreated on screen as many times as you want: Pop culture is forever. Zemeckis would expand on these ideas in Back to the Future, and then take them to truly evil extremes in Forrest Gump. But damn, I had never processed how much this man defined the way American movies have operated from the eighties until now.

A Hidden Life (2019)
Director: Terrence Malick
The first hour really got to me. The central dilemma – a conscientious objector refuses to swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler and suffers the consequences – is presented in transcendental, universally understandable terms. The scene in which the painter talks about churchgoers (“they like to believe if they had lived back then, they wouldn’t have killed [Jesus]”) and the backdrop of the simultaneously majestic and oh-so-Germanic Alps puts the tension between the natural world and human selfishness in perspective. But there are more than two hours of movie left, and the movie doesn’t really find another gear. Preferring universality over specifics, the movie feels theoretical and overdetermined. There are elements at the edges that suggest a bigger world and variety of perspectives, but the movie is focused on this one man’s journey. There is something a little disquieting about a movie that focuses on an individual moral sacrifice in the context of the Second World War and the Holocaust. The movie feels like a fairy tale, or a Christian parable, painted in broad strokes. I’m not sure if such a view of history should be accepted.
Available to stream on HBOmax.

Short Review Round-Up (Oldboy, A King in New York, and Vera Drake)

A hammer is the weapon of choice in Oldboy’s famous hallway scene.

These reviews were originally posted in my Letterboxd account, and have been edited for this post.

Oldboy (2003)
Director: Park Chan-wook
As a high school-aged boy in the late 2000s, I should have loved Oldboy which was violent, sophisticated, and came pre-approved by every teenage boy’s favorite director, Quentin Tarantino. But I didn’t understand it – literally. Now, I don’t want to overestimate my 15 year-old self, who was definitely capable of watching and totally missing the point of a movie as blunt as this one, but I do wanna make clear that I watched this in a bootleg DVD and I have a sneaking suspicion that the subtitles weren’t of the best quality. Rewatching the movie for the first time more than a decade later, I understand everything that happens in it (even the themes!), but I remain unmoved. Back then, I was perturbed by the dark sadism of the movie. Now, I find the whole thing off-puttingly immature. In its allusions to opera and Greek tragedy, Park Chan-wook presents a story about the destructive and unsatisfying nature of vengeance… or does he? I don’t want to come off as too much of a moralist, but the movie seems enamored with the coolness of its own anti-hero, who is a bumbling fool at the beginning of the movie but emerges from his 15 year entrapment as a silent killing machine. Add to that the appallingly reductive female characters (hypnotism is not a convincing justification) and you have a movie that is too shallow to be enjoyed as an art film and too unpleasant to be enjoyed as a B-Movie. I’m glad the movie was as big a hit as it was, though, because Park’s later work is much better.

A King in New York (1957)
Director: Charlie Chaplin
This is the movie Roberto Rossellini called “the film of a free man.” With this comment, I gather, Rossellini is describing the fact that at 68 years old, disgraced, exiled, and still rich, Chaplin could do whatever he wanted in his movie and not care what people will say or think. This was meant as a complement, I believe, but it’s easy to see why this is regarded as one of the most uneven Chaplin movies. It isn’t perfect, which only becomes a problem when your filmography is full of perfect vehicles made up of some of the most iconic, impeccably timed, and perfectly choreographed sequences in cinematic history. Chaplin plays King Shadov, who after a revolution, escapes his country for New York, where he learns about all the problems with contemporary America such as loud music, widescreen movies, and McCarthyism. Seeing old crank Chaplin complain about perfectly white-bread jazz for being too loud has its own bizarre charm. The scene in which he recites Shakespeare comes off as nothing but vanity. And while the movie’s explicit critique of McCarthyism isn’t the most revolutionary, it was an impossibly ballsy move in 1957 (the movie wasn’t released in America until 1972) and, in my opinion, quite effective. There is no denying the most memorable scenes in this shaggy movie are the ones between Chaplin and the young boy (played by his own son Michael) whose parents are tried for communism. Near the end, the King consoles the weeping boy saying that this hysteria will one day pass before boarding a plane back to Europe. It’s a seemingly naive conclusion that, like much of Chaplin’s cinema, reveals a darker truth. The King can escape on a jet plane, the kid is stuck weeping in the land of the free. So, you know, the film of a free man.

Vera Drake (2004)
Director: Mike Leigh
I was floored. Imelda Staunton plays a caring little woman who is always trying to help – her family, her friends, her neighbors – and who also “helps young women” by inducing miscarriages. It’s 1950s London and abortions are illegal, so you can imagine that things don’t stay rosy for too long. Amongst many other qualities, Vera Drake is a deeply scary movie in the way it captures the dreadful moment in which Vera realizes that she’s been caught by the police. We understand this woman, and we know why she does the things that she does, not only does she live by principles that are completely humane and consistent to herself, but she has done nothing wrong. We, of course, can see that there is a difference between what is right and what is legal. It was illegal to hide Jews in your cellar during Nazi times, but that doesn’t mean it was wrong. The movie is not only great at articulating the political and humanitarian argument in favor of legalizing abortion, but it is an incredibly effective piece of emotional filmmaking. I could imagine myself in Vera’s position, being criminalized for helping others, and I was absolutely overwhelmed. The waiting, the bureaucracy, the confusion, and the slow realization that things won’t go back to normal. 

It’s all masterfully done by British humanist Mike Leigh, whose method of slowly developing scripts through acting exercises and improvisations allow him to find fascinating details, wrinkles, and perspectives in even the smaller characters. There’s plenty to take in in this movie, but I am particularly fixated on the moment in which Eddie Marsan – playing Vera’s would-be son-in-law – offers a sort of Christmas toast. In a way, the situation is deeply pathetic, with one of the most socially awkward characters in the movie trying and failing to make things a little less uncomfortable by claiming he is having a good time. But it’s also deeply moving. Marsan’s veteran, who has experienced traumatic loss during the war, either knows the horror that must be going on inside Vera’s mind and tries to make things better by offering her a bit of humanity, or he truly means what he says and he has never had a better Christmas, in which case he is offering a sincere thank you to the woman who changed his life. I believe it’s a little bit of both.

Looking Back at the Movies of 2010

Leonardo DiCaprio wondering if he should go see ‘Tenet’ in the theatre.

I led a different life ten years ago. I was living in my hometown of Lima, Perú, I was a senior in high school, and I was going to the movie theatre as often as possible. This was only possible thanks to a wonderful place called Cinerama El Pacífico, a charmingly mediocre movie theatre where, on a weekday, you could watch a movie for about $2. I hear it’s been closed for a while now (even before the Pandemic), but I look fondly at the memories of sticky floors and salty popcorn. I saw a lot of crap that year, like the remakes of Nightmare on Elm Street and The Wolfman. It was during the latter, in fact, that a dude answered his phone saying “It’s fine, I can talk. This movie fucking sucks” and the audience erupted in uncontrollable laughter. That’s the kind of crowd that made El Pacífico the perfect place to watch outrageous horror movies. Two of the best movie-going experiences of my life – Drag Me to Hell and Orphan – took place at that magnificent theater.

The worst movie I saw that year wasn’t a horror movie, nor did I see at El Pacífico. I paid full price at a reputable multiplex to see Tim Burton’s puke-colored version of Alice in Wonderland. Like many people of my generation, I grew up loving Tim Burton. The fact that he had such a recognizable style made him one of the few directors people knew by name, and the perfect introduction to the theory of authorship in cinema. Despite having been disappointed by his last couple efforts, the idea of seeing Burton apply his vision to Alice in Wonderland sounded like a slam-dunk. You see, I was young and naive. And so, as I witnessed Lewis Carroll’s classic novel be turned into a horridly computerized Narnia rip-off, the ghastly sight of a orange-headed Johnny Depp break-dancing made me understand that sometimes it’s better to let go of our heroes.

The summer movie season – which down in the Southern Hemisphere is the winter movie season – was dominated by two movies marketed as more prestigious versions of your average blockbuster: Inception and Toy Story 3. As a typically basic eighteen year-old male, I was appropriately obsessed with Christopher Nolan and the rules and regulations of his sterile dreamscapes. I saw Inception with an unusually large group – including my cousins who were visiting from Vienna – and I remember everybody loving it. In 2020, it’s hard to imagine going to a movie theatre, let alone with such a large crowd, even if Mr. Nolan is out here trying to convince you that his latest would-be blockbuster, Tenet (which was briefly believed to be a stealth Inception sequel) is worth the risk. I wonder if my eighteen year-old self would have been dumb enough to risk death for Christopher Nolan’s pockets.

Meanwhile, Toy Story 3 felt like a bit of miracle. Not only had a seemingly unnecessary sequel proved itself to be on the level of two of its perfect predecessors, but with themes of mortality and rebirth, felt like the culmination of everything Pixar Animation Studios stood for. One must remember that in 2010 Pixar had had a fifteen year-old streak of hugely successful and critically acclaimed films that only seemed to be getting better and better. Looking back, Toy Story 3 feels less like the culmination of a great run than the beginning of a more mediocre one. The last ten years of Pixar have been marked by uninspired sequels, overbearingly formulaic storytelling, and shameless, unearned sentimental climaxes. While Toy Story 3 is better than almost everything Pixar has done since, it does show all of the qualities that would make me break up with the studio in the 2010s. There is one objectively brilliant thing in the movie, though: Mr. Tortilla Head.

I spent my teenage years obsessed with the Oscars, and have run some sort of Oscar poll pretty much every year since. I comfortably won the 2009 poll, but I lost the 2010 contest by predicting a The King’s Speech sweep that didn’t quite materialize. The movie won four awards including Best Picture and Best Director for future Catsauteur Tom Hooper, but not nearly as many as I thought it would. I remember very little about it other than it was pretty boring and that I was quite upset that it beat The Social Network for the big prizes. Speaking of which, I rewatched the Fincher-Sorkin version of Facebook’s founding last year and was a little surprised to see, in the year of Joker, that the defining villain origin story our era had already been made, and that none of the Clown Prince of Crime’s many deeds were nearly as chilling as the real life evils of Mark Zuckerberg.

Of all the movies I saw that year, however, the biggest hit amongst me and my friends was Darren Aronofky’s Black Swan, in which Natalie Portman plays a repressed ballerina who, like so many in her field, is haunted by the presence of Mila Kunis. We were so obsessed with the movie, I dressed up as Portman’s Black Swan for a costume party (I’m not sure what it was, but surely not Halloween based on the movie’s release date.) As was the case with most movies at the time, Black Swan had reached my friends and I in the form of a bootleg DVD for about a month or so before it was actually released in theaters. Once it got released, though, we enthusiastically went to see it at – you guessed it – Cinerama El Pacífico. The sold-out crowd laughed loudly and mockingly throughout most of the movie. They found the moment in which Natalie Portman masturbated in her pink childhood bed particularly hilarious. We, on the other hand, were appalled at the disrespect shown to such a profound piece of art. Ten years later, however, I have come to recognize that the only mature way to enjoy Black Swan is as a deeply silly comedy.

Short Review Round-Up (Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, Howard, The Little Mermaid, Brazil)

Bruce Hadnot, one of the patrons ‘documented’ in ‘Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets.’

These reviews were originally posted in my Letterboxd account, and have been edited for this post.

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (2020)
Director: Bill Ross IV, Turner Ros
For some the first question will be: is this a documentary? The film chronicles the last day (and night) of operations of The Roaring 20s, a rundown dive bar in Las Vegas, but the press materials reveal that the bar is actually located in the outskirts of New Orleans, and that while the action and dialogue weren’t premeditated, the Ross brothers cast their barflies very carefully and methodically. So, what is the movie documenting, exactly? The pathetic yet nostalgic feeling of things coming to an end, perhaps – the bar, your life, the world. Seeing a group of drunk misfits hanging out at a bar hits differently in 2020, like an elegy for something that was dying even before the pandemic took over. Among the most touching moments, we see a black veteran lamenting the way he’s been treated by the country he fought for, and an alcoholic ex-actor warn a younger musician that “there is nothing more boring than someone who used to do stuff and just sits in a bar.” The people sit, and drink, and argue. Everyone knows that things are going to shit, but where else are they going to go? There is only work and the bar: perfectly mediocre, un-hip, with a basic playlist, and a bit of a run-down charm to it. Soon it will be gone. And replaced with a CVS.
Available for rent in digital cinemas.

Howard (2019)
Director: Don Han
A heartfelt but ultimately superficial tribute to an immense talent (Howard Ashman, composer of Broadway and Disney classics.) I wish the movie dealt straight-on with the political and personal elements of Ashman’s output, instead of accepting the notion that “he didn’t put his personal life in his work.” As someone who loves The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Little Shop of Horrors for how specific and personal they feel, I simply find that statement baffling. However, the movie is worth it if only to see footage of Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury recording “Be Our Guest” and to hear Ashman singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and especially “Part of Your World.”
Available to stream on Disney+

The Little Mermaid (1989)
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
The Howard Ashman documentary made me really want to watch this, and now I’m even more upset at the doc’s claim that “his work was never political.” I cannot see how someone can see The Little Mermaid as anything but a story about queerness. Ariel is fascinated with a culture her father finds abhorrent and love for someone who she is not supposed to love. She not only feels like she does not belong under the sea, but she must change her body in order to be her true self. Meanwhile, Ursula the sea witch is essentially a drag queen who has been vanished from the kingdom, I assume, for being too queer/living outside the mainstream. Ariel, uncomfortable in her world and shunned by her father could very well have grown to live a similarly bitter and isolated life. 
My wife has two complaints: that Ariel spends so much of the second half without a voice (which, whatever) and that she upends her life for a dude she barely knows (which, valid). I contend that the movie only works (but works beautifully) when taken as allegory. Eric is little more than a fuckboy/himbo. The happy ending is not that Ariel gets with him, but that Triton finally accepts her daughter for who she is.
Available to stream on Disney+

Brazil (1985)
Director: Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam reminds me of Tim Burton. Not so much in their aesthetics, which are unique to each, but in that both are (or seemed) more interested in striking visuals and memorable images than in “coherent” stories. Now, there’s nothing wrong with an incoherent / non-linear movie, but those are not the kind of movies these men make – beyond the design elements, these movies are stuck with pretty boilerplate three-act structures. 
The difference, of course, is in their decay. Burton imploded as he became a sell-out, comfortable churning out studio pablum in exchange for big budgets. Gilliam, meanwhile, has had to struggle to finance pretty much every picture he’s made, and yet, even in the world of ‘independence’ his budgets are too high not to have a lackluster script attached to them. 
The movie Brazil reminds me most of is Batman Returns. Both are emblematic of their directors’ personal fascinations, and are full of unforgettable moments, sequences, and images (they’re both full of stuff that would’ve given me nightmares as a child.) And yet, they are draggy, and baggy, and honestly, get pretty boring in their second halves. 
If I had seen this at thirteen, I probably would’ve loved it.
Available to stream on the Criterion Channel.

Looking Back at the Movies of 2019 (Part 2)

Captain Marvel loves to ‘hang loose’ before flying off to bomb foreign countries.

Read part one here.

Ford v Ferrari
You know your movie has reached a previously untouched level of shamelessness when you’re trying to paint the Ford Motor Company as the underdogs. Sure, Ferrari used to dominate Le Mans, but don’t worry, that plucky underdog Henry Ford II will show those dirty Italians who’s boss. Good thing he has literally MILLIONS of dollars to spend in a vanity project. Ford v Ferrari is a disgustingly Randian movie, and like most of Rand’s fans, inadvertently reveals its own insecurities – how fragile is the American ego, that it insists on regurgitating underdog stories over and over again? If the United States of America is, as it claims, the greatest and most powerful country in the world, then it is also a playground bully obsessed with playing the victim.

Captain Marvel
Crazy that they decided to release a commercial for the U.S. Air Force in movie theaters, but I guess the gamble worked because people ate it up! So, we all learned that even if you are a silly little girl you can join the military and grow up to be a hero just like Captain Marvel. Although I must confess I remain a little dubious of the whole thing. I mean, there’s something about killing innocent civilians in a remote drone strike that doesn’t seem all that heroic to me.

With four credited screenwriters, it’s no wonder this movie feels written by committee. The portrayal of high school presented in Booksmart is baffling, the product of liberal writers who are far more concerned with saying the “right things” than to present any kind of valuable and truthful human experience. I know it’s not a good look for some dude on the internet to shit on a movie by, for, and about women, but I find it truly tragic that so many of us are perfectly content to settle for such nonsense. It’s a testament to the decline of the high school comedy, which gave us such masterpieces as Clueless and Mean Girls, that this nothing movie got praised as one of last year’s best. I suppose Lady Bird wasn’t that long ago, so maybe there’s hope.

Frozen II
In Disney’s Frozen II, ice Queen Elsa learns that the kingdom of Arendell was built at the expense of a brown-skinned indigenous tribe that was displaced and stuck in some sort of time loop. By the end of the movie, Elsa sets things right, but she doesn’t go back to being Queen. Instead, she bestows that title to her younger sister Anna (Disney Elected Leaders don’t sell as well as Disney Princesses) and in a Warren-esque turn of events, goes back to live with and “protect” the once-forgotten tribe. Thus, Elsa fulfills the fantasy of every well-meaning white person who, horrified by their country’s past, dreams of being accepted by the people they once colonized. This might sound a little out of touch with the times (the movie came out last year, after all) but don’t worry, I have it from good authority that in the next movie Elsa will read White Fragility.

The Lighthouse
Listen, I like arcane aspect ratios, expressionistic black and white photography, old-fashioned lighthouse keepers, amazing beards and mustaches, creepy/hot mermaids, funny seagulls, seeing Robert Pattinson jerking off and hearing Willem Dafoe fart as much as the next guy… I just couldn’t understand a single thing they were saying!