Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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Cheese lovers may appreciate the terrible acting, editing, sound mixing, cinematography, special effects, plot development, character development, general direction. They are all bad, in the same way that Birdemic is bad. This is clearly the work of an amateur. I forgive that much, especially since I find cheese to have great entertainment potential. I have a qualm, though. Whereas Birdemic pushes a vague environmentalist agenda that, if anything, has its heart in the right place, I am not sure where director-screenwriter-producer-main star Neil Breen (yeah, one of those) has his heart. Fateful Findings is a sci-fi-political thriller-romantic drama. You know how, say, The Room indulges fully in the melodrama of its corrupted love triangle? Wiseau clearly has a lot of heart in the pitfalls of his character's romantic life. Breen takes his character idly through everything that happens to him. Strange superpowers? Whatever. Government and corporate corruption? Of course. My wife is addicted to meds? Get over it. My best friend killed himself? Nah, that ain't him. And damn it, I will continue to defend Wiseau for his respect towards suicidal victims. Better saccharine than inconsequential. SPOIL--Fuck that. Not only does one major character kill herself (not the best friend, actually), but so do the entire "government" and leading corporate figures. So if everyone was incriminated, who brings the punishment? And Breen has no remorse, and truly believes he should not be held accountable for any of his actions. Birdemic cast had remorse for their evil gas-guzzling ways, The Room cast had remorse for their evil two-timing ways. If Fateful Findings were not so weird and entertainingly bad, I would deem this unwatchable to anyone who has the time to see literally anything else.
Character studies, within as close of an approximation to real life as drama allows, generally do not scream, "That's entertainment!" Everything that can count towards film quality will count -- cinematography, score, acting, dialogue, storytelling, lighting, editing. Thus, I would argue that the best character studies are generally better than the best of nearly all other genres. Of course, that comes with plenty of personal bias. I have trouble in enduring characters not worth my time learning about. Luckily, director-writer Kenneth Lonergan has created and developed a character who may be all too familiar to us somewhere in our personal lives, yet strangely absent in the realm of cinema. On the surface, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) may seem like a typical deadbeat father / husband / employee / friend / uncle / general member of society, treating everyone like crap and is forced to face the consequences of his actions. But Lee knows himself well enough, to understand that seeking redemption is futile. He made a grave mistake, and second chances won't prevent him from making the same mistake again. He won't ever forgive himself, even if everyone else does, and will simply do what he can to distract himself for however long he lives. Because he does not forgive himself for *SPOILER* neglecting a fire that ultimately killed all three of his children, he could not ever take the place of his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) as the guardian of Patrick (Lucas Hedges).
I dig negative spaces. With Manchester by the Sea being the second Kenneth Lonergan film I have seen, I hail him as an artisan of the cinematic negative space. We can see connections develop and thoughts transmit through both what is said and what is not said. We fill in the blanks, based on both what is on the screen and what is not on the screen. Not just in one scene, but also in between scenes. That can apply to a whole plethora of directors, so I would also note something unique about Lonergan's style. I would not necessarily call him darkly humoured, but he does let sad jokes also stand as revealing moments for us to better understand the characters. Thus, you are free to laugh off whatever was said or done, or you can spend more time considering whom the person in question is. So, uh, I've seen two-thirds of Lonergan's entire filmography as director and writer, Margaret being the one film I missed. Looks like I am a fan. I'm not sure why Manchester by the Sea got some audience negativity for being slow. Maybe it really is too real for some viewers. Oh, well. Incidentally, I recommend this to anyone with a general appreciation for cinema, not to mention Massachusetts.
There is a time and place for cheap, but funny environmentalist satire. A giant monster movie seems perfectly fitting. Sure enough, without ever having to push an agenda on the audience, many of the jokes still linger. What I did not expect in the package was high tension, heartbreakingly sincere performances at the face of ridiculousness, a family in disarray we so long to see in both literal and figurative unity, clever editing, and -- for the lazy viewer -- a frightening monster. I went in as a cynic. 72% approval from RT audience: How could it be any more than a silly Korean horror flick? So much more, it turns out. Thanks, director and co-screenwriter Bong Joon-ho.
Rarely do animated children's movies challenge the moral core of its viewers, regardless of age. I mean, in its structure and jokes, Toy Story 3 is a movie primarily intended for children, starting around age 4 or 5. It's perfect for those with younger siblings in the age range of 1 to 3, or even remember daycare / preschool. And regarding the fate of all the characters, the heroes survive to a happy ending, the villains get their comeuppance, no character is left behind. I accept this fully from a children's movie, because, oh God, why should any child have to experience their beloved characters ultimately live in a cruel, miserable, unforgiving world? No, what Toy Story 3 wishes to teach is that there are cruel, miserable, unforgiving situations. Sure, you may be able to pull through as best as you can, but you must also accept whatever cards you are dealt with. That is shockingly mature for any film, let alone one with pull-string cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) and battery-operated astronaut Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) as the heroes.
Pixar has generally had a natural grasp in reappropriating familiar movie tropes for their own studio works. In the case of Toy Story 3, there are elaborate heists, noir-esque flashbacks, torture / brainwashing, loss of a loved one, loss in faith, star-crossed lovers, even a scene that switches between two settings to unveil some major corruption. That scene is also one of the funniest, because the toys are expecting the loving arms of preschoolers, only to be mutilated by senseless toddlers instead. For most viewers, however, the one scene that will stay with them is the gang slowly descending on garbage disposal towards a furnace, holding each other's hands as they wait for death. Pixar took a leap of faith in where kids, parents, and critics could meet, without sacrificing any group. They landed safely.
Bear with me, I shall compare this trilogy to Star Wars. The first movie established a premise, with flying colours despite, or perhaps because of, trope indulgences. They turn the tropes into something refreshing, much needed for their respective genres. The second movie uses what was great about the predecessor, for the creation of a cinematic masterpiece. The third movie finishes unfinished business, with satisfying results amid surprisingly weak moments. And much like Return of the Jedi, Before Midnight is the only film in the series that would struggle to stand on its own. The characters have grown older, wiser, and at the brink of midlife crises. A common theme in the trilogy is that Hawke and Delpy have open, non-judgmental, thought-provoking conversations, yet struggle to communicate how they feel in a direct manner. Before Midnight highlights the dark side to this. What if they actually need to be away from each other? More fruit for thought, only this time, it's at the expense of the same level of interest that was attained in previous movies. I don't believe it was bound to happen, but nevertheless, expect some of the usual relationship conflicts and miscommunication in most other romance films. Hawke and Delpy's commitment to their roles makes up for that greatly, and it's not that I don't believe the conflict on screen. Linklater's take on romance is refreshingly in touch with reality. I just had to make more of an effort to care, this time around.