Da 5 Bloods
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I May Destroy You
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Mother is a fantastic film about how powerful a mother's love can be, even to the point of corrupting an otherwise good woman. From the first moments of the film, the viewer sympathizes with Mother as her difficulties with her mentally-challenged son are made exceedingly evident. Jin-Tae's corrupting and negative influence has clearly altered Do-Joon's way of thinking and his mannerisms, leading to a dangerously unstable blend of ignorance and lewd thoughts/behaviors. As we view much of the film through Do-Joon's perspective, the viewer is often 'misled' from the truth due to Do-Joon's mental capacity and his view of the world around him. Bong Joon Ho expertly subverts the audiences expectations with the final twist and the resulting brutality, leaving the viewer to question their own morality (a common theme in Bong's films). What was especially striking however, was the inclusion of Do-Joon's rationale behind placing the corpse on the rooftop, which was distressingly sympathetic. The viewer, and Mother, is left wondering what Do-Joon truly knows about his actions and the actions of those around him, leaving the entire film in doubt. Bong's directing was once again superb, getting the most out of each and every actor on screen, especially with more minor characters who, despite limited screen time, felt relatively fleshed out and 'real.' This is one of Bong's strongest cinematic efforts and a must-watch for anyone who enjoyed the mainstream (and simply masterful) Parasite.
The Deer Hunter serves as both a tribute to those who (un)willingly served in Vietnam and a condemnation of the war effort, a dichotomy that became more blurred in films such as Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. But for The Deer Hunter, it focuses on the psychological impact that the Vietnam War had on its young participants. For the first hour of the film, the viewer is introduced to a rambunctious group of fun-loving Pennsylvanian steel-workers who enjoy deer-hunting and tail-chasing. The wedding party scene serves as the perfect contrast for the drastic shift in psychology that the men undergo after their torturous (to say the least) experience in Vietnam. The film did not linger for long on the men's days on the battlefield and in captivity (at least when compared to other contemporary films), which I found refreshing. It serves as more of a character study than a 'war film.' Seeing the men broken down through a brutal game of Russian Roulette and watching poor Nicky eventually succumb to the game's torment was all the more heartbreaking. Speaking of Nicky, Christopher Walken truly gave the performance of his career and stole nearly every scene he was a part of. Like Charlie Sheen's Chris Taylor in Platoon, Nicky served as the metaphor for the loss of innocence that the Vietnam War became (in)famous for. The ensemble cast did extremely well and added to the immersion of this all-too-real and visceral tale. However, I did find faults with the film in its pacing and length. For a film to justify a 3 HOUR run time, it needs to be of exceptional quality and be properly paced. Unfortunately, The Deer Hunter could only fulfill the former. Scenes dragged for excessive periods of time and lingered on moments that added absolutely nothing to the overall narrative. I'm all for realism, but the wedding scene was absurdly lengthy, despite the message of the scene being clear in the first few minutes (it felt like a half hour - it may very well have been). The film could have been 2:15 hours and still have been just as effective. However, I don't think this spoils the experience enough to knock it down below its contemporaries. The Deer Hunter remains an essential Vietnam War flick watch, alongside Apocalypse Now, Born on the Fourth of July, Platoon, and Full Metal Jacket.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a thoroughly fun, eclectic, and entertaining Wes Anderson flick. Wes Anderson truly hones in on his style of film-making (which is basically a genre of its own at this point) and utilizes a brilliant ensemble cast to craft a unique narrative about a fictional hotel during 'World War II.' Ralph Fiennes was simply brilliant and Tony Revolori was a revelation! Their deft interplay was evident from the first moments they shared the screen together. Every moment they shared on screen together was whimsical fun as the two got into quite a few precarious situations. The villains were perfectly cast as Adrien Brody's douchbaggery and Willem Defoe's terrifying mug made for completely reprehensible but thoroughly entertaining heels for the film. Cameo appearances were also aplenty, with Saoirse Ronan and Bill Murray stealing scene after scene. The set design was gorgeous and fantastical, with no detail left untouched. I will definitely have to watch the film again and again to catch all the little fun touches. The humor worked perfectly and complimented the outlandish plot, similar to the Coen Brothers in 'O Brother, Where Art Thou.' The prison scenes were especially entertaining as the resourcefulness of the characters made for a thoroughly entertaining sequence for an equally entertaining (and quite frankly, ridiculous) escape. The whole film felt at the same time serious and emotional and completely tongue-in-cheek. That is the true mark of a Wes Anderson flick and I am thoroughly excited to see what The French Dispatch has to offer. Overall, this is a must watch for any fans of Wes Anderson and of film in general and is a great way to immerse oneself in Anderson's eclectic filmography.
Argo is a great movie if you turn it off before the final climactic sequence of the film. Tension was well built, situations were believable, and the humor was well-placed and a welcome addition to the film. But soon enough, much like the titular joke of the film (Argo-f*** yourself), the movie became tedious and repetitive. The final sequence at the airport was a masterclass in how to overdo cliches and force tension where it did not need to be. The constant 'last-second' saves during the 'tense' airport scene were remarkably cliche and done to the point of boredom. I was just waiting for the next scene rife with frantic camera work and overacting instead of the heart-pounding effect the director and screenwriters intended. The humor in these tense scenes was completely misplaced and removes the viewer from the immersion of the scene instantaneously. The ending was also overly sappy and way too patriotic for my liking. Though the film did speak of some of the horrible truths of the US Government's involvement in Iran and the Middle East, it mostly glossed over them in an opening narrative and never touched upon them again. I felt the movie's cliches and poorly timed humor really undermined the fun and creative premise it offered for a thriller. Just watch a movie like Parasite to see how thrilling moments can be naturally produced without the 'last second' saves at every turn. What an overrated and over-hyped film that completely wasted a great premise and first half of a film.
Okja is a powerful and heartfelt social commentary on the current state of agricultural capitalism. It features excellent performances from a few of Bong Joon Ho's favorites (namely Tilda Swinton) and some newcomers as well (like Paul Dano, Jake Gylenhaal, Seo-hyeon Ahn). Bong did an excellent job of building up the loving and sympathetic relationship between Okja and Mija, who had tangible chemistry despite their considerable on-set limitations (Okja being animated likely had a lot to do with this). Nonetheless, I felt an instant emotional connection between the two through Bong's sometimes subtle, sometimes not-so-subtle development of their relationship. The whole film tugs at the viewers' heartstrings and implores people to see past the rough and ugly exterior of Okja the 'super-pig.' The entire film, like all of Bong's films, shares a deep connection with the ugly truths of the real world, which are not all too dissimilar from the worlds he crafts. Pigs and other loving farm animals are seen only as a commodity and treated as such. As someone who thoroughly enjoys a steady diet of meat, poultry, and fish, I still sympathize with the capitalist plight of animals. My beliefs of humane slaughter and treatment justify my consumption of these animals and that is the message I got from Okja. These animals were thoroughly mistreated, forced to breed, and at the end of their cruel torture, heartlessly slaughtered. Only when Mija provided her solid gold trinket was Okja's life spared and the next super-pig lined up for slaughter. I do wish there was a stark juxtaposition between the free-range, humanely treated animal farms and the conveyor belt-style slaughterhouse employed by the Mirando (surprisingly similar to Monsanto) in order to impart the message that there are morally 'right' ways to consume meat. However, I am still grateful for the overall message of the film as it falls right in line with one of, if not my favorite documentaries: Food Inc. This is an essential watch for those concerned with humane treatment of animals and animal rights in general. Overall, though Okja is one of Bong's weaker efforts (still better than Snowpiercer), its message is everlasting and all-important in an increasingly capitalist and callous society.