Bad Boys for Life
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On the final Thursday of my local cinema's run, a theater of thoroughly zonked movie goers, laughed sang and screamed at the screen -- and each other -- in the experience that is CATS. It felt like we blasted into the future and were already enjoying CATS cult-like status as an astounding confused chaotic spastic dark frightening sexual manic mess, that after it's dismal release and the catastrophic downfall of director and producers alike, had somehow successfully resurfaced to popular culture, no longer as a cat but a PHOENIX! What was meant to be for the masses (the most seen musical in history and a marketing spend of over 120M dollars) is nothing other than an exotic bedlam of moving limbs, an orgiastic panoply of cat-like shapes and sizes, where meaning... has no meaning? It is that strange and nebulous, indeed. The film started, it happened and happened and happened, and then it was done. No true beginning or end, and with perhaps a total of two minutes of dialogue, it was a whirring random jarring maddening trippy journey. It's worth adding: when Sir Ian McKellan goes full cat, the audience got quiet and leaned in -- if only for a moment. And then, during the final song, Dame Judi Dench too got the audience to hush, listen and watch. Indeed, McKellan and Dench are featured in some of the only shots whose duration is over two seconds. In the eddy from the brow beating white water of rapid movement and unceasing edits, we could watch a performer and at least understand what the hell she was saying and doing. To be honest, I'm not sure CATS is even appropriate for children, but by golly, get a group of friends together, and go. CATS will surprise you.
WIth the Kubrickian operatic score and constantly shifting camera, Uncut Gems cinematically brings to life Sandler's agitated addicted mind and the sizzling acerbic streets of NY, perfuse with anxiety, adrenaline and aggression.
Sandler is charming and brings just enough likability to the giddy roller coaster to keep us wanting more. The panacea for the nearly vertigo inducing film comes just before the 3rd act. We learn more about Sandler's family and the man that's after him and while it's an unorthodox gamble for the Safdie's to slow the ship (which we know will come crashing down) it adds a certain emotional weight that is paid off in the final scene. Their last film, Good Times, formally amused and provoked, but the story and structure couldn't stand toe to toe with it's formal presentation, the end result feeling hollow. With Uncut Gems, the Safdie's leveled up.
With the outstanding and ever present score and soundscape, the experience of the film felt like something other. With IMAX and 4D adventure films all the rage, here we have a film that harnesses the basic elements of filmmaking with such dynamism and power, we come face to face with cinema, and perhaps a reconciliation with our need for more, more, more. No surprise Scorcese is an EP on this one. Shot on 35mm film, by Darius Khondji, it's a beautiful swirling affair with grit and hot blood moving through it. Also, kudos to Francine Maisler and Jennifer Venditti for finding all the indelible faces for the bit roles that litter the landscape.
Uncut Gems is an accomplishment, a fervant film whose fricative plosive energy announces the Safdie's arrival as outstanding American filmmakers.
It's an entertaining ride, chock full of gags and moment to moment stimulus in what one could call a Superbad with female leads. Wilde has two strong performers to carry the load and from the onset with their freewheeling dancing we know we'll get more than just witty banter. It's a sugar pie of a film that makes for easy eating if you were born in the U.S. from 1980 onwards. Formally, it's a simple adventure film, with each adventure (gone wrong) building on the last. But the humdrum is palpitated with wild moments, departures into alternative visual mediums and surrealism, as well as splashes of ridiculousness. Jamie Gross, who's edited many a funny thing, is due an enormous credit in making this pupu platter a cohesive whole. And credit is due, Booksmart offers more than just bathroom humor. With conversations about sexuality and masturbation, that in the 90s were reserved for risky fair like Clark/ Korine's Kids, we get a slice of teenage sexuality that feels rather true. The film also brings to life the many factions of High School civilization in a way I haven't seen done so effectively since 2004's, The Girl Next Door (which happens to include a scene with Olivia Wilde playing a high schooler!) In Booksmart, we get a film teeming with energy where teenage angst and hormones get the limelight, and we can all look forward to what Wilde decides to shed light on next.
It's a wondering epic, delving into the lives of Los Angeles industry folk -- informative and inventive in its treatment of iconic stories and stars -- it's a love letter to what was and what could have been. Each frame stamped with audio and visual markers of the time, the face of 1960s Los Angeles could very well be listed at top of show. We amble around the city's diverse landscapes, move seamlessly from scenes revealing who and what made our our characters who they are, to presentational docu-style VO and montage, to B&W clips from "TV shows" and back and forth and back again. As the city and its inhabitants flit and flaunt, each sign and symbol plays a role, as we slowly progress with a Bresson-like cool elegance. While Once Upon A Time creeps and lulls, time seems to slow, and the anxiety of the approach fills the void. At some point extreme violence will be unleashed, but it's a careful cat and mouse on the biggest and most dynamic of stages -- something only someone like Tarantino, professionally and personally, could create. The story, largely centered on the fall of Dicaprio's stumbling and fumbling aging star, weighs proportionately with the up-swing of Sharon Tate and her buoyant untouchables, while Pitt's cool and ageless form drives steady on like Los Angeles itself.
It's a finely composed masterful piece: specific, unique, intentional. Tarantino, like Bresson, made films his own way: "his interior view of cinema had no application if modified," and for that we can be grateful.
While the puzzle pieces build to tell Otis' story, Honey Boy effortlessly sweeps through you bringing you eye to eye with a father and son, and maybe even an invitation to turn an eye on yourself. Truly specific art contends to be universal, something from which many people can take. Perhaps, Honey Boy is such an offering. The film rests upon two person scenes, and while a few moments became slightly overloaded (due to scene length or shot duration) with some agile cross cutting and lively performances from Hedges and Shia, and touching nuance from Jupe and Bowers (and a mysterious but life affirming turn from Twigs) this collection of sparks burns bright. The film acts as an accumulation of moments, and in the end while I was left wanting more from the Hedges section and something deeper from Jupe, I too was satiated. It is an accomplishment and an approach to feature films that strikes a unique chord in today's rather mundane mainstream marketplace. I'd love to see more films like Honey Boy.