Not rated, but it does get pretty sexual. While there is no nudity and no one actually has sex in the movie, man they get close. There's also some things that would definitely be considered rape. The male lead is seduced by a mentally handicapped woman and instantly takes advantage of the situation, only to be stopped by her nurses. He also gets into some dicey territory when it comes to seducing his wife. The entire movie is about infidelity, so keep that in mind.
DIRECTOR: Michelangelo Antonioni
I'm leaving for Italy pretty soon and I didn't want to end my "Italian" movie streak without a tried-and-true Italian movie to close up shop. I'm writing this way too late at night. I just wrote a whole blog about Jurassic World: Dominion, so please excuse the hard right that my brain is going to take to try to write about this movie that requires one's complete attention, despite a gruelingly slow pace. I have to say, I'm back and forth about Antonioni. For a guy who has completely come around on Fellini, I am now more lost than ever when it comes to Antonioni. I keep grasping so tightly to Blow-Up because that film is just the next level. But I avoided rewatching L'Avventura because I remember not having that good a time watching it the last two times I gave it a shot. (I will be watching it in the fairly near future. After all, I now own it and should probably watch my copy of it.)
But I have a pretty weird take on the film. I think I might have to watch this movie two or three more times to really get all of the themes and ideas within this movie, but I do want to go with some gut reactions. Antonioni is a real bummer sometimes, you know? I'm saying that from a New Wave / 1961 perspective. It's some real clinical writing that I'm doing right now. For those who know my tastes, which is mostly my students, I would like to remind you that I'm into bummer stuff. This is not a recent thing. I don't know what it is about bummer endings that really get me, but they do. All of La Notte is a huge bummer. Everyone in this movie, with the exception of the dying man in the hospital, is a huge turd. There are greater and lesser turds, but they are all turds. We're supposed to judge this life of the bourgeoisie all the way. Even though Antonioni himself is an intellectual, this movie throws stones at intellectual culture. While almost everyone in the story is some degree of intellectual, they all seem wildly unhappy with where their lifestyle choices has led them. I refuse to list because it is straight up bad writing, but I do want to use the protagonists of the story as my exhibits A and B.
Giovanni is the one we are meant to throw stones at. Maybe I'm being harsher on him because I'm a big fan of monogamy, both in life and in my storytelling (which makes no sense with my affinity for Woody Allen films). But Giovanni is this guy who actively chases sex. Considering that the film almost follows the neoclassical precepts about unity of time, this is meant to be a typical day for this couple. Yes, they lose a friend to...something. But everything else about the day is meant to show how this couple leads their lives. Giovanni cheats. Lidia...might be cheating. I'm still not quite sure what she does and how sexually active she is. But Giovanni actively hunts down women for sexual relations. There's a conquest element about it all. It's why he is okay with the seduction by the mental patient because it seems to be another notch on his belt. He goes after a 22-year-old because he in no way is invested in his wife. He seems to justify his actions because she is vocally judgment-free about his indiscretions. But they both seem miserable. As much as this is a party about debauchery and really odd statue seductions (for those who have seen the movie, I'm talking about the Pan statue), everyone seems dead inside. I'm going to take a turn from this, don't worry. I'm not just writing about the obvious.
It's only when Lidia confesses that she no longer loves her husband that Giovanni tries to seduce her. It's really pathetic and that's what Antonioni is shooting for. Again, I'm not here to state the obvious, despite the fact that I've dedicated who-knows-how-much-digital-space to the obvious. But it just becomes this sense of Giovanni being afraid of losing. Nothing counts if he can't keep his wife on the hook. I still state that the end is sexual assault, but I do want to go into the fragile territory about whether there was any questionable consent in that moment. She avoids being kissed, but she does nothing to remove him from her. I think Antonioni leaves it ambiguous on purpose. After all, there's not much in the film that is necessarily overt. He wants us to make conclusions about a lot of things in the movie.
But here's the odd part. I had to question who I was while watching this movie. Antonioni builds this world of unfaithful misery. I don't know if this comes to a shock to anyone, but this blog is a cry for help from a guy who desperately wants to be an author. I blame a large family and a constant string of newborns-to-three-year-olds from giving me any time to write anything of substance. I can only really write in long-form during the summers as a teacher (note that my momentum is way stronger than it is during the school year). But as depressing as La Notte paints the world of the intellectual, there's something still appealing about it. I mean, I love my life. I love my life and I wouldn't trade it in for anything. But there are elements of envy that I see when I watch a movie like La Notte. That jealousy comes from the idea that I could live Giovanni's life better than he could. I could see going to nightclubs, having drinks with other intellectuals. I could see having self-imposed deadlines and heavy discussions. There's one thing that Giovanni has that I could never shed. Because he has created this bleak world for himself, he never really has imposter syndrome. That dude, for all of his misery, is confident as crap. Maybe he deserves it, maybe he doesn't. It is implied that Giovanni's book is actually that good. Antonioni might be commenting on the role of the artist and the self-destructive habits that come from people devoted to art, but it is still kind of sexy in its own way.
It's really funny that I think that way too. The older I get, the more I'm convinced that I'm an introvert. It's why I stay up so late writing. It's quiet in the house right now. I'm going to be exhausted when my little ones wake me up tomorrow night. The film ends with the married couple walking on the sprawling lawns of the super rich, discussing how their marriage is basically falling apart. The eponymous night has passed and the day is filled with the painful dawn. And yet, they're not exhausted. They're our age and they aren't the least bit tired. Lidia asks to avoid going home after partying all night and I can't even imagine living that life. As envious as I am to write and talk art and philosophy, the lifestyle has to be murder. I've probably been poisoned by the suburbs my entire life. But if I could cut out the party that Giovanni and Lidia go to, I wouldn't hate being the guy in the black suit chatting up the role that art plays on the soul. Yeah, their lives suck. But it doesn't mean that I don't want just a piece of that.
(To be absolutely clear, it's not the adultery part. You get that right? He's a huge turd. I just want to write books and chat with smart folks.)
PG-13 for dinosaurs-eatin'-folk. Like, if there's a dinosaur on screen, there's a good chance he gonna eat someone. And he's going to scream, real loud. If you aren't a fan of jump scares, which my kids apparently aren't, maybe this isn't the movie for you. I'd also like to put out there that there's some casual swearing that I've grown far too comfortable with. But I don't think my kids even picked up on it because I'm a bad dad who takes them to PG-13 movies.
DIRECTOR: Colin Trevorrow
It's set in Italy! I haven't really broken my rule about watching movies that weren't set in Italy. Sure, I got really lucky with that reveal. And sure, there is very little reference to the fact that they are in Italy because it all takes place in an underground secret lab in Italy where everything is in English and everyone speaks English. But it still counts. Heck, it probably counts more than The Italian Job because there was at least a long section of the movie in Italy. I wanted to also take credit for the stuff that happens in Malta because it is so close to Italy and it feels like Italy, but I don't have that kind of power.
First of all, this might have been the loudest movie that I've ever seen. For a guy who writes about movies so much, you'd think I would know more about how movie theaters operated. Does the studio tell them how loud to play the movie? Does the projectionist even have control over the volume output of the film? Or was this some cowboy who just keeps setting all of the stuff to full and assumes that no one is going to fight it. My kids had their hands over their ears the entire time. Even my mother, who joined us for this late night excursion that got the kids into bed just shy of midnight, found the sound a bit much and her hearing is failing her. This probably didn't help. She also probably thought that I was a monster taking my kids to such a scary film. But I would like to point out that she took me to Jurassic Park in 1993, when I was the same age as Olivia. Trust me, when my kids jumped, I quickly did the math to defend myself on the way home.
But the big thing I want to touch on is me. Why do I feel the need to defend movies that get slammed. I mean, I knew that Dominion would never be the best Jurassic movie. But I also saw that trailer and knew that it looked more rad than Fallen Kingdom. I also knew that even the worst Jurassic movie was still going to be a good time. Hence, my thoughts on Jurassic Park III, which is barely a movie yet is still pretty watchable. And you know what? Not only was the movie better than people made it out to be. I'm going to put it on the "Good Jurassic movie list". There's not that many on that list. I would like to lock the following blasphemy into the record: Jurassic World: Dominion is the third best Jurassic movie. The order of the top three? Jurassic Park (an absolute masterpiece that has never had even close to a peer out there), Jurassic World, and then Jurassic World: Dominion. Let chaos reign.
Here's why I think that Dominion is a better movie than people give it credit for. Do you know what Dominion absolutely fails to do? It fails to close a trilogy. Trevorrow kept coming out with the statement that this is the end of this trilogy. He's sure that Universal will do something with this franchise. After all, they're the only real players with dinosaurs in the game. (That's a weird thing because dinosaurs are public domain and everyone else is terrified to try to capitalize on that.) But in terms of ending the story that has been their version of the Skywalker Saga (I apologize to Trevorrow for the sensitive allusion), it is just a somewhat new Jurassic film. Sure, it has a lot of the touchstones of the Jurassic franchise. It has your characters from both trilogies, which screams The Rise of Skywalker. The bad guys, unsurprisingly, are a mega-corporation who try to capitalize on nature. That's all par for the course. There's running from dinosaurs. But I will say this: I like the new directions that Dominion took.
Some of you might think it's a step back. I debated that for a while in this movie because it does seem to come out of nowhere. These evil genetics corporations have been bad guys for trying to market dinosaurs as military weapons for so many movies that it is odd to see the GMO aspect get a lot of play here. I hate summarizing movies, but I also know that some people are going to skip this entry in the franchise because of the negative reviews. (The movie just came out and there were only four showings at our theater.) Dodgson, the guy from the first movie who is now played by a new actor, is the head of a major genetics research company. He seems to be this altruistic savior of humanity, offering shelter to dinosaurs in his sanctuary post-the events of Fallen Kingdom. (I hope I remember to talk about that.) But he also uses his new dino-technology to genetically engineer super locusts that eat up all crops that aren't seeded with his company's GMOs. It's pretty evil. But I will say, making the movie where the presence of dinosaurs is incidental is kind of genius. There's this normality to the world being infested with dinosaurs and they aren't even the problem of the film: It's still humanity.
That's what I think makes a Jurassic movie interesting. Yeah, our heroes need to be on the run from mega-super scary dinosaurs the entire time. (I will spoil that, once again, the T-Rex comes in for the final battle to save our heroes. My least favorite Jurassic trope.) But the bad guys need to be the people who don't respect nature. Using nature to make a buck is the moral of the story and that's what it has always been. The fact that it looks a little bit different is almost a testament to the fact that we never learn from our mistakes. As someone who has very little hope for humanity left, I applaud that. Yeah, I'm sure that dinosaurs will be used by the military. But I also like that we're making all new mistakes. That's a very Ian Malcolm thing to comment on and I adore it.
But I did have an epiphany. I'm not sure if I've had this epiphany before. I may have. But who has time to read old blog entries, especially considering that I hate the author of those blog entries? My epiphany is that, as much as the motifs of nature and the themes of respecting nature are constantly thrown at an audience, there's something really anti-environmental about the films. There was this debate in Fallen Kingdom about whether or not mankind should save the dinosaurs on the collapsing Isla Nublar or should they be removed from the island and taken care of in a new facility. Malcolm, who hates being right all the time, stresses that saving the dinosaurs is a terrible idea. And do you know what? He's right. He advocates active extinction for a new dominant species and that concept is ignored by the protagonists. It's funny, because Claire's character arc over the course of these films is from cold-hearted corporate stooge to eco-terrorist. (Okay, revolutionary. I'm still kind of on her side in these movies. It's a complicated issue!)
But every time that the protagonists side with the dinosaurs (which is every time) there are insane consequences that the same protagonists have almost no regret over. Remember, it was Owen and Claire that got the dinosaurs off of Isla Nublar. Sure, they didn't know that they would instantly be put up for auction. But Maisie decides to release the dinosaurs into the wild, where they reproduce like maniacs. (I don't know why they made Blue special. I acknowledge that it is a kind of dumb absurd plot point.) And then the movie starts with an absolutely charming "Now This" video showing the increase in dinosaur related deaths, yet humanity isn't wiping out the dinosaurs left and right? I'm not talking about black market poachers. No, I can see dinosaurs avoiding extinction from these people. But the world just decided to live with the notion that dinosaurs are totally going to kill us at any moment, yet we haven't professionally hunted them down? We just accept that dinosaurs are ruining everything and are doing nothing about it? It is kind of silly that the protagonists are the people protecting these dinosaurs, despite the fact that the same dinosaurs are constantly trying to kill them. People get ripped apart, but God forbid that we do something about the problem we created.
I mean, I get it. Despite the fact that I'm not particularly an animal person, slaughtering the dinosaurs is a pretty unsympathetic approach. I thought that maybe the movie would take the position of an overburdened military, similar to what we see in Dawn of the Dead. But no. But who honestly cares? (Besides me, who overthinks movie franchises to the point where I needed to write it down so someone would listen.) (Also, if I die for any reason, make a book out of this crap. Fix the typos.)
But I stand by my position: this is a good Jurassic movie. It doesn't do anything to wrap up the franchise. It simply seems like a problem that is kind of new to be dealing with coupled with the notion that the setting has changed in a fun way. I also really applaud that it made all of the in-between sequels canon. There was talk that maybe Jurassic World was a direct sequel to Jurassic Park, but they threw down enough references to other films that everything is fair game. Sure, there's no real reason to connect the old crew and the new crew together, but it was fun. Am I crazy though or did Sam Neill have a hard time finding his old Alan Grant voice? It felt like he was doing a generic American accent, not Alan Grant? Just me? I don't know. Either way, it was fun. Also, poor Ellie. She divorced Mark? I mean, I thought it was weird that Alan and Ellie didn't work out after the first movie, but she still deserved to have a healthy relationship with the father of her kids. But it was worth seeing Alan and Ellie pick up where they left off.
TV-14 for some crass language and sexual innuendo. When I looked it up on Common Sense Media, I was horrified by the words they used, mainly because we wanted to watch this with the kids in the room. We didn't let them watch for the most part. Then we realized that this movie was the scandalous equivalent of unseasoned ramen and figured out that this movie were for people afraid of any confrontation. The most questionable thing is about an unwed mother and the film kind of makes light of cheating. Still, TV-14.
DIRECTOR: Brandon Camp
Do you know how many good Italian movies I have sitting right next to the television right now and my wife made me watch this? I try not to judge people on what they like. I always encourage for people to be passionate. If I don't like something, you should continue liking it. After all, who am I? I'm a nobody. I'm going to tell you why I either like or don't like a movie. But this kind of stuff? This is the stuff that I can only consider Hallmark afterbirth. It's not quite Hallmark. After all, there's some mild language, as I mentioned previously. But it is also the most vapid garbage I could ever watch. This movie made me dry heave bile. While I still stand by my statement of liking what you like, I beg you --for the sake of future generations of filmmakers --challenge yourself. I'm all for varying good stuff and bad stuff. But this movie is an outlier for how little a movie can be challenging.
I'm oddly hyperventilating right now. I need to approach this like any other blog entry, despite the fact that A) I really disliked this movie and B) I just finished writing about The Italian Job and it's really late at night. But what is the message of this movie? I could not tell you the name of the movie because, as I've mentioned multiple times on this blog, I'm not much of a rom-com guy. I loathe that they all have generic titles, which makes it even harder to remember. But the story oddly takes the format of another rom-com. It was the story of a husband or a boyfriend who died and he sent his wife on a scavenger hunt whirlwind tour of Ireland, I think. With the case of Love & Gelato, it's the story of a dead mom who insists that her daughter takes a trip to Italy by herself. She's very insistent that she has to go by herself. It's odd, because they have to mention that really weird rule early on to her friend, who ends up showing up anyway, crapping all over her friend's mom's dying wish. But I digress. For a movie about finding love, it has that weird element that states that this is about being a strong woman.
But I never really see the protagonist as being strong. Lina has this coda at the end of the story saying that she got her strength. But the brunt of the movie has her being one of the most dependent characters ever. She shows up in Italy and there's an exposition dump that her Italian is pretty darned impressive. After all, she's going to a prestigious university after acing her AP Italian class. (As a teacher in a pretty impressive school, I don't know many schools that offer AP Italian.) But she never uses it. There are a couple times, for the sake of verisimilitude, that she's forced to use it. But the actress doesn't really sell it very well. Then the movie completely forgets that she's able to converse in this immersive experience. This seems like I'm nitpicking, but she goes to this underground bakery (Yup) and goes on a huge rant about how men are the worst and how baked goods are the only things that really bring her joy. I get the idea that the jokes probably sounded better in English, but I'm going to disagree. I think this would have been one of those glorious moments where reading the text in Italian with a flabbergasted Lina would have crushed. Do you know why I say that? Because the joke didn't land in English. It's just garbage.
But since this is a rom-com, I have to break it down from a romantic comedy perspective. This is one of those love-triangle stories. There's a parallel between the two men she meets in Italy with the men that her dead mother met when she went there. (Also, it's weird that the language changed to Italian in the diary, but I low-key respect that.) But these are such polarizing relationships. The first one is the one we know is going to be terrible. He's not Mr. Darcy and if anyone makes that comparison again, we might end up civilly debating while I slowly lose respect for you. Ale is the worst. He's gross and sleazy. He's just so cringe. And the issue is, I don't know why she is even remotely interested in him. If the film is about making her an independent woman, she's only attracted to money and celebrity if that's the case. There's this moment right when the two agree to go out where she goes to the opera. She's genuinely moved by the opera, which catches Lina off guard. Ale sees this moment. At this second, he's genuinely invested in her. So what does he do? He pulls her out of the show and ruins the opera by running out a fire door. How is that attractive? He so fundamentally understands what she is going through, and yet, she keeps coming back to him? The only reason that she halts that relationship is because he immediately cheats on her.
So that must mean that Lorenzo is her true love. Sure, he's a great guy who looks pretty goofy (Sorry), but he's actually dating someone. And this isn't just someone. This is someone major in his life. Yeah, it doesn't matter that his girlfriend is the worst. She is the worst and that's a nice bone to throw the audience to make it a lot less morally dubious. But he claims that they've been friends since childhood. They've been dating for two years. That's a big deal. While they totally should break up, it shouldn't be because he cheats on her. That's a red flag. And to top it all off, they don't even date? The movie returns to its original thesis about finding oneself. But I don't really have a clear indication why Lina makes that decision. It's like Lina knows that she's in a movie that is about her finding herself and that's why she makes that final choice. But none of the actions leading up to that moment prepare for that decision. It's just because her mom was alone that she feels that she should be alone and make her own decisions. (By the way, my wife straight up said, "I bet she doesn't read the diary in one sitting like a normal person would do.' She's totally right.)
But the most insane element of this movie is the weird will-they-won't-they of choosing an adoptive dad. Yeah, that's not a thing. People don't choose 19-year-olds to take care of. I know. Howard really loved Lina's mom. That's super cool. But you know when an adult meets another adult that's older than them, they don't start defining it as "Adopted Dad". No, they're friends. They can be father figures. I'm very cool with that notion. But the guy does not go up to the girl and say that they want to be their dad. It's not unless that dad has somehow exiled her. And if you really want to squint at the movie and claim that her real father drove her to Howard, I'll have to stop you there. It's not like she had a relationship with that guy and then she found out who he really was. He met the expectations that she had going into that situation.
Also, the gelato. The eponymous gelato! I love me some pistachio gelato. It was the only thing that I could get behind. But he gives away the gelato to make her feel better. To a certain extent, that was sweet of him. But also, she doesn't need a whole pitcher of gelato to make her feel better. You also lied to her and said that you had another one. Come on, dude. That was a major moment for you as a character. It didn't really make you seem all that romantic. It made you seem cocky and kind of dumb.
Then, and boy-oh-boy, this bothers me: Addie. You deserve so much better. I thought we were past the minority best friend. Having your only person of color be the supportive best friend who does all of the stereotypes to make your white friend, who has safely the most blessed life ever, is heartbreaking. Addie makes fake Instagram videos because her life is so empty, but feels the need to support Lina in a crisis that isn't even a crisis? There's so much to do with that character, but it just is the representation card. Why not make this a real character who has actual problems? Why not build her into something that is more than someone to laugh at? It's tokenism and it's really really bad.
I love me some Italy. I'm getting jazzed to go because I know that Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world. But as pretty as this movie was, it kind of made Italy seem like a bunch of touristy garbage. The pasta in this movie looked terrible. There was no attention to seeing the smaller things that make it great. Instead, it's just filled with tropes and archetypes that seem soulless. Italy is too good to be put into this garbage film. It hurt to watch.
PG-13 for one f-bomb coupled with a lot of light language. There's some murder and sexuality, which I fast-forwarded for the kids. Mind you, the movie kind of glorifies thievery a 'la Oceans Eleven, so I don't know if the messages in this movie are that good. My son kept telling me that gun use was always bad and I couldn't argue with him. I feel like I did something right there, so keep that in mind when people are shooting at each other.
DIRECTOR: F. Gary Gray
Nothing like showing your kids a movie that takes place in Italy before we go to Italy that apparently only spends, like, ten minutes in Italy. Yeah. I googled "Great movies that take place in Italy" and I thought that this was the one that would grab my kids' attention. No, it's not like the original and I completely forgot about that. There's no "blowing the bloody doors off" or anything like that. It's ten minutes in Venice and that's it. If we were doing a family holiday in L.A., then this movie would have been appropriate. Do you know how awkward it is to sit down for a family movie only to confess that they can watch something else because this had no purpose.
Now, I had seen this movie before. I saw this movie a whole bunch of times between 2003 and 2006. But now it's 2022 and I remembered maybe a few minutes of it. I remembered Mark Wahlberg and a bunch of Mini Coopers. But I didn't remember how dated this movie would be. (I mean, you only realize that something's dated once it's been removed from its era.) But The Italian Job might be a cautionary tale about making topical jokes. Man, this movie invested really hard in the Napster jokes and didn't let go. I remember laughing my face off when I was in theaters back in the day. But boy, when that first Napster joke showed up, I knew that it was going to get called back far too many times for humor's sake. Then, I had to remove it by twenty years and then I realized that the movie might not be this hilarious piece of cinema that I remembered.
It's odd, because this is a movie that is fundamentally a remake of what some people consider to be a classic. I saw the Michael Caine one. I didn't love it. This was one of those movies that I considered to be a superior remake. But I'm trying to take this film as something that can stand on its own. And the big takeaway is that this movie owes actually more to the Ocean's Eleven remake than anything else. Sure, it has some major actors. Some of those actors weren't really big names before The Italian Job, so that's an extra treat. But a lot of the film is really leaning heavily into archetypes. Now, I have the odd disadvantage of having an emotional memory of this film. I had high expectations of it and I was let down. That's on me. But even more than that, I couldn't even claim that I was solving things before the characters did. After all, I've seen this movie before. Many times. I've seen this movie many times before. Just because I didn't formally remember a lot of it doesn't give me clearance to watch this with completely fresh eyes. But with all of those caveats laid out, did anyone think that Edward Norton's Steve wasn't going to betray them? I mean, that moustache, right? It's so much. I think that Edward Norton's place in a heist film. He's meant to be this mousy sleezebag that gets under your skin immediately.
But let's pretend that I can separate myself from things and watch this as a movie in 2022. As much as it is a heist movie, the protagonists need to be sympathetic thieves. After all, they're bad guys. If you have bad guys as the spearheads of your film, you need to have people kinda / sorta like them, right? That leaves Donald Sutherland's John as a fridged character. It's really weird. John is murdered by Steve so that Steve doesn't have to share $37 million dollars. Okay, that scans. But to pull that off, Steve shows up with another team to rob John and Charlie's squad. Doesn't that mean that Steve has to still share $37 million dollars? Maybe those guys were cool with smaller shares? But really, all this means is that the film is setting up a conflict of protagonist versus his mirror image antagonist. The thing is...Steve's dumb. From moment one, he's kind of showing off the fact that he lacks all imagination. That's actually his primary character trait. The only difference between Charlie and Steve is that Steve is ruthless while Charlie is full of ruth. The story clearly becomes one of brains versus brains and brawn. The film almost keeps nerfing Steve as the film goes on, almost posing him as lucky. There are moments where Steve might be a threat, but it's in the final climax that Steve actually grows some claws.
But as much as these characters are archetypes that thrive on charm and a great bass soundtrack like the photocopy of Ocean's Eleven that it is, I kind of feel bad for Stella's development. Stella is the woman at the sausage party. Dear Lord, Stella and The Italian Job do not pass the Bechdel test even a little bit because there is only one female role in this movie. But Stella starts the film supposedly angry at Charlie for his part in getting her father killed. But her sense of morality and self-esteem really goes down the drain quickly as she volunteers to take Steve out. Part of me gets this. Gray wants to show that Stella is a moral person out of a sense of rebellion with her father, but also wants to get revenge for his death. But I kind of wish that Stella was already working to take Steve down without Charlie's help before she joins his team of thieves. Now, a lot of this is me judging from a place of boredom, but I get the vibe that Stella, despite being a narratively huge character in this story, is always reacting versus being proactive. Sure, she brings in the Mini-Coopers, but she's taking notes from Charlie the entire time. Actually, why is she taking notes from Charlie? Stella is the one who has the greatest to get and lose from this story. Charlie is getting his money and has mud on his face. Stella lost a father and is smarter than all of the other character's combined. She has the internal conflict. But she's always playing second fiddle to the other characters. This story should have Charlize Theron as main billing, but she's a bit player in what should be her own story.
Look, it's not that the movie is bad. I'm really looking at it through an unfair lens. I wanted this to be a movie about Italy and it was a movie about L.A. F. Gary Grey was making this movie for the audiences of 2003. I think he knew that this wasn't going to be some masterpiece that withstood the test of time. He wanted a big box office and I think that he got it. Watching this film from my perspective is an unfair test. It was a fine movie, but I can't help but see an inferior Ocean's Eleven. I mean, it's no Ocean's Twelve, but it also ain't great in its own right.
Not rated. It's an older movie and Italian, so you just can't judge. Here's what you have to look out for. This is fundamentally a story about domestic abuse. There's a murder, albeit an accidental murder. (Whether you want to judge it as manslaughter, that's up to you.) The primary antagonist is a womanizer, so really he's just the most unlikable character. While it has some really gruesome stuff in it, most of it happens off-screen. Visually an appropriate film, but it has some heavy themes.
DIRECTOR: Federico Fellini
This, of course, is not meant to be confused with the Cormac McCarthy story of The Road, which is somehow even more bleak than this story. We're leaving for Italy on Friday and I really want to watch all of my Italian films before then. I started Duolingo, so I'll know that "The boy eats the apple" by the time I leave. But I'm starting to look at Fellini through a new light. I know that Fellini was the first one to defend the notion of the Italian New Wave, but this movie definitely feels more like Neorealism than it does the New Wave. Perhaps the notion of the traveling performers is a bit specific, but the character work in La Strada seems to plant it firmly in the world of Neorealism.
The era of Neorealism was this time in Italy post-war where they were redefining themselves. A lot of neorealism has to do with being cohabitants with an invader. In the case of Italians, it was coming to grips with the concept that they were Italians side-by-side with Americans. But stuff like The Bicycle Thieves dealt more with the fallout of a poor country and the inevitability of poverty on a country. Another thing that should be taken into account is the idea that emotion comes second to truth. I always had a hard time coming to grips with that element of neorealism because neorealism tends to always be remarkably emotional for me. Honestly, the most sympathy that I ever feel in films can be found in Bicycle Theives and Umberto D. La Strada is no different for me. Yeah, there's this inevitability of fate that surrounds Gelsomina. There doesn't seem to be any happy ending for her, despite the fact that the world teases her with potential. When she meets the Fool, there's the hope that his lust for life might be a chance for her to get away from Zampano. But as much as we like the Fool, he doesn't quite live up to his persona.
The Fool is what it means to be an artist. I know that Fellini took his three leads and then gave them each elemental attributes. But The Fool is also someone who seems to genuinely love what he is doing. If I can strip away Fellini's heavy metaphor, from a character perspective, he is doing what every kid dreams about when it comes to joining the circus. Zampano is this guy who has this very specific talent. He's looking to make a quick buck, despite making almost no money. But The Fool, he is responsibility free. He finds joy in his poverty. It never seems to be this burden on him. He goes on the high-wire because it is fun. He wants to go up on stage and tell jokes. He has enough to get by and that's all he wants. That's attractive as heck, especially from Gelsomina's position. Gelsomina is in this because basic capitalism has her trapped. When she views someone like The Fool, the notion that money being the only force driving someone disappears. (Geez Louise, I am now going to go into this socialist argument to make the masses who read this blog upset.) I'm going to finish up my thoughts on the Fool, but this anti-Capitalist thing has legs. The Fool, for all of his joy for the stage, can't possibly make the mature leap to responsibility. Gelsomina, in her virtue, cannot throw herself at him. But she is being abused and the Fool sees it. The odd decision is that the Fool is the one who pushes her back into the arms of Zampano. She confides in the Fool, seeing a kindred spirit. The only joy she gets from this entire experience is in the performance that she contributes. When the Fool offers advice for staying with Zampano, it feels like it is good advice. But it also is a downplaying about the role of abuse. Fellini understands that with the ending that the movie gets.
But now I want to talk about the death of Capitalism and the rise of a Federation-style socialism. (Yeah, my in-laws probably don't love my take on economics and politics.) The reason that she is with Zampano is because Gelsomina's parents borderline sell her off because they are so poor. There's no consideration that Zampano is a monster. There's this fear that money is everything. She doesn't want to leave with him, but mother's knee-jerk reaction that anything is better than poverty. Now, I don't want to be the comfortable-guy-with-a-blog-dowplaying-poverty, but I do want to want to establish that Gelsomina goes from content to miserable very quickly. I've already talked about the Fool representing the role of art. But there's a very touching moment where Gelsomina meets some kind sisters. I'm going to be plucking a little bit out of Nights of Cabiria, but Fellini has this interest in the religious order. With Cabiria, the religious are seen as a little bit foolish, but in a blameless way. But La Strada has the sisterhood as a real option for Gelsomina. These are women who embrace poverty and live in a socialist society. They work for each other and find value in service. But Gelsomina is all screwed up from her conversations with The Fool. The Fool has kind of brainwashed her into a mission that should not exist. Her purpose, according to The Fool, is to take care of Zampano and give him company. It's this attitude that leads to the Fool's death and Gelsomina's ultimate slow crawl to the grave. Zampano is all about money. He never really gets it. But he's obsessed with money. He's the one who is always shucking and jiving for an extra coin. Gelsomina is less of a companion for him and more of a means to add a couple of extra bucks from an audience.
Do you know the weirdest part about La Strada? This is my theory, but I think everything bizarre in this movie is due to Dino DeLaurentis. I don't think I've seen much of DeLaurentis's work in Italy, but he's moving this movie. There's a reason that this movie got international attention. But having Anthony Quinn and Richard Basehart in this film is mind-boggling. I know that when I think of Roman Polanski, especially with The Tenant, he used both local language speakers and English speakers. But I felt like Polanski had a foot in both worlds, which explained that choice. But with Fellini? I don't associate Fellini with American actors. Fellini screams Italian through and through. Yet, the way that the movie starts with the overtly Hollywood opening credits. But it's bizarre because the dubbing is weird. I had an easier time imagining that Anthony Quinn was saying his lines. But when it came to Basehart? Listen, I loved his character, but he screamed dubbing the entire time. It's just a weird choice.
Man, I love La Strada. Between Nights of Cabiria and this movie, I am also a big fan of Guilietta Masina. There's something so wholesome and earnest about her and I can say that she made the movie. My take on Fellini is changing and he's starting to become on of my favorite directors. I think I just watched his films in the wrong order.
Rated PG-13 despite the fact that it is about a technical vampire. As a consequence, the term "exsanguinate" is used appropriately. I suppose a vampire is pretty scary for little kids, especially those kids who want to watch a Marvel-tangential movie. There's some language and scary imagery. There's a lot of blood. I mean, that makes sense. There's a fair amount of death. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Daniel Espinosa
Oh man, I write about Bad Boys for Life and then jump right into Morbius. I never want this blog to about ironic watching. I almost had another Fellini movie for this entry, but my wife fell asleep halfway through it and she seemed to be digging it. (I rarely read falling asleep during a movie an indication that a movie is boring someone. As I'm nearing 40, I realize that sleepiness is just a thing.) But I'm conflicted about this movie. I mean, I can't deny that the lion's share of this blog entry is going to me nitpicking a not-great film. But I want to talk about irony for a bit before getting into the film.
I don't know if you if you've met a teenager. I'm not talking about Gen Z because my generation has its fair share of ironic watching. But teenagers love absorbing things ironically. When it became very clear that Morbius wasn't going to be a good movie, the young folks ran with that pretty hard. Early in Morbius's release schedule, I saw a meme that we've probably all seen. If you're my wife, you haven't seen it, so I'll restate it here. It's a tweet saying, "My favorite part of Morbius is when he said, 'It's Morbin' Time' and morbed all over those guys." I laughed pretty hard about that one when it came out. I even shared it. But then it became like my students posting about Fortnite or Among Us and then just became a joke about telling the joke. I don't particularly love that. I knew that I would eventually get around to Morbius, despite knowing that it was going to be a bit of a trainwreck. But when people started watching it ironically (or in many cases, claiming that they would watch it with no intention of watching it), I decided that I should give it a fair shake. Heck, I went into it darn forgiving. And you know what?
It's fine. It's not good. Oh dear, it's not good. But it's not as bad as people make it out to be. And the thing that really gets under my skin is that it is a copy of a movie that people claimed was good but wasn't: Venom. Sure, Venom had more charm with its interpretation of the symbiote. But I'll give Morbius the point for having action that actually was comprehendible. (TL;DR: Venom was like Transformers that it was just goo hitting other goo. Transformers was metal hitting other metal.) But people swore that Venom was great. I thought that movie was soul-sucking. And a lot of it comes down to the fact that Sony is a soulless company. I know, you've heard me go on this rant before. But Sony's movie division is absolutely corporate and terrible. They are way behind the curve for the direction that films should go. Movies at Sony are made entirely by committee. Sometimes it works out for them. While they are still obsessed with surveys and test screenings, movie really should be more than they invest in. They saw that Venom was a cash-cow. Cool. Do you know what they did? They took all the disparate elements that made Venom successful and did it again.
I hate writing in lists, but it has to happen for the sake of documentation. They took a Spider-Man villain without Spider-Man actually being in the movie. They colored the palate bleak and miserable, surrounded it with sterile scientific nonsense. The protagonist is a sympathetic anti-hero who attempts to tell jokes and fights and antagonist that is a copy of the protagonist. His big temptation is eating people, despite trying to be a good person. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's so much. Like, beat-for-beat, it's just Venom. And, like I stated, I'm in the minority that thinks that Venom is an actively bad movie. So the frustration is with both the studio and the audience who likes to make fun of this stuff. All of their complaints about Morbius lies in the fact that they just don't care about Morbius as a character.
And they're not wrong. No one really cares about Morbius, the Living Vampire. Listen, I have almost every Spider-Man comic ever made. I'm not exaggerating. My collection is irresponsible. I remember the first appearance of Morbius. I remember that Marvel tried making a big deal about it. But do you know what? Morbius was always a C-tier villain. He had elements about him that could have been interesting. After all, he's a character that has had a couple of titles with his name across the cover. But a lot of that was the results of '90s storytelling, really embracing demonic ideas as a means to sell tee-shirts. But Morbius himself doesn't really have all that many interesting ideas behind it. Sony has a lot of dud properties under the umbrella of a good property. Because Sony owns Spider-Man and the Spider-Man universe of characters, they're trying to get water from a stone. They have this diminishing returns thing going with making straight Spider-Man films outside of the stuff they farm out to the MCU. So they think that they can hold their own with these very thin premises. But what we keep getting are helicopters and labs thinking that's what superhero antiheroes. But Marvel has proven that heroes need to be avatars for their audiences. All of the Marvel characters, regardless of how big personalities get (like Tony Stark) are about humanity. To a certain point, Morbius kinda sorta gets it okay. We get that Michael Morbius is more than simply a bloodsucker. But Jared Leto, a guy who is more of a headline than he is a person?
That's what makes Matt Smith's portrayal of the same character more interesting. Now, Milo makes no sense whatsoever on paper. Not a lick. Sorry, that's true about the film. Also the fact that Sony is still making MCU Phase One mistakes by having a villain that is a mirror image of the hero. But whatever. Maybe it is because I'm such a Doctor Who fan, especially of Matt Smith, but Smith makes Milo a character with charisma. He's sympathetic (until he's very quickly not). Every scene with Matt Smith is actually worth watching. But every scene with Jared Leto is at best tolerable. As much as I'm lavishing praise on Smith, I do want to restate that his character is a mess on paper. He's evil for evil's sake. The movie wants to stress that his childhood was traumatic. But Milo goes to the dark side real quick. He goes from being afraid of humanity to enjoying hunting. Now, the story writes it off as something that's part of the transformation into living vampire that makes that happen. But that's not really compelling from an internal conflict perspective. After all, Michael, post-transformation slaughter, returns to a state of humanity. There's this comment that Michael makes that it is the red blood that drives these vampires to become feral, but that doesn't scan with the rest of the story. So, as much as I like Smith in that role, it doesn't really make sense as a character.
Also, the film kind of just ignored one of its major plots. Michael is aware that he cannot keep living the way he is. He says something along the lines of "By tomorrow, I will become just like Milo" if he can't find another food source. The movie doesn't come to make peace with this idea. It just ends with Michael putting Milo down (in a ridiculously simplistic way. Why do the vampire bats respect Michael but not Milo?). But are we saying that Michael is going to replace Milo in a few hours? It doesn't really scan for Michael driving to meet Adrian Toomes in the middle of nowhere. It's so ready to set up another movie (that really makes absolutely no sense) that it ignored the internal conflict of the first film. Michael is about to become feral and there's no talk about that? It's a really weird choice.
So the movie is a bad movie. But it isn't a meme worthy bad movie. I mean, it's no Fantastic Four. That movie deserved the vitriol it got. This is just another Sony movie that people actually asked for and were disappointed when it was no good.
Rated R for a lot of language and violence. It's absolutely glorified violence. This is the old school Michael Bay violence of the '90s, despite the fact that Michael Bay didn't direct this. Instead, he shows up as the emcee of a wedding? Anyway, there are some stereotypes that feel a bit dated and even more worship of problematic police violence. R.
DIRECTORS: Adil El Abri and Billal Fallah
Oh man, have I changed so much? I almost feel like I can't write about this movie with any sense of objectivity. We're entering a new period of nostalgia. My nostalgic era is starting to fade away and giving rise to the '90s as a new period of wistful bliss. My buddy, Roy, used to love the Bad Boys movies. Because he loved them so much, I too loved them. I even own Bad Boys II. I can safely say that it hasn't been watched in decades. The sheer fact that I own it means, if I stay true to my writing schedule, that I will watch it and write about it one day. But am I the kind of guy who can applaud the rogue police officer as protagonist anymore?
I honestly thought that my opinions about this movie would swirl around Will Smith's interactions with Chris Rock. After all, after Tom Cruise started jumping on couches pre-Mission: Impossible III, I couldn't stop seeing the crazy. Sure, I Googled "Will Smith Chris Rock" under news and got mild stuff of interest. But this isn't something made after the slap. This was something that came two years before. This is carefree Will Smith. (I don't believe that person ever existed.) But this feels like Smith is the biggest thing on set. I can't deny that getting Will Smith to make another Bad Boys movie was a major coup. It sometimes is hard to separate the actor from the role. But there is something kind of joyful knowing that he'd come back and make something like this. Honestly, I was watching more of Martin Lawrence, whom I haven't heard from in a while. Lawrence was always my favorite part of these movies. If we're talking about The Odd Couple or Lethal Weapon, we tend to gravitate to the everyman in these situations. Johnny Football Hero is there to contrast that avatar. And there's something just straight up wholesome about seeing an actor return to the spotlight. It's not like Bad Boys for Life revived Lawrence's career. But it's more about the fact that he hasn't really lost a step. Okay, maybe he's a bit more doughy (which I don't want to shame him for. It actually really works for the character). He's less of a Bad Boy as someone who remembers what Bad-Boying used to be like.
But the biggest issue is the politics of Michael Bay. The directors of this film absolutely nail what it meant to make a big budget action movie like Michael Bay because it is tonally perfect. But now in 2022, watching this movie read real weird. The film starts off with Mike and Marcus speeding action movie style. It's pretty obvious that this isn't an actual adventure. Mike is driving like a maniac, reminding us about the dynamic between Mike and Marcus. Okay. Fine. But then we find out that they are speeding to the hospital to see the birth of Marcus's first grandchild. See, this is where you lose me. I know it's a gag. I know it's a gag. I can repeat that all day long and understand that it is a gag. But Last Action Hero acted as satire about the state of the Hollywood blockbuster and this is something that would fit more in a straight up comedy than it would in a world that things really had stakes. Like, how many people could have died in Mike's trip? It becomes really hard to sympathize with him as a character when he just lives a life free of any kind of responsibility. Perhaps it is the fact that I just watched Top Gun: Maverick before this, but there need to be consequences for characters like this. Mike Lowery is supercop, where everyone loves his absolutely insane behavior. He literally sped across a populated beach. The baby was already born, but even if it wasn't...who cares? It's absurd. But, again, it's a gag.
So why can Mike Lowery torture a guy? Let's pretend that torture is cool. After all, I was a big fan of 24 back in the day, so I can't deny that there's something fun about watching law enforcement do anything to get results. But Mike comes into this butcher's and just starts breaking the guy's hand. He has almost nothing to do with the story. He's just this CI who has a little bit of a shady past. Okay, but imagine that this guy had something to do with the story. Would it be okay then to destroy this guy's legitimate livelihood? (Note: I had to take a two day break in the middle of writing this. Not ideal. If some of the stuff from here on reads a little different or a little repetitive, I apologize. I'm now trying to knock the rest of this out before my daughter's nap.) I saw a video on Cracked a while ago about Michael Bay's politics. He makes these fun movies (although I swear that the Transformer movies are completely unwatchable.) But in these movies, they express the conservative value fever dream. Cops are great and shouldn't be shackled by restrictions of any kinds. If people are committing crimes, there's no grey area. They're criminals because they are evil. Now, I know that exists in the world. I'm not so naive to think that all criminals are nuanced individuals. But let's use the butcher as the message for the movie. I mean, it's a small scene that has no impact on Mike Lowery's soul whatsoever. This is police work to him. It's only expected that he's going to rough up someone off-the-books. Mike never really tries to do it the right way. He considers it a waste of time. It's not like he was leaning on him and then lost it. Nope, he started off by breaking his hand. Does this not horrify anyone else?
But it is why overtly conservative values make fun action movies. With a movie like Bad Boys, there is no moral dilemma. The internal conflict that Mike faces doesn't come from anything wrong that he's done. He's more emotionally scarred that he had a son that he never knew about and that he's a criminal. (What was that Ang Lee movie about Will Smith's younger clone? Maybe Will Smith finds this narrative interesting?) The movie never even makes you doubt that Mike is in the right. It's what makes Marcus so laughable. Marcus, as goofy as he is about some of his lines, is actually closer to the reality of the situation. When the boys go to confront the methed out accountant, Marcus --again, in the goofiest way imaginable --asks to treat him like a human before resorting to violence. Sure, the film gives Marcus this very tacked on religious motivation behind this choice. But it's supposed to be a joke that Marcus tries treating someone who is mentally impaired like a human being instead of beating the daylights out of them from moment one. The movie laughs at the absurdity that police should be multifaceted instead of just battering rams. And, yeah, the notion of slaughtering cops is something that makes a legitimate plot that should be stopped. But it almost feels like that plot is giving the excuse that no holds are barred in the pursuit of justice.
This was the '90s. This was the era of Howard Stern and Bill Maher, who prided themselves on political incorrectness. I think in the '90s, I was swept up in that as well. It was so much easier to see things clearer. But films like these made us think that there were super criminals who deserved to be destroyed. I mean, this is a revenge story on the part of the bad guys of the film. Isabel comes across as a huge nutbar, maniacally enjoying the people she's tearing apart with knives. There's a real "muah-ha-ha!" element to it all. After all, she sending Mike messages knowing that she's doing all of this? Sure, it's easy to cheer on characters trying to take down characters whose nickname is "Bruja". That's easy, making it so much more complacent to think of what is going on in this movie. When I mentioned that I liked 24 and how Jack Bauer used to do the same thing, there actually is something valuable in watching Bauer do this instead of Lowery. Jack Bauer kept breaking these cardinal rules of society and law enforcement, but it haunted him. Jack led a terrible life and pushed everyone away through his embrace of violence. But Mike? Mike lives the perfect life. He's hailed as a supercop. Everyone seems to like him. He's got fast cars and hits on pretty women. The notion is that the perfect cop should ignore basic police procedure. Even Lethal Weapon made Riggs's life a living hell because of his choices.
I don't know if there's anything necessarily wrong with the actual making of the movie. It definitely is a Bad Boys movie. But I think I may be really over the format as a whole.
Not rated, mainly because it is an Italian movie from 1957. It's fairly tame if you don't think about it too deeply. But let's pretend that you are me, which is easy for me to do. Yeah, there's some content you may want to consider. First of all, Cabiria is a sex worker, which doesn't really play a lot into the story nor is it mentioned all that often. There are references to cocaine and drug use. Also, murder seems fairly commonplace, despite the fact that no one actually gets murdered in the movie. Still, not rated.
DIRECTOR: Federico Fellini
Oh my goodness. I almost never write on a Saturday, let alone a Sunday. I don't necessarily think that it is a "Keeping the Lord's Day holy" thing, so much as it is that I always wrote during the work week when it wasn't summer. But now all the days bleed together and I don't want to forget too much about this movie, especially considering that I want to watch more old Italian movies. That's all that I would need is old Italian movies all jumbled up.
I'm going to make a huge confession. This one isn't exactly sacrilege, but more of a truth. I'm pretty knowledgeable about Italian neorealism. But you know what I'm not amazing at? The Italian New Wave. I mean, I know a little bit about it. I've watched my share of Fellini films and I teach about the New Wave a bit. But I could wax poetic about the Neorealistic period in Italy more than I could the Italian New Wave. So anything I say in this movie (with faux confidence) blog will be mostly my knowledge of the French New Wave more than the Italian New Wave because I don't have the time to look it up in my textbook downstairs. This is all a roundabout way to say that I enjoy Fellini movies without really understanding the nitty-gritty about Fellini.
I mean, for a Fellini film, it is fairly grounded. Heckfire, I'll even go as far as to say that this movie might be my favorite Fellini film. A lot of that comes down to the fact that I understood it (or at least, I think I understood it) and that it has this really amazing bleak message. My students hate that I love stories with bleak messages. But we, as Americans (assuming that my reading base --as limited as it may be--are Americans?) tend to have a lot of stories where things work out right. These stories don't really challenge us as much as they need to. I'm not saying this as an absolute. I also tend to gravitate towards bummer movies that are American as well. It's just that movies that make the rounds tend to be wildly optimistic. If they aren't wildly optimistic, they see the world as a good place and ask us to accept that things will turn out right in the long-run. But this film, as light as the tone is, is miserable. Life is full of sadness and the only way to survive it is to embrace simplicity and the now.
It's odd, because my mother-in-law got this movie for me for my birthday. She said that she wanted to watch it with me, but that didn't happen and I need to knock these suckers out before we go to Italy later on. (My life is very blessed.) But this is the one she wanted to watch? I mean, my mother-in-law is a tank of faith. Man alive, she is infused by the Spirit sometimes. So to hear her say that she wants to rewatch Nights of Cabiria with me actually shocks me. This is a movie that doesn't poo-poo faith so much as acknowledges that it is absurd and painful to embrace faith. I'm not just talking about religious faith. That's in there too. But Cabiria's major psychological challenge is to understand that having faith also means understanding that it is woven through with disappointment. Everything that Cabiria experiences makes her a better person, but it also hurts her more throughout the story.
I honestly thought that Cabiria was going to be the M. Hulot of Italy for a while. A good chunk of this movie is Cabiria representing an archetype to comment on society. Hulot is this over-the-top, Mr. Bean style character (that's a completely unfair comparison, but for the sake of brevity, I'm keeping it). Cabiria, who acts very different from Hulot, is this caustic and miserable creature. She starts the film rescued from casual murder only to scream at her rescuers. She meanders through Rome, encountering these different personality types and doesn't change her persona based on cultural context. But Fellini allows Cabiria to grow. It actually caught me off-guard and forced me to re-examine these scenes that I watched with her. But the film starts off with Cabiria mad that yet another man has tried to kill her and rob her and it is no sweat off her back. It's very bleak. She is more upset that she allowed a minimal amount of trust to escape her because that guardedness is the only thing that keeps her alive.
And her first encounter of faith isn't one having to do with the church. It's her interaction with celebrity. I love that Fellini makes celebrity her first real vulnerable experience. Perhaps it is because Italians are so often lumped in with this Catholic religious fervor that it makes more sense to the common man to find faith in celebrity. There's this really sweet moment where Cabiria starts crying after maintaining her persona for oh-so-long. It's because she knows that no one would believe that she had a genuine night with a movie star / director. (It's odd, because I instantly thought of the man as an avatar for Fellini himself, which seems standard based on his other films. But Cabiria recognizes him from a role that he played, despite the fact that the man insists that it wasn't him. There's a lot of "Is this really happening?" moments in the film.) But she thinks that she has abandoned her life of prostitution. She feels special for a moment, despite the fact that the man treats her as a means to maintain his own persona of celebrity. He only starts to see her for real when she breaks down and he signs the picture stating that, indeed, Cabiria and he hung out for an evening. It's something that is somehow so sexual and and platonic at the same time. It's really cool. But, even with evidence, no one believes her. Her fear is proven true. Similarly, this man never follows up with her. She is a non-entity, used to shame his previous lover back into his arms.
I could break down each and every one of the losses of faith, but I want to take the two that are perhaps the most life changing and merge them together. When she finds herself far from home, she encounters the cave of poor people. She continually stresses that she owns her own home and that she isn't destitute, despite the fact that Fellini always weaves in the history that clearly, she was quite poorly off at one point or another. But she meets this man (and this character is an enigma to me) who seems completely altruistic. That shift that was hinted at with the celebrity now seems to be the dominant personality that Cabiria carries with her for the rest of the film. This leads almost directly into the visiting of the Madonna, where the film almost goes out of its way to talk about the false elements of religion.
For the sake of clarity, I don't hold the same beliefs that Fellini does. As much as I like pessimistic views of reality where people can only hope for better, there is something heartbreaking when the crippled man falls when he places his faith in God for healing. But I've never really viewed Italian Catholicism to be what I saw in this movie. Again, I don't live in Italy. But I am Catholic. There was almost something revival-tent about the visit of the Madonna with this scene. But I completely related to Cabiria needing something to change in her life. Part of me sees the cynicism of faith, but I also want to imbue the fact that Cabiria wants instant change. For her, character development comes with strong choices. I know lots of people who have this philosophy and, like Cabiria, doesn't understand that real change takes time and slow sacrifice.
The end is painful. The end is real painful, guys. Even me, who lives for the crummy end, wanted the end to be happier than what it was. Part of me thought that Oscar (IF THAT WAS HIS REAL NAME!) was a better dude than he was. But the back of my mind would stop tickling. Perhaps Fellini accomplished his goal in reminding me that the world is full of jerks and it is only the present that brings us joy. But when he was going to kill her? That was almost this extra step where the damage was done through the marriage itself. It's this absolutely gorgeous bookending to the film where Cabiria doesn't mind being killed in the beginning and then begs to be killed because she doesn't want to live in a world of distrustful people. Oh my goodness. I wanted Cabiria to be happy for the sake of the character. But that betrayal did something gorgeous for the movie. Even this weird bittersweet moment of her accepting her place in the world didn't pull away from that. Part of me got the vibe that the end would have been too bleak without the late-night parade, but I didn't even hate it. Because I don't need to think that the world is a complete dumpster fire. I need to know that a lot of it is a dumpster fire with moments of joy sprinkled in there.
Yeah, that's still pretty bleak. But I dig it.
PG-13 for premarital sex (mostly implied), one f-bomb per the PG-13 rule, some death, and violence. This one, for all of its ramping up of the dogfighting action, seems to be one meant for everyone to see. There were decisions made to allow this movie to be as nearly family friendly as possible, with the exception of the f-bomb that I have to imagine was left in for the emotional resonance of the moment. It feels like a summer action movie, so go with that as your guide. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Joseph Kosinski
Bar the doors shut. Burn the building. My entire family has a bad case of the pukes that I had earlier in the week and it won't go away. We have kids on day X because we've lost all track of time. We pray for sweet relief, however it may come. Anyway, my father-in-law (you see that seamless segue?) has been begging for the boys to see this movie for weeks. I'd like to stress that there has been Covid floating through our extended family for weeks and calm minds suggested that we simply delay seeing this movie until we were through with Covid. So post-my-Covid, I agreed to go see it. Part of me really wanted to see this movie. I have my reasons, which I hope I can fit into this blog. But out of all of the suggestions to do a guys' night, Top Gun: Maverick seemed like a great idea.
But the weird thing is, it really shouldn't have been the movie that we all thought would be a bonding night of men. I mean, I'm aware of this and I would have loved to see Downton Abbey 2 almost more than Top Gun. But if the goal was to see a movie that a bunch of dudes could regress to, I find it really weird that Top Gun has earned the reputation it has in 2022. I say this because I was obnoxious at the theater about it. All of us dudes were grunting about "The need for speed" and here I was, making fun of the fact that a bunch of guys were going to see a sequel to one of the most romantic movies of the '80s. Yeah, that's the takeaway I have of the original Top Gun. And I'm going to cut to the chase and give you the short version of my epiphany: the OG Top Gun was a movie that appealed to both the die-hard romantic and the action super-film. After all, this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, so it's not totally insane that people forgot that the big musical success story that came from this movie was "Take My Breath Away."
I was robbed, by the way. It didn't play once during the movie. When I said that all these guys should walk into the theater in slow motion to the musical touchstone of the film, people loudly rolled their eyes when I tried blasting "Take My Breath Away." Sure, Kenny Loggins deserves a lot of praise for "Danger Zone" and the instrumental from Top Gun is a bop in its own right. But I can't deny that there's a reason for this disparity. When I was a kid, I watched Top Gun a billion times because of the cool plane sequences. Every time we visited my uncle in Chicago, he'd throw in the VHS of Top Gun before bed and I was always disappointed when he shut it off after ten minutes. I was wired to think that Top Gun was a movie about planes versus a movie about a handsome pilot seducing his instructor. The reputation exists for a reason. Sure, there are those of us who will always cite the beach volleyball sequence or ask "What happened to Kelly McGillis?"
But I think that Top Gun: Maverick actually thrives by choosing to remember a selective history (Remember how I said that I would make the intro short and I totally lied?) Yeah, Maverick does have a romance story, but one that feels like a strong B-or-C-story to the main A-plot, that would have actually benefited to play the Mission: Impossible theme during the briefing section more than anything that would have come from Hans Zimmer. That's not surprising because Christopher McQuarrie has his hands all over this movie.
Christopher McQuarrie is the new Mission: Impossible guy. I have the feeling that he fundamentally gets Tom Cruise and what Tom Cruise wants to do, especially when it comes to building franchises. For as good as Maverick is as a standalone film, the way it even exists is because of the elements that make sequels entries that are meant to be forgotten. The first Top Gun movie dealt with a dogfighting sequence where the Top Gun team has to fight in real world combat scenarios. It is really secondary to the whole piece, which is again about seducing instructors and pissing off the higher brass. But then the film almost starts with this "Your mission, should you choose to accept it" moment, where we get a CG breakdown of this nuclear device that only an impossible mission force could handle. Like, if IMF flew jets exclusively, this feels almost more like a Mission: Impossible sequel than anything else. Thank God it had the drama of dealing with Goose's kid or this would just be a straight up action movie.
I'm going to talk about the action for a second because it's really good / kind of stupid at times. There's this thing that is about Maverick being right. (Cool, that is tied to character. I support it.) The film swears that the only way to win this impossible mission (cue Lalo Schifrin theme) is to take this Death Star trench run, shut off your targeting computers, and pull out as the Death Star blows up. (Trust me, I made these jokes during the film too. "Rooster, you've switched off your targeting computer.") But no one really had the conversation about what to do once the mission ended. I mean, that whole thing fell apart and everything went right. One of the major beats that Maverick is pushing for is bringing everybody home. It's why Jon Hamm's character comes across as a little callous. He's willing to sacrifice lives for success rate. But even he shifts his perspective when Maverick proves that it can be done, only to have a bunch of jets shot down by surface-to-air missiles at the end? It's because the movie wanted to be even more action. I'm one of the five people who enjoyed the film Behind Enemy Lines when I saw it. I would also like to establish that the last time I watched that movie, I was in college and watching Moulin Rouge! weekly, so there's no necessary accounting for taste. But if you take Mission: Impossible, Star Wars, and Behind Enemy Lines, you get the action of Top Gun: Maverick.
But that's why we have the Rooster storyline. It's a really nice extension of the consequences that Maverick learned to deal with. Like most franchises, Maverick has forgotten almost all of the lessons of the first film and is dealing with a disappointing career because of that. To a certain extent, he has grown up. While the first film deals with Maverick thinking of himself as divorced from consequence, he understand that consequences exist and are fine, as long as he is the one who faces said consequences. It's a bit much, especially considering that he is selfish enough to crash and survive a Mach 10 jet (I imagine that he actually died in this sequence because it is absurd that he survived and the rest of the movie is just fan fiction). But there's almost learning a lesson in isolation and the value of mental health that is being discussed. After all, Rooster is the physical embodiment of consequences. He's in Maverick's face, reminding him of the importance of taking everything into consideration. I mean, he's not that cold about it. He loved Goose and is mostly responsible for Goose's death. (Okay, debatable.) So as much as this film is an action movie, I really like that the movie decided to focus on character through this story and it mostly works. Yeah, the beach football sequence is a complete misstep when it comes to solving Rooster and Maverick's problems. Also, the movie kind of craps on the idea of two guys being vulnerable with each other and talking out problems. But that's what makes film a fun medium.
So yeah, I enjoyed it. I almost liked it because it forgot that it was a sequel to a romance movie and simply embraced what forty years of history has imbued on the film. Normally I would hate that, but it created something worth watching. Now, should I give Behind Enemy Lines another chance? Probably not.
PG-13, which shocks me for some reason. I mean, there isn't anything all that offensive in the movie. Some people die, but not in shocking or offensive ways. There are people being used as mules for drugs and there's an implication of the awful things that they have to do to move these drugs. But it isn't like the movie actually aims to be edgy or offensive in any way. I suppose there's some cultural racism in there, but it is more an attempt to gain a sense of verisimilitude versus perpetuating stereotypes. Honestly, I'm so used to everything good being R that I assumed that this, too, would be R. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Wong Kar-Wai
Hey, Jeff. I finally saw Chungking Express. It only took twenty years to get around to it. Okay, I haven't been writing lately. It's because I've been super sick. I don't know if it was Covid or it was something else, but I'm feeling good enough to write. (Wait, Tim, you were so sick that you couldn't write? Yes, it was that bad.) Heck, I started this movie when I was feeling okay and then finished it when I could finally tolerate watching a screen without wanting to run for a toilet. Okay, I'm sharing too much, especially when I'm talking about a romance film. Honestly, my wife would have liked this one, but she fell asleep really early one night and I finally started feeling okay. Besides, we're really behind on TV. The moral good and whatnot.
I can't say that I've heard of an anthology film that really just tells two stories. On top of that, it's weird that I really bonded to the one story that isn't the one that is associated with the famous image. I always thought of Chungking Express as that movie with the blonde wig and the rad glasses who points a gun while being shot at a Dutch angle. I have a very specific image of how movies are supposed to be like. But this wasn't the movie I thought it was going to be. As part of that preconception for how movies are supposed to be, I have to confess that I'm kind of dumb when it comes to plot and storytelling. In this case, I had a lot of moments where I wasn't sure what I was watching was real or not. Possibly, it's the dreamlike vibe of both stories that makes me question what is going on. But a lot of it comes from the fact that these are love stories that are intentionally atypical and bizarre, which makes them charming.
I'm going to anger someone, but at least I'm engaging on some level. With La La Land (Yeah, I just compared a Wong Kar-Wai film to La La Land), the story takes two very specific backgrounds and throws them together. The audience gains a sense of empathy and understanding from them not from their bizarre situations, but the fact that they fundamentally act like human people. With Chungking Express, it takes a bizarre background but with absolutely absurd character choices and dares the audience to bond with these characters. It sounds like I'm attacking the film, but quite the opposite. Somehow, Wong Kar-Wai made these characters insanely bananas and yet, there's something in the film that bonds with us. It's almost like watching aliens fall in love. I would have made none of the choices that the characters did, but still completely understood.
Okay, that's not completely true. I have a story here because I can write it here and no one is reading this anyway. When I was in sixth grade or something, I carpooled home with a family and stayed at their house until my parents came to pick me up. Now, I was really young. I didn't know what a crush was. But I'll tell you this weird thing about me. I really enjoyed cleaning a girl's room. There was a girl who was slightly older living there and, like a real weirdo, I would clean her room regularly. It makes sense if you meet me. I clean the house every night in hopes that my wife will love me the more. It's my love language. The girl told me to stop, so I did. It's one of those little shame things that I hold onto. So that second story, when it happened? Okay, I got that. Yeah, it's a real invasion of privacy what she does. But I'll tell you what? I got it. I also got it when she didn't know how to handle the next stage of a relationship. When Cop 663 finally figures out (He's a police officer and he doesn't figure out real basic things?) that Faye is cleaning his apartment because she is attracted to him, I can get that Faye doesn't want to change the dynamic. I mean, the movie implies that she eventually matures out of that stage that she was in when she worked at the shop, but it doesn't quite spell it out for us either. There's something very comforting in the fact that she has created this life for 663.
For Faye, that world is safe. 663 is a perfect guy. I mean, we get that he's a nice guy from his voiceovers. But he also is kind of lame in his own way. We see his flaws as a potential suitor from his perspective. Heck, I even think that Faye sees these flaws. But when she is in his apartment, there's really no way for him to screw it up. His pining for the stewardess was bound to come back and bite him on the butt. In a weird way, the way that Faye invades his privacy in an actual criminal way is the only way for that relationship to work. Now, I would never advocate what Faye has done in real life. As I established, everything about this movie is about the most absurd way to go about things. But it's because Faye took this insane way about discovering 663 that their relationship even had a prayer. Faye knows so much about 663 through his apartment. 663 on the street is this confident police officer who is grieving a breakup (one, that I'll editorialize, that seems pretty toxic). But this is a guy who is kind of filthy. He has a giant Garfield that he talks to. And it doesn't seem like she's in love with him when she first gets the keys. If anything, sneaking into 663's apartment seems like a bit of punk rock. It's taking on the system and she's doing it because she's not supposed to. It's criminal altruism.
If you haven't guessed, I'm a big fan of the second story. So why am I so quiet about the first story? I don't know. Maybe I just couldn't get into the first story. I was sleepy. It took a lot to relate to the character. Also, the first story starts off with an effect that initially pulled me out of the film. In a lot of these '90s Hong Kong films, there's this action thing that happens when action sequences have such a low frame rate akin to stop motion animation. It's really annoying and it took me back to Wong Kar-Wai's As Tears Go By. It took a while, but I realized the effect being reused in this was to a different result. It is almost hypnotic in this one as opposed to extreme. But by the time I readjusted my focus, most of the story was over. It's also way less romantic to me. There's something really pathetic about the first story, which has to be the director's intention. The voiceover of Cop 223 is so hyperbolic about love that there's nothing really to relate to. When the film ends and there is no real romance between 223 and the Woman in the Blonde Wig, it's a lot of investment for what seems nothing. Like, the story is really well done. But I just didn't care about it at all.
I'm going to say this for Wong Kar-Wai that might also get me in trouble with the real film nerds. There's something really double-edged with his use of music. He loves repeating the same motifs so often that it almost becomes boring. It's something that I would do as a young man because I really liked something. But there's only so much "California Dreamin'" or "Dreams" that I can handle in a movie. They're good songs, but they pervade the film to an almost obsessive level.
Anyway, Jeff and the Internet, I'm glad I saw it. It was absolutely beautiful. It did the job.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.