Bohemian Rhapsody

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Bohemian Rhapsody is not the worst film my eyes have ever seen. However, its high production values, the near mythic status of the picture’s protagonists, and the wild critical and popular acclaim this has received creates in me a righteous anger, an irrepressible urge to cry out to the heavens: THIS MOVIE IS AN AFFRONT AGAINST AN ENTIRE ART FORM!!

A cruel reminder to aspiring writers everywhere of how cold and unfair the universe is, a major Hollywood studio paid good money to produce a script that’s simply a collection of Wikipedia tidbits on one of music’s most popular bands. There is nothing here that wouldn’t be out of place if you gave a writing assignment to high schoolers on the life of Freddie Mercury. Actually, I’m sure those essays would at least attempt to provide some explanation as to why Mercury had a drug problem, or why he felt so empty despite engaging in orgies each night. Because you know what this script does? Nothing. It simply walks us through a Freddie Mercury for Dummies recreation that’s never as complex or even as wild as anything the man ever did. Seriously, there’s a scene in which Mercury gets up on a couch in the middle of a party, shouts something like “the party is just getting started!”, everybody cheers, and then the scene just…ends.

There’s plenty of stuff like that. Freddie Mercury walking into a gay bar, except is it really a gay bar? I can’t tell because the scene is interspersed with footage of a record spinning, which is actually one of the better applications of editing in a movie that mistakes it for “cut to many reaction shots as possible in every freaking scene”.

As for the conflict? There is none. Sure, the band members fight and break up, Freddie doesn’t get along with his dad, he fires his longtime manager, he gets divorced, he is manipulated by an evil henchman then breaks up with him under the rain, he is diagnosed with AIDS, and yet none of this holds any weight.

Consider the following: Mercury brings shame to his father in the opening scene. Then the old man is never seen nor heard of again. Then 10 minutes before the movie ends, Freddie Mercury hugs his dad and forgives him, and his father cries in Mercury’s arms. Such shoddy attempts at redemption in character arcs are fine if you’re watching cartoons or are not familiar with literature, but in a movie of this caliber with the protagonist being who he was? It’s not even lazy, it’s perverse. It’s doing the bare minimum to trick the audience into believing catharsis has been acquired, when in reality they might as well be witnessing two strangers hug for random reasons.

There is no depth to any of this, no attempt to humanize the gods that went on stage and drove everybody to ecstasy with their music. This is just actors wearing wigs and playing the favorite songs of everyone who after watching it, later went on IMDB and submitted their Oscar ballots with a note saying “play them again!”.

F

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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Without a doubt one of the most visually inventive films of the year, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World lacks the courage in its final sixty seconds to also make a marking on the heart as it does on the eyes.

He should have stayed with Knives (Ellen Wong). Scott’s (Michael Cera) journey has led him to the realization that he wasn’t a nice guy, that the girl of his dreams has demons of her own, and that love doesn’t magically transform you into a better person. So when Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) tells him that she needs some time to figure everything out, it makes sense for him to let her go.

“Bye, and stuff”, he says.

“And stuff”, she replies before walking away, leaving him to be happy next to Knives.

It would have been a great, albeit bittersweet, ending! It would mesh nicely with the lessons learned.

Sadly, Hollywood had its way again and Scott ends up with the girl happily ever after.

A-

Destroyer

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Well here’s something new. No doubt Nicole Kidman delivers a completely engaging performance, creating a character that hints at so much pain that it’s almost impossible to look away. Her character is not a very sympathetic person, she has no friends, and she’s a jerk of a mom. What caused her to be this way?
But then the big reveal happens, and boy is it a letdown. Actually, labeling the inciting incident as disappointing does not even begin to convey it.

This not only reveals the movie as overtly dramatic when it didn’t need to be, but it also turns the character into a cartoon. You have this wounded, soulful character who became this way simply because of a heist gone wrong? The revelation attempts to infuse as much gravitas into the past, but it doesn’t work. The character does not deserve any of my sympathy then, as the script completely failed at providing an adequate response for why she acts the way she does.

C+

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

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Parents, everybody has them right? One of the greatest feats that children can accomplish involves the forgiving of their parents. What’s that? You don’t really need to forgive them because you had a nice childhood, teenage years, adulthood? Well, praise God for that! The rest of us should watch Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.

The movie’s a bit repetitive, but it contains a scene in which John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) tells his mother that he forgives her. He’s never met, and never will meet, his mom, so he’s pouring his heart out to the wind. For all of us who’ve been there, devouring our pride and pain to confront the person who hurt us so, it’s a poignant reminder of how blessed we now are to live on the other side of forgiveness. And for those who still must go through this step, it’s a nice visualization of how necessary this is in order to carry on with life.

B

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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Welp, it finally happened and I am as shocked as you are. After six years of watching slight variations on the same superhero approach to blockbuster filmmaking, I’ve naturally become weary. This isn’t in any way a knock on those types of movies: entertainment that is meant to be consumed by the widest possible group of people does not allow much room for subtlety. I understand executives must receive as large a return on their multi million dollar investment as possible! For those of us who flock to the cinema to experience art first and then entertainment, this “epidemic of passable movies” can be more than a little dispiriting.

So I wasn’t in any rush to catch the latest Spider-Man flick. Now that I have, my soul is pumped full of enthusiasm for the wonders that only the cinema can achieve. All those colors! The animation! The emotion! Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best superhero movie I’ve seen. The only thing that prevented Logan from being a superb movie of its genre was it’s villain; it felt too generic, with standard evil guy motivations. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse features a villain that wants to bring his dead family back to life. Have we seen that before? Probably, but it’s the way it’s presented. Indeed, Kingpin is probably on screen for no more than ten minutes, yet his motivations ring true. His is not just another attempt at world destruction for the sake of script demands.

And the same can be said of the protagonist, Miles Morales, and his cadre of Spider buddies. Wow, what a beautiful character arc! I’m referring not only to the Morales’s one, but also to the one Peter B. Parker embarks upon. He begins a depressed and lonely divorcee, runs away from his demons, confronts them, and at the end decides to take a leap of faith. Maybe he can start anew, or maybe he can’t. Yet the fact that the film presents him with such an emotional journey, compared to the A-B-Z trajectory that superheroes go through on a majority of these movies, speaks highly to the faith the filmmakers have in the audience. It has been rewarded by my response to their work. Let others hopefully take note.