The Founder

founder

It must say something about the United States that its most important, influential firms got their start based on swindles.

At least as far as film adaptations go, The Social Network, Steve Jobs, and now The Founder have portrayed these titans of industry as dishonest and power hungry, but also super humanly brilliant.

This begs the question: Is success on a global scale dependent on the dismissal of commonly respected values as truth and loyalty?
Or, as a character in the superb Steve Jobs says, is it binary? Can you be gifted and decent at the same time, or does one cancel the other?

Because The Founder is the weakest of the three films, it doesn’t point to that argument being the case, but a general look into the lives of the geniuses these movies explore paints a bleak image to all the fools who bank on morality getting them very far.

B

Oldboy

oldboy

Because this was the movie recommended to me after having so thoroughly enjoyed Memento, I will make a brief compare and contrast between two pictures.

Is revenge bad?
Characters in both films employ revenge not as means to satisfy their baser desires, but as catalysts to not give up on life. This impulse has so consumed their lives that they do not live for it, as much as they live because of it.
In Memento, Lenny (Guy Pearce) has to keep chasing John G’s until the end of his days, or else he’ll be forced to face the truth of having killed his wife and lost his mind.
In OldBoy, the minute there are no more strings to pull on the elaborate punishment he’s been putting his victim through, Woo-Jin (Yoo Ji-Tae) shoots himself in the head.

Another aspect in which both films are similar is in how the main characters differ from the usual protagonist audiences have come to expect. While not always noble, main protagonists must possess some traits that should make the distinction between them and the bad guys very clear, so it becomes more easy to cheer for them.
In Memento, Lenny is a thief and a murderer, not to mention an asshole; in OldBoy, Dae-Su (Choi Min-Sik) is guilty of less heinous accusations, but he is still a drunkard, a womanizer and a lousy father. Even after repenting from past sins, he does not become the hero of the story. The showdown at the penthouse, which is like nothing I’ve ever seen, shows him as a pitiful excuse for a man. Indeed he will later call himself no better than a wild beast.

Is this why both movies are so wildly effective? Or maybe we have become so accustomed to heroes that are hard to emulate but easy to admire, that when confronted with characters that display some of our worst flaws we tend to cheer them, since we might find ourselves more easily resembled in desires of vengeance than in acts of forgiveness.

Both films end on a dark note. Lenny will go on in search of the next John G, or be tricked into killing another person who he thinks is guilty for what happened to him. Dae-Su has either forgotten the horrific truth that forced him to rip out his tongue, or he has not.
Whatever the case, they will be living a lie. That’s a terrible final image for the audience to take home with. It has been said that movies are the myths of our time.
I hope that after watching Memento and OldBoy, audiences tremble at the idea of what may happen when forgiveness is not an option.

A+

Hell or High Water

hell-or-high-water-filming-locations-poster

One week after the election that saw Donald J. Trump chosen as the 45th President of the United States, me and my two best friends took a road trip from California to North Carolina.

We drove across miles and miles of barren landscape. We passed through ghost towns, more deserted than the ones that make up the heart of Hell or High Water. We heard stories, sad stories, about poverty encroaching entire regions and turning its inhabitants poor in a nation that is the richest in the world.

The magnificent Hell or High Water is not only a Western, but a document on the extinction of a way of life. You see it with the cowboys running from a fire, driving their cattle to safety across the highway.
“No wonder my kids don’t want to do this as a living”, one of them yells at no one particular.
You see it with the waitress who refuses to give up her tip, made up of stolen bank money, because otherwise she will not be able to afford her mortgage and keep a roof on top of her daughter’s head.
You even see it with bank robbers themselves, when an old diner patron mentions that robbing banks in the 21st century seems entirely out of place.

The film appears to indict the capitalist financial institutions of the United States, who have been given carte blanche to wager with other peoples money, and don’t have to worry about losing it because uncle Sam will bail them out. But who is behind the banks, if not people themselves?

One of the character bemoans the fact that the land they are on used to belong to his ancestors before conquistadors arrived and slaughtered them all. He then says the same thing is happening to small towns across the country, but this time violence is not the culprit, but greed.

Near the end of the film, an old bank worker is reluctant to fax some documents over to a lawyer. The documents state that the loan the bank had given out has been paid in full just in time, so the property will remain in the client’s possession.
Why does the old man do this? What does he gain, besides maybe a bonus for delaying the proceedings? The property, and all the oil on it, will not go to him, but to an unknown person, or group of people, who thrive to make money.
So perhaps it is not the banks that are to blame, but every single human being who would choose money over culture, profit over dignity.
Foreclosures rise, despair sets in, and people end up voting for the billionaire who promises to make their sad, pathetic little towns great again.

A+

Memento

memento

There are two ways in which I usually react when watching movies.
If the film in question is terrible, or if I am not enjoying myself, I will check the time to see how much longer I will have to remain seated enduring the punishment.
If, on the other hand, the film is amazing, or I am having a great time, I remain in place and do not move until the credits start to roll.

I checked the time during Memento, not because it was bad, but because I could not wait for it to finish so I could finally figure out what the hell was going on. Every backwards fragment felt like another puzzle piece set right in front of me, but one that I could not make sense of until I had the entire set. I don’t mean that the movie did not make sense, or I could not understand the proceedings. I mean that the events surrounding Lenny (Guy Pearce) are so intriguing and maddening, that a conclusion will provide not only answers, but relief.

A

I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore.

I-Dont-Feel-at-Home-in-This-World-Anymore

I am reading over the book of Ecclesiastes and naturally some of the thoughts that arise due to its content is my place on this world. Everything is meaningless, the Teacher writes over and over again.

That belief plays out in this movie. It is truly a despairing sight, because if everybody is an asshole, and trying to make things better might get you killed, what is the point of it all?

The Teacher reasons that the only way for us to continue wanting to live in this world is to lift up our eyes; to place our hope not on the ruin of the planet, but on the One who will one day come to save it.
Notice the song that plays during the last moments of this movie, and the image of Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) sitting at church, and you’ll find yourself surprised how I Don’t Feel At Home in this World Anymore seems to agree with the Teacher.

B

Imperium

imperium

Brian Reed walks into a bar and runs into a congregation of hardcore, 18th century Disney style racists.
That is not the hook for a new joke, but an event that occurs in Chapter II of S-Town, the podcast that everybody’s been talking about.

The real life racists in that Alabama dive bar reminded me of some of the racists in this movie, which hails to be inspired by real life.

C+

Reality Bites

reality bites

It happens from time to time.
You begin watching a movie and its purpose seems clear, and everything that might come of it promises to be entertaining. Or maybe the actors share great chemistry, and you want to know which direction it will take.
But then it slows down, or the characters behave in a way no real person would, or the director has grossly miscalculated the appeal of them, or how noble its final goal really is.
And then it occurs, usually around the one hour mark, or 45 minutes if one is really unlucky.
The movie slowly descends into mediocrity, a change so gradual that you did not even realize. By the time you do, you kick yourself in the head for wasting 90 minutes of your life on movies so, so, so terrible.

D