Manglehorn

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What Manglehorn needed was more of a mood. This is meant to be a melancholy picture, a study of a single, solitary man ruing his long, lost love. Yet everything looks very bright here. The park, the bank, even the empty apartment is lit like it’s another standard, run of the mill picture. I was reminded of Gordon Green’s own All the Real Girls, and the sense of nostalgia it had. That is what this movie needed more of.

Jojo Rabbit

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There’s a very poetic scene near the end of Jojo Rabbit in which men, women and children are charging blindly towards certain doom. The camera slows down time, capturing these figures in all their pitiful foolishness. Here they are, the self proclaimed master race, dying for a cause that’s not only evil, but stupid. Perhaps they deserved it. Jojo Rabbit makes fun of Nazis by painting them as buffoons, but it also humanizes them as creatures to feel sorry for.

The friendship that Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) and Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) eventually build is based off an understanding of one another as God’s fellow creatures, united not as much in what they have but in what they’ve lost. There’s a beautiful scene in which the two kids stare out the window, the night sky tinted by explosions, and discuss their pain. It has taken time and effort to arrive at this point; Jojo and Elsa had to go through many misunderstandings, but finally, in their darkest hour, they found the solace of each other’s company.

The message “we’re all human, so be kind to one another” is far too simplistic, reducing people’s experiences to mere hurdles that can be easily overcome with enough love. Thankfully that’s not what Jojo Rabbit does. While certainly both human beings, Jojo and Elsa are quite different from each other. By the end of the film their differences haven’t vanished, and they’re both their own person. They did not learn to look past each other’s backgrounds, but came to love them.

Jesus Christ famously cried out “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’ve done” as Romans drove nails through his limbs. It’s a nonsensical response to a heinous act until you realize it was based on love. Jojo Rabbit invites us to look at our enemies, yes, even the Nazis, with love. For they know not what they do. But what if they do know exactly what they do, and just don’t care? Dear reader, I dare say we love still.

Jojo Rabbit had me sobbing my eyes out because I remembered how tough it is to love our neighbor, and what a rotten, dirty, unjust world we live in. It also filled my heart with so much joy because there are things that can make everything so much bearable. Small things, like looking into the eyes of the ones you love and dancing.

A+

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

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Birds of Prey is a catastrophe.

It employs violence not only to speak in place of characters, but of the movie itself. “Look how gritty I am”, it begs the audience. “I’m not like those other DC movies you hated it”. You’re right, because you’re even worse. The violence here reminded me of Hobo with a Shotguna cheap 80s looking B- movie in which everybody but the titular hobo was a sadist. There the buckets of gore at least made sense, keeping up with the sensibilities of a grindhouse picture. In Birds of Prey they just seem desperate, as if DC is just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks and finally make them as successful as Marvel. Hint: it’s less garbage like this, and more stuff like Joker

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is a collection of mannerisms and occasional outbursts of madness, instead of a fully fleshed out character. Her motivations seems to be “I don’t want people to kill me”, so the performance is mostly reactionary. It’s a horrible way to gain engagement.

The constant narration, in addition of breaking any momentum, reminds one of better movies in the same vein, particularly the Deadpool ones. It is so painfully obvious, from the breaking of the fourth wall to the edgy jokes, that Birds of Prey wants to be the next Deadpool. The problem is that Deadpool was never trying to emulate anybody else; rather, it’s astounding success was because there was nothing else quite like it on the market. Now, a few years removed from it, using profanity like currency will only get you so far.

Birds of Prey tries so hard to copy other better movies, while at the same time popping out for being so unique, so colorful. It aims at being a successful hybrid of anti-hero shenanigans and girl power, but it utterly and completely fails. This is a Frankenstein of a flick, a mishmash of horrible ideas and terrible execution all together forming one of the most absolutely unfunny, cringe and pathetic movies I have ever, ever seen.

Parasite

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While applause is usually reserved for when the credits begin to roll, I broke tradition with this one. 40 minutes into Parasite I had no choice but to burst into applause, gathering a few glances from the people sitting nearby in the process. Those who’ve already seen Parasite know the moment I am talking about, and those who haven’t should really get on it.

Parasite features one of cinema’s most exquisite montages. It is filmmaking at its finest, a perfect distillation of every facet of the art making process collaborating in seamless harmony to produce a sequence that’s magnificent.

Also, Park So-dam is the world’s most beautiful actress!!

The Nightingale

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A bit redundant both in its episodes and what it’s trying to say, yet also effective at portraying the Hell everybody’s stuck in. Indeed, it feels as if the characters are walking through purgatory, and death is but another pit stop before they must continue sliding down further into the abyss.

B+

The Edge of Democracy

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It’s the story of our world. A person decries the unethical actions of those in political power and then, years later, when the person has achieved political power for themselves, via the ballot or the gun, said person engages in the same type of behavior they used to criticize before.

What’s stupefying is not that men and women keep on doing this; it is in our fallen, human nature to be deceitful, after all. What surprises me is how everybody else keeps thinking that their candidate is the chosen one. Everyone thinks government sucks because it hasn’t been done right, but with their candidate, everything will be made right. Nobody learns, so we are doomed to repeat the cycles of history, and on and on until the world finally stops spinning, and God finally rescues us from this madness.

1917

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Jude Law, in one of the best performances of his career, says that he is weary of war and the way fools get sent off to it with a flag and a lie. The line is uttered in Cold Mountain, a decent movie that I somehow keep remembering. Maybe because of that quote.

What compels me is not that 1917 is a bravura feat of filmmaking, or how entirely suspenseful and engaging it is. What compels me is how it understands how the dead are the only who ever get to see an end to war. Our protagonist runs, jumps and hides. The people he meets along the way wish him luck before they too must carry on with their mission. Too often war movies make it a point to say “this was the most important battle of the war”, or something along those lines. Like what we are seeing was vital for the course of history.

1917 has no such pretenses. It just presents a soldier’s journey from point A to point B, and how he’ll have to do it all over again the next day, and the next day. It elucidates the futility of combat, and shines a light on what a sorry species we are.

A

Up in the Air

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George Clooney delivers one of the finest performances of his career as Ryan Bingham. Initially coming across as a vainglorious douche, Clooney slowly reveals more layers of his humanity until we’re left feeling melancholic over his eventual fate.

This is a smart picture, the textbook definition of a movie for adults. The dialogue is sharp, the banter is witty, but best of all is the combination of sadness and wisdom which informs the conversation between characters. They talk with the certainty that only being alive for a long time can bring. This is paired brilliantly with the idealism and naivete of young Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who views the world through an alternate lens than Bingham does. It’s a juxtaposition that many movies try, but few succeed. Up in the Air does not side with either protagonist’s life philosophy, rather inviting the viewer to partake in the conversation and realize they’re both just trying to do what we are as well. Make sense out of our lives. This is a phenomenal picture, and already one of my favorites.