mother!

mother!

Two decades into his career, it is pretty clear that Darren Aronofsky is mad (genius?). As I noticed a few people exiting the screening once the deranged third act gets under way, I wondered why he felt like giving this to audiences. A vast, vast majority of movie goers are going to detest this. But does that say more about Aronofsky’s talents, or about the cinematic preferences large groups of people have?

Once the credits started to roll, I realized that if motion pictures were not invented so stories like this one could hit the big screen, then they should have not been invented at all.

B+

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Wind River

wind river

On the surface, Taylor Sheridan’s American Frontier trilogy pits an unstoppable force versus an unmovable object. In Sicario, the feds scrambled to put an end to the cartels; in Hell or High Water, a pair of deep Texas brothers were holding out the bank branches that were responsible for taking away their land, and that of the rest of the territory; in Wind River, the most emotionally engaging of the three, a tracker hunts down the murderers who prey on the most weak and vulnerable.

Diving deeper into them, one encounters a trilogy that paints a dire portrayal of America, the one not featured in postcards and pop songs, the one that could very well be a million miles away from the metropolis that dictate the rules of the land. I already wrote at length on this after watching Hell or High Water, a picture that elucidates part of candidate Donald Trump’s massive voter appeal, so even though I am tempted to do so with Wind River and its depiction of snow and solitude encroaching upon the lives of Native Americans, I must refrain.

This leaves me with praising the film’s dreary atmosphere and its unrelenting suspense. Sheridan`s world is a lawless one, in which danger lurks around every corner. This only makes the Mexican standoff near the end of the movie one of the most pulse pounding sequences of its kind I can recall.
And of course, as mentioned above, it is the most emotionally involving.

The ending of Sicario is deeply cynical, and the one to Hell or High Water offers a small bit of satisfaction. Wind River is by far the saddest of the bunch, offering a view of life where the wicked triumph, where pleasures are few and small in between, and where justice may only truly be imparted if we take matters into our hands.

A-

On the Waterfront

on the waterfront

I’ve seen my fair share of oldies before and I’ve appreciated them without being wowed by any. I am aware of the 60-80 year disconnect that exists between them and my preferences, molded as they have been by the current crop of cinema, which has little to nothing in common to the pictures of old.

Since I began watching movies five years ago, 2017 has perhaps been the most pleasant, beautiful and full of surprises out of them all, so of course it was only natural for an oldie to come along and blow me away.

On the Waterfront is an utterly great motion picture, its suspense and social commentary timeless and better displayed than in any of its contemporaries. And of course, Marlon Brando. There’s a scene in which Marlon Brando is talking to his girlfriend, when her gloves come off and fall to the ground. Brando picks both of them up, hands one back to her, and puts the other one on his own hand. The conversation carries on nonchalantly, and the camera captures Brando fiddling with the glove. If you don’t want to watch the movie, then just look for this clip online. It is a testament to the otherworldly talent of Marlon Brando.

A

The Departed

departed

The more Martin Scorcese films I watch, the more I am convinced that Silence was the picture he had been building towards to for a large portion of his career. The man has a preternatural fascination with affairs of the faith, or at the very least aspects that could easily be analyzed under a religious lens.

Before Bill Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) gnaws his way into Frank Costello’s (Jack Nicholson) crew, the mob boss mentions that it would probably be a bad idea to hire him, since he is probably a rat handpicked by Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen). Later on, Costigan tells Frank that one of his crew members will be the one to probably end up killing him.

As they are having breakfast one morning, Costello approaches a table of pederast priests. One of them says “Pride comes before the fall”.
More than halfway through the proceedings, Costigan asks Costello why the hell he does what he does, if he’s a septuagenarian with all the money he could possibly need.
He does not need a straight answer, but he doesn’t have to; the audience, if they’ve been keeping up to the tragic tale Scorcese has been weaving for two hours, knows full well.

A-

City of God

city of god

A despairing thought that pops into my mind every so often has to do with the plague of violence that has been overrunning my country for over a decade now. My nation, which shall remain unnamed, harbors similar social and financial conditions as to those displayed in City of God. As the camera cut from one subject to the next, unrelenting in its energy, I had that thought again.

It goes like this. I do not think that the violence and crime epidemic of my country will ever go away because it is much easier to point a gun at someone and steal a pair of shoes in a matter of minutes, than it is to work five times a day for a meager salary in order to afford one.

More than any other movie that I can remember, and probably because it was made in Latin America, where the devils they fight are much more different than the demons of the United States, City of God perfectly illustrates the culture of death and corruption that is so ingrained in our poor, destitute nations.

A+

Victoria

victoria

A technical wonder to behold, sometimes an absolutely thrilling crime caper, others a subdued melancholic romance, Victoria is a feat of cinematic achievement that sadly, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, sadly fizzles out during its final half hour.

The reasons for that are understandable: one takes are technically liberating, but narratively constricting. I know exactly where I would have cut the film: back at the club where it all started. It would have made a nice finish. I actually thought the movie was going to end there, and I was getting ready to love it, when it decides to plunge on for thirty more minutes. The one take technique turns the remaining story into an overlong resolution that flirts with implausibility.

B+

20th Century Women

20th-century-women-poster

“In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”

B+

Free Fire

free-fire-poster-15

Even at 97 minutes, this still feels a tad overlong. However, considering about 80 of those consist purely of people trying to kill each other with guns, vans and even old fashioned rocks, I would say that the fact that it remains enjoyable throughout is a testament to Ben Wheatley´s bizarre talent.

B-