What I Watched in 2018

eyesopen

I do understand that some of these movies were released in 2017, but I watched them in 2018. So shut up.

This is now a movie blog.

Black Panther

Let’s start with a Marvel movie, because we are rapidly heading to a future where these are the only movies that are ever made. The thing is: I really, really liked this movie. And it’s actually hard for me to define WHY I liked it. The plot is typical, predictable, and the ending is just as you’d expect it to be. But man, this movie was good. It made me think a lot about how movies make their viewers invest in the characters, and how much of that work is done in subtle ways – so that by the time a character is in a fight or “dies” in a way in which you KNOW that they’re going to come back, you still FEEL something. And I felt a lot during this movie. The characters were amazing, the action was well put-together, and they took some real TIME with their characters. The main villain was deeply sympathetic and also completely correct, it’s too bad he had a penchant for killing lots of innocent people.

The Last Jedi

I liked a lot about this movie – I thought the buildup (and the music!) that went along with the culminating moment at the end of the movie almost made the bad stuff worth watching.

But the bad stuff… oh man. I mean, they took Finn – the most likeable and interesting  character from the first movie and basically turned him into Jar-Jar Binks. And though  I liked the eat-the-rich message of the scene on the casino planet, the more I thought about it the more I realized that it was a clumsily un-subtle dig at Trump, and it pisses me off that we can’t even have a fucking Star Wars movie that doesn’t re-litigate the 2016 election. I don’t need that, and neither does anyone else.

The very end of the movie, with the Child staring up at the sky and clutching a “Resistance” symbol was a strong indication that there will be approximately 1,500 more Star Wars movies during my lifetime, and we are rapidly heading towards a time when  they will every single one of them will be really fucking bad.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

There is so much going on in this movie that literally the only thing characters can take time to do is explain what the fuck is going on, all the way up to and including their specific motivations for each and every one of their actions. They might as well just kill all the dialog and have a narrator.  It’s too much, and I hope they all stay dead. The end.

Hereditary & Mother!

I put these two movies together because I think they are illustrative of two good filmmakers accomplishing very different goals through the medium of horror.

Hereditary is a movie that is beautiful, terrifying, and brilliant. It made me feel like absolute shit for most of the movie, I couldn’t sleep the night after watching it, and I was thinking about it the whole next day. The filmmaker reached into my soul and pulled strings that I didn’t know were there, because whoever made this movie understood a great deal of the human condition. I’m OK with that, even if it didn’t make me feel good. It made me appreciate the craft of film-making while exploring grief and fear and family.

Then there’s Mother! – the only purpose of which was to break my spirit. In making this movie, Darron Aronofsky wanted me to feel worse than I ever have before while watching a movie. He wanted to cause me pain. He wanted to make me suffer. And yeah, he did a really good job of it. But FUCK him. And fuck Mother! I hated this movie. And I’m now a Republican who believes in censorship. Thanks Darron.

Sharp Objects

Man, this show. It wrecked me in so many ways. Having pretty recently attended the funeral of my biological teenage son in the south, watching a show about…. lots of dead teenagers in the south – with threads of suicide and grief throughout – was maybe not the best move for me. But I found this show to be completely gripping. It’s a show where the atmosphere was SO much more interesting than the story. And that atmosphere is enough to make the show worth watching.

That being said. I partly enjoyed this show because I was able to suspend my disbelief about the whole thing until approximately the last 30 minutes of the final episode. It was at that point that it all came together, with a ridiculous twist that made all of the time they put into developing the characters seem completely pointless. It also brought together something that had been nagging at me throughout the show. I realized that Sharp Objects is – without exaggeration – the most deeply sexist show I have ever watched. Literally every single one of the male characters in this show – even the ones who turn out to be pretty shitty – have an underlying current of earnest nobility running through their veins. They’re all cool under pressure, they all really just want to do the right thing. They all are constantly tempted and led astray by females who want to lead them off the path. The corrupt sheriff is mostly just foolish and protective. The FBI agent falls head over heels for the central character and just wants her to love him back in a devoted monogamous relationship, only to have his heart broken. Even the least sympathetic male character’s central crime is only that he has been deliberately ignorant of the heinous crimes of his wife. These men are just trying to do their best in a world full of damaged women trying to lead them astray.

And about those women: Wow. Starting with the supposedly very young teenage girls in this show, every single woman portrayed is completely fucking broken and devoted to death, destruction, and the tarnishing of male nobility. I’m not even joking here. This caricature runs all the way down to the young girls in this show, who seem to spend 90% of their time wearing absurdly short skirts, riding around on roller skates, drinking, and attempting to seduce older men. The main character’s mother is a child abuser and murderer, and her sister helped her mother both kill and dismember the victims. Even Amy Adams – who is an incredibly sympathetic character – is a deeply broken self-harming alcoholic who has no problem seducing a source for a story and sleeping with a broken 19 year-old boy who had just lost his sister.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that the only way this stuff could have even made it to the screen is if the vast majority of people involved in production and approval had been male – which is undoubtedly the case. Given that, I was shocked to find out that the author of the books that were the source material for this show was a woman. It just goes to show you that the misogyny runs deep.

You Were Never Really Here 

This is worth watching just for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. The story is ridiculous in a lot of ways, but he’s so fucking good. From the very first time you see his face, you know that he is a deeply broken man who just needs the right kind of pressure to snap. And you watch just to see it happen.

Phantom Thread

A deeply strange movie about weird bourgeois culture, with un-relatable characters and a very slow pace. And yet there’s an incredible 3-minute scene near the end (the dinner scene) that makes it entirely worth watching.

Annihilation

One of the year’s best movies, despite being sabotaged post-production by Sony and released only on a limited basis. It was haunting, beautiful, and stuck with me for weeks after I watched it. While different from the book in several important ways – some of which made sense and others which seemed totally unnecessary – it had the same effect. I was unsettled throughout, thrown off-kilter at every turn, and found myself in tears at the end. Please watch this movie.

Hostile

What a beautiful film in so many ways, with incredible casting to boot. But at the end of the day, it couldn’t seem to decide whether it was a Cormac McCarthy novel or Dances With fucking Wolves. The movie didn’t stick with a single story and didn’t have an identity. By the end of it, I wasn’t even sure if the title made sense.

At the center of this movie is a compelling nugget – the idea that lifelong enemies who have suffered greatly at each other’s hands have to learn how to get along after decades of war. If you’re able to set aside the fact that Native Americans and occupying American soldiers are somehow placed on the same level in terms of atrocities committed, I think this movie could have derived some interesting lessons and powerful moments if it had stuck with that story. But for SOME reason, the writers tried to inject about 17 sub-plots – romances, bromances, kidnappings, and everything in-between. By the time the redemptive moment comes between Christian Bale’s character and the Native Chief who has been his lifelong enemy – it feels almost farcical, because only 10% of the movie has been devoted to leading up to that particular moment – and it’s not even at the end, because the end of the movie is Christian Bale deciding to hop on a train to follow the female lead of the movie to Chicago, because… I guess it’s a love story now? Alright then.

Sorry to Bother You

This movie was great – partly because I really agreed with the anti-capitalist message of it (duh) – and partly because I found each of the characters to be incredibly interesting and likable. That being said, the less subtle the critiques of capitalism got, the less enjoyable the movie became. By the end it felt like Boots Riley was hitting you in the face – repeatedly – with his message. At least it was a good message!

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Coen brothers are masters at their craft, and this movie almost felt like they were showing off – which I’m perfectly fine with. A movie with six distinct stories, all of which managed to get me invested in each character and storyline – some with nary a line of dialog passed for most of the story. It’s deeply impressive filmmaking and I really really enjoyed every minute of it.

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