Updated: Mar 27, 2020
These are hard times. But we’re not gonna talk about that!
Instead, I want to point you towards some of the best things that you can possibly spend your time doing while you self-isolate! These aren’t necessarily new things, but these are some of the first things I thought of recently released need-to-watch movies that you might have missed!
These aren't really reviews. But more encouragement for you to watch/re-watch them with additional context. This definitely isn't an excuse for me to get out a handful of mini-rants which I couldn't figure out how to flush into a full blog.
Birds of Prey
Being reminded that good movies CAN come out of the DCEU, background filler. Deadpool, but somehow gayer.
Like. Who would have thought that the standard Femme Fatale movie would be elevated by having a creative team consisting of women?
I, for one, am glad that we’re all mutually getting sick of straight white men telling us all what we want.
Now, granted, there is a lot of controversy about the very apparent gay-baiting. However, I can totally understand why you wouldn’t want your first canonical cinematic universe gay men to be raging, misogynistic, violent psychopaths. As a story-lover, I can totally appreciate that it’s okay for a villain to be queer, but I can also understand that not everyone appreciates nuances like this (both within and outside the queer community), and that’s okay! It’s totally fine that WB wouldn’t want this to be their first foot out into non-amazonian queer representation.
In retrospect, the movie should have always been Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey. You can use the Harley Quinn franchise to establish OTHER characters in the universe. (A sequel could be Harley Quinn & The Gotham City Sirens?) The films where supporting characters are popular could spark spin-offs.
I mean, it would be a much better model for establishing a cinematic universe than what they’re doing now, amirite?
Questioning your sexuality for those who have already questioned their sexuality — unless you're already into women in which case, sit back and let Jennifer Lopez’ cleavage lure you in like a moth to a flame and then indoctrinate you with anarchro-communist justice. Screaming ‘yaaaas kween’ in a crowded theatre. ALMOST making you feel bad for a single Wall Street banker. Almost.
I mean. I pretty much already described what this movie is for and why you should watch it, you sexy comrade, you.
Oh. And also Jennifer Lopez can act now. So like. That’s at least one GOOD surprise we’ve gotten since 2016.
Understanding how an incredibly significant and era-shifting event came to light and having it boiled down and explained in a way that is palatable without removing any of the key details or emotional reasons for why this is something you should probably care about.
I mean. They lasso you, and pull you in with Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robie. And you think, ‘oh I’m gonna go watch it for some seriously awesome acting.’ And the acting is there, right, but then you get so viscerally angry that shit like this happens. And not only that it happens, but that the changes made as a result of people being outraged that it happened don’t actually fix the root problem.
I’m really enjoying this new trend. Movies that are supposed to make you angry. Not movies to make you sad or reflective or ‘oh maybe we should do something about that’. But just. seeing-red, tunnel-vision A N G E R.
Normally only documentaries are supposed to do that. but these movies (the Big Short, Vice) are basically documentaries. But they got themselves some acting in them so you can get emotionally invested in what they’re trying to tell you.
AND SO THAT YOU CAN GET MAD THAT PEOPLE TOLERATE THIS CRAP FFS PEOPLE ARE DYING NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO TRY AND PUSH A POLITICAL AGENDA FOR YOUR PET ELECTABILITY/RICH-FRIENDS PROJECTS—
Background filler, sing-a-long, pondering the significance of seemingly self-evident cultural shifts that are causing Disney to re-develop its iron-clad brand.
Into the UN-KNOOOOOOOOOO—
So. The flagship song STILL isn’t out of my head which… kinda sucks. But in all honesty as far as Disney songs go, and this may be an unpopular opinion, you can’t really get much better. Somehow, Disney managed to make a classic out of an addition to an existing franchise while COMPLETELY shifting in tone and theme. As planned, Frozen 2 grew up with fans of the original film. But people who wanted a re-do of the entire first movie were sorely disappointed.
(I’d meant to write an entire blog about this, but I got sacked by life so. We’re gonna have this out now, instead. I know it’s gonna get long and ranty but it’s not like we have anything else to do right now.)
Frozen 2 is a leap for Disney Animation and the type of stories they seem to want to begin telling. This movie got some mixed reviews and it came down to a matter of taste. People who went in wanting a DisneyPrincess™ movie were a little bit disappointed — because this is definitely not a Princess movie. There’s no evil witch, there’s no central romance acting as the backbone of the entire plot, and the whole plot isn’t the result of bad parenting. In fact, Frozen 2 even retcons a lot of the ‘bad parenting’ problems that were the catalyst for all of Frozen 1.
As for I/me/my, I was a huge fan of the thematic and tonal shifts in the story and feel that Disney pictures — as a whole — benefits for moving in a more Miyazaki-adventure direction. They teased a bit at that with Moana, but they still clung too close to the brightly-colored, light-theme, empowering, romantic, and Capitol-R-Romantic Disney Princess brand.
The Disney Princess brand has been struggling since Princess and the Frog. Neither Tangled nor Moana performed at the box office the way they were intended to. Nor did they reach the cultural permeability that films even like Pocahontas and Hercules did. This especially, when other non-princess properties like Zootopia have reached a much higher level of popularity. That isn't to say these princess movies were bad, but they didn't/don't seem to match the current set of cultural expectations that movie-goers want to see.
Frozen 1 was an exception, but it was also a little bit different than other Princess movies. Frozen 1 went as far as to make fun of the Princess Formula’s obsession with cheap romantic thrills, but the romantic components of Frozen 2 seemed to be much more relatable couple struggles that ran closer to 90s sitcom than Princess. In the end, I’m super impressed that Disney, which is industry-famous for being incapable of compromising its brand, was able to take the Frozen property and analyze that its success was due to superpowers and strong female leads, and not because of the princess brand.
First of all. No. It isn’t the representation we’re asking for. Second, neither is that 1.5-second smooch in The Rise of Skywalker. Just like the gay side-characters kissing in the upcoming Eternals film doesn't qualify. The worst part is how a bunch of straight executives tell us how excited we should be about getting table-scraps of visibility. I’m more and more convinced that TheStraights™ don’t know what ‘visible representation’ actually means.
So really, this is less of criticism about Frozen 2 itself and more about how queer folks are supposed to take Elsa as a gay icon even though… it’s never been hinted that she has any romantic leanings. And if I’m being perfectly honest, I didn’t see Frozen 2 trying to plant these hints about Elsa’s queerdom. (I'm being needled into correcting that into 'queendom' and I mean like... yaaaas.) I can respect this more than a whole lot of empty teasing that we can 'read into' if we want, but which bigoted folks can ignore entirely if they please. If you're gonna made a statement, make a statement. If you're not, just make your story about something else.
I'm told Elsa was walking through ice-vaginas at one point? I didn’t see it that way, even re-watching the movie. But straight people who want queer people to shut up about representation definitely did see it that way, and tried very hard to convince me to see it that way also. Maybe Elsa's Queer? Maybe she's not? Frozen 2 makes it abundantly clear that romantic interests aren't a priority for her. Elsa's journey is about self-discovery, self-improvement, and strengthening meaningful relationships among those close to her.
Which (no tea no shade) is something I feel the more privileged circles of the Queer community could do a lot more of, instead of chasing after Instagram romances or selling out their community for a strong stock portfolio and 'land management'.
Anyway. Frozen 2. Watch it. Sing it. It’s a good time.
Undivided attention, crying, laughing, watching a depiction of Nazis that knocks them from the Third Reich boogymen pedestal that Hollywood has set them upon, and depicting them as the clownish pageant queens that they actually were.
Are you in the mood for something morbidly hilarious that is both incredibly depressing, uplifting, topically relevant to a modern say audience while examining the effects of Nazi propaganda and explaining how the Nazis functioned in Germany without them or glorifying them as a legitimate threat ALL WHILE being historically accurate?
Does Taika Waititi deliver or does he deliver?
Taika Waititi delivers.
There is one blip against the ‘historically accurate’ checklist though. The Hitler Youth program was actually shut down in the early 40’s due to financial struggles Germany faced as the war came to a close. So it would not have been active as close to the sacking of Berlin as the film suggested. That said, the film’s goal was to depict the ethical depravity of youth indoctrination, so from a thematic point, I fully understand the choice to change that. It was an excellent device to frame the film.
There was a lot of controversy about the movie when it came out. Mostly from the SJW crowd who insisted that this film, to an extent, was encouraging us to empathize with Nazis. And that, given the resurgence of Nazis in America, it was wrong to humanize them. I mean. First: I’m sorry. Nazis were human.
Nazi propaganda was so pervasive in this age before telephones, television, and internet, that if we, as individuals had not succumbed to the Nazi groupthink, we would have been silenced by it. We need to be open to the possibility that any one of us — even those most strictly humanitarian, love-thy-neighbor, anti-violence of us — under the right circumstances COULD have been a Nazi. The second you say ‘it could never happen to me’ you are making yourself vulnerable to propaganda that could take advantage of this lack of self-reflection.
This is why the Germans are so ‘never again’ about the Holocaust. Unless we are vigilant, it could and will happen again.
The additional danger of NOT humanizing Nazis means we have to depict them as heartless, mega-efficient, ultra-competent, persecution-machines. We have to make them scary villains like in Schindler's List and Sophie's Choice. And there is a strong appeal to villains — and some people may question whether it is just propaganda that they are depicted that way. If you want to devalidate an ideological movement, depict it as clownish, not villainous.
Second, the focus of the film was the process of a young man becoming de-radicalized from Nazi propaganda by means of empathic connection with a victim of said propaganda. Anyway, just watch the film, and it becomes a whole lot more clear.
I tried soo-ooo hard to figure out a way to stuff this all into a single blog of it's own last summer when this movie was at the pique of it's advertising hype. I think I pulled it off this time!
Oh! And also, you will be laughing through tears of sadness. Be prepared for that.
Subtitles. As long as you’re reading the subtitles, you’re not on your phone and you can pay attention to what the movie is about. I once had a friend who insisted he could watch Pulp Fiction while on his phone. Halfway through the movie, he declared it as ‘dumb’ because he said the movie was impossible to follow. We're not friends anymore.
The best thing about Parasite is that it’s very clear that the film itself is under no pretensions that it is supposed to win the awards it did. There are some jokes and elements to the plot that definitely don’t fit in with what typical ‘Oscar movies’ should be like. This was a movie that was meant to entertain people, while allegorically explaining the class dynamics of contemporary urban Korea.
Small details are meant to be read into. And because the creators in no way expected it to take off the way it did at the Canes Film Festival, and then at Venice, and then at Toronto, you can get all of this artistic messaging without being buried under the weight of the checklists for what needs to be in an ‘Oscar Movie’. The Oscar Movie though seems to be dying off though.... The Shape of Water, and Moonlight are all movies that distance themselves from the torrents of period pieces, war films, and movies about people of privilege having to learn a lesson about privilege.
One thing to bear in mind. This is Korean cinema, which aside from the subtitles, those accustomed to Hollywood’s ‘the audience must be bashed with the message’ branding that has become so ubiquitous. This movie is very subtle, and the messages are in the subtleties. I want you to watch it for yourself so you can pick up on these things. Though at the risk of you walking away thinking that the rich people were the real victims, I want to leave you with some thoughts.
What is poor-people survival versus rich-people survival?
What are rich-people priorities?
Who is educated, and how are they educated? For what do they use their education? What is the value of this education to this person?
When poor people are in conflict, what are they ACTUALLY fighting over?
And, finally, pay attention to the placement of people. Who is high, and who is low? How do they get from low-to-high, and high-to-low? What does their physical placement above and below each other mean?
Honestly, I feel like the only person in the world who thinks that it’s more fun when you go into a movie with a question sheet? Ugh. I miss the days of elementary school. So simple back then.
Being really smug about The Last Jedi.
Again with being angry about rich people! Sheesh, it’s on everyone’s mind! It’s almost like we’re at the precipice of a class war which will define not only a nation, but an entire generation around the world as we make a decision, for our foreseeable lifetimes, about whether or not — and how we are going to if we do — redistribute the majority of human wealth hoarded in the upper classes and confront capitalism for the class structure it has which draws impossibly close to an aristocratic oligarchy disguised as a democracy like the old ruling families of Italy, Russia, and France, which ultimately culminated in the collapse of these ruling classes through the sheer overpowering numbers of working people who were exploited to the point of having nothing left to lose.
Also like. The movie is totally awesome. I’ve talked about it already, so yeah. You should watch it if you’re feeling nostalgic about Sherlock not being around anymore.
Thanks for reading! I know we're all going a little shack-whacky. Except for me. I've been living like this for most of my life.