Aaaaannnd we’re back!
It’s amazing what a little pandemic can do to shake you out of your creative cobwebs but if we’re all going to die, I want to make sure all my pop cultural hot takes are up to date at least.
Many of us are already on lockdown and many major movies including “007,” “Black Widow” and ummm I guess “Mulan” are all getting pushed to the backburner as no one is leaving their God damn homes unless they’re told to!
(Didn’t realize the thing I wish I had more of in the apocalypse would be sweatpants…)
But there’s still plenty to talk about from the previous months and other hot topics I have been meaning to write about but just hadn’t found the time or energy for. Life has been hard I think for just about all of us these days thanks in no small part to this pandemic. For me personally, I’ve had two different vacations canceled because of the virus and currently working understaffed at my job which is considered essential. Not to mention my therapist is on call only at this time and both my martial arts schools have been suspended, so I can neither talk nor punch my feelings out of my system.
So, I might be just a LITTLE on edge at the moment.
(My internal monologue for most of these past few weeks, more broadly years…)
Anyways, I digress, you come here because you like to read my highly unprofessional takes on pop culture and genuinely to those who have cheered me on from the beginning thanks, you guys are my prime motivators. But anyways let’s talk about all the shit I was supposed to write about these last two and a half months.
“Birds of Prey” was a hot, but needed, mess
Earlier last month I got to see the sort of sequel to the much-maligned “Suicide Squad” in “Birds of Prey and the…waaaay too long of a title for me write here.” I had cautious optimism for it because it looked strange and off the beaten path of most comic book movies and seemed to promise at the very least a fun time at the theater but it’s still also a DCEU movie so the floor was pretty low on its possible quality as well.
In the end, the movie is kind of bit of everything; the best and worst parts of the DCEU.
In terms of the good, it’s definitely outside the box, a sort of fem Deadpool first person story as told frenetically by Harley herself. Margot Robbie is, of course, still quite great at this role and you can tell she’s having a blast as this character. The humor is mostly good and visually the bright colors and cinematography pops on each screen and on that front there isn’t much to complain about.
But as a DCEU movie it does suffer from some narrative imbalance partially due to it’s psycho storyteller but mostly, and more than likely, due to corporate editing that probably axed an entire dance number that I was honestly looking forward to from the trailers.
(Seriously, I actually wanted to see the full unedited version of whatever hell this ended up being.)
It’s definitely in the “could’ve been better” camp of comic book movies but you know what? I’m still glad it exists. You know why? Because comic book movies dominate our blockbuster culture right now and if the genre wants to survive, at least artistically, it needs some outside the box films like this. I HATED “Joker” but I appreciate that it opened the door for stranger, more unique takes on a genre that is getting increasingly more stale. This movie falls into that unique category too.
(Also, to all the faux-intellectuals and alt-right nerds making a culture war out of “Sonic” vs “Birds of Prey” kindly reevaluate your lives please…)
We’re at the point now where comic book movies should be getting weirder, not more formulaic, and that means swinging for the fences even if a couple don’t quite make it out of the ballpark. If it takes a few not so stellar takes on the genre for Hollywood to greenlight a truly fantastic one I’m all for it.
In any case “Birds of Prey” doesn’t quite end nor continue the DCEU’s recent hot streak but it is enjoyable enough to where I would be more than open to a sequel. It’s worth a watch.
The Mandalorian and The Witcher: Two shows about violent mercenaries and fatherhood
Both these shows are old news at this point, but I did want to talk a little about both for a bit if you would have me.
First, “The Mandalorian” which was Disney+’s flagship production to begin its streaming chapter late last year is definitely a more than welcome addition to the galaxy far, far away. It’s pretty easy to feel fairly jaded about Star Wars these days given how flat the new trilogy ended but for what it’s worth “The Mandalorian” was a good mix of nostalgia bait and something new and interesting for fans to chew on. Its production value is obviously top-notch, no doubt because of all the Disney money pumped into it, it’s well-acted and thrilling and fun from start to finish. It plays heavily on the genres that influenced the series, primarily westerns and old samurai flicks, and fans of those will certainly enjoy the homages to them all.
The series was something of a coming out party for Deborah Chow who directed two of the season 1’s best episodes. Her steady hand, eye for details and tributes to Asian cinema throughout really gave the series an extra kick at times and showed how Star Wars can evolve still. Chow is set to helm the upcoming “Kenobi” series and one can only hope that she really leans into the samurai genre for that show.
(Hopefully, there are some “Yojimbo” vibes in there somewhere…)
The Mandalorian’s best and worst parts though are its semi episodic nature making each episode easy to digest as a one-off but also lacking some narrative tension between each. It plays kind of like a Saturday Morning cartoon to both its benefit and detriment with bite-size easy to digest plots and dialogue for the viewers but not offering a ton of depth beyond that.
The Mandalorian himself is also kind of a Gary Stu. His armor is basically impenetrable and far and away the best killer onscreen typically, making more than a few action scenes lack real stakes and tension. Baby Yoda certainly helps at times to make him more vulnerable and puts him in precarious positions plenty of times but outside a few moments (mainly episode 2 and to a lesser extend the final episode) he’s just a little too overpowered to be a more interesting character.
But this show and frankly the Star Wars series as a whole is meant for kids, no matter what the neckbeards try to tell you (violence =/= adult), and that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Plenty of kids productions can be both great and even sophisticated and while I wouldn’t say “The Mandalorian” is either of those it’s a good and fun kids show for the fans.
(And yes I’m aware that the books, some comics, and games have touched on more adult stuff, you weirdos. But how would you describe the overall tone and presumptive audience of the movies and TV series as a whole, guys??)
As far as “The Witcher” goes it also has a bit of an episodic style to it as well with an overarching, albeit, convoluted story that runs parallel to it. The first 3-4ish episodes can be classified as a quasi “Game of Thrones” clone leaning perhaps a little too heavily into the tropes of that series. Once the series finally starts leaning into its real identity, a dry-witted hack and slash fantasy, the series is much more consistent both tonally and narratively.
Henry Cavil is solid as Geralt of Rivia and the supporting cast of Joey Batey as Jaskier, Freya Allen as Ciri and even more so Anya Chalotra as Yennefer are all great in their respective roles delivering some great moments throughout the season.
(And lest you forget this earworm…)
“The Witcher’s” early season struggles keep it from being as tonally or narratively consistent as “The Mandalorian” but where the monster slayer beats the bounty hunter is that it has overall more compelling drama and has more to say, leaning much more heavily into the thematic greys of the plot. There are tons of problems with “The Witcher” on a story-telling level but you can definitely say it cares more about adding some depth in between the more pulpy aspects of the story which is something you can’t say as much for in “The Mandalorian.”
Of course, I’m partially overselling “The Witcher” a bit here, it’s not anywhere near “Game of Thrones” best (yet at least), and on the flipside one could argue that “The Mandalorian’s” more subtle sense of story-telling does its themes better. But when it comes down to these two shows you get somewhat similar story-telling ideas, mostly involving both characters and their smaller counterparts, in two very different genres with equally diverging conclusions to their respective seasons.
(🎵 Toss an “Oof” to your Witcher…🎵)
All in all, they’re both good and worth a watch and I think they deserve a chance to evolve and hopefully showcase more of what they have to offer moving forward.
“Parasite” wins Best Picture! Many people have some hot takes, including the president…
Last month one of my favorite films of 2019 “Parasite” won Best Picture at the Oscars. It’s a movie that is becoming increasingly relevant as elites and celebrities alike are getting front of the line testing despite being asymptomatic in the middle of pandemic and think they can assuage our concerns and dread by poorly singing “Imagine” together within the comfort of their McMansions.
It’s about as a good time as any to revisit this movie, I mean where else are you going to go during this timeline, and at a later date I’ll write something more extensive about it eventually (hopefully) but first here’s a helpful video on one particular thing that came out after director Bong Joon Ho took home the night’s top honors:
“Cats” is still a fever dream of madness
Back in late December, I watched “Cats” for science, as I had AMC A-List and a friend crazy enough to join me. I figured it would be bonkers and unlike anything I had seen before in the worst way but even then, I don’t think I was truly prepared for what I ended up seeing that fateful night.
I remember quite vividly going to the bar inside the theater and ordering a stiff drink beforehand to numb the pain and the bartender asking “So what are y’all watching tonight?” and beginning to laugh manically like an insane asylum patient at the innocuousness of the question. Walking into the theater was like that feeling you get before getting on a particularly scary-looking rollercoaster at Six Flags but instead of the pre-ride jitters eventually subsiding to the eventual fun and joy of the ride, only a deep sense of existential dread built up and sustained itself through what felt like six hours of the most baffling thing put to screen in front of my eyes ever.
(The music that played in my head as I exited the theater…)
Have any of you watched the Stanley Kubrick movie “Eyes Wide Shut” before? You know the scene when Tom Cruise is walking around in his mask observing the strange occult sex orgy going on around him at the mansion? That’s kind of what “Cats” felt like except way more terrifying, somehow MORE sexual, and definitely crazier.
(Is…this some type of…intepretative dance to summon an eldritch horror??)
There’s a voyeuristic terror that comes from sitting in that theater room as you watch bipedal humanoid looking felines dance to confusing songs about “Jelicle” cats (whatever the fuck that means) and all other manner of things that should NOT take human form throughout it’s near-endless runtime. A lot was made about Rebel Wilson and the disgusting roach people she consumes but NO ONE warned me about the frankly HORRIFYING mice children in the same scene!
(I am not perusing the internet to find that image again for y’all. I have enough nightmares each night…)
The saddest thing about the whole movie is everyone, save for Ian Mckellen who seemed to be acting as if a gun was pointing at him offscreen and Judi Dench who looked 100 percent like a geriatric in her digi fur, was giving the movie their fullest effort in what can only be described as a Titanic-sized level of hubris by all parties involved. This movie really needed a “Chaostician” involved in evaluating the production for studio heads and shareholders because there were definitely NOT enough people on this project wondering whether or not this film SHOULD exist…
(Dr. Ian Malcolm coming to Universal Pictures to access the film.)
What has “Cats” wrought upon this world? The universe has been clearly out of balance since this movie came out and while I’m not saying it’s director Tom Hooper’s fault, I’m not saying it isn’t either.
“Cats” is one of those things, much like The Matrix that cannot be simply described but must be seen to believe. It’s one of the worst things I have ever seen onscreen but with the right group of people and a few stiff drinks it’s certainly an experience you won’t forget. Consider it for your next Google Hangout during this apocalypse.
Anyways, that about wraps up my thoughts on the last few months. Going to try to be more consistent going forward especially given how much more time I have now to write, for better and worse. But more importantly, just want to say stay safe y’all. It’s going to be a process to get through this and while things are more likely to get worse before they get better there will be a day when this all ends and some normalcy may yet return to our life but in order for us to get there we need to remain vigilant.
So stay at home, wash your hands, and if you want to watch movies just order it online for now and we’ll just wait until aaaallll this blows over…hopefully.