Like the name of the antagonist group Evermoist, Pitch Perfect 3 (2017) left me musically aroused yet very unsatisfied (I hope that doesn’t sound too creepy). The musical numbers are pretty good, generally speaking, but the choreography is wasted due to the fact that there are so. many. cuts. in. each. number. I want to see what the dances actually look like, not just a face here and a butt there, interspersed with frontal extreme long shots so far away I can’t make anything out. And that’s just the biggest problem.
I thought I’d just about finished reviewing documentaries after that last piece. After all, documentaries aren’t usually known for their aesthetic innovations. But then along comes Dealt (2017), about Richard Turner, the world’s most renowned card mechanic (i.e. white-hat card shark), who just happens to have 100% vision loss, and the way that it introduces its subject, follows him through a turning point in his life, and conveys it all with a purposeful cinematicity just begs to be unpacked.
Everyone knows that a key element of raunchy humor lies in the titillation. Unfortunately, I watched The Little Hours (2017) with my properly forewarned but still Catholic parents (I am too, actually). Maybe keep that in mind as you read my thoughts below on who’s funny and who’s not.
(Man that title was a mouthful! Also: spoilers.)
After the shameless remake of Star Wars (1977, aka Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope) that was Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015, aka Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens), which came roaring into theaters with a bad aftertaste of manufactured PR, the newest installment offers the world an action-packed, technically excellent, mythically present, humorous, and (never thought I’d say this of a Star Wars film) thematically radical entry in the four-decade-old original space opera saga.
When we imbibe a narrative, we expect some basic things: a plot, some characters, a world, and an artistic form that makes these things cohere, even if the coherence itself doesn’t necessarily make sense, like in Upstream Color (2013). Sometimes, the coherence is radically different from yet uncannily similar to the world that we live in, and we call that farce. Other times, it resembles our world, but then reveals an underlying logic that is wholly incompatible with our notions of reality, and we call that black comedy. If farce is the implausibly possible (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), In Bruges (2008)), then black comedy is the plausibly impossible (Mr. Right (2015), Heathers (1988))—a fine line, I know. And both of them throw realism out the window.
No one’s gonna believe me, but the movie Shin Godzilla is actually 9/10s just large rooms of politicians arguing and developing policy with almost no main character. And it’s actually awesome.
— Aaron Moorhead (@AaronMoorhead) December 10, 2017
I would write a full review, but a much better one than I could ever write has been done by fellow WordPress film reviewer Noah Waldman. I’ll just add a few thoughts below.
Bad Genius (Chalard Games Goeng / ฉลาดเกมส์โกง 2017) is an impeccably made heist film, with some of the best editing magic in cinema—never has taking an exam felt so high-stakes and nervewracking. It’s over two hours long but feels like 90 minutes due to its organically developed plot. Some critics knock its ending, but that just goes to show how seductive the social justice self-rationalizations are that suck in Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying) and, later and deeper, Bank (Chanon Santinatornkul). The film ends on the moral high ground not just because it’s about cheating high school students, but more importantly because it’s the only way to round out its social critique: A bad system corrupts the corruptible obviously, but it also surreptitiously twists the actions of good people simply trying to survive. In Confucian East Asia, money is small consolation for lack of learning, but the poor wages of scholarship make for empty esteem.
Last night, my sleep was filled with a series of vivid dreams, featuring the appearance of abundantly metaphorical imagery and almost-forgotten figures from my past. It was a deep and continuous sleep, and long. The evening prior, I finished myriad small but important tasks that I’d either forgotten or been putting off, and I did so with a vigorous energy previously hidden by layers of lethargy and procrastination. That afternoon, I watched Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour (Rak Ti Khon Kaen / รักที่ขอนแก่น 2015).
The best scene in Our Souls at Night (2017) is when Louis (Robert Redford) comes home, grabs a beer, and plops down in his favorite chair to watch the weather on TV. It’s more or less the only scene in the film in which his life feels lived in, and not as if he were only a character in a story, subservient to the plot (a waste of a romance when simple companionship in old age would’ve been much more moving and radical), or to the theme (about the burden of his past, as embodied in the stigma it brings to Addie (Jane Fonda), the symbol of possibility), or even to the music (light and fantastical, coloring his everyday actions with nostalgia). The main culprit is the editing, cutting away as soon as the scene is “done” instead of lingering to see what might come next.
The second-best scenes are crossing the bridge to and from the campsite. They’re so beautiful that not even this film had the heart to cut them short.