You’re Not One Of Them

Jo Jo Rabbit is a lovely movie. It’s trangressive as hell and wildly hilarious in places. (Sam Rockwell is a treasure and somehow knowing how great he is, and knowing how every time people talk about him they’re talking about how great he is, I still think he’s underrated.) There are a few things going on in Taiko Waititi’s satire that I think are worth discussing.

The whole movie is from the perspective of Jo Jo, a sad, lonely ten year old boy in Germany towards the end of World War II (the inevitability of Germany losing the war at this point hangs over the whole film) who idolizes Adolf Hitler and longs to belong, thinking he’ll find that belonging in the Hitler Jungon. Keeping the camera at JoJo’s height, only revealing for sure things that he knows for sure (we, as educated adult viewers can glean more nuance but it’s not in the text, deliberately and brilliantly.) makes the film more whimsical than it could be otherwise.

JoJo, like many kids, has an imaginary friend, unlike many other kids, his imaginary friend is Hitler. As JoJo’s perspective shifts, so do his interaction with Hitler, at first JoJo’s Adolf is a chummy cheerleader, by the end, he’s a bellowing lunatic. Waititi plays Hitler himself and it’s an interesting performance.

And then there’s the matter of Jojo’s ghost. His mother, Rosie (warmly played by Scarlett Johanson, in a role that she’s quite good in. I have mixed feelings on Johanson, who I think can be wonderful when a part suits her, but is limited as an actor) is working with the resistance and is hiding a Jewish teenager in their walls. JoJo learns this and decides rather than turn Else, the girl in, to use her to study Jews, and of course learns that she’s human.

JoJo Rabbit has it’s heart in the right place, is creatively shot, and masterfully performed. It addresses the really important issue of radicalizing youth, and how to break that programming. (While it is not the job of the oppressed to educate their oppressor, it is helpful for young people who’ve been radicalized to interact with those they previously considered themselves above to realize you know, we’re all human and stuff.)

Anyway, I was a big fan of the movie. I’m really looking forward to watching it again, actually, because I’m sure there’s more to analyze here.

Rankings

  1. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  2. Jo Jo Rabbitt
  3. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  4. Avengers: Endgame
  5. Rocketman
  6. Detective Pikachu
  7. Zombieland: Double Tap
  8. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
  9. Downton Abbey
  10. Joker

Trailers

Ford V Ferrari: I am so excited for this movie. I’ve mentioned before that, “well meaning adults who are good at their jobs” is one of my favorite genres, and I have a feeling this qualifies. Also, Matt Damon and Christian Bale getting to play smiling charmers is going to just be a hoot!

Knives Out!: It better be good. I want it to be good. It should be so so so so so good.

Doctor Sleep: Looking forward to this one too. I’m going to try to see it this weekend, but I make no promises.

A Hidden Life: I know Holocaust dramas aren’t always great, in fact they are often maudlin and difficult to watch. This looks kind of like that, but I’ve always enjoyed Terrence Malick’s work and also, I’ve been reading about Franz Jagerstatter in a superficial way since I could read. (Catholic culture can be weird) so seeing this story on the big screen will likely be worth it.

Zombie Kill Of The Century

I love the movie Zombieland. I just like zombie movies in general, actually, and Zombieland also has other things that I like, sarcastic quips, Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone among them.

So, I knew I was going to at the very least enjoy Zombieland: Double Tap. And I did. It also includes a few other things that I really like, love triangles and Rosario Dawson. HOORAY!

Zombieland isn’t the best movie ever, but it’s a good one, so obviously it’s sequel is also not a great movie, but an adequate one. It’s fun, funny, the kills are good and it’s final set piece is reasonably impressive, for a midlevel zombie comedy.

There’s also a bunch of Elvis jokes, a dumb hippy kid who tries to convince Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock that he wrote, “Like A Rolling Stone,” which is genuinely hilarious, especially once she reveals that she was only hanging out with him to get away from her suffocating family and because he had weed. “I know who Bob Dylan is you idiot!”

Also, that final set piece? It involes Rosario Dawson running over a bunch of zombies with a monster truck.

I’m sorry, I’m human, that’s just plain wonderful.

Rankings

  1. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  2. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  3. Avengers: Endgame
  4. Rocketman
  5. Detective Pikachu
  6. Zombieland: Double Tap
  7. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
  8. Downton Abbey
  9. Joker

Trailers

Knive’s Out: My level of hype for this movie is astronomical. It looks so so so so so so good.

Doctor Sleep: After finishing the book, I’m even more excited for this. I like that they’re making Dan and Abra’s first contact seem a little bit creepy.

Charlie’s Angels: This is going to be the gayest lady movie ever isn’t it? Whatever, I’m in for the wigs alone, but the action looks pretty sweet too and is Patrick Stewart Charlie?

The Turning: YOU GIVE ME ALL OF THE GOTHIC HORROR. ALL OF IT. We wants it. The precious. (Evil demon children. Also is this literally a modern take on The Turning Of The Screw? Because that’s awesome. I should read that. I like the James I have read…)

Bad Boys For Life: I am glad Will Smith is back. I’ve missed him. I didn’t see Aladdin and I still haven’t seen Gemini Man, so I get that my excitement may seem less than wholehearted, but it isn’t.

Countdown: No. I mean, it looks fine, just, not for me.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars Special: The Rise Of Skywalker Trailer

The Rise Of Skywalker is coming.

We’re two months out and it’s coming and we can all take deep breaths and accept that we’re going to be fine.

I mean, like humanity is going to be fine.

Me personally?

Jury’s out on my level of fine-ness.

Anyway we’ll circle back on December 21. I have my tickets for opening night. (It was an ordeal. Why is it that AMC always always has issues when Star Wars tickets come out?)

Anyway, there’s stuff here that I find intriguing. I think we’re finally going to get that glut of Force Ghosts that I’ve wanted every since JJ Abrams took the wheel. (JJ loves ghosts almost as much as he loves time travel. ) I’m here for Space Horses and Finn turning Poe’s jacket into a vest, and the probably redemption of Kylo Ren. I’m here for the death of C-3PO being the emotional lynchpin of this thing. I’m here for Lando. (But if you’ve been following me the past few months you can probably guess that.)

I’m her for Star Wars. Also, I know season 2 of Resistance has started. We’ll talk about it soon, I promise.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

So, I’m one of those people that gave a hearty shrug to The Last Jedi. I absolutely understood the movie. I got what Rian Johnson was going for, and applaud him for the attempt. Deconstruction of something as woven into the culture as Star Wars is a bold thing to swing for.

And here’s the thing with The Last Jedi, I don’t think he quite pulled it off. Which isn’t to say I don’t admire the attempt, I do. Some of the stuff, well, some of it I absolutely adore, I think it’s wonderful. I really enjoy Vice Admiral Holdo, and the way the movie plays with Luke and Leia’s connection. (Mirroring it in Kylo and Rey.) I think it’s visually stunning. I think Luke’s ultimate fate was brilliant and lovely and deeply in line with what we know of him as a man and his Jedi training.

I do think the movie tries to do too much. Insisting that we have to move forward but doing so at the expense of stories that had been built up in it’s predecessor feels arrogant. It’s also hypocritcal to say “we’re burning down the past” while transforming the more underground Resistance into the outright Rebellion of the original trilogy. (You can’t have both, Johnson!)

Some things that I didn’t like initially have grown on me. I initially didn’t love Benecio Del Toro’s DJ, who I now think is kind of delightful. (Still think he should have been Lando…but ya know…beggars and choosers.) My anger at how Poe became a more cliched “I know better” hothead this time around has cooled so I was able to see what Johnson and Isaac were actually going for with this performance. Poe’s given it all to the Resistance, he’s exhausted and frustrated. His mentor may be dying. His boyfriend (STORMPILOT LIVES!) is off on a dangerous spy mission. He has no information about how this is going to end. He snaps.

One thing that’s held up every time I’ve watched the movie is John Boyega’s performance. It’s mind blowingly charismatic and fun. Finn’s transformation from selfish survivor to team player/leader is beautiful executed. It’s the part of the movie I always liked best.

Which brings us to Kylo and Rey. I think Kylo Ren is a brilliantly rendered villain, and Adam Driver plays him well. He’s all raw emotion and easily triggered anger, with the power to back that up. It’s so different for this series. Rey is desperate here, she just wants answers. And while I’ve had so much fun in the past six years playing with “who is Rey?” theories. While I’ve always been fond of “Kenobi” as a theory, watching The Last Jedi this time, brought me around a bit to  “clone.” (I don’t think she’s a gender swapped clone of Anakin of Palpatine, but I think she might be a clone.) Her lack of answers about her past, her overall competence (almost as if she’d been programmed, like a Kamino Clone), and that scene where she sees herself reflected over and over again in a line while communing in the cave.

Not to mention the “Dark Rey” images from the Rise of Skywalker trailer.

There’s a lot going on in this movie, which is part of why I think it doesn’t work quite as well as it could. Rian Johnson is trying to do a lot here and some of it therefore comes out a little bit half baked. I’m also immensely gratified that J.J. Abrams has insisted he’s not going to walk back Johnson’s decision in The Last Jedi. He could have, but he’s happy with the status quo he’s got to work with.

We shall see in a few months how this all shakes out.

We’re still a few weeks from The Mandolorian so I’m not sure what will go in this spot quite yet. Taking suggestions!

They Don’t Care About People Like Me

There’s a moment at the end of Joker where I literally burst into uncontrollable giggles.

I was pretty sure going in I wasn’t going to enjoy the film. I hate when movies feel the need to apologize for what it is. And Joker feels like this Batman fellow sure is ridiculous and we’re sorry we have to reference him at all in this story about a murder clown, but AH, Superhero flicks are the only thing that get greenlighted anymore even though they aren’t real cinema.

Anyway, that moment is during the riot that’s being caused by Arthur Fleck, AKA Joker’s murder of talk show host Murray played by Robert DeNiro, we zoom in on a movie marquee, and it reads simply, “Zorro: The Gay Blade.” I glanced at my friend Margarita who was sitting beside me and we both shrugged and started laughing.

Sure enough, Bruce, Thomas and Martha Wayne emerged from the theater, and are forced by the crowds into an alley. One of the rioters follows them calls them out and shoots. The pearls go flying, Bruce weeps over the bodies of his parents.

Because heaven forbid we don’t see the Wayne’s die a millionth time.

Anyway, that’s just one thing about Joker which is a messy, unfocused, derivative flick, that think it’s deeper than it is, and has some showy acting that’s cool to watch but not enough to make it sing.

Believe the hype about Joaquin Phoenix here, he’s very good. The movie isn’t but his performance is quite impressive, eerie and off putting from jump, not a version of the character I’d ever come back for more from (I prefer my Joker on the zanier side of menacing) but interesting and stunning.

Amusingly the only scenes that I found remotely interesting were the ones that involved Bruce Wayne. Due to some plot stuff that barely matters because this is a garbage movie with a script that makes no sense at all, Arthur becomes convinced that Thomas Wayne is his father. (He also might be? But Unreliable Narrators abound in this flick. And not in a fun interesting Fight Club or Gatsby way.) So he shows up to Stately Wayne Manor, and does clown tricks at a baffled Bruce by the gate. (I think I said out loud, “Why doesn’t Bruce just punch him in the face?”) Eventually Alfred comes out (he is not identified as such, but he is a middle aged British man and protecting Bruce, so you know, Alfred.) and basically tells Fleck to take a hike and also that he’s a deranged weirdo. Arthur doesn’t like that at all, so he later stalks Thomas to a gala fundraiser to watch Modern Times which you should definitely watch instead of this movie because it is excellent. When Arthur confronts him, Thomas punches him in the face, which is of course, the start of a wonderful family tradition. (I don’t know of a specific instance, but I’m sure Damian and Helena have both punched Joker in the face several times.

Anyway, in summary, movie bad, Phoenix, pretty great in it, Batman parts, ridiculously hamfisted and deeply enjoyable if you are like me, and will take your Batman content wherever it is offered. (I was also the only person on planet earth who stopped watching Gotham because, “I would like this show to focus on preteen Bruce Wayne staring into the middle distance.”)

Rankings

  1. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  2. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  3. Avengers: Endgame
  4. Rocketman
  5. Detective Pikachu
  6. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
  7. Downton Abbey
  8. Joker

Trailers:

My disappointment at Birds Of Prey not being here was quite large.

The Rise Of Skywalker: That John Williams music is basically an emotional grenade for me. My God, I can’t believe how soon this is coming up.

Doctor Sleep: I swear I’m going to read and review the book soon. The movie looks excellent though, and I love Ewan.

Richard Jewell: I remember the bombings (We were in Atlanta for the games) but I don’t remember any of this. (Being 9, I didn’t really follow the story, just was glad that my family didn’t get blown up.) This looks interesting though.

 

 

 

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Last Friday night I sauteed a chicken breast, and boiled some spaghetti, popped a bottle of Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and settled in to watch The Force Awakens for the first time in quite a while.

I mentioned the meal because I was so excited to watch the movie again and I wanted to breath it in and fall in love all over again. I was going on a date with Star Wars. 

I fell in love all over again. I really love this movie. I can see where the criticisms come from (though people criticizing a franchise that’s always been about remixing tropes and archetypes for doing it again feels like a reach…) but I can’t help but love it.

So much of that love belongs to Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, who are both so unfathomably wonderful. Rey and Finn aren’t particularly deep characters on the page. They are, as Luke, Han and Leia before them, archetypes, two searching orphans looking for home and belonging, and they find it in each other.

This would be wooden and dull and frightening if it were given to two actors with less charisma and less chemistry. Daisy and John click well together, so well, in fact, that they’re instantly connected, but they feel like family, not lovers, which is rare in a Hollywood blockbuster, and so so worth celebrating.

And then there’s the Kylo Ren issue. I think that Kylo is a pretty good villain, if pale in comparison to Darth Vader, but that’s kind of an impossible standard and is also the point of Kylo Ren. He’s not supposed to measure up, but he’s trying desparately to get there. The pressure of being from the greatest family in the galaxy broke him, and he reached for quickest connection to that legacy. It’s reiterated over and over again in Star Wars that the Dark Side is powerful and it’s quick. The light side requires patience discipline and letting go, allowing The Force to do the work. Ben Solo lost that battle because of the weight of expectation placed on his shoulders so he gripped to quick easy power.

THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT.

And, I saved it for last, you guys, I promised I wouldn’t spend this whole era dwelling on Poe Dameron, so I’m going to put it up here, and leave it at this. I am in awe of this character, who was shaped largely because of the actor they wanted playing him. (Oscar Isaac said he’d do it but not if he died.) Who became a focal point of the series because he was popular, and who models a kind of dedication and joy rarely seen in this trope of character. The hotshot pilot is supposed to be cocky, obnoxious, and out for himself, not quietly confident, deeply dedicated to his cause, and kind beyond reason. You keep waiting for Poe to be a dick. And then he isn’t.

I love Poe.

Alright, next week we talk about The Last Jedi, which should be great because no one on the internet ever talks about The Last Jedi right? We’re wading into new territory.

 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…GULP.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Resistance Season 1

One of the best things that J.J. Abrams did for Star Wars was make Poe Dameron as distinct from Han Solo as possible.

I’m going to try my best, moving into this era to not focus all of my analysis on Poe, I mean that. But it will be hard, because the only other character I’ve connected with this quickly and this completely was Blair Waldorf. (They have nothing in common except I love them both…)

I want to get this out of the way. Superficiallly, Poe and Han have a lot in common. They’re charismatic, confident have a certain anti authoritarian streak and then there’s the leather jackets. But Poe has a different heart than Han, he never even tries to be mercenary.

But part of what’s fun about Resistance is that it’s as enamored of Poe as I am, which might explain while I was immediately on board with the show’s main protagonist Kazudo Xiono, a New Republic Naval Pilot and son of a senator who’s saved by Poe and then immediately recruited to be a spy against the First Order.

Well, recruited is the wrong word. The situation goes as follows (A Summary)

Kaz: You’re Poe Dameron!
Poe: (Chuckles) You bet I am kid. The Resistance needs you! Wanna be a spy?
Kaz: You’re sooooo cool.
Poe: That’s a yes! Let’s go!

Kaz is a terrifically awful spy, but he’s a good pilot, and a good person, so he does well enough making friends and gaining the trust of the people around him on The Colossus, a refueling station on a sea planet. This includes a retired rebellion pilot, and his two teenage proteges.

The voice cast is delightful. All talented, and I had an immediate, “Oh, no, I love him,” reaction to Kaz as well. I have a soft spot for protagonists who are constantly in over their heads and that’s something that Kaz has in spades.

What’s also deeply fun and creative about Resistance is when it’s set, which quite literally the days leading up to The Force Awakens, so the First Order’s ascendance, the Resistance getting it’s act together has a ticking clock to it, which gives the show a lot in common with Rogue One actually. That’s about all it has in common with Rogue One but that’s there.

The finale bumps up exactly with the climax of Awakens, and what’s going on on The Colossus while Rey, Poe and Finn are storming Star Killer Base.

Season 2 begins next week. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for this gang. (The teaser shows us Kylo Ren, which is fun, but I want more than anything for Kaz to meet Finn.)

Which we will talk about next week. I genuinely can’t wait to watch The Force Awakens again, and to write about it again. It’s the movie that got me excited about Star Wars to begin with. I’d always loved it, but The Force Awakens was like that moment where the nerdy girl next door took her glasses off and I realized she was the one for me all along.