Quick-Thoughts: The Mitchells vs. The Machines

I’ve got to hand it to Sony for pulling their smartest move yet by making the main character here someone who appeals directly to the cinephile lives of essentially every Letterboxd user…

…but what doesn’t make sense though is how a company who made the box-office and critical bomb The Emoji Movie after being fished for its misinformed/pandering perspective, decided to immerse itself once again into Gen-Z and Millennial culture with a rendition of what is almost like “The Meme Movie” with its extroverted style of hit or missing sticky-note references left and right. I mean I can let a classic “no more wifi”, human degradation, or Mark Zuckerberg joke go from time to time, but what I can’t let go is how traditionalist this movie can be with its central parent & child exploration or its wishy-washy outlook on imperfections. Michael Rianda isn’t afraid to slip in a gag about offensive stereotypes yet he paradoxically gives into so many of them within the personalities and story arcs that are poofed up; it reminds me of Edgar Wright’s comedic level of restrictive stereotyping in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World that any ordinary fool has thought up to themselves before — which is why it’s appealing to many in the first place — so if you’re a part of that movie’s crowd this may be your tea given its also avidly quirky visuals which I will admit I usually delighted over and wished for to be in a better movie (i.e. Spider-Verse). Sadly however, The Mitchells vs. The Machines’ very constant hinderance on emphasizing pathos is just too predictable and overripe for me to fall head over heels. 

But hey, who am I to hammer on a perfectly passable family bonding road trip movie? Don’t listen to this prude for whether or not you should watch this; your kids are probably not as picky as I am!

Verdict: C

2021 Ranked

“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is now available to stream on Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: Claire Denis’s Nenette and Boni (1996)

Nenette and Boni is a moderately effective mood piece that executes a classic “takes one person to fill another person’s purpose and vice versa” but in a clearly unconventional style knowing Claire Denis. Something that stood out to me the most is how she transitions between scenes, using glimpses of suggestive imagery to entice us into the aggressive and diverging minds of a young adult dealing with firsthand gropes of existentialism. The sound design here is resourceful, as well, to the point where you may find yourself sucked into the familiarity of noises rather than the often still and calming visuals.

Verdict: B-

Claire Denis Ranked

“Nenette and Boni” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Claire Denis’s No Fear, No Die (1990)

Cocks and cocks; we aren’t so different after all? Often trained to compete, locked in cages until instructed otherwise, the only thing we’re taught to do, forced to love what’s around when given little in spite of contrasting physiques; it turns from the capitalist buffoonery of viewing, treating, and jeopardizing others as strictly “pets” or “pawns” in a resistant hierarchy complicated by historical and prejudice colonial ties. This is my first venture into Claire Denis’s earlier work, but it’s made clear to me at least with No Fear, No Die that she is obsessed with recreating lived-in environments at the expense of audience marketability or any mere remorse for an appealing pace. It’s recklessly morbid, slow, hopeless, and candid, trapping itself in the illegal cockfight scene to parallel the hitches of masculinity in profitable social squares or just in the nature of our born-given animal instincts.

Verdict: B

Claire Denis Ranked

“No Fear, No Die” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): My New Favorite Musical

2nd Viewing

“So I’ll remove the cause, but not the symptom!”

Watch with its UK alternative black and white opening! You can’t have The Wizard of Oz: Wet Dream Edition any other way!

Rocky Horror Picture Show is the way more expressionistic, light-hearted, and dafter, free-willed musical version of David Cronenberg’s Shivers, where an entire movie’s sum has been dedicated to an untamed spiel of horny kinks, reckoned in the sexiest haunted house to ever exist of polygamous lust and affection. A warehouse where the brain has almost shut off with only room left to swallow in the frisky business of ticklish scenario and scheming. Like the construct of humans giving into their more animal side when the social boundaries of the world are stripped down, Rocky Horror Picture Show feels like a lawless Halloween party visit from “happy hell” that even the most vanilla of soon to be married couples can sinfully but delectably give into before they take their final leaps into marriage and parenthood’s existential death of lewd intimacy. This is the ultimate post-young-adult rebel rebel motion picture ever made and the greatest lyrical love letter to titillating experimentation in the bed. This movie even hatches sinners and demons on Earth’s soil by the end, so you know exactly how transformative such an experience may be for you as a viewer, therefore, proceed with caution and prepare for some serious honeymoon goals!

The Kenneth Anger energy in suggestive imagery and visual erotic symbolism camp never ceases to keep on pumping, rarely letting its science fiction genre leakage get the best of itself and using it collaboratively with the Texas Chainsaw horror elements of its indefinable entourage. There’s creativity in every set piece theme usually exclusively devoted to each track, allowing the trouble-making rollercoaster to feel consistently engaging despite some repetitions in musical styles. Tim Curry’s presence as Frank N. Furter may be the most crowd-pleasing performance in the history of film — even if you’re straight I guarantee watching this character quirk will make you temporarily curious for all of its 100 minute runtime. For the 70s, this really embraced queer culture into a sweet candyland assimilation of perfection that the era desperately needed. Plus, it’s so harddd for me to turn down a good death of innocence movie too, yessir-ey! This is my Singin’ in the Rain. “F**k you, Gene Kelly”, let’s go Tim Curry! 

Ooh, and the almost Kubrick-like use of handheld! Freaky! Also, have you heard the theory that this movie is about newly-wed Christians facing their hormones (i.e. the aliens and ghouls) through a classical fantasy tall-tale structure? Yeah… Cinema must’ve had a brain fart when they first tried to designate this movie a genre.  

Verdict: A-

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night (1948)

“Chickamaw!” 

They fear crime, yet they live in it; a couple must then escape to the innocent adrenaline of firsthand freedom, independence, and love for as long as they can. It’s a classic Romeo and Juliet ordeal set though right in noir-York territory. Sadly, this gist nor its counterpart of cringy on-the-nose execution ceased to impress me, but at least “They Live by Night” will always thrive on as one of the dopest movie titles I’ve ever heard of. It’s a pretty looking film too, but still a bottom-tier Nicholas Ray effort by a long-shot in whole. Here’s my daily dose of millennial fuel, readers: it’s all a-okay in the end because Edgar Wright would do the story better justice nearly 70 years later with the brighter and less melodramatic release Baby Driver

Verdict: C+

“They Live by Night” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7

Aaron Sore-kin. 

One of those movies where the ending became the breaking point for me. For nearly an entire two hours, acclaimed writer and now director Aaron Sorkin had me walking on thin rope for whether or not I was gonna dig this thing as a whole, bargaining me constantly with his trademark quip-savvy dialogue but occasionally taking me out if it with his puerile habit to lunge into some questionably cheesy territory, twisting history with chimerical reenactments that favor none of its real life subjects but rather so in pleasing audiences with white-lie arc idealisms. It’s difficult to deny some of the talent on screen though, seriously: competent performances from everyone, really engaging editing too, and again, Sorkin’s *usually* tasteful dialogue sure makes the time go by faster, but clean pacing shouldn’t outweigh matured poignancy in a movie literally designated to uphold such a pivotal trial in American history.

Oh yeah, and I don’t know whose decision it was to make the music for this movie sound like it came directly out of a montage sequence from Saw, but wow, that may have been about the most offensive thing that came from this film.

Verdict: C+

2020 Ranked

“The Trial of Chicago 7” is now available to stream on Netflix and playing in select theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Shiva Baby (2020)

I felt obligated to go see this one in theaters… mainly so that I can have an excuse to go back to LA after more than a YEAR of absence. My home. ️

Emma Seligman’s directorial debut has the After Hours dream-state of insane coincidences, the modern family claustrophobia of Krisha, and the industrious escalation of mother!. Most importantly though, it’s a total laugh-a-thon crowd-pleaser, and the bottleneck time restriction of 78 minutes saves it from possibly reaching into pretentious or repetitive territory. I completely bought the family tight performances/characters too, if not also the absolute social dread of having to be the child failure during relative gatherings, idly attempting to prove that you’re on a path of accomplishments through white lies. Extra points for relatability! 

But seriously, so glad I decided to watch this one in theaters; the crowd was hysterical throughout! Missed this! 

Verdict: B

2021 Ranked

“Shiva Baby” is now playing in select theaters and is available to rent on Amazon Prime.

An Episode by Episode Review of Marvel’s Falcon and the Winter Soldier

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Episode 1: New World Order

I’m glad to see that they’re FINALLY giving Bucky’s character the bare minimum of humanity, something that’s been almost entirely looked over even after the FIVE (yes, FIVE) Marvel movies he’s starred in. He’s got a checklist quest now to redeem those he had forcibly done wrong during his days as a soldier for Hydra by transpiring some pity friendships, trying to see if it’ll land his PTSD to the side for a change. As a weak spot though, the episode bounces mediocrely when it comes to commentating on the aftermath of Endgame: a five year disappearance that resulted in a graceful reappearance of half the population which then unfortunately counteracted an economical plumage, as one could imagine, is insinuated with Sam’s sister Sarah’s corny bank loan MacGuffin, but it is what it is. The episode ends off interestingly, however, with our introduction into the government capitalizing off of a hero’s legacy.

Verdict: C+

Episode 2: The Star-Spangled Man

I appreciate how, like WandaVision, the show sort of is working in the meta by having Sam and Bucky represent the point of view of the Marvel fans, opposing the new that has invaded their lives with this replacement of Captain America. This episode may be the funniest the MCU has ever been too next to Gunn and Waititis’s work, with that hilarious shot of the two walking and John Walker feeding to give them a lift, or the forced couples therapy Sam and Bucky encounter. The two’s hateful chemistry sort of craps itself based on loose strings a couple times, but it nonetheless is reverent enough to be contagiously funny, as well as reflective of each others current pothole life conditions, taking one another’s failures out on each other. The action in this episode also surpasses the previous; I really dug its re-inclusion of the super soldiers in a more down to earth way, relating itself back to the experience of Bucky that the show has chosen to follow. 

Verdict: B-

Episode 3: Power Broker

GRC, ay?

Good idea bringing back one of the MCU’s top villains, Zemo, who’s philosophy has always made more sense to me than his actions, fitting in appropriately with the show’s continuing theme of celebritization of Cap’s image/shield that ultimately overlooked other heroes through this twisted, singular idolization. I find it funny how Madripoor is just like the underground hitman environment from the John Wick movies; Sharon Carter’s return even featured her going full badass John-Wick-mode herself; she’s now hiding in a criminal underworld due to the Hydra reveal that left the company she once worked for under investigation. Anyways, the action sequences are beginning to remind me a lot of Winter Soldier now! I’m starting to feel a little something for the antagonists now too despite me wishing that they had a more in-depth background outside of just being terrorist Robin Hoods; their struggle of being swindled deeper and deeper into their poverty after the five year disappearance ended in Endgame is, however, actually something fairly hooking compared to what that treacherous “Sam’s sister can’t get a loan” side-plot tells us in those regards. GRC… damn you. 

Verdict: B-

Episode 4: The Whole World is Watching

“Isn’t that how gods talk?”

John Walker has officially hit a peak of desperation to live up to a god-like image such as Captain America — ahhh, hence a flaw with power glorification that the show is smartly sticking to. I admired how interested this particular episode was with the hypocrisy of fighting supremacy with supremacy; it has me now digging the tv show style for the MCU; it gives us more breathing room for thoughtful discussion, and also MORE quality action spectacle and decent side-plot quarrels that actually advance the characters empathetically or messages further way more than a movie’s length could. Oh yeah, and that final scene signifies a big departure from Steve Rogers: instead of killing in battle, Walker kills a defenseless man needlessly; the government is going to hopefully be out of their asses for once now that their ill-minded Captain America revival scheme has hit a dead end. Again, power glorification = flawed; Walker was already a hero to the nation before becoming Captain America, but the expectations that came with it ruined him. It’s so nice to see a superhero franchise (of all the franchises, one about powerful beings) become a little more self-aware with this kind of stuff! Some people have already said this, but the show is also beginning to fling off some Daredevil vibes with these themes. Anyways, this episode in particular though: easily one of the best pieces of media the MCU has ever put together. 

Verdict: B

Episode 5: Truth

A little too preachy at times for me, but this episode gives fans some safe moments of closure for our lead characters. Walker is thrown under the bus as we would expect from a government wanting to save their own asses, Zemo politely accepts submission to Wakanda, Sam and Bucky have some bro-time together by helping build Sarah’s ship, and we get further background on Isaiah’s time as a supersoldier hero and prisoner, leading to Sam’s revelation to take or to not take on the Captain America name? And, of course, the episode sets up for a big showdown to come in the finale — no surprises there. This is probably my least favorite episode thus far besides episode one, but it’s fine enough. That fight sequence at the beginning though was quite the hustle.

Verdict: B-

Episode 6: One World, One People

*sigh*

I really hate when a medium that’s been consistently somewhat poignant has to drop the ball by concluding itself with a classic “uhhh, the government is gonna change because ya fellas know now that it was actually YOU who created the bad guys all along” 50-minute preach ceremony. This final episode isn’t entirely hopeless though; I will admit, there’s admirable intention in how the show desires using a black Captain American to console the revival and recognition for past black heroes, but it’s all done so f***ing conveniently to wrap bows around every issue this show set up initially like it’d be that simple to accomplish to begin with. I’m fine with everybody having their happy ending conclusions here (Bucky’s is the best) but my golly is John’s and Sharon’s rushed to hell. It’s a chore trying to find ways to conclude like five different side-plots with happy endings in the blink of an episode after nearly five entire hours of proceeding struggles, and coincidentally enough, a couple of them just s**t themselves out of pretty thin air! You know, Marvel, that things can be left open-ended because you are a FRANCHISE, right? You can have time to think before doing something completely stupid, right???

Speaking of rushed, I can’t say the first half’s big-battle climax was any good, giving us a really cliché and unprepared heroes-work-together accumulation (like WandaVision) that leads to a villain’s death which the show insists we feel sympathy for, but at the same time it’s hard to given how vaguely they’ve monotoned these antagonists throughout beyond the GRC lore. To add more wood to the fire though, you KNOW how damn vague this show’s reach for a message was when Sam had to give his semi-inspirational speech to the government to stop being asshats with little to no specifics; it literally boiled down to a classic “y’all should like change, ya know? I don’t know specifically how you people will figure it out, but just listen to and enact my liberal demands from your conservative perspectives, okay?” speech. Who knew all you had to do to stop a corrupt country from making borders and creating injustices for heroes is to just ask them if they can on live television after almost dying at the HANDS of the people they were against in the first place? I know they now know that they caused the terrorists to terrorize in the first place but YEAH RIGHT these government officials would just flip all their coins immediately because of that! Marvel should only be able to seam into this far-fetched fantasy logic as long as it doesn’t try to integrate it with our real world, which it has embarrassingly done in this final episode unfortunately. 

I despised the acting direction for the final battle in this episode, as well; just really shoddy delivery which tonally conflicts with the great acting of the previous five episodes. The editing, choreography, and composition was a bit janky in the climax too; maybe stick to those tightly constructed combat fights in earlier episodes instead of having to blow your load with as much visual galore as your budget can handle, Marvel! Just a thought!

Verdict: D

Overall Show Verdict: C+

2021 Ranked, The Marvel Cinematic Universe Ranked

“Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is now streaming on Disney+.

Quick-Thoughts: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Fox and His Friends (1975)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Marathon Part V of X

Starring Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s penis. Yep, he knew EXACTLY what he was doing there, lol. 

Fox and His Friends has the assimilation commentary of Martha but it’s endorsed by the examinations in prejudice of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. Rather than seeing the elitism through sexism, however, Fassbinder expresses it through aporophobia, and rather than seeing the bigotry through racism, Fassbinder expresses it through class. The upper world seems to be as motivated to conform the “uncivilized” into “civilized” as they are to just allowing them to dip back down further into poverty or rather back into poverty, so long as it fits with their agenda — the more power, the greater leniency for self, yadee yada, duh. But, these “uncivilized” roots aren’t necessarily uncivilized as the movie suggests; they really only boil down to cultural norms that are quite fixed based on the economical position or environment you find yourself brought up in, so then why do the norms of the wealthy seem to be pressured with a more authoritarian grip than the lower class? Again, it all comes down to blind trust and glorification for those in positions of victorious finances; it’s the classic tale of money always being our first choice for escapism.

So, it’s fair to say that these financial positions we’re born into sometimes builds and defines our personality that’s set onward, and it’s hard to have it accepted when you’re pressured to assimilate with the culture of the upper class, something looked at as more valuable and ethical. This is what makes patronizing those lower than us such an easy snag to get away with, indulging our superiority complexes to sweeping degrees. Becoming wealthy isn’t the savior of our demise, as well; if anything it puts us through a process of cultural immersion that is shockingly unfulfilling due to the “euphoria of the rich” being a complete hoax, especially in an endless hand of controllers — nobody can ever be on top, even in luxury. In Fox and His Friends, love at first seems to revolve around belief-centeredness in a desire to help those you love, sure, but shouldn’t love also inspire a lack of cultural strictness, and insinuate growth and collaboration with others? Fassbinder doesn’t see that as a reality though, more so as a fallacious dream you should rarely expect out of people born and raised into their own strict, impenetrable realities and ambitions. 

Being born into wealth proves to us that it’s really not a safe-spot of unlimited happiness, and we therefore begin seeking to expand it even more despite our privilege, justifying this ambition with, again, superiority complexes that convince us to destroy those poorer than oneself; it encourages egomania. Being born into the lower classes burdens us with the idea that we need wealth to be happy, and once the few that do finally achieve such a glorified predicament by rising up the pyramid happens, they begin recognizing just like the wealthy that this never-ending ladder is the only thing keeping us hopeful yet counteractively lethal towards others. We naively give our all to new financial lifestyles without actually deciphering the complex realities of what it can deceivingly do to us, and for those who oppositely stick with an inflexible lifestyle forever, they’ll likely develop an unconscious pseudo-intellectual complex powerful enough to turn them into socially protected con-artists against those below or above (Parasite moment) them. 

Although, I guess you can’t knock it till ya try it? Umm… maybe it just is what it is?

Obviously, the title Fox and His Friends is an irony in that Fox never had true friends to begin with. Can you really blame him for it though, living in a world that revolves more around money than it does around love? No wonder friend groups usually function in those born into the same class, to avoid temptation like this when people move up or down, and by people, I mean freshly baked — haha, get it? — victims to be manipulated by the immorally consistent.

Verdict: A-

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Ranked

“Fox and His Friends” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More (1965)

2nd Viewing 

Awe yes, the age of bounty hunting; you know what that means, right? A world of s***! Law has become so gentle now that hired killers have become the last voice of hope in a time of violence. For a Few Dollars More seems vastly more confrontational with its characters than it’s predecessor A Fistful of Dollars, with Gian Maria Volontè’s villainy presence being the biggest piece of evidence to that claim, given how he’s a gazillion times more intimidating and suggestive than his previous persona. It’s faster paced than Fistful in my opinion too — at least in its first half — probably due to the concurring set-up of three central characters, similar to that of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The amount of seat edging moments in this follow-up are far more consistent and brimmed as well, showcasing a major step-up in Leone’s scenario devising. 

As far as I know, For a Few Dollars More is also Leone’s first attempt at integrating constant humor in his feature-lengths, but the funny business in this movie in particular was hit or miss for me, with awkward jokes like the train part (industrialization, haha, it sucks right?) trying way too hard to evoke laughter. The “hat-off” scene on the other hand is probably the best use of comedy, slow-burning information to the audience on the two characters we see before us and their similarities. Later on though, as we know, he’ll perfect his integration of humor in his following film with the character of Tuco.

Honestly, Eastwood’s character’s manipulative methods are less creative and furthermore questionable than how they were executed in Fistful, and maybe a part of that could be attributed to its privilege of working off the backbones of Yojimbo. The plot in For a Few Dollars More therefore becomes less tight as it was in its predecessor, needing backup from so many protagonist alterations that sometimes feel contrived in light of the story’s more complex progression. HOWEVER, I do appreciate the almost Coen Brothers-like twists and turns that this movie takes its risks on when compared to the easy-riding of Fistful. Despite it not working all the time, there are genuine moments here where the plot ends up making the ambiguity and mystery that was established beforehand feel warranted. 

Ennio’s lullaby tracks are just so flippin’ iconic and hypnotic on the upside as well, which brings me to that “emotive intensity” that I had mentioned in my Fistful review would come later in Leone’s career. This movie graciously never truly reveals itself until its final sequence, and when it does it makes the film far stronger. Not only does El Indio’s addiction for greed-piling even after accomplishing successful endeavors in a nauseating game of risk come to understandable fruition, but it earns a tiny more clarity to that of our protagonists too. Plus, the payoff just hits harder for the audience due to Leone’s new-founded intimacy between the rivalries and partnerships when compared to his lack of pathos found in Fistful. It’s not done that shockingly by today’s standards, sure, but it still lends itself useful for a pretty good film in my book. 

Verdict: B

Sergio Leone Ranked

“For a Few Dollars More” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.