Derek Jarman’s Final Feature: Blue (1993)

For all of Jarman’s usual mesmerizing and psychedelic visual spectacle that he’s known for, why does Blue — a singularly still image stretched to a 79-minute length — seem to be his most acclaimed piece? In a strange way, maybe it’s because it still is another one of his visual spectacles (the commercialism, the historical ties, etc.) but rather paraphrased. What you are perceiving here is the language workflow of Jarman’s imagination, painting essentially a verbal description of the cerebral, unconventional, and nonlinear narrative we’ve come to expect from him. It’s a Jarman film in words and sound, and a whole other spectrum to that of Jarman’s cinematic accumulation in its visual still framing of an unchanging blue screen. Furthermore though, it is his polarizing sendoff: peaking his content’s ability for darkness moments before death.

Blue is a grim retelling of Jarman’s real life encounters with death, suicide, and sickness, depicting a truly miserable wasteland were everything has gone wrong while AIDs slowly kill him (and firstly his vision) in the process, but all of a sudden in the calamity of this totally blue haze, he’ll suddenly draw our attention to some meaningless everyday life incident, as if none of this tragedy was happening and as if it all didn’t matter for someone who knew he was going to die soon. Things only exist when thought of; we are as blind in the moment as we are when we were without said symptom. In Blue, Jarman seems to either be sucking it up and accepting this degenerate reality, or casually forgetting that it’s even occurring at all from both distractive innocence and incoherent hysteria. 

Sounds and music are sometimes incredibly distorted and tampered with here, causing both memories of life to not appear as clear or as blissful as they would be refurbished in another future: perhaps the bright yet idealistic and unrealistic one of the humanity Jarman wishes for but can’t foresee. It’s both sad and petrifying to see someone go into this state of darkness as their final feelings as a human experiencing life. But it’s truth. Blue speaks on behalf of all who are not happy with the struggles that they were set upon permanently, so much so that they’d be willing to frequently pretend it’s not there during its always present place in time till doomsday.

Verdict: B

“Blue” is now available to stream on Kanopy.

Quick-Thoughts: Derek Jarman’s The Garden (1990)

I ❤️ greenscreens!

Uses a lot of commercialism horror — “think pink!” — in the midst of this splicing of two different (a homosexual relationship and a paparazzied madonna) stories and some others, with religion (the story of Christ specifically) only further magnifying these themes in the mix. There is a plethora going on in The Garden, and to its name of Eden’s home of many species, comes a narrative that provides many thoughts. As if the literal reoccurring visual of a nude, dreaming Derek Jarman being circled almost ritualistically by men and women didn’t already tell us enough that we are exploring the conflicted mind of an anxiously opinionated man whose mind feels constantly enclosed, the film then provides us an outspoken conjoining of queer culture battling the makeup of history and, eventually, the now and maybe even plausible future, a future were Jarman’s generation becomes massacred from the British government’s oppressive handling of the AIDs epidemic. Like The Last of England, Jarman’s work here is terrifying.

Verdict: B-

“The Garden” is now available to stream on Kanopy.

Quick-Thoughts: Derek Jarman’s The Last of England (1987)

This soundtrack has no business being so damn cool. 

I love getting so wrapped up in movies such as The Last of England, where the editing and variety of visual content is so unpredictable and moreover flashy that it feels like borderline hypnotism, as if the author is truly trying to get us into a trance of his mind skimming through his life back and forth from A to a nightmarishly conjectured Z. The film is vulnerable and bravely genuine in that case though, because while the content is undoubtedly political — screw Thatcher and Section 28, amiright? — it is openly personal too, proclaiming emotion and nostalgia to be pieces of the footer for his hatred of a modern country and visions of its demise; same would probably go for any other human being in this position as much as most would refuse to admit or show it. 

Derek Jarman first found out that he was HIV positive during the making of this movie; in these visions of apocalypse you can feel that new found fear for the end, especially in its climax which is absolutely horrifying to endure. 

Verdict: B+

“The Last of England” is now available to stream on Kanopy.

Quick-Thoughts: Ghostbusters Afterlife

Paul Rudd to be hired as ALL future teachers, Mckenna Grace to play ALL future acting roles, and Podcast to be America’s eternal president. There, I saved the country.

Initial impression: the first half of Ghostbusters Afterlife surprisingly starts the story off tolerably — coming of age 101 + a low-life family — but from there on forward it essentially abandons this coloring of new characters succumbing to their environment for recycled spectacle, becoming this obnoxious clump of an amalgamation between being a remake of the 1984 original and an overstuffing of references from it. The climax of this movie is essentially the absolute worst outcome that can arise from sequels based on properties old enough to evoke nostalgia; I went from mildly having a good time with this to absolutely despising it particularly once we dove into that final act. Ugh, so close to mediocrity, but not quite!

Verdict: D+

2021 Ranked

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Dee Rees’ Pariah (2011)

Why did so many of my high school relationships start from one another bragging about how chad and underground our music tastes were? Pretentiousness brings us together, ay? 

Anyways, more movies please featuring characters who’re all prone to the occasional faults (humans be moody!) that are furthermore viewed with such an objective, impartial gaze like Dee Rees’ whether it’s aimed at the protagonists or antagonists. The realism and believability sky rockets just from such a simple detail fix rather than idolizing specific individuals and sidelining the rest.

Verdict: B-

“Pariah” is now available to stream on HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: Ghostbusters I & II (1984-1989)

Ghostbusters (1984)

2nd Viewing

The theme song never ceases to bang!

Yeah, it’s fun and unique, but whatever happened to blockbusters being horny like this? Plus, all that shameless expression of sassy New York attitudes, awkward (yet charming) improv, crappy animation cropping effects, climaxes that are basically just Michael Jackson music videos, ya know? I’m honestly shocked that these things haven’t made a comeback yet given how much mainstream material currently banks on 80s nostalgia; why return to the old if you can’t bring back all the sus s**t from it as well?

Verdict: B-

“Ghostbusters” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Ghostbusters II (1989)

The gang’s chemistry feels just as fresh as it was previously, and yippee more cheesy, over-the-top special effects!!! However, the whole by the books, sequel-itis will-they-won’t-they? plot-line with Peter and Dana is such a hindrance to the momentum of Ghostbusters II. I respect the film’s commitment though to embrace as much quirky weirdness and goofiness in honor of its comparably aimed predecessor as possible, but it’s otherwise boring whenever it wants to be conventionally sweet and touching, and especially whenever it just decides to *eye roll* hit the same story beats as the original did as an easy way out.

The Ghostbusters’ disrespectful disrupting-every-place-imaginable doubles here howbeit so that’s commendable, but there’s only a QUARTER of the horniness as the original in this so nah! 

Verdict: C

“Ghostbusters II” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Disney’s Encanto

Despite this being mostly predictable to Disney’s usual T, Encanto’s songs and messages slapped wayyyy too hard for me not to enjoy this — that opening kills! Really appreciate how confined the film’s setting is too, which smartly made it easier for the story to close in on how every character in this Madrigal family is an antagonist in their own little manner rather than it strictly being just some underdeveloped, outside force that the studio usually finds themselves writing in; identity crises stemming from an overly relied and emphasized specialty or kettling to a single stereotype are our own worst enemies! Bigotry from tradition also believe it or not! 

Verdict: B-

2021 Ranked

“Encanto” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon

More films that look like this please.

Like the saying “no one is ever ready to have kids” augmented into a movie. Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon is a commercially likable peer at adults learning to channel the childhood experience, and while it never seems to lead its protagonists towards a whole lot of answers, Mills assures you that that’s perfectly okay. Intrigued to see his past work now; wouldn’t mind watching some more feel-good movies such as this during these trying COVID times!

Verdict: B-

2021 Ranked

“C’mon C’mon” is now playing in select theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza

Wait, why did Gary keep calling that lady “Mom” when her name is “The Waitress”?

For every awfully painful to watch Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) or every aggressively despairing There Will Be Blood (2007) that can be found in the cinematic discussion of platonic yet competitive relationships, maybe we need something as sweet and sincere as Licorice Pizza to follow them up and even out the playing field. Paul Thomas Anderson has made once again another episodic rhythm of supposedly random moments and claimed it as a narrative, with each affair on screen however silently insinuating and revealing a wholesome or tragic reality in PTA’s classic two-on-two dynamical exploration. In the crossfire though of his persistence to unkink conflicting objectives and hypocrisies that love bounds in these two characters — a 15-year-old Gary Valentine and a decade older Alana Kane — is his down-to-earth depiction of Los Angeles in the 70s, and how the sociality of that time frame designs their path. 

PTA has stated in interviews that the first scene of Licorice Pizza, where young Gary professes his sudden adoration to a staff-working Alana on his high school picture day, is something he witnessed in his own life that sparked the story we have here today. Hence, one could only assume much of his venture hinders on real life perspective: celebrities are degenerated as pretentious yet fascinating hags. Industry is as sexist as ever and people wistfully try to become immune to it. Pinball machines are illegal but boy will they make a bank and a headline in town once they come back again. It seems as if he has painted his hometown with such admirably mixed agenda, where humor clashes with the polarization seen in his dissection of historical and now comparably modern human dilemma, and it’s able to cleverly let the audience both bask in its comfort of emotional adventure while also being able to question them of who we are in these sort of ruthless romantic scenarios at the same time.

In other words, this was a blast, and as mature as you would anticipate from one of the all-time great filmmakers. 

However, I’m going to address my rating before anyone asks, because coming from an overtly highfalutin fanboy of PTA’s work — i.e. me — this is the lowest score I’ve given him before, which should although remind you of how consistently marvelous of a director he’s been for the past twenty-five years. Look, I don’t mind seeing PTA’s work fall into conventions, and it certainly does in Licorice Pizza more than it ever has. I also certainly don’t mind him writing happy endings; I mean, hell, half of his movies arguably have them. It’s just that, obviously, those conventions didn’t impress or beguile me despite still liking them as much as his more innovative material did and continues to do. Maybe I didn’t jive with this movie on first viewing to the level of thinking it’s a masterpiece because where there is innovation in this tale is rather found in what it adds to the period piece schoolkid coming of age genre, but what it does to that genre is simply use pre-established PTA formulas to thwart stereotypes, and genre has always been a deception to me in the filmmaker’s career anyhow. I think a substantial amount of this film is just what I’ve already come to expect from that innocent yet truthful side of PTA, which somewhat despecialized the experience for me. Punch-Drunk Love (2002) loyalty for life!

Nonetheless, it’s solid, and you should check it out ASAP!

Verdict: B

2021 Ranked, PTA Ranked

“Licorice Pizza” will be wide-released in cinemas December 25th.

Quick-Thoughts: Lucrecia Martel’s The Holy Girl (2004)

Roses are red, violets are blue, this twisted ass (coming of age?) film, was awfully discomforting to view. 

Has some super interesting gimmicks going for it — showcasing characters whose ethical duties simultaneously clash with and even sometimes provoke unlawful desires amidst their pursuits or vise versa — but then draws them out extensively in realism, which only makes me wish that this had been a lot shorter than it is. Cinematic minimalism is one thing, sometimes (and in this case) replicating that distinct weight which natural storytelling can often allude, but not a whole lot of the existential, hard-hitting, and fragmented structuring of dreary authenticities which made her debut feature-length La Ciénaga (2001) work are there to enhance The Holy Girl, and the film just seems inadvisedly straightforward in comparison.

Verdict: C+

“The Holy Girl” is currently not available to stream.