The Harsh and True Nature of Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000)

Screened at the Frida • 2nd Viewing

“You notice things if you pay attention.”

For which we rarely do. 

I am being judged. When I want to love, I will be judged; there’s no avoiding that. If I want to love again, I can try, but only in a desperation to win back what is no longer mine, to ignore confrontation of reality and bliss in temporary imagination. You look at me and you see the truth, through the frames you seem to handle the neutral perspective while I abuse the radical one. This is the strike of love, or more so, the strike of failure to genuinely love as the spontaneous human beings we are; all of us are doing this and witnessing this everyday dammit, and it f**king irks how it’s impossible to stop, and impossible to remember or apply this piece of wisdom throughout our romantic experiences. It seems that memories and knowledge only like to skirmish one another, leaving our grasp on objectivity in bittersweet tangles. 

A tragic acolyte between the experiments of recreation in Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), the elongated richness of cinematic foreplay in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), and the surreal gentleness of Wong Kar-wai’s own unique storytelling birthed firsthand before our eyes and ears, In the Mood for Love serves as a breakthrough representation of the bewildering application of how time functions in the name of love. New romance seems to almost instantaneously provoke change through incomprehensible instinct, without cause or rationality, thought or contemplation, it is a purely emotional, psychological feeling of attachment that breaks us from routine until we fall into it once again and travel in search of a new means of saving; perhaps through love again. But love doesn’t stop their nor does Kar-wai make it out to seem so set-and-stone; it’s more so worked as a playing ground for affairs to be eventually sequenced in either shadows for some or plain view to others, ones that dance or tremble with either fatigue or desperation, longing to recapture yet hopelessly not having any of the actual information to do so in the first place, as relationships are just far too strenuously complex to decode especially when looking back on them and less so when living in their current moments where the mind is usually numbed of usage. The heart of In the Mood for Love feasts within this arena of love and the collaboration between pre and post-love, reconciling that they all sort of exist in a same fragmentation of time, each deducing what should’ve or could’ve happened in frustratingly ambiguous ways. 

This movie has some of the strongest composition and color I’ve ever seen used in such a confined setting too; I couldn’t not mention that in my review, and in future viewings I’ll probably expand on it a little more. In the Mood for Love should be the dictionary definition of a perfectly shot (bottle?) movie! Kar-wai better stop f**kin’ with my heart or he’ll be getting even more perfect scores from me.

Verdict: A+

Wong Kar-wai Ranked, My All-Time Favorite Movies

“In the Mood for Love” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Godzilla (2014) – A Solid Example of How You SHOULD ReJUVENATE a Legend

?? Viewing • Warning: Spoilers Ahead 

Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is genuinely one of the greatest blockbusters of the 2010s — top 10 worthy at least. 

This movie loves and reinvigorates the classic Spielberg feel a lot more than you may have thought. Edwards understands scale so well, often subjecting the scenes with the monsters to human perspective; a tasteful amount of the camerawork here feels taped straight from the ground, and in this sense, like what makes blockbusters such as Jurassic Park so imposing, we find ourselves a part of this astronomically sized disaster. Edwards does miracles too in making the secondary point of view seem of a symbolic nature, attempting to make human life seem smaller and smaller like meager little bugs as the film goes along, and for us furthermore to slowly stop caring about this family storyline that’s set up so provocatively only later to be purposely fatigued, emphasizing how inconsequential even our own dramatic lives are when we review them in retrospect over and over again; passing the torch on from a passionate father to a vanilla son while keeping their ambitions in parallel was such a cheeky move to convey this, allowing us to question why we ever gave a care in the first place. By the same token, the decision to tease us literally three times before Godzilla and a MUTO battle by closing it off and flashing us directly into the seats of the human characters once again makes us even MORE inclined to care for what’s going on between the monster characters rather than the humans — aka, our own people: the species we’ve been conditioned to relate with. They didn’t make the two MUTOs adorably kiss for nothing… or make the mamma one cry for her babies *sniffle*. 

Wow, what a f**king cynical movie Godzilla is looking back on it so many years later, lol. 

Writer Max Borenstein does a great job as well in this American remake of overviewing the familiar motif of nature versus humankind. The issue at hand in the film originates from our planetary destruction — a real Aronofsky mother! moment — and its counteracting of nature’s punishment through the MUTOs. Visually throughout Godzilla, there’s a (slightly manipulative) but good-minded intention to make the animals in the movie seem carelessly separated from the humans, and for the humans to seem devastated when separated from each other — Brody and his wife, Ford and Brody (his dad), and a couple civilian examples. Yet, despite our intentions to prioritize humans, we can sometimes shock ourselves when being faced with a superior creature to us such as Godzilla. Edward’s big reveal, that I used to be polarized by initially in which Godzilla turns out to be a considerate individual and the one to actually resolve the conflict rather than the humans who just end up progressively making the situation worse and worse as it goes along, is the cherry on top to its statement that we are likely not the most moral, powerful, and intelligent batch of life out there, and to insinuate we are the only ones would just be a pushing testament to the idea that we are as egotistical as the cliché may say. 

Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is a riff on common disaster blockbusters, as it nearly mocks our glorifications of human conflict and embraces the construct of how nature as a whole never seems to be reminisced in the long run. The overall scheme of existence MUST be bigger than us, right? Yet we’re too self-obsessed to consider that; we’ll abandon our ambitions for discovery so long as it’s in the way of us, even if discovery is what helps us avoid such catastrophes to begin with. As a blockbuster too, it just looks a trillion times better than most thanks to not only Edwards’ overlooked talent in POV mastery, but however many damn years they put into the flawless VFX; the use of red, orange, and grey in the finale of this film is just UGHHH; not to mention, the skydiving shot and Godzilla atomic-breath-decapitating a MUTO are like two of the gnarliest things I’ve ever seen before, as well. AND HOLY F**K CAN WE TALK ABOUT ALEXANDRE DESPLAT’S SCORE? ONE OF THE BEST SCORES FOR AN ACTION/THRILLER I HAVE HEARD THIS ENTIRE CENTURY. Godzilla’s theme is *chef’s kiss*. 

I can understand people’s dislike for this movie, especially if they just can’t FATHOM Edwards, Callaham, and Borenstein’s SINFUL intentions to downgrade the human experience through cynicism — or the more likely answer, because they didn’t get enough Godzilla screen-time — but, I don’t know, I think it’s great. Maybe it’s the nostalgic feeling that an action/thriller blockbuster actually finally made me feel in years the timid and submissive state I had felt when I was frightened (in a fascinated sort of manner) of the Jaws or Jurassic Park movies I watched as a child; isn’t that like… exactly what a thriller should make you feel: insignificant and helpless? 

The MacGuffins (and there are a batch of ‘em) in this movie are infuriating as hell though; it’s probably what’s straining it from becoming a Spielberg-leveled classic for me, not to mention it’s plagued by its constant expositional dialogue; the already unusually effective tension and build-up here could’ve been GODLY if I were convinced of how the plot escalated a tad more. Hey, it’s better than watching Michael Dougherty’s King of Monsters though, which factually has Z-E-R-O tension in it! 

Verdict: B

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

David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive – Deception in a Corrupt Industry

Warning: Spoilers Ahead • 3rd Viewing

Coco is my favorite character, low-key.

Yeah, it’s still one of the best movies of all-time and maybe has the smartest use of ambiguity ever to grace the screen, given it makes it crystal clear what the movie is thematically about just not exactly what statements it’s trying to address in its plot. I can’t get over how seamlessly this movie turns from a cold-hearted satire into one of the most creatively tragic thrillers ever. David Lynch: the king of tonal shifts and combos! 

Mulholland Drive pulls a pretty straightforward trick in a pretty jaw-dropping way: present the cliché tropes of a wannabe superstar with hopes and dreams slowly descending into the reality of the competitive state of “industry.” Heaven-state dumbness progresses itself into frustrating schizophrenia, obviously replicating the mental state journey of Naomi Watts’ character Diane. It’s the classic killing of innocence by death. 

Camilla is the dying celebrity to me, with nothing left but her money, escaping her reality in a dash of little thought. She’s looking for a revival by changing who she is, inventing a new identity to prove to the world she still can be a star. Her constant state of fear appears almost like a constant state of being afraid to move on and accept a reality or maybe the tough process it is in discovering a new persona to revamp the kicks of your career; it’s better than falling into drug addiction and OD-ing though! I suppose the dynamic of Diane and Camilla solving Scooby-Doo mysteries together also represents finding gratification in the relationships we build, being identified through love rather than fame, and how our artistic pursuits often have the ability to jeopardize them or vise versa — the relationship jeopardizes fame. You either choose one or the other as many famous artistic names have claimed before. Diane chose love, Monica chose fame, therefore, the peace was disrupted. 

Adam feels almost like a host for David Lynch too, getting cucked by every Hollywood exec. and even lectured like a child for not staying in his “lane”. Very brave of you to admit this to us, Lynch… very brave.

We could also take into account the Persona (1966)/Fight Club (1999) (spoilers for both those movies) theory of Mulholland Drive in that Diane and Monica are the same person, Diane representing the conscious, logical side who is questioning her soulless decisions being made in the industry and Monica representing her celebrity image towards the people who make up her life. Monica wants to embrace her fictional persona while Diana gets psychologically vandalized by how she’s essentially sold her dignity to an industry of certified psychos — Adam being one of them: an artist turned businessman. However, I’ll leave this discussion up in the air for now until I have a fourth viewing of this anomaly. 

Bottom line is, Mulholland Drive ultimately provokes an array of pretty simple concepts regarding Hollywood corruption, yet they’re presented in such surreally awkward, terrifying, or satirical ways that resourcefully emphasize the ridicule of our societal reality. It’s all a supreme example of diligent style enhancing substance.

So it’s the energy forces of evil who’re planting our dreams of Hollywood fame into us and then proceeding to laugh at us as we cope under its deception? Fun movie, Lynch. Real fun movie. 

Verdict Change: A —> A+

David Lynch Ranked, My-All Time Favorites

“Mulholland Drive” is now available to stream on HBO Max.

Donnie Darko (2001) and the Glorification of Heroism

Review of the Director’s Cut • Spoiler Alert! • 3rd Viewing

The sheer amount of Tears for Fears songs featured in this movie gave it an automatic +1 in my scoring, I’m not gonna lie. 

I’m more intrigued by Richard Kelly’s take on teenage pretentiousness and portended angst than whatever the f**k is happening in the tangent dimension; how this multiverse conundrum plays into Donnie’s quest is important however, less so the logistics of it more so the implication of what it shows us in human reaction and interpretation to such a “holy” situation. 

Frank (imaginary or not) basically delivers Donnie his defined “purpose” on a coded platter, a sort of heroic purpose that the pre-adult youth often cries to receive as it’s an abstract concept that would essentially fulfill an inexplicable reason for existence. The revelation of suddenly being the cheesy prospect of the “chosen one”, the person who knocks down the dominos and sets forth a truth of what human life will be onward is the godlike burden we as juvenile jerks all f**king wished we could behold; with our introduction to suicidal inclination in exposure to the off-putting real world which results in a loss of innocence, a sacrifice would eventually seem more keen to a teenager than living out the rest of their lives with “no purpose”. 

The universes of A (created past) and B (sacrificed future) or whatever the devil that creepy (but kinda) handsome science teacher tells us about is representative of Donnie’s non-existent envision of this metaphysical “meaning” in life that teenagers love to cook up as something unobtainable but hopefully there. “Meaning” and “purpose”, two words I took way too seriously to heart as an adolescent lad and two words Donnie seems to take too seriously as well; that can’t just be coincidence; it’s puberty-esc phasing. Donnie’s almost religious upbringing makes him feel like a prophet in a way, producing God’s path in what he and “Frank” see as good, as they seem to indulge in juvenile acts as necessities rather than acts of egoism like most hot-topic-loving students will convince themselves of; they’re saving the world and s**t, I don’t know; the film’s perspective forces you primarily into Donnie’s so we have no idea if the true agents of evil are in Donnie or his enemies, and that’s why I fancy interpreting the movie as a take on pretentious nature to fulfill empty holes in our mentally ill states. It fits well in the “pointless destruction” line too, the destruction of “cause why not?”, at least it’s something that blocks up human desperation — the fate of the airplane engine crash is what introduces us to this concept; there’s no real reason for it to happen but it nonetheless inspires a worthwhile goal in Donnie/Frank.

“Controlling fear” in nihilism is what makes Donnie feel powerful, and in the long run he ends up coincidentally being right in almost every case scenario, feeding his ever growing god-complex and his idea that maybe the world really is predetermined for him to heal it. The “the manipulated living will do anything to avoid themselves from oblivion” line, which people usually take as explanation of people who are intentionally arranged to increase the chances of Donnie saving the world, I think is actually used to further provoke a polar opposite characteristic between the cowardly characters in the film and Donnie who eventually accepts oblivion. Sometimes translating nature in a divine way also leads to tragedy in the physical world when taken too far, like what happens to Gretchen; again, we have no idea for sure if the tangent dimension was the real one or if the original was, or maybe both; for all we know the original was the dream all along and the tangent was always the reality that Donnie and “Frank” (and Frank’s friend who shows up at the end that I think is the actual person who ran Gretchen over considering Frank is likely a figment imagination of Donnie’s) sought to tamper with, and they really did kill this innocent girl in their quest for heroism. 

Ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that Donnie Darko is about the confusing desire to be a part of something as significant as a passion of Christ: the one who bites the bullet or absorbs the sins, hence a “pretentious nature” for those who want to recreate it; it’s really amplified home to me in the final montage of the movie as well, where everybody is laying down seemingly wishing for that sort of abstract destiny which is glorified in the minds of us all by fictional novellas (like the time travel textbook Granny wrote) or stuff like mainstream media to end us from self and world hatred. We’ll just continue making friendly waves of hope till we die, wondering if such a phenomenon ever did happen among those who surround us. Not all of us can possibly be just normal, right? You’d hope for a Donnie Darko to pop up every once in a while, at least someone special enough where you’d be willing to say their FULL name 24/7, haha.

I guess, in hindsight, the film could also be about accepting or dealing with the existentialist crisis of a predetermined world that you are slowly becoming aware of is predetermined, but I don’t know; I like my Jesus poser theory a little better. I rather accept that Donnie Darko is about schizophrenically convincing yourself to be a prophet through mania, less so about knowing by fact that you 100% are one based on the indisputable laws of predetermination. I have an unfortunate gut feeling however that Richard Kelly meant for this movie to be interpreted as Donnie being a hero after all of this, but at the same time, I do think the movie is ambiguous enough to suggest that he also fooled himself through the hero’s journey with all the crazy “scientific” and “philosophical” theories he learns and indulges in throughout the film, plus the addition of his mental illness and therapy sort of insinuates that he could’ve been manipulated by his own emotional state. The plane engine probably did travel through two dimensions but could that have helped provoked Donnie’s reality and his inclination that he had superpowers? Was his close call really just an accident all along that encouraged his new identity, and Frank is just a divine concept that he had made up in a hypnotic state of his own self-indulgent mind? Is the final scene of the movie just Donnie’s dream he has after looking out into the sky, considering it would be the ideal dream to have that would definitively prove he had saved the world in the end through his radical methods and ultimate sacrifice — f**k Jim, though; good on Donnie for ruining his life. 

You could combine these two theories together although and just say that the movie is about growing a god-complex through the existential crisis of finding out your world is predetermined in, furthermore, making you a hero. That answer works too, and it would fit snuggly that it would choose a teenager to undergo these circumstances, out of any age group out there.

Onto flaws, the film sort of uninspiredly hurls these concepts at you with deliberately worded dialogue and of course LITERALLY written phrases on screen; probably my least favorite part of this entire movie that draws it back from being a “masterpiece” is its careless establishments of exposition. Richard Kelly has this obnoxious way of emphasizing every fine detail you need to know (especially in the director’s cut) in order to understand the time travel and predetermination aspects of the film, and honestly a bit more ambiguity could’ve enhanced the mystery and varying interpretations of the film, enriching the longevity of the movie to others. I think what Kelly is better at doing here though is actually keeping the thematic of the film ambiguous by having so many motifs just spouted out at random, which has encouraged my interpretations in this review; if they were as blatant as the plot though, Donnie Darko may have just been a try-hard failure in my mind. Luckily, that’s very far from the truth! It’s a try-hard success! 

I understand it’s a piece of the “manipulated living” concept that people are purposely unorthodox to enact Donnie to achieve his potential, but it’s still idly used to transaction the audience into understanding story terminologies or hinting to them that whats happening in front of them is strictly in the hands of God; there are actual moments in here that defy the logic it sets up, and even if a world was based on predetermination, logic would still be at least believed to have transpired in the characters who are forcibly escalated to these certain places; like Drew Barrymore getting fired is so out of pocket, you’d think the principal would at the bare minimum convince his own self and Drew that there were a reason to do it in the first place, even if he was destined to do it; yet, he doesn’t even explain to Drew why, and that sort of defies human behavior to me. We all spiel bulls**t to convince ourselves we’re right more than we just stay silent to convince ourselves we’re right as far as I’m concerned! 

The film’s awkwardly hilarious delivery and absurdly random lines are definitely Lynch-inspired fare, but I still can’t tell if that’s a bad thing or a cop-out maneuver to actually putting in the work of believable performances, but I guess it fits well enough with the dream-state feel and almost sitcom-ish depiction of the suburban family neighborhood. The adults who ironically provoke the teenagers whether it be with the demanding Karens and the pedophilic hypocrites of the world are sort of furthermore implemented to erect this surreal essence, but it’s also painfully obvious the only reason they’re THIS far-fetched in stereotypical extremism is so that it can feed into Donnie’s eventual transformation into a know-it-all god-complex — “love & fear”, Franks & mirrors; I would think myself to be smarter than others after hearing that crap too honestly! Hey, these exaggerations may not be the most creative way to reflect the reality of our own teenage experience and how we manipulatively saw the adult logic, but at least it’s easy to comprehend it in general which may just be preferable for a film this brimmed in ideas; it’s probably what lead to Donnie Darko‘s wide-scaled cult following in the first place. 

Michael Andrews’ score is great though; I think it covers the tracks of a movie that could’ve came off way cringier than what Kelly is working with here in terms of intentionally The Room-ish dialogue and Lynchian dream-state atmosphering — you can’t really go wrong with Gary Jules’ cover of “Mad World” or the iconic “Manipulated Living” track. On a technical level, I’d actually say Richard Kelly and editors Sam Bauer and Eric Strand are best at concurring two ongoing events; it happens on a couple occasions in the movie and it’s disturbingly hypnotic. The editing here is sometimes exceptionally effective, especially as we near the end of the film. 

Maybe I’m diving WAY too into Donnie Darko than what it was meant to be dissected as with all the intentionally and kinda needlessly complex time travel arrangement that’s going on in the background which I’ve come to accept just boils down to the process of events occurring in two set worlds of “hybrid-predetermination” with its back and forths of time, as I’m almost certain Kelly meant for none of what I’ve just said to be his intention especially in the themes I’ve discussed, but ya know, I guess that’s the beauty of Donnie Darko or whatever the cool kids say. Sometimes the dynamic combo of pandering ambiguity and blatant spoon-feeding blurs the line so carelessly that it works in its favor, cause jeez does it do that so much to a point where the film becomes an unintentional gem of an experience; there’s nothing out there this bloated in its own ideas pilling than in Donnie Darko, and it makes it hard not to want to dissect the hell out of it whether you hated it or loved it. 

The Frank the Bunny outfit is still one of my favorite costume designs ever, and probably because of my nostalgia for or the DIY cheapness of it that sort of hits home that Donnie and Frank’s ambitions are likely born from a hoax that they had devised out of the very last imaginative innocence they had before becoming adults, who knows? Him revealing his face in the movie theater is still absolutely one of the most iconic scenes in film to me, mainly because 1) Evil Dead, 2) empty theater, and 3) Steve Baker’s For Whom the Bell Tolls; it’s a heavenly scenario that I wish I could experience myself! Embracing my illogical bias, alas. 

Verdict: A-

“Donnie Darko” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.    

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (1966) – Faith in the Arts and Faith in God’s Approval of It

Andrei Tarkovsky Marathon Part III of III

Wow, I didn’t expect Andrei Tarkovsky to have this level of scale in him. 

Unquestionably the “epic” of the Russian auteur’s timeless career, Andrei Rublev, its title character of a monk, is a famous painter from the 14th century. The movie here primarily focuses on him while being able to cast an additional plethora of characters and extras to further enhance his journey. Not to mention, the plot is also formatted with an ambitious 7-act structure that jump-cuts to future time periods in Rublev’s life during any unanticipated moment of the movie. There’s also a lot of macabre violence, and a lot of Kurosawa-ish action too? Wait a second, what happened to the slow-poke chintz that I used to know? Are we sure this is a Tarkovsky picture? Well, yes: the film’s embracement of artificial symbolism in a world of realism tells us so. While the material on screen has become more graphic and eventful than that of his future outputs, the poetic risks of it nonetheless feel VERY MUCH “Tarkovsky”.

Faith is tested through a series of trials: the church to God, the denial of God, the “lawful” punishment to God, the disbeliever to the believer, the believer to the disbeliever, the atonement to the purpose, and the art to the purpose. Breaking it down from the start, throughout the movie, Rublev silently questions the actions of the Church. You see it in his repulsion towards how the law kills non-believers, as it makes him wonder what qualifies those of religious power to murder, as it’s a sin. Wouldn’t a loving and understanding God be more concerned that his children didn’t kill than didn’t believe? Does the Church defy God’s wills with misinterpretations, those that Rublev is currently unravelling throughout the film?

This develops Rublev into a more sensitive character. He begins detesting the idea that fear must be implemented to convert others to religious faith. His trust and idea of God becomes varied, as he begins trying to draw himself towards Him more so than being mentally controlled by the immoral acts that he witnesses in societal organizations. Every time he reaches for the heavens, this fixation for religious obligation is usually disrupted by the contradicting occurrences of the material world — like flying a hot air balloon into the sky (escaping to the outer universe!) but, unfortunately, crashing it back down to Earth (our defined reality); reminds me of the opening to this movie!

If God gave Rublev his artistic ability as his purpose, wouldn’t God see fit that he would use it to his fullest ability rather than see him concerned for what the religious institution sees fit for him to do? Hasn’t Rublev’s art (and other’s art) benefited the people? Shouldn’t art therefore be a priority over the self? While this thought process is of reason, there is, nonetheless, a part in this movie where Rublev “gives in” and takes a 15-year atonement (a vow of silence and a pause in his artistic career) to make up for a sin that he had committed in the midst of a social catastrophe. Normally, those who take an atonement are looking for a way to repent their sins in the eyes of the Church, which is then passed onto God and entrance to Heaven. But, again, he does it for “the eyes of the Church”, the very thing the movie has sought to recognize as a contradicting organization, and even subconsciously according to the perspective of Rublev.

Does Rublev’s atonement reward him in the afterlife? Well, like an average Andrei Tarkovsky motif, we in the life of the physical, could never know that. What we do know, and what is to matter before death, is that the art we had created is what rewards. There’s a reason why Tarkovsky dedicates ten whole minutes of this movie to hypnotically slide-show all of Rublev’s survived work because it was the proof that a purpose had been defined through the art he had created, at least, in the physical world, but specifically, a “determined” physical world. The social hardships he experiences in the film that inspires the art is the known pay-off of his existence. What we know in religious contextuality, whether that be where our goodwill or sins guide us to or punish us to after death, can never be weighed confidently from the perspective in our present life, and that’s why art (the will of discovering) seems more favorable to permanently mark into the remainder of humanity than in focus of trying to make it into an eternal afterlife we respectively couldn’t even confess to be 100% real on material ground. 

So in retrospect, this is one elongated movie made just to explain Tarkovsky’s reason for wanting to make movies in the first place: it’s all about enlarging his “definite purpose”. Admittedly, Tarkovsky’s 70s/80s era “contained” and “dream-state” style is definitely more up my alley, but I’d be one hell of a liar if I couldn’t admit that this… this is gold-embedded cinema too. 

Ingmar Bergman, you’ve been officially demoted from being my all-time favorite director now. Andrei Tarkovsky claims the throne for now unless the 50+ (literally) movies I haven’t seen by you can say otherwise down the road. 

Verdict: A

Andrei Tarkovsky Ranked, My All-Time Favorite Movies 

“Andrei Rublev” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) – The Procrastination to Facing the “Everyday Person’s” Reality

3rd Viewing • Spoilers Ahead

The pursuit of wealth and economic fluency is wasted when you’re bombarded by a job obliged to takes up all your time; the illegal underworld of business empiring is a pothole of dodging left and right nearly 24/7, and even if you end up living most of your life not like a “schmuck,” sooner or later you’re going to have to, and believe me, it’s going to sting much harder for you than if you were someone who’s had the experience to live that type of life since the beginning. 

Halfway through Goodfellas you’re paralleled with the same scene you saw at the start, except the excited enthusiasm and anticipation of “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States. Even before I first wandered into the cabstand for an after-school job, I knew I wanted to be a part of them. It was there that I knew that I belonged” is rather meet by Henry Hill’s silent fear of a recent murder situation as he eats Tommy’s Mom’s home-cooked meal, and it’s such a contrasting tone from how the beginning statement sounded that it really puts a pin on all the enchanting adventurism you thought you were about to experience through these criminals’ lives. Instead your treated with a “rat” constantly debating himself on why the hell he’s in the business anyways as he gets closer to being a “hit” target among colleagues, acting naively shocked as if these tough consequences that require of his career were never supposed to bounce back on him — these men are ego inflated psychopaths, truly. You’re watching a somewhat average, “quiet” fella fall down into this almost sexual obsession with violence and illegal activity, taking his wife and partners with him, middling on whether he actually has the long-lasting persona to blend in with these “goodfellas,” a persona that he was so determined he had since the beginning; part of this concept is beautifully summed up in Karen Hill’s famous line: “I know there are women, like my best friends, who would have gotten out of there the minute their boyfriend gave them a gun to hide. But I didn’t. I got to admit the truth. It turned me on.” Ultimately, Henry is taking every last drop of satisfaction and thrill he can get before having to become… haha… a “badfella.” Nonetheless, by the end, he’s digging himself out of the filth, he has become paranoid of men he once considered best friends, and comes to the s**t realization that the fun is officially over, and that’s that.

So yes, this halfway mark is where his complaining begins, and like this, other characters begin suffering from this close end to their evasion from the “everyday person’s” reality. Joe Pesci’s character is cursed of his aggression towards those that even slightly oppose his character; his unawareness for obvious hierarchy and power positions, things necessary in a functioning society, are what destroy him, as he thought this career of gangster-ing could avoid such circumstances. His consequences are initiated as if it were the hand of ironically the law, as his murderous rampage is sentenced with death just when he thought this long worked for career was finally about to pay off when he’s told that he’s being promoted to a “made” member of the mafia. I love how just before he’s whacked, the sudden realization hits him, as if he knew all along that this day were bound to happen, but obviously he had hoped for it to come after gaining such an honorable position.

Think back to Orson Welles’s Charles Foster Kane from Citizen Kane, or even think forward to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Daniel Plainview from There Will Be Blood and their journeys of destruction which they use to find out if there really was some level of satisfactory in creating kingdoms of wealth, but multiply that with a whole army of characters who participate into the feeding. That was the failure of the goodfellas: by the end everybody started wanting everybody dead, people began looking after their own asses other than the stability of this community that they had built to be so strong-headed and “brotherly”; they revoke the gangster family persona because they begin registering that their exploration was coming to an end, and whoever could stand on top by the conclusion of it would win the lottery of ironically becoming their greatest fear: living out the rest of their life like a “schmuck” — better than prison till the age of 70 though, as Paulie had said. Or, being, you know, dead.

That’s the dilemma of the mobster career though isn’t it? It’s just a generational race to who doesn’t get “hit” or thrown into the can for life by its destined termination; there can’t be a set of winners at the end of a flawed system, especially with an introduction of the witness protection program that could put a flock of mobsters away for good with just one eye participant. So, evidently, the based-on-a-true-story gives us that insight into an array of similar arcs in the “pursuit for fortune and dominating respect” storytelling formula, except it’s done with Martin Scorsese working his execution at the top of his game: his fastest pacing, best performances, slickest dialogue, keenest expressions with the camera, most innovative structuring, editing as hypnotic as the climax of Taxi Driver, smartest music placement, nimblest gags, most tasteful paralleling of narration and visual storytelling, yadee yada it’s a mastaaapiece! Inciting incidents could occur from a telephone, one wrapped currently around the throat of a victim, mind you, or a love interest could pop into the picture during a friend-on-friend discussion while they casually burn down a 5-star restaurant. You’re unapologetically wrapped straight into the physicality of the crime world through blissfully comedic psychomania. Yep, thirty years later and this still kicks ass. 

Best freeze framing in cinema too. BRING THAT S**T BACK YOU MOTHAF…

Verdict: A+

Martin Scorsese Ranked, My All-Time Favorite Movies

“Goodfellas” is now available to stream on Netflix.

The Meaning Behind Michael Haneke’s Masterpiece: Caché (2005)

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Caché: the only movie I can give a perfect score that looks like it was filmed on a potato. 

Teaching anyone that “the mystery of never knowing” was the movie’s ultimate reward all along is a rough patch to explain, specifically when it comes to the brilliance of Michael Haneke’s Caché. On my second viewing of Haneke’s 2005 thriller, however, I have further obtained a more explicit understanding of it which I failed to express in my initial review of the film. Essentially, this re-review should help clarify my reasoning for why this uncommon ingredient of the movie makes it so pithy in commentary compared to most of its genre. 

The basic premise of Caché involves a husband/father named Georges and a wife/mother named Anne who one day receive this mysterious videotape that is strictly an elongated recording of their residency. After more videotapes begin arriving at their doorsteps, and even a few disturbing drawings are sent too, Georges begins investing, and eventually finds out that his ex-step-brother, Majid, could be behind these terrorizations.

Why would Majid want to do this though? Well, to Georges, it’s simple: Majid wants revenge because when they were kids, Georges got Majid kicked out from his family and sent to an orphanage because of some dirty rumors he had spread. It seems like a stretch though, considering Georges and Majid are in their forties now, and that was a long time ago, but nonetheless, Georges has conned himself into believing that there is no other answer to who sent those videotapes.

But, I don’t think Majid ever sent the tapes, or furthermore, I don’t think it truly mattered whether he sent them or not. The closest culprit to who sent those tapes in my opinion would be, in fact, God. That’s what these videotapes feel like: God punishing you, the MORAL world judging you, or both telling you to realize something you should realize in order to stay respectably humane. Or, perhaps, the videotapes are more of a hidden reflection of Georges’ subconscious of an affair that he should finally confront. There’s no doubt that Haneke never intended for there to be a physical culprit to the stalking, because in truth it’s meant to be a reflection of the guilt that someone (Georges) should feel when causing such permanent trauma to another (Majid). It’s very blurred whether or not Georges actually had guilt “hidden” from what he did to Majid, but it’s safe to say Haneke wants us to believe that Georges’ prejudices are what caused it to be reserved if it ever was. Racism is what prevents us from developing or becoming mature; it’s what restricts us from creating empathy for others because it cons you into believing some people don’t deserve your sympathy. It’s an unadulterated superior-complex that egotistically punishes those around us. 

That’s why I appreciate the ending of the movie to a vast degree because of the scene where Majid’s Son confronts Georges. Throughout their quarrel, Georges refuses to show Majid any responsibility for his Father’s suicide because he is too stubborn to admit that a “person” like Majid wasn’t “crazy” in the first place. Maybe the hidden part of his brain knows that he is someone to be blamed for where Majid went in life since he basically rumored him into an orphanage at the age of 6. However, you can tell on the surface he doesn’t actually believe that a man of his caliber or “superiority” should feel sorry for the unfortunate direction some “immigrant” went, especially after stereotyping him as the culprit to the videotape terrorizing that’s been going on. This is all a result of Georges’ misplaced ego. Majid’s Son telling Georges during their fight that he just wanted to see what someone may be like after being the cause of another’s death was just the cherry on top to dehumanizing Georges’ character. 

That’s what I think the movie represents though: the flawed nature of being primarily an egotist. Think about it this way: the videotapes are Georges’ subconscious or, better yet, his “hidden” gut telling him to confront the guilt in loose ends. The actual actions that he commits, however, through stubborn accusations and blame on Majid and his Son are the physical realism of how he deflects or handles his subconscious. Caché is giving us an allegory of how a narcissist battles truths that could possibly harm their “superior” figure; the truth in Georges’ case being that he had committed something wrong. Yet, in Georges’ nature, it became more favorable for him to allow someone from his past to suffer again than for him to admit to his own flaws and sins. This is Haneke’s mirror image of what we may find as common human behavior. Yet, there is a more specific key reason that Haneke explores this concept.

There’s a scene in Caché where we learn about Majid’s parents and how they had likely died in the Algerian War which is notoriously known for being forgotten and overlooked by the French despite there being hundreds of immigrant casualties from it. If we put one and two together, the French’s mental handling of the Algerian War is deadly similar to Georges’ mental handling of his past with Majid. Michael Haneke has ingeniously tied together a real life example with a one-man narrative. They both threw evidence of the past under the bus just like how Georges’ TV show producer destroyed the cold-hearted tape out of consideration for the future. The French didn’t care for foreigners and so didn’t Georges. It’s the inhumane habit of racism that caused their forgetting.

Close to lastly, I want to state my interpretation of what the final shot of Caché means. First off, it’s brilliantly framed with having the two sons almost hidden in the shot, but moving on… I’ve heard a lot of people, even Robert Ebert himself claiming that the scene was there to insinuate that Georges’ son, Pierrot, and Majid’s son plotted the entire scheme, or at least knew one another. Ebert even states that it’s likely Pierrot at the minimum knew about his father’s past because of what Majid could’ve possibly told him, accusing Majid’s son as the true culprit to the madness; Ebert nearly rules out the idea that Georges is at fault for these videotapes due to a physical evidence basis. While this is possible and I can respect Ebert’s interpretation, I don’t believe that any of this was the core ambition of what Haneke intended. I don’t believe we are supposed to think Georges is not responsible for the videotapes, because as established before, the videotapes may be intended to be metaphorical and not literal. The videotapes are emulations to me of the vagueness that Georges creates when talking to his wife about the past; so even in a literal standpoint it is possible that the videotapes are just solely a symbol for Georges inner want to release the hidden, especially to someone as close to you as your wife. On top of that, remember when Pierrot asks his father (Georges) why he sent the drawing of the child bleeding to him during school? I think, in a fashion, that’s just a subtle clue that Georges could’ve been at fault, and that metaphorically the drawing sent to his son represents Georges’ past trauma reflecting onto his own child from this whole videotape affair. 

So, how does that concern the final shot? I like to view Pierrot’s and Majid’s Son’s mingling as evolution. If it’s true that Pierrot knew about his father’s ignorant ambitions to forget what he did to Majid’s father, then isn’t that a sign of hope? Majid’s Son has witnessed himself a sinister individual up-close (Georges) and is likely to learn from it by avoiding the characteristics of a past generation individual. Pierrot will not become the striking image of his father if his understanding of Majid’s struggle is genuine. To see the supposedly friendly interaction between the son of an egotistical, immature racist and the son of an immigrant is evidently symbolic; it’s meant to make us realize that there’s room for improvement in the next generation; we have that ability to allow our children to avoid the neglect that the French gave to the victims in the Algerian War. Better yet, we have that ability to let the PAST teach us how to handle the present/future. Conclusion: this is why the past should never be caché/hidden.

This is a bit of a side note, or even a side theory to the movie however; it’s completely detached from everything I mentioned previously, but in a way, Caché partially predicted the rise of anonymous trolling on the internet? If there were ever to be a “legitimate” guess to who actually sent those tapes if this were a real-life situation — although, that was never Haneke’s intention to think like that and he’d probably hate that I’m doing it — I would say it was one of Georges’ hardcore fans. The affair feels even more relevant to today though if that were the case because of well… “Cancel Culture.” When you’re a celebrity, people seek to learn about you, and if you have dirt under your sleeves, people tend to expose you of that dirt since celebrities are typically held to this god-like “perfection” standard. The possibly intentional consequences that come from the mysteriously sent tapes almost emulate an angry fan that wants to push pain onto someone they used to look up to for not being the “perfect person” they maybe had initially looked at them as. 

Well, anyhow, that concludes my analysis. Are you still confused with the meaning of Caché? Do you still believe there’s more behind the curtains that we certainly missed? Is Robert Ebert an idiot? Am I an idiot? Are we all just idiots who can’t put the pieces together of something that may be more simplistic than we had read it? In any case however, that’s sort of the beauty of Haneke’s masterpiece to me: I guarantee each time I rewatch it I’m going to pick up on ideas I didn’t have initially or just completely dismiss my previous interpretation of such an open-ended mystery; it’s that magical… or downright cruel. 

Verdict: A+

The Victors of the 2000s, Disturbance in the Arts, My All-Time Favorites

“Caché” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Ingmar Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly (1961) – The Subjectivity of God

“The door opened. But the God that came out was a spider. He came towards me and I saw his face. It was a terrible, stony face…”

Oh, she saw some sort of god alright!?!?!?!?!?

The fiancée/son-in-law/brother-in-law is a blue-balls horndog. The father/father-in-law writes his insecurities about one of his family members into a novel to cope with it. The son/brother is just hormonally confused. And, the daughter/sister is clinically schizophrenic. Did I mention that they all have divergent interpretations of God too based on their drastically contrasting experiences? That’s typical Ingmar Bergman fare for you, ladies and gents!

Through a Glass Darkly brings up such an interesting piece of thought though by the time we reach its demise: we only see certain things in our own way because we’ve experienced life with a particular condition to simplify what is reality and what is fictional. 

Karin is convinced what she sees as God is correct because her quote on quote “mentally ill” yet plausibly tangible, natural-born facets have always fashioned her to see these cruel visions of God as more genuine than imaginary; accepting that these absurdities the she endures as something “authentic” helps justify herself, despite how psychotic she appears to others. This is the God she is convinced she “experiences” in the physical world, and while it may not be the one God tied to typical Christian readings, it is rather a frightening entity powerful enough to punish her for the sins she’s committed — more on the lines of an interpreter of the Bible (like a nun or a priest perhaps?) than the classic example of an all-forgiving God. God seems to actually be vicious in her eyes. 

David, however, sees God as “love” because throughout his life, he has used love to cope with the unusual issues his family struggles with among other things, “big or small”; David’s experience here has defined the entity of a theoretically “positive” God as such because it would justify the ladder to the never-ending pool of pain he receives on a daily basis from these family affairs. From the lenses of the classic beliefs, God is someone who’s meant to be worshiped, for He is the one who can save us. Therefore, love correlates with this idea of God in David’s eyes. David has to work with the groundworks of the archetypal image of God, cause as far as we know, he doesn’t think he has personally seen God like Karin appears to have. 

Essentially, Bergman has gotten all stoner-hipster, agnostic-redditor on the audience again, leaving us with the big question: “what really is a ‘right’ interpretation considering we’re all biased to one based on how we’ve lived and/or how we were born?” 

Existential crisis in bound…

On a side note, Ingmar Bergman’s black-and-white cinematography really leaped after hiring back Sven Nykvist, huh? This is the type of visual f**kery that would make even a modern such as Robert Eggers c*m. Man, it feels good to be back on that Bergman grind.

Verdict: A

Ingmar Bergman Ranked

“Through a Glass Darkly” is now available to stream on HBO Max and The Criterion Channel.

Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock is Nothing Short of Endearment in a Bottle

Part two of five in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series sees the director discovering new ground, resourcing in exotic approaches, pacing, and visual communications when compared to his previous handiworks. Lovers Rock essentially boils down to a 68-minute party sequence, spanning itself a tad more than a day. There isn’t anything too remarkably extroverted about its serene, “on-paper” narrative, but it’s the explicit and fervent execution of the art that puts McQueen’s story here on an honorable podium. The grand sum of the film may not be enough to level with the deeds of a thematically intuitive McQueen tour de force like he’s concocted before in the past, but for what it attempts to fulfill with simplistic thrusts and a holy ingesting setting, it succeeds to a T. Furthermore, Lovers Rock is only a fifth of the puzzle, and when the entire Small Axe show arrives in its totality, the episode should mature. 

Whenever my eyes weren’t magnetized by the peerless color placement, I was getting caught up in the moment of the paramount joy in partners, innocent jealousies, playful snapbacks, evolving sensuality in dances, solicitous acts of kindness from strangers, or reassuring selection of 70s reggae, R&B, soul, jazz, and disco. Steve McQueen is taking to heart the old “live in the moment” saying in this cinematic outlet: if we must sing, mingle, and juxtapose our bodies with no specific direction to an entire song all the way through, then that’s the end of it; cutting down the beauty of a harmless 1970s London gathering is simply not an option here with Lovers Rock. Why end such a happiness when countless things outside of the comfort of this metaphorical home (per say) are far too unsightly, especially during its time period?

It’s undeniable that Steve McQueen wants you to appreciate this limited, rare moment of mild grace in a society plastered on the streets with radical racism that many black people and others of the oppressed were eventually always pressured to come back to. So, embrace this party as is if it were your last one just as these characters have done! If you’d like to experience Lovers Rock during a virtual rental period October 3rd-5th before its planned Amazon Prime release sometime this year, click the link here to the New York Film Festival’s website. Tickets are only $15!

Verdict: B

Steve McQueen Ranked, 2020 Ranked

“Small Axe” will be released on Amazon Prime sometime this year.

The Devil All the Time Relies Desperately on its Influences and Marvelous Performers — Maybe, Too Much?

Somebody initiate a “Robert Pattinson’s Seamless Accents Club” already!

Netflix’s latest drop The Devil All the Time is a “karma bites!” type of tale, one that takes us on a journey into the questionable aftermaths of our actions that seem all too righteously intentional to be coincidences. Over and above that though, Antonio Campos’ film reconciles exactly how the good yet misleading ambitions in the methods we choose to interpret our religion with has that unsound lenience to twist even the best of us into unintentional devils, passing the hex on from generation to generation — it’s all an elongated case of humanistic turmoil so to speak. If the Tommy Lee Jones-esc narrator (author shoutout!) couldn’t beat that message over your head enough with his melodramatic takes on the countless mutilations the story avalanches you with, then maybe a convincing performance (many of which are just too damn exceptional to be in a redundant narrative of this caliber) from Bill Skarsgård will change your mind, followed fifty minutes later by Tom Holland’s leading role, followed then ten minutes later by Robert Pattinson’s sinister yet momentary presence… and the list continues to tangle up as well as the experience’s organization and ultimately the viewer’s patience.

It’s pass evident that Antonio Campos clearly cares for his craft, concocting a sublime-looking movie with a vehement gentleness for camera adeptness. There’s no denying that the filmmaker knows what he’s doing when he rolls the camera and enlivens his actors to pursue the most vicious of affairs. On the contrary though, it’s Campos’ obsession for past narratives that leaves compact space for the audience to ponder on. The Devil All the Time’s former inspirers in the religious exploit arts that the film borrows from will cause plenty to find the film to be unduly “recap-ish” and, by the same token, have already executed the common thematic deeds we’re used to much profounder than a handful of these copy-cat renewals. Plus, the ugly abundance of narration that’s exhaustively used to explain the film’s themes and even many of its situational scenarios as well, certainly didn’t help witnesses find room to put theories together themselves.

As Cormac McCarthy as this feature-length would like to be, I’d reckon it’s flimsily hitched more so to a humdrum moral-porn chronicle that just so happens to use a needlessly prolonged series of unfortunate “coincidences” to preach mediocre bullet-point notes of already established works and motifs. Who knows? The devil could live in me, you see, as I simply didn’t register the greatness of Campos’ story here. Maybe some mighty being will strike me down for this to prove that we do live in a universe built off of moral codes. Hmm… deep or boring?

Verdict: C+ 

2020 Ranked

“The Devil All the Time” is now available to stream on Netflix.