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.

Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things is the Epitome of a Perfect “Adaptation”

Yes, I ate at a Dairy Queen for the first time in years right before watching this in celebration of the novel which features DQ as one of the main locations. AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT? LOW AND BEHOLD, THE MOVIE DIDN’T KEEP THIS DEMANDING DETAIL OF THE BOOK IN IT’S TRANSFORMATION; THE MOST CRUCIAL PIECE TO THE STORY.

I’m kidding, by the way—not about eating at the DQ but that I care about an accuracy such as that—if you couldn’t tell. It’s a mediocre food joint anyways, haHA. 

Evidently, it appears as if the often praised and sometimes detested experimental screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, has translated the uncomfortable awkwardness of the controversial 2016 novella, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, into an arguably perfect glaze. The hopelessness of Iain Reid’s brilliant source material could never be better conveyed in the cinematic format as it has here. Kaufman and Reid clearly share an akin trait of misery; they’re both simultaneously writing masters in understanding the seclusion that ensues in our brains, expressing these debunks through bonafide streamlines of sentences and words. Copying a book is easy; amplifying a book however is a tough chore, yet, Kaufman has outdone that requirement in his latest directorial piece I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

In terms of cinematic cues that Kaufman utilizes to distinguish this movie from the book, there’s a selection to choose from. The way the director plays with time feels so short and repetitious; he makes those hazy past memories appear as if they’re only accompanied by maybe a small, GIF-degree of length that repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats or is sheltered to only adding onto the qualms of even those closest to you. It’s facts such as this that make us despise our thinking, AKA, our inclination to be able to unlock either the negative or short fragments of our ambiguous past to pile onto the already melancholic state we face as we grow older and try to rationalize existentialism. Kaufman exposes our natural programming to include more dreaminess in our desires, allowing the impact of unfulfillment to graze our hearts even harder—like a Greek tragedy, or a Shakespearian operatic; it’s supposed to be devastatingly dramatized but why does it feel so real? It seems as if Kaufman’s visual surrealism here has offered me that rare opportunity to prefer a film media over its source material, alas.

Color grading had me floatin’ too. Had to get that trademark out of the way before moving on… Umm… moving on.

In terms of what I’m Thinking of Ending Things means in its entirety, it feels undetermined. If anything, the closest I have so far to putting a nail on it is that it’s primarily just a streamline of desperate processing. Sure, it could be more purposeful than that, but these queries are what have me thirsting for second rounds. Could the film be focused on how imprisoned outcasts feel since they can never stop observing the ones who seem torn straight out of a fictional fairytale or, rather perhaps, its concentrated on deviously illustrating how tragically alike we all are and how painful it must be for us to have to go through the same issues life features yet somehow always experience it alone. Names slowly become meaningless as our unnamed lead character is continuously called by many; the labels mean nothing when we all boil down to a contrived stereotype, forced to be executed at the hands of life’s monotony.

The characters in I’m Thinking of Ending Things feel as if they’re trying to escape their bodies into the heads of others, like a quest to see if they may shine that kind of purposeful gratification their inceptions simply couldn’t offer. The dream is to find that special somebody you truly can feel imperative to embody, have a chance in the spotlight (as per Kaufman usual), aimed at a crowd of everybody who ever (in)directly nagged at you all your life and gnarl to yourself: “hey, I did it. I got somewhere. I did something that… that mattered. I showed them now, didn’t I?” Yet, I doubt from the complex of Kaufman, that that is nearly a probable achievement to obtain no matter how many hosts we can leap into and comprehend. All his accents are as nihilistic as they get—but hey, I haven’t not enjoyed one of his pseudo-intellectual spiels just quite yet!

From a reasonable viewpoint, Kaufman may be spouting out Reid’s basic philosophy notes a little too blunt in some zones or even relying blatantly on some of his past work stemming from Anomalisa and most notably Synecdoche, New York—old people get older, individuality is undefinable, we are all subject to die, die, die with not a sliver of quenching, etc.—but it’s the execution of how he portrays these concepts that allows them to feel grander, newer, and more applicable to our own turmoiled minds in I’m Thinking of Ending Things. No spoilers here, but the dude has always been a creative personality when it comes to what genres and what various “art hobbies” he chooses to showcase on camera to express these written ideas.

All in all, Netflix viewers proceed with caution. If you saw the trailer (which by the way, showed far too much of the movie) then don’t expect a throw-it-on, conventional thriller; this will be a disconcerting head-scratcher for neophytes who are new to either Reid’s story or Kaufman’s melodramatic tendencies. By the way, if you’re curious to know what I think of the novel (which is essentially the same as my thoughts on Kaufman’s version of the story) I actually wrote a review of it back in 2019. My writing in it is a smidge outdated and borderline super pretentious, but y’know, you can’t escape your past sometimes. Check it out! 

Overall: movie = awesome?

Verdict: A-

2020 Ranked, Jonze & Kaufman Ranked

“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is now available to stream on Netflix.

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet Exists to Momentarily Amaze and Lastingly Underwhelm – My Most Unapologetically Barbaric Review Yet?

Warning: The Following Contains Strong Language

Tenet is the definition of a cute one-trick pony. 

At this point, I expect Christopher Nolan’s next film to fuck with time to such an incomprehensible state that we have every character from his past films (Leonard, Cobb, Cooper, every real life soldier from Dunkirk, etc.) all colliding from a designated period span in their movies, working together to fix time or some shit from ending not just the world in this newest circumstance, but the ABSTRACT, metaphysical inter-workings of meaning itself; it’ll be so fucking deep that you can’t even see it physically on screen even with a state-of-the-art electron microscope. Nolan will just explain it to you through his trademark “it certainly exists; you just can’t and will never be able to see it.” It’ll be like poetry, it’ll rhyme… or umm… oh, nevermind. To hell with whatever that quote was. I’m at a loss for words anyways.

I’m dead serious, though, this shit better happen or I’ll contrive a pointless protest like a real American does. #wearamaskyouidiots 

Ok, now onto the actual review. Let me just find my notes here… hmm… AHEM. Yaddy yadda, reopening of theaters and Christopher Jonathan James Nolan proudly presents: Tenet, or better yet backwards, teneT—I genuinely think not knowing what happened in the movie vs. knowing damn well that that was the point of the title is less embarrassing than me not knowing that that was the point of the title vs. the fact that I understood (most of) the movie itself; I’m side-tracked, I know. This is officially the heavily acclaimed director’s 11th full feature-length and also officially the heavily acclaimed director’s 7th full feature-length to spotlight an intriguing concept of time structure—who would’ve guessed?

Christopher Nolan has directed arguably his richest action sequences yet in Tenet, blending literally reversed or made-to-look reverse footage directly into standard forward-moving shots. The intense care that must’ve been devoted to constructing these otherworldly, intricate pulse-pumpers is mind-boggling to me; meaning, I could never see a majority of other filmmakers pulling them off; fuck it, NOBODY else could probably do it unless they copied Nolan beat by beat like what Hollywood has been doing for the past decade. This man has squeezed the maximum of his energy into mush due to the commitment he has milked into this project that’s so carefully detailed in how defined its time functions are and how they choose to be visually demonstrated. I don’t know how this 50-year-old man could possibly have any blood vessels yet to erect more labyrinth action sequences like the many seen in Tenet for second rounds; I know I’d *croak* if I tried it, or for that matter, tried it on round one. Suffice it to say, these undeniably monumental virtues raised my score for this film considerably higher than what it could’ve easily been otherwise.

So now onto the topic of Tenet’s flaws, there’s a shipping-cargo-load of them, so buckle yourself up cause this shit is going to take a fat minute. John David Washington’s character (our lead to follow from beginning to end) is literally composed of just cringy, wiseass quips, learning how to tenet or whatever the fuck they call it because he had that “feel it” shit Joseph Gordon-Levitt had when figuring out Bruce Wayne was Batman (spoilers for anyone who didn’t know Bruce Wayne was Batman) in The Dark Knight Rises, and conveniently having a soft spot for Elizabeth Debicki and her son arguably over the sustainability of all human *bad word* existence as we know it. He’s called “The Protagonist,” putting us in the on-the-nose position of his undeveloped placement in Tenet, despite the fact that the movie decides to give his personality the whole pointless “heroic vendetta gist” in wanting to save Debicki’s mother-like livelihood as the obligatory side plot of the movie—something that debatably shouldn’t even be in a character meant to emulate the audience, rather so, something that should be in a character who deserves proper development to explain his erratic motivations.

Furthermore though—this isn’t even the inception of the issues with Tenet’s boring as shit characters—probably the shoddiest side of Tenet comes with Kenneth Branagh’s antagonistic personality, Andrei Sator: a cartoon-leveled villain with a cartoon-leveled performance—sorry Kenneth—that is as if a cheeseball Marvel villain was jumbled with the classic God-complex while simultaneously being birthed with a touchy persona being that of an abusive partner. It seems so detached from any other element that the movie wants to explore considering how robotic it’s all mostly meant to be, and, at worse, it’s only used to motivate Washington and not to be used to analyze Sator’s fiendish and spasmodic psyche. Nolan once again proves that he’ll make extroverted modifications of a certain type of individual to make him or her feel more inconceivable than the real monsters that exist in our genuine world. I hate when movies downplay evil personas and attempt to look at them from a superficial point of view and, moreover, use them as emotional bate for a central character. Movies have crafted horrible people many times before who genuinely appear as if they could be among us, but Sator feels too enigmatic and overripe to be seen as a justifiable choice to use as the possible cause of the world’s unequivocal decease.

So, ultimately, Nolan uses a very real issue like domestic violence so the movie has a pawn to enforce the slightest amount of repetitious levity—the whole son and mom complication is brought up constantly yet there’s never an authentic moment to let this triangular correspondence between husband, wife, and child sink in or to be constructed thoroughly. Over the years, Nolan has often been criticized for his lack of relatable characters—which I disagree (kind of) with, personally—and I’m sure this assessment has gone to his head especially after Dunkirk. The entire son and mom aspect feels so needlessly thrown in, considering nobody else in the movie is given moderate depth as Debicki is or, for another matter, it doesn’t seem warranted when the film wants us to think that we’re in an end of the *bad word again; excuse me* world situation—yeah, two people vs the 7-billion population is always a good way to get us to care about those two people (sarcasm if you didn’t pick it up). It’s as if Nolan needed this reassurance of conventional substance in his newest feature to assure that nobody calls his movie void of developed characters. 

If anything, I would’ve loved if Nolan instead focused more creatively and harshly at the theoretics he brings up such as the paradoxical dilemmas in time or the ignorance of us only caring for what we see and not what we experience firsthand. Instead, they’re only hastily mentioned in abruptly momentary conversations between manakin-stone characters, and it just made me even stingier for more expansion. Nolan even tries to put a cap on these themes in the very last scene of the movie which of course he had to verbally explain too. I can truthfully see Tenet being a Nolan favorite among a majority if he had just utilized those philosophical entries and expanded on them with just as much shock or passion as what he put into his action spectacles, time concepts and twists. So to the people who are saying Tenet has no themes or emotional development: you’re objectively wrong. It indubitably has these efforts; they’re just founded off of a rudimentary mindset. 

Like a true Nolan connoisseur, I’m going to connect my opening paragraph with the current one here *GASP TIME PARALLELING.* I’m a little polarized that the strong friendship between Washington and Pattinson is only “suggested” in the movie; Nolan tends to do this often to counterbalance genuine dexterity. He has slyly dug a rabbit hole out of this weakness by creating hypotheticals that exist in the universe of the movie but are rarely shown physically on screen. As neat as it may be from one point of view, the other point of view would find it less convincing to be told something exists rather than being physically proving something exists. In fact, Nolan does this a lot with other accounts to be mentioned in the feature-length such as the abundant exposition. Tenet attempts to shock us with uttered reveals that we would’ve probably never picked up on in the legitimate presentation of the movie. However, in the case of Washington and Pattinson’s connection, I did find the movie to have set-up their relationship in a convincing manner. My issue with their bond though simply comes from the chintzy conclusions Nolan chose for them, which ended up playing out as expected as many tragic bonding narratives do despite Nolan’s efforts to make it divergent, causing the film to appear even more like your customary blockbuster than ever before.

To not stray completely into the abyss of Tenet, I must say, I did fancy Ludwig Göransson’s score in Nolan’s latest by a significant margin. As dangerously loud as the chad IMAX speakers could possibly punctuate my ears with its musical, techno galore, I must say, it left me with at least the best migraine I’ve ever had—it’s a joke, migraines are for people with genuine issues unlike me; instead, I’m stuck here reviewing movies on a social media site, wasting my days as the inevitable comes to drag me into the depths of… Anywho, I’m getting off topic a bit, but just a BIT. 

Back to my unapologetic spiel of Tenet’s dilemmas, a significant fragment of the editing or length of sequences in this film was honestly embarrassing, more so though in the first act. This feature’s initiative felt like a hot-potato of one-on-one explanation discussions between Washington or Pattinson and new exposition-central characters that we’ll briefly see again or literally never at all. These cardboard-cutout personalities will immediately have our main characters jump to the next bone-dry mission birthed from the thinness of a 007-esc order and so on so forth. As much as I can recollect, first we had a presumably high-up agent boosting up Washington’s ego, telling him he’s loyal and whatnot so he can be convinced to travel on this “time-fuck” mission, and then a scientist named Laura explains a chunk of the necessities in understanding time reversal while sending Washington to Alfred (the famous butler or Michael Caine or Nolan’s favorite elder, etc.) who sits comfortably at his expensive dine-out hotel to tell Washington to do shit (like the contradicting butler he is) that could’ve been expressed over a simple voicemail message, and lastly some guy *WAIT PLOT TWIST* it’s actually his wife (not the “some guy;” good one Nolan) then goes on to tell Washington to do a TON of shit, only for this lady to come back two more times to tell Washington to do a TON of shit again… and, you get the point. Conclusively, the first act of the movie seemed so desperate to be exhaustively snappy because it has this “agenda” to complete in its limited 150 minutes. It’s like we were being hammered by one plot explanation over the other just so we could lose even more and more breath to the movie’s already tiring accessories. Honestly, if Nolan removed pieces of the verbal explaining, I could see Tenet not being any more confusing as what it is currently. If anything, the excessive indulgence to vocalize every intricacy of Tenet’s world-building and “on-paper” straightforward (yeah, you heard me) storyline makes the film unnecessarily overwhelming to digest. It’s like Nolan wanted the movie to be extra nauseating for no other reason than to befuddle audiences into watching it again. The event sequencing is what bothered me; it could’ve been protracted while restricting the amount of dialogue Tenet is so over-reliant on its audience having to listen to over these heavy accents and roaring musical numbers.

Side comment also: mark my words, the yacht race will go down as the worst sequence in Christopher Nolan history. What in the actual hell was that anyways, huh? I’d claim it’s legitimately the most confusing moment in all of Tenet, writing, editing, and just general existence-wise. Nolan went full Fast & Furious on our asses.

To offtrack my stupid side comment, I’ll finally conclude this review. As you’re experiencing all the little fragments of Tenet falling into place, I must admit, it is satisfying and commendable to witness; obviously, I can’t get into them because of spoilers, however, once you understand everything, I promise, you do gain this momentary dose of pleasure. Yet, after the screen lights had dimmed, and I had stepped into reality again, looking back at what happened, the movie instantly slipped out of my head. I couldn’t name anything that I felt bonded to watch again besides those wild, intricately constructed action sequences and reversal reveals. Just because the movie’s plot is complex in execution (minus the exposition) doesn’t necessarily make it investing as a whole to me, ya know? It was jaw-dropping to watch in some areas, and in others, it felt like an everyday, save-the-world blockbuster with a driving gimmick to differentiate itself. Even the moments when Nolan wants to shove philosophy or character validity down our throats, it just feels contracted in so that the movie can seem like something more than just a creative narrative scheme. I’ve already made my claim before on how movies that are style over substance can be boundlessly masterful. Yet, I’ve noticed I tend to dislike the ones that are style oriented but gratuitously try to promote a substance asset to its cranium so it can be quote on quote “better,” when, in hindsight, it sometimes just bogs down the film and wastes our time as audience members. Either sturdily spend segments maturely expressing glossed-over story facets or simply don’t have them at all and fully embrace the madness of being an uncompromising action extravaganza. In all seriousness, I could easily see myself giving Tenet a positive score if it had just done this. 

The best way I can describe Tenet is that it’s like observing a really cool magic trick being exhaustively explained; once you start putting the pieces together it’s internally gratifying, but that in of itself is what leaves me indecisive of what it gained for me afterwards. The time manipulation and Nolan’s inflexible grip on action sequencing may be enough merit-power for many to understandably consider it an excellent cinematic experience, but from the bounds of my spoiled noggin, I just felt like the remaining exteriors of the project were too standard, tangled, avoidable, and frankly, callow to validate Tenet as a solid piece. 

Who knows, maybe I exist right now in a paradox universe where I’m reviewing the movie but haven’t actually seen it yet but I will eventually see it in order to come up with the thoughts expressed in my said review. Wait, nevermind; that would still suggest that the movie is just mid. Haha, me back at again with the shitty jokes. Hey, at least I didn’t write my entire weiver sdrowkcab.

Verdict: C+

Christopher Nolan Ranked, 2020 Ranked

“Tenet” is now playing in theaters where available.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice (1986) – A Personal Glimpse at Death

What David Bowie’s final LP Blackstar must’ve meant to him is likely what Tarkovsky’s final picture The Sacrifice must’ve meant to him too.

Philosophy is tiring. Andrei Tarkovsky, the um… *ahem* philosophy connoisseur, seems exhausted of his own endless babbling, as he nears closer and closer to death. He’s gone full-on nihilistic, agonistic-mode on his audience, pumping out the most cynical of his fervent pieces yet. The fear of death: perfectly expressed by one movie, The Sacrifice.

The plot to this film faintly reminds me of these old cartoons I used to watch about heaven and hell or life and death, the ones from like the 1930s and 40s that seriously had no filter in scaring the s**t out of me as a child. Of course, it’s difficult to explain without spoilers, but there’s a sort of savage fairytale adventure involved in them where moral redemption is utilized to make up for a tragic situation that the story puts its focused character in. The Sacrifice is almost like these tales, using surreal devastation to compel its characters into tight decisions. However, in these animated accounts, characters normally learn from their mistakes, and return to glory; in The Sacrifice, redemption is replaced for egotistical madness.

The Sacrifice’s midway lighting change from bright colors to strobe-light dimness was one of the grandest transitions in tone I’ve ever witnessed. The final house shot is like the ultimate non-birthday birthday present for the obsessive cinephile. Plus, again, cinematography: OFF THE CHAIN. Some may find Tarkovsky’s hefty weight of dialogue, nonetheless, in The Sacrifice, even compared to his previous entries, to be off-putting. Some may even find his tributes to pieces of his past work like a “floating sequence” that’s unapologetically ripped out of Mirror to appear redundant, but in consideration that The Sacrifice is his last motion picture, it makes sense that the man would lumber down this route.

If there really is a strict code of reason in this world, who are we to know how to follow it? With spoken or written destinies, prophesies, and antiquities existing directly at our hands and ears, who’s to say that what we witness isn’t false, considering what we read or hear is usually resourced from others like us, others just as unknowing as us. For Alexander, he must decide. Should he try to save the world with a divine sacrifice, or should he unconsciously pretend to save the world with this sacrifice? Who’s to say what moments actually meant something in our extensive lives, and what moments didn’t, if any at all?

At the apple core of The Sacrifice, however, the fear of death is presented quite proudly. Alexander’s family must accept the end of their world, and look back onto the life that they had. If life was repeatable, would we experience the same life we had before? If we were to alternate the life we had previous to this reincarnation, wouldn’t that suggest we were not satisfied with the life we had before?

How about religion? Why do we choose to focus on something spiritual when there is a physical presence of the world right in front of us? In end of the world scenarios, do you think we would be more focused on how the spiritual side of things will perceive our demise, like how Alexander aches to assure that no God would want to punish him by establishing a sacrifice as his offering? Or, will we be finally concerned with the marks we had left on the physical implants of our planet; the planet we are, in fact, about to leave, as that is what we often believe death to insinuate? It seems though, realistically, that as we begin to near death, we choose to be cautionary, remembering that there could be a possibility that our beliefs were false all along. Whether or not we believe in God, some may be so afraid of death that they’re willing to at least pretend He or She is real during their final moments, just in case. This is the history of fear; it often leads us to compromise our dignity. 

And, that leads me to what I think Tarkovsky is trying to say here. No spoilers, but the conclusion to me is him essentially saying that “in the end, we’ll never know.” Our self-centered yearnings to embrace death with awareness may or may not pay off; it’s as simple as that. The ending of The Sacrifice is ambiguous in plot for this very reason.

So, yes, there are a whole lotta questions and a whole lotta thinking to be had in The Sacrifice, indeed. All in all, Tarkovsky ending off his career with a near tour de force? No surprise here. Tarkovsky’s obsession with water leakages is beginning to remind me of Tarantino’s obsession with feet at this point though…

Verdict: A

Andrei Tarkovsky Ranked

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

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Remains to be a Polarizing Conclusion for the Caped Crusader’s Iconic Trilogy

Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead; ??? Viewing

Umm… so, The Dark Knight Rises: the third entry in The Dark Knight trilogy; the final entry, moreover, in The Dark Knight trilogy; the end to end all ends. We’ve got extreme terrorism, a few tasteful villains, a decent 45-minutes of Batman ass-kicking (whether giving or receiving), and some emotional elements in it, as well. On paper, this movie sounds epic. It’s almost all there, and yet, it just happened to be paired with one of comic-book history’s weakest screenplays to date, but I’ll get into that later.

Tom Hardy’s interpretation of Bane made quite the impact on me the first time I watched The Dark Knight Rises, in Canada too, as a young boy. His past adversities, mental + physical strength, and firm grasp on destiny, makes him beyond a powerful nemesis to The Batman. His arsonist tactics are truly more fatal than The Joker’s ever were too: releasing Gotham’s own prisoners to generate destruction, hanging law workers on bridges for the world to see, forcing the accused onto dangerous thin ice, etc. He’s got a cute voice and mask too; Tom Hardy subtitles are required, however. With such a stone-solid villain at hand to battle with The Batman in the final entry of a much-anticipated franchise, Rises should have this in the bag, right?

Yet, Rises collectively suffers. This can be faulted at the palms of its unbearably driving conveniences, MacGuffins, and thematic decisions that are essential to either a plot-point/scene’s impact on the audience or to the story’s needed direction. In a nutshell, some noticeable examples include: 

  • The television that cuts immediately to the missing person right when Selina Kyle tells her buyer that she brought the missing person over.
  • Commissioner Gordon having the luxury of tumbling himself off into essentially a water slide to safety and not getting killed by machinegun fire.
  • John Blake figuring out that Bruce Wayne was Batman because he could “feel it” due to their similarities. This plot point is used to push Wayne into becoming Batman again. You’d think at this point that more people would know that Bruce Wayne was Batman if this one dude could? Or, maybe, because Bruce and Batman happened to blossom out of retirement around the same time too, which occurs later on in the movie.
  • Batman coming in to save Selina at the last second just moments after being chased by the biggest squad of cop cars Gotham’s ever seen. 
  • John miraculously knowing or assuming that Selina was in cahoots with Bruce Wayne/Batman’s capture by Bane.
  • SENDING EVERY COP AND SWAT MEMBER IN GOTHAM CITY INTO AN UNDERGROUND TUNNEL WITH NO REASONABLE ENCLOSING TACTIC AT ALL SO THAT BANE CAN TAKE OVER THE CITY LEISURELY. For real, what did they think sending an excessively straight line of cops leading to Bane was going to do, or better yet, how could they possibly not have assumed something like that could be a trap, enough so for them to at least not send in nearly the entire infantry of law enforcement? 
  • Bruce’s quick recovery in the pit that ends with him making it out after only his third attempt—yet others who’ve been in the pit probably for years couldn’t even achieve this without broken bones too. 
  • Bruce being able to get into Gotham City undetected despite Bane’s critical lockdown protocols. They don’t even care to show how he gets in, as well.
  • Batman arriving at the “ice rinks” just barely in time to save Gordan and John. He also decides to burn an entire bat symbol onto a bridge just before he executes his rescue too; how cute!
  • Catwoman coming in to save Batman at the last second; dramatic last-second teamwork, am I right?

Just little storytelling cues or dilemmas like these are infested throughout Rises runtime (yes, there are more) and it begs the question on just how fast the Nolan’s must’ve scrambled this script together to get such a preposterously convenience-riddled project finished. 

Keeping up with the unfortunate affairs of Rises, Wayne and Talia’s association in this movie is so oddly glossed over but still earnestly implemented to create this reveal of betrayal as the movie’s grand “twist” being that Talia was actually the kid born in hell and not Bane; aka, Bruce was banging the villain… um, so what? Was that aspect of the narrative really worth featuring for all the manipulation that this movie cooks up to get us into initially thinking Bane was the kid born in hell? It’s even weirder though when you ask yourself why Bruce and Talia’s dynamic wasn’t focused on more when the movie gave so much time to establish Bruce and Selina’s relationship as the more logistically durable side of Bruce’s new encounters. Not to mention, Nolan has furthermore multiplied the amount of exposition in Rises, thanks to primarily the whole Ra’s al Ghul storyline which is reshaped from Batman Begins. This whole extra storytelling defect can additionally be primarily blamed on the Bane/Talia plot gimmick. The time framing of Nolan’s cinematic resolution is also extremely funky, devoting nearly hours to Bruce’s return as Batman and only less than an hour on the 3-month period where Bruce escapes the pit and Bane rules over Gotham. Moreover, don’t even get me started on the rest of the plot holes that Rises has to offer. It’d take days to go over those but if you haven’t seen that Screen Junkie’s Honest Trailer yet…

In spite of the gallon-loads of complications that I’ve just mentioned with the caped crusader’s final entry, Rises is not entirely problematic. For me, the valuable highlights of Rises truly come between its sequences with Alfred and Bruce—one, in particular, a heart-crushing conversation where Alfred reveals the contents of Rachel’s letter in which he had hidden from Bruce. No surprises here too, but the action spectacles in this Batman movie are gripping once again—some examples include the plane heist, bank heist, Batman vs. Bane showdown (twice), and the vehicle/bomb chase. It’s safe to say that the scale of Rises feels even grander than The Dark Knight, in many cases. Anne Hathaway is, on top of that, decent as Catwoman—her character isn’t entirely justified for the context of the movie, but she’s entertaining as the developed, seductive, and comedic levity of Rises. And yeah, Hans Zimmer’s score certainly revs up an exceeding amount of tension once more.

But yeah, who knew that this rewatch would completely flip a coin on my feelings towards The Dark Knight Rises. It’s hands down Christopher Nolan’s worst movie and I’d go as far as to say that, overall, it isn’t even good. At best, it’s mediocre. The writing and themes here just collide together to frankenstein something almost too oblivious and too hasty to even be satisfying as not only a fan of crime thrillers but a fan of Batman. Yikes; readers, please do not massacre me. 

By the way, Talia’s death scene is still the funniest thing ever. It’s even funnier when you recognize that that shot probably had to go through so many different hands before it was approved and, I guess, nobody questioned it? Intriguing.

Verdict: C

Christopher Nolan Ranked

“The Dark Knight Rises” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.