Matt Reeves’ The Batman Warrants its Stay by Setting the Caped Detective in our Digital-Driven World of Today

Over the past decade and a half, Matt Reeves proved he isn’t exactly no stranger when it comes to meddling with original properties, or if not just that, one occasionally experimenting with genre such as in his feature-length directorial comeback Cloverfield (2008) where the redux-effect of Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005) and the extortionate glut of the found-footage era hits audiences familiarly, yet in that same space, differently from its intense reconstruction of their formulas. His (allegedly) bloody Let the Right One In (2008) American interpretation and Planet of the Apes “prequel sequels” (2014-2017) are undoubtedly where we do see that reboot-fueled perimeter of his craft though, and after the acclaimed success of those surprisingly weighty mo-cap chimp dramas in particular, it’s not too surprising to see him at the head of possibly the biggest superhero property yet. If anything can be verified of Reeves as of now, it’s that he’s one of the better Hollywood blockbuster directors working today, as what usually comes attached to someone with a crystal clear passion for intimate storytelling that ironically doesn’t abide entirely to its genre’s now outrageous necessities as seen in so much of what comes out from the market today. 

I had “recency bias” issues in 2019 regarding when I first saw Todd Phillip’s Joker and gave it a positive score, and have now, however, succumb to being polarized by its content. Suffice it to say, I get a little too hyped up for any sort of live-action Batman property, and I’ll fair-warn all reading as of now that there is a chance this “bias” may be masked as of reviewing, because I must confess: I liked The Batman

If Tim Burton’s Batmans were the epitome of the delusional fantasies one could extract from both Gotham’s absurd heroes and villains for which they miserably haunt over together, and if Nolan’s were to show the pushing point of no return for Gotham’s public mania through uncanny noir realism, then Matt Reeves’ are looking to be the b-rate versions of investigative David Fincher thrillers that are, however, set on the streets of a comparable noir and delusion-driven Gotham City, making them marginally more entertaining and rewarding of a watch than they would be otherwise in an environment less personal to us. Although, The Batman isn’t necessarily trying to break a lot of ground for the noir it takes from outside of the obvious that it’s now placed in the current superhero scene — if anything it’s trivializing the best of its capabilities minus its ambitions to at least attempt modern social / political climate parallels — but it is well put together enough to please people looking for elaboration to the live-action Batman mythos. If you ever want to test whether a mystery was truly spectacular or not, then the one-time watch shouldn’t feel like it was enough, and should therefore make you want to watch the movie again knowing the answers so that you can spot out all the neat clues, but Reeves and Peter Craig’s hints are pretty undemanding when glancing back from memory, and it doesn’t draw me personally with a dying need to see the film again anytime soon.

The action in The Batman may be set to a significantly lower pulse compared to your average superhero spectacle-fest, but there’s no question that when we do get action it’s usually great. The car chase sequence in particular is such a uniquely conceptualized use of minimal shot space and undoubtedly riveting if you can look past how insanely destructive it ends up being after suspending the disbelief that Bruce wouldn’t give a hoot about all those risk factors — although, one could tie that into his ego-driven ignorance as this obsessive early-stage Batman. Reeves also, as always, includes touching poetic moments to reconcile some humanity for the picture; one moving scene in particular made up for the third act climax it’s in, which was the flimsiest piece to this whole puzzle. Reeves knack really shines though from the tension he builds within The Riddler’s terroristic murders — that Kahoot live scene went harder than any moment from Spiral: The Book of Saw (2021), I can tell you that much.

As of now, Robert Pattinson is a compelling Bruce Wayne whether you like why that is or not; the entire movie has ambitions to prove that he isn’t wisely going about this caped crusader business by choosing one life over the other — The Bat to The Bruce. He’s still flopping (literally) a bit in this initial era of his vigilante career, and yet, this entirely new and refreshing addition to his life’s purpose seems to be something he’s bathing in with blissful ignorance like a game of lashing out more so than reinforcing it cautiously with also the power that his billionaire presence can have on the city of Gotham. You could even argue that this carelessness is what’s inspiring mayhem amongst Gotham’s spectators rather than mending them with the security they need.

What really ended up being my favorite element in the entire film though was the slow-burn of The Riddler’s intricate nature and the hike of learning that he is not as all-knowing as he sets out to be; we witness his own hypocrisies as he unconsciously gets parts of his banking “narrative” wrong; the tape-faced renegade seems representative of the radical clique from the poor of Gotham that assumes all immoral actions as only having one possible inception of equitable immorality, and in the ever-growing online cancel culture of today where people love to act *anonymously* as the morally authoritative and superior figures of society, it feels freakishly relevant — unlike Phillip’s Joker (set in the 80s…) which tries to accomplish something similar by having a man start killing people to simply say: “hey! That’ll happen cause of corruption: death!” and it’s essentially left at that degree of elaboration besides if you’ve seen The Batman already and know how DEAD similar that one reveal in the Riddler’s plan is to a plot point in Joker, and I must give Phillip’s credit for introducing it to the live-action outlet first howbeit. On the plus side, The Riddler’s interrogation scene in The Batman (as seen in the trailers) almost feels like a callback to The Dark Knight (2008) regarding the reason it comes up in the first place, and Paul Dano’s socially capricious presence and facial gestures alone are enough to make you as uncomfortable as you probably were in any given scene from Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019).

Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman serves as the premeditated antagonist of the story, essentially channeling The Riddler before “The Riddler” vibes, but really that’s there to give Batman a mind to tussle with and save in his eyes as per their usual relationship amidst the Batman lore. It was charming to see Commissioner Gordon and Batman so hand in hand, giving us slivers of that The Nice Guys (2016) comedic yet genuine electricity to grant the film considerable levity. Oh yeah, and Colin Farrell as the Penguin? What a solid visual take on the character so far that isn’t just some prosthetic gimmick for clout; there’s undoubtedly potential for his brief interpretation to sprout triumphantly in the hopefully near future of this saga.

Evidently, almost everything here is what we’ve come to expect from a live-action adaptation whether it be found in Bruce’s revelations or look at capital corruption; it just has one moderately huge microscope hovering over it this time and a modern-day mindset to help warrant it. Like Joker, The Batman wants to show us examples of the outrageously privileged rich causing the poor to combat corruption via anti-villain mayhem, but this time through heavy narration and intricately established or momentarily hidden crime connections / social hierarchies that create a picture wide and clear for the audience unlike Phillip’s misguided ambiguity. Maybe once the Marvel Cinematic Universe juice runs out, it‘ll be time to expect some more noir appropriations that the still dominating superhero genre will take the form of from there on forward.

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked, The Batman Ranked

“The Batman” will be released in theaters March 4th. 

Lana Wachowski’s “The Matrix Resurrections” and How it Almost Successfully Reinvents the Phenomena of its 1999 Original

Since even the earliest stages of cinema, “meta” has had the capacity to either drive referential storytelling into modernization as we know and love it or straight into the dirt to be mocked at for failing to persuasively speak on its flaws. Godard and The French New Wave reckoned the first option with either borderline or straightforward fourth-wall breaking of criticisms aimed at Hollywood cinema and the country’s power over them, but then American re-edits of Ishirō Honda’s King Kong vs. Godzilla made that very decade fancied for the second option by being on-the-nose to blanket statement magnitudes. Charlie Kaufman fulfilled the first option with his earlier films such as Being John Malkovich (1999) or Adaptation (2002) by incorporating real-life celebrity and moviemaking culture into poignant satire, but Adam McKay otherwise faulted under the second option literally just this year with his painfully unfunny, forced, and overt take on modern media socialization and political leadership cultures for which we all indulge in, a giant “no s**t” sprawled into two and a half hours of far-fetched allegories. Matrix Resurrections, the fourth entry in an originally closely released three-part franchise made so late and so coincidentally in a time of blockbuster nostalgia craze you can’t help but assume it’s only coming from a studio out for more money on their shelved property, however, is that rare self-aware piece of which falls under both options, but not completely by choice.

Lana Wachowski is likely the mind to congratulate for the unusual dodging of what could’ve been just a straight-reading retread. One of the director / writers of the original 1999 phenomena and its two follow-ups, who still continues to put in the effort of progressing sci-fi with her popular series Sense8 (2015-2018) and its related acclaimed specials, seems to have been suspiciously thrown back into the completed space of a trilogy that may have largely defined her career, but never seemed in need of continuing after the two sequels failed to please majority audiences nearly to the degree of its predecessor. A second shot at working on something that the sisters had, however, always seemed more proud of than their reactors almost seems artificially derived in a way, as if the demanding circle of going back to the beginning is only pushed to her work schedule in service of not having it butchered to deeper levels by not as universally beloved or marketable corporate authors that could never be as intimately close to this universe than its own creators. 

So in a sense, Resurrections feels like the inevitable being half-guided by the one who was pressured to dip back in, and the themes of the entire Matrix lore just so happen to fit perfectly into the nature of the real life entertainment spectrum being misguided by wealthy forces, deceitful lies that act to care, and reassuring idealisms that brought her there in the first place. What could’ve easily been a project made of pure hate from having to decide between two ultimatums (add something to it you can at least live with or let it burn and choose to never look back) is rather one birthed from rebellious liberation, and only partially to the worrying extent you may have where meta can become that obnoxiously in-your-face commentary that it has before. Lana’s initiation to steer the product shell rather uniquely becomes that rare positive, existing only because of the obsessively greedy machinery of studio remakes and sequels. In all irony though, her fresh take will surely ignite a mass of profit for the company it’s jabbing at, but lucratively that isn’t just who Resurrections has it out for: it’s looking at everybody in its audience, meaning all who have given into believing that they can acquire some of that psychological euphoria from remembering this otherworldly place from another time and refusing to seek out what hides behind the surface of their modern, recycled-leading reality by purchasing a ticket for a high and mighty organization or selling their time to its presence on an HBO Max home-screen. As you may have figured out, it seems honorable to the spirit that made the first Matrix such an iconic delight: that initiative to tell viewers to wake up and be more aware of your surroundings and how you choose to perceive them or let them control you.

The way Lana accomplishes this long anticipated miracle is by presenting none other than the polar opposite of the fans through our lead protagonist; no, not Neo, or at least that’s what he says; it’s Thomas once again. As you may have guessed, he’s in denial, taking blue pills on the daily, but fascinatingly in denial of the nostalgia that has paved his entertainment career as well as his depression of having it warned-out into surface-level pleasures, which is insightfully reflective of Lana herself. Memory becomes rather a curse and not a safe-space for constant validation; it can be like a drug-inducing hit of reformation of formula like it was in recently Jon Watt’s Spider-Man: No Way Home or it could be a discouraging cinematic slam in the eyes revelation as it was in about anything made post-80s by the self-referential king himself Wes Craven. The meta is in the fact that we are wanting this reformation to happen, and the commentary builds off this with the idea that this immaturity can go both directions: allowing yourself to be drawn to nostalgia can be compared as equals to neglecting the bodily desire of why we’re comfortable drawing to begin with, because they both require ignorance. One invites us to freeze by recalling while the other invites us to progress by forgetting, and yet they both seem to look past the fact that they have the high-chance vulnerability of resulting in deleterious repetition. The cool thing about Matrix Resurrections is that it submits to both, forcing the audience to suffer from the duality in this mirror reflection of our clashing desires when it comes to blockbuster entertainment. 

As the famous saying goes, to forget about war or any tragedy would be like asking for it to happen again. If we are to pretend that we are not capable of considering sin again, how are we to ever remember it as a sin? Doesn’t nostalgia of us combating it not remind us of the good that can cure? Well, yes and no. It can remind us of what good has been, but haunting over it can never tell us what else can be good too, and art in general has always submitted to this philosophical dilemma. Right now in Resurrections, it’s a firm allegory for the state of how we treat the modern franchise blockbusters we frequently see this century: we can either allow ourselves to hang onto the good we created from before, or find some method of learning what else is lurking there. We could also allow ourselves to forget the good we created to do this in the first place, but then risk just recreating the formula once more as a hindsight to the limitation of human creativity without the clear knowledge of history, just like Thomas finds himself doing when he has to venture into a familiarly structured Matrix-like mission again that he has, however, ambitiously and stubbornly made to be blocked out of his memory, blinding his ride’s guidance initially as if it was his very first hero’s journey rodeo, just as we are capable of doing to ourselves with the manner in which we choose to consume stories.

Where the fourth installment tilts to the other side of being that only somewhat successful “meta” piece is not only whenever it chooses to be on-the-nose to lackluster and even lazy extents, but in how it essentially drops the ball in its intentionally written abysmal second half that warps you through suffering for another allegory. The Matrix sequels have always not commercially worked from an absence of clean implication of enticing philosophical or social concepts into the actual construction of spectacle, and while Resurrection certainly does it better than the other two because almost every gimmick in it is there for a thematic reason, many of the gimmicks are purposely there to make the film unenjoyable. The first half of the movie is genuinely lighting in the bottle, starting off with new yet familiar characters looking through a literal peephole into a disorienting version of the the original Matrix’s opening with its unsettling action that will define the film from there on forward due to how it uses the same off-the-wall choreography we love from the original but rather shot like any generic shaky-cam spectacle to suck the life out of what was innovation, and editing so jumpy to put us into the disoriented and overwhelming nature of Thomas forcing himself to be okay with his reality. Nostalgia-bait is also not as disguised as it was in, again, something such as Spider-Man: No Way Home, and is instead fed as plainly as possible to you with untampered scenes of the original Matrix being cut into Resurrections to shame audiences from wanting such desperate reminiscence. It’s an overwhelming amount of information, but in the best possible way for a demanding experience.

Then comes the second half though, where the movie begins morphing into its true nature of being an uninspired direct sequel to Revolutions (2003) which Lana, however, seems to continue to assure us she’s not in complete control of. There are literally moments in this part of Resurrections where she uses the reveals of the main villain as a route to speak on how her studio is currently finding ways in this story to do any means necessary to have Neo and Trinity alive yet parted so that audiences can wallow in the slight hope of an idealistic continuation they wanted for something already left settled. In essence, the second half is basically 70 minutes of the conventional sequel that Lana can barely save by assuring audiences that she is against it, and will have to make the most out of it. Modern Hollywood-like conventions happen left and right with characters once again literally telling the audiences that they are indeed that. The off-putting and ugly action sequences come in and out more than ever before with characters also there to mention how uninspired this non-stop spectacle is compared to the predecessors that provoked more thought and conversation that Lana possibly thinks has progressively deteriorated in the modern age of the remake and obligatory sequel. Really, the wit began to fizzle here for me when it becomes that unavoidable epilogue to Revolutions, and all Lana can do is scream on the sidelines at us from time to time that this is just f**king stupid and pathetic of Warner Bros. to be doing, solely to grant audiences the tip of genericism. But hey! At least she can jeopardize their vision and critical success by doing so!

Conclusively, here’s the kicker: I will probably remember moments such as that great scene in the first half where Thomas and “Tiffany” have a cup of coffee together, discussing deja vu as a force of something you can’t remember that influences your perception of reality, and the social pressure of not challenging what it makes you want to believe and let go of; their bond then becomes the film’s likely metaphor for Lana’s real-life gender transitioning from there on forward, and the dominating pulse of 21st century media and industry reveals itself to be its antagonist segregating personal expression from mainstream cinema. But then that second half, for all its intent of purposely throwing us off and making us hate the movie to further exclaim this by almost immediately turning into the schlock we feared, ruined Resurrections for me successfully. Like some twisted yet slick pseudo-intellectual scheme, it showed me that sequels can be gripping if they provoke original and compelling statements, but can also be exhausting if they choose to overload conventional formulas of a reboot. And, yet, it is, like I said before, in spirit of what made the Wachowskis a force to be reckoned with when they released the original: by waking us up from our flimsy expectations of what a blockbuster should be. The Matrix has always been an allegory for numbing our minds from the truth, and in this fourth installment, it’s literally one of numbing our minds with studio rehashes and follow-ups. It forces itself to be intelligent by constantly calling out our inescapable desire for remaking passion that can and has to a degree become the passionless, and in this clusterstorm of sustained qualitative fluctuation it captures something unignorable. Personally, I hate it and love it for those reasons, but admirably, I think that was the point of the entire experience, and I can’t help but give at least Lana a thumbs up for being able to make some sort of distinct impact on us again, even if it’ll never be as massive or entertaining as the one that spread when the 1999 phenomena hit theaters.

As a final note, I’m mostly just happy with the fact that titling a sequel with “Resurrections”, which usually leads to a super garbage outturn in a franchise, has finally come to an end. Took decades, but Hollywood alas did it. 

Verdict: C+

2021 Ranked

“The Matrix Resurrection” is now playing in theaters and available to stream on HBO Max.

The Pinnacle of Horror and Holiday Pieces: Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (1974)

Warning: Spoilers Ahead • Screened at The Frida Cinema • 3rd Viewing

One of my favorite scenes in the history of cinema and, a little ironically, maybe the best moment in a horror movie EVER for me resides in Bob Clark’s Black Christmas; it’s during Barbara’s death, where our main character Jess on the other hand not only gets to temporarily take time away from the onslaught of harassment from the mysterious “Billy” slasher killer, and of course the pressure of being a police department’s bait, but moreover the ruminations of the possible impending consequences her manipulative partner could have in store for her future. Barbara is stabbed to death with a glass unicorn and the sounds of outsiders draw too much attention for her to be saved, and in our own reality thousands of others are also slaughtered day after day in the backdrop of our lives as is how we the people function. Murder is happening all around us, and the mercy of our mentality is that we can let go of that knowledge from time to time. In Black Christmas, that horror is very real, and yet during its existing simultaneity, the choir of children continue to sing and troubled people like Jess continue to smile. Modestly juxtaposing these two very contrasting emotions of peace and devastation for the audience to experience lets them sit with a feeling that really makes us comprehend that conflicting beauty yet tragedy for which distraction offers: how we can consciously let one dose of bliss take us shortly away from the control of fear that frequently leads our way of life everyday. Sure, holidays like Christmas are culturalized to celebrate the importance of family but it’s just as much a tradition as well that forces us to oversee the terror of society to concentrate on our blessid privilege of intimate seclusion, yet a kind of seclusion that can be humbly recognized and experienced universally by billions every year. This speaks for the human race, and it is what it is; it is the epitome of how we most frequently handle “horror”. 

A noticeable amount of Black Christmas is like this: kills and threats are followed sometimes immediately by spirited comedy and relatable folktown gags that let us closely observe that realistic switch we tend to make minute by minute as our mind wanders from worries and duties to sass and blabber. Isn’t it obvious why we do it? Why we choose to ignore it sometimes? Why we choose to submit to fear but also not to its fullest authority? Why a force like “Billy” is never revealed in entirety to the spotlight? Maybe it’s because there’s never a big enough spotlight to cover it all. Maybe, there’s never a big enough spotlight to emit complete justice for our moral compass or complete sincerity and recognition towards our reality as we continue to pick and choose what to block out for the sake of our own protection, our own sanity. That’s why there’s something so forbidding and even double-crossing to me about seeing the remake of Black Christmas. No, not the 2019 one, the one just before it from 2006. Who’s to say, for all I know, that movie could be pretty good on its own rights, but word of mouth has informed me that it does disclose the full backstory to our murderous culprit. 

Yet, the reason why I find myself so drawn to this Billy killer in Black Christmas is because I can’t quite comprehend him like we can’t comprehend every act of sin that’s hit upon humanity. Is he a brother? Is he a son? Who is Agnes? Is that his sister? Is that his mom? What is his vendetta or relationship towards her — was there incest involved? Molestation? What does projected lust have to do with her and his victims? Is a deranged family life really the explanation for his psychosis? Is Peter really the killer or does he just happen to be someone consumed by a woman planning on getting an abortion during all this murder? Theories like the ending is the mom’s voice haunting what she started are usually good ones, but always a stretch, yet also fitting enough given the amount of holes this Billy character leaves open. Maybe, the killer is just simply born a victim to genetic malfunction, able to kill at one second and cry of reminiscing his unconventional life during another? I’m sure someone as sick yet brilliant as Sigmund Freud would’ve loved a man such as this on his couch to study and understand. But, that’s exactly the scary part about the killer in Black Christmas: his motives feel genuine and full of personal ambiguity compared to the average slasher movie sociopath, almost as if something that occurred or was witnessed in writer Roy Moore’s own lifetime directly inspired the grounded yet incomplete story we have here. Contextually, we may never know what specifically happened to make said slasher killer a “slasher killer” in Black Christmas, but we sure as hell have a vague idea of who he is as a character born of trauma; this is why I find Clark’s masterpiece to be so down-to-earth in its horror elements rather than bent on uncanny fantasy to frighten; the only fantasy here is in its symbolic and poetic misfortunes in which Billy’s coincidental crimes become almost Shakespearian.

Thus, this antagonist mends seamlessly into many themes of Black Christmas, connecting this male rage to our possible suspect here, and therefore aiding in the film’s conquest to symbolize the emotional journey of abortion and the proceeding guilt of peer pressure that lives and breathes in this film so sympathetically through Jess and her encounters with a deranged murderer that is likely symbolic of either her on-and-off perspective of her unborn baby’s deceived perspective of being killed – it’s a mouthful, I know – or, more likely, Peter’s perception of what an abortion would do to someone hypothetically alive to see the day. There could also be a conversation in Black Christmas on how Jess’s experience of being tormented by this killer is an allegory for domestic violence. It’s very much implied that even if Peter wasn’t the killer, the thought of Jess being murdered by her boyfriend seems upsettingly plausible, given her apparent will to abort her baby and Peter’s personal repulse towards that being the case; it’d make sense too considering the implied past of the killer’s twisted and possibly uncaring and abusive family life. 

Anyhow, it’s not whether or not Peter is the slasher killer that truly matters at the end of the day, it’s the idea that partners can have that universal paranoia of a life-threatening, almost romanticized sense of danger when relationships seem so disconnected or one-sided between an assertive, aggressive partner and another who experiences conflict from making decisions for themself independently in the face of their lover’s menace. Like how John Carpenter exuded psychological distrust between those around us in his masterpiece The Thing (1982), Bob Clark and Roy Moore do so but with an even more intimate and private topic: the awakening that someone who’s off-puttingly close to you may have been an imitation of security all along. The devious crew behind Black Christmas have inhabited a horror movie output that replicates those unshakable feelings with relative and innovative amplifications that still hold up almost half a century later. 

Verdict: A+

Click Here and Here to Read Two Other Articles on Black Christmas, All-Time Favorite Movies, The Greatest Horror Movies

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

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune – A Polarizing Beginning

“Desert power” is my new “Ocean Master” now. 

It may be long from now before we ever see a movie as menacing in its size and presence as Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. The coined saying “you won’t believe it until you see it” gets thrown around a lot in the culture of film criticism, but never has it met its definition when referring to a visual “epic” as much as it has here, maybe since Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) trilogy. The sound alone of Dune is assertive and penetrative enough to make it feel like you’re experiencing some form of celestial ascension. Villeneuve bounds the screen with an uncanny amount of noise to make his film seem like no other, and it works. There is a meditative intensity and even a surreal, dream-like hesitancy too with how he directs and edits many of the introductions to the world’s inventive visual structures, customs, and creatures. On top of that, from the shield fighting to every little VFX strand of hair-like features on those giant worms, the special effects are as close to perfect as cinematic sci-fi has come. The experience is truly worth every penny to see such optically and audibly coercing extravaganzas on the big screen.

And yet, despite such appraisal of these technical miracles… akin to Villeneuve’s last outing Blade Runner 2049 (2017), he finds himself stumbling regardless. His plots usually aren’t as clever as the thematic ideas he wants to coalesce in them, with Dune representing however those torn directly from the movie’s source material. Giant event by giant event almost happens immediately after the fact despite this movie wanting to seem like a lived-in reality, one with the potential to connect us more to a thrilling purpose in its creation. 

To whether its blame is upon great Frank Herbert himself — have not read the book, sorry — or our adapter, the surrounding characters aren’t as sophisticated as their reason to the plot is, similar to once again 2049’s. Even Paul, the heart of the story, is barely interesting in his “chosen one” by the numbers conflict, saved thankfully enough nonetheless by the ambiguity he faces of knowing what exactly his destiny of being the artificial Christ really entails. Villeneuve will often use curious, unexplained yet intense lore, within the vein of the kooky randomness or fictional culture shocks you’d find in something like the original Star Wars (1977), to the point however where we’re enlightened to go back and see them again, regazing at these expositional attempts to lure us into a world centuries into further alienation from the humanity we know of that although… also wants to parallel ours. It’s a difficult task to pull off, this combination of worlds, and even more so if we are to rely on siding with or at least investing ourselves into these foreign people of Atreides; why should we care to view their fight aside from just obliviously basking in the explosive violence that encompasses it? The film almost certainly wants us to relate to their struggle, but it doesn’t necessarily put in the effort to make an excellent job of it.

Paul’s father Leto mentions a few times in the movie that their house is in favor of having peace with the inhabitants that they have claimed land from, something vital that could’ve been the very kinetic presence to get us emotionally wrapped up in these colonists’ journey, yet it seems wrongly underdeveloped in the nature of this movie. Villeneuve even makes Herbert’s famous “fear is the mind killer” appear more like a cameo here than a matured theme, and it doesn’t help the movie feel any less like just some long checklist of thematic introductions. It’s as if Villeneuve has stripped and mitigated messages and the characters’ intentions out more than ever for fast plot sequencing, which is such devastating judgement on his end in consideration of possibly having these specular visuals he’s created accompany something truly poignant and gripping that could match its own massively physical magnitude, therefore making Dune the bigger-than-us epic it yearns to be. Where there is a story of colonialism, religious manipulation, and organized duplicity happening right in front of us, it can occasionally be a shame to see Villeneuve abstaining any expansion to their composition, as if he’s holding off on his very provocative movie only for the second part; something though that is not yet a guarantee to eulogize this opening chapter.

That may be why I see this as my least favorite film Villeneuve has done so far, because his character interpretations of Herbert’s didn’t stick with me as much as any of his rather original designs did. His chi for captivating a foreign universe is in tip-top shape like never before and truly unparalleled to no other modern auteur, but it’s just not enough to make Dune a great movie when you cannot also captivate the people who embody that scope so long as the story begs of you too with its parallels to a relatively non-foreign political universe. Who knows though? Maybe part two will help enhance this adapted cinematic opener for one of sci-fi’s most renowned novels. But for now, the biggest drawback of Dune: Part One is that it’s just barely standing on its own two feet. 

Verdict: B-

2021 Ranked, Denis Villeneuve Ranked

“Dune” is now playing in theaters and available to stream on HBO Max.

Reference Notes – Věra Chytilová’s Daisies (1966)

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

“‘We are really, truthfully happy.’ ‘But it doesn’t matter.’”

  • Hey, but who wouldn’t take advantage of their glucose guardian? I mean, we’re only human, your Honor; can you really blame them for wanting to taste the devious licks of mukbang supremacy???
  • Chytilová said this on behalf of what she and her crew were attempting to do with the making of this movie: “We would like to unveil the futility of life in the erroneous circle of pseudo-relations and pseudo-values, which necessarily leads to the emptiness of vital forms, in the pose either of corruption, or of happiness.”
  • Daisies is not just a successful experimental satire on emphasizing gender roles through reversal behavior, but one based on pointless fulfillment as a reflection of our desire to succeed in whatever social ground rules may be the current status quo. Believe it or not, this is actually a pretty depressing movie about surreal explosive behaviors arriving in head as a result of accepting the neverending “ethical” obligations that can never leave one’s humanity. To be specific though, the film decides to gear itself towards sexist issues regarding sovereignty against females in the spirit of this tragic philosophy, and how it corruptly limits their ability to publicly exemplify diverse character. By doing so, it turns the tables for the audience from the expected refrained female character by introducing to us two versions of a woman named Marie who uses their feminine roles to take advantage of the perpetrators, perpetrators that have unintentionally helped them indulge into these physically obnoxious yet equitably warranted behaviors. The movie comes off as if it is trying to be simultaneously both frightening with its commentary on social limitation yet uplifting with its destruction of the typical female conduct, which has resulted in its curiously mixed reception and interpretations over the past half-century.
  • The two Maries obsession with food is of course applicable to material priority in feminine culture. It’s displayed so harshly in the film as almost like a detrimental drug addiction that’s being literally fed into their personalities to keep them afloat and controlled by bourgeoisie males. The movie, however, decides to scour this in irony by acting as if the two are constantly happy for this sort of lifestyle, and that they are really the ones in control of the men when really, the culture they’ve lived in has led them in no other direction but to indulge in this material reliance on powerful, working class men, and nothing else but the rush and reiteration of their restricted outlet. They are not necessarily happy, but being forced to act or tricked to think they can only be pleased by expanding their overplayed roles in a self-aware sort of fashion. Nonetheless, it feels sometimes as if it’s still all there just so that they can play devious parts in some puppet show where they (the women) are naturally ridiculed for their roles that are shown as being strictly vain and worthlessly (even childishly) simple, as opposed to what many considered the bigger importance of male roles; this is an area of normality that may be the cause of society having critiqued feminine roles in the first place, as the two Maries are very much representative of the symbolically stripped-down “empty” characters that come from wealthy men encouraging and even forcing women to stay, ritualize and indulge as the imprisoned, immovable and replaceable “doll-like” stereotypes for their own sexual and egotistical male gratifications.
  • While Daisies could then easily be summed up as a visually aggressive evocation of this obsessive repetition and resultant lunacy that one is actually in a state of freedom rather than the evidently existential state, in terms of its political commentary on the Czech government, I will have to do more research on my second viewing of that since I’m partially oblivious to their cultural background.
  • The burning of the masculine male photo puts a reversal on the real life idea of how women are dunked under when they lose their sexualized femininity. The concept of there being so many unattractive older men popularly conditioned to partner with beautiful younger women topically falls in line with Chytilová’s statement about how the feminine pressures of her time are enough to begin pushing women harder into thinking the same standards for men, which feels more relevant today than ever.
  • Daisies’ editing / camerawork is so animatedly in-sync with its sundry and twitchy soundtrack that it actually makes me feel bad that so many movies I’ve seen choose to not just be as freely ambitious and expressive as this. Also, the psychedelic train track shot is far and beyond good enough to be in 2001 (1968)’s stargate sequence. The scissor fight scene is also kooky enough to be in House (1977). Funniest part is, Daisies came out before both of these movies. Even the still image montaging feels so reminiscent of Jan Švankmajer’s work too; wow this movie did a LOT for cinema.

Verdict: B+

“Daisies” is now available to stream on HBO Max and The Criterion Channel.

Reference Notes – Agnès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7 (1961)

Warning: Spoilers Ahead • 2nd Viewing

“My illness! Have you forgotten already? Everyone forgets but me.”

  • The halfway point — one of the greatest transitions in the history of cinema — marks Cléo’s passage from thespian to roamer.
  • To defy both curiosity and confrontation is to be fitted into the socially preferred disguise, i.e. the role of thespian.
  • The role of a roamer is both flawed in fulfilling complete, innate human desires just like the thespian: it emphasizes one to become another piece in a movement of the world rather than a spectacle of attention, clashing between yearns of freedom and admiration or of a curious paralysis and constant thoughts of material duty. Cléo’s journey towards the final act results in her subconsciously learning about how intimate relationships are the simultaneous balance from gaining the benefits and dropping the sacrifices of the two elements as opposed to the often segmented and instructional lifestyle we find ourselves switching back and forth between and completely submitting to in its rules. She becomes liberated with this proximity to death, strayed from obligation; this near death is a metaphor for her push to leave the shell and reinterpret what she wants her place in the world to be.
  • Team Antoine > Team Bob. Enough said. 
  • Cléo awaiting for the results for her illness is obviously symbolic of her fearing that she is no longer beautiful, that she has worn out her disguise.
  • Cleo’s friend’s modeling moment in the movie is obviously a representation of the un-fetishized viewing of femininity by males, opposed to Cleo’s journey which involves the sexualization from the gaze. The little short film starring Godard and Karina is even symbolic of being blind (dark glasses) to the non-sexual side of someone: the rather “wonder” of both feminine and masculine traits.
  • Cleo’s superstition plays a big role in the movie too. It seems to be the only reassuring element of belief she has to hold onto since she cannot get any from her peers; her viewpoint of “authentic” answers has sadly boiled down to something as naive as this from how corrupt her social group is. 
  • In the first half, Cleo’s own perception of self seems to be exclusively reflected in her celebritization, and the validation of her identity seems to be found in how the people view her work or her presence rather than her internal entirety. At the end, she admitting that her real name is “Florence” is representative of the “Cléo” mask almost completely coming down in front of Antoine. 
  • Agnès Varda says so much with such simple yet real and natural everyday examples within her structuring of Cléo from 5 to 7 and its claustrophobic 2-hour to 90 minute timeframe, and even brilliantly brings notions of celebritization into the experience of the common citizen. This is truly a filmmaking exemplar in balancing nimble technique manipulations and, more notably, unusually relatable and subtle visual storytelling.

Verdict: A-

A Conflict in the New Wave, My All-Time Favorite Movies

“Cléo from 5 to 7” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror (1975) – The Unsolvable Tale in His Filmography

2nd Viewing 

Magically you will be removed of your stutter. Magically you will be able to speak plainly. Magically you will be able to speak every word, every letter, with utter truth. You are no longer human, you can now speak your mind with pure conviction. So then, tell us your life with this utter truth, through memories which will undoubtedly lie to you. No, maybe not lie, maybe they are nothing but the truth now, they are objectively the only truth now, the only meaning, and nobody, no scientist nor god, can change that. 

A mind nor a mouth can never speak plainly. “Plainly” will never be seen as “truth” in our vocabulary. There will always be stuttering. 

Tarkovsky’s Mirror though knows this. A somehow near perfect, agonizing and confusing bottled-up collage of memory, of nostalgia, of sticking images or of phrases that have become riddles from lost context, of already explored mysteries that can’t be put back together, of possible fantasized dramatizations, and of the unexplainable deja vu, memories that instinctively help us understand the present and our developing beliefs. A man wanders into a mother’s territory, yapping to her about how we do not trust nature enough. A boy in the army acts upon his memory and is shunned for it through the current’s overruling. Some of Tarkovsky’s strongest use of atmosphere resides here, and not just with its chaotic structure between different pasts and newsreel footages, but in the evocation he’s able to extract from even the simplest of natural occurrences that then become intense, things that flee so quickly yet you’re never sure what made them needy enough to want to hold onto in the first place. Something as meaningless as drying water can poetically feel just as limited as a coming death in this world, where the confusion of these parallel feelings for the inevitable is what rattles the screen up with personality and success upon its audience. The endless existential grime lingering behind the film’s historical context also makes Mirror no less puzzling yet ironically comforting, exchanging similarities between characters and real life events that in a way bind us together as if we were one repeated experience happening in ordered harmony. Memories are what cause us to make sense of life, they are the closest things in allowing us to seem destined by nature, whether that destiny remains undefined in our heads. 

Theories are wonderful though, and if I had to put a pin on the main gist of the many ones scattered within Mirror, based on Tarkovsky’s own statements throughout his career, it’d be that this is by a long-shot the most laborious way of saying “sorry, Mom” ever conceived. The movie is clearly interested in attributable lineage of genetic personalities, particularly pertaining to Tarkovsky’s own ego and sensationalism he must have ran conflicting towards others in his own life, something he sees was passed onto him by his own mother; this blame then reveals a secondary layer of recollection though where Tarkovsky’s guilt towards how he has been interpreting memories of his mother becomes a newer appreciation for what she did otherwise, inspiring grief and desperation though for not loving or respecting her as much as he may have back then, resulting in today. The scene where a woman complains about how she wished for a girl, not a boy, to another (allegedly Tarkovsky’s) mother could help explain this. Yet, it’s further obvious that that, if even remotely true, simply can’t be all to the movie when looking at how it attempts to coincide these emotions with the scale of Russia’s own historical context from the war Tarkovsky lived through as a child. The collectiveness of these coinciding incidents lead me to believe there must be some connection between our helmed accomplishments and ruthless catastrophes that are bounded by this similar effect distorted memories can have on them. Maybe memory transcends strict time in this regard, tampering future with its bothering of past, restructuring sequence constantly just as the film has done to itself. Reality functions more like a mirror than it does an unstoppable continuum. 

Evidently, this is the most beautiful mess cinema has ever gifted us with. Literally! Tarkovsky would bring last minute add-ons or changes to the script day to day during production, causing scheduling turmoil and a lack of confidence for his project; the post-production crew could barely assemble the movie together during the editing stage cause even they didn’t know what the f**k was happening with these scenes that were so sporadically coined up by Tarkovsky on the spot from its incomplete script. The content of this project is partially mended by whatever memories spawned from the director during set dramas. Mirror is maybe the most infuriating, demanding movie ever made, yet that’s why so many of us seem to love it; this film moves in feelings for a past that it itself can’t even keep up with, therefore abolishing relevant, controlled logic or chronology unlike any piece of art I’ve consumed before. Yet, that’s exactly what scrolling through nostalgia is, nostalgia that then counteracts regret for what it has only led to in the present one’s relationships and own character, hoping for forgiveness in remembrance and acknowledgement of what it was before according to recollection. 

Damn, that last sentence would’ve made for quite a good transition into Tarkovsky’s 1983 feature if only he hadn’t made Stalker (1979) right after this. How dare he make so many masterpieces inconvenient to my reviewing.

Verdict: A

Andrei Tarkovsky Ranked, My All-Time Favorite Movies

“Mirror” is now available to purchase from The Criterion Collection.

The Curious Case of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’S Most Disappointing Movie Yet: Black Widow

WARNING: Black Widow Spoilers Ahead

2021 really is the year where Marvel can’t find a way out of writing their most embarrassing finales yet to eerily compliment fairly promising first and second acts. 

Before I dive into what may become my longest MCU-related review yet, I wanted to talk about something I initially admired about Black Widow that unfortunately became something which only made me even more riled up by it: the opening. Essentially, we are introduced to a flashback sequence where we observe a supposedly regular family that Natasha (aka Black Widow) had before meeting The Avengers, but it’s disclosed that they are in some sort of danger. They seem quite put together relationship-wise, but there is no doubt that they are on the run from an unusual threat. This entire sequence misleads the audience beautifully into assuming the obvious of something that would be established as your typical glimpse into a superhero origin story: they’re being chased by some sort of evil and the parents are trying to protect their children. If you have seen Black Widow, obviously you know that that isn’t exactly the case. We learn that not only are the parents just decoys used to emulate the common socialization of familyhood for the children, but that they were there using these kids as experimental pieces that would hopefully build them into becoming A-1 assassins. The family was being chased because, well, the parents were legitimately holding children hostage. The parents are debatably psychopaths! The best scene in this movie shows us how the ex-father figure Red Guardian and the younger ex-daughter Yelana confront each other about this; it ends up being a dispiritingly simple-answerable yet rightfully bonafide discussion. To this extent, that is about the farthest compliment I can give Black Widow, but either way, these pros are ultimately tarnished by how the movie decides to further add to them in notably its finale. 

Scarlett Johansson has been a part of this franchise since 2010, and her character has also been demanded repeatedly to have her own solo spot in the light for years now, and despite us now finally getting there given this new movie that has come out about her, all I can say is “Natasha, you f**king deserved way better!” The fact that your movie has been delayed and delayed for a decade now is already considerable proof that Disney never gave a damn about any sort of “just” female representation until the concept of it became mainstream and thereon profitable, so I don’t think any of us should be surprised that your time to shine came into fruition so late. Anyhow, I’m sorry to say but, Black Widow may just be the worst MCU movie ever written, at least to me.

Look I would’ve been completely fine if this entire movie was just some awkward family reunion or if it stuck with its spy espionage, Matrix-like hyper-trained combat choreography — reminiscent of The Winter Soldier and even the Jason Bourne films — instead of it being periodically abandoned for (weakly edited) cheap and clean protagonist victories followed by disproportionately cartoonish action sequences. At first this movie smartly doesn’t seem like it’s about heroes but victims fending off for themselves from the dangers of the company that created them, yet almost always with these newer MCU movies does there have to be some out of place “bigger scheme” to their conquest that’ll ultimately sacrifice their level-headed developments for idealistic (i.e. unrealistic) improvements in themselves. I don’t think this universe has ever had a movie this try-hard thus far, and I will go into more detail about that of course later in this review. It’s just mind-boggling to recognize how powerful an ending can be, with such a savage ability to leave me with a purely sour taste in my mouth for something that I actually had fun with for some of its runtime. Conclusions are collateral when they eradicate every good idea they set up with spoon-feed pay-offs!

Instead of just making a movie about those opening credits where we can truly deep-dive into the manipulative transformation of underaged soldiers into cold-blooded killers or even the industrial corruptions of inflated secrecies in organization, the film just decides to show pity remorse for the concept of child slavery once the victims have become adults… The movie ends up presenting a cheesy resolution where decades of a misogynistic man’s oppression can be instantly taken down, and that leads me to another major complaint I have with Black Widow: it dares to include an allegory for sex trafficking, which is quite possibly the most notorious and disturbingly impenetrable worldwide crime a human can commit and the movie plays it off like it’s some quick-solve disruptance. I know most people will probably not look this far into what the blockbuster is trying to explore with this underlying implication, but to me the fact that a large amount of people will watch these Marvel movies and subconsciously infer and take into account this loose information about a very real atrocity is unfortunate. This film is undoubtedly trying to impact people with discussion about parallels to our own world, cause trust me, something as bold as sex-trafficking wouldn’t be implied in a film if it weren’t trying to make a statement.

I don’t think it’s healthy to always be consuming media that glorifies the idea that all it takes is a superhero to instantly fix a very real-life situation such as sex-trafficking; it’s a manipulatively utopian belief to teach children that all that has to happen for something to be fixed is to let someone who has more power than you do the work for you as if the cruel scheme of life is that easy to patch up or, better yet, that you yourself have the power to instantly fix an issue as if it would take no effort to complete it and not a long journey of planning and built-up collaboration to get there. I do believe though that most people are thankfully able to suspend their disbelief, so I’m sure most aren’t thinking or taking the hilariously surface-level Harvey Weinstein-esc plotline seriously, but I’m just personally annoyed by the fact that Marvel even attempted to integrate something as serious, touchy, and complex as sex-trafficking into such a goofball of a story. I mean, speaking of Weinstein who is clearly being mirrored in this movie with the main villain, just look at his situation for example; it took decades for that man to actually be sent to prison after all the sex crimes he committed and a long line of accusations that had to be piled up for it to finally be taken seriously, some of those accusations coming from people who were spilling the tea on him for also decades. Nonetheless, I guess this will probably only come off as a problem to you if it collides with your own moral beliefs, but since it collided with mine, obviously it made me think lesser of the film and of course its messages.

I think Black Widow got unlucky being so far ahead in the MCU’s canon, because it almost feels like another add on to our fatigue for the ever-increasing fantasy-driven bulls**t that has made the superhero experience progressively worse than maybe it would’ve been if it had came out earlier in the franchise when logic wasn’t at least completely abandoned. Anyways, sticking to the topic of the idealism envelope we find stirring in the MCU today, let’s talk about another prominent villain in Black Widow called Taskmaster: turns out, she’s just here to be a plot device so we can have an absolutely pathetic redemption arc for Natasha. This again is another Marvel superhero moment where a character makes a fatal mistake (Natasha *allegedly* killed a child) and doesn’t end up suffering the full consequences of it because it was actually a (difficult to believe) hoax all along. Wow, these heroes really are invincible! 

The psychopathic parents that I mentioned before who were really well set up in that opening due to them being coated in deception like a real smuggler suddenly decide they want to do the right thing out of… I don’t know… God’s will? Maybe though this doesn’t completely apply to David Harbour’s character, but Rachel Weisz’s character (the ex-mother figure) is so horribly underdeveloped that the film thought it would be okay for her to suddenly want to take down an organization she’s helped out for decades, one for which she furthermore also knew the Leader’s weakness — so if she really despised this leader, why did she not try to take him down beforehand — yet all it took was being called a “coward” for her to finally commit to it. Also, the main villain Dreykov was able to keep all these women enslaved for decades yet makes a series of some of the dumbest decisions you could possibly make in the finale at the convenience of allowing the good guys to succeed by cornering ALL of his slaves into one room with the heroes who he knows could have an antidote for their mind-control… Umm… I don’t even want to talk about the sacrifice that Yolanda makes because I’m sure for those who watched it, you already know how out of place it felt practically, phasing as another random way to spark an emotional reaction from the audience. Plus, don’t even get me started on how the climax was sequenced so that they could implement some twists and turns into the mix; it’s embarrassingly structured and more importantly convoluted logistically.

To me like I said before, this may just be the worst MCU movie not because it’s the least competently directed or acted one — since it really isn’t! — but because it tries to do SO MUCH thematically but only wants to take last-minute shortcuts to get there. Full redemptions (necessary or out of place) and major personality changes (needed or not) are all amalgamated at the span of minutes in just one ridiculously over-produced finale, frying my brain to dumbfounded shock as I left the theater. When it comes to a case such as Black Widow, I think I’ve officially learned that me being suddenly disappointed as a film goes along just hurts more than say being consistently bored which most of the bottom-tier MCU fare committed before 2021. Natasha is one of the least interesting characters in her own movie; her arcs only makes her seem as unbelievably over-the-top (even for MCU standards) as the new-founded trivialized action sequences. She’s a character now that feels inaccessibly invincible for the audience. It’s already difficult to connect with people who can’t be physically harmed in action spectacles, but when a movie ironically then thinks it’s okay to bring “psychological” harm into the mix with something as ridiculous as Natasha killing a little girl and then that little girl happening to be alive from a colossal explosion all along just so Natasha can reassure how perfect she is by saving this girl as an adult, you’ve basically lost most of my respect for your lead that you want us to emphasize with. I don’t know, why not just have her face the consequences so she can be inspired to become a better person? Why go through all these extra loopholes? Doesn’t it seem so simple or am I just losing my mind???

Bless, Florence Pugh though; her performances have never stumbled even in movies as bad as this. As a sibling, I also related to how they wrote her banter because a lot of it seemed “weak” but on purpose in a “this is coming off the top of my head, and I’m not really trying to offend you; I’m just teasing you because you’re my sibling” sort of routine that many of us can familiarize with. Trust me, I would be giving this film the lowest score possible if her, David Harbour, or that opening weren’t as emotionally convincing or as entertaining personality-wise.

Everybody’s accents here may have gone a little too far, nonetheless. Yikes!

Verdict: D+

2021 Ranked, The Marvel Cinematic Universe Ranked

“Black Widow” is now playing in theaters and available to purchase on Disney+.

Pixar’s Ratatouille (2007) and the Laws of Tradition vs. Change

Warning: Spoilers Ahead • ?? Viewing

“Change is nature.” 

I’m already impressed by Brad Bird’s direction which he has at this point mastered in his career, whether he’s switching from low-ground perspectives to the action occurring at human-level that he served well with in The Incredibles (2004) but rather confined into tighter spaces. However, can we just talk about the sheer amount of social commentary that Ratatouille features? This movie is BRIMMED! 

Remy is the absolute personification of an art w**re, and his own eating procedure pretty much sums that up perfectly: he appreciates a “slow-burn”, the awakening taste of “experimenting”, and really “thinking” about what you’re consuming rather than letting it be numbed to just background noise. He’s living in the motions that any person with a hardcore passion or hobby for something possesses when it has become the primary of themselves and ultimate purpose of their existence. No wonder critics and cinema fanatics connect to this movie so much! 

Brad Bird and writers understand social history when it comes to art as well, and they express this thoroughly with a key idea: the creators of cultural assets that then become popularized through means of other cultures/stealers can, sure, often bring initial satisfaction to the original creators from the joy it successfully brings to the world, yet over the course of time, that false praise inevitably will become tedious to them, and Ratatouille shows how an artist can easily shift-gears to “getting credit” as the on-and-off primary of their goals in defiance of even their focus on true passions.

While this is a bit of a mouthful, I can’t leave out the importance of Ratatouille being interested in how the prejudices of a particular group invents the victims’ own prejudices of the offenders, therefore perpetuating an infectious desire in both to always submit to their traditions rather than exploring others. The movie demonstrates how the glorification of stereotypes can genuinely even convince those who are being victimized of it that they’re true, and how dangerous it is to authenticity or progression. The comfort of tradition and the euphoria of passion confuses us from determining who we truly are, as the two are contradicting but nearly impossible to not coexist. 

Chef Skinner is a pretty great villain, and this mainly comes from what he stands for: a man who abuses art in the name of business. He’s a wannabe restaurant tyrant who surprisingly taints even traditionalism (they sometimes have consistent sincerity to them) in a negative manner by disregarding some of its uplifting wisdom so that he can instead have his commercial reputation which strictly feeds his own needs. I mean, hell! Him literally cultural appropriating under the copyright of Gustav’s dining company and having a greedy addict-like Gollum character design — that had to be on purpose! — is the cherry on top of painting this image. Hmm… Disney seems to love making fun of themselves!

Ratatouille also seems to be wrapped up in the ultra-classic passion vs family thread, yet I actually kind of dig how it was done. Anton Ego, another antagonist who’s hidden almost throughout the entire film until its final act despite his character literally being the one to cause the modern atmosphere of the story, is a food critic who by the end is saved by none other than nostalgia, specifically a callback to a moment of adolescence he had experienced with family. After being so constantly wrapped up in his solo career, a memory of tradition ironically helped lead him to rejuvenate his passion. This traces back to the importance of mingling your obsessions with your collaborations between those you’d consider family, and how the neutrality of them is what can fruitfully define you. Ego’s passion was always food, not necessarily just being a critic, and he found an ultimate happiness by leaving literal “ego” behind in face of incorporating his love for food with a new family that could understand and genuinely add to it in spite of each other’s contrasting cultural backgrounds. 

So all in all, yeah, this is a must-watch to raise your kids on. It’s got tons of messages that can help them transition into the career/adult world as they grow older. I guess Ratatouille really is one of Pixar’s best! 

“I know this sounds insane, but, well, the truth sounds insane sometimes.”

Verdict: A-

My Favorite Animated Movies, Pixar Ranked

“Ratatouille” is now available to stream on Disney+.

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.