Quick-Thoughts: Ti West’s Pearl

My new worst nightmare is growing up to be Pearl’s father. 

“Make the best of what you have” is usually the kind of mindset that happens when dreams are crushed. Isn’t it just hilarious that we live to overcome current control in order to be controlled by rather dreamt circumstances? Our freedom still remains a delusion.

With only a little over four months to spare since the release of its predecessor, the artificial technicolor prequel to X (2022) has already made its way to the big screen, and while this origin story is quite conventional on paper when it comes to bleak rise to fame narratives — the classic Mulholland Drive (2001) to put it otherwise —, Ti West’s exercise of the familiar is nevertheless an exotic force in its own rights. Likely, this prequel’s function is to either parallel in a despairing manner or paradox for means of a less awaited existence at what Maxine’s rise to fame story will be in the sequel to X, considering she has yet to wake up out of her “fantasy”. For now though, we have a methodically paced origin to the making of a slasher villain keeping us at bay. 

Mia Goth’s performance in Pearl alone is worth the price of admission. Next to Anna Cobb, we have been getting some seriously stressful embodiments of unhinged youngsters who are just dying to fit in. However, perhaps the most commendable aspect regarding the prequel is how much it differs from X, taking on less of an accumulating thrill factor plot structure and more of an apprehensive consistency that permeates throughout. It’s a slick series of scenarios where you’re regularly on edge for someone to not upset Pearl’s delusion to be loved for superficial *barbie-doll* stardom, or at the bare minimum, a mentally sane personality she simply does not possess – she’s special alright! But oh, isn’t it just so bittersweet once we’ve alas accepted the reality of our circumstances? Our projecting should stop there and then? Right?

Now onto the 80s…

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked

“Pearl” is now playing exclusively in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Brett Morgen’s Moonage Daydream

David Bowie is the greatest musician of the 20th century who got to live long in the limelight. There is something about the film industry’s recent agenda for live-action classic rock biopics, from the falsified Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) to the sensationalized Elvis (2022), that lack a psyche into their respected artists. While the documentary Moonage Daydream falls in line with having eager leverage of musical nostalgia which chiefly produced those two movies’ draw, it is, however, also prioritized in sampling Bowie’s philosophical ethos, the partner core towards his sonic innovation for which made him a legend in the field. In fact, it’s the sole voice the film actually allows to speak aside from a few captured fan interviews. Many want to uncover the mystery left of him, sure, but we should moreover let the pieces that could solve such speak for themselves in defining the character which he had created from the recorded self instead of forcing it all to come together at the sacrifice of truth. Perhaps simply sharing the amount of direct information we do have is the most courteous method for what should be tapped into with the case of fallen artists. 

Though, if I’m being completely blunt, this documentary essentially felt like a more intensely edited and extended — 135 minutes to be precise — version of those YouTube video tributes that are content-swelled these days on celebrities, but as a senseless idolizer of this Moonman as both an entertainer and foremost an intellectual, I still indulged in it shamelessly.

Verdict: B

2022 Ranked

“Moonage Daydream” will be released in IMAX theaters September 16th.

Quick-Thoughts: We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021)

“I hate people like that that know everything; they just always are like: ‘Well, no, this is how it is. Who are you to tell me how it is?’”

So I guess two David Cronenberg movies came out this year. 

People habitually mislead themselves with documented “acts” that insight change so that they don’t have to put in the effort to actually change, or at least change with perceptive reason. The internet manufactures so many faulty, theatrical solutions made for lazy finger-tip consumption that quickly fill undefined voids temporarily. It’s safe to say that we, more than ever before, subconsciously want the media to be in charge of controlling our body and mind. We want to give up that responsibility to excess information no matter their sources — trend-approval is sometimes helpful nonetheless. We want contortion from something that is ironically unphysical. 

Most people compulsively online are living in a dream right now, where everything in you conveniently feels like it’s drastically changing, when really, nothing is until your eventual recognition of this dependency that’s, however, always just momentary till the next loop. The contemplative reality here is, as time and media populate, more and more people become okay with dreaming forever. They are looking predominantly there for a ticket to the world, when it’s just the world’s fair: new realities that we interpret as accurate projections of what’s going on or about to go on in the old. 

Problem is, so many of the ones we indulge in at some point are left incomplete to our knowledge. We become lost in their systems as just another string of alphanumerics that could vanish without question or return without even seeming as if we’d left to most. There is an underlying privilege or curse to these realities that in a way, condition us to death and rebirth at a far faster rate than just real life’s. Data on us becomes more permanent the more we self-produce our image, but not often are they met with recordings of us as regular people as much as they are celebrity concepts stemmed from the imagination, or at least that’s what it seems like considering this virtual barrier is really another facade that stretches our ability to determine the individual than from face-to-face — screen-to-screen is simply an extra layer(s) away from it given that it constitutes further complexion, and, if we’re assuming, further confusion of the self, not to mention some quite literal distance. There is so much more fabricated individualism when residing online than outside, like you in a dream. 

It’s funny though because even our lead character mentions how self-aware she is about these “acts”, but the fact of the matter is it’s clearly not enough to stop her from feeding it, and therefore, giving into its sovereignty over her actions. Video publication and self-contrived appearances are a one-of-a-kind convenient outlet to deal with permanent isolation, to diagnose ourselves from having to wake up from its draw. Like any new form of adapted society though, we grow to hate its mechanics in intervals, and every so often, seek to leave it but only for a little while since its hold has become much too alluring to ever leave it for good. 

So kinda like a modern update of Benny’s Video (1992). There aren’t a ton of scares in this, but the few that it does feature are pretty clever. And Anna Cobb is creepy ASF. 

Theo Anthony cameo was hard.

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked

“We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” is now available to stream on HBO Max.

Quick-Thoughts: Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975)

Screened at Regal • 4th Viewing

Capitalism is a maneater’s best friend. Perhaps my favorite metaphor in Jaws is when all the locals and visitors of Amity Island decide to go into the water fully knowing that there’s a shark in there. Why? Because they’re told that they’re safe despite facts, and to tell ya the truth, far too often do we allow that reassurance from superiors to be enough for us, so it only makes sense that we still manage ourselves to be surprised by its unfavorable outcomes. 

Now a big believer though that the first half of this is scarier than the second — despite Quint’s iconic monologue — but don’t get me wrong, they both get under my skin. Minimalism.

Verdict: A-

Steven Spielberg Ranked

“Jaws” is now playing in IMAX theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Screened at Regal • 3rd Viewing

“You must be dead, because I don’t know how to feel. I can’t feel anything anymore.” 

It’s a bit ironic that this film about learning to cope with what’s not ideal subsequently took on a huge role in popularizing fairytale idealism in western cinematic storytelling, but in spite of such to this day inspirationally, through Spielbergian quietude and minimalism, preaches doing the right thing for others and not necessarily for your species or clan, because — let’s face it — if they did dissect E.T., determining his source of power, then perhaps cancer could be cured, injuries could cease to exist, we could have unlimited agricultural supply, the environment could flourish once more, heck! Humanity could’ve probably became Valhalla! Oops, but…

E.T. is correct, we are ALL residing right here. However, the world isn’t only ours. Taking some of it one by one is no miracle, but perhaps sharing it would be. We’re always coexisting whether or not humanity’s mission seems involved with trying to ironically avoid it via pilfering. Animals will always appear like extraterrestrials to one another, and they/we will always respond in contrasting ways to one another based on our nature and evolution. We come or stay in each other’s vicinities, and it can both excite yet compel us from applying common morality to the new and unknown. Everything beautiful we want to ourselves — a father who could accept just a piece of this world, the love of your life, an outer-space discovery — but the reality is we can’t control it all. We can’t have everyone’s power or advantages no matter how close we think we’re getting. Not everything should and admittedly does promote human welfare. And yet, even with that reality-check in mind, we can still control how we compensate for it so that we can keep on living better. There is always a place to look towards, from either home or someone else’s, from the tangible and all the way to the imagined. Voids can be replaced, especially if we’re willing to barter with one another, and maybe most importantly, ourselves. Doing the right thing usually starts with doing the right thing for yourself as demonstrated by the film’s lead when he’s compelled to help a stranger “phone home”. 

It’s natural for us to want to understand whatever is “alien”, but we forgot to feel for whomever or whatever during the attempt as well; rarely does an Elliot come by to do that for us. “This is reality, Greg!” 

Verdict: B

Steven Spielberg Ranked

“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is now playing in IMAX theaters. 

Bodies Bodies Bodies – This Generation’s The Thing

The writers of this need to cleanse the Scream franchise ASAP.

As someone born around the very dawn of the 21st century, I can attest that it’s very easy for our generation to feel as if the world is working against us. We’ve become conditioned to treat every social interaction, online debate, etc. as transactions set in a hostile, constantly judgmental environment. In doing so, we cover-up behind stereotypes that the world has deemed most popularly the “correct” ways to be and think, and throw ignominious new ones out to those whose ideologies clash with them. But why do we do it? Because it’s easier to act like the victim, to not take the blame, to, if the time comes, have the advantage via your current resume that understands the “formula of the year” best based on what’s been broadcasted over the media and spread between peers who want you to only agree with them and literally nothing else. We rather have weapons up our sleeves at all times than a voice that comes from the heart given how competitive America has become, even if it means other people’s livelihood, whether truly guilty or not, will drop in the process.

While not done uber-thoroughly, Bodies Bodies Bodies allegorizes this through both horror and satire. An example of this can be perceived in Halina Reijn’s strong use of simple handheld claustrophobic shots and a damp, impressively near pitch-black-lit setting (our judgment is blind, get it???) occasionally supported by thin, artificial neon glowsticks (our judgment is sensationalized and simplified get it???). The performances aren’t supported by MCU quirk-quippy dialogue like you often see polluted in young horror movie characters today, but rather by constant self-absorbed cringiness, making the social climate it’s inflating have not only a negative, impulsive, chaotic, and frightening presence, but also a frankly obnoxious and embarrassing one at that — for the better! The film had a personal thesis and furthermore a way to showcase it via an underrated brand of horror: BEING HIGH ASF DURING A CRISIS.

I’m also assuming that Rachel Sennott is going to continue carrying her, I guess, “anxiety-driven cinema” curse from film to film. Good!

Between this and X, the slasher genre might get the revival it alas deserves for which straightly-sold-as “modern reboots” just aren’t warranting. I’m tired of those movies advertising themselves as “*well-known thirty / forty-year-old title* for a new generation” despite them all being preoccupied with how perfect their creator was by literally just unproductively copying it, professing the deed as “paying tribute”, and bargaining little modernization besides the given of digital age filmmaking tactics and obviously a new time period that it has to establish by those same Gen-X writers who rather linger over the past than open up to the new generation which they’re required to hastily write about because we’re, by default, living in different times. If anything, Bodies Bodies Bodies is John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) for Gen-Z, but it doesn’t have to pretend like it’s so directly related because the filmmakers are clearly confident enough in their own re-envisioning as opposed to so many big-shot Hollywood writers today. 

Verdict: B-

2022 Ranked

“Bodies Bodies Bodies” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Prey

Good or not, under two-hour-long blockbusters coming back is a W.

The Predator franchise, excluding Shane Black’s reboot, gets an unnecessary amount of flak for being consistently decent or serviceable. I’m honestly unbothered seeing this formula just keep on doing what it’s good at — usually made up of hyper-masculine dopamine gore and an immersive atmosphere of paranoia — while tweaking its premise up enough to offer the bare minimum of new. 

The 2022 prequel to John McTiernan’s original Predator (1987) is the least tweaked of them all, which is probably the reason why people seem to really vibe with it so far. It takes the saying “going back to its roots” very literally with another historical war and culture compared and contrasted again these fictional extraterrestrial hunters. Not to mention, even its plot is a borderline shameless homage to its maker.

So yes, on paper, this film sounds redundant, but in execution from 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) director’s modern “clean-cut” technique, it’s made to be on par with its more ambitious predecessors. The setting and time period in particular that he elaborately brings to fruition grants a fresh enough appeal to the franchise. We get competently crafted historical fanfiction-esc fights that range from the barrels of muskets to the heaving of spears, as well as having our preliminary knowledge of the past atrocities in America that automates for us a clear side to root on. Not to mention there’s some solid expansion to the lore of the Predators’ combat gear that exalt the action sequences – which is really all I’m asking for from these films; new ways to blow s**t up equals new ways to hold my attention. Sure, it’s hard to still be enthralled as much as it was before with each coming rerun of this familiar blueprint, but for only ninety-nine minutes of your time, it’s even harder to find regret in experiencing this schtick again. Basically, Prey is just an added filter for the Predator story people already worship and love, but a kinda cool one at that?

Ohhh requels, haha. Or is this a pre-requel? I guess canonically people are calling it a straight-up prequel though. But really… let’s be frank, it’s a pre-requel. 

Verdict: C+

2022 Ranked

“Prey” is now available to stream on Hulu.

Quick-Thoughts: Jordan Peele’s Nope

“You don’t look like a nobody.”

The second act of Jordan Peele’s Nope is my favorite thing that the modern auteur has crafted thus far. From the reveal of the full “Gordy” incident – the balloon popping, the curtains compositionally obscuring the POV, the CGI chimpanzee effects, woah! – to the Jean Jacket remix of Corey Hart’s Sunglasses at Night – the heroes’ house becoming “marked” as they work out the kinks of learning to dare look at their opponent – this is optimum horror filmmaking that doesn’t miss a beat in its execution. Can’t not mention its mesial portion as well, with its advance construction of claustrophobia during, let’s just say, an exploited spectacle. It’s borderline biblical.

The rest is good too. The initial act opens with a classic Peele dolly-in that grips you this time with the iconic Horse in Motion from 1878 – the first live-action moving picture in cinematic history – being absorbed by something… From there on forward we get the usual horror set-up with a series of foreshadowing and red herrings; these false alarms, however, are almost just as carefully crafted as the real ones. Howbeit, every little reference to human nature that Peele wants to hammer home then gets a bit slovenly thrown at you in the third act, and its tonal shift – this time very Spielberg-ian – is not coalesced that methodically from what it proceeds. Nevertheless, the allegorical atmosphere that Peele creates from this picture as a whole, for the most part, succeeds as a haunting impression of a socially deceased one, a graveyard population looking away from truth to lie in peace.

For me, every Jordan Peele movie thus far has had concepts worthy of building towards a masterpiece. Nobody just thinks “how about a UFO that e****s the v****s of its v*****s, an intentionally s*******c-looking a****l?” to strengthen his messages. The man is clearly operating on a higher level creatively than most Hollywood artists out there and has about a hundred more personal thoughts to share than them as well, even if most of it boils down to simply pointing out his facts and letting us then independently chew on them. An artist this deserving finally getting the chance to direct a near hundred-million-dollar project, one furthermore devoted to something this ambitious that you can watch worldwide in an IMAX theater of anything, is really just a sight to behold in terms of today’s cinematic landscape. 

Verdict: B

2022 Ranked, Jordan Peele Ranked

“Nope” is now playing in theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Claire Denis’s Both Sides of the Blade

At all times, having an affair with our past is usually inevitable. Much of our conditions are put into the present solely as placeholders for preferred circumstances that may never come back. Independently, that is the case. But when clashed together collectively, it’s what ignites humanity’s fire. Miscommunications are happening because we cannot perfectly read all the liaisons that are happening in our partner’s head. Both Sides of the Blade is Claire Denis’s love triangle drama concentrated on middle-aged hopeless romantics.

And a wee off-topic, but her cameo in this kind of just seems like she accidentally got in the shot and then tried not to look forward. Lol.

Verdict: C+

2022 Ranked, Claire Denis Ranked

“Both Sides of the Blade” is now playing in select theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: RRR (Rise Roar Revolt)

Screened at The Frida Cinema

This is the most bro movie I’ve ever seen.

Ever wanted to see a blockbuster maximize every minute drop of logos, ethos, pathos it has into gloriously exaggerated segments, inserting as many plot conveniences necessary so you can witness two lead characters persistently commit some of the most badass physics-defying instances in cinema whether they be from dance-offs, a posey of carnivorous animals, etc.? Well, RRR is your more than obvious answer. A movie this carefully engineered to be a nonstop crowd pleaser of wickedly amplified tropes really has no reasonable excuse at this point not to be populated into all American theaters and furthermore sought out by its inhabiters. 

At least it’s on Netflix, but I’d recommend the watching-with-a-packed-crowd route instead.

Verdict: B

2022 Ranked

“RRR” is now playing in select theaters and available to stream on Netflix.