Quick-Thoughts: Nomadland

The existential crusade of looking back on your life as it nears an end, personified by a pretty average detour that had the potential to reach a lot deeper than it decided to. Nomadland is the natural essence of human functionality in a never-ending feet of temporary land, aided by Zhao & Richards’ altruistic camera movements and inviting landscape shots, but there’s only so much that that and a compilation of nostalgically occupied people from around the world doing these circadian pursuits can take you to. I will say that it got me far enough, nonetheless, and I guess I’ll leave it at that. Bittersweet stuff.

Verdict: B-

2021 Ranked

“Nomadland” is now streaming exclusively on Hulu.

Quick-Thoughts: HBO Max’s Judas and the Black Messiah

Assiduously directed, compositionally sound, and intimidating as hell, Judas and the Black Messiah almost articulates like a reverse BlacKkKlansman, setting the true-story straight regarding a young black man who’s used by the FBI to go undercover as a member of the Black Panther Party, and ultimately sabotage its chairman Fred Hampton and his revolution. What Shaka King has done here is quite formidable, stressing the guilt of a man who put his livelihood over everything else, and the agencies of vice (this notoriously fowl FBI organization) that pressured him into this greed. The story of how manipulation diminished the basic human rights of an army of activists and bystanders, warrants this film as a must-watch alone, so HBO Max users, don’t waste this opportunity to grasp essential historical knowledge. 

At any rate, you gotta at least respect a director who’ll use the minimalist approach of sneaking in long-takes whenever possible — those were clean! 

Verdict: B

2021 Ranked 

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is now available to stream on HBO Max and to watch in select theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Wonder Woman 1984

“I need to find a way to touch a lot of people at the same time.”

So… making Pedro Pascal into an ugly Daniel Plainview meets The Genie with an e-boy blonde wig, ghastly light-blue suit, and a crack-addict’s persona is not what I meant when I asked for the DCEU to be a little more colorful. Y’all did Daddy dirty. 

The Joel Schumacher Batmans came back from the dead to haunt Patty Jenkins, yet this time around with neverbeforeseen awkward dialectic pauses — a glaring hallmark of Wonder Woman 1984’s screenplay dementia. In other words, this movie is speechless from its performers to its narrative, rarely knowing what it wants to be besides an obvious throwback to 80s comic-book cheese and a place-mantel for “cringiest thematic motif-pusher of 2020.” Our bleeding obsession with nostalgia has finally taken us to a place where we’re willing to rope together a movie hellbent on recapturing the overrated magic of a Saturday night cartoon while simultaneously on mutating into a convoluted f**kstorm of plot-mania drama. There’s a fine difference between purposely making something s**ty because you’ve run dry on ideas and making something s**ty because you simply aren’t capable of obtaining a 200-million-dollar budget or a potential-driven two-and-a-half-hour runtime. It especially plagues at the end of the day when half the lines written or delivered here feel like first takes and the rest seem automated by either a royalty free A.I. scripture or a reddit fanfiction server. 

As a final comment, I’d also like to say that Birds of Prey did the “COLOR!!! LOOK AT ALL THIS COLOR IN A DC MOVIE!!! WHAT???” gimmick better. Fusing mm film with god-awful CGI just looks… so grotty. Sheesh, I also owe Suicide Squad an apology too. But not you, Justice League. F**k off.

Verdict: D-

2020 Ranked, DCEU Ranked

“Wonder Woman 1984” is now available to stream on HBO Max and is now playing in select theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Pixar’s Soul

Either I’m literally the epitome of The Grinch or I’m simply just not grasping the full scope of these recent Pixar efforts like so many are. I got little soul! 

Good voice acting. Great music. GREAT themes. INCREDIBLY CREATIVE ANIMATION — Pixar are seriously hitting artistic strives by fabricating the nimbler version of Interstellar’s fifth dimensional wormhole! Yet, I still strongly believe that we tend to overlook how dreadfully negligent Pixar has become when it comes to writing plots. I nearly lost count of how many times something preposterously convenient happened in this movie to evoke/solve a last minute character quarrel or perpetuate a new sentimental drive to the narrative. It reminds me of the stories I used to hatch up on the spot when I was like a 7-year-old kid playing with my LEGOs:

one day, unlikely minifigure meets unlikely minifigure and they go on an adventure but suddenly monster attacks and monster dies because minifigures gain superpowers granted by a random savior but the random savior turns out to actually be MEAN and they have a big melodramatic fight but then big melodramatic fight ends almost immediately because they need new character arcs… plus friendship and heroism and stuff… and they all get married happily ever after on The Empire State Building after knowing each other for only five minutes… FIN.

See? Kids are just naturally ludicrous in story logic, huh? Obviously, my example here is a vague, quick-jotted analogy of what Pixar’s writing reminds me of, but to straighten things out, I’m just claiming that if Soul was labeled as an adult movie, I guarantee people would be nailing it harder for how it colorlessly structures conflict and solution. Being a “kid movie” shouldn’t excuse an adult-run company for having “kid writing,” especially if you’re going to bring themes into the mix that are kind of mature for the average children’s flick. Usually, you should strive for equilibrium between qualities, whether that be, like my example, between plotting and motifs.

ANDGOODGOLLY: Soul’s ending is Toy Story 3’s climax’s cop-out, convoluted buffoonery ALL over again! How many moral violations did those abstract sentient beings commit considering you know… nevermind. No spoilers. Maybe another time. *Sigh*

I’ll give Soul the benefit of the doubt, HOWEVER, in consideration that this latest Pixar effort has possibly one of the most daring thematic explorations in the studio’s history thus far: “dissecting human narcissism in our conceptions of purpose.” Did not expect that REAL of a subject matter to be, even from Pixar, conveyed so sophisticatedly! Secondly, that animation, again, I must reiterate, gave me the LSD-trip of existential affirmation and comfort that I desperately needed on my last day of 2020 — what an “H-E-double hockey sticks” year it’s been, am I right?

Verdict: B-

2020 Ranked, Pixar Ranked

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

Quick-Thoughts: Promising Young Woman

The moment Promising Young Woman introduced itself by room-blasting Charli XCX, I had a feeling that this was going to be a perfectly fine, fun movie, which would likely trigger a bunch of crybaby, melodramatic anti-liberals.

About time! I’ve been waiting for a decent anti-hero serial killer piece for a while now ever since I finished Dexter YEARS ago. Guiltily, Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut is primarily carried on its shoulders by its lead performances and incremental jabs of social commentary regarding how we publicly interpret/handle rape, as everything else to me in the confines of plot, general characterizations, editing, cinematography, and comedy came off as “mediocre” to straight-up “stereotypical” textbook quality for the most part. I’ll gladly watch a fictional drama where a gloomy badass goes around town threatening or killing rapists often played by unusual cameo actors, nonetheless, without a Carrey Mulligan or a Bo Burnham, plus, a decent sense of political voice to back up the amateurishly written — minus the quirky double-meaning roman numeral structuring; wOw! — revenge journey, this would’ve just been pretty bland.

As what many seem to be talking about the most when it comes to Fennell’s 2020 artistic statement, this “wild” third act for me is somewhat of a mixed bag, in that, it takes possibly one of the most shocking left turns I’ve seen all year and then proceeds to clean the hauntingly unfair consequences of it up with one of the most predictable right turns I’ve seen all year. Either way, I do appreciate its participation to the puzzle more so for justifying a cluster of the fantasy-driven narrative that defined the first two acts of the movie, as it clarifies a symbolic purpose to all the cheesiness with a sacrificial conclusion; this ultimately ended up being the reason why I found the overall experience of Promising Young Woman to be positive. It’s fairly ordinary in a majority of regards but has enough resolute distinction in its feminist messaging to elevate itself above the unfortunately watered-down “vengeance” genre.

At the end of the day, I do recommend it, even just to see its excellent use of score, covering, and soundtrack cause… DAMN, is that part of the film striking!

Verdict: B-

2020 Ranked

“Promising Young Woman” is now playing in select theaters.

Quick-Thoughts: Steve McQueen’s Education

It’s Matilda-esc. 

Education is a right. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you did, how you were born; you deserve to be taught what the majority is being taught whether or not those pieces will guarantee your success in the world. Education also warrants to be effective, and everyday, even today, it must be fought for improvement because, damn, is it far from perfect and near close to corrupted. The fifth and final film of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series may be admittedly his most unimpressively directed and shot of the basket, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have one of the most important messages that this five-part saga has had to offer.

The inclusion of space imagery was pretty genius though. That stuff stuck out like a sore thumb. 

Verdict: B-

Steve McQueen Ranked

“Small Axe” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Steve McQueen’s Alex Wheatle

Alex Wheatle, the fourth film in the Small Axe series, is like a marginally upgraded rendition of your average biopic on struggle, solely because Steve McQueen is behind the camera unfolding all the conspicuous directing we’ve come to expect of him. But with that to note, it’s definitely the weakest piece of the batch so far due to its constant feelings of incompletion, but not to an extent where it should be reckoned as a misfire. That’s like… impossible to do when your Steve McQueen, ya’know?

Verdict: B-

2020 Ranked, Steve McQueen Ranked

“Small Axe” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: Sound of Metal

A movie designed to win best sound design will most likely not win best sound design knowing The Academy.

Sound of Metal is remarkably mature in its telling of a very relevant obstacle, not sidetracking itself into many ambitious or premature excavations of narrative fantasy. It resides as a forthright observation of the deaf community, following Ruben who’s a metal drummer slowly losing his hearing. The film’s two lead metalhead lovers whom could’ve been cheaply used to arouse Hollywoodized stakes are rather advanced to dwell on a symbolic parallel between their need yet hesitation for fresh community. 

As someone maybe too hung up on epileptic-looking movies and glaringly loud music, one of my biggest fears has always been losing that ability to absorb those arts, but if you somehow find yourself in a situation like Ruben’s and have already decided that hearing or seeing is all that defines life, then you’ve ultimately chosen to fail. 

I would pre-order the Blackgammon album though. I was low-key really feeling that opening song they played. 

Verdict: B

2020 Ranked

Quick-Thoughts: David Fincher’s Mank

I have an instinctive tingle in me noggin that Mr. Fincher was more absorbed in catering up a 1930s Hollywood antiquer’s dream funhouse than ushering all of Mank’s straining bits and pieces of “historical fun facts” to glide into classy fruition; running with your father’s surprisingly foxy and even periodically biblical dialogue to cast an investing image of political and economical philosophy is one method of devising a respectable motion picture, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee immortality. While this Netflix original, based on the birth of Citizen Kane’s screenplay, couldn’t even dare reach the dramatic heights of a wonted Fincher-rate narrative with its fickle pathing and truncated supporting characterizations, at least it nailed down its insight into the complex intellect of Herman Mankiewicz — writer of Orson Welles’ acclaimed 1941 masterpiece. 

Mank is David Fincher at his most ambitious I’ve seen all century, but that’ll most likely make or break fans. Leave it up to a Welles-related production to evoke controversy. 

Verdict: B

David Fincher Ranked, 2020 Ranked

“Mank” is now available to stream exclusively on Netflix.

Quick-Thoughts: Steve McQueen’s Red, White and Blue

The final episode in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series serves as a straightforward biopic regarding real-life citizen Leroy Logan and his awakening journey into becoming a police officer, hoping to bring a domination of true justice to the oppression in London’s law enforcement system. His father who’s had a long, abusive relationship with the police all his life is, however, distressed at the thought of a son betraying his career for something so controversial among the black community. Yet, through both of these characters’ taboo voyage into a necessary change, they reach a wiser consensus: it’s best we sacrifice our pride for something greater, for something that’ll better those around us rather than ourselves. That’s what Leroy’s adversities stand for.

Verdict: B

Steve McQueen Ranked, 2020 Ranked

“Small Axe” is available to stream November 15, 2020 on Amazon Prime.