I’ve thought for a while that I should write down more of my thoughts on movies here, whether they’re they're long-winded or off-the-cuff. I love movies and I love sharing my thoughts on them with people, but when it comes to writing things down, I find myself more reluctant to do it unless I’ve had time to mull the movie over and really collect my thoughts about it. Writing seems more permanent to me, so my instinct is to want any of my written thoughts on a movie to be more permanent and polished as well. But very few movies jolt me so hard that I can write down a thorough description of what I got out of them right after seeing them, so very few of them get written down.
But I’ve loved reading the capsule reviews in this thread for years. Even the smallest ones are nice to see, just to see how people are receiving the latest blockbusters or what older movies people might be discovering/revisiting. So I figure why not let the forum’s rebirth be an impetus for me to start writing more about what I watch? Even if it’s just a short blurb or a not-fully-considered viewing, I want to contribute to this thread more often because I really do appreciate it a lot as a film fan.
Anyway, some movies I’ve seen recently!
Sicario: Even though I knew it would be about cartels before I went in, it somehow ended up being even more depressing than I figured it would be. Great movie though. Intense, gorgeously shot and hauntingly scored. Several images (both beautiful and ugly) were burned into my brain. Only thing I wasn’t sure how to feel about was the insinuation that women aren’t suited to the harshness of this kind of combat. Not sure if the film was actually saying that, but that’s the vibe I got with Emily Blunt’s character being the sole woman in the film and the direction her story arc leads.
Rogue One: I really wanted to like this one but it really fell flat for me. Had a tough time finding a satisfying character arc for Jyn despite my desperately wanting there to be one. I think she would have benefited from more flashbacks to the time in between what happens to her as a child and where she is in the present. Seeing her and Forrest Whittaker’s character just talk about what happened between them is classic “tell don’t show”.
I did enjoy Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen’s characters, but I think that came more from the way they played their characters vs. any actual character in the script for them. Same with Riz Ahmed’s character. Also, notice how I keep saying “so-and-so’s character”? The film did a really poor job of getting across anyone's name that wasn’t either “Erso”, “K-2SO”, or a previously established character. Seriously, it took me over half the movie to realize that Cassian’s name wasn’t “Casio”. For a war movie where the core story is supposed to be about a band of fighters coming together and struggling against impossible odds, it sure would’ve been nice to feel like I actually knew and cared about the members of said band. Effective war movies tend to, y’know, do that.
(Also: CGI you-know-who. Fascinating technology! ...does not necessarily make for good filmmaking. ~shudders~)
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping: I laughed real hard at a lot of things in this movie. Won’t spoil but there’s a gag involving A$AP Rocky where I felt like my gut was literally about to bust. Not much in-depth to say about this one. It’s a trifle, but a really funny trifle that was overlooked this year. Worth seeing if you’ve ever enjoyed The Lonely Island.
I Am a Ghost: Probably the best movie I saw over the holidays. This is an arthouse horror movie from 2013 and it just about literally blew my hair back (no joke: my brother and I were watching in the dark and after the movie was done, his fiancé opened the front door unexpectedly and made us both jump). It is a goddamn crime that it’s only rated 6.1/10 on IMDb because I honestly do feel like I could write a whole essay about why this movie is so good. I don’t have time to write one right now though, so I’ll just put a few bullet points here:
You can tell it’s low budget, but you’d never guess just how low budget. It was made for only $10,000 (peanuts in movie terms) and it looks goddamn beautiful. Takes place all in one location and they shot the hell out of it. A+ cinematography.
Director understands how to use repetition and duration in a way that few modern filmmakers do. I’d liken it to the way Revolutionary Girl Utena takes advantage of its budget constraints to create meaningful repetitions/cycles, emphasizing certain moments in order to twist their meaning in different ways as the story goes on.
Lots of horror movies and psychological thrillers do the “unreliable protagonist/narrator” thing, but few establish that unreliability from the beginning of the story. This creates a unique mood of discomfort and distrust throughout the whole film which is extremely effective.
Could compellingly be read as an argument against religion (or at least people who claim spiritual authority), as an allegory for being trans, as a straight-up horror story about living with an illness in one’s own head from which one can never escape, or as probably a lot of other things. It’s surreal and vague enough that the meaning is not set in stone, but also vivid and solid enough that it clearly is saying something.
Will avoid specific spoilers, but there is a thing in this movie which may be one of the most effective horror things I have experienced in my life. This includes the thing itself and the buildup to it.
The lead actress, who is the only person you see for most of the film, is Asian-American! Her name is Anna Ishida and she does a fantastic job. Her delivery is stilted but in a deliberate way (if that makes sense), which gives her an appropriately otherworldly presence. Yet she is also very sympathetic, which makes her character's story all the more tragic. Great performance.