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jmunky [2018] FILM

 

The Italian Job [1969] * * * * *

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Comforting, like a nice cup of tea and a marmalade sandwich.


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Isaak von Seggern [2018] FILM

 

Do the Right Thing [1989] * * * *

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[*Spoilers*]

"Racism bad." - Martin Luther King Jr., August 28th, 1963

"Do the Right Thing" is a 1989 YouTube tutorial on how to self-diagnose your racism. Feeling down in the dumps? Got the sniffles? Trying to shout racial slurs at your Chinese neighbors, but your throat's clogged with mucus? It could be a bad case of the racism. If you or a loved one is lighting burning crosses and leaving them on people's lawns, it's time to talk to a doctor, because "Do the Right Thing" might be just what turns that frown (every time you see someone of a different ethnicity) upside down!

It stars John Turturro trying and failing (because he is such a racist) to slice a pizza, which is undoubtedly the funniest pizza related incident in cinematic history since Sylvester Stallone used a pair of craft scissors to cut his pizza in half before eating it in "Cobra" (1986), because he is not a racist?

I still don't really understand that one if I'm being honest.

I think this, "West Side Story", and "Crash" make a great unofficial trilogy of films that all take a similar stance on racism, though all to varying degrees of success. I'll admit that besides Sylvester Stallone cutting the pizza with scissors, the hardest I have ever laughed in a movie was in "Crash" when Michael Pena's five-year-old daughter jumps in front of him like a fucking Secret Service agent to catch the bullet meant for him. What was the point of that movie? That you can have both Iron Mans in your movie (Don "Flamin' Hot" Cheetos and Terrence "1x1=2" Howard) and still not be able to defeat racism?

All of these movies seek appropriately to paint racism as absurd, but in "Crash", racism is so unbelievably absurd, and so over the top, that I think it is actually destructive to the argument that you shouldn't be racist. In the first two minutes after Sandra Bullock's character is introduced, she drops pretty much every single stereotype about Latino people, as if someone handed her "The Book of Racism" and she was just listing shit off so it could be in the movie and "shocking"; it has no meaning.

It's like, as a white man, when I hear people say the n-word, I want there to be lots of weight, violence, and prejudice behind it, you know?

Nooooo, but it is perhaps one of the laziest things you can do in a movie to elicit emotion from the audience. I know I come back to this all the time, but it's the same shit in "Irreversible". It's so lazy (and I imagine quite offensive to a lot of people) to make the dramatic crux/climax of your story an extended rape sequence. It's such an easy answer to make people automatically uncomfortable, or sympathetic towards a character that hasn't even been on screen for that long.

"Crash" tries to show and unearth every single facet of racism in one two-hour movie with an ensemble cast, which is impossible to accomplish. Racism is such an endlessly complex topic that people too often pointlessly try to box into clearly defined sides. That's why "Do the Right Thing" succeeds at all; because it accepts from the get-go that there is no one cure-all solution for racism and prejudice. Instead, it's about how confusing and multi-dimensional racism is. How everyone harbors hate and animosity towards everyone else in this community, even for those of their own race. The dynamic of Mother Sister and Da Mayor throughout the movie is probably my favorite because even though they're both African American, Mother Sister hates Da Mayor merely because he is homeless. It really showcases how petty and unfounded blind hate is. If we can't even resolve how much we hate people of our own color, how can we ever hope to stop hating people of another?

This movie loses me (as most all ensemble movies do) with all of its characters and plot threads. Danny Aiello, John Turturro, and Richard Edson (aka the parking attendant from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") are all great in their roles, and so is Spike Lee. Besides them and the aforementioned Mother Sister/Da Mayor drama, everyone else's stories are not really that interesting. Radio Raheem, while playing a pivotal role near the end of the film, is obtusely written and doesn't get enough screen time to really warrant his existence in the film. I think the ending would have been a lot more powerful if what happens to his character happened instead to Spike Lee's.

Then you got Martin Lawrence and his friend group, who are all fucking hacks.

Not really, but their acting isn't great and they could have been completely cut out of the movie. Same with the old dudes who sat on the corner under the umbrella. Point is, there is just a lot of unnecessary characters that take away from the core drama for seemingly no reason, other than worldbuilding? Which seems kind of pointless considering a direct sequel involving all of these characters has yet to be made.

Anyhoo it's a great movie, and perhaps we should just start leaving burning DVDs of this on David Duke's lawn, to see if he has a change of heart.


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Biscoito18 [2018] FILM

 

Hereditary [2018] * * * * *

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What a wicked and sick film. I loved it!

Many people blamed a critic who said that this movie was "The Exorcist" of this generation for causing a false expectation about the real intent of the film. I agree with him. "Hereditary", in many ways, is a profound evolution of the central fear addressed by the 1973 classic: the fear of losing control of one's own body and mind. But this time, without the focus on the contortions, the rotting of the body, and other horrible physical consequences of possession.

The attention of director Ari Aster in his first feature film, is in the psychological reactions of the people who are experiencing this horror. His ability to translate their trauma and panic into images is remarkable.

Also equally spectacular, it's the performance of the entire cast, especially Toni Collette and Alex Wolff, who play one of the most powerful and depressing mother-son relationships I've ever seen. The tension during their encounters is paralyzing.

This movie's construction is ingenious. The soundtrack sets an oppressive atmosphere from the first frame and the sound effects are essential to represent the "change in the air" that occurs in some moments and puts the characters in a kind of bubble, separated from the rest of the world and at the mercy of the unknown. The purest, most organic and eeriest way of transposing to the screen the feeling of impotence before a much greater force.

The director uses other simple and quite effective resources to illustrate psychological effects, such as a beam of light that travels the stage as if it were delimiting the transition to another state of mind.

The plot information is arranged organically without the characters having to go out of their way to explain something. The best example is the scene where the mother seeks a support group. Quickly, the character provides all the information of her family's past needed to assemble the puzzle.

Moreover, it isn't a complicated puzzle, nor pretentious to the point of misleading the audience to deliver an unexpected twist. On the contrary, what is proposed at the beginning is worthy to the end.

I love the way the movie uses the mom's hobby not only as an intriguing visual feature but also to visually tell some aspects of the story (the miniature of the grandma breastfeeding her granddaughter) and to represent the mother's own mental state and the various phases of her mourning (as when she makes the accident's miniature).

Despite all these features and an inspired direction, the excellent performances remain the primary form used to convey horror. The dynamics between the actors, their cries and their expressions are emphasized and they lead the film. Speaking of which, both Toni and Alex deliver some of the most gruesome cries and screams I've ever heard.

However, the film also makes a point of showing the carnage in detail. This is the most "innovative" element of the film: breaking the old concept that tension and gore are incompatible. You can have both without one canceling the other. The best example is the scene after the accident. Assembled in an exemplary manner, it first delivers the horror through the screams and then shocks the audience with a diabolical image.

It's an evolution of the concepts of "Rosemary's Baby", the classic with which perhaps this film has the greatest similarity, not only in the plot: the horror amplified by the focus on facial expressions raised to the highest degree.

"Hereditary" is a horror masterpiece. A film that values the power of acting and looks for new and organic ways of transposing into images the horror that occurs within the minds of the characters. Extremely intelligent and built with mastery.


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Biscoito18 [2018] FILM

 

Veronica [2017] * * *

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Horror movies involving Ouija boards are so common in the genre that there's even a site to catalog all the productions (movies and TV) of this odd subgenre.

Unfortunately, in most cases, these films are super cheap and made just to appeal to an undemanding teen audience. But there are exceptions such as 2016's "Ouija: Origin of Evil".

In the first act, "Veronica" seemed to be another exception to the rule with good characters, great performances including natural and charismatic child actors, a beautiful production, and a solid direction by Paco Plaza (REC movies). But as the plot unfolds, I kept waiting for an original moment, a twist or, at least, scenes that kept the tension going for more than a few seconds.

Sandra Escacena does an excellent job as the protagonist Veronica. A simple, hard-working girl whose motives for engaging with the occult are extremely noble and understandable. Lack of affection is what drives Veronica. Ironically, after the ritual, her isolation only increases. Her best (and only) friend now has a new best friend. Alone, in the company of only her younger siblings, she has no chance at all.

Sandra broke my heart in the scene where Veronica begs her mother (who is always away because she needs to work till late) to leave work earlier and go out with her and her brothers. Desperate for more time with those she loves.

But the emotional hook on which the film supports Veronica's central motive to have tampered with the occult is never effectively exploited. We don't see any scenes of her with her father to even feel her loss.

In addition, the entity and its mythology are completely neglected. A supporting character who comes up precisely to offer more explanations, doesn't help at all, and the solution ends up being the same as many other films involving Ouija boards.

The creature's appearance is as generic as its motives, or better saying, the lack of them.

The ending tries to improve the events with the revelation that it's "based on a real story", but such events shown in the film are so ordinary and the outcome so anticlimactic, that I couldn't care less.

"Veronica" has a solid direction, beautiful production and inspired performances, but the plot can't evolve beyond the old clichés of the genre. Definitely not the "scariest movie ever". Far from it.


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Biscoito18 [2018] FILM

 

Manila in the Claws of Light [1975] * * * *

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[*Spoilers*]

Just another end. Another sad note in the newspapers.

Before being swallowed up by the city, Julio Madiaga and Ligaya Paraiso lived like Adam and Eve in their bucolic paradise of simple but peaceful life. Everything changed with the arrival of Mrs. Cruz, the snake (or pig, as Julio would say) that offers the forbidden fruit of greed.

The director shows all the faces of the moral rot that inhabits his Manila, sparing no one. People here are abused to the point where they can't stand it anymore. Then they fill their hearts with hatred, abandoning whatever moral value they possess and let their rage out.

And what do they get in return?

Death.

Throughout the film we got used to receiving bad news involving the disgrace of friends and acquaintances of the protagonist. And we came to believe that we were following the story of the one who would escape the claws of this city.

Little did we know that we're just witnessing another tragic story, among so many others, that occur daily in this city that feels more like a limbo on Earth.

In Lino Brocka's "Manila in the Claws of Light", there are no heroes and no villains who can escape a cruel fate. They're all nothing more than another bad news waiting to be told.


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