“Sometimes, I burn down greenhouses." A line uttered by one of the primary characters of Burning, a line that at the moment seems strange, brought on by an evening of wine and weed, an admission of a small, victim-less crime. But as the film progresses, it haunts both us and the main character, it begins to unfold into multiple potential meanings, a metaphor that potentially references something heinous, a veiled confession of a dark crime. Burning as a film is just like this statement, it sits with you, it simmers, it seems to meander until the pieces start to come together, and the grand, unspoken narrative begins to subtly reveal itself. 2 and a half hours long with not a minute wasted is quite an accomplishment, one that I’ve been seeing more and more lately with films such as this that take the time to establish character and atmosphere, respecting the audience to come along on the journey and to pay attention to everything that’s going on. The pace is slow, but this grants it the ability to be steady, never quite relenting in the pressure that continues to build under the surface. The end result is both a narrative and visual masterpiece, never tripping up or leaning into tired cliches even once, never giving in to the temptation to be lazy. It is expertly and tightly constructed, and it is one of the best films released last year.
Been a hot minute, hasn’t it? Took a bit of a break from this creative endeavor, due to life events, work pressures, and other semi-creative endeavors. But I want to make sure I return to this. There were some fantastic movies that came out in the last few months of 2018 that I didn’t get a chance to write about, so perhaps here I’ll be able to gush about how much I enjoyed them.
When setting expectations for a movie, it’s important to note what it seems to emphasize. What is the movie about, not just it’s setting or it’s plot, but what does it focus on? What does the movie find important over everything else? In First Man, we can find our answer in it’s title. This is not a movie about the moon landing, this is not a movie about the space program. This is not a movie about science, or history, or America, or any of that. This movie is about the man himself, Neil Armstrong. This is a movie that seeks to understand the man who first set foot on a world beyond Earth, and what personal motivations brought him there. In this sense the movie is a great success, never painting Neil as a dramatic figure or making him more exciting than he was. This attempts to truly paint a portrait of the man himself, and by doing so so in such a minimalist fashion, it is probably more accurate to reality than most movie-going audiences are expecting when they go to a film like this one.
What can be said about Mandy? I can safely, and enthusiastically, say that I have never seen anything like this movie. Comparisons to other directors and other films are flooding the internet right now, names like Refn, Argento, and Lynch being thrown out in an attempt to categorize and qualify the spectacle we had all just witnessed, but in truth every comparison falls short. For better or for worse, Mandy has no equal. It is in every sense of the word a trip, a treat for the senses that strikes a balance so few films can. It is outlandish and bizarre, giving only brief explanations for its world, but in this outlandishness it dares the audience to take it seriously. This movie is not “campy”, or “ironic” like so many of it’s lesser ilk, it is heavy, dark, and supercharged with emotion and beauty. The lighting, the soundtrack, the performances, the sheer artistry involved in the creation of this masterwork has fulfilled a fantasy that so many people have attempted to create in the past but never truly succeeded in: this movie is heavy metal brought to life.
Tom Cruise is the greatest movie star to ever live. Quite a statement to make of course, but after watching and rewatching several of his movies (including the entire Mission Impossible franchise) over the past few months, I've come to this conclusion, and Fallout only reinforces this belief. Fallout is a perfect culmination of the entire MI franchise, taking to heart every lesson learned along the way about what does and what doesn't work. It knows when to play things seriously, when to inject a few laughs, when to end an action scene and when to start a new one, when and how to play with the audiences expectations, and most importantly: it knows how to enjoy itself. In this impeccably made blockbuster of a film, Cruise goes all out, showcasing his charisma and his stuntwork to degrees previously unseen, and anchoring the entire production in a way that no one else on Earth could. Tom Cruise is the Mission Impossible franchise, he has a star power that brings people back over and over just to see him. We all heard the stories about him breaking his ankle and then finishing the shot anyway, we all know by now how he does every single one of his own stunts, how he is the one flying that helicopter, making that HALO jump, driving that motorcycle. The entire franchise is one giant, well-funded reason for audiences around the world to watch Tom Cruise do insane stunts, and I will never, ever grow tired of watching the results.