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.
Film as an art form is one that has evolved in so many striking ways over the last century, as people have discovered new ways to use the medium to convey to the audience what they want to say. So many things have changed about how movies are made and watched, but one thing that we have collectively understood and embraced since the very beginning is the power of a film to deliver a message. Going all the way back to movies like Intolerance or The Great Dictator, filmmakers have made powerful and relevant statements through their movies, with the desire to stir the audience to some sort of action. Blindspotting proudly carries on this tradition, drawing some deserved comparisons to Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing in it's bold and scathing criticisms of racial relations. In some ways, Blindspotting is a weaker film, not as technically or narratively tight, and sometimes failing to establish enough thematic consistency to feel as elegant as Do The Right Thing is. In other more important ways though, Blindspotting delivers a punch to the gut nearly as powerful and equally as relevant, and more than any movie in a long time, it makes me mad. It makes me want to grab every single upper-middle class white American I know and drag them to the theater so that they can for a single moment understand the terror that people like Colin live with every single day of their lives.