Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #45


End Of The Week Shorts #45

Today's shorts: I, Tonya (2017), The Shape of Water (2017), Zatôichi’s Cane Sword (1967), Downsizing (2017), The Black Cat (1934), Salaam Bombay! (1988), Black Panther (2018), Ten (2002)

I, Tonya is a powerful, seemingly quintessentially American, story. Much like all the great gangster movies, this poses a question to its main character: What matters more, success and purpose, or substance and meaning? What makes these narratives so powerful is the fact that the characters are not given the tools or means to properly confront this question. Rather, they fight against the world, paying dearly for their shortcomings whilst trying to formulate a response to their struggles that leaves them a hero. Such, however, seems to be a mere dream. The American Dream then seems to have been modified by gangster films (since the 30s) and now films such as I, Tonya. They argue that the dream is a lie you tell yourself whilst fighting for tangible truth; and this truth is ultimately blood on the floor that you can only try to dance around. 
A brilliant story put to the screen quite well, I, Tonya is really worth the watch.

A re-watch didn't brighten my view of The Shape Of Water, but, I still think that it is pretty good. The story, whilst it holds some poetic qualities in connection to water as a body that holds innocence and preserves good, is nice and engaging, but feels like it lacks substance. The same is quite true in the character department. What I appreciate most about The Shape Of Water, however, is that it is one of the somewhat rare modern films that takes time to develop its antagonist. In fact, Michael Shannon as Strickland is, in my view, the best part of this film. Not only is he written as a round and distinct person, but he is evil in a manner that makes sense; he isn't a caricature or a stock figure like most of the other characters in this film are to varying degrees. 
In the end, this isn't a game changer, but it is a solid film. Worth the watch.

Think we get a lot of sequels, prequels and so on these days? Zatôichi’s Cane Sword is the 15th film of a series of 26 feature-length chambara (samurai) pictures that preceded a 100 episode long T.V show. 
I haven't seen any other Zatôichi film and stumbled upon this one, watching it completely blind to the fact that this was part of a series. So, whilst you do sense that there is history and more story around this film as you watch it, I must say that it stands alone really well, providing a strong story about patience and choosing the right moment. I can't say how this would compare to any other Zatôichi film, and so feel wary about giving an opinion on this, but I had a good time with Zatôichi’s Cane Sword. The dialogue and comedy could have been better, but the story and fight choreography shine. If you're intrigued, why not give this a go?

Though it's just a little bit pompous, Downsizing is a truly brilliant movie. As much as it is about pollution, the environment, class divides and so on, this is a very simple film. With all the grand political themes taking a real backseat, Downsizing is just about a guy who is lost in the world. He doesn't know how to make the people around him happy, he doesn't know how to make the world better and he doesn't know what to do with his life. Following a cliched and trope-ridden journey with a child's eyes, our main character learns a poignant lesson that is, itself, not incredibly profound, but is certainly uplifting to see come together. 
This is existential sci-fi executed brilliantly and with some really nice shades of comedy. I highly recommend this one.

The Black Cat is one of those movies that I just can't read. I don't know whether this is just awkward 30s nonsense, or if there's sense and meaning buried beneath the intermittently expressive mise en scène, the rigid acting, the strangely disjointed structure of scenes and the queer editing, but I do know that I'm confused. 
What struck me on this re-watch is how little Julie Bishop's feet are on the ground. It's far from uncommon to see a woman draped across a man's (robot's, vampire's, sea creature's or monster's) arms on an Old Hollywood poster, but it's even less common for the poster to actually be reflective of the film. And, beyond the fact that this was one of the earliest films to have a continuous score throughout, I think that is the most unique thing about The Black Cat.

Salaam Bombay is a powerful film, one that explores the streets of Bombay and the lives of the underclass that live on and off of them. Following a set of homeless children, prostitutes, drug addicts and more, Salaam Bombay pulls few punches in depicting the overwhelming futility of poverty. This then poses a question with its final sequence, one that features a parade in honour of Ganesha who is, among other things, considered the remover of obstacles: Why have so many seemingly insurmountable objects been placed in front of so many people, whose main crime seems to be of naivety, and when--if ever--will they ever be removed? 
Though the structure of Salaam Bombay doesn't build towards this question perfectly, this is a poignant film, one I'd recommend.

This is not a superhero movie. This is not a Marvel movie... at least, I struggle to see it as such. Black Panther is the best Marvel movie I've ever seen - it's certainly one of my favourites (looking past Spiderman 2, which isn't really apart of the MCU). It simply has such a complete and compelling story and a many of rich, fully rounded characters. These are things that I don't see any other Marvel movie even coming close to rivaling Black Panther on. On top of this, however, Black Panther has some of the best comedic sensibilities of any superhero movie ever - and it's often not even trying to be that funny. 
I won't say that this is perfect, however. The cinematography... so many scenes simply aren't bright enough. You can't tell what's going on. Despite this one glaring flaw, I have to say that this is an incredible movie. I'll be seeing this again soon and writing about it more extensively.

Ten is a masterful character study, one of the most true and intricate I've ever come into contact with. 
Kiarostami pushes the Iranian docu-drama far beyond an illusion with Ten, not only capturing seeming reality, but transcending it, leaving the audience entirely disinterested in what is fact and what is fiction. This is how convincing and brilliantly constructed his narrative truths are. Similarly, it does not matter who is right and who is wrong in each and every exchange. With the conversation presented as a form of therapeutic analysis for both spectators and characters, what matters is the space between and beyond characters: their lives and their society. I cannot recommend this more. You're doing yourself a disservice if you've not seen this.

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