Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #63


End Of The Week Shorts #63

Today's shorts: La La Land (2016), Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife (2018), The Leopard (1963), The Greatest Showman (2017), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), It Comes At Night (2017), Amy Schumer: The Leather Special (2017), Amy Schumer: Mostly Sex Stuff (2014)

Some films only really work the first time, and I think this is true of La La Land. Seeing this in the cinema without a clue of what was to come brought out some magic in what a second watch revealed to be a good but mediocre film. I saw fault in this previously; the opening is horrible and the musical side of this, whilst it may be supportive of tone and drama to a degree, is undoubtedly out-shined by characterisation's impact. There remains the strengths in the portrayed vision of imperfectly fulfilled dreams and the memory that a song can hold, but today I found La La Land to be quite a disappointment. This made a case for musicals in modern cinema two years ago, but whilst this film is in no way connected to this, The Greatest Showman made another, possibly greater one. Unfortunately, The Greatest Showman's statement was... let's say not a good one. And for the fact that I saw some elements of both in each, especially in the tone and approach to music, La La Land depreciated further. But, in the end, I'm just disappointed to realise that this doesn't hold too well.

Not gut-bustingly funny, but better than Wong's first stand-up special and still a blast of fresh comedy. The only criticism that I can offer is that this does pick up a lot of the material from the previous special. All of this material is improved upon and built over, but, though a second pregnancy is probably a coincidence that is never even mentioned, there are moments where everything comes near to a gimmick - never is this completely the case though. Beyond this, I'm now a bit too familiar with Ali Wong's inner, upper, inner, inner, upper, right up there, uh-oh it's starting to get dark, is that hair? thighs than I think I want to be... but what can you do about that...

All in all, a good hour; worth the watch if you're into dirty comedy - probably not if you're not.

This is a film entirely immersed in a question of aristocracy's function and sense of purpose. It in turn details the laziness and order of the highest classes, depicting their strata of existence as entirely separate from any lower class and its motivation for being as incredibly unsubstantial.

The only elements of this narrative that hold slight virtue are the fleeting senses of romance and the desires to tell the truth. However, these thematic components fail to build an structure of meaning. Instead, all that one gleans from this meandering glissando through elongated episodes of period drama is a conception of the levity and righteousness that the depicted class float in. And maybe that is all to be said for this narrative. It floats before you for an incredibly long time, posturing as elegant, before dimming, flickering out and drifting away; a generation of aristocracy come and gone. As a result, I just cannot decide if this was worth watching or not.

I didn't like this film the first time I saw it; a bunch of people did. One of these enlightened people commented on the blog:

"Calm your tits. It is for entertainment, music eases our pains. The movie is even inspiring, can give motivation to people. Ha you call it horrific? Your post is even more horrific. What a psycho"

Having been subjected to this an awful lot by younger siblings who, I'm sure, would also tell me to calm my tits, I still think this is a bad movie; and the more I see, the more repugnant it becomes. Cheap, not at all uplifting or entertaining, I don't think this should be motivating to anyone. If you want a textbook example of how Hollywood commodify, yet misunderstand and entirely disregard the value of substantial narrative meaning, just check this out.

Whilst I'm very willing to just say that this just is what it is, I can't say I care much for the neo-exploitation, try-hard-grindhouse flicks. I find them more obnoxious than anything else; the claptrap from the 60s and 70s has its place in film history, but film geeks like Tarantino and, to a degree, Robert Rodriguez (more from this, Sin City and Grindhouse, less for the likes of Desperado and Spy Kids) trying to wack their movie buff wangs onto celluloid just seems cringe-worthy and childish to me.

The virtues of this are its ridiculousness and the fact that, in everyone mind's, this confirms who Tarantino really is deep down inside viz a viz his foot fetish. Beyond that, I've only ever paid full attention to this once. Today, my mind wandered after the first 30 minutes and it did not return.

It Comes At Night is a solid tragedy whose greatest strength is the meeting between theme and plot; the sequencing of events that reveal a world that cannot preserve faith, that makes individuals into shadows, too often the monster they have to be rather than the trusting, loving humans they wished they could be. Alas, whilst this is fascinating and deeply expressive, a re-watch left this feeling as if it lacked heart. This is due to the performances that fail to fully lift the subtle (not lacking, but requiring fulfilment) characterisation on the page. Whilst Edgerton and Abbot are pretty good, they outshine the rest of the cast when they maybe should have been a dark, harrowing backdrop that overlooks stronger, less clinical performances. If all characters were to be clinical, however, this would require more subtlety and silence and greater complexity in character reasoning; less elements of melodrama.

Alas, as it is, It Comes At Night is pretty exceptional; not a masterpiece, but an incredibly well-crafted movie.

Never been a huge fan of Schumer, but, having seen her previous specials, I thought she was quite funny. Having heard this was terrible, I stayed away, but, I've given it a go and... not good, but not entirely terrible.

The problem with this is that it simply lacks a professional quality; you just can't sense that she has worked through these jokes, honed them, and made them the best she could. Almost every 'joke' is an aside within a pointless story, no punch lines, no laughs. Schumer takes on a meek persona that has to be funny by accident, as if she's too dumb to write a real joke, yet too disgusting to not be hilarious. Without any real stage presence, just an awful lot of awkward, shuffling act-outs, Schumer rides on the fact that her audience came to see her and laugh. I'd love to see how this set would go down in an anonymous basement where no one was expecting her. In the end, this is just not a professional's product. I smirked 2 or 3 times.

It's not exceedingly brilliant, but it's a world apart from Schumer's latest effort; the laughs are there, the jokes are working on an audience who aren't completely on her side, she works and gets a response, she's sometimes subtle, has call-backs, solid references, confidence, stage presence, personal insights... it's a world apart from her latest effort.

The main drawbacks of this special are its sometimes clichéd nature, and the pretty transparent character that Schumer has constructed. This character is somewhat mind-numbing when you see it through its current incarnation, but, in its context, it works. Again, this is clichéd and so not that imaginative, but Schumer still manages to catch you off guard and pull out the laughs. For anyone who thinks Schumer's not at all funny, this is worth the watch. It's not the greatest special, it's not very enlightening either, but maybe Schumer needs to return to this base and build again.

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