Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #76


End Of The Week Shorts #76

Today's shorts: The Artist (2011), Shadow of the Vampire (2000), Black God, White Devil (1964), Solo: A Star Wars Movie (2018), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Krrish (2006), The Surrounding Game (2016), Apex: The Story of the Hypercar (2016)

I'm torn. In many ways, The Artist merely feels pretentious and inane. Why make a silent film about the death of silent films, about the virtues of talking pictures? Why, furthermore, hash out a version of Singin' In The Rain that ultimately only wishes it could be Singin' In The Rain? Lastly, why make this look like a silent film when the cinematic language used is primarily that of a classical, 40s Hollywood film? More questions could be asked, but I will not dwell on them. This is a somewhat fun picture. The melodramatic Hollywood dream of a narrative feels out-dated and far too naive, however. This leaves everything feeling ever so cheap, but this has its moments of sincerity - I believe these emerge primarily from the brilliant score in the latter half of the film. I was disappointed that this wasn't just the dream sequence in which sound starts to make its way into the silent film star's life - which make for a fantastic film. Alas, this was just somewhat disappointing, but I can't say I was expecting much.

Shadow of the Vampire takes a concept that induces a slight roll of the eyes - what if a director of a vampire film actually hired a vampire? - and maps this onto a fictionalised 'making-of' of Murnau's Nosferatu. Seen in a simple light, this is a rather silly film whose melodrama is cheap and acting (especially in regards to the facial expressions) is absurd. It can then be difficult to know whether we are to laugh or reel away from Malkovich's and Dafoe's performances. The deeper weaknesses of this film concerns the structure and management of character. In short, this feels incredibly rushed and takes no time to really question its characters and their conflicts, despite the fact that it speaks of vampires and Bram Stoker's Dracula in terms of deep character study (which, unfortunately, is not executed here). There is then contrivance of a particularly damaging nature in what is essentially a film trying to be about sadism; the true vampire as a sadist; a director as a sadist. I know not why this then tries to speak of Murnau as a blood-sucking demon, but, all together, this didn't work.

Black God, White Devil tells story about a man too human to become the Devil for the sake of God. Rocha's world around this man is one in which all is presided over by corrupt systems that essentially force 'heroes' to become villains so they may attain the hope of achieving their greater ideals. This world is too broken for righteousness; God is lost in darkness and the Devil glares down from up above like the sun. Our main character cannot submit to evil, cannot access goodness, can only wander with reckless naivety, flipping all unity he once had into disarray and dragging his wife along the journey with him. Rocha presents this story with a realistic gaze that, jarringly, looks upon exuberant, contrived melodrama, the ultimate effect being a constant reminder that the camera, seemingly, cannot see truth; that truth emerges only from becoming conscious of a lie - such, poignantly, being the message provided by the story.

A second short review after a day of thinking about the film a little more...

I still think this is a horribly mediocre film weighed down by an almost fetishistic obsession with itself, Star Wars more generally and the tropes that come along with a Star Wars film (cliched dialogue masquerading as snarky banter, robot humour, an annoying CGI side-kick thing, etc). What has stuck in my mind, however, is the direction of Chewy's action scenes. They aren't terribly executed, but they felt strange--uncannily violent. I'm not squeamish or uptight when it comes to violence, but, if any character is changed by this film, I feel that Chewy is - and this is simply for the unmelodramatic, spectacle driven and rather brutal action (sometimes horror film-esque) sequences. All else about this film has pretty much fallen from memory. I dread to think of a sequel to this.

Pretty excellent. The Thor side of the Marvel universe has its issues - many of them, I feel, are derivative of Marvel's so-so re-branding of Norse myth (which has a more cohesive sense of character, symbology and narrative). All the major faults, especially in the scripts, of the first two Thor films are pretty much eradicated in Ragnarok, however. The characters we want to know about, the action we hope to see, are all centralised--and there are many surprises in addition to this. The tone is light and intense, and the direction/writing never cheapens or exacerbates this approach. This was less interesting in regards to story and slightly less funny on a second watch, but I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down and watching Ragnarok with family as seeing this with others really does make for a more complete and engaging film. Not wanting the action scenes to stop and yearning the final act to be stretched about by at least 15 more minutes, I was locked into this and am glad to have re-watched it.

My cinematic diet is being filled with sugar, fat and too many blockbusters. I consider myself lucky to have only been able to sit through about half of this again today.

Infinity War, after watching Thor: Ragnarock, is a little like trudging through mud, which is to say that it is hard adjusting to the constant, rather blunt, jumps in tone, the profuse plot and the scattered focus of a film that simply has to do too much - and you know when a film is trying to do too much when you have to spend an age explaining one detail to someone who missed only 2 movies in the whole entire MCU. After an hour of only caring to pay full attention to scenes not featuring Vision, Strange, Cap and Wanda--even Stark to some degree--I was glad to step away from this. The greatest joy I can derive from Infinity War--Marvel films in general--is being able to watch it with young siblings who go nuts for fragmentary moments when Spider-Man jumps on screen or when Hulk starts to smash.

Because I honestly do not know where to begin I won't try to pull together a review that even describes this movie. This is so ludicrously bad that I am at a complete loss for words. See this and you will know what I mean.

The Surrounding Game is a documentary on Go in the modern world with particular focus on the development of the game/sport/art/practice in America as well as the first American professional Go players. Being less about the game and more about a few of the young people who aspire to be professionals, this is an awkward documentary --yet in a rather earnest way. The Surrounding Game is then just as much about an ancient game played in a modern world as it is about a teenager's/young adult's queer and indecisive existence.

Without the distance and grandeur that other documentaries focused on professional sports of some sorts, this is down to earth and amateurishly personal. Quite a few oxymorons could be used to describe this documentary, but all would be used to describe something ultimately pleasant and somewhat insightful - not a bad watch.

This promises to treat the chassis of million dollar cars like sumptuous women, to bathe these impossible constructs in angelic light and surround them in neon, watch them glide in slow motion, blister along tarmac, soar through the smoke of seething tires and glimmer in the sun like technological titans... and it does not disappoint - how could it manage to do so?

Beyond providing the expected spectacle, Apex is a fascinating documentary that gives ample insight into the world of hypercar manufacturing, briefly studying Ferrari, Koenigsegg, Pagani, Porsche and McLaren respectively. This study is wrapped up in a question of the purpose and place of the hypercar: why do these ludicrous monsters that no one can afford matter at all? The answer is satisfactory: these are the future, today. And so though everyone in this documentary is on the verge of soiling their pants, this has some oomph and depth. Well worth seeing whether you care about cars or not.

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