Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #87


End Of The Week Shorts #87

Today's shorts: The Square (2017), Wu Kong (2017, Russel Brand: Re:Birth (2018), Transformers (2007), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Stuart Little (2002)

I thought a second watch would lead to greater revelations, but The Square remains so mysteriously profound to me.

A pure joy to be lost in, The Square is seemingly a rumination upon being an active agent in society; it is not about empathy, about apathy, speech, fear, confrontation, but something that unites all such things and more I simply couldn't figure out what this was on this watch. Nonetheless, The Square is deeply provocative and certainly one of my favourite films from 2017. Another re-watch and maybe I'll have something more conclusive to say.

Never have I seen a film quite like Wu Kong.

A mythological epic imbued with such bombastic melodrama and tenacious expressionism that this would make Michael Bay blush, Wu Kong is 'Bastard Cinema' on drugs. Almost each and every image is dripping with symbolic and archetypal qualities (derivative and stolen, I'm sure) and yet this hasn't a minute for character building or thematic rumination. Slashed and torn asunder by evocative imagery and drama of great depth, this leaves you clawing to spectacle for some sense of coherence. The experience, I'm pleased to report, is as giddy as it is enlightening - though I'm not too certain what I've learnt. My only criticism is that the action scenes could have been better choreographed. Beyond this, Wu Kong is bombastic perfection. Please watch.

Pretty good.

Without the pressure of being a stand-up special per se, Re:Birth works rather well as a presentation or an insight into an eccentric celebrity's life. Political without being too grating, somewhat funny, lighthearted and quite captivating, Re:Birth at times pushes past cheeky and on to the edge of vulgarity without securing too many laughs, but is warmly self-reflexive enough to have you coast quite breezily through an hour of your day. The use of an extra screen and media is occasionally uncomfortable, but a few good laughs emerge from the interplay. In total, Brand's stage persona could be honed in a little, but, as is, Re:Birth is worthwhile.

Of late, I can't help but like the Transformer films simply for the fact that Bay's style is so extremely focused on heightened spectacle that intensifies even that seen in high concept cinema of the 80s and 90s - which is where Bay arises from. What I picked up on during this watch was the function of transformations throughout the narrative. At so many points, we either pause to witness a slow mechanical metamorphosis that we are to marvel at or are to have our breath snatched away by flash transformations which - even more than 10 years later - are not at all shoddy (in general, I find the CGI holds up here). It seems to me, however, that transformations of these sorts are sensory signs that emphasise the film's underlying coming of age narrative; they make a spectacle out of Sam's call to heroism with his car (what will make him a man) turning into a fighting robot god that is asking him to risk all for the greater good. More could be questioned and explored about this, but a quick thought for you...

Maybe the most intensely Baysian Transformer film (it is a toss-up between this and The Last Knight) Revenge of the Fallen is one of the most lambasted of the series - and much of this has to do with its rocky production and Bay having quite a bit of influence on the shape of the script (his intentions here, we can assume, were to facilitate his taste in and visual approach to narrative - hence the comedy, excess of action and characters). A fascinating detail in this film is the manner in which some of the ancillary themes are set up through the comedy that Bay (likely) contributed. One example is found in the idea that all is upside down, that what is not just big but important and right, is under the control of his minor shadow; Transformers controlled by humans, Sam having to save the world alongside a girl who he has no business with, etc. All of this, believe it or not, is initially signified with Bay's sexualised dog humour: Frankie dominating Mojo. Such says an awful lot about Bay.

Ever so shamelessly a kids' movie, I found myself questioning my existence whilst watching Stuart Little 2 today.

The most insipid element of this film is the set and costume design and its impact on characterisation. Unironically, creating a Burton-esque, plastic and textureless vision of suburbia, this contrives characters of such rigid shallowness that it appears that they the actors are humans attempting to portray human customs, struggles and lifestyles back to us in the real world. This is all too common on television and adheres to a live-action Disney presentation of the world and it is simply uncannily unbearable. The early 2000s were an ugly time. That said, there's really nothing to talk about in terms of narrative; what little novelty the first Stuart Little had has vanished from its sequel. I can't say that I hated hearing Michael J. Fox's voice come from a little mouse's body though.

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