Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #88


End Of The Week Shorts #88

Today's shorts: The Wagoner (1963), Sorry To Bother You (2018), Creed II (2018), Fist of Legend (1994), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), The Expendables (2010), Chennai Express (2013), Evil Dead II (1987), Raja Hindustani (1996)

Profoundly depressing.

The Wagoner sees the subtlety of Italian Neo-Realism confronted by New Wave self-reflexivity in a short about apathy and nihilism in a post-colonial, developing Dakar. A man, beaten down by life, can no longer manage to be the patient, self-sacrificing man his religion calls for him to be. Jaded, he is blind to his own narcissism and hypocrisy. As we watch from a dry, objective distance acts of utter heartlessness, there looms over us direction to consider the everyday, the pounding endlessness of the suffering in his world, the seemingly unending lack of utility in doing what is right. And in such, we become hypocrite and narcissist without a moments notice. How does one struggle forth? How painful it is that, if we do not, others will for us. How insufferable it is that one day the buck will have no one to be passed to.

I'm struggling to formulate thoughts on Sorry To Bother You. As transparent as it is that this intends to build a social, political allegory on capitalist systems, Sorry To Bother You is so entrenched in irony and chaos that there seems to be no silver lining; some greener grass, but nonetheless endless hypocrisy, irony and stupidity. I am wary that this may not be what Boots Riley intended, but, if anything, Sorry To Bother You only seems to be a projection of the kind of (existential and philosophical) chaos that the modern social realm has found itself in.

Certainly a challenging watch, Sorry To Bother You was worth investigation and is maybe due more thoughts once I can sort through them.

Once I saw glimmers of goodness in Creed II, I clung to them; I needed this movie for some reason, and it delivered. Better, in my opinion, than Creed, Creed II does one subtle, yet highly telling, thing different: there are basically no press conferences. The realism isn't as literal anymore; melodrama triumphs. Indeed it is somewhat silly that the sons of two former rivals fight, but there is affecting meaning pre-loaded into this film and reflected upon rather brilliantly. Without focus on the fights, this then moves closer to the older Rocky formula in which there is only one or two major fight sequences instead of a slew. Drama has its place and so does action; and in having that distance, the two compliment each other wonderfully. There are points in Creed where I was hoping for greater intensity that was not delivered, so I know this is not brilliant. Alas, it was a pleasure to be lost in.

Tremendous. Despite my respect for Jet Li and the fact that, as a kid, I continually watched The One, I have never delved too deeply into his filmography.

Fist of Legend is a revelation. Riding the ever growing wave of mixed martial arts on screen - summoned, of course, by Bruce Lee - Fist of Legend moves into the classical martial arts film in which many schools fight or styles conflict to ground its action in a very heavy sense of physicality as opposed to flash. Featured are also elements of wuxia cinema via wire work, but, these are used rather savagely to give action weight. Most interesting is the mixing of martial arts supporting an exploration of ethnic tensions and imperialism in East Asia. Narratively, however, this admittedly isn't very strong and more could definitely could have been done with story and character to support action, but the physicality of the fight scenes simply speaks for itself.

I make a second return to Bay's colossal bellow of melodramatic distractedness in two weeks and, still, I respect and enjoy Revenge of the Fallen.

The ludeness and childishness in this film is inexcusably grating, but it remains - in my mind - a fascinating evocation of a hero narrative bereft of solid structure and engrossed most by the perfection of archetypal imagery (which is thrown at us so fast that it is more or less incoherent). Any analysis I could perform in regards to symbolism will be undermined by the simple hastiness of this narrative (indeed, Bay seems to master the art of the plot hole with Revenge of the Fallen), but I believe it is just this that makes the fight scenes so invigorating. All I know is that this is deeply rousing; how brilliant it is to embrace the pull.

Even for what it is - for what it is trying to be - The Expendables is pretty shoddy. Above all else, it is just shallow. The action scenes, the spectacle, mediocre - both as they are directed and cultivated (the CGI is horrible). The illusion of characterisation lacks any development or arcs; whilst there is quippy humour that keeps things from being boring, characterisation is far too meta, each actor simply embodying a version of their star image. The narrative is not entirely flat; its assertions are simple: save yourself; save the princess. Sell your self; let your soul be bought by the evil capitalist. Many action films have made this work to quite a good effect, but the presentation of this is just far too simple, far to straight-cut and far too meaningless for it to give the drama oomph. What closes the deal is the tone and humour; The Expendables is simply trying too hard to be macho fun. It all simply does not work.

Ludicrously good.
In many ways a tongue and cheek, exploded version of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Chennai Express exploits its predictable elements alongside its absurd subversion of expectation to create uncannily, ironically unironic, genuineness of incredible character. Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone's palpable chemistry is central to the successes of this narrative. Lifting character through some of the best silly comedy I've experienced in a while, the two put heart in what is in so many ways giddy nonsense. Beyond this, some of the songs are solid - the rest, ok - the action is a bit shaky, but somehow works and all else... the absurd dream that this is simply works; I was lost in delirium for 150+ minutes. Tremendous.

How can you not respect Evil Dead and Evil Dead II? Insane showcases of just how little a script can matter if a director and set-designer are willing to put their balls to the wall, these films are unabashedly incoherent and spectacularly surreal. Evil Dead II doesn't see Raimi's direction get too much better, but the scale of all else has exploded into a different state.

That said, whilst I respect these films, I can't say I can actually step inside of and enjoy them. Evil Dead II then impressed me with its sheer audacity, but didn't really tickle the senses. If I ever want to see a fun horror movie though, I know Evil Dead is the way to go.

Too much. Simply too much.

Whilst there's beauty in Raja Hindustani's presentation of strangers falling into one another's hearts, in its exploration of love as a foolish act, of relationships as transcendent of all chaos that they may manifest, the excesses of this film are entirely overwhelming. 1000s of words could be written to describe just this, but consider only the fact that all the melodrama in this film reaches a climax of goons chasing a man with a new-born baby through a forest with knives and guns before engaging in hand-to-hand combat with him--whilst there is a real baby strapped to the man's back. The presentation of evil greed here is just absurd. There are so many conflicting elements of the film like this. Overall, Raja Hindustani is then overflowing with dissonance; and such translates to the experience of watching it. I'm exhausted.

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