Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #91


End Of The Week Shorts #91

Today's shorts: The Final Master (2015), Hereditary (2018), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Bird Box (2018), Blindspotting (2018), Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India (2001), Wildlife (2018)

Incredibly stiff and unimpactful, The Final Master falls into the 'Ten Thousand Dojos' sub-genre of the martial arts film as uninspired drudgery. This fails as soon as the weapons of choice are brought into play: knives awkwardly stuck onto a stick. It continues to fail as these are hefted about the screen in all too clearly choreographed scenes and a plot of deception, honour and doomed romance meanders about. Story is given so little focus that I have to admit not knowing what is going on for a good majority of the film. Whenever I did manage to gain some insight, I found myself alienated by the clunky fight scenes - which become ever more unconvincing the further they escalate. Without any intellectual, emotional or otherwise connection to this film I ultimately found The Final Master reduced to a series of happenings and that is all.

How easy is it to be lost in this Hereditary's bleak ugliness. I cannot recall a film that captures grief and pain in such a visceral and violently real manner; the scene depicting the discovery of Charlie's demise alone is so wrought and distant that it appears that sorrow has only now been truly captured on screen. But such only embolden's Hereditary's unimpeachable sense of humanity, its understanding of the psyche, of the meeting between the shadow and stubborn virtue.

I struggled, I must say, to see past the rather obvious allegory about mental health on this watch. I sense greater depth in this film, but, whilst the direct reading of this as simply a movie about tragedy triggering mental illness is made difficult by putting certain impossible things on screen, making it ambiguous as to whether the supernatural is in characters' heads or not, I need to watch this again to see and feel more.

I am becoming all too tired of Marvel movies again. Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther won me over, but I can't stand the tone and feel placed into the Marvel universe by Whedon. His writing is impossibly insipid; the quippy lines, the comedy, the self-consciousness, the conception of humanity all just put a terrible taste in my mouth. I still cannot understand how Elizabeth Olsen gets away with her shoddy performance and embarrassing Russian accent and I refuse to accept Hawkeye and Black Widow as necessary or worthwhile parts of these films. I can only come off as a grumpy old fart in being honest about Age of Ultron, but it is simply not to my tastes. Objectively, I can say that not all the comedy fails and that it is an impressive feat of filmmaking, but time will hopefully reveal how good these films aren't--important, yes; great, no.

Bird Box appears for the first act to be a sci-fi/horror maybe a little too aware of its subtext for its own good, but ultimately turns out to waste all of its subtextual potential.

Invisible monsters existent in light, out in the world, show people great tragedy, great fear--something enough to sap their will to live away, something enough to drive them to death. To survive one must blindfold themselves, and behind a blindfold a loner essentially finds a real reason to live and to face all fear. But, never does she face the monsters? Hmm... maybe I like melodrama a little too much, or maybe Bird Box is simply a trendy high concept horror. Much more could be said and done here; characterisation could have been deeper, the journeys more complex, imagery more visceral, subtext more profound, etc, etc. Somewhat disappointing. Too simple.

Blindspotting confronts some heavy subject matter one may think a little too charged to investigate well and to present without mere association to political debate. It sticks the landing, but maybe doesn't get 10/10.

Performances are great; the writing is grounded in characterisation and in an understanding of what makes our characters human, faulted and imbued with sanctity; the direction is smooth; and the script is weighted and light in all the right places. Bindspotting finds most success in its indirect social commentary; its humanisation of an ex-con, its confrontation of his short-comings, its questioning of his virtues, its preservation of his humanity. This alone says more than most words could: we see what it is to be seen for ones facade, understood and misconceived all at once. Blindspotting limits itself in its climax, which simply feels dramatically unearned; a coincidence and scene pulled from the blue for obvious reasons, but not great effect. In total, I can't then say this is perfect.

This has what all good Aamir Khan film's have in common; a succinct sense of what makes a hero. Lagaan simply bursts with character and taps into the very fundamentals of action, heroism and desperation. The comedy is strong, the direction is fantastic, romance doesn't get in the way too much; this is harmonised almost perfectly and is infinitely watchable. Highly recommended,

From scene 1, Wildlife is a high level showcase of visual characterisation and subtext rich dialogue. The performances are tremendous in their rather effortless execution of a somewhat surreal script whose dramaturgy could manifest via melodrama but is rather brought to the screen with simple realism by Gyllenhaal and Mulligan. This emphasises every nuance of their character complications and turns the camera's gaze impressionistic. The narrative and aesthetic result is affectingly human--deeply miserable, but never more so than it is understandable. Wildlife is a sponge of empathy, a well of heart ache and a kick of reality, and for that it is more than impressive. One of the best of last year.

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Image In Motion - Autonomy Over The Cinematic Space

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