Saturday, October 14, 2017

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All Kinds Of Wonder Women

Poorly organized thoughts on current multiplex offerings

Victoria and Abdul
dir: Stephen Frears
scr: Lee Hall, based on the book by Shrabani Basu

Do biopics no longer require a point of view? While Ali Fazal is not lacking in charm, his Abdul is a bit of a cipher. Flirtations with giving his character more shades of grey are quickly abandoned, quickly making him a plot point rather than a character. Despite some lip service, Anglo-Indian tensions are not framed within a proper context - the movie would rather tsk-tsk the Royal Household for racism and classism at home than question the legitimacy of Empire or acknowledge the Queen's complicity in it. Thank goodness for Judi Dench's performance as Queen Victoria, a terrific, terribly sad portrayal embracing the Queen's contradictions and letting us see the cracks.

dir/scr: Darren Aronofsky

My love for Darren Aronofsky continues unabated. I shan't say much, only to point out that the dizzying cinematography, labyrinthine production design, and suggestive performances all contribute to a cinematic fever dream that's just...transportive. It's best to go into this not knowing anything, but if you must have a hint...I'll provide them after the jump (along with reviews of Blade Runner 2049, It, and more).
It's not quite the psycho horror the trailer promised, but it is a horrific two hours. Honey, this movie mirrors my own struggles, questions, and theories regarding faith and the nature of God. He's seductive, magnetic, makes you yearn for Him when you're sure you've lost him; he's ruthless, egomaniacal, a brute who will let you burn as long as His praises are sung. You could also read this as a meditation on an artist's relationship with his art - the artist as God, God as the artist. Audacious, exciting cinema.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
dir/scr: Angela Robinson

The true story of Wonder Woman's creation by psychologist William Moulton Marston, inspired by both his own theories regarding human nature, and the titular wonder women in his life: wife and research partner Elizabeth Marston, and their shared lover Olive Byrne. It's a funny, sexy, adult story about openness, about living without shame, about dominance not needing to be a strictly male trait, about a throuple that truly functions. Great performances, sensuous cinematography, fabulous costumes.

Blade Runner 2049
dir: Denis Villeneuve
scr: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, story by Fancher, based on characters from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

The production design evolves the style of the original for our current sensibilities without compromising the established continuity (good to see you back, Pan Am!). Let me join the chorus of hosannas greeting Roger Deakins' cinematography. And at almost three hours in length, it somehow flies by like it's under two hours. It delivers on excitement! Thrills!

It also finds time to stop and meditate on what it means to live a human existence. Realizing your potential, that you've been underestimated - does that awareness make you human? Would you know you were if you weren't told what makes a human experience? Is it the way we think, or the way we feel? Just some thoughts I had while watching a replicant feel snow on its skin; the specificities of a false memory being created; a computer make love for the first time; a definitely human being create and destroy with equal callousness; a fight between hero and villain that says more about our own limitations - and our potential - than it does about good vs. evil. We are all replicants, and we are all human, all searching, all coming up short.

And what an impressive ensemble of women: Sylvia Hoeks crafting a sense of autonomy out of vicious efficiency; Carla Juri with her mind full of a world that she can no longer experience; Robin Wright bemused by and protective of the "skinjob" she knows; Ana de Armas walking that tricky tightrope between pre-programmed and awakening.

Loves, darlings, readers: I loved this movie.

dir: Andy Muschietti
scr: Chase Palmer & Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman, based on the novel by Stephen King

Kids vs. nightmare clown. Does a wonderful job establishing believably traumatic childhood fears and some plausible chemistry among its young cast, with Sophia Lillis and Jack Dylan Grazer the major standouts. But here's the thing: all of the kids' fears come from the unknown: What if I'm incurably ill, could I have saved my family, is my brother alive? By comparison, that colorful, loud clown announcing his presence at every turn is more irritating than scary. Would that he was more surreal, like in his dance scene. Music, cinematography also suffer from this identity crisis.

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