Two animated movies this week. Rewatched the supurb Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) and we all had such a great time. The same cannot be said for Ice Age: Age of the Dinosaurs (2009). The first Ice Age was watchable enough, but this second sequel is completely derivative. There is nothing in the plot or script that is at all original, different, or creative. The script is all anachronisms, modern cultural norms, and recycled jokes from other, better movies. On the positive side, there is some fluid animation, beautiful backgrounds, and some good lighting & camera movement. And nothing against the cast; you can’t blame them for taking the paycheck in a successful franchise for just a few days work. Newcomer Simon Pegg adds some much needed energy to the movie as Buck. Scrat can be fun because his antics are essentially self-contained cartoon short interludes that channel Looney Tunes (especially Wile E. Coyote). But in this movie, even these tried-and-true shenanigans play tired and dull. The movie moves at a mammoth’s pace and I was constantly looking at how much time was left until it was over. Solid not recommend.
I have lots of feelings about Ari Aster’s new three hour epic Beau Is Afraid (2023), which, despite the implications of the title, steps away from the elevated horror of Hereditary and Midsommar. Joaquin Phoenix is an anxious loser whose massive Oedipal Complex prevents him from both securing love from his domineering mother Betty Buckley, or forging an identity apart from the punishing life she constructs for him. Astor’s command of cinematic language and allegorical storytelling remains masterful, but I’m afraid his comedy chops are way too soft. Slapstick bits of shocking violence drag on for minutes… hours… lifetimes. I couldn’t wait for the film to end, but haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Imagine Terry Gilliam adding an hour to Brazil, and replacing all the George Orwell paranoia with Freudian psychosexual urges. A Recommend only to the extremely patient and adventurous.
1988 was a hell of a year for Michael Keaton, delivering what I believe are his two best performances the same year. First off, he had Beetlejuice and then came a saldy unknown film I re-watched this week – Clean and Sober. This was Keaton’s first dramatic role and he’s incredible as a conceited, self-centred cocaine addict who, after a one-night stand overdoses and the $92,000 he embezzled from his employer is uncovered, decides to hide out in rehab for a while while the heat cools off. Keaton’s journey from addict to recovery is one free of melodrama or sentimentality, and presented in a brutally honest and totally believable way. This film has an amazing supporting cast led by Morgan Freeman, Kathy Baker and M. Emmet Walsh, but it’s Keaton’s superb performance that makes this worth watching, showing us the humanity and sadness in what might have been a repulsive, unlikeable character in lesser hands. Strong recommend.
I saw a Spanish comedy called Soy una Buena Persona (I’m a Good Person). I use the term “comedy” very loosely because I laughed less than ten times in it. With scenes that go on for too long, an aimless plot and with really jarring tonal shifts, this is the worst theater experience I’ve had this year. Strong not recommend. The short film that preceded it Ángel y Perla (Angel and Pearl) was actually really funny and charming, and like any good short film, it leaves you wanting more. It is currently not on YouTube or any streaming services but as soon as it is, I’ll be sure to post it in a future What We’re Watching. Strong recommend.
Just last night, I watched Ari Aster’s latest film, Beau is Afraid (2023). Holy crap, this was nothing like his last two elevated horror pieces. Beau is Afraid is definitely elevated, as in, there is a lot of weird stuff going on. And there are definitely some tense and shocking moments. Don’t go into this expecting a horror movie–you’ll come away sorely disappointed if you do. But if you’re in the mood for something both epic and dreamlike, something that can bring the terrors of anxiety to life, something that will confuse and confound you, and you have a full three hours to spare, Beau is Afraid might be the perfect film for you. Joaquin Phoenix was really good, even if he riffed on the same emotion for most of the film. His physical acting really sold me on his distraught state. More than that, perhaps more than either Hereditary or Midsommar, the visuals of this film were eclectic and diverse, but always stunning. From sun-soaked cruise ships to mixed animation scenes, I couldn’t stop staring. The final act didn’t quite land for me, but for much of the film, I was in awe. And for all of its weird eccentricities, I think I loved it.
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