Movie Review – Nope

Nope (2022)
Written & Directed by Jordan Peele

It’s rare to have these moments, but this is the most excited I have been to write about a new release film for a long time. Especially a summer blockbuster movie, which has become one of my least favorite kinds of films in recent years. Before we get into the meat of the interview, I will also say that this is my favorite Jordan Peele movie, and I would argue it is the picture that will take him to the next level of his career. Get Out & Us are great movies, but I think Nope has that extra bit that was always missing for me. This is a movie that people should discuss in how they talk about Jaws or The Exorcist or any other “phenomenon” movie. If Nope had come out in the 1980s, it would have been a massive hit on the level of those movies. Unfortunately, I think it won’t have that level of buzz because we live in such a media-saturated world.

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Comic Book Review – Icon and Rocket: Season One

Icon and Rocket: Season One (2022)
Reprints Icon and Rocket: Season One #1-6
Written by Reginald Hudlin
Art by Doug Braithwaite

When I was thirteen, I got two comic book fan magazine subscriptions. Of course, one was Wizard Magazine. If you were a comic book fan in America in the 1990s, you likely owned at least a few issues of this publication. The other magazine, well, I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it. I have looked up lists of American comics mags from the period and cannot find it. I remember the cover was in color, but the magazine’s inside was black & white, not quite newsprint but not fantastic paper either. It was sold in our local Kroger grocery store. If you know what it might be, let me know. I say all of that to state that my first knowledge of DC’s Milestone Comics imprint happened with that second magazine.

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Movie Review – Hatching

Hatching (2022)
Written by Ilja Rautsi
Directed by Hanna Bergholm

In American culture, a fraction of the populace has been lost & enamored in the concept of internet celebrity. This often manifests as a desire to be an “influencer,” typically a poster on Instagram promoting products to their followers. For people who can’t ascertain a particular talent or passion due to living in a society that leaves its people exhausted from extracting their labor, being an influencer feels like a “get rich quick” scheme. People hope to escape the drudgery of everyday life by cultivating a fanbase around their internet persona. It’s understandable, but that doesn’t make it any less depressing. That’s the thing with capitalism; it rarely offers the idea of introspection or knowing one’s self; instead, it encourages us to perform so that we can be accepted into an artificial norm majority. Well, it seems it’s not just the United States experiencing this, as this horror picture from Finland is interested in examining the phenomenon.

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Movie Review – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Written & Directed by Jacques Demy

Masterpieces don’t happen all the time. Sometimes they happen, and people don’t realize they are looking at one. Other times, they know right away when they see it. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a true masterpiece of filmmaking. The script alone is a perfect plot, no fat; everything moves the characters forward, whether getting closer to their goals or having it complicated. There’s not a single second of wasted time on the screen, which says a lot for a film that is also spilling over with style. Oh yes, and every word in the movie is sung, starting with an exchange between a mechanic and a customer talking about the status of a car. Damien Chazelle boldly claimed this is “the best film ever made.” But is it?

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Movie Review – Bay of Angels

Bay of Angels (1963)
Written & Directed by Jacques Demy

From the opening credits, Bay of Angels explodes onto the screen. The energy of this sequence will propel the rest of the film forward, a visual representation of the distance between people, of long winding personal journeys intersecting with another’s, and even the overstimulated rush provided by gambling. Demy’s characters are always caught up in their passions, and women are found at the center of things. For the director, women seem to be the key for a man to feel life; without them, everything seems to fall into abject misery. Of course, that doesn’t mean life is going to be sunshine and rainbows with a woman in your life, but you will, if nothing else, feel something. These celestial figures light up every nerve ending, even if the sensation is searing pain.

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Movie Review – Lola

Lola (1961)
Written & Directed by Jacques Demy

The French New Wave was a dominant force in Western cinema in the post-War era. The various filmmakers associated with the movement (Goddard, Truffaut, et al.) left an indelible mark on how movies are made, but at some point, they faded into the background as other countries around the world started revolutionizing cinema in their own way. Jacques Demy was a French filmmaker, a little younger than the New Wave auteurs, whose best work happened after that attention had faded. He made some incredible movies, often inspired by Hollywood pictures but with his own flourishes added. His name would not be as well known as his older peers, but his work would resonate with certain modern filmmakers. Damien Chazelle cited The Umbrellas of Cherbourg as “the greatest film ever made” and heavily cribbed from it and The Young Girls of Rochefort for his La La Land. I think Demy deserves much more accolades for the brilliant remixing of film elements he presented in his work.

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Patron Pick – Solaris (1972)

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. If they choose, they also get to include some of their thoughts about the movie. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Solaris (1972)
Written by Fridrikh Gorenstein & Andrei Tarkovsky
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

Science fiction is a label attributed to a pretty diverse genre of fiction. In recent years, the move to rebrand it as “speculative fiction” has been made but has not gotten much headway in mainstream culture. “Speculative” is a much better way to describe this genre’s full breadth. In Western cinema, the emphasis is often on technological innovation, which makes sense given the very industrial, consumptive capitalist mindset. Things will set us free; items we can purchase and/or upgrade are the path to salvation. Look at how, amid a global climate collapse, we are offered ludicrous technological solutions like dimming the sun artificially rather than simply developing systems that will help us consume fewer fossil fuels. Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky also saw this in Western science fiction and sought to make cinema that captured the metaphysical and philosophical strains, asking big questions about existence and reality.

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Movie Review – I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Written by Paul Laverty
Directed by Ken Loach

Western civilization is nearing its end. Now it could be around for another 100 years or more. I don’t think we’ll see any Roland Emmrich-style explosive finale or Mad Max-ian wastelands ruled by marauders. It’s a sad, pathetic decline where the poor and working people will just be stepped on harder and harder. Cruelty will be further normalized, and society will be conditioned to accept less than crumbs as acceptable. Anyone speaking out who might bring out even a modicum of change will be pilloried and labeled a “hater,” a “traitor,” etc. And you’ll still be expected to keep going to work and paying bills during this collapse. They won’t let a day go by that you aren’t being squeezed like a sponge for all possible labor at the lowest possible wages. The slavery model in American prisons has been quite lucrative. 

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