I love movies. I don’t know if that is clear, but I’m going to just make it clear in case it wasn’t: I love movies. I usually spend my Sundays watching films on the couch, surrounded by popcorn, cats, and Trav. Whether or not he chooses to join me on the journey of cinema is of no consequence to me – I inform him later of what he missed out on if he falls asleep, much to his delight, or I write snarky one-liners and occasionally poorly wax poetic on my Letterboxd page. Sometimes I go through a bit of a slump and can’t decide what to watch, especially when there are so many services and so many films to choose from. New movies? Old classics? Something I haven’t seen in a while? All of them are fair game. In the last few weeks I feel like I’ve watched a number of movies that managed to stay with me days after viewing them, in some cases weeks after, which to me is always the mark of a good movie. It sticks with you, makes you think, gives you a spark. I have a long list of movies that I feel will give me this spark to view still, but as of late here are a couple that I feel like are worth ranting about for a few minutes while I wait for my bath water to run.
I didn’t see La La Land, and I recently added Whiplash to my must watch list without even realizing that it was the work of the same director, Damien Chazelle. What I do know is that Babylon had an insane pacing that didn’t entirely feel like it let up, and likely because it was meant to guide you through the tumultuous and ever-changing landscape of late 20’s Hollywood as it adapted to the transference of silent films to talking pictures. The movie follows a series of characters as they make their way through this landscape; Nellie LaRoy (played by Margot Robbie) is an electrifying presence looking to get famous, Jack Conrad (played by Brad Pitt) is looking to stay relevant and on top of his game, and Manny Torres (played by Diego Calva) is looking to contribute to something great and bigger than him in this life. Babylon being a pivotal reverence to biblical sin sets the stage for what is otherwise an outlandish and borderline unbelievable series of hedonistic shots – from famous/infamous parties to chaotic movie sets, I found myself wondering how much historical accuracy was contained within each scene. Babylon was almost cartoonish in its Wolf Of Wall St. style delivery, definitely raucous and over the top in its content, and aptly entertaining as an examination of generational stereotypes, uncharted territories and musings that came together in one incredible ride of a film that, by its end, transforms into what I think it was meant to be: an emotionally charged tribute to movies as we know them today. It’s not necessarily meant to be glowing, accurate, or poignant, though in the end it comes together in one synaptic flash of the future gleaned through the eyes of central protagonist Manny that got me a little teary-eyed. Babylon is meant to portray excess as an overarching message of the outright exploitative nature of Hollywood throughout time. The soundtrack is an absolute driving force and that alone has kept this movie alive in my brain for WEEKS. I haven’t seen a movie that’s made me want to watch it on repeat in quite sometime, but Babylon has managed to become that for me in the current time. Absolutely loved it.
This might be one of the most insane pieces of film I’ve seen in a while, and I mean that as a good thing. What Brandon Cronenberg managed to do was deliver everything that I’ve ever wanted out of a Panos Cosmatos movie without slowing every scene down to an agonizing crawl, and with a father like David Cronenberg you would assume, correctly, that the apple does not fall too far from the mutated twisted hemorrhaging weird-ass body horror tree. Tense, uncomfortable, unsure of itself yet fully committed to accelerating itself into the abyss, Infinity Pool has no right to be as good as it is given the confusing context of its plot and everything else surrounding it: man and wife on luxury vacation find themselves wooed by other luxury vacationers into what ends up being a nightmare turned self-fulfilling prophecy? I’m not sure. I’m still unpacking the movie, though its central themes of hedonism are felt through and through. Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth absolutely light up the screen and captivate you from start to finish. I think Infinity Pool‘s biggest flaw is that, like many things, it doesn’t quite know how to end, although in some ways it’s an appropriate end to an otherwise fever dream of a ride. Infinity Pool is not for the weak, as the body horror brand of the Cronenberg family name remains a staple from father to son, and in this movie particularly you will be left squirming a few times. I love weird and uncomfortable movies like this, so naturally this one ended up being my jam and has been living rent-free in my brain for a couple of weeks.
I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy this movie as much as I ended up enjoying it, though I’m constantly waylaid by how good Cate Blanchett is at everything she touches. Tár is a complex movie with a simple story surrounding a highly regarded composer’s fall from grace in the wake of a sexual misconduct scandal. We, the audience, watch all of this unfold, particularly from Lydia Tár’s corner of the story though not necessarily from her point of view: we see everything during and after, and we are left to decide, ultimately, how we feel about the character and her work in the wake of it all. I believe what Tár tries to challenge are multiple ideas surrounding power dynamics, gender politics, sexual identity, and art/artist, all intertwined within each other and individual. It’s hard to discuss too much about the movie without spoiling some key points of the film, though it’s hard to truly give away everything when the magic of the movie lies not only in the carefully crafted storytelling of writer/director Todd Field, but the ethereal nature of Blanchett’s performance. She is a powerhouse and this movie makes me want to use bourgeoise phrases like “tour de force” to describe her – because it is true, she is phenomenal, and I would recommend the movie on the back of that alone. But the combination of excellent script, excellent actor, and excellent filming make this truly one of the best movies of the last year that I think is actually worthy of all of the priase it is receiving. I also think the ending might be one of the most hysterical endings I’ve ever witnessed in a movie, and I mean that. I watched Tár like a week ago, and it has been stuck to me since then, its power growing every day. Definitely worth a view.
Mad Max: Fury Road
I know this one feels out of place given how much older it is than the other films on this list, but I found myself explaining to Trav that I had simply never watched Mad Max: Fury Road last night, which he simply responded to by saying, “well do you wanna fuckin’ watch Mad Max: Fury Road right now?” I put the movie on, and I was met with a visual treat of a film with a pulpy comic feel not unlike 300, a ridiculous cast of characters that included some kind of insane Devin Townsend-esque bard on acid as well as a list of like 30 other people I immediatley recognized from their illustrious careers that were, no doubt, aided greatly by this cinematic achievement of a movie. How did I miss this? How could I have possibly missed this? I know the reason why, and it’s simply “streaming” – but I’m glad that I finally saw it, because WOW. There’s something to be said about an ensemble cast of females doing badass shit that really strikes a chord with me: it’s just something I love to see, I guess, when it’s done right. Its story wasn’t necessarily complex, or hard to follow, or even entirely important. I didn’t need Mad Max: Fury Road to be more than it was, either, which was just two hours of a good time, though what I think Mad Max: Fury Road does so well that is so unspoken for me is that it, somehow, harnesses the feeling of movies from the 80’s and 90’s – and by that I mean movies that create their own universes, aren’t trying to draw strict parallels to the here and now, and are self-contained. I know that Mad Max is an older movie, and a good one at that, so it’s not like this is a prolific statement I’m making here: the world building was already done, its self-contained nature had a box to live in. That doesn’t change the fact that the newer installment managed to come alive on screen in an exciting way that many, including myself, clearly found agreeable. I found Mad Max: Fury Road to be an excellent action movie that went above and beyond my expectations. I know this one will probably be living in my brain for a bit, and will likely get added, like Babylon, to a list of rotated movies I will watch when I just need some good background noise. Love that for myself.