Movie Reviews: Lady Bird was so _______



I appreciate indie film. For the most apart, it is only through this medium that you can watch art imitating life. There are no super powers. Space Aliens are not getting revenge on Earth. There are no stunts from tough guys that would kill an ordinary human being. Robots from another planet are not randomly picking Earth as a battleground.

I’ve been a fan of the indie scene sine the mid 1990s, when I was an early teen. I watched all sort of indie movies, clever and shitty. I’ve endured pretentiousness up the wazoo and witnessed work that predicted masterpieces to come. When I first saw Memento, I was like “Wow. Just wait until this Christopher Nolan guy gets a budget.”

When I watched Lady Bird, it couldn’t have been more boring to me. It began with a jump outside a moving vehicle, which made me go “okay, maybe we got a story here.” But what follows is basically ordinary coming of age life tale. The music was so off-2002 that it could have been a story for anyone from 1996 to 2004. The Catholic school setting didn’t matter whatsoever, because much of it was a basic rich vs poor plot, a story told for thousands of years, with much of the time spent on drama club.

We watch Lady Bird, a neurotic teen with wit far beyond her age, navigate the waters of her senior year in a town she doesn’t like while pursuing (shocking) boys.

I was incredibly bored throughout. I related to the poverty and needing a plan to get the hell out of town (who doesn’t) but everything else I’ve seen before over and over and over again. Boys and sex and college admissions. An ending ripped from Paper towns.

There seems to be an Oscar tradition of so many films getting nominated now that there is an indie quota of movies artists want to make more of and movies the general public will never see. Last year, Moonlight is a prime example. It might be a fine film, but it is probably one of the least relatable films I could choose to watch, so I don’t.

With Lady Bird, make your choice. It isn’t for everyone, and you’ve seen the movie before under different packaging.

Movie Rating: 5/10 Waitlisted Schools

Movie Reviews: Dunkirk


Like many of my movie reviews, this is really a half movie review, and a half tangent rant on something related to the film. If you truly want to know about the synopsis of the film, there are many other blogs or media reviews to read.

It’s also a little personal.

This was the first Christopher Nolan film since Batman Begins that I did not see in theaters. I saw the the hype. I knew the history. Nolan is one of the best directors in the business today. But I couldn’t bear to watch it.

It has nothing to do with the film, but more to do with the content.

I’m a veteran. By choice, I simply, don’t watch realistic war films often. Before the service, I did. Saving Private Ryan was the best in my opinion. World War II was the war to end of all wars, and the greatest generation, steadfast brits, key allies and resistance groups, fought the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan, all while The Soviet Union fought and bore a huge cost on the brutal eastern front of the war. Who broke the Third Reich? (Hint: land wars in Asia are brutal) Since doing my share in OIF and OEF, I don’t really want to watch war films. I think since I watched The Hurt Locker, which itself was a preposterous action film, my interest waned the moment I saw Jeremy Renner lost and confused in the supermarket aisle.

That was me. Or is me. I don’t know. When the war idealism fades, and you enter your 30s, your taste in cinema evidently changes to. At least it did for me.

I have not seen American Sniper, despite liking and respecting Clint Eastwood films.

I have not seen The Lone Survivor, despite thinking Peter Berg is a good director.

I did watch Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up with Zero Dark Thirty, but that wasn’t really a war film. It was really a spy movie, which are still fun in my book.

Maybe I have Post Traumatic Movie Syndrome.

So, it took a lot for me to watch this movie, and its from a different era. To drill down to the cause, maybe it’s because war isn’t a glorified thing when you are part of it. Young and predominantly determined people fight wars old people lead. I wouldn’t go as far as to say poor people fight in modern day, since really, Armed Forces of the US are middle class after a few years, with education opportunities that can propel them to the higher rungs once you make it past 4 years (most don’t, especially in the Marines, statistically). We come in as idealists and usually leave a change person, for better or worse.

We learn  few universal military maxims. First and foremost, healthcare sucks: incompetent and motrin-pushing when you are in, and incompetent and ailment-denying when you are out. Politicians won’t truly ever care. If you are a vet, try writing a congressman and see if you ever get an answer. The VA is literally filled with healthcare bureaucrats who run it like a DMV. Instead of the entire VA and their $70 billion budget, they could gut it all and cover all retiree’s insurance with a top program, and make it law to deny coverage. Would benefits be abused by some? Maybe. It happens under the VA now (with disability shopping) and with Medicare (which the country covers for older retirees). But really, what is the over abuse when it comes to healthcare? Electing to have more knees surgeries …. fuck. You got to me one tough motherfucker to want a knee operation that you don’t need. They say 39,471 veterans are homeless any given night in america, which is a shame. Many of these people have serious problems. Some, are post traumatic stress syndrome related … something that was frowned upon as a sissy psychology-pushed diagnosis until the Iraq War. Help them before the sands of time turn them into a shell of their former selves.

Nevertheless, wars are fought and always will be fought. In this movie, we watch a retreat unfold. Nothing is truly explained. Nolan expects people to know their history other than the few lines of introduction the film opens with. I read somewhere that Nolan wanted the film to have no script, which I guess was unique, and perhaps ambitious if this was an intended documentary style recreation.

I didn’t love the film. I actually will go as far to say, I think the narrative is disjointed. Nolan seems to be watching too many Kubrick films. If Interstellar was like a Space Odyssey tribute, Dunkirk is an homage to Paths of Glory. Every frame is beautifully shot and could be hung in an art gallery. I just didn’t see a story. Nothing felt compelling to me. There isn’t a single narrative. You don’t really root for anyone. There is no villain. It doesn’t really demonize or talk bad about the enemy. The movie is 90% visuals and a Hans Zimmer score.

Not even his stable of trusted actors can save the story. Between Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy (who is one of the few saving graves of the film) there just isn’t much for them to do, along with the 400 other white male actors (this is a Christopher Nolan film, so go figure)

The film is simply a retreat, and afterward, I felt tired.

Maybe its genius because it doesn’t glamorize war. There is no real victory. There is no real point.

Movie Rating: 5/10 low tides

Movie Reviews: Roman J. Israel, Esq

What is an esquire?

Either google the term if you have zero patience, or watch how Denzel Washington delivers an answer as Roman J. Israel, Esq, a man with a crisis of conscience.

This is a common theme in many adult films. I personally like George Clooney in Michael Clayton as he explores a similar theme, also in the legal world. Maybe this is why we don’t predominantly like attorneys. They are expensive, shallow, and the nature of their work treat their clients as dollar signs. This theme runs deep through the film as Denzel’s character has to weigh a life of servitude for the greater good, or giving in to the monetary demons on his shoulders.

Choices are made, and you can probably guess the arc. If you watched Nightcrawler, an excellent film also by Dan Gilroy (who also saved Rogue One in reshoots), you’ll know there is a new master in Hollywood. Gilroy understands pacing, character arcs, and how to deliver an ending against a narrative.

People, understandably, hope for some Hollywood type ending. In legal dramas, this often culminates in some victorious legal decision. But the story is often more about the case or criminal. A film directed by Dan Gilroy is always about someone’s journey, the decision they have to make, and the consequences of their actions. Watch Nightcrawler, the end of Rogue One, and Roman J. Esquire and compare.

I read a few other reviews, mostly centering on Denzel getting nominated for an Oscar again, but they hoped for more. Others called the film weird.

I thought it was tremendous masterwork done by a storyteller. I look forward to the next decade of Dan Gilroy films. They have you thinking afterward, “what was that about?” In current cinema, there are only a few other directors I hold in this regard: Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, and Nicholas Winding Refn. I don’t exactly have to love all of their films, but I love the artistry they display in a commercialized business.

I think this is Denzel’s best work in many years. He’s plays basically the same character in most of his films, likely due to director/producer decisions, so that people know exactly what they are paying for. He is kind of crusty, kind of tough, and usually to the point. Roman J. Israel is crusty, however isn’t tough, is kind of chicken, stammers on tangents and lacks social manners.

And what else. Colin Farrell. That Colin Farrell. The one who was In Bruges, not the one in SWAT. The one pushing himself in The Lobster, not the one evading capture in Total Recall. The one who dabbles in indie films with exploratory storytelling. Not the one looking for the big payday. The character actor. A good character actor.

Dan Gilroy, please please please keep the films coming. I know $11 million isn’t exactly the box office producers want, but film as an art form needs more stories like this, and adults need to support it in the future, otherwise over-saturation of sequels/prequels/animation/reboots/comic stories will somehow get worse. Film itself is going through a similar crisis of conscience. There is a tradeoff in this industry, like many others (like Facebook filtering the fake paid posts, but not all, or Google disabling fake news accounts, but still allowing Tai Lopez to pump Bitcoin courses to dumb millennials), which I now ponder the morning after. Movie reviewers are not exactly a philosophical bunch, so I understand how most were quick to type up their reviews and few actually thought about the art. I can only imagine them attending a new art exhibit.

Movie Rating: 9.5/10 Armenian Rewards



Movie Reviews: Interstellar


Talk about a great director with a big idea that falls flat, so much so, you kind of want to go back in time to only imagine the movie playing out in your head after getting excited watching the preview. You know the feeling. Everyone does. The preview gets you in the movie with a big tub of popcorn and leaves you confused and in a butter-coma.

The movie breaks Christopher Nolan’s streak of making good movies starting with the letter “I” and to me, I give me him a pass on it for trying something out of this world. The story about a doomed planet and a hero out to save it isn’t exactly new. Practically half of the Sci-Fi written in the last sixty years have some sort of “dying earth” story (I stayed at a Holiday Inn express last night, so my statistics might be slightly off).

The movie starts off as a doomsday story, then it goes all Armageddon via wormhole on us, followed by meeting Matt Damon aka “The Martian” who then goes all crazy on everyone (aka going “Full Lucas” on this blog), then out of nowhere it tries to top the ending of 2001 Space Odyssey by doing some sort of M.Night Shamalamadingdong on us with some paranormal time eighty-fifth dimension on us.  In the end, Matt “Mcconaissance” McConaughey meets his daughter who has aged, who tells him to go see Mrs.Princess Bride on the far off distant planet. To me, I think the movie should have started there after a 10 minute flashback/prologue, then we could have seen how the civilization grew. It was almost like one decent nugget in our minds to imagine as if it was a … preview … oh, I see what happened, Christopher Nolan you sly dog. You just made the greatest and longest preview for $165 million.

Will McConaughey teach the new civilization how to snorkel? Will he hook up with the Princess Bride of new planet? Will there be a failure to launch? Would Woody Harrelson consider joining the cast of a sequel so they can have detective stories on the new planet?

Movie Rating: 6/10 stars

Movie as an over budget Preview Rating: 10/10 stars