Post the name of the latest movie you've seen and your rating out of 10.
Sunshine Boys (t0073766) - 7/10 - loved Burns, hated Matthau.
I was startled a good number of times, but it was all due to cheap jump scares. The effect lasts for one second and is gone, without any lasting horror. The audience actually laughed during some scenes. Just mentioning naked grandmas and creatures that resemble gollum or a giant troll doll.
The first version of It wasn't perfect but it was much more restrained. Less is really more. The new film tried to link the supernatural powers with the everyday horrors of family relationships, homophobia, bullying, etc. but the attempt pretty much fizzles out.
The trailer promised a mix of Taxi Driver and King of Comedy, and as far as premise and aesthetics are concerned, the movie delivered. Arthur Fleck is one of those desperate guys, you don't know whether he's weird because he's lonely or the other way around. Like Travis Bickle, he projects his personal failings to the outer world, which is shabby and corrupt to be fair. Like Rupert Pupkin, he aspires to be loved for his (nonexistent) charm and talents.
Unlike Travis and Rupert, Arthur does have a fully fledged backstory. His mom is delusionary; he was mistreated as a child; he grew up fatherless; he is mentally ill and takes many pills. We can see Rupert and especially Travis as mirrors of our own hidden evils, but Arthur's evils are explained as purely pathological and entirely personal. We can't really relate to him and let us be challenged by his actions. Even the brilliant idea of the sudden, unwanted, depressed laughter is insistently reduced to a medical condition.
(Note: it's not that it's hard to relate to Arthur because he is mentally ill, but because he is only mentally ill. There is not much room for a personality beyond that, and no unexplainable rest which we could fill with our own dispositions)
Yes, the movie touches upon social issues here and there but doesn't delve into much. Rich people are out of touch and greedy, poor people are sick and violent, that's to what the social "critique" amounts. There is the interesting notion that the Joker might be a vigilante, which would make his roots similar to that of his "good" foe, Batman. It is discarded quickly. One scene I did like involves Thomas Wayne, just after having insulted poor people as clowns, watching "Modern Times" in the movie theater, presumably intrigued by that poor, clown-like schmuck on the screen.
Arthur, or rather the Joker, has many followers, which we as the audience see precisely the way Thomas Wayne would: they are rioters who hate the rich. Who are they? What do they suffer from? What do they do, except for exerting random acts of violence? The movie isn't interested in all that.
At least the movie tried something radically different from most superhero movies, and I appreciate the effort. It could have amounted to more. Dark and gritty does not equal subversive.
Todd Philips’ “Joker” has spread so many comments and controversy that I don’t know exactly where to stand. The film reminded critics of Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” and while Joaquin Phoenix’ performance channeled the inner angst and alienation that drove the driver Bickle to an extreme –and bloody- corner, I found so many other sources of inspiration that if anything, “Joker” is the best tribute to the New Hollywood period.
I found “Network” in the film, “Death Wish”, references to “The King of Comedy”, Marty’s underrated movie about a man who wished to exist through the only talent he felt being endowed with... and naturally, there’s something of “A Clockwork Orange” in the obscene stylishness the Joker embraces his new persona with. In a way, that the film met with controversy is logical, you can’t make a social comment about violence and its dangerous appeal by sugarcoating it, violence like its enemies, use symbols and slogan, in fact, revolt is a mask that violence uses to operate undercover or is it the opposite? “Joker” is the slap today’s audiences needed and that it used the Joker mask in our superhero era makes it even more relevant and accessible. But truth be said, any controversy the film should stir mustn’t distract from the real deal.
Indeed, any viewer familiar with one tenth of Phoenix’ filmography knows the actor’s ability to portray enigmatic and troubled characters with a dark side barely hidden, but even with that in mind it’s impossible not to be blown away by his performance and compelled by his suffering. He shouldn’t be the dark horse of the awards season but the frontrunner because his performance is so rich, so powerful, so intense and so bizarre and grotesque in a captivating way that it’s almost like watching a movie within a movie, as if his distortable face was the operation theatre to his acting force, as if his nervous smile slowly turning into cries made a true symphony of pathos and anger. That actor is a treasure to Hollywood and here he’s given the kind of rangy performances that can’t do without earning awards. His snubbing would be controversy material if you asked me.
Now, to the film. The first act immerses us in the life of Arthur Fleck, a clown and wannabe stand-up comedian. At first, I was afraid that the manic laughter scenes would be too redundant and turn themselves to cheap gimmicks, to remind us that we’re dealing with the Joker, but no, Phoenix plays his Arthur as a man who’s not a bad person. Raised by an over-protective and sickly mother, brutalized by kids who sees in a clown a living sign saying “kick me”, humiliated by people who can’t understand his medical condition, the point isn’t to portray Joker as a martyr but a product of a specific environment and education, or lack thereof. Like anyone, he’s got dreams, projects, but he’s entrapped in a condition that makes it impossible to communicate or connect with the others except through hallucinations and would-happen moments, he’s a misfit with a fragile condition that keeps worsening until it offers a platform for his dark psyche to perform.
Does the film excuse him? No. Does it justify his actions? Hell, no. It just clarifies the need to perform that way. There’s a point of no return reached in that psychological journey, when one humiliation too many triggers a strong desire to express itself through a sort of showmanship, something relevant in our days where people seek any ways to reach posterity. Set in what seems to be the early 80s, it puts Arthur in the same urban alienation context than Travis Bickle but with a passion shared with Rupert Pumpkin’s and a “mad-as-hell” prophetic rage with Howard Beale’s role. Near the end, there’s a shot that follows one of the film’s most shocking moment and it’s an obvious nod to the anticlimactic finale of Lumet’s masterpiece.
But I can’t insist too much on how good Phoenix his, one could see a few impersonations of Malcolm McDowell’s dance when he “punished” his fellow droogs or get vibes from the two only performances that earned a posthumous Oscar, Peter Finch and Heath Ledger, still, there’s something unique in that tormented role he inhabits with such a soul dedication that it makes Nicholon’s Joker worse than the cartoon counterpart. ,
“Joker” isn’t dangerous but brave enough to question violence in the way it seems like the only plausible answer, it might titillate a few demagogue instincts but that’s an unfair trial in the light of the recent events all over the world and that preceded the film. I walk often at night and see homeless people living in impoverished conditions, drowning their sorrows in alcohol and losing their manners once there’s nothing to lose... and perhaps that’s leaders’ responsibility, praising democratic values while its application contradicts its own ideal. Anything is allowed when nothing is possible, is perhaps the biggest joke of all, and that it goes all downhill when the social budget is cut is perhaps the film’s boldest stance against the shift between leaders and people.
And that it used Bruce’s father Thomas Wayne to connect the final act with a canon we’re all familiar with is one of the many narrative delights of that character study and psychological thriller à la “Woman Under the Influence” where suspense doesn’t come from a bomb but a ticking bomb of a soul. If De Niro’s presence ties the plot with its chief inspirations, the film belongs to Joaquin Phoenix who gave a performance for ages, and a character who’s relevant in the way he pits democratic ideals against urban reality. And my wish is to see another connection with De Niro with Phoenix winning an Oscar, it would be the second time for a character who already won one after De Niro with “The Godfather Part II”.
As for the glorifying violence trial... we’ve been there already.
One of the best portraits of broken marriages in the cinema, one of the most mature films I've seen in years.
De Palma(2015) 8/10
Wanting to know more about Noah Baumbach I found this documentary about the life of one of my favorite filmmakers, directed by the Baumbach himself