This one’s late but who’s counting? (I am, I’m counting). Seems like lately these Movie Diary 2018 entries have been me catching up on movies from last year and this entry… is no different! I don’t know maybe I’ll ask for recommendations or something sometime? Don’t give me recommendations right now unless you’re confident you know me like that.
Body Heat (1981)
I’d never seen this one before, and wow did I feel like a fool! Body Heat is that special kind of noir that takes place during a heat wave. Everyone’s hot and sweaty and the heat is just driving everyone to be their worst, most desperate selves. Maybe it’s because it still feels fresh in my mind, but I couldn’t help but view Body Heat as a sort of spiritual predecessor to Wild Things (1998). It’s almost as if these movies exist in a kind of generational competition to one up each other in plot twists and horniness. Lawrence Kasdan looked at his film noir predecessors and thought “hmm, what if they were all sweatier,” then John McNaughtoncomes along and sees Body Heat and says, “what if there were a threesome and also 500% more betrayals.” If anyone has any ideas about what the spiritual successor to these movies is in recent memory, I’d love to hear them. I’m having a tough time right now thinking about a mystery/thriller with more twists and in your face sexuality than Wild Things but I’m sure it’s out there.
Anyway, Body Heat. It’s good! It’s filled with all the hits from a classic noir story: down on his luck private investigator, a femme fatale, a plot to kill her piece of shit husband and run away with the money, betrayals, legal disputes over a will, arson, mistaken identities, sly allusions to gay relationships, Mickey Rourke is in it as (get this) the voice of reason??, it’s all there, and it’s all reliably compelling. It’s great to see a genre movie that is just completely in love with its genre, fully understanding all of its trappings and hangups and just performing all of it so well without any self conscious winking to draw attention to how silly some of it can be.
Logan Lucky (2017)
I don’t know, man, is Steven Soderbergh funny? There are some truly funny moments in those Ocean’s movies. He made Gwyneth Paltrow patient zero for a plague that sends the world into chaos. He had Adam Driver talk in an awful, awful accent for the entirety of this movie. So I think he’s definitely got a sense of humor. But is he funny? He’s certainly trying to be with Logan Lucky, but I guess it just wasn’t working for me.
So much of this movie felt like the joke was that these West Virginians are a bunch of hicks and isn’t it funny when hicks say shit like “the google” or “the twitters” and isn’t it funny that they know about things like Game Of Thrones? There’s certainly an emotional core to each of the characters that makes you want to root for them and succeed, but it presents itself as less an opportunity for empathy and more a kind of poverty porn for New York Times subscribers who’ve bookmarked an article about poor people just trying to make ends meet while the world marches on. Those articles and stories are great for those people because they can read them and have all of their biases about the poor confirmed and they don’t have to even think about what they can do to help because these things are always about the triumph of the human spirit and the proud resilience of these dumbass country folk. They’ll be fine, aren’t you inspired by that? #Resist
The actual heist itself is pretty fun, even if it reads like a second draft of the one from Ocean’s Twelve (2004) that tries to be less insulting to the audience. I found myself really rooting for them to pull it off and I even fell for that saccharine-ass “Take Me Home Country Roads” sing along, but the tone of this movie is all off. It’s impossible to have those kinds of feelings and not walk out of the movie feeling like a mark being manipulated by your own biases about small town America. Or maybe this is just a riff on Dukes of Hazzard archetypes and I’m unintentionally revealing what a neurotic piece of shit coastal elite I am, in which case, I hope you enjoyed this convenient self-own.
Gone Girl (2014)
Speaking of Soderbergh, Gone Girl also manages to pull off that Soderbergh thing he likes to do so much where he reveals what was actually happening in between scenes of the movie, except Gone Girl does it at the halfway(-ish) mark to turn it into an entirely different movie! No disrespect to my guy Stevie ‘Berghs but what a flex from Fincher (who I can almost guarantee is humorless, while we’re comparing the two).
Anyway, whatever, it’s Gone Girl, what’s not to love? Affleck is perfectly utilized as a big dummy who needs a fucking spin doctor lawyer (Tyler Perry, rules in this, wanna see more of him doing that in movies not directed by Tyler Perry) just to even have a chance at seeming like a sympathetic person, Rosamund Pike’s detached line delivery and incredible next level pettiness keep this baby chugging along through its second half, it’s genuinely a fun little thrill ride that makes me wish I could take back what I said earlier about Fincher almost definitely being humorless. I mean as far as Fincher movies go this is probably the closest thing we’ll get to a light-hearted romp, the movie where Rosamund Pike rinses blood off her body while she monologues to Affleck about how plotting to frame him for her murder made him a better husband and that he should be thanking her. See? It’s fun.
Sidenote musing because I’ve always thought about this and I finally have a chance to write this down somewhere: It must have been hard for Ben Affleck to see himself wearing a St. Louis Cardinals t-shirt onscreen the year after the Cardinals beat his beloved Boston Red Sox in the World Series. Has anyone written about this somewhere? Also, fun fact: Did you know that the Boston Red Sox have lost on Ben Affleck’s birthday every year since Good Will Hunting (1997)? They broke the streak in 2015, but I think that’s a fun thing to think about.
-David Fincher definitely has a sense of humor, particularly with regards to picking on Ben Affleck.
-The Cardinals lost to the Red Sox in the 2013 World Series, I got it mixed up! But still, I bet it was annoying for Ben to wear the shirt of his team’s World Series enemy!
Black Panther (2018)
***THERE MIGHT BE SOME SPOILERS IN HERE SO WATCH OUT***
As far as these things go, I liked it! The look of it was fun, all the fashions were so exciting and cool, the action wasn’t a huge mess, and the performances were all so entertaining. *the other shoe drops* Except for Chadwick Boseman! Oh no! Seriously, a truly uncompelling performance made even more disappointing by being surrounded by a cast of actors who were really stepping it up. He’s got an incredibly charismatic supporting cast, and he just can’t seem to step up to their level. Part of that lies with Boseman’s performance, but another part of it lies in the character of T’Challa.
T’Challa spends the majority of the movie with no real agenda or motivation aside from mourning his dead father and maintaining the status quo, which, I get it, superheroes tend to be grieving agents of the status quo, but when your status quo is up against Michael B Jordan looking hot and dangerous and getting everyone fired up for some direct action, let’s just say you’re not gonna want to be printing any “T’Challa Was Right” t-shirts anytime soon. T’Challa’s arc eventually leads to him adopting a version of Nakia’s politics of outreach and diplomacy, but for almost the entire movie you’re watching T’Challa come up against people with more clearly defined and invigorating agendas besides his policy of isolation, which makes it difficult to get in his corner when everyone else’s positions are so much more impassioned.
On the other hand maybe it is a clever and subtle move making T’Challa’s position so bland. To see the wonder of Wakanda and to be excited by its history of never being conquered or invaded implicitly makes you receptive to the importance of T’Challa’s isolationism, which is at odds with our view of a superhero as someone with a more altruistic set of ideals. T’Challa starts out as less a hero and more a head of state. Isolationism makes sense for him, but not for us, a superhero movie audience waiting for some superhero shit to happen. Isolationism is the opposite of making things happen, so when we see characters who want to make things happen (Nakia, Killmonger, M’Baku) we’re of course drawn to their ideologies of action. It’s necessary for T’Challa’s arc to end in him adopting the politics of outreach because by nature no superhero is an isolationist. In this way Black Panther is a kind of origin story in that we watch T’Challa move from being a King to a superhero. That this move away from isolationism also opens him up to joining in with the rest of those clowns in the other Marvel movies is a disappointment, sure, but these things have been going on for like a decade, we know the score. At least Michael B Jordan gets to opt out of it, which, now that I’m thinking about it, allows for an added layer of cynicism to his line about death over bondage.
Mister Police You Could Have Saved Her I Gave You All The Clues / The Snowman (2017)
I needed to find out for myself, right? A movie as widely panned as this, where its own director admits to not shooting 10–15% of the screenplay? That deserves a look, I think. Friends… it’s bad. Michael Fassbender plays Detective Harry Hole, who, on top of having a name that sounds like a 6th grade prank caller pseudonym, is also (…go ahead take a guess…) A JADED ALCOHOLIC WHO DOESN’T PLAY BY THE RULES CAN YOU FUCKING BELIEVE IT OH WAIT HOLD UP ALSO HE IS BAD AT MAINTAINING HIS RELATIONSHIPS NO SHIT.
The cliches actually kind of help as the movie obviously has some sizable gaps in information, and you can probably kind of figure it out based on your knowledge of what happens when an alcoholic detective has something to prove to himself and his family. You’ve seen this kind of movie plenty of times, so as incoherent as this is, it’s not like you won’t be able to figure it out. It’s not really doing anything particularly challenging, and you’ll be able to piece the plot together when you have to, but mysteries aren’t ever really about the answer at the end, more about the twists and turns it takes to get there, maaaaaaannnn. That 10–15% of that journey was just straight up NOT EVEN SHOT is honestly incredible. Most mysteries, you get to the answer at the end and you’re able to see what’s happened in a whole new light, but with The Snowman you get to the end and you’re looking back still wondering how all of that fit together BECAUSE A PORTIONS OF THE MOVIE WEREN’T EVEN SHOT I WILL NEVER GET OVER THIS.
Maybe The Snowman could have been good! Or at least intelligible! Why was everyone in such a rush to get this movie out?? What if… Thomas Alfredson, being rushed through production by the short-sighted studio higher ups and/or rabid Harry Hole-heads, saw there was no saving this movie, and instead elected to purposefully neglect shooting portions of the screenplay as a way to… get, uh… revenge… and then… profit! …We’ll never know! You could get a million Harry Holes on the case and we’ll never know!