Hello! MOVIE DIARY 2018 is back this week with Aubrey Bellamy! She’s been here before and she kills it every single time, so why would this week be any different? We both wrote about Widows this week! Have you seen Widows yet? It rules!
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD FOR WIDOWS AND MAYBE SOME OF THESE OTHER ONES BUT MOSTLY WIDOWS!
SPECIAL GUEST WRITER: AUBREY BELLAMY
My party line for Widows, directed by Steve McQueen and co-written with Gillian Flynn, is that it’s a smart movie for dumb people.
Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) are what’s left after a routine robbery being performed by their husbands ends in fiery spectacle. The loss leaves each woman at unique deficits, some more obvious than others. Harry (Liam Neeson), Veronica’s husband, was the wretched Danny Ocean to the group of ill-fated assholes, planning all of their jobs down to the second in his Crime Diary™ which is given to Veronica in his passing. The book breaks down every job the group had done to date, including another one seeming to promise a payout bigger than the last.
Another inheritance: the men Harry and his team were stealing from uh, want their money back. Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) is running for ward alderman in a special election against Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), the hopeful successor to his father Tom (Robert Duvall). Jamal is a former drug dealer and the first African-American candidate to threaten the Mulligan legacy. The office for which he’s running serves as a face for the community where he lives and where the Mulligans merely hold real estate. It’s his campaign fund that was hit by Harry’s crew, and now Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya), Jamal’s brother and the campaign’s body man, is tasked with collecting the debt from Veronica.
I keep thinking about the difference between a robbery and a heist. There’s a theater, an elegance implied by a heist, right? This like, intellectual sucker punch on top of it all. Heists are designed in part to show you what you were already missing (security, information, meaning). Robberies knock you down and heists step on your neck. The aftermath of a good heist births the paranoia that things will never mean what they did before; that “replacing” is not the same as “fixing.”
Widows does well to remind us the power of a face. Society’s blindspots (people of color, women) are invoked to, when zoomed in, give space for characters to potentially work a benefit from disadvantage. Success relies on the women’s ability to be themselves right up until the moment they have to be completely different, in a position they could literally never be in unmasked and in the light. Their goal, their only responsibility, is to survive. That’s it.
Aubrey Bellamy is an up and coming piece of shit (👼) in Los Angeles, CA. She writes, also.
Step Brothers (2008)
I wrote about this one for the very first entry in MOVIE DIARY 2018! After our wedding ceremony, Tessa and I were both like “Could anything make today more perfect?” And it turns out yes, because then Step Brothers was on the TV in our hotel room later than night.
Gone Girl (2014)
I wrote about this one back in February. I love this movie, everyone is perfectly cast. Excellent use of Neil Patrick Harris’ inherent, pronounced lameness to stunning effect. Is it one of the top Affleck performances ever (yes)? Is Rosamund Pike ever going to get a role as good as this one (probably not but I hope so)? Dang maybe I should have done a GONE GIRL MONTH a la WILD THINGS MONTH.
The Other Side of the Wind (2018)
I am going to be upfront with you about this movie: I… am not sure I “got” it. I wanted to! I tried! I’m willing to accept that this is 100% a me problem and 0% an Orson Welles problem. If anyone’s earned the benefit of the doubt regarding film it’s like, Orson Welles near the top and MOVIE DIARY 2018 at like, number… six. Yeah... six. This is not to say I didn’t like it, I did. The movie is like a slapped together collection of various bits of footage that Welles had but shot but never really put together in any meaningful way, and it’s visually very interesting but also very disorienting. To its credit, the stitched together aspect of the movie’s aesthetic lends itself to the story’s conceit of using unreliable/biased testimonies from all characters about our main dude, Director and walking terror Jack Hannaford. It’s a movie where feelings, relationships, visuals, and techniques are in a constant state of flux around this central, larger than life figure, echoing the many different viewpoints on a powerful man, and also reflective of the idea of shifts in cultures and ideas surrounding the idea of mythmaking and storytelling. I just… wish I had a better grasp of what was actually happening?
Not much to add to special guest writer Aubrey’s piece, but I really loved this one. It was just really straightforward and well done, with the Steve McQueen/Gillian Flynn team never attempting to transcend or subvert the crime movie genre, just getting in there to tell this story in the best way possible. The performances are all really great, which, when you’re looking at that cast list, it’s like duh of course what else would you expect from Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, etc etc. Everyone in this cast is doing something great, but my particular faves were Brian Tyree Henry being able to flip the switch from charming and affable to imposing and unmoved in an instant (that scene where he’s menacing that little dog!) and everything that Elizabeth Debicki was up to, her whole deal. This is a movie about people struggling to find their way outside the shitty situations they’ve found themselves in, and McQueen and Flynn have done such a great job of showing everyone’s individual hardships without making any of it seem too melodramatic or maudlin. Visually, this movie is interesting in the way that it lets that feeling of heist-movie tension seep into the composition of its shots. McQueen is fond of framing characters alone in the middle distance of a shot, which made me feel a sense of concern/paranoia— who knows who else is out there in the alleyway? Who else is watching this character? It’s not the same kind of feeling as the almost voyeuristic undertones of a horror movie, though, it just feels more like an everyday ambient danger that comes with knowing that violence lurking around the corner is just a fact of life. You want these people to escape the trappings of their circumstances, but it’s very clear that the only thing harder than living under a system of violence and corruption is getting out.
Young Guns (1988)
I thought I’d remembered watching this back when I was a kid because it always seemed to be on KTLA’s Sunday afternoon movie, and when I was watching it this time, I kept waiting for Billy The Kid (Emilio Estevez) to say “I’ll make ya famous!” the best part of the movie, or at least the part that was burned into my childhood brain, but it never happened! That was actually Young Guns II (1990)! Young Guns is a movie that’s better in concept than execution, but there’s certainly a lot of fun stuff in there. A bunch of troublesome youths band together to try to live straight lives, but they get set on a path of revenge when their mentor is murdered. Along the way, they realize that one of their buddies (Billy The Kid, duh) is kind of a psycho and they need to not be friends with him, but at this point they’re in too deep together and they’ve got too much blood on their hands for that to happen. It’s cool, but the movie is so weirdly paced (there’s this scene where they’re tripping out on peyote which may be the most tiresome “tripping out on DrUgS” scene I’ve ever seen), it’s tough to work up a satisfying connection to any of these characters. Anyway, this all to say two things: Despite all of this I still probably love Young Guys II, and also: why, in this age of remakes and reboots, have the studios not gotten around to a Young Guns remake featuring the hot guys of today? It’s the perfect time! America is in a period of economic and moral uncertainty, which means westerns are roaring back to life, plus “the hot guys of movies all cast together” movies are always going to be exciting. Not sure what the problem is here aside from that people are afraid of making boatloads of money apparently!