I TOLD YOU I WOULD DOUBLE POST THIS WEEK. No guest writer this time around, but here are a few movies from 2018 that I haven’t gotten around to writing about (Gemini had a festival premiere in 2017, but it was released to theaters in 2018, so it counts!).
PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE ARE POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THESE ENTRIES AND I AM GIVING A BIG BLANKET SPOILERS WARNING FOR ALL OF THEM HERE BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO KEEP COMING UP WITH NEW WAYS TO SAY SPOILER WARNING FOR EACH MOVIE. ANYWAY POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD, PLEASE WATCH OUT IF THAT’S THE KIND OF THING THAT UPSETS YOU.
A pretty fun cop movie that, like most cop movies, collapses once you begin considering how cops in real life operate as an arm of institutionalized racism. BlacKkKlansman falls harder, though, by both failing to seriously examine the racism of the police as an organization and then ending the movie with footage of the Charlottesville riots in 2017 as way of connecting the movie with the present climate of hate. A large part of the violence there was aided by the police’s inaction and refusal to stop white supremacists from marching on the city, so yes, of course this is still happening today, and it’s happening in large part because of the same cops that BlacKkKlansman wants you to root for. The movie is peppered with Trump-isms coming out of the mouths of Klansmen, a winking nod to the audience, Spike Lee trying to convince you that he “gets it” while simultaneously avoiding the hard questions about how deeply ingrained racism is into the fabric of America. It’s the movie’s most glaring and upsetting misstep, but there are some fun things in there. It was great to watch Ron Stallworth’s crazy plan come together and that bit at the end where he embarrasses David Duke over the phone was a nice little fist pump moment. I also thought the scene with the screening of The Birth of a Nation was really interesting. Typically when movies from late career directors include a scene with characters watching a movie together it’s some saccharine moment of nostalgia or a moment to pat themselves on the back by basking in the *deep inhale, fighting back tears* power of cinema to bring people together, so it was interesting and a bit shocking to see this kind of thing inverted by having a movie screening unite people in their hate.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)
I’ll be honest, I saw this a while ago and I don’t think I remember a whole lot about it aside from the fact that I had fun watching it and that I thought it was a pretty cute and earnest movie for teens. And when I say “for teens” I don’t mean the way that something like Riverdale is “for teens.” To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before seems like the kind of movie that actual teenagers would go out on a group date to watch together. I don’t know, I feel like I’m in this weird bubble where a lot of people I follow online, including myself, consume this media aimed at teens because it reminds us of this sort of exaggerated idea of what being a teen was like, or what we wanted it to be like, and I’m not really sure I know what actual teenagers actually like besides like, Juul-ing and YouTube. I feel like teenagers these days are more earnest than I remember being when I was a teen? Is that true? Kids liked this movie, right? Jesus Christ please tell me that kids liked this movie and that I’m not just some old fuck with a blog talking about how teens are different now.
Probably the most subversive modern update to the detective/noir genre that Gemini does is feature Lola Kirke as the role of our put upon detective. She’s bumbling through Los Angeles, muttering to herself and trying to put clues together to solve her friend/boss/maybe more than that’s murder, a kind of Philip Marlowe type, except instead of getting her ass kicked a bunch, her feelings get their ass kicked as everyone she encounters just kind of has a way of making her feel like a shitty person. This was fine, I liked it! I feel like often in new noir movies the aim is either to cleverly subvert or recontextualize the setting and trappings of a detective story, or it’s to lean as hard as possible into the setting and trappings of a detective story. Gemini flirts with subversion but ultimately opts for the latter, seemingly checking off a list of stuff and characters you’d find in a detective story. The first act of this movie is pretty much a quick tour of obvious suspects and motives (or, possible RED HERRINGS??). It has the effect of making you think that maybe it’s too obvious, that maybe they’re going to pull out the rug from under you with a truly unexpected twist, but then it ends up that the twist is actually pretty much what you expected from a detective story twist. Which is fine! It’s fun to second guess yourself in this context, and the great thing about the noir/detective fiction genre is that it’s such a sturdy framework. You really just need to follow the rules to make a competent noir/detective movie, and Gemini does this while avoiding the smug self awareness that typically comes with modern updates to classic genre tropes.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
There was a lot of talk on this one as like Asian people’s Black Panther or whatever, and I don’t know, I thought the discourse around this really sucked out a lot of enthusiasm about this movie from me. I mean, yes, it’s cool that we have an all Asian cast in a big budget American movie about Asians, but the amount of weight being placed on this movie always seemed unfair and misleading. For starters, this isn’t really a movie about the Asian experience (and for that matter I don’t know that there’s a way to make a movie about “the Asian experience” seeing as how there are so many different kinds of Asians and even more different experiences, we’re people, not a monolith, duh), and it’s not even really a romantic comedy— It’s a movie about very rich, very beautiful high society types and their family dynamics. If they really were going to go for a romantic comedy, they could have done a whole lot more on both the romance and the comedy fronts. I truly had no idea why Rachel even likes Nick, we know so little about their relationship and we don’t even know a whole lot about Nick aside from that he’s unbelievably rich and he’s been hiding it from his girlfriend. All in all the movie was kind of a big, excessive (but vibrant!) mess that came off less as a romantic comedy and more a scattered look into the obligations and responsibilities of traditional Asian families. Michelle Yeoh remains perfect.
THE MOVIE DIARY 2018 QUARTERLY REPORT (Q3)
I think Q3 turned out pretty well for MOVIE DIARY 2018. WILD THINGS MONTH was a pretty big hit, and it was a lot of fun to see a bunch of different looks on the same movie. I’m hoping that I can try out some other theme ideas in Q4. I saw twelve movies from 2018 in Q3, but the numbers won’t really reflect what’s been written about in MOVIE DIARY 2018 because at a certain point I let things kind of pile up and I’m still kind of making my way through that backlog of movies to write about. The good news is that it’s down to seven movies (four of which are 2018 releases), which should be manageable? October is coming up soon, so don’t worry, I’ve got some spooky movies to write about in Q4. Then maybe I’ll do one of those lists that people on the internet seem to like so much? Not sure on this one, though, since I hate writing out lists and I hate ranking things!