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  #76  
Old 12-07-2022, 08:31 PM
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72.Tar (Todd Field); grade: F

I keep hearing Tár isn’t really a movie about the conflict between an artist’s personal failings and artistic contributions. Rather, Tár is a movie about “power.” Simply put, Tár is actually a movie made from the point of view of privilege for the purposes of sustaining current power structures by indulging the bourgeois fantasy of resistance (#MeToo, cancel culture). Semiotics—the study of how culture makes meaning to support status quo power structures—exposes the style of Tár as essentially bourgeois: a sub-Kubrickian fantasy of the paranoiac inner life of a cosseted EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony winner).

The fictional conductor/composer Lydia Tár is, herself, a semiotic construct of Linda Tar and, as a characterization, of Cate Blanchett. Linda eliminates the signs of her regional and class upbringing with aristocratic intonations. She even takes on the posture and gait of a U-haul lesbian. Like her Katharine Hepburn desecration in The Aviator, Blanchett conceives of Lydia as a human being devoid of any delicacy or sensuality; hence, reducing her approach to her art and her sexual conquests to power relationships. (Director Todd Fields cut from the final film the lesbian scenes used to sell Tár in ads.)

Field constructs straw men arguments in Tár that have little to do with the cultural calamities represented by #MeToo and cancel culture. The seemingly out-of-context viral video of her belittling a student who finds the classical music canon incompatible to his BIPOC, non-binary experience actually represents Field’s’ perspective entirely. It justifies rather than critiques the mob punishment it engenders—each isolated moment represents real abuse. Later, Field establishes Lydia’s abusive nature when she threatens a little girl bullying her daughter at school—but such character moments exist in a vacuum of credibility (entitled little girls know who have their backs). The women who invite Lydia’s attention are aware of exchange on offer, which is why Field only alludes to the relationship between Lydia and the protege who commits suicide, never risking presenting the dynamic to spectator scrutiny (another bourgeois ellipsis).

Compare this to the insights in Brady Corbett’s Vox Lux (Making sense of senseless times, Natalie Portman as a pop star rails against old things that smell of death and the impotence of threats against her artistic authorship). The mastery of that film must have shaken more pseudo-artistes like Todd Field than I would have guessed. Field’s Tár pits Corbett’s artistic contributions against Field’s artistic failings.
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  #77  
Old 12-24-2022, 08:23 AM
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73.The Glass Onion (Rian Johnson); grade: F

Who pulls the strings in The Glass Onion? Director Rian Johnson obviously. He withholds information and flashes back to show what he didn’t previously show (which is also the m.o. of the film’s killer—its only straight white male). As with the previous Knives Out, these narrative layers mean to disguise this propaganda film as an entertaining puzzle. Yet, the solution to the mystery is obvious (if you didn’t guess the killer immediately, you will fall for anything). Equally transparent: Johnson’s ideological project to destroy culture. In lieu of justice, Johnson promotes the vengeance of young climate activists desecrating humanity’s artistic heritage. Here, Johnson establishes the destruction of the real Mona Lisa as a movie’s big crowd-pleaser moment. It’s the low-point of the brutalizing 2022 awards season at the movies. Peel the onion and weep at people accepting Johnson’s totalitarian escapism. He replaces the Mona Lisa with his own: Janelle Monae as twin sisters, but really it’s the same character. Monae, in the year’s worst performance, lacks the expressive skill represented in the sublime moment of the beginning of the smile of Da Vinci’s muse. Johnson films Monae in 3/4 profile vacuously almost-smirking at the camera. Her jaw is too small, her country and “rich bitch” accents too playacting, her grandstanding too short. Behind Monae’s smirk is the question: Is she and her sister one person, after all? The dead twin brought this Clue-like cast together, relying on the privileged access of her straight white male avatar (Ed Norton) to form a successful company and engage in influence peddling (a politician, unethical scientist, social media pundit, sweatshop industrialist). Ultimately, she or her surviving twin manipulates activist, disruptor super detective Benoit Blanc, as well. By exposing the stupidity of the suspects in the film, such a sweatshop owner who thinks a sweatshop makes sweat pants, Blanc also lets the real-world power classes off the hook. Johnson glorifies their willingness to lie for the truth. To Johnson, they are manipulatable morons, just like us.
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"They love each other so much, they think they hate each other."

Imagine paying $1000 to hear "Don't Dream It's Over" instead of "Go Your Own Way"

Fleetwood Mac helped me through a time of heartbreak. 12 years later, they broke my heart.
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  #78  
Old 12-25-2022, 05:18 AM
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67.Unhuman (Marcus Dunstan); grade: F
68.See How They Run (Tom George); grade: F
69.Grande Jete (Isabelle Stever); grade: C
71.The Menu (Mark Mylod); grade: F

The year’s brutalizing movies exploit real-world brutality, while the rare film attempts to explore the human dimensions of abuse. Both Knives Out wannabes Mark Mylod’s The Menu and Tom George’s See How They Run (also ripping off Wes Anderson) reveal the motivations of their respective murderers as founded in the child abuse they suffered. Upon this moral horror, the films hang the year’s most incompetent big-movie screenplay and display of film technique, respectively. Such indulgence of spiritual darkness proves enough to make audiences feel smart—these films use child abuse for cred. (Such a fall after Mylod made the definitive satire of the Washington closet in What’s Your Number?) The Tik-Tok style of Scream wannabe Unhuman means to congratulate the sophistication of young audiences, but is itself a form of abuse. More depressing than its twist (ripped off from the great Detention by Joseph Kahn), is its incapacity to highlight the talent of the underutilized Uriah Shelton (iconic in Rodrigo Garcia’s Blue, audacious in Christopher Landon’s Freaky). In international cinema, Grand Jete takes a stultifyingly dispassionate view of incest. Set in German drudgery in and outside of Berlin, it concerns a woman ballet instructor, whose physical demands she makes of her young charges she, too, probably suffered including giving up her son to pursue dance. “You have no maternal feelings,” her own mother drones. Returning home, she commences a sexual affair with her son after he invites her to an underground physique competition in which he participates. Their shared interest in pushing physical limits meets a desire to push social boundaries. The style of the film, handheld camera with characters moving in and out of shallow focus, keeps all prurience at a distance—but also empathy. The dulling emphasis on the mundane and punishing duration culminates in the scene where the mother gives birth to the child she shares with her son. The endless physical strain engenders within her, finally, maternal feelings. Somebody better cast Uriah Shelton in the American remake before it’s too late, but it better not be hacks Mylod or George!
__________________
"They love each other so much, they think they hate each other."

Imagine paying $1000 to hear "Don't Dream It's Over" instead of "Go Your Own Way"

Fleetwood Mac helped me through a time of heartbreak. 12 years later, they broke my heart.
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  #79  
Old 12-27-2022, 12:57 AM
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19. Avatar 2: The Way of Water, grade A = This movie is too long and could have easily been trimmed by 30 minutes. The plot is also too simple. However, you have to see it. It is spectacular, especially in 3D. I felt like I was watching the next step in cinema and James Cameron deserves all the credit for pushing the boundaries of technology. I liked this movie better than the first Avatar. I was just spellbound by the visuals. However, I will warn you that it is very long.
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