Atlantics (Netflix) – This was an incredibly surprising movie. It starts as an African Romeo and Juliet type story. Then things quickly change. I do not want to say too much about this film, but it manages to combine realistic horror with fascinating themes and character building. This is an excellent foreign film overflowing with themes and ideas about what makes a person to how people can haunt us. While the film drags at points, this is a really excellent examination and a great example of storytelling. I do not want to say much else other than watch it if you have a Netflix account. A-
1917 – This year’s war movie is so bland and uninventive I am genuinely shocked it has won any awards. 1917 uses one-shot technology to make you feel as though you are present with the soldiers, and it does not work. Rather than add to the film or make it more exciting, it makes you feel like you are watching a first-person shooter video game. Viewers are held captive as watching as each successive “boss battle” gets harder and harder, only for there to be little reason to care. Frankly comparing this movie to a video game is insulting to some video games, as there are many with better stories than this. It is distracting and unnecessary and forces the story to contract in a way that is not beneficial for the viewer. It just seems like a way to mask bad storytelling.
While I understand people will love this movie for the cinematography alone, the story is why I go to the movies. This movie fails completely in this regard. The characters are uninteresting. The story is unrealistic. The choices the characters make are hard to explain. While the one-shot gimmick could have worked, poor storytelling makes it difficult to justify the movie’s existence.
For the record, the cinematography is stunning. The one-shot does work very well at certain moments. There is one shot where a character is running across a battlefield. It is beautiful and moving. Then again, I found it hard to care and was just hoping for the movie to be over. There will be plenty of people who like this movie, but I am not one of them. The fact that this movie was nominated over Uncut Gems is insulting, and if 1917 wins Best Picture I will have a hard time justifying my interest in The Oscars. 1917 is one of the worst critically acclaimed movies I have seen in years, and I really hope no Academy Award member votes for this film. C+
Looper – Looper is set in 2044. Time travel has not been invented yet but it will be in 2074. It is outlawed and only used by major crime organizations. When crime organizations want targets eliminated they zap them back to 2044 to people called loopers who shoot them and eliminate them. One Looper, Joe, is given a target who is him 30 years later and lets him escape. Chaos ensues.
The concept of this movie alone is brilliant. The writing sends this film over the top for me. Rian Johnson does such a good job of making genre fiction new and exciting, and this film is a great example of how to embrace the paradoxes of time travel and tell a terrific story with it. Every part of it is perfect, from fast editing to terrific performances. This is one of my favorite films I have seen in a while. A+