EIGHTH GRADE (2018) Broadcast Yourself

I posted my first video to YouTube in June of 2009. I was fifteen years old, two years older than Eighth Grade’s Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher), but no more self-aware of my own inexperience of the world I wanted to be seen as familiar with.

Kayla’s first vlog, which opens the movie, where she tells her viewers about how to be themselves while trying to negotiate her own shyness, immediately strikes on how much of the modern public adolescent experience is as aspirational as it is performatively inspirational. Kayla, through carefully considered lighting, rehearsed gesticulations, meticulously curated selfies, and all sorts of other filters, is trying to be the person she herself would want to take her advice from. She vlogs about being herself, being confident, putting herself out there, and making friends as a prelude to doing those things in her life outside of her constructed bedroom set. It’s easy to see the hypocrisy, and the humor of the situation – first time writer/director and comedian Bo Burnham mines both – but he also shows us the kindness and honest optimism in what Kayla does.

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THE WASP AND ANT-MAN (2018) Coulda Been Fetish-ier

The Ant-Man franchise is shaping up to be the palette cleanser of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, being smaller, self-contained, and ostensibly more comedic entries following major crossover events with generally darker tones. While this made this helped the first Ant-Man stand out from Marvel’s other offerings – following phase three movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok, it becomes more apparent how much Ant-Man’s flavor has been diluted with the rest of the mega-franchise’s overall tone and aesthetic.

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SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (2018) Our Current Dystopia

When you consider SAG-AFTRA, the WGA, DGA, PGA, and dozens of other unions and guilds that operate in Hollywood, it’s a little surprising that there are so few notable movies about unions and labor politics. Yes, organized labor movies are political, but so is war – and that’s an entire genre of movie. And surely labor relations contain at least as much drama, and historically, as much violence, to make exciting movies out of – and they’re sure as hell a lot more relevant to most people.

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LEAVE NO TRACE (2018) A North Western

The line I remember most from Leave No Trace, directed and co-written by Debra Granik, is near the beginning, when a social worker tells teenager Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), and her veteran father Will (Ben Foster), who have been living in Forest Park, outside of Portland, Oregon, that it is illegal to live on public land. Despite the social worker sincerely wanting to help this family find a home, and that Leave No Trace is a movie without a true antagonist, all the obstacles in Tom and Will’s life are summarized by that single line: It is illegal to live on public land.

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JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (2018) Evolve or Die

It’s weird how we seemingly all agreed that, no matter how bad the franchise got, the Jurassic movies would have an exclusive right to dinosaurs in movies. Even the newest King Kong didn’t have a T-Rex for the great ape to wrestle. Thankfully, Fallen Kingdom is a slight bounce back from 2015’s Jurassic World, though the series overall is still running on the nostalgia fumes of Spielberg’s ‘93 classic rather evolving.

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THE INCREDIBLES 2 (2018) Silver Age

After 14 years, and tarnishing it’s once spotless record with a handful of mediocre sequels, writer-director Brad Bird and Pixar are able to deliver a sequel to The Incredibles that’s worth the wait. While not quite as polished as the original, though it thankfully does some things very much better, Incredibles 2 manages to stand out from the superhero saturated crowd of movies that has swamped cinema since the original’s release.

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HEREDITARY (2018) Sins of the Mother

I think that Hereditary could have been about a lot of absolutely terrifying things that haven’t really gotten play in horror movies: how end-of-life diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia can make loved ones unrecognizable by making them angry and afraid of family, the survivor’s guilt one feels after a family member in their care dies, finding out afterwards about secrets that change your opinion of them, or the uncanniness of caring for an elderly family member with the knowledge that you will likely one day be exactly the same burden on the ones you love most. And I think all those ideas are present in Hereditary, but the movie rarely fruitfully engages with them, those anxieties – when present – are largely detached from what the movie wants you to be afraid of.

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