I’m sure that’s a title that grabs your attention. So you may or may not be aware of this at this point… but I’m really bad at this. Sometimes I just want to recommend a movie or discuss a movie but I don’t have enough substance to contribute to the conversation outside of a couple paragraphs. I have other things that I want to get to but I don’t want to ignore them so here’s a compilation of three random movies and some quick thoughts on them. Hopefully, there is one here that you’ll be interested in… considering how drastically different and thematically separate they all are I like my chances. A lesser reviewer would have stretched these out or done mini-reviews for extra views, and a better reviewer wouldn’t need to do this in the first place. I truly am the patron-saint of mediocrity and if you’re okay with that then let’s see what we have here.
Once Upon a Time…. in Hollywood
The reviews for this one has been pretty positive and it’s well deserved. I would say for this one that I’m not sure if it’s a great story, but it certainly is a neat and exotic experience that I feel comfortable calling it a great film. Leonardo DiCaprio gives another great performance as Western star Rick Dalton who has to come to terms with that his stardom is fading and the torment with having to become an unadorned character actor. Brad Pitt is a charming bro as Cliff, and was a fun time constantly while on screen (can’t wait to see these two characters show up at a movie buff’s Halloween party in a decade).
If Endgame is the self-satisfying movie that is just a constant barrage of homage and reference to the glory of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is the same thing but for people’s 70s nostalgia. I love it, though I’m fairly certain I don’t have the nostalgic tingle for a time before I existed; it is such a love letter to the culture it’s hard not to feel the passion that went behind the recreation of: celebrities, cars, infrastructure, slang, television, media, etc…
If you are interested in a movie recommendation, if you like this movie, I would urge you to go and watch Truffaut’s Day for Night. Day for Night is a movie from the actual 1970s and is similar in its passionate love-letter delivery and tackles similar subject matters of showing “the magic of the movies” that goes behind the scenes. If you really enjoyed the Leo scenes, then you’d probably like this and if I haven’t convinced you I do have a small post about it here.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is admittedly, better taken at its parts then the sum of those parts. I sort of felt that this film has almost ludicrous pacing, scenes that go on and on and on, and strangely enough I wouldn’t cut them down at all. It’s an almost 3 hour long runtime and sometimes you’re just trapped in certain segments of the movies (similar to Tarantino structure seen in Pulp Fiction and The Hateful Eight) that sometimes you wonder when are we going to return to another character, and does this necessarily have to be taking this long to get this idea across? Do we need to see Brad Pitt feed his dog and have a close-up of the canned dog food plopping into the bowl like 3-4 times in the movie… probably not but it’s oddly entertaining to watch? Tarantino is certainly a problematic figure in some regards and loves his feet but man the way he frames shots, writes dialogue, and develops characters is truly awe-inspiring every time. An interesting takeaway from this flick is how films are not always meant to capture reality but present an idyllic fantasy that amplifies the charm of certain aspects of life and gives us the cathartic ability to enrapture ourselves in a version that can only exist on the big screen.
The Belladonna of Sadness
If someone could tell the folks over at 366 weird movies that I watched one of their films by mistake… there must have been a mix-up in the mail or something. The Belladonna of Sadness is pretty much as art house as you can get. If you want to get into the weird world of art house cinema look no further than this film. How weird do we get? Jeane marries Jean, but unfortunately because peasantry, in order to afford their life together Jeane has to get raped by baron skeletor. After this traumatic event she is visited by a literal penis who brings a very literal meaning to let the devil come in you as she is consumed into gaining a reputation of promiscuous witchcraft and Satan worshipping. I wish that description was less accurate then it really is.
Fun fact, this is actually anime? This film is actually the third installment of the loose animerama trilogy which was a set of experimental adult animation films the began with “the father of manga” Osamu Tezuka. While Belladonna of Sadness is the film with minimal and uncredited influence from Tezuka, the film’s director Eiichi Yamamoto also directed Tezuka’s Astro Boy (1964) and Kimba the White Lion (1966) series.
The watercolors visuals are truly an exotic film to marvel out that feels reminiscent to the styles found in Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Fantastic Planet. While I think the subject matter can be provocative and the innuendos excessive, I do recommend this to an audience that is curious or would be interested in abstract visual storytelling. There are so much fascinating depictions that use form and color and lines to represent certain actions or moods that it is mesmeric and visually wild (it reminds me Ricky and Morty’s “Goodbye Moonmen” but that’s the entire movie). I think this film loses me a bit towards the end, there’s like 3 orgy scenes in the last thirty minutes and I’m like…. Okay I get it but there’s enough metaphor and visual gravitas to make it a interesting venture throughout.
Why the hell was I watching this… who cares? Descendants 3 is the conclusion of the Disney villains’ kids trilogy directed by the greatest director living today, Kenny Ortega. It’s alright… it’s a Disney Channel original movie that has a somewhat impressive production value despite over-extending itself at times with the incorporation of CGI. Watch as a confused audience who thought the most questionable punk-rock portrayal of Hades since The Lightning Thief goes from the presumed antagonist to a doesn’t pay child support daddy. The real villain is someone the kids can relate to Audrey who after having the soul crushing experience of watching her Tinder incompatible high school crush get engaged to his goth girl friend does what anyone would have done in that scenario and that’s…. commit an act of domestic terror.
Spoilers… the all leather- wearing Descendant kids save the day with some blue McGuffin rock or something like that. Descendants 3 has very on the nose political commentary which does use existing elements to the franchise to get away with it, and some clever truth and well intentions behind their delivery but is only really sensical if you don’t give it more than a passing glance. The Isle of the Lost is a very thinly veiled Mexico stand-in which if you see it the way they want you to it is a very sincere and positive message: don’t judge people from where they come from, it’s wrong to punish people for their upbringing or factors out of their control, and no matter what us versus them narratives exist both sides can have bad apples or be wrong in many ways.
The problem is that the Isle isn’t just a separate sovereign nation but it’s very clear from the other films that it also functions as a prison. All the Disney Villains allegedly live there, and the film let’s them go free to do as they please because they indirectly preach how nobody should be held accountable for their actions. Audrey attempted to murder everyone and she just goes “oops my bad” and then she’s in the big happy musical number at the end. Because anyone could be bad or corrupted then incarceration and security measures are inherently bad because they prevent people from trying to enjoy life I guess. I’m solely basing this argument based of the in-universe logic and text of Descendants and wouldn’t disagree with high incarceration rates and negative stigmatisms towards immigrants are real issues here in the states. But the fact that the film wants to tackle this issue but do so in a haphazardly way that I’m only supposed to think of the implications of the message through how they want me to view it and not in other capacities is kind of a crummy things.
The tribute to Cameron Boyce was nice though, he seems like a really genuine kindred soul and its unfortunate that he’s gone so soon. My condolences to the friends and family close to his passing and may he truly rest in peace.