WATCH OUT FOR: The Good, the Bad, and the Excellent.
Today I am reviewing three films I watched over the weekend! From the headline you can tell that I liked one, I didn’t another, and I absolutely adored the third. The films were Locke, Predestination, and Whiplash. Now take a guess to which one did not take my fancy.
If you guessed Predestination….you are right!
It is so interesting that two of the films - Locke & Predestination - feel like directorial experimental statements. I don’t want to be unfair, but if it weren’t for their budgets, these films would qualify as poster children of student films. Locke tries to pull of captivating an audience for an hour and a half with one actor in one location. Predestination tries to answer a complex philosophical idea in a non-linear form and bend our minds. One succeeds and is forgiven for avoiding choosing more effective and conventional elements of filmmaking and storytelling, simply for the sake of trying to make a statement, the other left me repeating to myself over and over again “Why?!!!”
As for Whiplash, I have nothing but praise!
Set during one night in the life of man, who’s whole life unravels, while he drives to be with the woman giving birth to his child, which was conceived during a one-night affair.
This film lives and breaths because of Tom Hardy’s performance. His performance is nothing short of killer - he successfully pulls of carrying the film all by himself for an hour and half. The only time he falters is, (spoiler alert) during the moments when he talks to his deceased father, who he sees sitting in the back seat. However, this does not seem to be a faux pas on Hardy’s part, but in my opinion must have been the director’s. It appears that no stand-in was used for the father and so Hardy’s eye line is off, which causes the performance to suffer. But that said, I was surprised that he was not nominated for any Golden Globe.
I enjoyed this film and that is why it gets a “Good.” However, even with Hardy’s performance it still felt like a film made to make a statement, which always bothers me a little. And without Hardy the film would have fallen apart.
A temporal agent travels back in time to stop a mass bomber, who has eluded him throughout time and he needs to stop to save thousands of people’s lives.
I was really excited about this film. For one, I love Ethan Hawk, and second, I love time-travel and sci-fi films. So the disappointment was even bigger when the film did not deliver.
First off, (spoiler alert) this film has really nothing to do with the agent stopping the mass bomber. The mass bomber aspect is just a vehicle to somehow make this unworkable story work. Not only do I find it unbearable when a un-organic story elements are squeezed into a story, which are never resolved, but I also do not like when you lead the audience astray with what they are signing up for. It is like ordering a main course, when all you get is desert!
This film tries so hard to be clever and answer the age-old philosophical question "Which was first? The chicken or the egg?“ with the witticism "The rooster.” But as so often, when a film tries to be too smart, it fails. I, myself, and my friends were left with the feeling of “Was this really necessary?” One example was, in the story (Spoiler alert), the main character, a hermaphrodite, chooses to have sex with a younger and different sexual version of him/herself, when he/she travels back in time. He/she choose this freely, even though he/she not only knows that this is herself, but also what awful ramifications this will result in for him/herself - he/she will get pregnant by him/herself. Call me prude, but this is just sick! I could put up with it, if it really helped tell the most amazing story, but it does not, and so feels just a use for shock value. And that is something I hate even more than a director trying to prove to us he can pull something off.
But this is not the only problem with the film, the story has so many holes, and the characters have no arc. None of the characters, which (spoiler alert) we come to find out are all one person, grow or learn anything - he/she stays the same and makes the same mistakes until the end. Now that is the worst kind of sin to commit in a film, unless of course you are Richard Linklater and you are telling the story of a boy growing up.
When you commit so many atrocious crimes of filmmaking, there is really nothing left to redeem yourself with.
But now, on to the film that earned an “Excellent,” Whiplash.
A promising young jazz drummer gets the ride of his life at an elite East Coast music conservatory, where he attracts the attention of a brilliant, yet ruthless, instructor.
I have been meaning to see this film for months, since I heard nothing but positive things about it. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 95%. And finally, after J.K. Simmons won the Golden Globe for his performance, I carved out time on Sunday evening. And I am so glad I did! Whiplash has to be one of my favorite films of 2014.
It is not only the top notch performances - J.K. Simmons deserves the Golden Globe, and the Oscar - but the story is so beautifully simply and leaves room to really dive into the characters. And the director, Damien Chazelle, allows us to take that time. He does not shy away from intense moments, which breath, because they are not rushed. But yet the film moves, just like it’s music.
I also was blown away by the cinematography and editing - what master pieces. It is some of the best camera work and shot selection I have seen in a long time, and both deserve an Oscar. Every shot is perfectly picked to move with and enhance the music in this music film. My one pet peeve was the coloring choice. Some of the shots benefited from the yellow/blue color palette, others didn’t. But regardless the visual aspect is brilliant!
This is simply a beautiful and moving film, the way films should be made! No unneeded frills in both story or filmmaking, but just a deep-felt character driven master piece.
Now here is the big surprise, since you read all the way to the bottom, you will actually get a price if you guessed right as to which film fell into the “Bad” category. If you email me at email@example.com, I will send you a signed production still from one of my films.