_star wars: the last jedi

—oy gevalt. It’s a mess. I’m reluctant to say that it is, but it is what it is. I’m really disappointed, too, and I’m disappointed that I’m disappointed. You know the kind I’m talking about, the kind you get from someone, something, somehow, you love, and that’s a cross between shame and l’espirit de l’escalier. Just. Wow. I-probably-could’ve-gone-about-that-better-disappointment.

This is the first time I’ve felt a script should never have been greenlit. The dialogue is sloppy, cringe-worthy in places, needlessly expository in others. The story is senseless, in a pointless, rather than a puzzling, sort of way. It’s got more sub-plots than it does plot-holes you can poke a stick at, and it’s like somebody trawled a bunch of sub-reddits, and twitter-feeds, and fan-theories, and trolled them all into one spectacular punk’d—and not just the theories, but their potential, and their spirit.

There is an overall cheapness to Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017), that misappreciates its own story for the sake of its own storytelling. It is a very selfish film, and that is always showing off, but without thinking things through, without telling us how or why, and yet, simultaneously, without leaving much to the imagination, either. It doesn’t go there, it goes where it wants to, and that’s the hallmark of a script written by a director, always telling, telling.

What I want to see is slow. Majesty. Grace. A humble, if not elegiac, origami of resolutions and regrets un/folding in amongst an opus, an opera, a swansong that is nearing its end. Bring me to the peak of tragic perfection, and let me think it’s all going to fall apart. That’s real hope.

At times I think J. J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), despite its many, many flaws, had these moments where it just—knew—itself. It just knew—you—were there. You could just—feel—the force, around you, through that character, watching over them, in a sense that was sacred, that was magical, that was infinite without being infinite.

The power that is magic is the infinite. It is that which corrupts absolutely, every film, and not just Star Wars. The infinite is the story, the power of storytelling, to tell anything. There is a certain responsibility, in some respects, to restrain oneself, from learning this power, to get too involved, to get too carried away. It must be considered, tempered. What this film lacks is the delicacy, the tenderness, the nuance, that space opera is.

This film is a missed opportunity, that’s it. It’s not a cash grab. It’s certainly nowhere near as good as Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) hoped it would be. It’s frustrating, because you can see it’s excited, it’s bursting at the seams, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. I still wonder about whether or not I should write this at all, but in all honesty, in all politeness, in every conceivably non-violent way, from the marrow of my bones, one creative to another:

Fuck. You. Rian Johnson. Fuck. You.

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_the killing of a sacred deer

—wow. What drew me to Yorgos Lanthimos’ dysfunctional Dogtooth (2009) was almost Derridan. The premise that certain words were being deliberately misinterpreted for other words, in a twisted, patriarchal power-trip. It was the first film I’d seen use actual sex to portray intercourse, without knowing about, at first, and on the cusp of rape. The scenes resonated with me deeply for their seemingly honest yet fictional representation. They ultimately changed my mind about that very, very thin line between pornography and authenticity, and made me question why it was that most films shy away from the act of intercourse itself when they are otherwise capable of implying it gratuitously.

Then came Lanthimos’ The Lobster (2015), a film I felt I should have seen in the cinema, and without distraction, because somehow, in good company, it was uncomfortable feeling both comfortable with my discomfort yet uncomfortable in the presence of those who, I felt, were uncomfortable with their feeling of discomfort—even though, by comparison, something like The Lobster skirts pornography in a way that is more akin to reading erotica, like that of Anaïs Nin.

I’ve had a poster of Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) tacked to my wall for over a month, before seeing it. Something about it I knew I would like without knowing what until I did. Colin Farrell (as Steven Murphy) returns in a very Lobster way, and the rest of the casting, Nicole Kidman (as Anna Murphy), Raffey Cassidy (as Kim Murphy), and Barry Keoghan (as Martin), all perform admirably. Cassidy, of Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland (2015), and Keoghan, of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (2017), in particular, have long careers ahead of them, I think.

A word I’m tempted to use is restrained. The whole film feels like it is holding back in some way, somehow, in a very thriller, yet unconventionally thrilling way. There’s a certain quality to the dialogue, too, the delivery, that’s virtually uniform across the cast, and that offhandedly comes off as robotic, but in another way, repressed. There’s little to no acting, in the sense of recreation—indeed, it’s actually all very carefully calculated, in a wooden sort of way.

The film progresses like music, emphasising certain moments by subduing mostly others, and unsettlingly. Oleh Krysa and Torlief Thedeen’s OST also counter/balances, highlighting thrills without impending or impeding them, while bridging discomfort with suspense. It’s also a rare example of absurdism, that doesn’t revel in its whimsy, and that sparingly invokes its plot. Instead, it rushes through its premise, mumbles it, incredulously.

And it’s especially nice to see a film that entertains non-scientific ideas without resorting to tropes. It is a film that is so itself, so like Dogtooth, so like Lobster, that its sheer personality wins me over. Every film that has ever tried to be, for shame, or shamelessly, itself, has always won me over. Not because it was good or bad, but because there was something about it, something special, I would never forget. Ever.

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_blade runner 2049

—every time I come to think to write about I can never seem to do it justice. Just yesterday, I was talking about it again, and it all came flooding back in waves of carefully constructed nostalgia. “—Write about it,” they said, even though there’s something strangely precious about me not wanting to ruin anything more of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 (2017), and that sits somewhere rather uncomfortably between private shame and arrant stupefaction. I was so very, very wrong, and so very, very happy, to be so very, very wrong.

I feel in a lot of ways I should apologise. I have never felt that way about a film before. Probably because I have never seen a sequel that had half the self-reflexive balls as this. To acknowledge, let alone interrogate, itself as a sequel, as well as examine the somewhat self-righteous relationship between the same nostalgia that reveres Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), but won’t entertain the notion of another. That. That’s something else. That’s a horse of a different colour.

And, honestly, what’s there to be precious about, really? The whole Blade Runner phenomenon is, was, and always will be, a syzygy of genius, a lovechild of luck, a missappreciated Moses of a movie, that attracts an untidy cult of philistinism. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, author Philip K. Dick’s befittingly pulpy fucking epitaph for the whole of the human race, is just as unapproachable. An identity crisis about a morose (and married) Deckard trying to Run enough credits together to get a really real sheep. There’s also a monologue in there about “kipple” that I’ll never forget; or the day I finished reading that book, which, in the words of my father, truly, truly did feel “—like saying goodbye to an old friend.”

That they ever managed to—quote—adapt—unquote—Electric Sheep? into Blade Runner isn’t a mystery. Dick had some hand in it, but one ultimately gave birth to the other. That’s the true marvel of Blade Runner, and now, Blade Runner 2049. It almost goes without saying that a lot of reboots and remakes disgrace themselves and disrespect their own material for a quick buck, but this isn’t one of those.

Blade Runner 2049 knows all of this. It’s almost uncanny, the sub/conscious reception, the opening weekend, the sense of history repeating itself like a practical joke in a geometry of synchronicity. There’s a majesty to all of this the film more than deserves, and without precisely detailing. Having seen it twice, and only hours apart, there are five stand-out moments that, for lack of a better word, convinced me, two of which were unintentional, will never happen again, and I will never forget:

The first, when K (played by Ryan Gosling) is walking through the ruins of a casino, coming up the staircase, suddenly the sound of birdsong coming from outside the Palace Theatre on High Street, Westgarth. The second, the soft, subtle sound of a tram bell, while Deckard (reprised by Harrison Ford) recollects the memory of his beloved.

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