_lady bird

—hype. I think it’s that I’m missing something, like something small, something self-reflexive, self-indicative. There’s definitely a sense of subtext to Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird (2017), like an in-joke, or else, like, you-wouldn’t-understand, but I don’t want that to re/define the experience of this film I thought might be another Wes Anderson’s Rushmore, or Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). At the very least, I’m glad it’s nothing about Jason Reitman’s Juno (2007). It’s itself, enough, to merit talking about this growing phenomena that is audience-specific cinema.

I’m hesitant to use a word like niche to describe it—in fact—I’m hesitant to use a lot of words these days, and I suppose it feeds into a frustration I’ve had with language ever since I can remember. I want there to be words for definitions that don’t exist yet, that can’t exist yet, that convey with accurate, yet delicate, precision, precisely what it is I mean, and that are so objective, and without systemic usage, to warrant their own subjective history. There’ll probably never be a word that way, I’m reluctant to admit, so all we have are endless, Derridan, inter-definitions, and that are still pretty cool.

There’s a “niche” to this film, an articulation, that resonates, will resonate, with others, better, much, much, better, than it did with myself. I think the easiest explanation, and why I’ll put myself out of my misery, now, is because I am a self-identifying, heterosexual, close-enough-white male. Or, at least, these are the terms being used to describe someone like myself: I just see me, I just like what I like, I don’t think anybody’s more or less anything, anyone, so much so, I seldom give it a second-thought. That’s the short and the privilege of it.

Christine “Lady Bird” (played by Saoirse Ronan) has this perspective I can barely gist at, this innate percolation, having finally bubbled to the surface. It must feel, and enviously, for those many few, so indescribably good and almost vindicating. The film, the phenomena, I want to compare it to is actually Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018). We’re witnessing the culmination of hundreds of years, thousands of years, of oppression, dissolve, disseminate, culture, and converge into crisp definition at long last.

None of this has anything to do with Lady Bird, but. It has everything to do with you—you—out there, reading, watching, thinking, feeling. That’s a marvel to behold, but it’s also a world, a reality, in context, and that tomorrow will remember differently, for better or worse. And it’s memory, it’s place, it’s family, and familiarity, that Lady Bird reminds me of the most. The life, the lives, we weave, between, and in amongst, that we are the story we don’t want to write about, forever. That everything starts for us the moment we realise who we are isn’t who we thought we were, it’s a changing beast, a mosaic, like a memory being remembered by the future, for the future, of ourselves.

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_brigsby bear

—heart. This was The Last Jedi (Johnson; 2017) we should’ve had. There’s a—nuance—to Dave McCary’s Brigsby Bear (2017), a twisted innocence, that goes further, and far, far deeper, than its conceptual cousins, Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind (2008), Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth (2009), and Lenny Abrahamson’s Room (2015). It isn’t nearly as kitsch as the trailer made it out to be, either, and this was a jarring, if not refreshing, surprise, by and of itself.

Now, what I mean by The Last Jedi is more than just Mark Hamill (as Ted Mitchum). Without giving it away, it’s about childhood fascination, it’s about misconstrued obsessions, that have more to do with closure than they do nostalgia. It’s about the relationships we have with things that aren’t there, and how they are just as meaningful as they are meaningless, and how that gets distorted over time.

This meaning/lessness seeps into our very being, sometimes. It is more than just a part of us, too, it—is—us, in a way, a world related through a world. And I can think of no better example than Brigsby Bear, that demonstrates the manifest passion—I have—you have—with a creation not of our own making. It is a humble kind of envy, an excitable yearning, a hungry, hopeful, pride, that is willing to overlook the odd mistake, but prepared to ask the cutting question.

So the very prospect of its perpetuity is like a life/force of its own. It feeds us, comforts us, lets us read into things, and ourselves into things, that ultimately inspire us, and give us hope, long after it has faded away. That is the legacy of greatness. It lives through us, and in so doing, becomes more than what it was before, and could ever be by itself. Almost as a subconscious sort of film/making.

This is definitely a bildungsroman, an independent film with an independent vibe, cinematography so smooth it’s hard to tell. There’s a lot of focus pulling going on of late, and that I’m sure, someone, somewhere, else will eventually pick-up on, more officially, and define characteristically as this decade. It is done tastefully, with a wistful sense of lingering, like a cut without a cut, but it is tiresome. Something about the cut is so indicative of film, and breath, and pace, that these focus pulls feel like semi-colons; they go on and on and on and on and on.

Then stop. What gets need to be said falls short of what needs to get shown. That’s the time, the ambience, between moments, that ultimately define the short from the long, the fast from the slow, like the light from the dark. I could have had more Brigsby Bear. I really could have, but I think—I know—it gave me closure of a kind I felt I didn’t get out of The Last Jedi, at all. It’s not that they were talking to each other, but that they were talking through me.

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_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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