Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: six years ago Disney’s Frozen made a kajillion dollars, set off a new merchandising phenomenon, and inspired more than a few cosplayers at our favorite conventions. The cooled-down coterie is back for Frozen II, which was rightly deemed good enough for a theatrical release and not immediately consigned to Disney+ like that Lady and the Tramp do-over or the Teenage Kurt Russell Comedy Collection.
Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Jojo Rabbit One of the Year’s Best Films!
That doesn’t mean much to anyone outside my own head, but it’s fun to type and just stare at it for a while. What if I said things and they mattered? Pretty cool daydream, right? Sometimes it’s comforting to traipse around in a world of pure imagination, until you’re forced to look at it from another angle and recognize when you’re wallowing in nonsense.
From Bong Joon-Ho, the director of The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja, a movie with a name like Parasite implies sooner or later there’ll be a monster and bloodletting and bigger, badder, wilder, all-out, off-the-wall, jaw-dropping pandemonium, because moviegoers expect escalation. Several words in that sentence come true and thus is the prophecy fulfilled, but with Joon-Ho it’s best never to think we can expect the unexpected. What most of us think of as “unexpected” is actually very expected because we think along a select number of unconsciously rigid tracks. We clench Occam’s Razor between our fingers and use it to sketch our predictions, drawn from among the most common forms of what average storytellers consider “unexpected” rather than unimaginable forms of unexpected. Preconceptions are a drag even when we think we don’t have any.
Parasite tinkers with quite a few of them. Among the most common and beloved in many a Hollywood tales of late: “Poor = good. Rich = bad.” As us-vs.-them conformist mentalities go, “rich vs. poor” has become among the most exploited. If that’s among your favorite simplistic conflicts, I’m pretty sure Hustlers is still playing in a multiplex near you. Go have fun!
It’s that time of year again, when studios release all their film-festival acquisitions in the final quarter of the year in hopes of gaining some awards-based prestige as aesthetic compensation for their previous nine month’s worth of amusement-park spectacles and cheap crowd-pleasing fare. Truly indie companies and corporate-equivalent farm teams alike rush to compete for the same two or three backrooms at every multiplex — those screens snuggled in the way, way back of the building with like smaller screens, 20-30 seats, and the distinct feeling that you could probably get away with murder in there and no employee would ever notice. In the summer those screens are usually reserved for Marvel movies going on their twentieth week in release.
Many markets aren’t large enough to offer that much accommodation to tinier, pluckier cinematic gems. For the past decade Indianapolis has had one (1) theater more diligently dedicated above all the rest to showcasing the rare, the quirky, and the severely underfunded. Naturally it’s on the most affluent side of town far from our little hovel, but from time to time I’m happy to put in the mileage to trek up there. Plans are afoot to literally triple Indy’s art-house options by the end of 2020, which will be awesome if they come to pass. For now, there’s just the one. Sometimes the other, larger theaters pitch in, but nowhere nearly as consistently.
Speaking of truly singular things: that brings us to The Lighthouse, the new film from writer/director Robert Eggers. His feature-film debut, 2015’s The Witch, was a lovingly crafted artisanal piece that relished its archaic speech patterns, throwback cinematography, precipitous descents into the bottomless pits of human sin, endings that give the audience nightmares for weeks, and mean-spirited animals. To that extent his sophomore exploit The Lighthouse feels familiar, a summary rejection of how today’s movies are “supposed” to be made in favor of exploring roads rarely taken anymore, using methods they probably don’t teach in film school anymore, and with the most disturbing demeanor conceivable.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: last spring my wife and I had the sincere pleasure of watching the first full-length trailer Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker in its premiere airing at Star Wars Celebration Chicago, surrounded by thousands of fellow fans:
The crowd watched as one. We cheered as one. We whooped and hollered as one. Together we held our breath in the seconds before the subtitle was revealed to the entire world at that very moment after years of speculation. Together we got it. Tens of thousands of voices cried out in Chicago with the interjections and expletives of their choosing. To say nothing of the reactions of the Viewers at Home.
Whether the setting is a state-of-the-art theater or an extra-large flea market, there’s something about a geek harmonic convergence that convention showrunner fiat and any number of internet trolls can’t blast away.
There was no convention to attend for the new trailer’s premiere tonight during Monday Night Football halftime, unless you count the game itself. I doubt they showed the trailer live at the stadium, but who knows. No, for this event I was at home at the same time as millions of other viewers, online and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. It wasn’t nearly the same kind of experience as the previous trailer, especially since I was trying to watch Black Lightning when it finally premiered around 9:50 pm EDT, give or take a few minutes, right in the middle of a key development with the Pierce family.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.
For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.
As previously posted in haste from our hotel room several weeks ago, my favorite part of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum was the wholly unexpected exhibit titled “Georgia on My Screen: Jimmy Carter and the Rise of the Film Industry”. In 1972, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was instrumental in creating the State Motion Picture & Television Advisory Commission, which would eventually become the Georgia Film Commission of today. Through that increasingly generous division, laws and codes have been established to make Georgia ready, willing, and friendly to grant numerous tax breaks and other perks to Hollywood films and TV shows made there on a number of not-too-oppressive conditions. (That giant-sized peach logo you sometimes see embedded in end credits? They get an extra 10% “uplift” for using that.)
We thought we’d seen the last of our favorite early-20th-century British property owners, their splendidly ornate possessions, their struggle to maintain their lifestyle even as all their peers fail in droves, and the working-class employees who were more like us. Even though the series finale brought closure and a happy ending — without the doom and gloom that traumatized us in earlier years, no less — leave it to writer/creator Julian Fellowes to confound those expectations and serve one last course of fan service for Anglophiles.