“Sound of Metal” and the Beat of a Different Drum

Riz Ahmed in "Sound of Metal".

I honestly thought all the band T-shirts in this film were fake till they brought out one with Einstürzende Neubauten. Them I recognize.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

Of all the Best Picture nominees I hadn’t seen prior to nominations, Sound of Metal was among the 2020 films I’d been most eagerly anticipating even if AMPAS had snubbed it. I was denied the chance to see it in its exclusive Amazon Prime cage, as one of maybe six Americans who refuse to subscribe out of a sense of monopoly subsidy fatigue. (There’s also my personal rule that I never, ever pay monthly or annual fees for shopping perks, which is equally confounding to Amazon and Barnes & Noble.) As is the annual Oscars season tradition, post-nom Metal was re-released to exactly one (1) local theater, in case any non-subscribers wanted to catch up mid-pandemic. My son and I lucked into a Monday night showing entirely to ourselves without paying AMC a $100-$200 private screening fee. Chalk up another win to my non-patented four-step H.I.D.E. method for pandemic theater survival.

The ironies compounded as we went. I was anxious to immerse myself in a theatrical speaker setting to experience the unparalleled sound design of a simulated world of encroaching deafness. And just as we were alone in the theater, so did Our Hero grow increasingly alone in his own world — sometimes though not always through no fault of his own.

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“Judas and the Black Messiah” and the Madding Crowd

Daniel Kaluuya in "Judas and the Black Messiah".

Knock knock, America.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1988 to the present, many of which were worth the hunt. The eight nominees for Best Picture of the Pandemic Year may pose more of a viewing challenge…

I don’t subscribe to either HBO or HBO Max and try not to get attached to their programming announcements. That’s included everything from Jumbo Largo Justice League to Judas and the Black Messiah, despite the latter’s two awesome lead actors.  When it was announced as one of this year’s eight Best Picture nominees, I had a quandary on my hands: do I (a) wait for the eventual release on other home video platforms (as will be granted next week to Wonder Woman 1984), even if that means waiting till after the Oscars ceremony on April 25th; (b) sign up for a free HBO Max trial and pull the plug seconds before the first charge hits my credit card; or (c) see it in theaters and take every possible measure to avoid the COVID?

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“Ford v Ferrari”: The Little Best Picture Nominee That Could

Ford v Ferrari!

Stars of the hot new motion picture White Men Can’t Brake.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: in a personal record, I saw eight of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture before they were announced on January 13th:

…which brings us to the ninth and final nominee, Ford v Ferrari — director James Mangold’s salute to auto racing pioneers and big middle finger to self-absorbed corporate executives who think they know best. Brought to you by Twentieth Century Fox, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company.

(Fox greenlit this on purpose as a parable of how their 2019 went, didn’t they?)

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“1917”: The Marathon of Battle

1917!

Our young heroes navigate the long walk to the Oscars, fraught with snipers, barbed wire, raging rapids, and Joker fans.

Despite my peculiar and not impenetrably defensible fandom for the Academy Awards, I’m galled every December and January whenever myriad ostensibly august awards-handout bodies bestow major nominations upon films seen only by critics and the privileged residents of New York and L.A. Once those hoarded films have picked up accolades from those anointed viewers, then the studios deign to roll out their preordained champions to the rest of us. I feel this same frustration whenever caucuses in Iowa and South Carolina choose our political nominees for all us flyover states, whose own primaries are less a useful part of democracy and more the patronizing equivalent of handing us a googly-eyed Fisher-Price phone and letting us pretend to call someone who cares.

The rousing new World War I adventure 1917 strutted off the red carpets and arrived in theaters five days after winning a Golden Globe for Best Drama According to Some Drunken Cabal Who Attended Special Screenings in Their Country Clubs. The only Golden Globe I’ve ever cared about is my own head, but I was intrigued by its high-concept design and its director/co-writer Sam Mendes, whose Skyfall remains my all-time favorite James Bond film, a preference that vexes cineastes who’ve actually seen more than ten Bond films. If my math is accurate, I fail to number among them. But now that I’ve seen it for myself, Monday morning’s Oscar nominations don’t bother me the same way.

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“Little Women”: What Is It Like Being a Woman in Old-Timey Arts?

Little Women!

You can have your Charlie’s Angels. I’m here for the March matriarchy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: writer/director Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird was one of my favorite films of 2017 and left me looking forward to her future endeavors. She’s finally returned to theaters with her take on Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, the 1868 novel that many of you were probably required to read in school, or perhaps cheerfully read on your own because someone trustworthy recommended it to you or it was shelved in a special library display alongside numerous other 19th-century books written by women that you’d already read. Either way, chances are your Little Women experience goes back farther than mine.

How far back are we talking? Full disclosure: prior to 2019 my Little Women experience consisted of a hazy memory from decades past in which I saw the scene where one of the girls-who-would-be-women gets a drastic haircut for altruistic reasons. I have no idea if I ran across one of the first four cinematic adaptations on TV when I was a kid, or if some sitcom paid it homage. All I know is I already knew of that plot point. I deemed that insufficient data and decided to do some homework before heading out to the theater: I rented Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version on YouTube. I enjoyed that in and of itself (so many familiar faces!), and appreciated that it conveyed the novel’s basics so I’d have an idea of what was supposed to happen in case Gerwig sold out and bowdlerized the whole thing into a ripoff of Hustlers.

Thankfully this did not happen. Little Women is among the hundreds of “classic” novels I failed to read in my youth, but if it intrigued the director of Lady Bird, then it was bound to intrigue me. I was a little annoyed in advance that one site recently chose to run a dubious thinkpiece about how men were supposedly avoiding the film in droves, based entirely on one (1) tweet from one (1) critic who cited her scientific research drawn from chats with three (3) whole males. It’s been 28 years since my last statistics class, but I still recognize an extraordinarily poor sampling pool when I see one.

Regardless: I, a male, willingly saw Little Women in defiance of the three dudes who purported to represent the grossly generalized aesthetic will of 150 million other dudes. And it was my idea to see it in theaters, not my wife’s. I refuse to pretend this counts as some groundbreaking accomplishment.

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“Jojo Rabbit”, Your Knife Is Calling

Jojo Rabbit!

Near the end of the war when the Fatherland began running low on father figures, you had to make do with what was rationed to you.

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.

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“Parasite”: Scenes from the Class Struggle in South Korea

Parasite!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Truth is in the ear of the believer.

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!

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“Joker”: The Day the Clown Cried and People Died

Joker!

Toys and statues now available on Etsy and eBay! For other versions, check your local comic shops, big-box stores, Barnes & Noble toy sections, or good ol’ Amazon! Buy Joker stuff wherever you shop, work or bank!

Every review of Todd Phillips’ controversial Joker that I’ve read so far — and I’ve read several, none of them by youngsters who love DC Comics unconditionally, but not all of them scathing — has name-checked Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver because, per their consensus, the homage is so derivative that it’s practically an attempted reboot of both, or possibly the conclusion to the trilogy they never were.

I haven’t watched Taxi Driver in over twenty years, and I’ve yet to see The King of Comedy, which wasn’t available on any of my streaming-service subscriptions as of a week before release. Aside from noting how hard I snickered at an obvious, neutered copycat of the famous “You talkin’ to me?” scene, that means I can’t simply spend 1500 words deriding its Scorsese allusions scene by scene, and will instead have to come up with my own words and thoughts, as opposed to typing a derivative homage to all those other reviews. IF it turns out like that anyway, don’t blame me. It’s everyone else’s fault but mine.

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Yes, There’s a Scene During the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” End Credits

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood!

Meet Rick and Cliff. Or call them by their bro-couple name, Riff.

The trailer calls it Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood. Some online resources call it Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. Others call it simply Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and rip out the ellipsis like the vestigial decoration it is. It’s not as though this site suffers from an ellipsis deficiency, so I’m leaving them out as Quentin Tarantino’s latest period piece has more than enough “period” to go around.

Courtesy warning: spoilers ahead for thoughts after 161 minutes of viewing. Not everything is revealed here, but a few tidbits cry out to be explored, particularly that controversial ending…

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #14: The Oscar Quest 2019 Home Game

A Star is Born!

Lady Gaga and Rocket Raccoon present the “Guardians of the Gaga” tour!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. In this batch as well as the next: the past few months’ worth of comfy-chair viewing as prep for this Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony hosted by a disembodied sense of doom, featuring at least five musical numbers (minus The Weeknd and SZA but including the un-nominated Queen), spurring endless tired jokes about the runtime, and pumping up the jams for any winners from the ABC/Disney mega-conglomerate.

This year the Best Picture nominees number eight in all. In past entries we covered Black Panther, The Favourite, Vice, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Green Book. Here, then, are brief notes on the final three to complete the octet.

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