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.
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. Plan A for Thanksgiving weekend had been a combination of reading, writing, and watching. One of those three won out thanks to a confluence of unrelated factors, all involving TVs and streaming media.
Anne and I are old-fashioned cable subscribers, but I cut all premium channels from our lineup over a decade ago for (mostly) cost-cutting reasons. A few times per year, our provider will allow limited access to one or more of those high-falutin’ deluxe stations for the space of an entire weekend, a taste of what we’ve been missing to lure us into throwing more monthly money at them because only they have the cure for TV FOMO. For me those free weekends represent surprise binge opportunities, an indulgence that staves off any temptation of permanent signup. For this past holiday weekend they granted us free HBO from Thursday through Monday. I could’ve picked up where I left off on the previous “Watch-a-Thon” and continued my dive into Flight of the Conchords…but I decided to go with something a bit more current, much harsher and a lot less melodic.
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. The last installment was eight months ago because I’ve found myself pretty easy to distract this year. Time flies when I’m going to bed earlier every night due to encroaching oldness, depriving myself of precious writing time, barely making a dent in my topical backlog, and therefore not yet forcing myself into a corner where I have to mine everything I do for creative writing fodder. Plan A for Thanksgiving weekend had been a combination of reading, writing, and watching. One of those three won out thanks to a confluence of unrelated factors, all involving TVs and streaming media.
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.
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.