You can only pick one: who’s it gonna be?
p.s. Sean’s Rise of Skywalker review below.
You can only pick one: who’s it gonna be?
p.s. Sean’s Rise of Skywalker review below.
Keanu Reeves day is officially slated for May 21 2021: the day both Matrix 4 and John Wick 4 will be released. But every day can be Keanu Reeves day, and perhaps every day should. He’s one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors and is almost undoubtedly one of the kindest. He typically shies away from the spotlight, even turning down an enormous paycheque for Speed 2 in favour of touring with his band and doing a small Canadian production of Hamlet, for which his performance was praised.
Dubbed the ‘Internet’s Boyfriend’, and occasionally ‘Sad Keanu,’ the whole world is concerned about his happiness, participating in ‘Cheer-up Keanu Day’ every June 15. Although he’s deeply private, he has publicly admitted to feeling lonely, which, combined with his tragic past (a girlfriend gave birth to their daughter, who was stillborn, and their grief resulted in a breakup, followed by her death in a car accident just months later), makes an irresistible lust bubble. Feast your eyes on:
Over the weekend, Sean and I did a 24 hour Star Wars movie marathon. That’s all 10 movies: Episodes I, II, III, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Rogue One, Episodes IV-VIII, quite a recap going into Episode IX next week, a nice refresher. I’d only kinda seen Episodes I-VI before this – Sean made me watch them once, but I was pretty high on pain pills after a back surgery and clearly didn’t remember much. All I knew is that I really didn’t connect with them as much as people who’d grown up with them did.
Having now rewatched them properly, I think I know why I don’t love the original trilogy: it’s made for kids. So if you were a kid when you first saw it, you probably feel all warm and fuzzy toward it. But if, like me, you were a grown up, well, it’s harder to excuse a lot of its flaws. I was routinely unsettled by the characters’ coldness – every time there was a big battle, they’d immediately celebrate their victory with high fives and hugs all around, no word of sorrow for literally hundreds or thousands or a whole planetful of their friends who were just slaughtered. And the so-called romance is completely passionless. You’re telling me Han Solo is a cold fish? Really? I’m pretty sure a scoundrel like him would be making use of all the supply closets and cargo holds in the Millennium Falcon. I’d bet there’d be boxes of condoms falling out of every console on that ship. But what really gets me is the overly simplified concepts of Light and Dark. There’s good guys and bad guys and nothing in between. I thought Luke Skywalker was a bit of a wiener in Episode IV, but Mark Hamill grows him into a hero over the whole of the trilogy and I suppose George Lucas wanted to tell his fellow nerds: look, we can be heroes too. Darth Vader, meanwhile, is pretty much the epitome of villainry – the way he looks, talks, breaths, walks, it’s all so imposing and threatening. I love him as a bad guy and have a hard time getting over that he wasn’t the bad guy boss, and an even harder time understanding how quickly he was ‘turned’ by Luke in the end. I know that as a 6 year old, little Sean was relieved that Luke’s dad was now ‘good’ but big Jay (god I hope that doesn’t stick) feels quite conflicted about it. It’s just a little too easy, and unearned. Plus, the dude has slaughtered millions at this point. Sparing one hardly seems like adequate contrition.
Anyway, all that to say it’s a total relief when we finally get to the newer movies, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. They are so much more emotionally and thematically complex that I respond to them on a whole different level. They’ve made me cry, while the previous ones didn’t even make me feel. The Last Jedi in particular feels like a real triumph in cinema – after I saw it in theatres, it grew on me the more I thought about it, the more I traced the themes of failure and perseverance and hope and redemption. But it’s only now, having watched all of the films in quite succession, that I can truly appreciate all that this film accomplished. The Last Jedi is more or less Luke’s film. He’s been in exile but Rey tracks him down, determined to gain his help for the Resistance. But Luke denies her. He is a beaten up old man who just wants to be left in peace. He doesn’t want to fight anymore. The fight has gone out of him. He suffered a major setback in training his nephew, Ben. He couldn’t keep Ben from turning to the Dark side. It even brought out some Dark in Luke as he contemplated ending Ben before he could turn into Kylo Ren. Ever afraid of the Dark, Luke runs away in shame and sadness, to a quiet life of contemplation. He turns himself off from the Force. And he’s not the only one who is suffering. His sister Leia may still be fighting, but it’s taken a toll on her. Now she knows that even victories come with a cost. She is emotionally exhausted, and burdened. And that’s to say nothing of her son, whom she has lost. It was shocking in The Force Awakens to learn that Han and Leia shared a son, but losing him tore them apart, as grief does to so many parents in mourning. We see how much life has changed Han – still a plucky, trouble-making smuggler, but also a grieving father keening for even a glimpse of his fallen son. Luke too is changed – no longer the young boy filled with optimism and confidence. He has seen too much, suffered too much. His wisdom has made him weary. It’s hard to see Luke without hope, but it reminds us of his master Yoda – he too had exiled himself in the face of failure. In fact, he only broke his exile to train Luke. And now here we are, some 40 years later, with a new young Jedi and Luke is the teacher. A reluctant teacher, of course, because Luke has been so disillusioned he’s lost his faith, yet he can’t help but step up in exactly the way that his teacher did before him, even giving his life for Rey in the same way that Obi-wan did for him. When Luke’s cloak flutters empty to the ground it’s a direct call-back to Obi-wan’s own demise, and a brilliant cinematic moment.
I liked The Last Jedi for having the courage to show us failure. Every other movie (and by no means do I just mean Star Wars) shows us heroes facing down impossible odds and overcoming them. This is a new kind of test: how to get knocked down and get back up again. How to keep going in the face of failure. How to let go of the past. And these films mean that last bit in more ways than one, literally passing the torch between the older generation and the new, but teaching both that only by letting go can we truly move forward.
Video evidence of our movie marathon:
We went to see our little nephew play hockey on professional ice today. It was a fundraising effort for his team – we bought tickets to see the pro home team play, and then the kids took to the ice afterward. They got to walk onto the ice through fog, with swirling lights, have their names announced, and stood for the anthem. Then played a game with music breaks and the announcer throwing out goal credits, and our nephew rose to the occasion with a hat trick. It was a perfect way to spend our Saturday noon, except getting in and out of the parking garage was perfect hell. The arena was in the same area as a big open-air Christmas market and the whole thing meant we spent 30 minutes driving to the venue and 50 minutes waiting to park, and the exit process was looking to be just as harrowing only with more honking, so we got into our car, considered our options, and got back out to spend our time more wisely: paying for a movie that at least one of us had already seen.
[It’s awards season, so besides Frozen 2 and Last Christmas, which we’ve already seen, the theatres are packed with things one or both of us have seen previously at film festivals.]
Of our options, we went with Knives Out, even though we grabbed two of the last 5 seats in the theatre, which means we were watching from the front row and Daniel Craig’s head was horrible distorted.
The script, however, was just as delightful. So even though I’ve already given you a full review of the film here, I wanted to urge you, if you’re at all interested in this film, to check it out at the cinema. Our packed theatre was having so much fun, laughing out loud consistently, it’s such a great communal experience to laugh alongside your fellow hooman.
Sean and I both saw Joker at TIFF last month, at back to back screenings. We met up for lunch afterward (I believe we had a slight pause before seeing the Harriet Tubman movie) because boy did I have thoughts, comments, and questions, which I tried not to yell too loudly because: spoilers.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck in a totally new but not entirely unfamiliar way. He works as a professional clown (semi-professional, maybe? – he gets sent to hospitals or going out of business sales by a central booking agency that employs many other clowns besides) but dreams of becoming a stand-up comic. He’s not a great clown – he gets complaints a lot. Maybe it’s because he breaks clown rules with the way he does his makeup. Real clowns prefer to paint in large circles because pointy-ended makeup gives kids a subliminal fright. As you can see, Arthur paints both eyes and mouth with sharp ends, normally prohibited in the clown community. But there was another rule-breaker, historically. His name was John Wayne Gacy, and Joker’s makeup is likely a subtle nod toward this man, a serial killer who entertained kids on the side as Pogo the clown. He raped, tortured and murdered at least 33 teenage boys during the 1970s.
Arthur has a complicated relationship with his mother (Frances Conroy), with whom he lives. She’s not well, and depends on his support, meager as it is. She may be somewhat delusional because she writes long-winded letters about her poor living conditions to one-time employer Thomas Wayne, hoping his outrage will be enough to improve their circumstances. Until such a time, mother and son alleviate their suffering by cuddling up every night to watch their favourite late night talk show, Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro).
Arthur is dangerously thin, but people aren’t just uncomfortable about his physical self. There’s also the laughing. He laughs often, and inappropriately. It’s a neurological condition, and he hands out cards to strangers to ease their discomfort when his laughing goes on just a little too long. Still, it gets him into trouble. Joker’s laugh is iconic, and Phoenix taps into something so deranged, so haunting, it’ll nail your feet to the floor. The laugh alone justifies casting him. It is at distinctive, different, perfect. Unforgettable. Scary as hell. It sounds almost painful for Phoenix and it sent shivers down my spine.
Meanwhile, Gotham City is a total shit show. Garbage is piling up everywhere, home to super rats that terrorize the city. It’s never explicitly stated, but I’m guessing it’s 1981. The clothes are very late 70s/early 80s, you can still smoke indoors, and both Blow Out and Zorro The Gay Blade are playing at the movies. People are starting to agitate. The city’s becoming increasingly dangerous. There’s an undercurrent of discontent. It isn’t safe. Arthur gets robbed, jumped, beaten. There’s a certain electricity in the air. We all know Joker to be a villain, but the way things are going, these people may see him as more of a hero. Kill the rich – that’s their slogan. Not a great time to be the Wayne family. But is Joker the symbol this rebellion needs?
Arthur Fleck is nobody’s idea of a hero. He’s a mentally unstable man. He’s been in psych wards. He takes 7 different kinds of meds but still feels bad all the time. He keeps a joke diary filled with suicidal thoughts. “The worst part of having a mental illness,” he writes, “is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” I’ve lost count of how many Jokers we’ve seen on screen now (feel free to help me out in the comments section if you can), but it truly feels like Phoenix doesn’t fuck with any of them. Truly, he and writers Todd Phillips and Scott Silver have created Arthur/Joker from the ground up. He is an amalgam of childhood trauma, torment, debasement. You really get the sense that if anything had gone even just a fraction differently, you’d end up with a different guy. Arthur’s natural reaction to the world isn’t insanity or violence or evil. He genuinely seems to want to bring joy to the world. He wants to make the people laugh. He is searching for a way in. He is searching, I suppose, for identity. For something that makes him real, makes him feel like there’s a reason why he exists. But for one reason or another, this guy just keeps slipping through the cracks. There’s nobody to help him. If one person had reached out when he needed it, this would be a very different story. And I suppose that’s why this movie is so good. It doesn’t feel like a comic book movie, it feels more like Taxi Driver. It’s a character study. This man feels unpredictable, and yet we know his ending. There is a surprising amount of tension for a movie that can really only end one way. But director Todd Phillips creates this constant sense of swirling stress and anxiety, this emotional tautness by repeatedly having Arthur reach out. He doesn’t want to be a weirdo, or a loner. He wants that same connection that we all do. But society is keeping its distance. He’s isolated. He’s forgotten and ignored. We have countless opportunities to save the world from the Joker but we never do – we fail Arthur Fleck. Does the film show empathy toward him? I suppose it does, in many ways. Or at least to people who fall through the cracks, who get left behind. Personally, I had a hard time feeling empathy toward his first victims. Arthur is a complex man living in some complex times. There is no single reason that tips him over into villainy. There are just an awful lot of cracks in the pavement. A chasm is bound to open up, which is maybe the scariest way to look at it. There is no vat of acid. Joker’s descent into madness, or crime, or evil, or whatever you want to call it – it’s grounded in reality.
Comic books and super hero movies tend to deal in quite general archetypes of good and evil. This makes the characters instantly recognizable as hero or villain, but it also serves to put a distance between audience and character because there is little to relate to. Todd Phillips’ Joker is much more layered, which means at times you’ll root for him, and other times you’ll be disgusted by him. It’s a push-pull that few actors could pull off, and it’s why Joaquin Phoenix, already one of this generation’s biggest and truest talents, deserves an Oscar nomination, and as of right now, I’d say even the win.
Joker, however, is not just a great performance. It’s a wonderful, thoughtful film, a send up to gritty character studies of another era. Todd Phillips has said “The goal was never to introduce Joaquin Phoenix into the comic book movie universe. The goal was to introduce comic book movies into the Joaquin Phoenix universe.” Goddamn I love that quote. I think it shows great appreciation for Phoenix’s body of work. This isn’t just another origin story, this is a deep dive into a man’s psyche. Phoenix tends to gravitate toward the broken and tormented, but they’re not one-dimensional. They are faceted individuals. Different actors have interpreted Joker in many ways: a fiend, a terrorist, a thug, a psychopath. But Joaquin Phoenix goes with something else: human.
So I wrote all of that last month, after seeing Joker at TIFF. Since then, certain media outlets have tried to whip up a story about possible violence at Joker screenings and whether this movie sends a terrible message. I have wondered whether I should contribute to that noise at all but find that I do have something to say about it. Feel free to debate.
We are very shortly headed to TIFF where one of the many movies we’ll see is Ed Norton’s passion project, Motherless Brooklyn. While not his first time in the director’s chair, it IS the first one he also wrote, and of course stars in as well, because what the heck. He’ll play a Tourette’s-inflicted private investigator charged with solving the murder of his only friend (Bruce Willis). It looks good, and it’s had me thinking about Ed Norton’s other famous roles, of which there are actually quite a few, though he tends to be a bit under the radar (by which I mean: he’s always been more of an actor than a movie star).
Born in Boston circa 1969, Edward Harrison Norton became an actor because his childhood babysitter starred as Cosette in Les Miserables, and he caught the acting bug from her. He went to Yale as an undergrad where he was friends with Ron Livingston and Giamatti, and though he took some theatre classes, he graduated with a major in history. He was working on the stage, in New York, when he auditioned for a role opposite Richard Gere in Primal Fear; DiCaprio had passed on it, and Norton was chosen out of 2000 hopefuls. At the audition, he claimed that, like the character, he came from Kentucky (he grew up in Maryland), a lie that went undiscovered since his twang was evidently convincing. He picked it up watching Coal Miner’s Daughter, and threw in a stutter for good measure.
Lest you think that Primal Fear (1996) is his first IMDB credit, let me assure you that he wasn’t a complete noob – he’d previously appeared in a plethora of roles (including The Museum Guard) in an educational video designed to help newcomers learn English.
Before Primal Fear was even released, his test screenings were causing a Hollywood sensation, and he was soon offered roles in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, and The People vs. Larry Flynt. You may remember that Norton went on to win the Golden Globe for his supporting role in Primal Fear, and secured his first Oscar nomination as well: not bad for his first attempt.
Next he did Rounders (1998) with Matt Damon, and the two bonded by playing cards together (or, I suppose, against each other) in the World Series of Poker.
And then he earned his second Oscar nomination before the age of 30 for his transformative turn in American History X, in which he somehow extinguished the twinkle in his eye to play a Neo-Nazi, yet somehow keeps his humanity. And perhaps you’ve heard of his follow-up, a little film called Fight Club (1999)? Yeah, not to make Matt Damon jealous or anything, but he bonded with Brad Pitt by taking soap-making classes together. Hopefully with all safety precautions strictly followed.
And next we’ve got Keeping The Faith (2000), which is actually his directing debut. He plays a priest, and he and his rabbi friend (Ben Stiller) both fall awkwardly in love with the same woman (Jenna Elfman) even though neither of them can have her.
I took to Twitter to poll people’s favourite role, and American History X had a resounding win with 45%, including a vote from The Telltale Mind, and Fight Club pulling in a respectable 34%. Birdman took a surprisingly small slice with only 6%. Write-ins included Primal Fear, The People vs. Larry Flynt from Reely Bernie, 25th Hour from Matt of Armchair Directors, and even The Italian Job, this according to FilmGamer.
His more interesting roles this century include Death To Smoochy, The Illusionist, Moonrise Kingdom, and an astonishing supporting role opposite Michael Keaton in Birdman, for which he received a third Oscar nomination.
Motherless Brooklyn is his first writing credit but he’s done uncredited script work for 2001’s The Score, 2002’s Frida, and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk.
He lost a role to buddy Matt Damon in The Rainmaker. He turned down Damon’s role in Saving Private Ryan. He was the runner up to Jim Carrey for Man on the Moon (in which he played Andy Kaufman). He turned down the role of Bruce Banner in 2003’s Hulk but accepted it in 2008.
He’s had an incredible career but it feels like Motherless Brooklyn is a new frontier for him, and very likely a successful one (watch for the review – coming soon).
What’s your favourite role of his?
So we’ve run through both Marvel characters and Disney princesses, I guess it’s time we take a look at our Star Wars pals and vote on who’s most likely to succeed. The only problem is that Sean was a nerdy little kid who loved Star Wars while I managed to avoid it for most of my life. So my votes are going to very basic in comparison to his since I don’t know who the heck Boba Fett is even though Sean talks about him (?) all the time. I will probably struggle not to say Chewie every time. God help me. No, YOU help me. Chime in!
Well holy hell. This is hardly fair! And could it really have gone any other way? Chewbacca for the win, but his hair is no joke. Maria Cork was the supervisor of the hair department in creature effects on The Force Awakens, and it was her job to make sure his locks were glossy and gorgeous every single day. Mostly yak hair with a bit of mohair around the eyes, you can read all about his preferred hair tools and products here.
No shame, but we’re on the same page again. Is there such thing as being TOO partial to droids? Nah. C3PO and R2D2 are more like an old married couple who bicker all the time but ultimately have a deep and loyal bond. Poe and BB-8 have more of a bromance. We should all be so lucky as to be cherished and valued the way Dameron feels for his droid.
Samesies again? And I’m not even mad about it! Lando Calrissian is the obvious, and perhaps only choice. He’s stylish and debonair and has a cape collection that an entire galaxy envies.
I was startled and impressed with General Leia’s power, her temerity, her cool, her commanding presence. But ultimately I think Sean will be proved right – Rey ain’t nothing to fuck with.
Sean went with Emperor (Palpatine – I think), and I’ll believe him. I can’t really remember the bad guys so I googled Domhnall Gleeson Star Wars guy and the internet reminded me that he was called General Hux, who seems reasonably upwardly mobile.
Sean thought Han was the flirtiest but I went with Oscar Isaac because that boy was eye fucking me the whole movie.
Sean went with Jar Jar Binks and I kind of don’t really know who that is in the grand scheme of things. I chose Anakin Skywalker because that shit WAS funny, even if it wasn’t intentional.
Life of the Party
Sean went with Wicket, the Ewok, and to be honest, I don’t know my Ewoks. Is this something I should look into? I went with Finn because I bet there ain’t no party like a storm trooper party.
In a move surprising no one, Sean goes with Han and his hunk o junk, the Millennium Falcon. I wanted to pick those AT-AT things but I don’t know who drives them. So I went with Jabba’s party boat, which if course I couldn’t remember what it was called so again I had to ask google: what do I mean by that barge thingie with sails that picked them up in the desert and the internet spit back: Khetanna. It’s like a cruise ship for space villains. Sure it has a blaster cannon but it’s also got room for live music and 500 guests.
Most Likely To Become President
Again the vote goes unanimously to General Leia Organa for president, though let’s be honest – she’s already pretty much attained higher rank than that. President would probably be a demotion.
Most Likely To Get Catfished
Of COURSE it’s Kylo Ren. This emo dweeb probably has a dating profile littered with My Chemical Romance lyrics, and his profile pic is of him shirtless wearing high-waisted mom jeans, and he still wonders why everyone’s swiping left. He’s probably teetering dangerously in incel territory.
Most Accident Prone
I guess I don’t have any specific memories of C3PO being clumsy, but it sounds right. I went with Luke because the dude is missing a hand!
Sean went with Anakin. I went with L3, Lando’s droid from Solo, who was smart and woke and ready to lead her own rebellion.
Sean gave most upbeat to Yoda, and I’m glad to see him get some love, especially for his zen philosophy. I went with a young Han Solo – I connected more with him than I ever did with Harrison Ford’s character, which is probably blasphemous, but there it is.
Most Likely To Make Millions
Sean went with Lando for most likely to make millions, and as a chronic smuggler and gambler, he’s a hustler baby, and Sean’s probably right. But I went with Rose Tico. She’s got an impoverished background, having been forced to plunder her own mining community for the First Order her whole life, so I think she’s got the proper motivation to rise to the top.
Most Likely To Star In Their Own Reality Show
I knew you’d have Boba on here somewhere! I went with Sam Jackson, and I guess I mean that literally. I had to google his jedi name: Mace Windu. I’m really in this for SLJ (the L is for Leroy!).
Mostly Likely To Be Famous on Instagram
Sean thought Finn would do well on IG but I picked Admiral Holdo because she seems more into hair and fashion and getting her angles right, plus she’s important and well-connected so she’s got lots of famous friends.
Okay fine, we’ll give this one to Yoda, who has an advantage, being a 900 year old jedi master all-seeing ghost.
Who You’d Most Like to Eat Lunch With
Sean wants to eat lunch with Obi-wan because he’s a big nerd. I want Oscar Isaac FOR lunch.