Saturday, February 8, 2020

Best Film of the Year for 2019.

Unlike the Oscars, you don't have to wade through 3 hours of bad comedy and boring songs to get the Basement Blog Film of the Year for 2019. I know you all have been waiting breathlessly. 😊 Drum roll please:

The Basement Blog Film of the Year for 2019 is JoJo Rabbit. The movie was an sxcellent essay on antisemitism, bigotry, hatred and the human condition.

Science Fiction Film of the Year for 2019

I looked back on the year of 2019 and it was crappy year for science fiction movies. But there was one movie that deserved the prestigious 😊Basement Blog Science Fiction Film of the Year. It won because it took risks. The movie is Avengers: Endgame. The risks it took was that the movie took a sharp left hand turn to comedy ala Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. (1986) That took the film out of your run of the mill superhero flick.

1917 review

1917 is a simple film about two British soldiers during World War I and yet it's revolutionary. In contemporary filmmaking, the directors and editors use a technique called fast cutting. It consists of cutting shots of a scene to 3 seconds or less. And if you read my blog, you know that I really hate it.

Fast cutting reduces film to appeal to an attention deficit audience. It's for one that grew up with commercials and music video. Many times it turns movies into a confusing mess as action is hard to follow. Too often it's used to convey action rather than a director taking the time to choreograph the shots. These are the reasons I hate it so much. In 1917 is a totally different take on filmmaking and film editing. Director and writer Sam Mendes uses long shots, tracking shots and smart editing to create a movie that follows one British soldier on his journey to save his brother.

1917 takes place during World War I France. British Corporals Thomas Blake (Dean- Charles Chapman) and William Schofield (George MacKay) are ordered to cross enemy territory to deliver a message to a battalion to halt an advance as they are walking into a trap. It's personal for Blake who has a brother in the battalion. The journey is a hellscape of death, destruction and an occasional respite of humanity.

Dean Charles Chapman and Goeorge MacKay may be unknowns but they turn in sincere, and realistic portrayals. The other more famous  actors, Richard Madden, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott and Colin Firth are good but their parts are so small that they feel like cameos. That's okay since the film is about the journey of the two corporals.

Mendes' film is an anti-war war movie like Saving Private Ryan. (1998) The difference is 1917 is more of a one man's view of war. You won't see big armies fighting each other in big action set pieces. It's a personal  journey across dead bodies, animals, destruction and death to not kill but to save lives. And of killing, 1917 makes it intimate. The combat is at times  hand to hand.

I thought the way the camera followed Schofield gave us an almost a first person look at war. You got a "you are there" feel without the gimmick of first person camera shots. The result is tense and riveting. You are not going to be bored by this film.

1917 is a radically filmed movie with a goal to make it look like one shot. The effect is compelling. I hope that future filmmakers will consider less fast cutting and use technology to create movies with longer scenes that will create less confusion. The grade is A.

Friday, February 7, 2020

JoJo Rabbit review

If you look at the trailers for JoJo Rabbit and know the director-writer Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) you would think that it was a comedy. Well it's kind of. It's a dramedy. I mean the boy protagonist's imaginary friend is Hitler. And Hitler is not portrayed as a mustache twirling villain but a goofy racist.

JoJo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) is a ten year old boy living in Nazi Germany and a member of the Hitler Youth. His mother (Scarlett Johansson) resides with him and is his primary caretaker. Her husband and JoJo's father is missing on the Italian Front. Life for JoJo is a struggle with the rationing and his clumsy physicality. JoJo is far from the Aryan model and eventually he is tasked to work for the local Hitler Youth
commander Captain Klenzendorfm (Sam Rockwell) doing odd jobs. One day he discovers a Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) living and hiding in the house. JoJo learns that his mother is hiding her. The conflict is whether to turn her in. Oh, yeah I forgot JoJo has an imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler. (Taika Waititi) And well Hitler tries to indoctrinate JoJo about Jews and Elsa.

The cast is wonderful. Roman Griffin Davis shows us that children can act. At times he is a dyed in the wool Nazi yet he keeps somewhat of an open mind after meeting Elsa. Thomasin Mckenzie's Elsa is lonely, hurt and scared. Scarlett Johansson is the loving and moral mother that is the model of best of humanity. Sam Rockwell is his usual great stuff. He's a German officer who's sidelined because of having only one eye that works. He's bitter as he's not the perfect Aryan anymore. Taika Waititi's Hitler is goofy and as expected is a plain old antisemite.

Waitti's always had great comic timing. Here he makes Hitler almost likable. But Waititi's screenplay based on Christine Leunens's novel Caging Skies has some serious fish to fry. It's an essay on bigotry, antisemitism, loneliness and love. JoJo's difficult relationship with Elsa is also a study of the human condition. Waititi has crated a funny, warm and human film. I laughed and I cried.

JoJo Rabbitt is one of the best movies of 2019. It's a beautiful study of the weaknesses and strengths of humans. The grade is A.