84 – BlacKkKlansman

We breathlessly debate BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee’s comic drama based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. With limited time – Mike has to leave for work at some point and he’ll only let himself be so late – we dig right in. Discussed is the film’s point of view on culture and particularly cinema, arguing that a single film can wield the power to affect an entire nation; John David Washington’s performance, the influences we can see in it, and whether a more charismatic star might have been beneficial; our attitudes to Lee’s pamphleteering and the pros and cons of propagandistic cinema; the film’s direct address of Trump’s America and its tragic, somewhat surprising ending; and more.

We question whether the film’s comic treatment of David Duke, head of the KKK, carefully undercuts our delight in mocking him or dangerously indulges it. Duke is rendered a figure of fun in some notable and hilarious scenes, but the film ensures we recognise that he has never gone away. And Mike is particularly affected by Adam Driver’s character, a Jew in name only who, through being threatened by the KKK and confronted by Ron, is forced to reckon with his identity and the fact that it’s been easy for him to ignore it for most of his life. (The Howard Jacobson article he references is linked here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/07/howard-jacobson-jews-know-what-antisemitism-is-and-what-it-isnt-to-invent-it-would-be-a-sacrilege)

As we acknowledge in the podcast, we unfortunately missed the first few minutes of the film, which is only one reason we want to see it again. Mike is bursting with thoughts and can’t get them all out; Jose vacillates on the film’s artistic value, though not its cultural value. There’s much, much more to consider in BlacKkKlansman than we were able to in this podcast and we shall return to it.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

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83 – Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

It’s been out for four weeks and finally we decide to grapple with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Mike has just recently caught up with the first film, a jukebox musical that José disliked, and both are disappointed with the sequel’s lack of instinct as to what makes a musical actually work. Mike points out some elements of story structure he found original, and Jose is impressed with how the film juggles its vast cast of characters, but they disagree on Cher. (Spoiler: José really loves Cher.)

Neither comes away really having enjoyed the film, though neither is really the target audience either. But there’s fun to be had in critiquing it!

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

82 – The Darkest Minds

José finds a lot to remark upon in The Darkest Minds that Mike didn’t see, helping him appreciate it more. It’s a story of a society broken down by fear of children and a group of young survivors negotiating their own development and making their way towards liberation. It is representationally interesting, the central character a young black girl through whose eyes the film is filtered.

Depictions of children being rounded up into concentration camps disturbingly echoes the actions of ICE under the Trump administration, not to mention countless other examples of segregation and incarceration of peoples throughout history. The central theme of a young woman making herself invisible in order to satisfy others and smooth her path through life is worked through intelligently and tragically.

It’s visually uninspiring, and lacks charm and flair, but The Darkest Minds is an interesting and heartfelt teen movie for an increasingly enlightened young audience.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

81 – Unfriended: Dark Web

Designed entirely to simulate the desktop interface of a Macbook, Unfriended: Dark Web enthusiastically adapts modern fears of surveillance and digital stalking to the horror genre (drawing on the style of 2014’s Unfriended, to which this is a sequel). It’s a stylistic achievement that never once feels unconvincing, even if the route the plot takes is far from unpredictable.

We discuss the way the film hides its most graphic elements and is able to create tension and horror from the very opposite, and the wonderful evocation of distracted attention, with the main character jumping between Skype, Spotify, Facebook and more, that remarkably never becomes overwhelming or incomprehensible. Some of the performances aren’t the best, and we each found the film uninvolving at different points and for different reasons, but generally speaking we enjoyed the film’s experiment and found it interesting.

We also discuss the two producers, each of whose names caught our eyes, and how Dark Web fits in to the current cinema programme.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

80 – The Meg

Big shark, big Cockney, big fun. We dive into The Meg, a film we can all agree should have been called Chomp. It’s definitely trashy, though precisely how trashy is an area of disagreement. For José, it’s a bad movie. For Mike, it’s a good bad movie.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

79 – The First Purge

Low-budget, unexceptionally made, and absolutely vital. The First Purge takes the story of the Purge series back to the beginning, with a poor community composed of people of colour being savagely experimented upon for political purposes. Mike slightly had to drag José to see it, as it was showing only in single late-night screenings, but both were glad he did, as it’s perhaps the most direct and powerful critique of white hegemony that popular cinema has offered in recent memory.

We examine the imagery of the deliberate terrorisation of black communities in the USA. It draws on real-life attacks on black churches, Ku Klux Klan members wielding guns in pick-up trucks, and the resurgence of Nazis – one image of a blackface mask being removed to reveal an Aryan stereotype is particularly poetic. Mike finds that the film protects the white audience from their own complicity in the inequality portrayed, but it’s only a nuance, and as José says, we should be so lucky to have such flaws in most films! And José explains why films of this sort come along so rarely. (It’s not about risk. It’s about power.)

There’s simply so much food for thought and we urge you to see it.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

78 – Ant-Man and the Wasp

The sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man maintains that film’s lightness of tone, happily comic sensibility, and fabulously enjoyable visual effects. So often today we take exceptional effects work for granted but the conceptualisation and realisation of the images in Ant-Man and the Wasp make you notice, make you remark upon them. We had a great time.

We find room for nitpicks, of course, with José expressing irritation with Ant-Man’s malfunctioning suit and Mike finding the quantum realm too vague to provide real jeopardy, but our quibbles are minor. It’s a lovely film, it got big laughs from the audience, and even gasps at one notable point. You should see it!

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.