48. Sorry to Bother You
You know, I mentioned this in my Green Book review, but there really were a surprisingly high number of good movies about race and race relations this year. Seriously, I usually only tend to stumble across 2 or 3 in any given year (although I suppose that could arguably say more about my filmwatching habits than anything else), yet this year I’ve already seen nearly double that of mostly pretty damn good quality. And that’s not even including Blindspotting and If Beale Street Could Talk, both of which I gave a miss. And while this movie is currently on the bottom rung of those that I have seen, aside from Green Book obviously, that’s certainly not because it’s a bad movie.
Honestly, this really was an interesting movie to me, from its weird off-beat tone to its fiercely biting satire, most of which felt at least fairly on point. LaKeith Stansfield does a good job as the everyman telemarketer trying to move up in the world, the movie does a good job of portraying a lot of the toxicity of corporate culture and honestly, while I’ve heard a lot of people complain about it, I really liked the weird final third twist, which I thought was a great ‘Modest Proposal’ esque critique of many companies approach to their workers
Honestly, if I had to say anything bad about this movie it’s that, and bear with me for a second… I actually think it could’ve done with being even more weird and out there. And trust me, if you’ve seen the movie, I wouldn’t be too surprised if you raise your eyebrows at that. But no, I really think it could’ve/should’ve gone further with the weird surreal ridiculous satire. A lot of the big satires that have really stuck with me tend to be the ones that don’t hold back with their punches and metaphors and keep them going throughout the entire film’s running time. And while this film certainly does have some of its big satirical premises near the beginning of the film, it’s honestly a bit subdued for the first half or so. And large part of me suspects that the big controversy and mixed reception about the big third act twist has more to do with it seeming out of place compared to that more subdued first half.
Then again, I am telling a movie that features Tessa Thompson getting bullets and bladders of sheeps blood thrown at her while she recites an obscure movie line that it needs to be more weird so maybe that just says more about me than anything else. (Also, considering what I know about actual real life performance art, that shit was practically tame.) But hey, it was still an interesting movie, so credit where credit is due on that front
47. Ready Player One
Okay, just to get this out of the way quick, I liked this movie but I’m pretty sure I’m now completely over easter eggs as a concept, because this is practically ‘Easter Egg: The Movie’ and yet I barely gave a damn about most of the cameos. Seriously movie, flashing two seconds of Master Chief is not enough to get me excited. Get some actual goddamn substance to the appearances first instead of name/visual dropping them like it’s supposed to mean anything.
Seriously though, like I said, I did actually enjoy this movie fine enough. I never read the book and I’ve heard a lot of criticisms about it and things from it that made it into the movie that I… honestly don’t disagree with, but as a far a technological Willy-Wonka-esque treasure hunt narrative went, I enjoyed it fine enough. The action was frenetic, if maybe a touch too busy and chaotic at times, the story was paced well enough, the romance… okay, the romance was awful and cringy, as were more than a few of the characters involved, but it didn’t distract me enough from the stuff I did like.
Spielberg is obviously a pretty dang good director and he was a good enough hand here to steady the story and cut out some of the more awkward bits. I actually really enjoyed the Shining segment that was clearly designed as a tribute to his old friend, Stanley Kubrick. One of the few ‘references’ that actually genuinely worked for me. And who better to capture that sense of 80’s nostalgia than the guy who made some of the biggest hits during that time.
Still, Ready Player One is the sort of movie where, whether you love it or hate it, I completely understand. It had its good features and moments but also carries a lot of the cringiness and unfortunate implications of its original source material. Still, I thought it was a solid enjoyable movie.
46. Crazy Rich Asians
Boy, those Asians sure were crazy and rich, huh?
Okay, I don’t really know what else I’m supposed to say here. It was a solid rom-com about rich people that acted like a solid rom-com about rich people, so I liked it. I really don’t have much beyond that. I can understand why it might have a lot more meaning and importance to other people (heck, just being a highly successful all-asian casted movie is pretty meaningful in its own way), but to me it was cute, but didn’t really leave enough of an impact to make the higher tiers on this list.
Then again, considering what’s coming up next…
45. Robin Hood
Okay, I feel like I have to go into emergency explanation mode here for obvious. And. to be clear, I don’t think Robin Hood is the 45th best movie I saw this year. I don’t think Robin Hood is even in the Top 75 of movies I saw this year. This isn’t an ‘Actually, I think this movie is a lot better than critics and audiences give it credit for’ sort of situation. God no, this movie is hot garbage and I openly admit it. But for me, it was the enjoyable kind of hot garbage. The kind of awful movie that, if you go in with the right mindset, you can just throw your head back and laugh at how batshit dumb it is.
Just to throw in a few personal highlights of my screening…
-The filmmakers having a clear vendetta against the idea of ‘subtle’ allegory.
-The filmmakers having a clear vendetta against the idea of ‘subtle’ use of anachronisms.
-Apparently nobody in this movie knows what a sword is? Rather than swords, spears or axes, all the Nottingham guards are solely armed with adorable tiny miniature crossbows, even in situations where melee weapons or basic shields would clearly be more useful. The sole exception are the clubs and ridiculous leather riot shields the guards carry at the end which are clearly just there so the movie can have the image of ‘masked molotov-throwing protesters against riot cops’. (See my earlier point about the filmmaker’s hatred of ‘subtle’ allegory.)
-The whole fucking Middle East Crusades scene. Other people have already brought this up plenty, but it’s even funnier in person. A good writer/director might have noted the parallels between the medieval crusades and our modern wars in the Middle East and thought to maybe add some subtle parallels in the dialogue or the direction, enough to call up the similarities, but without distracting from the actual movie being told. Robin Hood (2018) went with ‘What if we removed all that namby-pamby ‘subtext’ crap and just shot a scene from the Hurt Locker/American Sniper, but with bows instead of guns?’ I nearly pissed myself with laughter when they called in the fucking airstrike (with catapults throwing stones) towards the end.
-Seriously, I can not physically understate how unsubtle this movie is when it comes to its modern allegories. The Sheriff of Nottingham’s first major scene had him basically speaking to a large public crowd about all the ‘evil rapist muslims coming to steal our freedoms and how the brave war effort totes justifies all the obvious oppression and corruption I’m involved in and that if you’re against the war, you’re against Ameri-Nottingham.’. I was half expecting him to start winking halfway through and going ‘Do you get it, Audience? Do you get it? It’s a metaphor for the Iraq War! Aren’t we clever?!’
-Speaking of, I’m 90% certain that Ben Mendelsohn’s Sheriff in this and his character in Rogue One are both secretly the same person. Or one is the other’s descendant or something. Either way, scenery chewing abounds whenever the guy is on screen. (Also the Sheriff was possibly implied to have been anally sodomized with a broom as a child? Not entirely sure whether that implication was deliberate or not though. Also tells Robin his entire secret tragic backstory on like their third meeting because the pacing in this movie is wack as hell.)
-Also speaking of, the pacing in this movie is wack as hell. It seriously feels like Robin and John have been back in England from the Crusades for like 5 minutes before they both decide to go all outlaw to repay the Sheriff and his cronies for propagating the war (which is also all Little John’s idea, in spite of the fact that he’s only just arrived in England at the same time Robin has and has presumably spent most of his life fighting on the other side of the Crusades, but somehow knows exactly what is wrong with the Nottingham class system and how to turn Robin into Batman a symbol to defeat it.)
-Also also speaking of, in the continuing adventures of ‘Subtext is for cowards!’, the Sheriff and the Church are apparently not only unjustly profiting from the war and using it to justify their evil deeds, but they’re also actively propagating it, ala modern-day shady rich arms dealers, by giving funding and weapons to the Arabs. Which…. I’m not even sure how to begin going into what’s wrong with all of that. Marian and Friar Tuck get documents proving this partway through the movie but never do anything with them and they never come up again.
-At least a third of the movie feels like the result of the writers rooting around in the bins behind the Nolan Batman Trilogy writer’s room and stealing whatever rejected scraps they could find. Jamie Foxx’s whole deal is trying to make ‘The Hood’ a symbol and a rally point and ‘the terror that flaps in the night’ yadda yadda, like a discount Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins. Marian honest-to-god at one point tells Robin that ‘Loxley is the mask. [The Hood] is the real you.’ Plus, as mentioned, Jamie Dornan is such a clear Harvey Dent ripoff that it’s comical, right down to burning half his face off when he turns evil (although the make-up just makes it look like someone’s daubed red paint on his cheek.)
-Speaking of Batman, remember that one really silly training sequence from BvS where Bruce Wayne drags around a tire and beats it up? Well apparently, that was a great inspiration to this movie because it does almost the exact same thing during its big training montage with Robin and Little John, where they drag around and lift broken wheels and shit. Like, was the montage in BvS really something you so badly wanted to rip off? Or did they just become friends with the DCEU production team while they were both rummaging around in Christopher Nolan’s garbage can?
-This movie has a weirdly strong hate-boner for the Church. Like, Castlevania Season 1 levels. Minus Friar Tuck, every major church officials looks so cartoonishly evil, I half expected them to turn into Captain Planet villains at any minute. The Prince John role is pretty much taken over the Cardinal who looks like a mix between Littlefinger and Jeremy Irons.
-This movie does not seem to understand how medieval feudalism worked. Like, at all. Characters get away with shit that would’ve gotten them executed in real life faster than their heads could spin. Marian (who in this version is just a commoner) does/says like dozens of things in front of the Sheriff that should’ve gotten her imprisoned or outright executed almost immediately. My favourite was during the medieval casino party where she walks up in her Bond Girl dress (and not like an anachronistically appropriate equivalent, I mean literally a dress that you could easily see on a modern Bond girl) and spents like 5 minutes actively complimenting the Hood and how great he is for the people of Nottingham directly in front of the Sheriff’s face without any attempt at concealing it in any way. And he does fucking nothing about it!
-Oh my God, the casino party scene. For those of you who thought what TLJ was really missing was more Canto Blight. I’m also pretty certain it was where the filmmakers gave up any pretense of being even slightly historically accurate because everybody is dressed like they’re in a fucking modern day gala or something. Then even have that whole ‘red carpet steps flanked by bodyguards’ thing. It’s a hoot.
-Robin gets PTSD from the Crusades completely out of nowhere for about a minute in the middle of the final climax and gives himself up, only to almost immediately get over it. It is never once led up to, or ever mentioned again.
-The sheer disconnect between how seriously this movie clearly tries to take itself and how unintentionally campy it so consistently ends up as instead, is a thing of beauty.
-I’m fairly sure a horse cart explodes upon crashing at one point and I can’t for the life of me recall why. I can only remember that I laughed so damn hard when it happened that I nearly choked.
Okay, I’mma leave it there, even thought I’m fairly sure I’ve barely even scratched the surface of how batshit dumb this movie is. Hell, there are at least a dozen other things I could say about it that I’ve barely even touched on. It really has to be seen to be believed. But, you know, don’t actually spend money on it. Just like get really drunk and watch it on Netflix or something.