Midnight Thoughts #19: 14 Movies, 14 Scribbled Reviews (Part 1)

The movement restriction order initiated by the state started on 18th Mac 2020 till 31st Mac 2020. Just to make an already restrictive life slightly entertaining, fruitful (thesis: am I a joke to you?), I decided to watch 14 movies per day, 7 US films and 7 foreign-language films and write short reviews on all these movies.

Without further adieu, let's go: [SPOILERS!]

1. 18th March 2020 - Jojo Rabbit 

Image: Collider
  - Fuck off, Hitler -

Taika Waititi rewrites the fate of the Thor Saga. The first two was abysmal, and the third is not only fun to watch, but it is also good, right up there with the likes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. 

And again, he delivered, this time on Jojo Rabbit. Saw one review saying this movie is directed with kids in mind, lamented how single-minded this movie is. But isn't it the point of the movie, about a child, struggling with his own inner demons and his good side. It's a child pov in the movie for crying out loud.  

Hitler as an imaginary friend. Yay or Nay? Image: CinemaBlend

Anyway, pretty sure everyone has an imaginary friend. Mine was an old man, a grandfather figure from my mother side because he passed away right before I was born. How many have Hitler as their imaginary friend though? I guess there were plenty among German kids during Nazi Germany. 

I develop a habit of not watching movie trailers, especially the ones I intend to watch. So I don't get the slightest clue what this movie is about. A friend told me she cried while watching this movie. I was like, isn't this movie will be about Hitler and cruelty and blood so how on earth you cry on that. And my oh my, how wrong was I. It's not just plain dark humour, it's about love and as my friend kindly put, it's sentimental. 

Every dialogue is taken with care, words were spoken at the right place at the right time. Little bits like how a kid who doesn't know how to tie his own shoe because of his reliance on his mum, to helping to tie someone else's shoelaces because he cares, loves someone now. From a Nazi fanatic, the boy matured. And if Ash from Pokemon can roam around the jungles catch some Pokemon, I am convinced Jojo can take good care of Elsa, brace the new Germany. Or the other round. 

Glad this movie has a happy ending. Many moments where I thought shit, there's going to be a plot twist. Almost thought Jojo will be shallowed by Hitler or Elsa would commit suicide and I am glad Taika did not pull a G.R.R. Martin. Half expected Rosie, the mum will die when she wants Jojo to look at those who were hung. 

"What did they do" 
"What they could" 

Image: Jojo Rabbit

Also, a theme that I notice in this movie is that it centres around a bunch of misfits. Rosie is anti-Nazi, a misfit in an obviously Nazi Germany. Jojo is weak and ugly. Elsa is a jew, horrible horrible Jew. Captain Klenzendorf and Finkel are gay, which during Nazi Germany, is a terrible crime/ sin. Maybe that is why Klenzendorf helped Jojo and Elsa when it was swarmed by the Gestapo. He may be a Nazi, but he sees through Hitler's bs, probably wants the war to end, secretly supported the 'Free Germany' cause and misfits should help each other. 

And oh, conservations between Jojo and Yorki show how innocent kids are while indoctrinated with hateful messages. They were taught how horrible Jews are but when they encountered one, deep inside they know something might be off. Yet, if they are brainwashed a little bit longer, we will just end up like the older Nazi youths. 

"Free Germany". Image: Jojo Rabbit

Overall, it's a great movie. The colour palette and composition reminds me a lot of Wes Anderson, which I don't mind at all. Casting is great. Scar-Jo shows us range with recent movies like Marriage Story to Jojo Rabbit (and she can play Asian!). I chuckled when I heard German versions of I wanna hold your hand and Heroes. Keep making us laugh Taika! 

What I've learned: Rainer Maria Rilke

2. 19th March 2020 - Green Book 

Image: IMDB

  - Dignity always Prevails -

Want a movie where the African American is not the butler but instead a genius? This is definitely the movie you should go for. I mean, I have watched an Irish drove an Italian around town, why not another movie where an Italian (played by a Danish) drove an African American around. 

Some said Green Book is probably one of the most politically correct movies to win Best Picture, but it could also be the best road trip movie, the best road buddy movie, or the best Christmas movie (probably joined with Home Alone 1). 

"Kentucky Fried Chicken in Kentucky!" Image: IMDB

A quick browse to the web showed many movie critiques,  especially the ones who are woke 'woke', criticised heavily the movie. They complained about how a movie that fits into the comedy genre has simplified a serious problem, racial segregation, in the 60s United States.  And I kinda understand that. I read the part where if you are an African American that lived through the 30s till the of the 60s and do a lot of travelling, you will know about the Green Book. The Green Book is not just your GPS, but a book that will keep you alive, out of trouble. So it is understandable where the frustration came from when the title of the movie that borrows the name of the book doesn't feature as often as it should be, and to top it off, in a comedy movie.   

While it is true to moviegoers, or perhaps historians, academians in the US, I would like to think that Green Book opened the eyes of overseas moviegoers. Let's face it, not everybody loves to read non-fiction or watch a documentary about such topic, perhaps even to people in the United States. 

It kinda shocked me that it is based on a true story, like huh...a POC that plays classical piano, Chopin even. And I guess that's why it won Best Picture. Hollywood always need a feel-good movie to make themselves better, especially under Trump's America. 

Real-life Tony Lip and Dr Don Shirley. Image: The Dana Mariner

The movie doesn't really go deep, pretty sure Mahershala Ali can feel it since he's in Moon Light two years ago. Also, Mahershala Ali starred in movies that won 2017 and 2019 Best Picture while he won two Best-Supporting Actor awards in both movies. What a lad. 

Everything is pretty much on the surface, but impactful. The movie navigates us about race, about stereotypes, about searching your own identity, about how many times we take things for granted, just because of our own skin colour. The latter is pretty prevalent here in Malaysia as well. My skin colour more often than not give the impression that I am hardworking (a positive stereotype) and my Bahasa Melayu might not be fluent (a negative stereotype). 

Dr Shirley (Mahershala Ali) confronting his identity. Image: Green Book

The movie reached its climax when Dr Shirley confront his own identity. He's not black enough, he's never gonna be white and he's not a heterosexual man. He simply doesn't fit into one identity. Which is why life for him is always a constant struggle and he must live with dignity. There are many instances where he carried his own dignity at the highest regard. Two particular ways he did are he carries his Dr title and his lavish furniture.

This is a total opposite of his driver Tony Lip. He is the kinda guy where someone goes low, he goes even lower. But along the process, he learned about privilege, and also the hardship of an African America, even when he is a successful genius. He is the hero of the story after all, from a guy that throws away cups used by African Americans, to inviting his African American friend to his family Christmas eve dinner. He also learned how to go high, how to write wonderful love letters and most importantly, privilege, all in a two-month road trip. Heart-warming indeed.

Image: Wikipedia

So yea, you can be cynical about it and say feel-good movies such as Green Book are fabricated, utopian even, and fail to tackle the real issue, directly confront with it. But hey, just maybe...once in a while, we need to chill a little bit. And it will be good if we have our own Green Book (Nasi Lemak 2.0?).  

Oh, Titsburg is a total let down.

What I've learned: The Negro Motorist Green Book

3. 20th March 2020 - The Shape of Water 

Image: IMDB 

- Never trust a man. Even when he looks flat down there. -

Well, the fish-fucking is eye-opening, isn't it?

You know you will be in a visual treat when Guillermo del Toro is helming the movie. You put visuals aside, the movie is still special and as someone who is not a critique, I need a lot of reading on this movie to digest it. 

The Shape of Water is a lot of things. The movie explores every theme possible at every turn. Even that, I felt there's something much deeper after watching the movie. But before that, let's talk about the casting.

Image: ScreenCrush

Second Michael Stuhlbarg movie in two weeks and it's welcoming to see both Michael Stuhlbarg and Michael Shannon on the silver screen. Both shared the tv screen year back with Boardwalk Empire (great TV Drama if you want to learn about gangs and prohibitions on alcoholic beverages in the 1920s US). It seems that Michael Shannon has a knack of playing a pretentious religious (penunggang agama) kind of character. Though Strickland may not be as religious as Nelson van Alden, both oftentimes used biblical references to rationalise their actions. 

More importantly, who is the better Michael in the movie business right now? Michael Cera, Michael Sheen, Michael Stuhlbarg or Michael Shannon (anymore Michaels?).

Image: Indiewire

The casting on Sally Hawkins as Elisa is spot on. Guillermo stated prior that he wants an actress that will establish a connection with the audience. The audience will fall in love with her inner soul, her character, not her looks. Not saying Sally is ugly but obviously, she's not a Margot Robbie or Natalie Portman. Yet, neither one of them will be able to carry Elisa's character. 

Now, the subjects discussed in the movie.  

Many have breakdown the themes this movie had discussed. Just to make it easier for me, I'm just gonna break it down by categories of social sciences and others. 

International Relations and History - Space Race, Spies, Cold War, America in the 1960s
Gender Studies - Demise of patriarchy and feminism, embracing one's sexuality
Sociology - The other, identity, forbidden love  
Linguistics - Verbal vs non-verbal communications 
Theology - The image of God, Biblical references

Pretty sure I miss some but this is the gist of the movie. It's not Nolan's-Give-You-Headache-type of a movie but rather a movie that makes you think (a lot), sort of a reflection (a lot) on contemporary issues. There is a little bit of similarity between The Shape of Water and the movie I just watched yesterday, Green Book. 

Both set during the time where Black Americans were not treated as equals with White Americans. Both explore similar themes (though The Shape of Water is more ambitious). The major difference, however, is that Green Book sidestepped important parts of the theme the movie attempted to explore, while The Shape of Water applied layers and layers upon its many themes. Green Book has one theme and many thought the movie actually failed to highlight its own theme. The Shape of Water has multiple, and it showed intersectionality. Not going to elaborate much on it but students can probably write a paper just by focusing on one character, Zelda or Strickland for example.  

Image: Forbes

Hence, there's no wonder why this movie able to clinch Oscar's Best Picture in 2018 when the competition was stiff. You have two biopics, movies based on true stories and others like Call Me by Your Name and Lady Bird (love them both!). I guess it's an occurring theme for Oscar to 'try to be better' which led The Shape of Water won Best Picture on that year. Ironically, war/ political theme movies usually are hot contenders for winning the award. Sure, they are still favourites but Argo is the last war/ political genre movie to win Best Picture, in 2013.  

In short, The Shape of Water will be a good movie for movie analysis, especially to social sciences students. A movie that totally deserves a second viewing and makes you do a lot of thinking. To end this review, let me just put up this wonderful piece by the Persian poet, Hakim Sanai which Guillermo had referenced in the movie. 

Unable to perceive the shape of you, 
I find you all around me. 
Your presence fills my eyes with your love. 
It humbles my heart, for you are everywhere.

What I've learned: Fuck you in sign language.

4. 21st March 2020 - Midnight at Paris

Image: AllPosters

- I See Rhinoceros - 

You know what is the most scum thing to do while trying to cheat your fiance? Stole her earrings and give it to the lady you're having an affair with just because you read it in her supposed diary which by the way, promised sex? You mad? Maybe something to do with the director, Woody Allen's character?  A brilliant writer and director but character-wise? Very questionable.  

Of course, there's more to it with Midnight in Paris. 

If you're a student of English Studies and Literature, or you genuinely into arts and literature, this is absolutely for you. I do know a few of them such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway but I don't really get a lot of the inside jokes until I do some further reading after the movie. I would enjoy more if I know beforehand who is Salvador Dali and his fascination with rhinoceros but I still able to learn a good chunk of history here, which is always a big plus for me.

Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali. Image: 9GAG

If you expect some romantic story out of this movie, you probably be disappointed. But hey, one of the moral stories in the movie is finding the right person, a person who would share the same interests with you, or the same goals in life. 

Gil and Inez, played by Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, are getting married soon but both don't really love each other that much. You can see right at the start of the movie they have small arguments here and there and the odd admiration Inez has on the pedantic Paul. Gil was unsure about his feelings towards her but they will 'eventually' walk on the aisle, hence a personal conflict, a cognitive dissonance. This conflict led him to the longing of the past because the past is much easier and you have no worries or conflicts. It even reflected in the novel he is writing. By the way, why is it called 'a nostalgia store' and not 'an antique store'?  

Image: Screenplay How To

Hence, 1920s Paris became his escapism and his wish was granted. Every day after the clock struck at midnight, he will be chauffeured and transcended into 'the past' where he met famous artists, painters, singers and writers. A rather cliche 'hero's journey', he learned about himself and what he really wants while encountering these people. Eventually, he met Adriana, Pablo Picasso's fling and fell in love with her (that's when the stolen earring thing came by). 

Image: WSJ

The ah-ha moment came when Adriana and Gil again travelled through time and went back to  Belle Époque Paris. Adriana later told Gil she wanted to stay here (her past) and not going back (her present). Now, the present Gil is in, Années folles (Crazy Years) is an era where arts and cultures are just as thriving as Belle Époque (the Beautiful Era), if not more in terms of cultural mixing. Yet, she still longs for the past and the reason is quite simple, there are no worries and anxieties in the past. The revelation Gil had is that even months after Ariana takes her past and makes it as her present, she will continue to long for past and lament that 'the past is always better'.  

Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Image: IMDB

For me, the takeaway of Midnight in Paris is that yes, the past is always good, even the past you never experienced before. However, in real life, you have to confront your present eventually because you could not run away from it forever. That made Gil snapped out from his desire to the past and also his denial (Inez might be cheating with Paul) and confront his present, which is his relationship with Inez. 

To summarize, if late 19th century and early 20th century arts and literature are your forte, this is definitely for you. Midnight in Paris is also for those who want to learn about them and at the same time wanted to look at Paris in 2010 and 1920s with a romantic colour palette. 

Oh, Paris is the most beautiful in the rain. Don't take my word for it, Léa Seydoux's Gabrielle says it. 

Image: Midnight in Paris

What I've learned: Salvadore Dali and rhinoceros. 

5. 22nd March 2020 - 500 Days of Summer

Image: IMDB

It just wasn't me that you were right about - 
Who's worse? Tom Hansen or Ted Mosby? 

It's a story about fate, a story about love, a rather sad one, depends on how you see it. A boy, who believes about 'the one', about all the fantasies in love which he gathered from songs and movies, a hopeless romantic. And then, a girl, who's a cynic, who doesn't believe in all the fantasies, a pragmatist. 

It's important to know that this story is told from Tom's pov. One can easily pity Tom and thinks that Summer is a maniac, kept playing games with Tom. Yet, on the flip side, if you look at Summer's pov, Tom is kinda creepy, and an alcoholic.  

The idea that she is 'the one' drove Tom (Joseph Gordon Lewitt) mad. So much so that even when Summer (Zooey Deschanel) had told him countless times that she didn't want a boyfriend at the moment, or she's not looking for something serious, he still clung to her and later gaslighted/ blamed her for not giving some serious thoughts into the relationship, that he is not respected. 

Maybe you will say hey, Summer is the one that continuously made the first move, which led him to believe that there's hope, that she will change one day and be with Tom. Yet, experimenting is one thing, to expect an experiment to have a positive result is selfish and stupid because, in many scientific experiments, you will get your hypothesis wrong. Why should you expect that you will get it right with this? With Summer?  

Image: 500 Days of Summer

She loves Ringo Starr and that's something you will never change, just like the fact that she's just not that into you. 

This brings us back to an earlier dialogue with Tom and Summer about the idea of love. While they disagree on the idea of love, Tom said, "I think you know it when you feel it." All this experimenting, unfortunately, doesn't make her feel that Tom is the right one. 

Ironically, fast forward, shortly after they 'broke up', she met someone and they eventually got married. When Tom confronted her, Summer simply replied, "Tom was right...it just wasn't me that you were right about." She immediately knows it after the guy comes up to her while reading Dorian Gray at the Deli. Right person, right place, right time. Fate. Is just that the Mr Right is just not Tom Hansen. And she being realistic, immediately agree to her boy friend's marriage proposal. 

Image: 500 Days of Summer

Also, I love how The Graduate is referenced in the movie. Earlier on when the narrator said, "Tom gets the wrong idea about the ending of The Graduate", is because he sees the ending as a happy one, the hero gets the girl, the end. Problem is, the ending is rather ambiguous...unknown. Sidestep a bit but, the ending for 500 Days of Summer is rather ambiguous too. Will Tom finally able to meet 'the one' or this is just another 'Amanda Heller'? 

Image: Esquire

Anyway, when Rachel (Chloe Moretz) wanted Tom (how they become friends in the first place? or are they siblings? Edit: Rachel is his little sister hah!) to remember the 'bad stuff', he realised that things kinda got wrong after watching The Graduate. Probably because Tom saw it as a happy ending while unknown is the only thing Summer could feel. 

Which then leads us to, compatibility or what many would say in Chinese, 三观. Just because both have similar music taste, that doesn't mean both are compatible. If we can view Summer's pov, we can see plenty of moments where they argued. Just like what she said, "we argued all the time." 

And when both are just not suitable, what should you do? If you're Summer, just let it go, like a pragmatist. Or if you're Tom, you'll compromise until both are in align, like a hopeless romantic. Everything is fine and dandy during the honeymoon period, once that period ends and you need to steady the ship, then you can find problems, defects on the ship. 

Point is, no one is really wrong in this relationship. You can in a way argue that both Tom and Summer are maniacs. But in the end, they are just humans, lost souls looking for someone, knowingly or unknowingly. If you ask me, just be happy and wish them all the very best when he or she eventually find someone that they could share their joy and happiness with, even that person is not you, because well...they deserve it, and you too! 

[Disclaimer: unless they are an abusive partner or generally a piece of shit, then just wish them to go to hell.]

Both actually rewatch the movie together 10 years later, how cool is that! Image: Entertainment Weekly

Should either Tom or Summer think their relationship is just a waste of time? I don't really think so, a relationship is a relationship. Cherish all the happy moments and reminisce the good times you both have is always something wonderful. However, don't always look back. You may find answers in the past, but you still have to confront your present and the future.

Also, I just want to say the soundtrack of this movie is awesome. Not that the soundtracks in the other movies I reviewed are bad, they are some of the best in fact (Midnight in Paris ahh!), but 500 Days of Summer's OST is probably the ones that I will play on Spotify, repeatedly. 

To end, I hope everyone (hi ex), will find their love ones and happiness. Here's a quote from the movie by Tom bestie, Paul. 

Image: Pinterest
What I've learned: The Smiths, a very good band. Ikea, a-ok dating spot. 

6. 23rd March 2020 - Uncut Gems

Image: IMDB
And what fucking DJ is gonna play his shit? I know every fucking DJ in this town. -

My dead ass thought that the escort that hooked up with The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) and the saleslady who is Howard's girlfriend are two different people. I legit only know after I went to the IMDB website to look at the character casts. Turns out, they are the SAME PERSON. 

Speaking of Julia, the leading female character in Uncut Gems, played by Julia Fox did a fantastic job considering this is her first official acting gig. 

Image: Highsnobiety

It's a straight forward movie so it's going to be a short review. But first, kudos to A24 for pumping gems after gems when bigger studios unwilling to take the risks. 3 recent A24 movies I watched, The Farewell, Lady Bird and Uncut Gems are good to great films.

The message of this movie is important, seek help if you have a gambling addiction. A downward spiral to that rabbit hole will be deadly. 

It's a tense movie. The screenplay is tense, the way the movie is being shot is tense. Adam Sandler is suuuuper tense, going around taking more and more debts which in no way can repay them all. Adam is definitely the highlight here. There's a saying that Adam Sandler directed so many shitty movies that many have forgotten that he's a good actor. I don't watch his awful movies but I always love him. The first movie I got to know him is from Big Daddy, a heartwarming movie. Love it. Then genuinely admire his performance in Happy Gilmore, Wedding Singer, The Click, The Cobbler and others. And the fact that his awful movies are vacation movies where he will bring his pals together for literally, vacation while shooting them, I got mad respect for that.  

Image: Polygon

It's not a good movie per se, there's literally no character developments in a 195-minutes movie, I am still wondering why Howard treated Julia like a piece of shit yet she just kept coming back and in the end still agree to help him. She could just go 'fuck you' and leave him. But hey, I guess that's love? I mean, Howard is not filthy rich but yea he took good care of Julia. Maybe loyalty? Also, who is Arno? He's family with Howard but is he a loan shark, or just someone who can't get his money back and just decided to hire professional thugs without going through the family first? Eh? 

Image: Spotern

But hey, if you are an Adam Sandler fan, you should go watch it, it is a really good performance delivered by him. And even if you're not a basketball fan, this is probably the only time you cared about the NBA playoffs, which was a game way back in 2012. That really says a lot about the movie, TENSE. Also, if you love Kevin Garnett, you would love to see him here. At least his cameo is longer than The Weeknd, and more dialogues. 

What've I learned: Ethiopian Jews

 7. 24th March 2020 - Roman Holiday

Image: Movieart.com

I have to leave you now. I'm going to that corner there and turn. You must stay in the car and drive away. Promise not to watch me go beyond the corner. Just drive away and leave me as I leave you. -

Was thinking which movie will be more suitable for couples, Midnight in Paris or 500 Days of Summer. Turns out, Roman Holiday is probably the better choice. 

The movie is so stupid that it's hilarious and lovely, with a touch of a rather melancholy ending. In the 50s, it's really difficult if you want to keep in touch with someone, more so if you're a princess of a small European country, and the other an American journalist. 

Image: Roman Holiday

Audrey Hepburn plays Princess Anne, who is burdened with schedules and protocols. She can't even wear pyjamas! That's criminal! She was depressed after all the heavy schedules she would need to follow in the next day and beyond. All for the unnamed country.

After she got high, sedated with questionable drugs to 'calm her down', she took her chance and ran away. Lucky for her, she was safe, and nobody even wants to take advantage of her, not the people on the streets, not the protagonist, Joe Bradley played by Gregory Peck (before knowing she's the princess) and not even the taxi driver. Well done lads, you're so much better than men these days. 

Then, you have the classic Disney prince and princesses fall-in-love plot. Lots of humour and fun throughout the movie. It's dumb, but I have lots of laughs since the movie never positioned itself to be serious. 

Image: BFI

They have fun in Rome throughout the day and a lot of first as well for our Princess Anne. Sadly, every good thing must come to an end. Our princess has to leave and the date must come to an end. Our hero falls in love so deeply that he rather lose his 1000 dollars bet, plus not earning an extra 5000 dollars. And when Anya Smith told him to drive away, he listened to her AND DID NOT CHASE AFTER HER! You're foolish Mr Bradley. 

And then the ending. Gosh, it's a good ending, but sad. I was hoping as Mr Bradley slowly walked away from the Colleseum, Princess Anne would appear, at least smiled at him and whispered 'I miss you'. But noooooo, she did not and Mr Bradley just walked and walked and walked. Not even a 'Princess Anne, I will miss you." He just walked away. 

DO SOMETHING! Image: Roman Holiday

Straight up, Mr Bradley is a 超级大直男 or a guy who is not romantic and super straight forward. Even I can do better than him. 

And well...Audrey Hepburn will always be my one and only goddess. She's even prettier after she got her hair cut short. 

The famous bob haircut. Image: Pinterest

Would be a delight if there's a colourized version of this movie. That being said, B&W films are beautiful in their own ways.

To end the first half of my 14 movie reviews, here's a short poem from Dalton Trumbo (dude has his own movie as well, played by Bryan Cranston) recited by Princess Anne early in the movie.

If I were dead and buried and I heard your voice, 
Beneath the sod my heart of dust would still rejoice

What I've learned: European federation talks already started since the 50s.



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