Ready Player One review

Steven Spielberg is a master of filmmaking, there’s no doubt about it… still, he’s a director that almost never convince me with his offerings. Only a few of his titles are among my favorite films list (“The Color Purple” is the only one that is pretty solid in my top 40 faves of all time, with “Jaws”, “Duel”, “Lincoln” and “Close encounters of the Third Kind” being the other ones that I love, no questions asked).

But wait a minute, does it mean I hate “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “E.T.”, “Schindler’s List”, “The Post”, “Minority Report”, “A.I.” or “Bridge of Spies”? At all, Spielberg is a master of filmmaking and my problems with those films are more conceptual, thematically or screenwritting wise, with abuse of some tropes or blandness / cheesiness galore… There are only a few films by Spielberg, that I consider directly BAD… well, only one, “Hook”. I haven’t seen “The BFG” or “The Terminal”, for the matter (only some scenes of the later, caught on TV and that did not attract me enough to see the full feature). My biggest problem with Spielberg, is political. He’s a director for the elites.

Not only he’s speciallized on blockbuster entertainment, but his work, his Amblin brand is the direct sucessor of Disney’s design to promote rightwing thinking and capitalism. There’s no better example of this, than “Ready Player One”.

“Ready Player One”, while visually fascinating and baroque, plays more like a videogame in which the audience is encouraged to rewatch the film again and again to find all easter eggs, rather than a serious approach to its interesting sociopolitical premise (a distopy that seduce the masses into escapism to the extreme) desguised as a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory reimagination (which basically, is this story, not only at core, but also at basic structure). Spielberg and his writting team avoid any kind of critique to that society with its only moral being “you spend too much time out of reality”, while mantaining unquestionable the whole structure of the distopy depicted in the film.

It’s nothing new on his filmography, to manipulate the audience into right wing politics. In “Amistad”, Spielberg simplified the whole issue of slavery, blaming it on Spain (which wasn’t even the bigger slave trader). In “Saving Private Ryan” demonizes and dehumanizes germans, conveniently erasing the reality that most of the german soldiers were not nazis and as much scared as the allies of the horrors of war (there are a couple of extremely good analysis in youtube about that, and how Spielberg uses some tricks, to achieve that manipulation… not only that, but it even manipulates the events to trick the audience to think that D-Day was US troops merit only). In “Hook” blandness goes galore to put family first and front (a traditional right wing message). In “Lincoln” he deliverately skips portraying all events that have induced historians to think Lincoln was bisexual or homosexual, plus does not go into core of the real motivation of the civil war, which was economy, not racial justice. In the Indiana Jones series, he creates a series of events that not only are not historically accurate, but sometimes directly create a new history (Nazi troops in the greek islands and in Egypt, BEFORE the war started! And people complain about aliens and nuking the fridge in “Crystal Skull”… or the inherent racism in “Temple of Doom” or the geography in “Last Crusade”). I could go on and on, but basically Spielberg films are better and more enjoyable when earlier in his career and with less pretentions. I’d take “1941” and its sillyiness any day over “Ready Player One”… both are dumb, over the top, but “1941” has a bigger heart and sincerity… “RPO” has Simon Pegg and that’s it.

Predictable to the extreme in its plot, the only interest throughout the film is basically how the situation is going to be resolved, and where the next easter egg is. The screenplay’s few strenghts are coming so obviously from the novel itself, but so are some of the film’s biggest failures, which I wonder how were not corrected when adapting the source material, unless I realized the biggest worry of the team was to introduce as many references as possible, to justify rewatchability. A huge disappointment and one of Spielberg’s worst films, which of course it’s not saying it’s bad. Just mediocre and good for a bored afternoon.

C / ***

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Avengers: Infinity War… a Fantastic surprise?

 

 

When THIS happened, many thought it was a minor chance, and a possibility, but Fantastic Four might really be referenced in Avengers: Infinity War… why so?

  1. Fantastic Four aren’t Fox’s propierty, but Constantin. Fox only had the distribution rights for the films Constantin would produce on the characters the german production company… so Marvel never did have to wait to talk with Fox to get them, for starters. They needed to talk with Constantin. Which would not have raised any big media attention at any point, so it could have been done months or even years ago… more exactly…
  2. When “Fant4stic” bombed so horribly, the credit of Constantin to fund a Fantastic Four movie was over for enough time to let the contract expire without an obliged new production rolling. It was too late for a 4th reboot that would demand a huge, bigger budget that Constantin wouldn’t be able to fund on its own without seriously facing bankrupt if anything would failed again, and there was no reason to think it wouldn’t, given their track record. They were completely forced by need, to reach a deal with Marvel, and fast.
  3. Because Marvel’s contract with the studios that bought their heroes and villains, clearly stated they couldn’t resell to other studio, but to Marvel. Fox could not get their hands on the First Family, nor Doom, nor Silver Surfer, nor Galactus… while technically, it was said that Fox was allowed to change Negasonic Teenage Mutant Warhead’s powers for “Deadpool”, in exchange for Ego and the Skrulls, when you think twice about it, it really does not make sense at all… it really sounds like bullshit. So, for changing a completely obscure character’s powers, they actually gave two of the biggest villains? It sounds more like Marvel did not mind a change that had no effect on comics continuity – they could just retcon/expand her powers, as they did with Mystique’s looks in the comic books, after the first X-Men film was released – but that the Constantin deal with Marvel was already done and under huge secrecy.
  4. There’s the now legendary tweet, actual meaning and exact words. “That’s a FANTASTIC idea!img_8278-689x1024[1]. Done”. “FANTASTIC” in capital letters…  Not exactly subtle, and difficult to think Marvel ignored the implications of that tweet, for fans. Yes, it could have been done to just have people discussing in the internet and launch and even bigger expectation on the film itself, however, think twice of the misfire if people is disappointed on April 27th and there’s nothing related to the “Fantastic Four”, “Silver Surfer” and “Galactus” in the actual film.
  5. Metacritic is a serious webpage, the actual reference to follow the quality of the films reviewed by serious critics… the fact they updated the film’s cast with Silver Surfer would be either a hack – for which Metacritic hasn’t apologized, corrected or explained – or an official submission by Marvel (that may have happened by mistake or on purpouse as a foreshadowing of the actual shocker that may lead into “Avengers 4”. Which, by the way, it would be a self-explanatory title.

To summarize, even being possible and even likely it won’t happen, there are enough signs and foreshadowing to “smell” there’ll be a “fantastic” or at least “silvery” surprise coming on April 27th. And that Avengers 4 may be a mix of “Secret Invasion” and the storyline where Galactus ate the Skrulls planet, courtesy of the Fantastic Four (indirectly)

Top 5 things I learned from 2017’s Oscars.

  1. Qiu-Ju[1]When in doubt, always go with the less divisive, most widely supported – branch wise – film. 13 nominations, including 3 acting ones, did indicate “The Shape of Water” maybe wasn’t a #1 pic, but it was going to be flooded with #2 to #4 places. Probably “Get Out” was its main competition and “Three Billboards” never had a chance due to the passionate hate the film – deservingly – collected. I mean, you only needed to think twice to understand the film’s huge flaws.
  2.  Not enough people have seen Zhang Yimou’s “Qiu Ju: A Chinese Woman”, which is the obvious blueprint for “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”. Frances McDormand wouldn’t have won, if people would have noticed the similarities between both films and the extremely different approach Gong Li took on a similar character, with a richer story arc – McDormand’s is lacking that – and without the need of ever delivering an “Oscar clip”, always favoring the flow of the narrative and then realistic feel. I am worried for the state of film criticism, in 2018.
  3. Octavia Spencer is the new Thelma Ritter. Not only she’s been nominated three times and won one, but it could be argued that, had not Tilda Swinton competed for a supporting actress nomination in “Snowpiercer”, she could have also attempted to get that nom, too. She’s extremely likeable on and out of the screen, and we haven’t seen her for the last time in the noms and probably will win a second and even a third before she retires. Lesley Manville will be back, the moment she earns another candy role in a Best Picture nominee… but next time she’s given a chance, “Phantom Thread”‘s Vicky Krieps is not only getting a nom.
  4. I love Frances McDormand’s speech, and I love her as an actress. Despite I think she shouldn’t have been even nominated, I am certain, as long as people remember what she did on stage, she’ll be winning a third, and even a fourth.
  5. Guillermo del Toro is NOT going to follow Peter Jackson’s Oscar obsession. He is happy with two awards that he never intended to win – The Shape of Water isn’t Oscar material, at all, from the get-go – and will probably continue his way of constructing his career with love to fantastique and his personal obsessions. That’s why his victory is double important… it broke many Oscar taboos, including sci-fi, monster films, even interspecies relationships. It’s not a masterpiece but it’s a must see, anyways, and a deserving winner (even if it was my 4th pick, out of the nominees, after Get Out, Phantom Thread and Call me by your name)

Final Oscar Bets.

Picture: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (alt. Get Out) WRONG: THE SHAPE OF WATER WON in what it always was a 3-way race.

Director: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water (alt. Jordan Peele, Get Out)

Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (alt. Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water)

Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour (alt. Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out or Timotheé Chalamet, Call me by your name)

Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, I, Tonya (alt. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird)

Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (alt. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project)

Original Screenplay: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (alt. Get Out or Lady Bird)

Adapted Screenplay: Call me by your name (alt. Logan)

Animated Feature: Coco (alt. Loving Vincent)

Foreign Film: A Fantastic Woman (alt. The Square)

Score: The Shape of Water (alt. Phantom Thread)

Song: This is me, The Greatest Showman (alt. Remember Me, Coco)

Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049 (alt. The Shape of Water)

Production Design: The Shape of Water (alt. Blade Runner 2049)

Costume: Phantom Thread (alt. The Shape of Water)

Film Editing: Dunkirk (alt. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Sound Mixing: Dunkirk (alt. Baby Driver)

Sound Editing: Dunkirk (alt. Baby Driver)

Visual Effects: War of the Planets of the Apes (alt. Blade Runner 2049)

Make Up: Darkest Hour (alt. Wonder)

Documentary Feature: Faces, places (alt. Icarus)

Oscar Nomination Suspictions (and edited with reality check)

… I am not playing the “prediction” game anymore, but I will share what I feel might be nominated.

BOLDED, actual nominees.

Best Picture (8 nominees) (they were 9)

  • Call me by your name
  • Dunkirk
  • The Florida Project
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • The Post
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

… if 9, “The Big Sick” or “Phantom Thread” or “Darkest Hour” (reminds me of “Capote”)

Best Director

  • Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
  • Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
  • Jordan Peele, Get Out
  • Steven Spielberg, The Post
  • Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

alternates: Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”; Martin McDonagh, “Three Billboards” and Luca Guadagnino, “Call me by your name”

 

Best Actress

  • Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormand, Three Billboards
  • Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
  • Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
  • Meryl Streep, The Post

alternate: Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game (over Robbie or Streep)

 

Best Actor

  • Timothée Chalamet, Call me by your name
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
  • Tom Hanks, The Post
  • Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
  • Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

alternates: Denzell Washington, Roman Israel ESQ and James Franco, The Disaster Artist (but those accusations of sexual harassment before voting just derail his chances).

 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Mary J Blige, Mudbound
  • Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
  • Allison Janey, I, Tonya
  • Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
  • Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

 

alternates: Hong Chau, Downsizing (but the movie tanked with critics) and Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

 

Best Supporting Actor

  • Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
  • Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards
  • Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
  • Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards
  • Michael Stuhlbarg, Call me by your name

alternates: Arnie Hammer, Call me by your name; Christopher Plummer, All the money in the world and Patrick Stewart, Logan

 

Best Original Screenplay

  • The Big Sick
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri

alternates: Phantom Thread, The Post and I, Tonya

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Call me by your name
  • Molly’s Game
  • Mudbound
  • Wonder
  • Wonder Woman

alternate: The Disaster Artist (which I think it’s done due to the Franco’s scandal) I missed Logan, which I thought too good to be true, and that it would not get in, over Wonder Woman

Short reviews (catching up)

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Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missoury *** 1/2 / C+

Maybe the overrated film of the year. It’s not without merit, and some interest, but this attempt to recapture the spirit of “Fargo” in a “Crash” key (2005’s, not the masterpiece by David Cronenbert), feels continuously forced, the situations don’t feel earned too many times, the violence goes over the top too easily and there’s an anger that requires huge suspension of disbelief, as the “ex machina” situation that propels the last quarter of the film into the ending, just when the movie seemed to not be going anywhere. Woody Harrelson is the stand out, followed by Peter Dinklage, McDormand and Rockwell have the easier roles, but as they seem to be the showiest, both are in the frontrunner status for earning Oscar gold, which I honestly think don’t deserve for this one. I’ve seen them both do better, in more interesting roles and films.

 

Thor[1]

Thor Ragnarok ***** / A-

Basically, the film that the MCU (and Thor) needed. A pumped up – in fun – Guardians of the Galaxy, whithout renouncing to the spirit of the source. Chris Hemsworth is allowed to finally shine in his comedic timing, star and center of the comedy (in Ghostbusters he quite outshined his costars way too often, for a non-comedian) and gives a twist to a franchise that was aimed to be a trilogy, and that we’re unexpecedly feeling it deserves way more from this… as long as the genius of Taika Waititi continues with it. Everyone involved is excellent, sets and costumes, visual effects, everything is extraordinary and it sets a new bar of what the superhero genre can achieve. One of the year’s best films, also.

 

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The Disaster Artist **** / B

Fuelled by an outstanding James Franco impersonation of Tommy Wisseau, the film certainly trascends the anecdotic situation, mesmerizing the spirit of Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood”, but certainly also, there’s little more than a surface of friendship and achieving success in the unexpected way. On filmmaking level, Franco does not impress that much beyond the point that his direction doesn’t attract attention to itself, which is certainly no small achievement anyways, but the film becomes more enjoyable than important when the dust settles.

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It **** / B

So far, among the best Stephen King adaptations to date. It’s no “The Shinning”, nor “Carrie”, though, but certainly up there among the ones that needs to be seen. I’m holding a better grade, mostly because it’s the first half of the final film, and I think it deserves to be judged as one. But so far, it’s pretty great.

hero_Last_Jedi[1]

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ** 1/2 / D

Yes, it’s the best Star Wars film in visuals, by a landslide. But it is also a mess that continuously jumps the shark, and that only got me interested in the Casino planet part, when it dared to do some social and political commentary… have we forgotten that a WAR has motivations? I’m as much in shock by the general critical reception of this film, as I was in the even worse “The Force Awakens”. Thankfully, “Rogue One” gave me hopes to finally see another great Star Wars film again. Some day. Not this one.

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Justice League *** / C

So, this is folks, what happens when you try to rush a reunion film without properly introducing the characters. Not as bad as Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but the final battle in Russia became a blur to me, and I would have fallen asleep if it was not for all that noise. Saving grace: Jason Momoa. I need an Aquaman in my life. Period.