Halloween has now past us, and the Oscar Season has begun! For On The Clock’s first Weekend report, our head writer David Cuevas went all the way to Toronto from Ottawa, to review a numerous amount of acclaimed pieces of cinema, including but not limited too Bohemian Rhapsody, Suspiria, and Can You Ever Forgive Me? The result of his film escapade? A glorious plethora of fresh and unique cinema. Here are some of his thoughts on the films he saw:
The modern biopic can be hit or miss in terms of quality and realism when adapting a subject’s life. In Brian Singer’s (AKA Mr. Pedophile Tyrant) latest feature, he decided to pick on Queen out of all bands, and the result was something simply formidable and nothing all that special. Bohemian Rhapsody is a decent flick that somehow doesn’t achieve it’s main underlying goal of emotionally connecting to lead front-man Freddie Mercury. Albeit Rami Malek’s pitch perfect performance on the famed musical diva, the film doesn’t take risks in getting into Queen’s extensive backstory. It’s a film made for the fans, obligatory fan service to pay homage to a great unsung (pun-intended) rock star.
On the other side of the spectrum you have Marielle Heller’s follow up to Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which was a joyous celebration on the burden of writer’s block and socialization. Compared to Heller’s previous outing, Diary of a Teenage Girl, which felt candid and overly sentimental, Can You Ever Forgive Me? manages to perfectly capture the raw emotional imperfections on the loneliness and solidarity of a person looking for satisfaction in their own talents. With this in mind however, the film may not be as grim as one would expect. The film had an odd Peanuts (Snoopy, Charlie Brown) Vibe, using soft piano-consumed jazz to segway into scenes and locations. The film feels nostalgic and Christmas-like, while at the same time grounded in it’s depressing reality. While not perfect, with it’s occasional overly repetitive story beats and predictable presentation, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a delightful flick which contains Melissa McCarthy best performance to date.
You know what’s better than a biopic? The documentary genre. While 2018 may be a disappointing year’s in terms of quality in cinema, the most refreshing aspect of this shit year is it’s wider and more accessible amounts of documentary content. In fact, most of this year’s best films are documentaries, with the most notable pieces from the genre being Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Three Identical Strangers, and Fahrenheit 11/9. This is further proven with National Geographic’s latest Science Fair, a film which could have easily been pandering and dumbed down for the masses, that ended up being a charming, crowd pleasing, intelligent film on ISEF from the point of view of the competitors themselves.
The major plus side of the film is it’s outstanding amount of footage collected. The fact that ALL of the 9+ students that were interviewed for the film felt like fleshed out characters, rather than information/exposition feeders, was a big upside for once, to what could have been meandering entertainment. Their discourse had emotional weight, adding more thematic tension to the film’s grand finale. Science Fair may have its moments of cheese and choppy presentation, but the honest portrayal of these ingenious teens just made the film all the better. Simply delightful. I wish I was as talented as these kids.
Speaking of 🔥🔥🔥 pieces of cinema, Lee Chang-dong’s long anticipated return from his lengthy 7 year hiatus, Burning is a further testament to his character-focused filmography. Unlike Poetry and Secret Sunshine, Burning plays like a multi-genre buffet of various flavors, using suspense, drama, terror, and comedy in the most appropriate and well suited scenes, within the context of the piece. It’s an intriguing and audacious approach at a relatively simple tale, that works effectively with one major drawback. Due to the film’s odd approach, most of Burning felt one note, relying more on consistency rather than progression when developing tension and stakes.
The one note I would like to add about Dong’s latest is his usage of Schrodinger’s cat. What makes Burning peculiar in conception, but wonderfully mysterious in execution, is it’s usage of visual metaphor and simile. The most notable, as previously mentioned, example is his Schrodinger’s Cat parable, using the unknown and an unreliable narrator to drive the plot, similar to the “is there or isn’t there a cat in the box”. At times, this parable may seem obnoxious to the viewer, but the unpredictability of the outcome just makes the film all the better in terms of entertainment value. You still don’t know what the definitive answer is when the credits role, but that’s part of the fun.
You know who likes to have fun? Witches, with their demonic sensibilities! In Luca Guadagnino’s latest venture, the famed Italian cinema superstar directs a remake of Argento’s beloved Giallo classic into another pulpy overly saturated trash fire that somehow turned how pretty decent by the end of the day. The difference with Guadagnino’s film? It’s nowhere near as similar or homage-like to Giallo horror than one would expect.
The main disheartening problem with Luca’s latest is how derivative, unfocused, and disjointed it all was. From the inconsistent directing, in which plenty of unnecessary stylistic approaches fell flat on there face, such as the odd changes in frame rate (all of Luca’s films are major offenders of bad editing, don’t @ me), the overuse of shadows and lighting, to the film’s distracted plot, using chapters as means for filler, rather than getting to the fucking point, Suspiria is essentially an endless rabbit hole of entertaining pretentious bullshit. The film didn’t need to be as long as it was, with mainly the first two chapters and the epilogue being the main problem, creating an empty unifying core.
There’s some plus sides to it, like it’s overly ambitious and at times commendable technical achievements, but for the most part, Suspiria (2018) is more of a lost in translation misfire rather than a cheesy light horror homage. At least Tom Yorke’s score was outstanding. I’m still blasting Suspirium as I write these very lines. Also, what the hell Tilda, you’re a made woman!
Suspiria, Science Fair, Bohemian Rhapsody, Burning, and Can You Ever Forgive Me? are Now Playing In Select Theaters Nationwide