I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who thought that Killmonger in Black Panther wasn’t entirely villainous, at least in the traditional moustache-twirling sense most comic fans have. He was really just damaged goods. But a black orphan in Oakland in the early 90’s has the deck stacked against him. If he had been brought back to Wakanda he would have been fine (fuck anyone would have a better life in that place) but he suffered in a world that had turned its back on him. So he became the bad guy.
But it wasn’t simply in Black Panther that I noticed a sudden new trend in Tinsel Town. As luck would have it a friend (who was becoming tired of all the damn comic book movies I kept dragging her to) wanted to go see a couple flicks you could actually call adult. These were “Three Billboards” and “Shape of Water”. And I must say I enjoyed them both immensely for various reasons. Mostly cuz they were mature. I’ve been frying my brain for far too long on the damn comic book movies.
At any rate, those two movies, along with another, “Annihilation” has led me to believe that Hollywood is subtly moving away from the perfect fucking heroes and bring humanity back down to earth. What I mean is, today Creators are once again embracing the flaws in the human condition. Allow me to explain:
The movie is breathtakingly simple: A single mother is pissed at local cop for not bringing closure to her murdered daughter. When I saw this movie I was so impressed with the rawness of the emotions the characters had. The overwhelming sense that they were helpless before the randomness of life and that we never really get the answers we’re looking for. But I also enjoyed just how tragic everyone was. Not one person, even the cops had the wherewithal to deal with any sort of crisis.
To me everyone before the event was a sad non-entity, bravely going through life without making a statement to their existence. In truth the girl’s death actually bestows poignancy and catharsis for everyone, including the girl herself, who was fast becoming much like her mother. I’ve heard it mentioned that peopled resented how the racist cop gained some redemption with his actions. I don’t agree. All he got was beat up. There was no redemption. For anyone. France McDormand and Sam Rockwell drive off together because they are both unfit for human contact. They are shattered inside both by outside forces and their own inadequacies. They need each other for validation and to keep some semblance of normalcy. It wont last. They wont succeed in their mission to get revenge. They’ll remain like they are, lost and forlorn.
It was that grim reality that I enjoyed, albeit in a train wreck sort of way. We all need a reminder of the tragedies of the world, especially in the West. We find it so easy these days to tune out the raging maelstrom around us. Art is the light in that darkness.
Shape of Water:
I only realised what kind of movie I was about to watch when we see Sally Hawkins fully naked enter the tub and begin to masturbate. I smiled. Alrighty then. Let’s get this party started. The plot moved surprisingly quickly. Sally’s attachment to the Creature happened immediately. It had to be love at first sight.
Naturally she wants to save the Creature. And so she gets her posse together to do just that, guided by love, luck and the fact that no one ever pays attention to the servants. Considering the movie is set in 1962 the posse is composed of every outcast social group imaginable. There is the physically flawed mute heroine, her old-gay neighbour and of course a Black woman. Wow, talk about the broken souls.
This is juxtaposed with Michael Shannon’s All-American character, Richard Strickland. But I thought he was just as tragic as everyone else. Sally and the others are limited by social prejudices. He wants the American Dream, bad! He has the house, wife and two kids. But they are just for show. He doesn’t noticed them. He doesn’t hear them. But he keeps going. He even gets a Cadillac, the very symbol that you made it, my man. But the more he gets the harder it is to hold on to it all. And then the Creature escapes. When Strickland is confronted by his Boss, he asks in the most desperate voice possible “When does a man stop having to prove himself”. Never. And it’s then he realizes that the American Dream is a nightmare. That doesn’t make him necessarily sympathetic, it just adds a wonderful layer to the character and makes him more like the people he’s pursing.
So many shattered lives and we’re still not certain if love prevailed in the end. Perhaps the Creature and his lady are living together on the ocean floor. One can only hope.
I wanted to see this movie mostly due to its unique casting of all female leads. But it didn’t take long for the concept of our flaws governing our reactions and defining us came into play. Of course there is one catch to this, as we are blessed with the “Unreliable Narrator”, but seeing as it’s Natalie Portman, I’m willing to roll with it.
There is a line early in the film “Not everyone is suicidal, but they are self-destructive”. That explains why people tend to give up on the familiar and the reliable, like a good job or a marriage for something that may not succeed. And it that self-destructive tendency in all of us that is at the heart of the movie.
Natalie is a Scientist who did a stint in the army (cool) where she married another soldier who is still in the life. He’s sent on secret mission and vanishes. A year passes, and Nat tries to move on. Until one day he appears in her home. Dun-dun-dun!
Okay, seems a meteor struck the earth, creating a anomalous region called “The Shimmer” and it’s changing the environment. Teams have been sent into it to see what the hell is happening, but none have returned. Until Nat’s husband. Dun-dun-dun!
So she and her intrepid team of Scientists (who are all ladies, which is super fucking cool, btw) step off to see if they can do any better. We are informed that each member has their own demons. We know Nat is carrying a lot of baggage and not simply a lost husband. What they find is the world inside the Shimmer is being fucked around on a genetic level, including humans. Dun-dun…okay I’ll stop.
This messes with the womens’ minds of course. Recriminations and accusations are made. Violence ensues. Tragedy and revelations, personal and in keeping with the situation are exposed. No one is free from being transformed by the events.
Natalie wants to find out about what happened to her husband. She wants to save him, as she had abandoned him more or less in their marriage, which drove him away in the first place. She needs to know the truth about what is in the Shimmer. Well she does…
I was on the edge of my seat for this flick. It’s pace and tension were excellent. Most of all Natalie Portman was rock solid in her role. In my mind I was screaming “C’mon, Natalie, save the day, I know you can do it. C’mon, girl”. And we really need to see more women press an M4 into her shoulder and put rounds down range like Nat did, cuz it was dead sexy. I did hate the usual thriller/horror ambugiuous ending though. Erggggh!
These three movies show that perhaps Hollywood is shifting, albeit slightly toward showing human frailties again in movies. To show that people fail to get the answers they need to make it through life. That many times their decisions do more harm than good. And no matter how hard you love something it doesn’t always love you back.