The “I Just Had Surgery” Oscar Special

Enjoy the ballot. I guarantee that I got one of them right.*

Ballot Complete

*Not a guarantee or a statistical likelihood.

Parasite – Eat the Rich: The Movie (Spoiler-Free)

This is just one of the best movies I’ve seen in awhile and the Oscars would be even dumber than they are to deny it.

SUMMARY (Not really any spoilers, but you should still probably go see this cold if you can)

The Kim family, composed of father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), mother Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), and daughter Ki-jeong (Park So-dam), is destitute and stuck working part-time jobs to make ends meet. A friend of Ki-woo’s, Min-hyuk (Park Seo-joon), offers Ki-woo a recommendation to be the English tutor of the daughter of the wealthy Park family, Da-hye (Jeong Ji-so). Ki-woo uses Ki-jeong’s art skills to forge documents saying he’s a university graduate, only for the mother of the Park family, Yeon-gyo (Cho Yeo-jeong), to completely ignore them and base her decision almost solely on Min-hyuk’s recommendation, giving him the job. When Yeon-gyo mentions that she wants an art teacher for her son, Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun), Ki-woo claims to know a famous art teacher who is really Ki-jeong. Ki-jeong manages to, in turn, recommend Ki-taek as a driver for the Park patriarch, Dong-ik (Byun Hee-bong), who recommends Chung-sook as a housekeeper. Soon, the entire Kim family deceptively works under the Park family, which only starts to make their differences much more pronounced. Eventually, the Kims make a discovery that leads to a more serious and dire conflict. 

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They manage to watch videos on folding pizza boxes to pay rent.

END SUMMARY

Bong Joon-ho, the director of this film, has previously been lauded for films like Mother (seriously, see this film), The Host (see this if you like monster movies), and Snowpiercer (also really good), but this film is the best thing he’s done yet. 

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It includes the most realistic scene, too: searching for Wi-fi.

In terms of visual storytelling, this movie is superb. Every shot and every performance tells you what is going on even if you don’t pay attention to the dialogue. You could watch this film without subtitles and you would still be able to follow the general story, even if you missed some of the details. The structure of the city in which the film takes place is a simple device, but it works: The Park family lives at the top of a very tall hill in a compound which has a lot of greenery whereas the Kim family lives in a semi-basement at the bottom of the hill. There is repeated dialogue about the fact that the Park family distinguishes the Kim family by their particular smell, which the Kims believe is related to them living in the semi-basement below ground. The film uses this as one of the many metaphors they put forth to discuss how the upper-class really feels about the lower-class. 

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Symbolized here by Mr. Park keeping his family separate from the Kims.

On the surface, the Park family is generous and kind, but they are always about maintaining “the line” between the rich and poor. The poor can be employees, but never friends or peers. The line is frequently drawn between the upstairs and downstairs, or the front and back of the car. Even the daughter, Da-hye, who seems willing to be romantically involved with people of a lower class, appears to be doing it partially out of rebellion, showing that she is fully aware of the fact that her family views them as lessers. It’s never that the Parks are cruel to the Kims, in fact they pay them quite well, but the gap between the two must be maintained, whether by position or by walls.

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You have to be rich to be as gullible as Mrs. Park.

One of the things that the movie highlights is that the difference between the wealthy and the poor is that the poor can have all of their upward momentum crushed by a single tragedy, whereas the wealthy never have to contemplate that kind of loss. Mrs. Park is mostly concerned about getting her children good tutors so that they can get into top-level schools or live out their potential as artists, two things that the Kim children couldn’t achieve despite their apparently superior talents. The Kims are more concerned with things like the fact that they can’t afford to get the bugs out of their house and have to rely on public sprayers, or that their apartment can flood if it rains too much. The film subverts the usual tendency to try and portray the antagonists as angelic, by showing them realistically using underhanded tactics to get and maintain their “leg-up.” By showing their circumstances, however, we understand why they feel it to be necessary to do such things.

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Very sneaky, sir.

I will say that, while I don’t want to get into the second half of the film to avoid spoilers, the second half is the tensest hour of film I’ve seen in a long time. It starts off, appropriately, with a fairly comic scene featuring a discussion of the class divide, before descending rapidly into a thriller-movie atmosphere for a while and expanding on the class division theme massively. 

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Observe the corpse, which, like the Kims, has bare feet.

One of the aspects of the film that I like most is that it never feels tied down to the conventions of any one particular genre. There are comedy, drama, thriller, and even horror elements and they all fit within the scenes in which they appear. The cinematography, dialogue, and acting are all superior. The themes of the movie, while they were supposedly reflective of the state of South Korea, which has been suffering from a substantial debt crisis since 1997’s Asian Financial Crisis, pretty much work everywhere. 

This movie is amazing and everyone should see it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Joker’s Oscar Ballot

 

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Explanations

Best Picture: Blackkklansman

Spike Lee has been snubbed too many times, so the Academy probably feel like they owe him, with the added bonus that it gives them the most direct way to show off their dislike of a current public figure. Also, it was a really well-done movie.

Best Director: Spike Lee

He’s literally never been nominated for this award before. He’s never had a nomination for Best Picture before. Meanwhile, they actually were against screenings of Do The Right Thing, because they were worried it would lead black people to riot. This was in 1989. Again, they are gonna feel like they owe him.

Best Actress: Olivia Colman

Look, I want it to be Glenn Close. I’ll be pretty happy if it’s Glenn Close. But Olivia Colman’s performance in The Favourite contains so many wonderful levels that you could spend hours dissecting it. She could have made Anne an ancillary character in the rivalry between two women, but no, she made her a focus.

Best Supporting Actress: Regina King

I think this is going to happen because the people who like the two nominees from The Favourite are going to split the ballot. That said, Regina King freaking nailed this performance, and she totally deserves the award.

Actor in a Leading Role: Christian Bale

I didn’t even like this movie that much, but damn, that’s a performance for the ages. Bale probably can’t mutilate his body with impunity for much longer, so this is a good chance to get an award for his particular brand of weigh shifting.

Best Supporting Actor: Richard E. Grant

If you haven’t seen Can You Ever Forgive Me, you’ll know that Richard E. Grant’s performance is one of the more amazing parts of a film that, for the most part, is fairly predictable. Yes, he has great dialogue, but his character could so easily have been much worse that it’s amazing how well he carries it.

Best Costume Design: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

I know a lot of people probably think it’s going to be a period piece, but I think it was amazing how many costumes they put in this movie, and how varied and elaborate the costumes were. Liam Neeson’s coat alone took days to make.

Best Film Editing: The Favourite

Okay, all the people in Editing probably want it to be Blackkklansman because there was some pretty awesome tricks involving overlaying faces during shots, but if you’re a regular person, I think you vote for The Favourite. I’m a regular Joker, I pick that.

Best Sound Editing: A Quiet Place

Okay, this is one of the two Oscars where I’ll actually be pissed if I’m wrong. This movie was amazing and it was the completely perfect use of silence and sound that really makes it work.

Best Sound Mixing: A Star Is Born

This was, for me, one of the best parts of the film. If I can sit in a movie and go “wow, they really did a great job mixing this,” then that probably means at least a few other people did the same.

Best Documentary – Short Subject: Lifeboat

It’s a short film about refugees and it goes out of its way to humanize all of them, as well as the people who try to help them. It’s a great short film if you haven’t seen it.

Best Documentary – Feature Length: RBG

This category is bullsh*t as the best Documentary of last year was Won’t You Be My Neighbor and all other movies are lesser to that. But RBG was also a good movie.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Blackkklansman

This was an amazing true story that is amazingly well-adapted in this script. Some of the dialogue was among the best of last year.

Best Original Screenplay: Green Book

As I pointed out in my review, this is the only one that really generated controversy and I think that generally helps rather than hurts.

Original Score: Black Panther

 I think they’re going to give Black Panther something, and this was definitely one of the more stand-out parts of the film. It has an amazing score and it combines a lot of elements not seen in many films before it.

Best Animated Feature Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

This is the second award that I will actually be p*ssed off about if I’m wrong. This was the best animated movie and just flat-out one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a work of art with amazing dialogue and a great message.

Best Foreign Language Film: Roma

Like with Toy Story 3, I think the fact that this one was nominated for Best Picture means that it has a massive advantage. Also, this could win Best Picture and I would not be at all surprised, because this movie is a beautiful thematic tale with a lot of amazing shots.

Original Song: Shallow (A Star is Born)

This scene was the best scene in the movie, and the music video of it is hauntingly beautiful. It’s a great song, Bradley Cooper blew me away, and IT’S LADY FREAKING GAGA. Just accept that it’s amazing and let it make you happy.

Best Animated Short Film: Late Afternoon

This is basically a short-film about dementia that is told through some of the best animation transitions I’ve seen in a while. I almost picked Bao because everyone saw it since it was attached to a feature, but this film hit me so hard I can’t not pick it.

Best Production Design: Black Panther

Again, this was one of the best parts of the film, and had so much more thought put into it that I would ever have expected. It combined African Cultural History with Sci-fi perfectly.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Vice

This movie ages almost every character over several decades and does it so well it rarely looks like makeup and prosthetics.

Best Live-Action Short Film: Skin

First of all, why are all of the films about killing kids? Seriously, I think all of the shorts were about child-murder. Second, this was a short film about racism that kind of screws up the message. That seems like Oscar Bait to me.

Best Cinematography: Roma

Alfonso Cuaron is a freaking genius when it comes to cinematography and the fact that the film is in Black-and-white only makes this more obvious.

Best Visual Effects: Ready Player One

I actually don’t know that these were the best visual effects, but they were definitely the MOST visual effects.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Oscar Review – Vice: Being Evil Is Bad and Stuff

Adam McKay brings us an off-kilter movie about the life of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

SUMMARY

The movie is narrated by Kurt (Jesse Plemons), a soldier, as he discusses the life of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) as well as the impact his presence had on the Bush administration.

The film starts with an alcoholic Dick Cheney getting a DUI and being told to clean up his life by his wife, Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams). Later, Cheney works for the Nixon administration and discovers that the US secretly bombed Cambodia under the advice of Henry Kissinger (Kirk Bovill). Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) ends up being distanced from Nixon, and Cheney, his intern, starts to fall out of grace, but then Nixon resigns and Rumsfeld is the Secretary of Defense and Cheney becomes White House Chief of Staff, due to them being the only members not really connected with the fallout.

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Behold, the face of… not Richard Nixon.

After the Ford administration ends, Cheney has a heart attack and becomes a Congressman from Wyoming, mostly with his wife’s help, and starts to support a bunch of policies that blatantly help corrupt corporations gain lucrative positions and greater control over industries. Cheney serves as Secretary of Defense during the first Bush Administration, but then decides to retire from public life after finding out that his youngest daughter, Mary (Alison Pill), is a lesbian. He then becomes the head of Halliburton and becomes fabulously wealthy.

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I have avoided a single joke about his name. I want that on the record.

Cheney gets asked to be the running mate for George W. Bush (Sam “Regular or Extra Menthol” Rockwell) during the 2000 Presidential Election, which Cheney agrees to on the condition that he be allowed to have more power than a typical Vice President. Bush, not particularly caring about actually being President, agrees. As VP, Cheney brings Rumsfeld in as Secretary of Defense, David Addington (Don McManus) as legal counsel, and Scooter Libby (Justin Kirk) as Chief of Staff. Together, they make all of the actual foreign policy and defense decisions in the administration. Then, 9/11 happens.

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Again, this is mostly a comedy film.

The movie depicts Cheney as using the attacks as a way to preside over the U.S. Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, resulting in numerous deaths and the rise of ISIS. Kurt, the narrator, served in the military during both of these invasions and witnessed killing of civilians and extrajudicial torture of prisoners.  Meanwhile, Cheney has multiple heart issues which eventually put him on his deathbed. He says a tearful goodbye to his family, but Kurt is killed while jogging and his heart saves Cheney’s life.

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He’s not in great health.

At the end of the movie, Liz Cheney (Lily Rabe) wins her father’s seat in Congress after speaking out against gay marriage, leading Mary Cheney to leave the family. The film then breaks the fourth wall and has an angry Cheney state that he has no regrets about anything he’s done. A mid-credits scene depicts a focus group where a right-wing viewer calls the film biased and violently attacks a panelist who disagrees while most of the other panelists focus on upcoming action movies.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, this was the movie that I least imagined would get nominated for an Oscar out of all of the nominees, even Black Panther. I didn’t think super highly of A Star Is Born, but I thought it was Oscar bait. BlacKkKlansman seemed like a shoo-in, same with Roma. Bohemian Rhapsody wowed me with spectacle in the theater, so it wasn’t until later that I realized “oh, this dialogue is actually kind of lousy.” Green Book had Mahershala Ali’s performance in a film that makes Hollywood feel good. The Favourite was a period piece with great costumes and three amazing leads and artistic angles, so that’s basically a gimme. This movie, though…

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But Boots Riley gets nothing.

Adam McKay is a very talented director, ranging from Anchorman and Talladega Nights to The Big Short. He’s great at doing very stylized movies that have lots of solid comic elements, as well as occasional sudden shifts in tone or focus, like the “Afternoon Delight” scene in Anchorman or the multiple fourth-wall breaks to explain concepts in The Big Short. This movie has devices similar to those, but I think it went a little overboard on them while trying to handle a subject that it simultaneously wants to mock and also to take seriously. You have the framing device of the narrator, but also false endings, fourth wall breaks, the focus group, the double time shift from 9/11… it’s just a little too much structural mutation within a film that isn’t exactly sure what tone it wants to take. This film portrays horrible events and wants you to think about how horrible they are… but then makes a few one-liners about how ignorant Americans are. It’s not impossible to do both of these tones in one film, but I don’t think they quite pulled it off here.

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Those glasses are reserved for directors.

The film presents Dick Cheney as both a wasted dropout who lucked into a job and also a brilliant schemer who essentially uses Machiavellian tactics to gain power and wealth, but it never really connects with how he can be both. Yes, people are multifaceted, that’s the beauty of dealing with real people rather than archetypes, but even with Bale’s great performance (and it is absolutely fantastic), Cheney only seems to be a series of shifting characters, not one man that is all of these things. It clearly says that he’s a bad person, and the film takes the stance that everything he does is pretty much awful, but saying “oh, hey, this humorously over-the-top villain is bad” is a little less subtle than Bale’s performance merited.

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Again, the guy on the right is BATMAN.

That said, every performance in this is amazing. Bale’s so good you wouldn’t even believe he’s the same guy who played Batman or Patrick Bateman, while Rockwell reminds us once again that he is an almost unbelievable talent. If you haven’t watched Moon or Seven Psychopaths, you’re missing out. Amy Adams is a national freaking treasure and should be treated as such. Steve Carell, Lily Rabe, Alison Pill, Tyler Perry, all of them did amazing work. If there is one thing to be said about this, everyone was giving 110%.

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Jesse Plemons’ performance was heart-taking. I REFUSE TO APOLOGIZE FOR THIS DAD JOKE.

My biggest complaint, though, and it’s a very personal one to me, is that this movie breaks one of my cardinal rules of filmmaking: It tells the audience that you’re wrong to not like it. It presents all the people who aren’t excited about the film as either vapid idiots who don’t care enough about the world to pay attention or angry idiots who are going to be pissed about the liberalism of Hollywood. Even if you were to believe both of those things, and you very well might, just acknowledging these people to mock them doesn’t ever do anything positive. If you believe that what you’re saying, even if it will be criticized, is still worth saying, THEN F*CKING SAY IT. Don’t try to pre-defend yourself by taking shots at your detractors, just say what you believe and stand by it. 

Overall, I don’t dislike the movie, in fact I thought a lot of parts of it were good and inventive, but the structure was a little too messy for me to really think it was going to be an Oscar nominee. But maybe that’s why I only write for a few hundred people on the internet, rather than Time Magazine.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

 

Oscar Review – Green Book: Race Relations Are (Still) Complicated

Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen take us through this true (or mostly true) story about an extremely unlikely friendship.

SUMMARY

Classical Pianist “Doc” Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is set to go on an 8-week concert tour of the Mid-Western and the Southern United States. He hires Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) to be his driver and bodyguard. Don’s management gives Tony a copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book so that he will be able to find motels, restaurants, and gas stations that will allow Don inside.

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Tony Lip always dressed like a mobster.

As the tour starts, the two do not get along very well. Tony dislikes anything refined, or acting like a subordinate to Don, while Don thinks Tony is an uncouth lout. However, as they go on, Don’s talent starts to impress Tony and Tony becomes increasingly disturbed by how everyone treats Don in the South, from managers and venue owners to random white people. Don helps Tony write letters to his wife (Linda Cardellini), with Don’s sophisticated language and talent for creative composition punching up Tony’s less than amazing style. Tony tries to get Don to connect with his family, but Don feels isolated by his lifestyle, both because he’s a classical pianist and also because he’s a homosexual. When Don is caught in a YMCA pool with another (white) man, Tony bribes the officers to release Don. When the two are arrested for Don being black in a town that bars black people after curfew, Don calls his lawyer, revealed to be Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who has them released. These experiences further humiliate Don, but Tony uses them to point out that, by being rich and connected, Tony feels like he’s “blacker” than Don. Don points out how false that statement is, by saying being rich and connected has made him feel disconnected to his black community, being black keeps him disconnected from the white community, and being gay means that pretty much everyone in 1963 hates him. He’s essentially alone in the world.

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So talented, he could get into clubs that he literally couldn’t get into.

On one of the last stops of the tour, Don refuses to play at the club because the owner refuses to allow Don to be served inside the very venue that he’s been booked to play. Instead, Don plays at a black club and wows the audience. Heading back North, Tony invites Don to join his family for Christmas Eve Dinner, which Don eventually accepts. Tony’s wife thanks Don for the letters, revealing that she figured out Tony wasn’t writing them alone.

END SUMMARY

One of the most interesting things about this movie was the response by Don Shirley’s family and the counter-response by Mahershala Ali and the film’s main author Nick Vallelonga. Shirley’s family insisted that Vallelonga and Shirley were never friends and that the point of their relationship was that Shirley had to employ subordinates of a different race in order to deal with racism. Mahershala Ali apologized profusely for not consulting with the family to add nuance. However, Nick Vallelonga, Tony Lip’s real-life son, revealed that the movie was based on a series of interviews he conducted with Shirley and his father, and that Shirley had specifically asked Vallelonga not to consult other people. So, ultimately, the accuracy of this movie now seems somewhat in dispute.

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 Probably wasn’t this informal, though.

The best part of this film are the two leads, although, I’m not going to lie, I think Mahershala Ali did most of the heavy lifting. I do admit that I might not think as highly of Viggo’s performance because I conflate Tony Lip with all of the characters that Tony Lip portrayed throughout the years (mostly mobsters), but I also just don’t think he made Tony nearly as complex as Ali made Shirley. I acknowledge that might be partially because Shirley was just a more interesting character within the film, although I think Tony actually had the more complete character arc. This isn’t to say that I thought Viggo Mortensen’s performance was bad, in fact it was very good, I just thought Ali delivered a little more.

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… I might be biased based on the “real life” comparison photos I’ve seen.

My biggest problem with this movie is probably that it falls into some of the same traps that most films run into when dealing with race. First, it just has to copy some of the traditional scenes, like a white man being shocked at how a black man is treated, or a black man having to remind a white man that he has an advantage that’s completely unearned. It’s just not new, and it takes a lot to make it interesting. Second, when you’re making a movie and you have a conflict, at the end of the film you like to feel like that conflict is resolved. What do you do, then, when your conflict isn’t really between your two leads, but between your lead and a societal injustice? If you’re The Hunger Games or The Matrix or even Fight Club, you can end your film on a note that hey, these problems are actually going to be solved. But when your injustice is racism, something that is still pervasive to this day, how can you even try to pretend that it’s solved? Well, you have your main characters learn to get past their natural biases and bond and that’s just as good, right? Not really, but it lets us feel like something has been accomplished, so we can walk out feeling like everything’s not hopeless. I’m not saying you should end every movie with a nihilistic point of view saying that nothing ever gets better, but I also think that most films about racism make you feel “oh hey, this is over now” at the end, and we don’t need to do that, either. The movie does make us feel better about the fact that we’ve come a long way, and it should, but it shouldn’t allow us to forget that we still have a ways to go.

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Granted, the fact that it’s not a benchmark for a black actor to be nominated anymore IS a sign of advancement.

I do think that the film does a good job of adding in the elements that were unique to Don Shirley’s story, particularly his disconnect with traditional black culture in the 60s arising from his wealth and connections and his disconnect with almost everyone arising from being a gay man in the 1960s. It’s interesting to be reminded that even a perceived advantage, and wealth is generally always an advantages, can actually serve to limit the number of people you can relate to. The film even reminds us that while Don Shirley worked to combine classical and jazz music, those two styles still remain fairly distinct, even within most of his performances.

Overall, it’s a solid film, even one that is probably worthy of the nomination it’s received (and definitely worthy of the two acting nominations), but I still feel like it just wasted a little bit of its potential by retreading what other films have already done in the past. Definitely worth seeing, though.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Oscar Review – Bohemian Rhapsody: The Secret is the Soundtrack

Rami Malek plays Freddie Mercury in this musical biopic which covers for a lot of its sins by using the music of freakin’ Queen.

SUMMARY

It’s the early 70s and Farrokh Bulsara, AKA the future Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), goes out to see a band called Smile, whose lead singer quits that night. Mercury takes his place in the band, joining Guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), who are soon joined by Bassist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello). At the same time, Mercury begins dating Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). Based on Mercury’s suggestion, they change the band name to Queen and record a debut album which garners attention, and their single “Killer Queen” gets them an appearance on Top of the Pops. The band goes on a tour of the USA where Freddie starts to begin sexual relations with men.

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Someone write this into an episode of Mr. Robot. Please.

Queen records their hit album “A Night at the Opera” including the track “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which the record label insists can’t be played on the radio. Eventually, Freddie gets it on the air and it becomes a smash hit. He also begins an affair with Paul (Allen Leech), the band’s manager and Mary breaks up with him over it, though they remain in contact and on friendly terms.

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This might be accurate, but it kind of lacks the grandeur of what you’d imagine created the song.

Freddie starts to descend into depression and hedonism, though he meets a very attractive waiter named Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker), who tells Freddie to call him when he learns to like himself. During a press conference for one of the albums, “Hot Space,” the press keeps asking Freddie about his sexuality, which makes him uncomfortable. Paul convinces one of the band managers, John Reid (Aidan Gillen), to offer Mercury a solo career, but Mercury responds by firing Reid. However, he does end up working on a solo album, “Mr. Bad Guy,” while Paul tries to isolate him from the world. Mary tells Freddie that he should rejoin the band to do Live Aid at Wembley Stadium. At the same time, Freddie is diagnosed with AIDS, leading him to decide to help people through Live Aid, and the band is given a last-minute spot. He reveals to the band that he has AIDS and they are supportive.

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I fully believe Freddie wore this crown.

On the day of Live Aid, he comes out to his family with Jim, tells Mary she is the love of his life, and tries to reconcile with his father. The band performs at Live Aid, rocking the entire world for 21 minutes, resulting in a massive number of donations. Mercury died at age 45.

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This was a big moment, admittedly.

END SUMMARY

Let’s get a few things out of the way: A lot of the events in the end of Freddie Mercury’s life were re-arranged so that the big climax of the film was the performance at Wembley. He didn’t likely know that he had AIDS at that point and he definitely hadn’t told the band about it. The band wasn’t broken up, they’d been touring for at least a year before this. Also, while Queen’s performance at Wembley is listed as one of, if not THE, greatest live shows in history, Queen was not the only major name at Live Aid. In fact, they took the stage after Sting, Phil Collins, U2, and Dire Straits and right before David Bowie, the Who, and Elton John. While they rocked the hell out of the stadium, they definitely weren’t the only stars. It’s a biopic, so I have to give them a little leeway, but I still thought that some of this stuff might have been going a bit far.

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Sure, no one was there to see Bowie in *checks notes* 1985, 2 years after “Let’s Dance.”

This movie is interesting to me because when I first saw it I was blown away by it. Then I rewatched it to do this review, and I was shocked at how little it was impressing me. That’s when it hit me: It was the soundtrack. When I was in the theater, with the soundtrack, which, naturally, is Queen’s greatest hits, everything was so pleasant and coated in a layer of awesome nostalgia that it was inherently more fun. Without the great speaker setup the effect was muted. I watched it again with the sound down to try and focus just on the dialogue and the effect was basically broken. And then, in the cold light of day, it hit me: This is an okay movie with one amazing performance and a fantastic soundtrack, though it’s not the first movie to use Queen well…

The dialogue in this movie is pretty bad, the structure consists of a lot of hurrying to try and capture the entire ~20 year career of Queen in one film, and the climax, while amazing, is rushed and disorganized, with a lot of “emotional” moments feeling unearned. That said, Rami Malek is a f*cking fantastic Freddie Mercury in this and since he’s the focus of the film, that means a lot. Every motion, every look, every note he sings, all of it convey a complex level of emotional depth. You see him as the boy who is worried about what his family thinks, the rocker who just wants to party, the artist who just wants the beautiful music inside of him to get out, the performer who wants to see everyone under his sway, and the broken man who just wants to avoid the loneliness within him. Often, you get scenes in which you can see all of them at once, which is a sign that you’ve truly captured a character. Malek nailed this hard.

BohemianRhapsody - 6SideBySide
I mean… come on. He did a great job.

The rest of the movie is sadly fairly mediocre, but it feels amazing because it has a soundtrack that consists of the best songs by Queen. That’s not really a small thing, to be sure, since music can be a powerful force on a scene, but the thing is that this movie is using it to do most of the heavy emotional lifting and to get people in a mindset more accepting of the mediocrity of the dialogue. That’s not great filmmaking, that’s just making a movie about great music with a great focal performance that keeps you from being able to realize it immediately.

Overall, I do still think this movie is worth seeing, if only for Rami Malek’s performance, but ultimately it just had so much potential that it failed to take advantage of.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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