Four boring Danish teachers try day-drinking as a path out of their funks.
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Starring Mads Mikkelson, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, and Magnus Millang
Review by Jon Kissel
As will sound familiar to the readers who’ve been taking in my reviews for a long time (and I thank the many thousands of you), I can’t help but put any movie I watch from Scandanavia into one of two boxes. Either it confirms the stereotype of cold and humorless or it rejects it by showing them as the hearty, back-slapping descendants of Vikings. I have to assume this is Simpsons residue, because I’ve seen far more of the latter kind of Dane or Swede on film than the other kind, and therefore the hard-drinking Baltic beauties might be closer to something like the truth. Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round would certainly subscribe to this, as the true nature of his four middle-aged protagonists needs some high-proof rocket fuel to break free from their deadened carapaces. This story of men who are by turns boring and reckless transcends any narrow preconceptions this viewer might have and locates both halves of an ill-considered dichotomy within individuals, and then attributes both to some kind of chemical imbalance. It does this while also being compelling and affecting, both in its emotional weight and catharsis and in how badly it made me want a drink after watching.
The Disney Star Wars trilogy is a real head-scratcher. JJ Abrams kicked it off with a general rehash of the 1977 Star Wars, but then Rian Johnson’s Last Jedi scrambled everything up and made a decades-old franchise feel exciting. Abrams got the last section back, however, and undid everything that was unique about The Last Jedi in the most boring way possible. How does a studio invest a billion dollars in something and not have a coherent story plan? Well, with the Monsterverse as a counter-example of shoddy planning, maybe I’m not giving Disney enough credit. The Godzilla and King Kong threads of Warner Brothers’ sloppy monster-fighting franchise unite in Godzilla vs Kong, the fourth and probably last entry thanks to expiring rights. The only thing that’s remained consistent across this quadrilogy is the complete miscalculation of why anyone would want to see a movie where giant beasts punch each other.
My job in quality control exists because the government demands it. The huge outlays that pharmaceutical companies make for labor and equipment are only committed to because that’s the cost of doing business. The government and the company enter into an agreement that the products sold will meet certain conditions, and it’s my job to verify that they do. All kinds of audit trails and archiving exists to verify the verifiers, but there remains an interaction between the analyst and the product that, short of videotaping the analyst’s every move, relies on trust. A bad-faith actor can always find the holes in the system, especially if they work within it and especially if incentives perversely award shortcut exploitation. I Care a Lot starts with a system of good intentions and centers the person who sees the weaknesses, but we’re not talking about Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love with his pudding cups and airline miles. J Blakeson’s slick film rests on a bed of unconscionable cruelty that surpasses even the gangster-led works of someone like Martin Scorsese. The exploitation is so confrontational here that audience sympathy becomes impossible on any level, and a degree of difficulty is placed on the film that Blakeson has to work very hard to overcome.
The over-the-top nature of the films of Korean director Park Chan-wook meets his granular attention to detail in The Handmaiden. He merges the high of immaculately-dressed costume dramas with the low of a gritty heist film, a melding of genres that wildly succeeds. Park's filmography, with its oft-repeated themes of sexual taboos, vengeance, and pathetic yet deadly men, feels like its reaching a climax here, like this is the film he's always been supposed to make. The Handmaiden, drowning in sensuality and subterfuge, is at the level of the best this auteur has ever done, if not his best work to date.
In Sound of Metal, protagonist Ruben Stone repeatedly stresses to doctors and counselors and his girlfriend Lou that he’s trying to save his life. A drummer in a screechy punk duo with Lou, Ruben’s hearing is rapidly deteriorating and is making his day-to-day in a sonic profession impossible, but his actual existence is not in danger. The problems in his inner ear aren’t going to spread to his liver or his kidneys. He’ll continue in a new state, but for Ruben, his life is what it is right now extended into the future. More touring with Lou, eking out an existence in hopefully bigger and bigger venues, but if it’s dive bars forever, that’s fine, too. However, to quote Al Swearengen, ‘announcing your plans is a good way to hear god laugh.’ Darius Marder’s incredible debut film is a beacon of bittersweet hope in a period of disruption. It places Ruben as a would-be immovable object against the unstoppable force of entropy and unpredictable events, and invites him to consider that the life he’s trying to save could instead be a bridge to a better one. For a lot or reasons, Sound of Metal, one of 2020’s best films, arrives at a perfect time.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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