Everything Everywhere All At Once
Rick and Morty’s been cranking out episodes for years, and amidst its fast food cross-promotions and raunchy brand of science fiction, Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have made the ur-multiverse text. They seem to be the only film/TV writers that are engaging with what it would mean if infinite possibilities existed and were within one’s grasp. Marvel’s attempts to do anything with the concept look shameful and pathetic next to Rick and Morty’s imagination. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, otherwise known as Daniels, come closest with their gonzo sci-fi epic Everything Everywhere All At Once, a film so packed with large- and small-scale ideas that if one’s not working, the viewer need only wait a minute for a new one to be introduced. This kitchen sink approach makes for a singular moviewatching experience, though the takeaway still comes off as less-than if the viewer’s head contains dozens of episodes of a portal-gun wielding scientist and his grandson cavorting through the multiverse.
With the showstopping period romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Celine Sciamma moved away from the empathetic coming-of-age dramas that she started her career with. After spending time in pre-revolutionary France, Sciamma realized she has much more to say about childhood in Petite Maman, a film that packs an absurd level of transporting detail in its mere 72 minutes. Every scene has another flawlessly imagined corner of a kid’s brain, more perceptive than adults give it credit while still easily entertained with made-up games and silliness. This exists next to technical brilliance, most embodied by a smash cut worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Lawrence of Arabia. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a hard film to top, but placing another instant masterpiece so close behind it makes Sciamma one of the world’s best working directors.
I wouldn’t have pegged Asghar Farhadi as a Rick and Morty fan, but in the acclaimed Iranian director’s latest film, he’s depicted the perfect Jerry. In Rick and Morty, Jerry is the pathetic son-in-law of a multiverse-trotting genius, a monument to weakness who aspires to mediocrity and uses pity as deftly as Rick uses his trademark portal gun. With A Hero, the lead isn’t as loathsome as the comically inept Jerry, but the comparison cannot be missed. Farhadi has long used the exposed cultural tripwires within Islamic Republican Iran to make his penetrating social dramas, and here, his protagonist uses some fuzzy feel-goodery to step over them. In Farhadi’s best film in a decade, the society that makes a man pathetic can perhaps be manipulated by pathos.
Domee Shi’s Oscar-winning animated short Bao features an ignored Chinese mother imagining the titular dumpling as a version of her son. The bouncing baby bao develops its own interests that don’t involve the mother until, in a fit of rage, the mother eats the bao. Irrational spurts of hatred between mothers and their children seem to occupy a large part of Shi’s creative imagination, as the same thing drives Turning Red, her feature debut. This time, the rage is directed from daughter to mother in the latest, and hopefully last, Pixar film that debuted only on Disney+. After Soul, Luca, and Turning Red, Pixar has been on a streak of imaginative, affecting, and original entries, only for their parent studio to dump them onto their streaming service and ignore theaters completely. One would hope that Pixar doesn’t turn into a ferocious beast that lashes out against its legal guardian, but it would be understandable if it did.
Random projects from the MMC Universe.