The State of the Movies: Ford v. Ferrari – Your Dad Will Like This One

Ford v. Ferrari is a true “dad movie” with wholesome values, goofy moments, and intense racing scenes that will keep you and your pops entertained.

Ford v. Ferrari comes to us from James Mangold, the director behind Logan and Walk the Line. It stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale and tells the story of two men, Carroll Shelby (Damon) and Ken Miles (Bale) who are hired by the Ford Motor Company to build a car that can defeat Ferrari in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The film highlights the struggles the men went through not only to defy physics and build a car capable of reaching the speeds necessary to beat Ferrari but also deal with the corporate control of the Ford Motor Company.

I really did not know what to expect going into this movie. I really liked Logan so I knew at the very least this would be a well-directed movie. I had heard some mostly positive buzz coming out of festivals like TIFF, but I was concerned the movie would be “Oscar bait.” If you don’t know what “Oscar bait” is it refers to a movie that is overly sentimental and created as a “crowd-pleaser” in order to win over the voters of the Academy Awards. Famous YouTube film critic Adum from YMS had called the movie “oscar bait” in his review so I was concerned that it would be too overly sentimental. I still wanted to see it though, so I got my ticket for a showing at a Regal theater for 9:30 at the Thursday night IMAX showing.

The only thing was that when I got to the theater, the IMAX projector was broken and there were no other showings in any other formats. Any other night I would go home and simply see it another time, but I had a rental car for the night, and what the hell else was I to do with it from 9 PM-1 AM. I quickly saw that an AMC was also showing the movie in IMAX at 9:30 in IMAX, and next thing you know I got in my car and had my own little race down the I-8 West towards Mission Valley to get to the theater. Fortunately, I was able to get my ticket and get settled into the movie with only two more trailers left before the showing. It was overwhelming because I was not sure if I would make the movie in time, but the fast drive I was forced to make down the highway got me in the mood to see a fun racing movie.

Despite Ford V. Ferrari being a somewhat cheesy movie, it is overall still a lot of fun and worth seeing on the big screen.

Ford V. Ferrari is a fun movie with some very well constructed racing scenes and really great acting from both Bale and Damon. I don’t think it’s the best movie of the year but I don’t think it’s bad either. This really is a “dad movie” at heart which isn’t necessarily an insult as you may think. I think that simply means this movie has more wholesome values than the other selection of movies you have currently in theaters. Despite being a tense sports movie, it’s very wholesome which was definitely welcomed. There’s no larger force causing significant physical or psychological harm onto a person or group of people, it’s just simply a movie about two guys who love building and racing cars butting heads against other people who are also passionate about cars.

As expected the filmmaking in this movie is very good! From the directing to the cinematography to the editing, everyone in the crew was on their A-Game while making this movie. I loved the cinematography and sound design in particular and thought they made the racing scenes a lot of fun. As a filmmaker myself, the prospect of trying to get these racing scenes right makes me incredibly anxious. I can only imagine the issues they faced with the placement of the cameras onto the cars and the continuity of each shot. There’s so much that goes down in many of the scenes; cars are not only passing each other but they’ll often times crash into the track and explode, and it is important that if you are going to get multiple takes of these sequences from different angles, they match each other identically.

What they were able to accomplish was incredible and I, once again, have to commend all the crew involved in this production. The acting, as expected, is also fantastic! Matt Damon and Christian Bale work very well together and you see their friendship develop over the course of the movie. One of my favorite scenes is when they fight each other in front of Ken’s (Bale) house, but rather than have it be an intense dramatic sequence, it is very funny. They tumble on each other and Christian Bale throws groceries at Damon, it’s one of the funniest scenes in Ford v. Ferrari. There are a couple of moments like that where they will give each other a hard time in the most loving and goofy way they can and it’s always enjoyable to watch.

In regards to issues I have with this movie, it’s mostly in the script. The villains of the movie (the people at Ferrari and the corporate folks over at Ford) are so “cartoony” and one dimensional. It was clear they were trying to go for a more goofy approach to these villains, but it comes across really cheesy. In fact, all the other characters that aren’t Carroll and Ken are all cookie cutter and boring characters. Also, although this movie is still funny every once in a while there will be a joke that won’t work very well for me. It’s not common this happens, but it does happen every once in a while. Also, the movie is 2-1/2 hours long and for the first 45-60 minutes or so you can feel it. Once the racing is underway the movie mostly flies by but with trailers, prepare to be at the theater for almost three hours.

Despite Ford v. Ferrari being a pretty cheesy movie, I still had a lot of fun with it and would recommend you see this one too. I like that this movie is not a prequel, reboot, sequel, or anything else but rather a true story that a team of filmmakers decided to adapt into their own screenplay and production. I say the whole “take your dad to this movie” thing as a joke, but I do actually think this is a good movie to go see with your family when and if you go visit them for Thanksgiving next week. Don’t expect this to be the best movie of the year, but expect a good time!

Written by Christian Scognamillo
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The State of the Movies: What Premium Format Should You Choose?

Do you ever check the local listings for the next big movie and are stunned to find a catalog of viewing options such as standard format, 3D, IMAX, Dolby Cinema, and D-Box?

There are so many options to view movies in, where do you even start? An average consumer may be under the impression that although many of these options may provide more immersive entertainment, they also acknowledge that they are also more expensive. Today we’re going to be taking a deep dive into a few premium format options that will regularly be available. I will not only go into what makes some of these formats special, but I will also go into the average additional surcharge you’ll pay for each ticket and offer a review of the experience if I have been through it before.

3D

I probably do not need to get into what makes a 3D experience in a movie theater unique as more than likely you have been at some point to a 3D movie yourself. You all likely know it can be anywhere from $2-$4 extra per ticket, depending on the theater, for a 3D movie. The intention of 3D movies is to create a movie-going experience to make you feel as if you are actually a part of the movie. Essentially, once you place on a pair of glasses given to you before a presentation, you begin to notice the image may have more depth and will notice that images seem to be “popping out of the screen”. The way this effect is achieved is that the projector projects two of the same moving images slightly next to each other that come together when you place the glasses on and provide a more immersive but strange effect.

The relationship people tend to have with 3D movies is generally you either love or hate them. Some people can’t get enough of that theme park type of experience, but for many people, they become easily nauseous and will notice that there were not even that many effects on the screen to begin with. There was a time not too long ago where it seemed every new movie being released was in 3D, which many people really did not like. And although I liked 3D as a kid, I knew realistically it was not possible to see every movie out there in 3D. At the time though, when I did, the experience of watching a movie felt more special.

My relationship with 3D today is similar yet different. 3D is not nearly as common as it once was so not that many movies are released in the format anymore. Therefore, I really don’t find myself seeing as many 3D movies as I used to. With that being said, it is fun every once in a while getting to see a 3D movie just because it is still an uncommon movie viewing format for me. However, I am glad 3D movies are not as common because the viewing experience is much more special, and I know, given the number of movies I watch now, I would probably get sick of 3D pretty quickly.

The truth is, 3D is not suitable for every movie that is released. Studios tried to place it in every movie so they could ramp in a few extra dollars which, ultimately, caused the downfall of 3D. In reality, only select movies are made for the format.

The last 3D movie I saw was Gemini Man which also had the added bonus of being in HFR (60 fps). The results were not as bad as expected but also not ideal. I think with a bigger screen and brighter projector I would have enjoyed myself more (and I still mostly did). But the small screen and shaky cam the movie implemented made many scenes of the movie distracting in the format. Some really great recent 3D flicks I watched include Ready Player One, Alita: Battle Angel, and Aquaman. These were all films intentionally designed for the 3D experience and having the bonus of seeing all these flicks in IMAX 3D, meaning a bigger screen, made the experience even more special.

Similarly, I’ve seen some awful 3D movies recently like Venom, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and The Mummy. These movies were trying to hastily rush the 3D format onto them so they could get a few quick bucks out of unsuspecting paying customers. I think that’s the other problem I have today with 3D too; you never really know what type of movie experience you are going to get. Because of this, the consumer relationship with the format can become rocky. I think if 3D is going to have a chance to survive in the industry it needs to be shown in select films that are designed for the format. A lot of big blockbusters still look great in the format, but not every movie needs to be or should be in 3D. It seems as if Hollywood is now beginning to understand the risk that comes with showing a movie in 3D and the format is now diminishing as a result.

Even IMAX (which we will discuss soon) has decided to no longer primarily show 3D movies but rather, only do it when the quality of the presentation is good enough to justify it being presented in the format. Although I wish IMAX would play more 3D movies every once in a while, this is a smart move on their end for the sake of business. I am in the minority when it comes to 3D as I like to give it a chance but know that this is a format everyone will have a different experience with. It’s really going to come down, at the end of the day, to personal preference and mainly how your body and eyes can respond to the presentation.

IMAX

IMAX 2D or 3D is usually one of my favorite ways to go see a movie. IMAX provides an experience in which the speakers are louder than normal, and the screen in question fills the entire wall of the auditorium the movie is being projected on from wall to wall and ceiling to floor. The average surcharge for an IMAX movie is going to be anywhere from $5-6. I really love seeing movies in IMAX and have been fortunate enough to see many movies I’d like to in the format because of programs like AMC A-List and Regal Unlimited (check my blog out on subscription services), however, it may be hard to know what movie you should see in IMAX and which one you can skip if you must pay for the format. Unlike 3D, any movie you see can look good in IMAX, but some movies will look better than others. This is going to be really tough to explain why so bear with me as I go through the terminology.

The first thing to note about IMAX auditoriums is that not all auditoriums are going to have the same size screen. Some IMAX screens are significantly larger than others. These bigger screens are known as “real IMAX” and they can go on average to be about 76×97 feet which is insane. The regular IMAX screens that you may come across in your local malls (and the only ones available in San Diego at the moment, unfortunately) are only about 28×58 feet and known as “Liemax” screens. The reason for this is because they are trying to advertise the same IMAX experience without letting you know which screen is the real deal and which one is not. If you want to know if your local IMAX screen is real or not, click thislink where you can look at a list of IMAX locations. If the theater is listed as 1570/D or some other variant of that, it’s the real deal, just D means that it’s not. You may be surprised just to find how little of these screens are actually considered true IMAX screens.

With all that being said, not every movie is necessarily going to look better on a real IMAX screen anyways. Most movies that are shown in the format are merely blown up for the screen meaning that if a movie is presented in 2.39:1 aspect ratio, you’re going to get those black bars at the top and bottom of the screen as seen below. When this happens in a movie, it is known to be “letter-boxed”.

Notice the black bars on the top and bottom of this still from It: Chapter Two. This tends to happen when you see a movie shot in 2.39:1 on an IMAX screen which may be a problem for some.

If you are limited in the movies you can see in IMAX due to money and don’t know what aspect ratio a movie is presented in, here’s a neat trick to try. Open up the trailer for the movie you want to see on your phone or computer. If there are black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, it’s going to appear that way on an IMAX screen as well. When a movie is not “letter-boxed” and is instead being presented in 1.85:1, the full screen is going to be filled up when you watch a movie in the format. It is important to note though that some movies are “specially formatted for the IMAX experience.” This means that the picture size will expand from 2.39:1 to 1.90:1. That means when you see a movie in the format you’re going to have more information available to you, the viewer, on the screen. Here’s a clip from Alita: Battle Angel (which was specially formatted in IMAX) so you can see what this means.

I will clarify that many times it’s only going to be select scenes that are presented in this format but I still think it’s fun to watch. To know if a movie is formatted for IMAX or not, check the IMAX social media profiles (Twitter, Instagram, etc). The company will let you know if a movie is specially formatted for IMAX or not and will advertise for it. On a regular “LieMax” screen, these films will fill the entire screen. However, on a real IMAX screen, a movie in the 1.90:1 aspect ratio will still not fit the entire screen.

So what will fill a real IMAX screen then? To know if you should make the trip to see a movie in a real IMAX screen, again, check the IMAX social media and see if the movie is being shot and shown in IMAX 70mm film. If it is, see it in a real IMAX theater because you are going to at least get select scenes that fill the entire screen. These films were shot on IMAX’s specialty giant 70mm that specifically cater to the format and present movies in the 1.43:1 aspect ratio. This is also the reason why you might notice that the IMAX screens at science centers like Ruben H. Fleet Science Center are much larger and provide a different experience than the ones at your local malls. Those IMAX documentaries are typically presented in the 1.43:1 aspect ratio which is ideal for a real IMAX screen. It is usually rare that a Hollywood movie is shot and shown in IMAX 70mm but it does happen every once in a while in movies like Interstellar, Dunkirk, and First Man. I can give you, though, three movies to look out for that will be presented in this real IMAX format: No Time to Die, Wonder Woman 1984, and Tenet. Here’s an example from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (which also used the special cameras) of what the picture now looks like.

In conclusion, is IMAX worth your time? I enjoy the format but every movie is going to be a different experience. I know I had to explain a lot of this using hard to understand film terminology, but I would recommend, if you are considering seeing a movie in IMAX, either do the test on your computer or phone to see if you notice black bars on the top and bottom of the image or check IMAX’s social media to see if they will be expanding the aspect ratio for a certain movie. Do know that every movie is going to be a different experience so make sure if you’re limited on the amount of IMAX movies you can watch to choose the right one. When you pick the right movie, IMAX can provide a really special and, I’d even argue, unforgettable movie-going experience.

Dolby Cinema

Dolby Cinema is a similar but different experience to IMAX. The biggest difference to note is that MOST screens you are going to find are not going to be tall like IMAX but instead super wide. There are some exceptions to this but most Dolby Cinema screens I’ve been to have had a wide screen instead of a tall one. Also unlike in IMAX, there are recliner seats at Dolby Cinema auditoriums. Basically, the best way I can describe the experience of watching a movie in Dolby Cinema is that you get a 4K image and reclining seats that rumble during loud scenes. The theater is also equipped with Dolby Atmos, meaning there are speakers that basically surround the entire auditorium.

It’s weird going into an auditorium and looking up above your seat to notice that it has its own set of speakers. I’m not very good at explaining this since I’m not a sound engineer, but know that the goal of Dolby Atmos is to provide 3D surround sound to give the impression that sound can potentially come from every direction of the auditorium. The only reason I don’t go to more movies in this format is that it is hard to get tickets to Dolby Cinema showings at the theater I like to go to (AMC Mission Valley). The surcharge is about $5 and I think it’s a pretty cool experience every once in a while.

I really have not had a bad experience with a showing in Dolby Cinema and I am confident you will more than likely enjoy it too. Really just about any movie you go see in this format is going to look good so I guess if you’re curious, you should check it out. The speakers are really loud, the recliners are comfortable, and the image quality is very good which makes for a very enjoyable movie-going experience. I wish there was more information I could give to you but there’s not much else to say, it’s pretty luxurious.

D-Box/4DX

I’ve never seen a movie in either of these formats but from what I understand they are very similar experiences. They both provide movie-going experiences that are complemented by moving seats and 4DX special effects (water, air, scents, etc). This has never been an ideal movie-going experience for me, even as a kid, so I never felt compelled to see a movie in this format. I also know it’s very expensive to see a movie in this format as the surcharge may be as much as $8 extra which is crazy and excessive.

I think the idea of seeing a movie with extra special 4D effects is “too immersive” for me; I think the idea is too gimmicky for my liking. I can handle 3D as it provides an interesting experience every once in a while but I feel like 4DX and D-Box may take things too far for my liking. Again though, this is coming from someone who has not even had the opportunity to see a movie in this format so maybe it’s okay. I don’t mind going on a theme park ride which has moving seats and effects because that is the expectation I have for those experiences, but in a feature film, this is going to become distracting. I guess if that sounds like your cup of tea, have at it.

Which Premium Format is Best For You?

Everyone’s preference in premium formats in movies is going to be different depending on what type of movie-going experience you are looking for. Usually, if I am going to see a movie in a premium format, I will opt to see a movie in either Dolby Cinema or IMAX because I enjoy those experiences the most. I like that Dolby Cinema offers recliner seats and 4K video quality, but I also like it when a film shown in IMAX is specially formatted for the experience allowing for more information on the screen.

If I have to recommend trying any premium format it would be IMAX and Dolby Cinema, but I would also recommend doing your own research on these formats and the movies being shown in the format to find out which one is right for you. You may want to expand your horizons and try 3D or D-Box/4DX, but just keep in mind that they may be too gimmicky for some viewers. Either way, if you’re at all curious about a format you’ve never tried, I’d say go at least one time to try it. Even if you, at the end of the day, do not enjoy the premium format that has been provided to you, it will be something unique and out of the ordinary. And sometimes something unexpected makes for the best types of adventures.

Written by: Christian Scognamillo
More info on Digital 3D:
http://www.reald.com/#/home
More info on IMAX:
https://www.imax.com/
More info on Dolby Cinema:
https://www.dolby.com/us/en/platforms/dolby-cinema.html?utm_content=buffer2298f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
More info on D-Box:
https://www.d-box.com/en
More info on 4DX:
https://www.cj4dx.com/
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Joker: Is it Really Worth all the Trouble?

Joker is a new comic book movie that recounts the origin of renowned comic book villain Joker. It stars Joaquin Pheonix as the titular character and is directed by Todd Phillips, the director of the Hangover Trilogy.

If you roam social media at all you’ll know that many are almost afraid of this movie. They argue that this will inspire more mass shootings from disgruntled individuals which is something nobody obviously wants to have happened. When I first heard these arguments made though, I shrugged them off and thought we would stop talking about this once the movie actually comes out. I never was one to believe that media will cause violence, and I still hold that stance to this day. But then more users started weighing in on the discussion and they started getting intense about it too. This is something that tends to happen whenever you browse a social media platform, especially Twitter. A person with extreme opinions will usually be rewarded with clout and it makes for an incredibly toxic place to have a public discussion. I for the most part never chose to comment until I actually saw the movie but I still held my argument that media does not and will not cause violence.

The MSM began to almost slander the movie in any way they could in an effort to make film-goers “beware the joker movie”. Article after article was released with varying headlines some of which included a report that the US Military issued a warning for Joker screenings and that NYPD officers would be going undercover attending screenings of the movie to stop anyone who has any tricks up their sleeves. They reported on it so much they were almost subliminally begging for someone to shoot up a screening of Joker just so they could get those “I told ya so” clicks. It felt really uncomfortable to browse and even a little scummy.

The movie finally premiered last Thursday and the 70mm screening I attended at the Grossmont Center was equipped with more security than normal. Before the film started, employees went up to several audience members and asked to inspect their bags on the spot. It was safe to say for theaters, safety was a number one priority, which is great. I just question the media’s rampant reporting of the film in such a way.

An example of a headline warning its viewers about the “dangers” of Joker.
This one came out after the movie was released, likely because people had now seen the movie and they were no longer able to frame this movie as a dangerous one. This is clearly reaching for any amount of outrage to be generated and is extremely meaningless at that (just so we’re clear, statutory rape is bad, but this is not relevant to the movie in question).
The most accurate way to describe the way the MSM is treating Joker at the moment.

Having seen the movie now I can understand why critics do not like this movie. I don’t agree with them at all, but it is understandable. The movie is very critical of modern SOCIETY (as the meme goes) and even the media and the facade of wholesome values they try to display. The film was shocking for me not because I found its message controversial but because I was surprised a major film distributor like Warner Bros. went ahead and released a film with this message. I’m really glad they did though because I think this is a movie that will be talked about for a long time.

This is a bold and daring picture that asks its audience harsh questions about the way we treat others and the effects those actions have on our modern world. It also highlights the dangers of what can happen when one disgruntled person feels as if they’ve been abandoned by society and even what we can do to prevent this from happening. I would say this film promotes mental health care and the coming together of classes more than it does violence.

In order to make a case in point as to why I believe this is not only a phenomenal but important as well, I once again will want to discuss this movie with SPOILERS. If you’re at all curious about this movie, you should definitely rush out and see this movie. It has a brilliant and even at times challenging message that is complimented by gorgeous cinematography, great acting, and extremely tense and uncomfortable moments. It may be challenging to watch for some viewers, but it’s definitely worth your time and attention.

*****SPOILERS*****

Joker is a movie about a man who slowly discovers who he is and how the world truly feels about people like him.

From the first few moments of Joker we’re told that Gotham City is in its worst state yet. The city is run by loads of trash and super rats (Google pictures of them, they’re disgusting), and the working class are struggling to live and survive in such horrible conditions. We are then introduced to Arthur Fleck, a clown for hire, who lives with his mother in a disgusting dilapidated apartment in the middle of the most trash-filled areas of Gotham. We also are told that he regularly attends his therapist sessions in which we find out that he has a mental condition in which he laughs hysterically whenever he gets nervous. The therapist asks to see his journal and she finds the statement, “I just hope my death makes more cents than my life”. This suggests that Arthur possibly suffers from frequent suicidal thoughts as well.

From the first moment Arthur arrives home, we see his mother ask him if they have received a written response to her letter from Thomas Wayne, a very wealthy businessman running for mayor who she once worked as a maid for in their manor. We find she writes to him in hopes that they can get them out of the old apartment and maybe into a newer cleaner place to live. The mother, Penny, insists to Arthur that Mr. Wayne and her have a “very special connection” that she simply cannot explain.

Things start to turn worse for Arthur though after he’s fired from his job as a clown after he accidentally drops a gun a co-worker gave to him for protection during a performance (the opening scene of the film involves Arthur being jumped by a group of street kids). The first moment of “grace” comes for Arthur while on the way home on the subway when a group of wall street boys harasses Arthur which leads him to use the gun he was fired over to shoot and murder them on the spot. He also finds out that Gotham has cut funding for mental health, meaning he will no longer be able to talk to any doctors or receive his medication.

Arthur also finds a new letter that Penny writes to Thomas Wayne that reveals that he possibly is in fact Arthur’s father. Arthur becomes understandably distraught that his mother never told him about this and he takes action into his own hands and visits Mr. Wayne himself. He is sent away by Alfred after he performs magic tricks for a young Bruce Wayne but Arthur is able to eventually track Mr. Wayne down in the bathroom of an old movie theater. This is when Mr. Wayne reveals to Arthur that Penny is actually mentally insane and adopted Arthur.

This leads him down an even deeper rabbit hole as he gains access to Penny’s personal medical files while she was incarcerated at Arkham Asylum. This is when he realizes that his adopted mother abused him as a child as he was tied to a radiator and beaten over the head. To make things worse, after Arthur finally has the courage to go on stage at a comedy club and pursue his dream of stand up comedy, the clip of him bombing on stage is found by famed talk show host “Murray Franklin” who mocks Arthur for his uncontrollable laughter and unfunny jokes. The stage is now set for Arthur as he slowly begins to realize that nobody actually cares about him and that his life has been a lie.

Arthur finding out the way he has been mistreated is ultimately what causes him to snap and seek revenge.

The more information Arthur receives about his life and the world around him, the more he boils and eventually reaches a breaking point. He first seeks revenge on his mother who is in the hospital as a result of a heart attack and suffocates her with a pillow. He then shortly after receives a phone call from a representative for “The Murray Franklin Show” who mentions that Murray wants to invite him to the show. As he’s getting ready for the show, a few former co-workers come by and visit Arthur just to check in on him to see how he was doing during these times. One of these co-workers, the man who gave the gun to Arthur, also framed him as he told their boss he asked him for the gun which was never the case. He gets revenge on this man and stabs him in the eye and throat with a pair of scissors, and the other co-worker, who happens to be a little person, runs away in fear.

In one of my favorite moments of the film, Arthur dismisses the man as he “had always been nice to him” and as he tries to leave, he realizes he can’t reach the lock on the door to open it. This is an incredibly suspenseful scene and one that seems accurate to the persona of the Joker. You never know what he wants to do next or how he’s going to treat his victims right before he ultimately does his worst onto them.

Arthur finally arrives on the set of the show afterward in his clown get up and he admits to everyone on national television that he was the one that in fact murdered the boys on the subway, a moment which this movie earlier explains has started a riot in the city of Gotham. Rioters wear clown masks and cause chaos on the streets as they finally begin to protest the horrible conditions they have been forced to suffer for so long.

Once Arthur admits to every one of his crimes, he challenges the audience’s horror as he says “if it were me being killed you’d walk right over me and no one would bat an eye”. He then shoots Murray Franklin in the face on national television and everyone runs away in horror. The movie ends with rioters lifting the Joker in celebration of everything he’s done for the common man and he is eventually incarcerated (likely at Arkham Asylum as well) where he murders a therapist there who only seeks to help Arthur.

Joker is a film that teaches you to love and respect others rather than incite pain and suffering onto them.

One of my favorite aspects of this movie is its themes about the actions we inflict on each other and the possible consequences of those actions. The truth is in this movie there are no good guys. Obviously Arthur Fleck is not a good person, but neither is Thomas Wayne, Penny Fleck, or even Murray Franklin. They all represent a form of evil that really shapes the chaos that is society in Gotham City. Thomas Wayne and Murray Franklin act as the rich elite who put on their own masks as they pretend to care about the working class below them in an effort to win the sympathy and respect of society. Penny and Arthur Fleck both represent the evil that rises as a result of a society that seemingly abandons those who need help the most.

One of the biggest messages I personally picked up from this movie is no matter who you are or where you stand in the world, always show love and respect to all your brothers and sisters around you. Your actions towards others really could mean more than you possibly realize. The film forces you to consider if looking down upon those less fortunate than ourselves leaves us responsible for the madness and chaos we bring onto others even if we aren’t the ones pulling the trigger. It’s understandable if some may find that idea abhorrent as that is admittedly a very controversial concept to promote.

I loved though that this movie actually had the balls to give this harsh reality check to its audience. It’s especially a different and even harsh take on the ongoing debate of what our government needs to do to prevent more mass shootings from occurring. I truly think we need a movie like this to really highlight what really causes a monster to rise and what we, the average person, can do to prevent it if the government refuses to get involved.

This film is very controversial but I would argue that Director Todd Phillips intentionally designed the movie to be this way.

Without delving too much into modern politics, this film widely ignores and even rebuts talking points that the MSM today chooses to continually regurgitate onto its viewers. The film is mostly anti-rich liberal elite and anti-media. One argument some commentators have pointed out is that the movie possibly argues against cancel culture when Murray Franklin mocks Arthur for his bad jokes on stage.

Although this is possible given that the director Todd Phillips did come out recently criticizing the sensitivity of “woke leftists” (as he puts it) when it comes to humor, I would argue this moment more serves as a way to express that big elite personalities really only care about the common man when they can benefit in viewership and profits. I think this is a bigger blow to obnoxious late-night talk show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert who really only seem to discuss politics and issues in American society as a way to generate more viewership rather than toxic cancel culture that celebrities and random internet users love to promote.

Thomas Wayne too represents every fake politician who claims to serve the public but instead only really cares about themselves. Some may argue this is a blow to Donald Trump, and while that is the easy go-to person to compare Thomas Wayne to, I think it more accurately reflects the fake nature of any politician and even the MSM. The media similarly seems to only care about issues, just like late-night talk show hosts, to generate clicks and traffic onto their outlets.

The people of Gotham City are suffering from trash and rat infestation and all anyone can think about is how three white wall street boys were murdered on the subway. This hit home for me too because as someone who is from Los Angeles, I see the growing amount of trash on the streets due to homelessness and even the growing number of rats in the city. I just wished politicians did more to help these people and that the media reported on these issues more.

Los Angeles is a complete disaster at the moment and nobody really seems to be doing anything about it. In that way, I think Gotham City is very similar to Los Angeles and Phillips perhaps even developed this metaphor intentionally to criticize the current state of the city. This film is very timely and relevant to today’s world but it never feels like it’s pandering to you. You feel like a smarter person after you’ve watched it and truthfully it will get you to think about its themes long after you finished viewing the film. I’m still thinking about it now and I saw the movie a week ago. It will be interesting to see if this film holds up with time but I’m really happy that this movie has been an eye-opener for some.

Only time will tell if this movie holds up but as of now, I believe this movie is, in fact, a masterpiece.

I recently saw Ad Astra and thought that was my favorite movie of the year due to its visuals and complex characters, but this instead takes the cake for me. I will go so far as to say I believe at the moment that Joker is one of the best movies not only of the year, but the decade as well. I haven’t even mentioned yet that Joaquin Phoenix gave a phenomenal performance! He really understood the nature of Arthur Fleck’s character and embodies him so well. I forgot I was watching Joaquin Pheonix on the screen and believed I was seeing a character who is truly going mad. This film is powerful, intense, beautifully shot and at times challenging to watch. I think the fact that it is controversial and so divisive among critics is what makes this movie more special for me. I think movies that are masterpieces are going to be ones that really challenge the viewer to think in new ways while being presented in a beautiful and interesting way.

What may stop this movie from being a masterpiece in the future is that although this movie looks gorgeous as the colors are vibrant and vivid and the production design is lively and intricate, the film is admittedly somewhat basic when it comes to the cinematography. There were never any intricate or complex shots that I found myself really admiring, it mostly relies on its colors and the actors surrounding the environment to give it beauty. At that point, though this is me really reaching to find a flaw with it, but I still think this movie is wonderful. If you’ve made it to this point and still have not seen the movie yet, well what are you waiting for? Rush out and see this movie as soon as you can if you find yourself intrigued even in the slightest.

Also for all San Diegans and SDSU students, I want to personally recommend that you see this film at the Reading Cinemas at the Grossmont Center as I did in 70mm film. It’s only $10 for a ticket and there’s so much beauty to each and every one of these shots when presented on film that you simply are not going to get out of a digital showing. This blog is NOT sponsored by the cinema, it merely is a recommendation for film buffs in San Diego.

I know I said the word “society” a lot in this blog post, and I know it’s become such a meme to say “we live in a society” at this point I would feel embarrassed not to acknowledge it. So here you go, enjoy this meme:
Written by Christian Scognamillo
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Ad Astra: A Beautiful, Slow, and Strange Masterpiece

An intergalactic film that explores themes of the imminent future and the search for truth, Ad Astra is an engaging and visually spectacular movie standout.

Ad Astra is one of the most fascinating movies I’ve seen in a while. Directed by James Gray of The Lost City of Z, it’s a film I can safely say is one of my favorite movies of the year. It’s been getting a lot of mixed reviews though as critics and audiences seem to either love or hate this movie. It’s purposely methodical and slow which is bound to frustrate the average moviegoer, but also beautifully shot and extremely complex in its themes despite a simple narrative.

I have seen the movie twice now and both times were very different experiences for me. I was shocked the first time I saw it by its amazing cinematography and visual effects, but more invested in its narrative the second time. This is a very lonely and even at times depressing movie as Roy McBride, played by Brad Pitt, searches for his father who is likely up to no good billions of miles away. This is a film that I feel deserves to be discussed in detail. In order to do so, I will need to discuss SPOILERS for the film for the rest of this article. My recommendation to you all is if you’re at least curious about it, try to see it once in the theater and give it a chance, but if you don’t like these types of slow space odyssey like films and were never interested in this film to begin with, you may not find much to win you over. With that being said, let’s discuss this movie in detail from the visual aspects to its themes and ideas.

Check out the trailer released by IMAX here:

One of its strongest themes is the effect space travel can have on a human being and how this can damage someone psychologically. *****SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE REST OF THE ARTICLE*****

The film starts off in the near future where mankind now has the resources to be able to dedicate more time to discovering space. Some countries, particularly the United States, now have stations set up on the moon and in Mars where research is conducted and where space travel commences. It is revealed that Clifford McBride, played by Tommy Lee Jones, began a mission known as the Lima Project many years ago in an effort to discover intelligent alien life to hopefully help humans in the continued discovery of our universe. That mission had since seemingly ended but power surges are now being emitted from the capsule which is destroying bases in space and killing innocent civilians both on Earth and in space. One of these power surges directly affects Roy, Clifford’s son, who, while repairing a satellite in the sky, experiences one of these power surges which propels him off the structure towards Earth. He then is ordered on a mission to Mars to attempt to make communication with his father to see if they can grab his attention so they can track his location and hopefully figure out a way stop these surges.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie is this film’s depiction of the future and the society that surrounds it. As Roy departs for his journey, he must first travel to the moon to reach the base and meet his team that will take him to Mars. They order Roy to travel “commercially”, which this film introduces as a concept, in order to keep a low profile. We also find once Roy has gotten to the moon that there seems to be a little society which has formed there as there is now an airport with restaurant locations like Applebee’s, Yoshinoya, and Subway. This film’s depiction of the future and settlement of intergalactic territories almost reminded me of Rick and Morty in its realism and attention to detail. It was interesting too to find that nations are still fighting over territory on the moon as a Virgin Atlantic PSA warns its passengers to stay in safe spaces as they could be caught in the middle of a war zone if they go outside the safe lines. I can’t help but wonder how many years it will be until humanity has colonized the moon and it becomes widely accepted for passengers to travel to the moon commercially.

One criticism many people had with this movie is that some scenes felt “pointless.”

A scene involving Roy traveling through a war zone in order to get to the military base and a scene in which Roy’s crew responds to a mayday call on the way to Mars some critics determined were exciting but ultimately pointless to the main story. I would argue that these scenes are important as they either develop the environment or the characters in question. The rover scene provides proof to the audience that the moon is essentially a huge war zone. The mayday call scene, however, involves Roy’s crew finding an abandoned craft in which a couple of space primates have broken loose and killed everyone on board. Roy and his crew are able to destroy the chimps but it still seems to have a negative effect on Roy. It is mentioned earlier in the film that Roy’s pulse is never above 80 bpm which means that his anxiety levels remain consistently low. He is forced to take seemingly daily psychological evaluations in order to ensure that it is safe for him to continue on the mission and it is events like this that test him as a competent astronaut. Some have criticized Roy’s character to be dull because Brad Pitt is forced to give an emotionless and calm performance, but it did not bother me as I acknowledge that Roy’s emotionless expressions make up his character. Other actors would have tried to go big in their performance, but Pitt always keeps his performance laid back and subdued which I think is extremely fitting for a character who is forced to remain calm in order to go deeper into space.

One of the most marketed scenes in the trailers that critics found exciting but pointless. See the clip here:

Once Roy gets to Mars he finds that his father is still in his capsule in Neptune, likely still searching for intelligent life. The people in charge of the base at Mars, Space Command, refuse to let Roy travel on the mission to Neptune. It isn’t until later when we find out that the reason is that Roy’s father actually murdered his crew after they hesitated to go beyond the solar system to keep finding alien life. Since it would ruin the reputation of Space Command given that they’ve been able to spread the narrative that his father was a hero for so long, they refuse to let him continue on this journey to find his father. He is able to stow away on the rocket to Mars, but he is forced to kill everyone on board as they try to attack him once he gets on. He must now travel from Mars to Neptune all by himself, a journey which theoretically would take him over 10 years. This is one of the issues I do have with the movie. Although we feel the effects time has on the character psychologically, it never really is shown physically. Roy’s hair never turns grey, his skin doesn’t begin to wrinkle, he looks as if he was the same age by the time he gets to Neptune and by the time he gets home (which again could span over 20 years).

Once Roy reaches Neptune he finds his father still alive as well as the malfunctioning antimatter causing the surges throughout the solar system. Clifford refuses to go home with his son and at this moment admits that he never cared about him or his well being and only really cares to successfully complete his mission. Even though Roy is able to get his father to leave the capsule with him so he can blow it up, Clifford refuses to go home with Roy and forces him to let go. Roy, likely acknowledging the hurt Clifford has caused him, unhooks him from the tether they both are connected to, ultimately killing his own father in the process. The audience at this point now knows that this is the most challenging moment Roy has ever faced as he’s forced to confront the harsh reality that his father is not who he thought he was and further act upon this realization. And even through this, Roy still doesn’t lose his temper or have a mental breakdown as an average audience member may expect him to. I originally did not like the ending of this movie as I thought it was a somewhat disappointing conclusion to a largely built-up story, but upon second viewing I found I liked the ending given that Roy was able to finally gain closure in his life and accept his father for who he truly is.

Ad Astra is the type of movie any serious lover of film needs to see at least once

Ad Astra is a movie I love to death and I think any fan of movies should check out as soon as they can. This is not your average movie-going experience and is definitely not something you watch on a date maybe for fun. James Gray has created a deep, complex, and lonely tale of a man who must accept the reality his father is not the man he thought he was through an interstellar journey. Many people are also going to call this a rip off of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I too noticed the similarity between the two movies. But what kept this movie consistently engaging for me though was the main character and the journey he took. Gray’s direction and the cinematography as done excellently by Hoyte Van Hoytema is just icing on the cake to this intergalactic masterpiece. See this on the biggest screen you can, and I hope you all enjoy!

Written by: Christian Scognamillo

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