Uncut Gems and My Inability to Write

(SPOILER WARNING FOR UNCUT GEMS)

            “That was a terrible movie.” Someone said behind me when the end credits rolled. Then, when the mob of moviegoers walked out of Uncut Gems and into the halls of the Regal Cinema, I heard a voice from in front of me say “It wasn’t bad but, that ending, I don’t know.” Which I understand; but in a movie about deadly cycles of self-sabotage the consequences of a character’s actions can be, well, deadly. One time, I had a conversation with my friend about the film White Boy Rick (2018).

 When she asked me if I was excited to see it, I responded by saying

“I am and I’m not. Crime movies rarely end well for the protagonist of those movies.”

She laughed and said “Well the protagonist are criminals so it those endings makes sense. And also, just because they’re the main characters that doesn’t mean they’re the good guy.”

It seems like something I should’ve been able to figure out myself, but I have to be honest an say that the thought never crossed my mind. And because of that, like my fellow moviegoer(s) on Christmas, I hated the movies that ended on sour notes or anything short of a wedding and some good old fashioned deus ex machina intervention. Growing up, my mom would always plead with us that when we picked movies, she wanted to watch only the ones with happy endings because the sad ones estaban muy feas and for the longest time, I felt the same way. It’s the reason I first thought of the Bitter Lemons sections of some of my film reflections here on Broadstew.com.

            But Anyways, why does any of this matter and why is this at all relevant to my writing rate of one blogpost every 6 months? Because Howard, the protagonist of Uncut Gems, although completely different to me, is also very much like me in some way. In the movie Howard constantly falls back into a self-sabotaging cycle of fixing everything, only to go back and mess everything up even worse than it was before. Like a lot of people, Howard is incapable of seeing the real dangers of not being able to break his cycle because he always seems to weasel himself out of things. Eventually though, the well runs dry, just like it can for anybody else who finds themselves stuck in patterns of self-destructive behavior. And when you think about this, it’s the reason why Uncut Gems ended the way it did. Howard is a symbol for a destructive cycle that is never broken or is broken too late when damage has already been dealt and is irreversible.

            And back to me, although my cycle won’t end as harshly as Howard’s, there are parallels to how I constantly find myself in a hole of writer’s block as I struggle to break through my self-destructive habits. Usually I’ll feel inspired and sporadically write out a couple hundred words only to fall back into hours of binge watching youtube videos or gaming and my writing sits on the backburner. In Uncut Gems, Howard owes A LOT of people money, but in my life, I owe myself all the time I’m stealing from myself and my creative work. Again, I am not Howard and my situation is not one of life and death, but watching Uncut Gems did make me think about what the tragedy in my story is if I continue to put off and neglect my dreams. What happens when my end credits roll and it’s too late to turn back? I don’t intend on finding out.

            Back to Uncut Gems, I don’t think anyone that hasn’t watched and plans to is still here but if you are or if you’re someone who didn’t plan to watch I will say this:

Go watch. The cast is incredible with Adam Sandler doing what I think is the best work he has ever done. I will say though, the movie is long, just about over two hours and for those two hours you will be stressed and will feel emotionally attacked and battered (in the best way possible, if that’s a thing). In short, the movie is fantastic but, es una pelicula muy fea.

Midsommar: A Glass Half Full Reflection

This film was directed by Ari Aster, director of Hereditary, another film that was reflected on here on Broadstew. That link —à https://broadstew.com/2019/01/24/hereditary-a-glass-half-full-review/

In the case of Midsommar, the glass is not half full but overflowing.

To break the film down seems an impossible task. Since leaving the theatre, the film is the only thing I’ve thought about but even as I write this, I’m still struggling to grasp everything that was thrown at me in the 140-minute runtime. The plot revolves around Dani, who, while grieving after a traumatic loss, agrees to accompany her boyfriend Cristian and his friends on a trip to a small village in Sweden. Among the group are Josh, Mark, Pelle, Connie and Simon. Josh is writing his thesis on the village people. Mark is treating the trip as a fun getaway and Pelle is a native of not only Sweden but the actual commune itself. Connie and Simon are introduced later as friends of Pelle’s brother from England. As happens in horror, chaos ensues and ends in tragedy once the outsiders settle into the village and learn more about their beliefs and practices.  

After the film ends however, questions linger about who was right and who was wrong because most of the tragedy in the film comes from a lack of open-mindedness from the outsiders.

At one point, Pelle, Christian’s friend who is a native of the Swedish village says something to Dani about the West and their possessive ideals that amount to a mentality of “What is yours and what is mine” which comes into play with most of the outsider/commune interactions. This is the driving force for everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) to Dani and the rest of the group of visitors. The reality of this story though, is that the protagonists are primarily the assholes in this story. Their own ideologies influence how they behave and react to the commune’s ceremonies and traditions and they feel wronged when those practices don’t mesh with their western ideals. Among the group of outsiders there are those that label the commune immoral, one that tries to steal their culture from them, and one that blatantly disrespects it without regard to its sacredness. But that’s just talking about the theme of outsider/insider culture conflict in the movie. There is still the topic of grief to unpack, and this centers mostly around Dani and how as a character she explores throughout the film; Because the loss that Dani experiences at the beginning of the movie is the harshest of them all.

And that’s the way it’s supposed to feel. Because the harshness of her loss immediately puts the viewer in her corner. You feel her pain throughout the entire movie and as she grows and explores her grief so do we. It’s an incredible journey that Writer/Director takes us on because like the women of the commune who groan in pain with Dani, so do we. We share the darkness Dani feels even in the ever-present sunlight of the summer solstice. There is great symbolism in the horrors of the film taking place primarily in the light of day as they mirror the reality of internalized grief and how it can pull a person apart even on the best of days. Midsommar is a powerful and profound commentary on loss and the darkness it cages people in but also posits a mythology where death doesn’t have to be so grim and can even be enlightening. But what does that mean for the Bitterlemons part of the reflection?

Bitterlemons: How sad is Midsommar?

Midsommar, more than it is sad, is very heavy emotionally. The themes of the movie will hit you like a sack of bricks, but they won’t necessarily make you sad as much as they’ll make you think. Because this is a horror movie, it goes without saying that things go very badly for certain people in the movie except for that as stated before, it’s kind of hard to root for some of the characters so it’s not really sad when something happens to them (Except for Dani). Dani’s experience at the beginning of the fil proves to be the saddest but as we grow with her that grief is left behind. Because of that I would say that this movie isn’t very sad at all but again, does cover some pretty heavy topics. I give it a 2 out of 8 on the pain chart.

Conclusion

            Midsommar is an amazing film that will linger in your thoughts long after you watch. As far as provoking thought and standing for something bigger than itself it stands head and shoulders above any other horror movie I have and will probably watch all year. That being said, if what you’re after is a more traditional jump scare kill fest, this is not the movie for you so take what I’ve said in this reflection with a grain of salt. I will say though that up until this point, this is the best movie I have seen all year.

Hereditary: A Glass Half Full Review

                [Clicks Tongue]

Hereditary is an absolute gut-wrenching piece of film that masterfully utilizes its moments of terror and lets you sit with them instead of trying to hit you with a barrage of shock after shock. That’s not to say it’s an easy watch though, because when Hereditary punches, it punches hard and forces you to marinate in the terror it’s putting you through. It’s a grueling experience but one that brilliantly showcases a branch of slow burn horror that has been thriving in recent years. And even though it is tough to watch, as I write this, I can honestly say I’m itching to sit through it again.

While Hereditary does hinge itself to supernatural elements it does incredible work in its first half to center its horror around very real nightmares. It’s a movie that deals with grief and mental illness and the quiet chaos it can cause inside of a home. Even in its quiet moments, incredible performances by the entire cast make it easy to feel the tension the characters feel without a word of dialogue being exchanged.

And when there is dialogue, it feels as if it has been carefully thought out and every other line is like bait trying to lure the viewer into making assumption of where the film is going to go. This leads to feelings of paranoia as you start to wonder and guess how everything is going to crash and burn in the household.

It’s not like, perfect or whatever.

[Clicks Tongue]



What’s the Beef? 

Here’s my piece. If you like jump scares, don’t watch this. If what you like in a movie is a scary monster, then I don’t think you’re going to like this. Also, this movie starts off straddling the line between horror and something like a very grim drama. It’s not going to be for everybody, and some of the subject matter might be too intense for some. This isn’t your momma’s formula-based horror movie and that might turn some people off so just you know, keep that in mind. And also, for something that starts off very based in reality it kind of veers off of that track in its final act.

You know what the biggest problem is?

What?

Bitter Lemons 

It made me so anxious! It shocked me and left me thinking about death and the idea that one day I might fall off a tree and splatter all over the ground. The worst part about it is that once you finish Hereditary you don’t really finish Hereditary because it kind of just follows you for the rest of the day.

But, is it sad?

I think you know pretty early on that terrible things are going to happen because like stated before, there’s an always present feeling of dream and impending doom. It’s still shocking though.

But no pain chart this week?

No, but if I could sum it up, I would put this on the chart for the sake of this movie alone.

And that’s my two cents.

Closing Thoughts 

Hereditary is unlike other horror movies you’re likely to see and it really should’ve gotten more attention that it did (looking at you Academy Awards). It’s visceral and while the third act shift might turn some viewers off, it also does good work to turn the movie on its head in a way that makes it unpredictable but not overly bonkers (now looking at you M. Night Shyamalan). In my book it is a must watch for horror fans or any big movie buffs. This glass is a lot more than half-full.

[Clicks Tongue]

Summer of 84: A Glass Half Full review

Summer of 84 (2018): A Glass Half Full Review             

 

   Summer of 84 is a movie that centers around a group of rapscallions led by a boy named Davey, who thinks that aliens are real (they are), the government is in on everything (they are) and that demons may at one point haunted his home (Seriously? Grow up, kid). But down to the nitty gritty, there are some things from the movie worth mentioning. 2/5 likeable protagonist (so close) leads to a real…cast half full experience. See what I did there? No? Well anyways, Dale, a member of the posse I think adds the most to the movie and proves to be the most empathetic character and the choice to highlight his backstory a little more over the other members of the group really pays off. Another highlight of the film is a bold shift in direction in the third act that will likely leave a viewer watching shocked and slightly uncomfortable.

cowmed

Whats the Beef?

This shift however, may also be a point of disconnect for some viewers because it really turns the movie on its head in terms of what this movie is supposed to be or is even supposed to be for? At the beginning of the film there’s talk about porn which maybe isn’t best for younger audiences but for a huge chunk in the middle the film becomes very tame and a little vanilla only to have a big shift back to adult content in the third act. It’s a real bizarre balancing act that isn’t balanced at all. Along with that there is also something to say about the main group of boys shooting the shit with each other for most of the movie but never really explaining why they’re even friends in the first place because aside from Dale and Davey, the other 2 boys are like jigsaw pieces forced into a puzzle. A puzzle of friendship. Stop that. No! It’s my turn.

Bitter Lemons

How sad was this movie?

Not Very sad. I felt bad for Dale though. He was really the only person I ever really felt bad for. His friends treated him like crap, his backstory was tough to swallow, and the (Spoiler) was even harder to swallow.

 What about Davey?

What about him? He should be the poster boy of glass half full because of how average he is.

That’s pretty harsh coming from you Chryanne. So then with the emotional weight of Dale in mind, how sad was this movie? Let’s look at the pain chart.

I give it a 3 because of (Spoiler). But besides that, there’s no real reason to be too sad. Maybe Dale should’ve been the main character.

Closing Thoughts

                Summer of 84 has me performing a balancing act of my own. I’m not sure how I feel about it and it really comes down to that final act. And even though it might be to big a shift in tone (Maybe too big), it could prove to some viewers to be what salvages the movie. Story wise it’s predictable but the way the final reveal is executed might be hit or miss.

Bird Box: A Glass Half Full Review

Bittermin! Bittermin! Bittermin!

                What? Why are you yelling? And why do you have a blindfold on?

lemon blindfold3

Because we’re talking about the 2018 Netflix Original Birdbox!

                You mean the one starring Sandra Bullock of Miss Congeniality fame?

That’s the one! I love that movie, a one on the pain scale.

                But what about Bird Box?

I’m getting there. I guess I’ll start by saying it isn’t a one, but it also isn’t the tearjerker I think people might have made it out to be.

Yeah, I agree, while it does flex some likeable characters, some characters are a little stale and others have their likeability drained by some real stupid decisions. At times this movie and the decisions of the characters make sense because of the heavy focus on paranoia and distrust in the films plot but other times decisions are bad enough to make a viewer think “Well, that doesn’t really make sense logically at all”.

I don’t know, I think that the screenwriter (Eric Heisserer) did a good job of balancing characters out and making them be in a sort of grey area of right and wrong. Their motivations seemed logical for the most part if not all the time. They were put in tough situations and just had to roll the dice.

                You know, you’re right. I think that my main gripe really is with the way one specific event in the film took place.

There is a scene in the movie where all I felt was frustration brought upon by confusion that really had me focused on why something was happening instead of focusing on how worried I was about the characters.

                Exactly. You know exactly what I’m talking about and I think that the weight of that scene could’ve really had a bigger impacted if it were just a little more logically sound.

Because there were moments in the film like this one where tragedy had a feeling of being unpreventable and in this one pivotal scene that didn’t really come across. I just couldn’t help but feel like it was completely unavoidable and the set-up for it was borderline non-sensical.

                So, is it even sad with that in mind?

Yes! This isn’t t take away from the tragedy in parts of the film. Like I said, there are moments in this film that have you on the edge of your seat and feeling anxious and concerned for the safety of the characters. There are characters in this movie that you do no want to die but because there is a big destructive force on the loose it really isn’t a spoiler to say some of them do not make it.

                Hmm, looking at the pain chart, what would you rank it specifically?

I can’t see the chart.

                Take the blindfold off!

Fine! I give Bird Box…a 5. I think that some moments pull at the heart strings, but I’d save the Kleenex for a runny nose.

lemons5

Seoul Station

To begin, there must be a disclaimer. This is, at the time of writing, the first Bitter Lemons review to go up on Broadstew. These articles are intended primarily to inform a viewer/reader how sad the movie they are about to watch or plan to watch will be. This is a zombie movie. And I really am not sure what zombie movies you are watching if you go into zombie films with anything but a feeling of cynicism and pessimism weighing heavily on your soul.

I agree with you and I’ll take it from here Bitter Lemon. After all, it’s my face on the pain chart. But yes, zombie movies are like military movies in that the only way everybody makes it out alive is a through a “it was all a dream” segment.

Which to be honest, is worse than having everyone die.

That’s debatable, but let’s get to the movie.

Seoul Station is a 2016 South Korean animated film written and directed by Yeon Sang-ho. It is a pre-quel to the film Train to Busan, which releases a year earlier and is also written by Yeon Sang-ho. But more on Train to Busan in another article.

Anyways, Seoul Station is one of those movies that grabs you by the seed’s twists slowly but with enough pressure to make sure that you’re in agony. It does a good job of establishing pre-zombie outbreak that every character’s life is terrible, and so from the get-go, you’re not going to have anything that resembles a smile on your face.

I agree, and like you said, as the movie progresses, Yeon Sang-ho does an incredible job of keeping a consistent tone and bleakness to the film.  I think it’s effective and it also works well to create a feeling of sympathy for the characters.

That’s right! I found myself really rooting for the characters and when in their moments of turmoil, I really felt well, sad. And that made what happened to and undisclosed amount of them at the end of the film hard to swallow [how’s that for spoiler free?]

I will say though, that sometimes-giving characters those moments of happiness can work to make the final result more gut-wrenching if it doesn’t pan out the way you hope it will as you watch the movie.

Also, if everything is already wrong in their lives, it kind of makes you think about how much worse off they are being zombies you know?

I get that. So, likeable characters, shitty circumstances, a bleak tone and very limited moments of happiness throughout, so much so that you almost find it hard to believe there will be a light at the end of the tunnel; how much pain do you feel after having watched this film? Show me on the pain chart.

With all of that in mind, I give this movie a 5 on the pain chart and think that most people can watch without a box of Kleenex handy.

Train to Busan: Glass Half Full Review

Train to Busan (2016) is a South Korean zombie film from director Yeon Sang-Ho. As stated in an earlier Bitter Lemons review (See Seoul Station), there is always a very present possibility of disaster when it comes to zombie films.

They’re all going to die aren’t they!?

                Relax! But yes, they are characters in a zombie film, so it isn’t looking very good from the get-go.

Well then, maybe knowing what to expect will make this a little easier to swallow if anything goes sideways…Is what I said before watching this but boy was I WRONG.

                Yeah, if you’re setting yourself up to be let down on but only expecting the run of the mill zombie film you are in for quite a gut-wrenching surprise with Train to Busan. The film is really carried by incredible performances all around.

Everyone in this movie (except for the one person that manages to worse than the zombies) is so likeable that almost every character that was introduced was one I was rooting for! And even though starting the movie I was almost duped into thinking that the main character Seok-woo is someone I shouldn’t like because he isn’t too great of a dad. But then, through the actor’s performance I am left without a hesitation that what he wants is to protect his daughter whom he loves very much.

That’s right, and it’s not just him that has motivations in the same vein. There is a theme of family and self-sacrifice for loved ones throughout the entire film. So much so that every inevitable death in the film has a powerful meaning behind it that either progresses the story or completes a character arc and reveals a character’s inner truth.

Meaningful is a good word to use. Another one I’d choose is impactful because every time one of those moments would come, I’d feel like I was just punched in the gut.  Especially because another theme I saw was redemption.  Sang-hwa throughout the movie was putting himself in positions to do anything to save his pregnant wife and then later would also do his best to save any of the group of survivors he was with. Later he almost passes that torch over to Seok-woo who even if a little reluctant, carries it all the way through to the film’s heartbreaking but beautiful ending. And now I think I’m going to go cry in a dark room.

                Careful with spoilers! But yeah, you’re right. Train to Busan is an amazing film that focuses on its characters and although the zombies are always present, it never feels like they are the focal point of the film which at times can hurt a film. Because of this, it sets up a very tough to swallow cocktail of very loveable characters in a genre where 99.9% percent of characters are doomed from the second the opening credits starts to roll.

I hate zombie movies.

Really?

Yeah, but I love Train to Busan. But I also hate it.

                Well, how about you tell me how much it hurts on the pain chart.

It’s a 7! Keep a pair of sunglasses handy if you want to keep it cool around your friends and not let them know you’re tearing up.