Movie Butts

Why does almost every movie have to have a scene, or more, of characters smoking? At one point I used a cigarette rating at the end of every review, to comment on how extensive or unnecessary the smoking was – e.g., obviously a film taking place in the 1930s had more reason to show smoking than a movie taking place today – but that became tiresome and distracted,  I admit, from more important critical judgments.  I have decided, therefore, to set up this separate post as a resting place for my comments about smoking in films, as I see them.

Long Shot. Set in modern-day Washington, apparently, there is no reason to have a character smoke; yet Secretary of State Charlize Theron spots a pack of Gauloises in the Situation Room and bums a fag from one of the Chiefs of Staff to smoke while negotiating a hostage release on the phone with a Middle East leader. Would a Federal building, let alone the War Room of the Chiefs of Staff (or whatever it was), not be a No-Smoking area?

Long Shot – 8

Charlize Theron is a 10, Seth Rogen a 6, the funny-smart dialogue an 8, hence the final average. The movie manipulates in all the time-worn rom-com ways, which meant my cheeks were wet for the final 15 minutes. This was pure escapist entertainment, with topical jabs at Trump, Murdoch, Fox News and politics in general, to compensate for the gross-out element that comes with Rogen. (As the New Yorker put it, “a film for adolescents of all ages.”) I’m not sure that making Theron’s love interest be so clueless, untalented and unattractive was necessary for the film to work, but it was a small price to pay for the privilege of watching her for two hours.

Amazing Grace – 5

An unfinished documentary from 1972 about the making of Aretha Franklin’s gospel record, Amazing Grace. The songs weren’t much, at least to my taste, and Aretha’s performance was so charisma-free, you kept wanting the camera to look at someone else, maybe choir leader Alexander Hamilton. The commentary was similarly lackluster. For me, the only positive was seeing the all-black congregation for Day One, with women dressed in their best, and thinking about that community at that time in history in L.A.

Mustang – 5

Wonderful acting – by the horses. The opening scene of wild mustangs being herded by helicopter over a Nevada plain is the movie’s high point. The main story – horse tamed by man, while man is tamed by horse – is predictable to the point of cliche, although it may not have seemed so to the Belgian/French filmmakers. The two subplots – drug dealing among the convicts and the family relations of the hero – are too confusing to gain traction. Matthias Schoenaerts is the same bullheaded tough he played in Rust and Bone and Bullhead, but is less convincing when he moves out of character.

Brink – 4

A narrow-scope documentary, showing Steve Bannon at work and at rest, not much else. He can be charming, which is interesting to see, but the film offers little insight into his thinking or relationships (if he has any). The camera is always there when he meets foreign leaders, but pulls away before anything really happens. In trying hard not to editorialize, director Alison Klayman gives us little more than this week’s TIME cover story.

Us – 6

Welcome to Jordan Peele’s gun-free America, where peopled are murdered by shears, baseball bats, putters, fireplace pokers and rock crystals, as far as we could see. Nothing in the movie made sense, up to and including the final plot twists, but I suspect that is not required of a horror flick, so long as it keeps you on the edge of your seat – which Us did, unless like my viewing partner you quickly dismissed the whole thing –  which is why I give it a positive score. I also suspect that the buzz it is getting is due to the cast’s being African-American and Peele’s previous film, Get Out, having long legs.

Alphabetical List of 2018 Movies

At Eternity’s Gate
Bad Reputation
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
Death of Stalin
8th Grade
Fahrenheit 11/9
The Favourite
First Reformed
Free Solo
The Front Runner
Game Night
Green Book
The Happy Prince
If Beale Street Could Talk
Juliet, Naked
The King
Leaning Into the Wind
Leave No Trace
Let the Sunshine In
Maria by Callas
Madeline’s Madeline
Nico, 1988
Ocean’s 3/8
A Private War
A Quiet Place
The Rider
The Sisters Brothers
A Star Is Born
Support the Girls
Three Identical Strangers
Vox Pop
The Wife
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?