Like Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
11Mar/190

Leaving Neverland (2019) and After Neverland (2019)

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Leaving Neverland, directed by Dan Reed, details how Michael Jackson groomed Wade Robson and James Safechuck for years of sexual abuse by his hands.

The deepest cut from Leaving Neverland comes from an expected medium but not the obvious source - the music by Chad Hobson. Michael Jackson's tunes play incidentally, part of the footage, commercials, and old behind-the-scenes bits that provide context to Dan Reed's film. But as Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck detail the years of sexual grooming and abuse Michael inflicted on them, Hobson's score joins with a helicopter shot over Jackson's Neverland Ranch in a tune eerily reminiscent of Disney's iconic theme before dropping into darker tones. The allure is right there, the initial pull, and if you don't watch or listen closely enough you'll be mired in darkness before you understand how you got there.

Reed's direction of Leaving Neverland doesn't have that problem. If anything, we've been flooded with information about Jackson's grooming process for decades and chosen not to care about it. I write choose because, even before Leaving Neverland, Jackson's grooming of future sexual abuse victims hasn't even been an open secret. It's been something we've decided to laugh about, making horrible jokes to keep the abuse at a comfortable distance while we jam out to whichever Jackson album we decided made the abuse okay. Reed's job with Leaving Neverland then isn't to put everything that we know into total context, examining the system that allowed Jackson to get away with this from top-to-bottom, and instead to provide as clear an image as possible for the two victims ready to tell their full stories.

4Mar/190

Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)

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How the hell did we end up with Trump? Michael Moore's latest documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, tries to make sense of the conditions that allowed for his rise and neutered those looking to resist.

Michael Moore just had to start Fahrenheit 11/9 with that goddamn song. "Fight Song". The song performed by a cavalcade of celebrities for the 2016 Democratic National Convention in a spectacle that gave me severe pause that the Democrats had my interests in mind. That was when the idea of Donald Trump as President seemed a terrifying but distant possibility. Then the months rolled by, Hillary Clinton lost, and Trump began carrying out (at my time of writing) 2+ years of absurd and abhorrent policy.

If you want Fahrenheit 11/9 to make sense of these last two years, or function as a no-holds-barred assault on Trump, then you need to watch a different film. There's plenty of effective Trump bashing but Moore has something more affectively difficult in mind. Fahrenheit 11/9 is a snapshot of our mental and emotional condition reinforced by facts both about the Trump candidacy then Presidency along with the Democratic failures that led to his ascension. Those who have spent the last few years cogent and improving need not apply, this is a film for those who need to know someone with some power empathizes with pain.

Whether Moore is the appropriate ambassador for this communication is sometimes in question during Fahrenheit 11/9. In front of the camera, he's often the same uneven and impish provocateur as ever. An ineffective moment has him filming himself spraying water from Flint, Michigan (at least that's what's written on the tank) over then-Governor Rick Snyder's lawn. It plays too silly and considering Moore's criticism over wasting resources I couldn't help but think that someone of his means should at least have been able to decontaminate that water to provide for his fellow Flint townspeople. But that same impish quality fuels his fearlessness as he attempts a citizen's arrest of Snyder while filming a stammering aide to the office offer limp explanations to why Flint's crisis is well on its way to ending (as of my writing, again, it hasn't).

25Feb/190

Sorry to Bother You (2018)

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Cash needs cash. He's stuck in his uncle's garage, tired of not being able to get privacy with his girlfriend, and takes a job at a call center to make some sales. When he turns out to be better at this than even he thought he finds himself at the center of a growing union struggle and the company that seeks to exploit him. Boots Riley writes the screenplay for and directs Sorry to Bother You, which stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, and Armie Hammer.

Sorry to Bother You's reputation preceded my eventual viewing. I read about how it's an unashamedly leftist stab at capitalism, hollow art, being beaten down by the increased exploitation of those without means, and call centers. While I'm passionate about all those subjects it's the call center bit that grabbed me. I worked at an insurance center for five years and one of the first things I experienced on the floor was a boyfriend calling in to find out if his girlfriend's policy would cover the damage he caused in a rage after killing her cat.

When Sorry to Bother You works, it's because writer/director Boots Riley understands how we end up in situations of ethical and emotional extremes that makes dealing with cat murderers the only option. He spares no one above the minimum wage, creating grotesque caricatures of ruthless management and floors of perpetual depression bathed in blue while each worker struggles to make the light of a sale shine for once. His is a world of shit jobs ruled over by shit humans while shit conditions consistently fail to improve because everyone's mired in shit.

11Feb/190

Roma (2018)

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As the tumult builds in Mexico City, Cleo works to keep her employers happy and needs fulfilled. Alfonso Cuarón wrote the screenplay for and directs Roma, which stars Yalitza Aparicio.

Over the course of two hours and some change, Roma drip-feeds us a steady intake of gorgeous poison. The patient cinematography, courtesy of director Alfonso Cuarón, pans repeatedly with an impassive eye as Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) navigates rooms with sturdy beams keeping each dweller in their own universe. She's little more than a pet to the family that employs her as each resident has motivations as separate and sturdy as the pillars that keep the home up. Across the rooftop there's another servant doing the same, and the camera pans more to reveal another, and another, and another. All trapped in the same cycle of servitude and pain.

This reads cynical but Cuarón's carer is peppered with cynicism. Roma, for all its beauty, takes place in a world no less apocalyptic than the one Cuarón created in Children of Men. There, at least, was a film that suffocated us in despair until a single cry from one baby is enough to stop a war that's been boiling under the surface. With Roma a baby is just another baby, not worth stopping the world over, and the machinations of privilege that keep Cleo from living a safe and happy life continue on after the credits have dropped. Here is reality with no savior within sight.

29Nov/180

Legendary Gary (2018)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

I love that first glimpse of the titular Gary on the title screen of Legendary Gary. Gary's eyes peek out over the start bar with intelligence, a bit of bemusement, and surprise. "A game about me?", I can hear him asking while I hover over the New Game option. Yes Gary, a game about you, and by extension a game about the forces at work to keep our motivation down while recognizing the role escapist art plays in our day-to-day existence.

Escapism through art is not inherently good nor bad, though recently I've been more annoyed by the concept or tired of seeing pop culture brought out as an attempt to rouse us from our collective depression. You see this every time someone posts a meme about Harry Potter, usually accompanied by text urging the various houses to come together so that we can get through our political moment. What that use of pop culture gets wrong is in its failure to diagnose the problem. Few want to discuss the evils of capitalism after getting a smile from their favorite wizard house acknowledging their existence. Evan Rogers understands the need to be seen through our escapism and to not only be roused but also direct our attention toward the problem that needs fixing.