If the sight of Ryan Gosling’s moon mission and the sound of Lady Gaga’s commanding vocalsare any indications, we are officially in the bold beginnings of awards season. Curiously, this year’s new wave involves well-established talent making the jump behind the camera and into the director’s chair. From Paul Dano and Bo Burnham to Amy Poehler and Olivia Wilde, these classic career transitions are offering interesting voices a place in the film industry. Enter Jonah Hill, known for comedies such as Superbad and 21 Jump Street, who has recently been making the slow transition into more serious character roles in The Wolf of Wallstreet and Fukunaga’s Netflix joint, Maniac. His card to throw into this directorial debut poker table is Mid90s, produced by big-name-indie-house A24.
Set in Los Angeles, Mid90s is a slice-of-life film centered on a young boy named Stevie (Sunny Suljic) who encounters and becomes part of a local skateboarding clique. This group becomes Stevie’s escape as he gets into violent fights with his older brother, Ian (Lucas Hedges) and starts to feel detached with his mother (Katherine Waterston) in his home life. Hill sought to authentically portray L.A. skate culture by hiring real skateboard talent as actors for his ensemble cast. Fixed to a boxy 4:3 aspect ratio, Hill commands every technical aspect within and around the frame to evoke nostalgic aesthetics and feel as grungy as the 90s itself.
Venom is one hell of a fascinating, cultural enigma— in all the ways it wasn’t planning to be. From the opening shot of space to the Eminem-blasting credits sequence,the symbiote solo film is in a constant state of identity crisis. It is a clunky, tonal disaster with a script that seemed to have been written by an algorithm that churns out comic book origin screenplays by the hour. Tied together by the meme-able marketing, outdated aesthetics, and poor critical reception, Venom was set up and sure to be a flop. Or so I thought, as the film just made 80 million dollars at the box office this weekend.
As someone who just stepped out of my 11:00 AM IMAX 3D time machine to the early 2000s, I am, of course, dumbfounded by these box office numbers. My shock leads me to log onto Twitter for an investigation of what the overall response of Venom‘s audience was, only to see the DCEU fandom have co-opted the financial success of Venom into their anti-MCU campaigns against film criticism. This surprised me even more – is this latest piece of Sony Pictures schlock what they really want to defend from the evil, nasty film critics? Even past this vocal minority of the Twittersphere, what did 80 million dollars worth of people see in “eyes, lungs, pancreas”that made them leave with satisfaction? As Laurie Metcalf famously once said, “Let’s just sit with what we’ve heard.”
I love Paddington 2. I love Mission: Impossible – Fallout. So of course, what better way to express my love for two of my favorite 2018 releases/major hyper fixations than to combine them both in a trailer recut? This took a few weeks of editing, but I can proudly say it’s one of my favorite videos I’ve ever edited. How long until a bear like that, has had enough?
On Monday night, I was invited to the IMAX Headquarters to attend a screening of Mission: Impossible – Fallout followed by a Q&A with director Christopher McQuarrie, hosted and moderated by Collider’s Steven “Frosty” Weintraub. Fallout has been a major hyper fixation with me this year, so of course, I was dying to make that quick hop to L.A. for my last time viewing the film in a theater. After a quick check-in, the attendees were seated and left alone to witness the halo-jump scene in glorious laser-projection.
There’s no official review of Fallout on the site, but I can personally vouch for it. If you managed to avoid seeing it this whole summer, just know that it’s a rollercoaster ride of a blockbuster that never slows down. For popcorn action flick standards, the direction of this spectacle film is so artful and distinct that it made for one of the most memorable and thrilling cinema experiences all year.
After the screening, Christopher McQuarrie showed up in the flesh to respond to Weintraub’s questions and then opened the floor to our own. A lot was discussed in those two hours. The full transcript can be found on Collider, but I’ve compiled a few of my favorite moments from the Q&A here:
From a cultural perspective alone, there’s a lot about Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade that fascinates me. To put it lightly, it’s simply surreal to witness Burnham – a classic YouTube star turned musical stand-up comedian known for his edgy humor – make his first foray into the film medium as a writer and director. It’s perhaps even more surreal that his debut, an indie dramedy about a pre-teenage girl’s last week of middle school, also happens to be one of the best films of 2018 thus far. Burnham’s behind-the-camera presence is more than just a marketing gimmick, his identity is embedded in the DNA of the narrative. It goes without saying that this film is one that could not have been made even ten, maybe even five years ago.
Whether in consequence of A24’s clever marketing or their inherent legacy as indie distributors, the film has been compared to the likes of Lady Bird. While the sentiment is nice, that implies an entirely different film than Eighth Grade is. Lady Bird and the coming-of-age genre are characterized by throwbacks, sweet self-reflective dramas following a character during a time of challenge, change, and transition in their life. While Burnham’s debut carries over some of those elements, make no mistake – for this is far from a nostalgic piece. In fact, Eighth Grade is a film about the everyday anxieties of the edge of fifteen, but its also about the daily horrors the current generation of kids are living in. While the past and even future are still part of its thematic journey, the predominant focus of Eighth Grade is what is happening now.
I’ll watch Oscar Isaac in anything. Despite his poor choice of roles in the last few years (excluding some stellar Alex Garland collaborations), he genuinely remains the best part of any hot mess he takes part in. Knowing that such a powerful on-screen presence hasn’t been landing the leading roles he deserves to have, it was really exciting to see Isaac get behind the camera and do some production work on his latest film, Operation Finale. To see an artist I admire take action and create roles for himself is admirable to me, so it’s all the more disappointing to tell you that once again the pieces just didn’t fall into place. Operation Finale boasts two powerhouses in Isaac and Kingsley and possesses a poignant tale at its core, but the direction by Chris Weitz feels all too pedestrian and at times, even too incompetent to be substantial.
Set fifteen years after WWII, this period drama follows the true story of Peter Malkin and his Israeli crew who traveled to Argentina to find and extract Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi officer responsible for the transportation of millions of Jewish people to concentration camps. Legally forced to get a signature out of Eichmann in order to transport him out of Argentina to Israel, Malkin must bargain with Eichmann to bring him to trial. It’s an important story about civility, wickedness, suffering, and urgency that Operation Finale presents in an unimaginative fashion – all while stumbling on its message along the way.