If you follow me on Twitter, then you’re probably familiar with my weekly “THE GOOD PLACE [Sad Reaction Image]” tweet formula that pops up on Thursday nights. I started the show during the summer of 2018 and devoured the first two seasons in less than three days, which is extremely uncharacteristic of my uncultured-with-television self. I knew from the first few episodes, however, that The Good Place was no ordinary network sitcom. It’s been dubbed by many of its creators as the “smartest, dumbest show on TV”, which perfectly describes the show’s juggling of complex interrogations of morality, deep character studies, humane themes of life and death, emotional trauma, and self-improvement, all while maintaining a Spongebob-Esque absurdist but genuine sense of humor. It’s such a personal show to me that seemed to come at the right time. The first two seasons are masterfully written, and it would not be inappropriate to study the story beats and structure in a screenwriting class as the perfect model of set-up, pay-off, character development and everything in-between.
So of course, Season Three of The Good Place had a lot to live up to. Our starting point takes off where Season Two ended; an arrangement with the Judge (Maya Rudolph) had been made to give our rag-tag group a second chance to prove themselves as “better people” by preventing their deaths back on Earth. Michael (Ted Danson) and Janet (D’Arcy Carden), fully understanding of the gang’s positive group dynamic, decide to meddle further and reunite the humans together via a study on near-death experiences led by Chidi in Australia. I emphasize that this is only the starting point of the season – as you already might know, The Good Place is no stranger to the tradition of gigantic plot twists.
When Stan Lee and Steve Ditko released “Amazing Fantasy #15” back in 1962, they created a superhero that truly belonged to the people. In a comic scene full of gods and god-like beings enters Peter Parker, a lower-middle-class, adolescent high school nerd with a big heart and a passion for the same superheroes comic readers know and love, taking on the persona of Spider-Man after getting bit by a radioactive—yeah, you know the story, and for good reason. Spider-Man has essentially been the face of Marvel since comics have entered our mainstream popular culture, and after 16 years of cinematic legacy, he’s in no position of slowing down.
What better way to send off November than to give your soul to the dance? As you know, we’re big fans of Suspiria here at Much Ado, so I decided to make a compilation dedicated to the beauty of dance throughout cinema. Thom Yorke’s hypnotic song always brings up these images in my head of big ensembles, lavish costumes, and thrilling body movements, so it was simply wonderful to portray that in one of my edits.
Only two questions were running through my mind as I watched J.K. Rowling’s new Potter Tale, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: “Who the hell is that?” and “What the hell is happening?” After two hours, I find myself still asking those exact questions. Truthfully, I was never on board with this new iteration of the Wizarding World franchise from the start. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them remains one of the biggest disappointments in my nerdy little life. It’s a movie that used the world I know and love, but deeply misunderstood why I fell in love with it in the first place. Out with the lovable, rich characters from Harry’s world and in with the stereotypical stock of Newt’s that populate a film with only scraps of world building on its mind. Unfortunately, if you are reading this, I can only inform you that no lessons have been learned since 2016.
The Crimes of Grindelwald is not just bad. It’s not even a cohesive film. There is no basic understanding of narrative form; no three-act structure, no character development, no sense of conflict, no tension, no focus, no protagonist, but more importantly— there’s no clear message. This is not a story; this is a collection of different ideas and Pottermore footnotes that Rowling has mashed together into something resembling a story. This is a vehicle in which she is able to retcon her way through the lore of her own beloved work through a series of contrivances and poor attempts at some spectacle. Worst of all, none of it makes any absolute sense. The “twists” that this film uses to shock you are lazy afterthoughts that make Rey parentage theories from Reddit seem like they were written by Charlie Kaufman.
The Freddie Mercury biopic has been cooking up since 2010. Originally meant to be a Sacha Baron Cohen and David Fincher collaboration, the biopic’s direction had shifted into the hands of the remaining members of Queen. This led to Baron Cohen leaving the project due to artistic disagreements, envisioning a much more adult version of Bohemian Rhapsody. Eventually, Anthony McCarten’s screenplay was green-lit with Bryan Singer (ugh) attached to direct. Soon they found Mercury in Rami Malek, as well as some reforms after Singer was fired from the project, some backlash for the lack of inclusion of the AIDs crisis, and accusations of “de-queering” Mercury’s depiction the film (more ugh)! It’s almost impressive that a project with such an infamously-controversial development stage could amount to a film this dull.
But here we are. Bohemian Rhapsody, despite a mixed critical reception, hit the #1 spot of the box office, making an estimated $50 million dollar earning. Somehow, this has only sparked more controversy as a quite irritating critics-versus-audiences conversation has formed once again. I think we have bigger things to worry about, considering the director credit has gone to an accused pedophile (he is currently being campaigned for by Fox for best director as part of the upcoming awards season). Simply put, this film already gave me a headache before I even got the chance to see it. Dubbed the “unseasoned chicken” of cinema by our editor-in-chief, Dilara, and writer, Iana, Bohemian Rhapsody is not only the blandest on-screen version of Mercury’s extravagant life possible, but it also does a major disservice to the gay and bi men who have looked up to the idol since the 80s. While the “de-queering” criticism may be slightly hyperbolic as Mercury’s sexuality is a large thread within the film, it is not handled with the amount of care to be worthy of high praise.
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.”