Bong Joon-ho’s “Mother” (presented by 10 Years Ago: Films in Retrospective)

Poster for "Mother"

This review originally appeared as a guest post on 10 Years Ago: Films in Retrospective, a film site in which editor Marcus Gorman and various contributors revisit a movie on the week of its tenth anniversary. This retro review will be a bit more free-form, recappy, and profanity-laden than usual.

Still from "Mother" (2009 film)

I toyed with a few different intros for Bong Joon-Ho’s 2009 film Mother. I thought about how – despite my thorough enjoyment of his film Parasite a decade later – there were layers of that film that I was simply unequipped to understand without being from Korea myself. And several Korean and Korean-American writers (here, here) and one (not Korean) YouTube chef (here) were quite kind enough to educate me about some of those details after the fact. Mother certainly has Korea-specific content – in addition to the film’s prominent use of acupuncture as a plot device, one plot point revolves around a cell phone that has been modded to be a “pervert phone”, so that it can take photos without making a >65dB fake shutter sound. Every American mobile phone already had (and still has) this capability, but this is illegal in both Japan and South Korea. An attempt was made to make it illegal in the US in 2009, but this went nowhere. But the film’s Korean content (at least, what I was able to pick up on) does a good job of explaining itself in-context in the film.

But even without that additional context, I’ve still had to regard Mother predominantly – then as now – as a film about the complex and fraught decision-making that is an inexorable part of being a parent, as well as a hard-boiled detective story featuring a 60-something unnamed Mother (Kim Hye-ja) as its protagonist. And while 2009 Glenn was certainly capable of (hypothetically) appreciating stories about parenthood, I was here for the old lady detective, because of an American hero named Angela Lansbury. And like Jessica Fletcher, Mother has a personal stake in solving the case of the week, the murder of a teenage girl named Moon Ah-jung (Moon Hee-ra), because her adult son Yoon Do-joon (Won Bin) is arrested and charged with the crime. Which, considering he had a recent history of violence (beating the crap out of some hit-and-run-driving professors on a golf course), and apparently left a golf ball with his name on it at the scene of the crime, and signed a confession with only minimal police coercion (some theatrical apple-punching), it’s hard to argue too much with this outcome.

Also, and perhaps most importantly, Do-joon is mentally handicapped, which makes him an easy scapegoat. Watching Mother interact with Do-joon in the first act of the film understandably feels familiar to me. Because Do-joon exhibits many child-like tendencies, Mother’s interactions with him often have a similar character to the interactions I have with my (young) kids. There’s just a certain stoicism that develops around dealing with your children’s bodily functions. Embarrassment goes out the window, even as the child insists on discussing or exhibiting their bathroom habits as loudly as possible. This is understandably uncommon to see in an interaction between a parent and their adult child, and Mother takes this to excess at times. There is a scene where Do-joon is pissing on a wall next to a bus stop, and Mother – who is initially staring directly at his crotch for reasons that are unclear even in the moment – is pouring broth into his mouth. An overhead shot shows liquid draining from the bowl into his mouth, and liquid draining away into the gutter: an efficient machine. Do-joon also sleeps in his mother’s bed, and multiple characters in the film suggest that their relationship has a Freudian dimension to it (hard to argue with the film’s intentions after that alley scene). As with calling Do-joon the ‘R’-word, impugning his relationship with Mother is a trigger for him to immediately lash out with violence against whatever impudent motherfucker (tee hee) thought this was a wise thing to say to him.

Still from "Mother" (2009 film)

As I became a parent in the intervening years, there were certainly dimensions of this parent-child relationship that I could newly identify with. But that’s not to say the film presents it as a healthy one. Mother’s exact motivations and psychology are picked apart over the course of the film as she watches her son go through the struggle of being sent to jail, and Kim’s performance takes on more dimensions. What is the depth of a parent’s despair? Is Mother’s stoicism a mask for grief? Guilt for her mistakes and indefensible choices? Anger at how her life turned out? On top of all of these feelings, specific to this film and character, I felt something universal – something that all parents feel at some point: an abiding responsibility for what kind of child you’ve put out into the world. When you teach your children to stand up for themselves, assert their will, and also respect and show empathy to other people, is it ever possible to strike the right balance? Surely, in their heart of hearts, every parent thinks their child is special on some level, or at least wants the rest of the world to treat their child in a special way. We’ve seen what this looks like when it goes horribly wrong. It’s easy to look at the sociopathic children of distant, rich assholes, and judge accordingly. Don Jr. literally wrote (and then purchased thousands of copies of) the book on this. But what do we make of the far more numerous monsters that appear without a clear (or at least externally obvious) cause? The people whose parents and friends are just as shattered by their actions as the families and friends of their victims? Seventeen years after the Columbine High School shooting – a formative event during my teenage years, but surely lost in the fog of innumerable massacres since for today’s kids – Sue Klebold, the mother of one of the school shooters, wrote a book and spoke publicly about her experience for the first time. Her book is an exhaustive chronicle of mental illness in adolescence, suicidal and homicidal ideation, and the impossible task of picking up the pieces of a shattered family life. Moreover, it is a thoughtful and humble personal narrative from a subject who knows that she is unsympathetic to many people. I haven’t yet finished it (as I only read a few chapters in preparation for this writing), but it’s a fascinating read, if only for the singularity of Klebold’s experience and the rarity of its candor about a thoroughly taboo subject.

Because…what do we care what the mother of a killer has to say? She’s obviously responsible for whatever her kid did. She obviously should’ve known and prevented it, as any of us would’ve done! To be clear, I’m not expressing these attitudes sincerely, but to say that this is the clear and obvious push-back that Mother is dealing with as she conducts her investigation throughout the film – that in her small town, even with the apparent murderer of an innocent girl behind bars, a villain still remains: the Mother who spawned him, the free and visible face of his actions, the societal standard-bearer of his original sin. And what’s more, she’s trying to release him back into the community! How dare she. Mother is as thoroughly alone in this film as it is possible to be, and as Kim’s psychological and emotional performance lays out the complete history of this character’s mental load, it’s clear that her solitude is nothing new. Do-joon’s father hasn’t been in the picture since he was very young, and his only friend is a local scumbag named Jin-tae (Jin Goo), whom Mother initially suspects of the killing, and who may only be helping her in the hopes of extorting some money. Jin-tae’s exact motivations are kept nice and nebulous even as we first meet him – when Do-joon gets sideswiped by a Mercedes-Benz and his friend scoops him up off the street to head to the golf course (the only destination in town for a Benz!) and thoroughly beat the ass of whoever was driving. And why is he doing this? *shrug* Loyalty, boredom, a desire to watch his friend fall on his face (something that seems to genuinely amuse him)? When Jo-doon is behind bars, Jin-tae’s continued involvement in the investigation makes him the ideal film noir companion, and Mother clearly picks up on this, as she calls him in for various strongman purposes as the film goes on. 

Kim Hye-ja is really what made this film worth watching, both then and now. She’s a sweet old lady – apparently best known for playing sweet old ladies on Korean soap operas – who contains multitudes. And even as we see both the actress and the character reset the contours of her face repeatedly as the film goes on, it makes the moments where she completely loses control – nearly all of which have to do with the intensity of her relationship with Do-joon – all the more satisfying. This is a film that is more than just the sum of its plot twists, but the plot itself is so satisfying that I’ve uncharacteristically omitted its details here (Bong, along with co-writer Park Eun-kyo, won or was nominated for multiple awards for the screenplay). After a decade, I had to pull out my Blu-ray copy of the film to watch it (as streaming options were limited), but I sincerely hope that Bong’s recent Oscar gold means that more people will go back to seek out his earlier films, because this is surely one of his best.

FilmWonk rating: 8.5 out of 10

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #163 – “Onward” (dir. Dan Scanlon)

Poster for "Onward"

In this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel roll for initiative with Pixar’s latest foray into the fantastical, Onward (23:51).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating: 6/10 (Glenn), 8/10 (Daniel)

Show notes:

  • Music for this episode is magic.
  • Stay tuned afterward for an adorable interview.

Listen above, or download: Onward (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #162 – “The Invisible Man” (dir. Leigh Whannell), “Horse Girl” (dir. Jeff Baena), “Miss Americana” (dir. Lana Wilson)

Poster for "Horse Girl"

On this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel check out a very personal new film co-written by and starring Alison Brie, now available on Netflix – and we also check out Leigh Whannell and Jason Blum‘s attempt to revive the Dark Universe by replacing spectacle with an intimate and harrowing psychological drama starring Elisabeth Moss.

…then we gush about T-Swift for 5 minutes (53:00).

Still from "The Invisible Man" (2020 film)

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Horse Girl): 7 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (The Invisible Man): 7.5 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (Miss Americana): 7 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [02:36] Review: Horse Girl
  • [15:19] Review: The Invisible Man
  • [34:00] Spoilers: The Invisible Man
  • [48:06] Review: Miss Americana
  • Music for this episode is the tracks “Horse With No Name” by America and the third title track.

Listen above, or download: The Invisible Man, Horse Girl, Miss Americana (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #161 – “Little Women” (dir. Greta Gerwig), “Uncut Gems” (dir. Josh and Benny Safdie)

Poster for "Little Women" (2019 film)

On this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel (with special guest Erika Spoden) descend into the darkness of consummate gambler and exhausting presence Howard Ratner, played with once-per-decade skill by Adam Sandler. Then we cleanse our palates with the thoughtful and colorful delights of Greta Gerwig‘s bold new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott‘s Little Women (01:06:39).

Still from "Uncut Gems"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Uncut Gems): 8/10 (Erika), 9/10 (Glenn and Daniel)
FilmWonk rating (Little Women): 8.5/10 (Erika and Glenn), 8/10 (Daniel)

Show notes:

  • [02:21] Review: Uncut Gems
  • [17:14] Spoilers: Uncut Gems
  • [38:39] Review: Little Women
  • Music for this episode is the track “The Stranger” by Billy Joel and “The Morning” by The Weeknd, from the soundtrack to Uncut Gems.
  • CORRECTION: While discussing Kevin Garnett‘s appearance in Uncut Gems, we referred to a previous casting of an NBA player in the 2015 film Trainwreck, and mistakenly said that it was Kobe Bryant playing a version of himself in that film. It was in fact LeBron James.

Listen above, or download: Little Women, Uncut Gems (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

James Cameron’s “Avatar” (presented by 10 Years Ago: Films in Retrospective)

Poster for "Avatar"

This review originally appeared as a guest post on 10 Years Ago: Films in Retrospective, a film site in which editor Marcus Gorman and various contributors revisit a movie on the week of its tenth anniversary. This retro review will be a bit more free-form, recappy, and profanity-laden than usual.

“They’re not gonna give up their home. They’re not gonna make a deal. For light beer? And blue jeans? There’s nothing that we have that they want. Everything they sent me out here to do is a waste of time. They’re never gonna leave Hometree.”

Still from James Cameron's "Avatar".

How far have we come since Avatar? In 2009 I marked it as one of my Top 10 of the year (in the coveted #11 spot), largely for its expansive and imaginative sci-fi world (and allegory bordering on contrivance of Native American conquest, betrayal, land usurpation, and violence), even as I wondered then whether the film deserved to rest in the “ineffectual self-hating bin of white guilt”. I find this framing a bit embarrassing in retrospect. I think at the time I sought to diminish white filmmakers for trying to tell these stories (an opinion I’ve occasionally persisted in, criticizing Baz Luhrmann’s take on Australia’s mistreatment and state-sponsored kidnapping of Aboriginal children), but my prescribed remedy at this point is generally, “Let those people tell their own stories.” In other words, white filmmakers don’t necessarily have to stay in their lane, but we should really try to expand the pool of voices, and let marginalized peoples speak for themselves. If I’m being honest about who I was in 2009, I wasn’t chiding James Cameron for telling this story instead of someone else. I was chiding him for telling this story – of injustices that I believed to be abstract relics of a distant frontier past – at all. I was wrong. I also falsely implied that I’d seen Fern Gully. I still haven’t. Sorry not sorry.

There has been a rather instructive event in the intervening years: The Dakota Access Pipeline protests. This oil pipeline was originally set to cross the Missouri River in a location near to the North Dakota capital city of Bismarck, a city that is 92.5% white. For a variety of reasons, including that it threatened the city’s water supply, the US Army Corps of Engineers decided that this location was not ideal. Imagine the surprise of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe when another river crossing was selected, at a location just outside their reservation, and potentially threatening their water supply, Lake Oahe, instead. Protestors moved in, and private security (working for the pipeline company and colluding with local authorities) used brutal and inhumane tactics to force them out of the way, including hosing them down with water amid freezing overnight temperatures (which is, just to be clear, attempted murder). There were 300+ injuries and nearly 500 arrests, and some of their cases (for peaceful protest that was met with a brutal response) have resulted in multiple state and federal prison sentences, some of which are still being served.

Were the protestors right to oppose this pipeline? I have a few political responses, none of them simple or easy, some relating to the tension between fighting climate change and the entirely fossil-fuel-infused status quo. But my most honest answer is that I don’t know. The Standing Rock Sioux were certainly correct to assert a moral and economic interest in protecting their land and water, and assert they did, with resistance ranging from planned arrests and civil disobedience to lawsuits in federal court. What’s more, being the economic and political underdogs in that fight does not make them wrong by default, even if that’s often how they were treated in the national press (when it deigned to cover these events at all). It is instructive to note that Lake Oahe itself was also the site of a forced relocation a half-century earlier, with 200,000 acres of two separate reservations – including most of the arable land that they used for agriculture – submerged under water. You can jump around to other parts of the United States and find similar examples, in which Indian rights are considered to be subordinate by default to those of the United States, and this is reflected at every level of the planning, permitting, and decision-making process. At worst, the poverty and related social problems that followed these acts of economic suppression were treated as a geographic or racial deficiency, which was then used as a post-hoc justification for continued mistreatment (see: “shithole countries”). Like Jim Crow before (and concurrent with) it, it’s a longstanding example of institutionalized white supremacy. So it’s fair to say that my attitude going into this film now is a baseline assumption that the rights and land use claims of Indigenous peoples have not been historically respected since the founding of this country, and for them to exercise their moral right to say, “This far, no farther,” is an act that inspires presumptive sympathy from me even before evaluating the individual merits of the case.

Still from "Avatar"

I didn’t know much of this in 2009, and Avatar deliberately presents a case with maximum moral simplicity, in which humans are alien invaders strip-mining a forest moon for Unobtanium, a floating mineral of high, unspecified economic value that feels like a stand-in term that Cameron never bothered to Find/Replace. The richest deposit of the mineral sits directly under Hometree, where the Omaticaya tribe of the Na’vi lives. Rather than pondering for 30 seconds that there might perhaps be a causal link between the mineral and the impossibly tall trees that might be worth exploring, Administrator Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) says with almost comical callousness that while killing the indigenous “looks bad”, what shareholders hate more than bad press is a bad quarterly statement, and notes, like anyone performing the banality of evil, that he doesn’t “make the rules”. By design, this film presents zero ambiguity about the merits of this case. We’re wrong, and the Na’vi are correct to oppose us, and they don’t even need a reason beyond, “Fuck you, it’s ours,” which is self-evidently the same justification we would use. This film is a reverse-Independence Day. And it’s tempting to evaluate it on this basis, because both films end with a big-ass battle that is an entertaining spectacle to behold, even if it extracts a heavy butcher’s bill.

By the film’s end, we hear former Marine grunt Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in his Na’vi avatar telling the planetary network/deity, Eywa, that the Sky People (humans) come from a planet that has no green left – that they “killed their mother”. Eywa is a conceptual stand-in for Gaia, creating both a deity and afterlife whose existence on Pandora is an unassailable fact, as well as a literal planetary organism, with everything from the plants to the Na’vi to their various land-based and flying mounts acting as a planetary immune system to purge the human infection that has moved in. I called this concept “a savage and gorgeous Eden” in my original review, and yet I still somewhat castigated Jake for choosing to betray humanity in the end, even if they’d done plenty to deserve it. I’d say I’m far less sentimental about my rapacious species now (even though I’ve had kids in the meantime – go figure). This version of humanity, a hundred years hence, has destroyed its lush home planet and is now fixing to do the same thing to Pandora? To hell with us. Jake – whose brother was murdered in a robbery of petty cash, and whose spine was ripped apart in a war with Venezuela by a government that had the technology but not the economic will to allow him to ever walk again – owes us nothing. Betrayal may be the correct word for it, but Jake is well rid of us and quite fortunate to be getting a pristine ten-foot-tall space cat body to galavant around in. This isn’t Eden for Jake. It’s Heaven: a new and better life than the one that he has known.

When Omaticaya crown priestess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) first encounters Avatar-Jake blundering around the forest and killing animals to survive, she minces no words in calling him an ignorant baby who doesn’t know how to do anything. Much of his later proficiency in all things Na’vi is explained in a series of bog-standard (albeit gorgeous) training montages. But it’s fair to say this film rightfully attracts some criticism (both racialized and not) about its white everyman protagonist showing up on this planet and this tribe and immediately becoming their Chosen One who’s better at everything than they are. Toruk Makto – a mantle Jake assumes by sky-raping a Leonopteryx – might be the best flyer, but his most absurd acquired skill is performing oratory, a skill whose execution the film wisely presents in montage form, with Jake and Neytiri bounding around Pandora to recruit every tribe to the cause, with only the odd snippeted cliché (“AND YOUR CHILDREN’S CHILDREN”) making it onto the audio track. How silly is this? We’ve spent the entire film learning that the Na’vi generally and the Omaticaya specifically value different things than the Sky People. There is no carrot that would convince them to leave Hometree, which is why the humans decide to use the military stick. The idea that Jake could give an inspiring speech to the Na’vi on no greater basis than abandoning the human hand he was dealt is absurd on its face. As the axiom goes – if a lion could speak, we couldn’t understand it. The idea that Jake, even through a translator, could somehow appeal to the values of the Na’vi – wholly inhuman values that he barely understands himself – is the most condescending component of this character. It’s entirely possible that the tribes might band together to defend their planet. But I’d rather the convincing had been left to Neytiri herself, or perhaps the new Omaticaya chief Tsu’tey (Laz Alonso) could take a crack at it during his doomed tenure.

Avatar remains a visual feast, presenting a look, feel, and blockbuster spectacle that looks like it could easily have come out in 2019. If I imagine that it would have less of an impact today, that’s only because I recognize both the monopolistic consolidation of the cinema box office, as well as the influence that Avatar had on other blockbusters, including those of the new franchise owner, the Walt Disney Company. Even before they made the purchase, the lush jungle moon of Pandora became a land you can visit at the House of Mouse. And after a slow burn decade of production at 21st Century Fox (just like the first film), Disney immediately announced a 2021 release date for Avatar 2, and for the first time, I’m starting to think it may actually happen. Who knows, perhaps between the decade Cameron has had to advance his craft, and a new marketing juggernaut behind him, he can pull off a hat trick of multi-billion-dollar all-time box office winners. But it hardly matters to me whether the next film succeeds as long as I get to see it. If nothing else, watching this film again reminded me that James Cameron, a slightly problematic and old-school futurist – has yet to have a miss with me. And perhaps in a post-Cats world, all we need is a bit less fur, a bit more blue, and whatever else he comes up with.

FilmWonk rating: 7 out of 10

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #160 – “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (dir. J.J. Abrams), “Christmas in Connecticut” (dir. Peter Godfrey)

Poster for "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker"

On this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel conclude the Trilogy of Trilogies and finally figure out the answer to the question posed in the best film of the new Star Wars trilogy: What is it all for? But first, we take a gander at a ghost of Christmas past as Daniel selects his very favorite holiday film, a rom-com farce from 1945 (01:16:48).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Christmas in Connecticut): 10/10 (Daniel), 5/10 (Glenn)
FilmWonk rating (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker): 6 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [00:21] Review: Christmas in Connecticut
  • [21:53] Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  • [46:46] Spoilers: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  • Music for this episode is a pair of tracks from John Williams‘ score to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Listen above, or download: Star Wars IX, Christmas in Connecticut (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #159 – “1917” (dir. Sam Mendes), “Marriage Story” (dir. Noah Baumbach)

On this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel return to the Western Front with Sam Mendes‘ groundbreaking, single-shot World War I drama, 1917. And then we check out a war of a different sort with Noah Baumbach’s artful confessional about divorce, Marriage Story, now streaming on Netflix (01:22:39).

Still from "Marriage Story"

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (1917): 7/10 (Daniel), 8/10 (Glenn)
FilmWonk rating (Marriage Story): 8 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [02:04] Review: 1917
  • [21:06] Spoilers: 1917
  • [36:11] Review: Marriage Story
  • Music for this episode is a pair of tracks from the 1944 Burl Ives 78 RPM record (as digitized on the Internet Archive), The Wayfaring Stranger. The tracks are titled The Wayfaring Stranger and The Bold Soldier
  • CORRECTION: In our example of the scale of warfare prior to World War I, we greatly overstated the number of casualties at the Battle of Antietam in the American Civil War – historians place the total at 22,717 dead, missing, or wounded (source). 
  • We made frequent reference to Dan Carlin‘s World War I historical podcast, Blueprint for Armageddon. Highly recommended work from a master historical storyteller.

Listen above, or download: 1917, Marriage Story (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #158 – “Knives Out” (dir. Rian Johnson), “Parasite” (dir. Bong Joon-ho)

Poster for "Knives Out"

On this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel (along with special guest Erika) take in a pair of surprisingly apropos titles about the lives of rich and poor families: Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, and The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (01:34:19).

May contain NSFW language.
Still from "Parasite" (2019 film)

FilmWonk rating (Knives Out): 8.5 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (Parasite): 9/10 (Glenn, Erika), 6/10 (Daniel)

Show notes:

  • [00:01:59] Review: Knives Out
  • [00:19:57] Spoilers: Knives Out
  • [00:34:26] Review: Parasite
  • [01:00:41] Review: Parasite
  • Music for this episode is the track “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot, from the Knives Out soundtrack. And another thing.
  • Stay tuned at the end for a Trotskyist blooper.

Listen above, or download: Knives Out, Parasite (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #157 – “Terminator: Dark Fate” (dir. Tim Miller), “Dolemite Is My Name” (dir. Craig Brewer)

Poster for "Terminator: Dark Fate"

On this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel see the triumphant return of an iconic character from yesteryear, for whom fucking up motherfuckers is the game. Also, they watched Dolemite Is My Name (48:48).

May contain NSFW language.

FilmWonk rating (Terminator: Dark Fate): 6/10 (Daniel), 7.5/10 (Glenn)
FilmWonk rating (Dolemite Is My Name): 8 out of 10

Show notes:

  • [02:04] Review: Terminator: Dark Fate
  • [18:29] Spoilers: Terminator: Dark Fate
  • [32:25] Review: Dolemite Is My Name
  • Music for this episode is the tracks “I’m Gonna Kill Dolemite” by Scott Bomar and “Dolemite” by Craig Robinson, from the score and soundtrack of My Name Is Dolemite.

Listen above, or download: Terminator: Dark Fate, Dolemite Is My Name (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)

FilmWonk Podcast – Episode #156 – “Joker” (dir. Todd Phillips), “Rocketman” (dir. Dexter Fletcher)

Poster for "Joker" (2019 film)

On this week’s podcast, Glenn and Daniel check out yet another scary clown with Joker, a film that insisted we think deeply about its shallow politics and half-baked philosophy. We ponder whether death of the author is even possible when the author won’t shut his mouth, and whether a strong, dark, and gritty Joaquin Phoenix performance is enough of a selling point in a world in which You Were Never Really Here already exists.

Then we venture back to earlier in 2019 and find ourselves shocked by our unabashed praise for Rocketman, a biopic of Elton John that we refuse to call a jukebox musical. Glenn decided to make Daniel watch it this week because it’s as close to the opposite of Joker as he could muster, but also because it’s an entry in a genre that we could’ve sworn was creatively bankrupt, and we found ourselves delightfully mistaken (58:03).

May contain NSFW language.

Still from "Rocketman"

FilmWonk rating (Joker): 4 out of 10
FilmWonk rating (Rocketman): 9 out of 10

Show notes:

Listen above, or download: Joker, Rocketman (right-click, save as, or click/tap to play on a non-flash browser)