Movie review: “Joker” (2019)

“Do I look like the kind of clown that can start a movement?”

Temper your effusive praise of Todd Phillips’ Joker for a moment and ponder what its $1 billion box office take (and counting) might have to say about the world in which we live and your place as an audience member within it. “The times maketh the man,” goes the wise, old, unattributable quote. Or did I mean to say, “the clothes”? For The Joker, maniacal ancient scourge of Gotham City, both catalysts apply. Every new wave of filmgoers seems to get the Joker it deserves somehow, be they glib, if sinister, inveterate pranksters in the animated mold of Mark Hamill or, applying a slightly sliding scale, Cesar Romero, ugly, enigmatic loose cannons as in the late Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal, or, to an obnoxiously lesser degree, whatever the trashy nu-metal hell Jared Leto was trying to accomplish, or slick, cruel, strutting peacocks like Jack Nicholson’s 1989 paradigm shifter. No matter how committed or complete the performance, in the end they are still just especially vivid aspects of an unknowable greater whole. Continue reading “Movie review: “Joker” (2019)”

Movie review: “Broadcast News” (1987)

broadcast-news-movie-image

“You know, I’m just old enough to be flattered by the term ‘early retirement’.”

“That’s wonderful. What a lovely line. Now, if there’s anything I can do for you…”

“Well…I certainly hope you’ll die soon.”

Some twenty-five years since I first saw it at entirely too young an age, James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News remains one of cinema’s great thoughtful treatises on the pains, rewards, and, above all, complexities of adult relationships, both on and off the clock. The film is warm and funny, incisive and contemplative, and, at just the right time, stony and heartbreaking. It offers an engaging, full-spectrum view of a somewhat mysterious profession, television journalism (especially in the late 1980s), that few films before or since it can match, and does so almost as an afterthought, subordinating the fascinating background detail in favor of the foreground story of three very specific, highly-motivated newspersons, who love each other almost as much as they love what they do. Almost. Continue reading “Movie review: “Broadcast News” (1987)”

Movie review: “Batman” (1989)

batman

“And now comes the part where I relieve you, the little people, of the burden of your failed and useless lives. But, as my plastic surgeon always said, ‘If you gotta go…go with a smile!'”

Historically, comic book creators and writers have had to strike a precarious balance between fantasy and reality in order for their tales to work, to create a world where super-powered heroes can battle outlandish villains in a way that, ideally, still carries weight and is grounded enough to be relatable. Tip the scale too far to one extreme or the other and the proceedings risk total collapse, played to the tune of either a cartoony jaunt or a funeral dirge. Continue reading “Movie review: “Batman” (1989)”