In case you were wondering: yes, there is a reason why these last two films are last. These are the films that I was least interested in seeing – and when it comes to King Richard, I’m not even interested enough to try to see it before the Oscars tonight.
I’m sure it’s a fine film, and the life of Serena and Venus Williams and their father is no doubt impressive, but everything about this just screamed “Oskar Flatpack Movie” and I just couldn’t do it. I have listened to Beyonce’s song for the film – another nominee for Best Original Song – but even there, it still sounded like a Boilerplate Beyonce Inspirational Tune. If Will Smith wins for Best Actor I’ll watch it then, but otherwise….eh.
Don’t Look Up
….Not that I was any more impressed by the film I did see. Again – these aren’t bad, just….really, really predictable and boilerplate. In this ultra-black comedy, Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio play a pair of astronomers who discover a mammoth asteroid headed on a dead-on collision course with earth, and calculate that the resulting impact will cause global devastation. They immediately alert the head of the Planet Protection Office at NASA (Rob Morgan), who recognizes the danger and brings them to see the president (Meryl Streep); NASA has a plan in place for coping with such events, and they just need the president to authorize everything. But the president is more concerned about a social media scandal and wants to wait until that blows over.
Lawrence and DiCaprio both go to greater and greater lengths to call everyone’s attention to the problem, but are stymied at every turn. Their gig on a fluffy morning news show turns disastrous when Lawrence scolds the hosts for downplaying their news. The president finally agrees to act, but only to restore her image – and is then talked out of it by a tech company magnate (Mark Rylance) who wants to salvage the comet for its rare metals. DiCaprio gets so caught up in his sudden fame that he becomes a mouthpiece for the tech company, while Lawrence starts slumming with a group of nihilist skateboard punks. Even when the asteroid is visible in the night sky, the nation divides itself into two rival camps – those who support the president’s plan to harvest the asteroid and those who want it blown up – who each spend the night before the asteroid is due to hit having their own rallies.
In other words…it’s a metaphor for how completely the planet is botching the climate crisis, placing the blame squarely on capitalism, ignorance and human folly.
The film has gotten a lot of mixed reviews for being heavy-handed with its message, and I can absolutely agree. This is preaching to the converted and still goes over the top; Meryl Streep’s president and her chief of staff son (Jonah Hill) aren’t so much characters as they are caricatures. Mark Rylance’s tech magnate is even more of a caricature, almost to the point of being a straw man – every fifth thing he says is some kind of Silicon Valley buzzword. Ariana Grande has a cameo as a vapid pop star who goes on to write a torch song for the effort to protect earth.
There are some fun bits, and some sincerely poignant moments. Timothée Chalamet turns up as Yule, one of the skater punks, who becomes Jennifer Lawrence’s sort-of-apocalypse-boyfriend; his character is given similarly short shrift, but he’s still sincere and likeable. Rob Morgan brings some much-needed seriousness to his role. And the film does address how much corporate influence is at play in matters of global and environmental significance. And at the end of the film, while everyone else is finally realizing the danger they’re in and panicking, those scenes of panic are interspersed with shots of the main cast gathered at DiCaprio’s family’s house, where they are all calmly and stoically having one last meal in fellowship, complete with Yule leading them all in a heartfelt prayer.
This is the third film I’ve seen from director Adam McKay; he uses the same off-kilter funhouse lens he used in The Big Short and Vice. But here it somehow doesn’t quite work as well.
…And that’s that. Check back later today to see if I can pull off a liveblog of the Oscar ceremony THIS year….