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February 13, 2020

Christian Toto: Even the Liberal Deadline is Complaining About the #WokeLecture Oscars
Plus, Movie Revews: Ford V. Ferrari and Escape Room

The "far-left" Deadline complained:

What I did mind was a sinking feeling that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for all its inclusiveness, had wound up excluding more viewers than ever.


Toto writes:

The site's columnist dragged the Oscar ceremony in ways that sounded like a right winger's lament, dubbing the night "an evening of cultural instruction." That's a fancy way of saying, "woke."

The column ends by praising the one comedian who dared target La La Land recently.

Extend a hand, and someone will take it. Deliver a muddled, dressed-up lecture (with music), and you validate what Ricky Gervais so chillingly said at the Golden Globes in January: "No one cares about movies anymore."

As I've mentioned, I want them to get #Woker. I don't want them to realize they're going bankrupt until after the banks foreclose their asses.

Don't cave in to Right-Wing Pressure, Hollywood! You are artists -- we need you to exhibit the bravery that we Civilians could never even aspire to have!

Be brave, be strong, and above all -- Be Woke, Hollywood!

You fly those freak-flags. You fly them high and proud.

And you greenlight that Charlie's Angels sequel with an all-trans cast. And you greenlight that Terminator Sequel starring Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Greta Thunberg.

Here are two quick reviews of movies I saw. I don't watch many movies any more. They're terrible.

But these were good.


Ford V. Ferrari. A good movie and recommended.

Here's where I depart from many: I wouldn't say it's great. I would say if you expect great, you will be disappointed. It's not great.

But it is good, and worth watching. Good is good enough, especially by today's standards.

My problems with the movie are these:

1. I expected more Apollo 13 style "let's engineer our way around this problem with the car" stuff. I was thinking that would be the main fare in the movie, especially afrer the opening set-up stuff about how difficult it is to build a car that is fast enough and durable enough to spend 24 straight hours racing over LeMans' not-so-great roads.

There's really only one Major Thing like that. And it's more a case of Rules Engineering than engineering with steel. It's interesting, but not what I was hoping for.

Did you guys see Tucker: A Man and His Dream? I only dimly remember it, but I remember a lot of stuff involving the small team of engineers hand-building the Tucker prototype. I loved that stuff.

In Ford V. Ferrari, they're often in a garage (a hangar used as a garage), but you just see people doing mechanic-type things in background.

2. I didn't see the main characters as anything except Matt Damon and Christian Bale acting on screen. The Matt Damon character -- Carol Shelby -- was barely characterized. He's just a Solid, Loyal Guy Who Loves Racing. I mean, that's great, but there's not much there beyond being a Good Guy Greg.

The Ken Miles character is given flaws -- he's so uncooperative with others he's self-destructive -- but he's played in a broad, nearly comical way that made it hard for me to take him seriously as a real person.

I hear the real Ken Miles was quite the character, but in the movie, I dunno, he comes off fake to me.

3. There is this Snidely Whiplash Interfering Executive at Ford who has the problem of the Villain who Does Evil Just to Do Evil. I mean, he does everything short of twirling his mustache and tying Ken Miles' wife to the railroad tracks. I get that he's a composite for all the bureaucratic bullshit at Ford, but... he doesn't work as a character. I don't buy him.

I did buy Henry Ford II. The part where Matt Damon kidnaps him is kind of silly, but I bought his performance and characterization.

The Lee Iacocca part was maybe good, but all I could see was The Punisher In a Suit.

So those are my complaints. But the movie is still good. The racing parts weren't as good as the racing parts in some other racing movies I've seen -- I remember being really thrilled by the racing in Days of Thunder -- but there was a scene of night-driving in the rain on not-so-great streets in Ford V. Ferrari that were really nice.

Great? No, not for me. It made me want to see the Ron Howard racing movie with Chris Hemsworth, which I've heard has some visceral racing scenes.

But it's definitely a good movie that almost everyone will like.

And also: The cars -- which I wanted a lot more of -- were of course gorgeous. Some of the best parts of the movie are just Matt Damon driving around in his roadster. Just beautiful cars, even the ones that are supposed to be clunky.

Oh, one last thing: In The Founder, the producers cooperated with the McDonald's corporation and changed some details to McDonald's PR benefit, in exchange for letting the filmmakers use their trademarks and stuff.

One thing the movie changed was claiming that a big dispute with the McDonald brothers was over using a cheaper, easier-to-make shake formula instead of real ice cream.

That happened, but much later. The actual dispute between Kroc and the Brothers McDonald was Kroc's desire to use frozen pre-cut french fries instead of the freshly cut ones the MacDonald's insisted on.

I think McDonald's wanted to avoid that knock on everyone's favorite McDonald's menu item.

Returning this to Ford v. Ferrari:

I'm pretty sure I saw no Ford trademarks or symbols in this movie. And I think I know why:

This movie was brutal to Ford. Ford Motor Co. was really the villain. Not Ferrari, but Ford.

I guess it's a good thing that the movie pulled no punches with Ford. But if you're a Ford fan expecting the movie to be a love letter to the Ford Motor Corporation... no, it's more like a poison pen letter.

Oh, one more good thing: There's a fair amount of Italian in the scenes where they meet with Ferarri.

Escape Room. I expected too much of Ford v. Ferrari and wound up a little underwhelmed. I expected nothing from Escape Room and... really liked it.

As soon as it was over, I started watching it again.

But then, five minutes in, I thought, "Wait, am I really watching Escape Room again? What the hell is wrong with me? Is my life this empty?"

And then I turned it off. Still -- I had the intent to watch it again.

Saw featured what would come to be known as an "escape room" and popularized real-life escape room entertainment in the US and the world.

And now the popularity of escape rooms inspires the movie Escape Room, which is just like Saw, except it's just like Saw.

Well, not exactly like it. The movie also borrows some ideas from Cabin in the Woods and Hostel.

But it's good. Not great -- obviously.

But if you're up for a contrived funhouse suspense movie, this should satisfy.

And I do say "suspense," because this is suspense-based horror movie, not a gore-based horror movie (as in Saw).

Only after the movie was over did I realize, "Wait, I've seen almost no blood at all." There is always a dark tone and atmosphere of menace, and some harrowing scenes of coming death and coming gore, but the camera never focuses on the deaths. It assumes you can fill in the blanks.

I felt like I was seeing blood, I guess. But I wasn't.

The movie, it turns out, was not rated R as I would have guessed. It's rated PG-13. Not for graphic violence, but for the constant suspense that some graphic violence is coming.

Here's the biggest knock I can lay on it, besides it borrowing from obvious sources: The characters are stock and stereotypes with almost nothing to them except the stereotype.

The "Game Geek Stereotype?" OMG, this is the stupidest rewrite of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, except even more divorced from reality. This guy is still arguing this is all just a game with "good special effects" after they're nearly incinerated by a fireball in the opening Oven Room Trap.

This guy's smart? He can't tell the difference between real fire and... carnival attraction special effects? He thinks the technology exists to make realistic fireballs (including blistering heat!) chase after you in a duct?

Does he think this movie takes place on the Holodeck of the Enterprise D?

Whatever, though. You gotta have the Nerd Stereotype.

And what about the stereotype of the smart, smarmy, manipulative White Wall Street Asshole who's about nothing but money and status and high-priced thrills?

Well, he's in this. But here's the twist:

He's black.

And I'm kind of pissed off that the beloved stock character of White Wall Street Asshole has been race-swapped. Will they ever stop taking from us?

The Designated Asshole Characters are really a problem. They're important stock characters in a horror movie, to be sure, but they're clumsily written.

They're assholes in unrealistic ways. Ways that don't help them. Ways that often seem unjustified, even in the tense circumstances. They're literally just being assholes to be assholes.

At some point, the Designated Assholes say things which are actually true like "We don't have time to mourn! We have literally minutes before this next trap kills us!," and then other people argue with them.

Because you gotta keep that pointless bickering going.

The Thing was a great movie for showing how people become realistically vicious to each other when under unbearable stress.

This movie, on the other hand, just has some Asshole Characters being assholes because they read in a screenwriting book that screenplays should include conflict.

This is really only a problem for the first half of the movie, though. After that, some Assholes are eliminated, and other assholes -- in a horror movie cliche that I still always love when I see it -- become much less assholish when they start to realize that maybe they should start cooperating a little if they want to live.

Oh, and some of the escape rooms -- death-traps, actually -- were really great production design. The Pool Hall Trap is my favorite, and I imagine everyone's favorite. All but the silly Outdoor Arctic Set (which I didn't buy, and seemed to almost be a Holodeck) were pretty good.

The movie ends strangely -- they decide they don't want to just bait a sequel. They decide they're going to get the ball rolling and film the first ten minutes of the sequel.

In fairness, I do want to see the sequel.

So kind of an interesting possible choice for a low-effort movie night. It's a horror movie, sort of, but without nasty graphic violence, and just a lot of fear of bloody death. The characters are stock as hell and spend the first forty minutes being way too bitchy and snarky and unpleasant, but they get better when they start realize that these "escape rooms" are not games but death-traps.


I know it's weird that I'm claiming Escape Room was more enjoyable than Ford v. Ferrari, but it's an expectations game, you know? That's why I'm trying to dampen expectations for FvF. It's good, yeah. Just... don't go in expecting something great, something like... Escape Room.

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posted by Ace at 05:22 PM

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