Babyteeth (2019)

Those of who who have been following this blog for a while, or have spoken to me for an extended period of time, know that I LOVE slice of life dramedys, especially ones with a cool visual style and a female lead. For evidence of this, view my love for Ghost World and Lady Bird. I also love films that go into dark subject matter, 50/50, for example, is one of my favourite comedies. So lets look at this film:

  • Slice of life dramedy? Check.
  • Female lead? Check.
  • Dark themes? The lead has cancer, so check.
  • The lead has funky hair? Check.

So this should be one of my favourite films of the year, but it pains me to say that it may be one of my least favourites. It’s not one of the worst, it has too many good things about it for that to be the case, but from a subjective standpoint I just could not enjoy this. I never hide the fact that these reviews are entirely subjective, that’s why Lego Batman movie gets a more positive review than Dunkirk. This approach hits some films more than others, and never will it hit harder than for this.

This film lost me in three of the opening scenes, to the point where it would have had to work VERY hard to get me back in.

1: The “meet-cute”

If your story is based around a romance between two people, you need the introduction of the two to each other to have a certain spark. Whether it’s locked eyes from across the room, one helping the other with an issue, or even just sitting near each other and their being an unexplained chemistry. So how do these characters meet? He bumps into her whilst running at a train. At first I thought what had happened was him bumping into her slowed his momentum as he attempted suicide by jumping in front of the train. I actually loved that as it would have been incredibly unique and funny. Now I look back at it I’m not entirely sure that was the case, there is a slight chance it might have been though so I won’t hold that against it. What I will hold against it is the following: they start talking and she gets a nose-bleed. How does he stop it? Pretty much like this:

Yes, he basically smothers her face (with a cloth though, not just his hand). Oh, and you have no idea how much I had to search before I found a non-porn picture like that. It genuinely looks like it’s going to start a kidnapping scene, especially once he gets onto the floor and pulls her down with him. For some reason she finds this cute, so he asks her for money, which she gives him. It’s at this point the film is begins to make me feel uncomfortable.

2. The therapy scene

Soon after this we’re introduced to a scene titled something like “9am Tuesday appointment” which features a woman and a therapist talking and then having sex. It’s not made clear until near the end of the scene that they’re husband and wife so you’re sitting there thinking it’s a man abusing a vulnerable patient and then by the time you realise it’s not you’ve forgotten what actually happened in the scene as none of your notions about what was happening were correct. This is good a time as any to point out how weirdly the film introduces major plot points. How do we find out the main character has cancer? A title card that says “remission”. It’s not set up AT ALL.

3. The Dinner scene

This is where we find out the characters ages. The girl? 16, the guy (Moses), 23. So this film is about a 23 year old guy (who already has a girlfriend) going out with a 16 year old cancer patient, breaking into her house to steal things, and at one point stealing her drugs. Why should I give a shit about it?

Like I said, it would have taken A LOT for the film to come back from these scenes, and it never even looks like it’s going to. Moses never gets any better, never has a redeemable moment that makes him likeable. He continues doing awful things throughout the film and is never held accountable. His relationship with the main character (Milla) is basically this:

Moses: *steals from her*

Milla: You dick I hate you, leave!

Moses: *breaks into her room in middle of night*

Milla: I forgive you

Moses: *takes her to a house party and makes out with a girl in front of her*

Repeat ad nauseam.

It all makes for an incredibly frustrating watch. He doesn’t even make up for it in the closing scenes. Chronologically (there’s a random flashback at the end with no indication as to when it was) this film ends like this: She tells him the pain is too much and asks him to smother her with a pillow until she dies. He does it but stops halfway through, they then have sex. Yup, they really did a euthanasia-based sex scene. Fuck that. He wakes up the next morning and says hi to her parents and has a smoke. By this point, she is dead, and he doesn’t mention it to her mum before she goes to wake her up. He doesn’t even have the decency to look shocked. Well he might do but you can’t fucking see as the scene is weirdly shot with him being half in, half out the door so you can’t get a proper look at his face, instead being met with the far more interesting sight of beige. In that scene you NEED to see his emotion. You need to see the emotional conflict he’s going through, and this film hides that from us, and is all the worst for it. There are multiple sub-plots I haven’t mentioned because in the end they meant absolutely nothing.

Now onto the positives: the colours were wonderful. It had a vibrant palette that really popped and was interesting visually. Also the music was incredible, it had possibly one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard all year. That cannot make up for the rest of the film though. It doesn’t make up for how, I’m really struggling to find the words here. Well, you know how when you do exercise in the middle of a heat wave? (like running, jogging, or standing up out of a chair). You know that horrible sticky sweat you get? The sweat that clings to your body like it’s semi-solid and hangs in the air so you can almost taste it? Watching this film feels like touching that. It also reminded me of one of the worst songs in existence

2010’s In Film Day 8 (2018)

January – Coco

A film that’s just as beautiful now as it was when it was released. This film is incredibly emotional, but it is also life-affirming. Yes, you’ll cry your eyes out, but you’ll also feel uplifted by the whole thing. Another great thing about it is that it used a mostly Latino cast, they didn’t just hire a lot of white people and get them to do a mildly racist accent. On the downside, apparently, when this was released it was pre-empted with a new short film based on Frozen, which is a somewhat misguided thing to do. This was one of the first films I saw that year, so it could really only go downhill from there.

February – Lady Bird

Or it could get better. This is a personal favourite of mine. I know quite a few people who hate this film, and I get it. It meanders a lot and doesn’t really have a plot. Considering how important story is to me, you’d think I would hate this. But something about this film makes me love it. I think it’s the general tone of it, it’s very warm. It’s basically an Instagram filter placed on polaroid pictures of treasured memories. It makes me nostalgic for a life I never even had, for a time which I didn’t really experience.

March – Blockers

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; it’s incredibly refreshing to see a teen sex comedy from a female perspective. Not many films admit that teenage girls enjoy sex. It’s mostly teenage boys “conquering” girls until they sleep with them. The idea that women can get pleasure from sex is weirdly missing from films (with the exception of two characters; the slut, and the cheating girlfriend/wife), so it is nice to see this film. Also, it’s hilarious, full of great performances all round.

April – A Quiet Place

In 1952 John Cage composed the piece 4’33”. It’s basically: everyone in the orchestra puts their instruments down and do nothing for four minutes, thirty-three seconds. The intention is that it makes people listen to the background noise, to make them aware of the atmospheric sounds around this. This film does that, Because the audience noise was so sporadic, when it did happen it wasn’t annoying, it was scary. That’s what makes this film unique, every time you see it will be different because you’ll have to listen to the background noises around you. They’ll be people uncomfortable who’ll be adjusting their position, which creates noise that scares you, that exact scare will never happen again for any other screening, it’s unique to that one experience. It’s a horror movie with audience participation. I tried watching it on a plane, though, and it didn’t really work.

May – Deadpool 2

This….this was not a good month for me. Most the films released this month that I’d want to see weren’t released at cinemas (How To Talk To Girls At Parties I can understand as was low budget etc, but the cinema showed trailers for Entebbe all the time so how can they not show that?). I prefer this film to the first one, the story is much better for one. I always felt that most of the first film felt like a set-up to the final scene, rather than one continuous story. This felt like a flowing story with a beginning, middle, and end. Plus it also genuinely surprised me, the marketing campaign hid what this film was actually about better than any film I’ve seen (including Endgame). Luckily it did it in a funny way so you didn’t feel annoyed and disappointed. The big downside is TJ Miller is still in it. I would have understood if they reshot his scenes with someone else.

June – Hereditary

The best way I can showcase my feelings about this film is to quote my original review:

It’s been a few days since I watched this. I needed the cool-down period so that I could approach this with the sophistication and slick analytical nature which we are known for. So here goes: WHAT THE COCKING SHIT-FUCK WAS THAT?

I still maintain it’s worthy of the cocking shit fuck. I may have been wrong a few minutes ago when I said Deadpool hid what the film was about the best. This completely misled the audience. Kudos to the film for having the sheer balls to kill what looked like the main character, and so brutally too, I like marketing that works like that, when it deliberately deceives you, but not in a way that you feel cheated, but in a way that it means the story beats come as a complete surprise. It’s the way of saying “okay, now all bets are off” and it throws you off. That’s what you want from this film, you want to be unsettled and to feel like you’re constantly on the backfoot. That sense of unease and uncertainty is essential to a film like this. I love it, but don’t want to watch it again.

July – The Incredibles 2

The first one was Incredible, and this one was Incredible two (I’m so sorry). Everything about this film just works beautifully, the voice-work, the way it looks, the story, it all interacts with each other in the most wonderful way. The story is serviceable, it doesn’t come anywhere near the depth of Toy Story 3, or the heart of Finding Dory, but that doesn’t actually matter. You’re not sitting there thinking “well this story is pedestrian” because the way the film is done you don’t really care, you’re just sitting there amazed at what you see unveiling in front of you. It does what it needs to do, and it does it well. That’s not to say it’s a simple movie, it’s probably the only mass-market animated movie this year that has dealt with the themes this does. Themes of masculinity and feeling worthless because you’re not the one the family depends on, the emasculation that can cause. Was it worth the wait? Kind of. I mean, I’d be annoyed if they said we had to wait 14 years until the next one, but I’d rather they get everything perfect than rush it out. Like A Quiet Place, I watched this on a plane too. Well, I attempted to, the guy sitting next to me was watching it too and he was about 2 minutes ahead of me. I had to stop the film as I knew I would never win that race.

August – Searching

It HAD to be this. It HAD to. This is one of my favourite films, not just of that year, but of all time. A true hidden gem. It’s so good I struggle to talk about it. It does SO much right, and I can’t wait to see it again. *spoilers* even the happy ending doesn’t feel forced or tacked on. Some films are so good they inspire you to make similar films, this film is so good it will kind of make you want to give up as you know you will never touch it. It’s apt that I reviewed this after finishing the Saw series blogs, because that series could learn a lot from this about how to craft a compelling mystery. The film is about a girl who goes missing, and her fathers attempts to find her, but the entire film takes place on computer screens.  This has been done before; with Unfriended, which considering I now call that “Unfriended. A.k.a, fuck that film” should show how highly I regarded that film, and my expectations for this. I have a love/hate relationship with “gimmick” films. You know what I mean, the kind where the biggest sell of it isn’t the plot or actors, but the way they made the film. When they’re done well, like Buried (one person in a casket for the entire film), they’re a great piece of film-making, but they have to be great, because if they’re only okay (Unsane), then the fact it’s a gimmick-heavy film works makes it seem worse. Every writer should watch this film, so should every editor. In fact, everyone who wants to get involved in film-making should watch this film, it’s just so damn good.

September – The House With A Clock In Its Walls

This film is the work of someone who knows what they’re doing, but is toning it down slightly for the younger audience. This is definitely a film for kids, it is a slight horror but it has that warm feeling that you associate with films from the ’80s like ET etc. There’s an air of warm nostalgia to the whole thing that will warm the hearts of fans of those films. It’s incredibly, I don’t know, cosy. Just because it’s a difficult film to dislike, does not mean it’s an easy film to love. It just doesn’t really do much to make you remember it for years to come. The final third almost manages it, with a chaotically fast-paced piece that is logical and weird. The whole film is weird, which makes sense as that’s the message of the film: weird is good, embrace the weirdness. Also; bullies are dickholes.

October – Halloween

I’ve never seen a Halloween film. Well that’s a lie, I might have seen the first one, but when I was like 10 so I wasn’t really paying attention to it. As such my knowledge of the film series is stuff I absorb through pop-culture osmosis. So I know a little bit (He’s called Michael Myers, the third one is unconnected to the rest of the series and was originally meant to be the second one, THAT music etc), but not enough that I feel emotionally connected to. Despite that; I still REALLY enjoyed this. It seems to ignore all but the first one, and is all the better for it. You don’t need to have watched a lot of films to get this, as long as you know the basics of the character you should be fine, actually considering how well scripted this is I don’t even think you’ll need that. It does a great job of bringing you up to speed, explaining what’s haunting certain characters. The downsides of this film; there’s one death which is kind of embarrassing to watch. It’s where Michael Myers stamps on someone’s head, it looks incredibly fake and is almost comical. It breaks the tension completely and takes you out of the moment. There are also issues with the characters. The ones who survive are fine, it’s the ones who die that you don’t really care for. There are some characters with promise who then die before they get to fulfil that promise. And there is a twist which is completely unnecessary and stops mattering after a few minutes, it seems like it is only there because it was the only way they could think of to move the plot from one moment to the next. Luckily the moment that builds up to is superb.

November – Ralph Breaks The Internet

I enjoyed the first movie, it was fun, heartwarming, smart, and funny. It was done by people who had an obvious love for video games, specifically arcade and retro ones. This one……doesn’t really work, for many reasons. Firstly, it kind of feels like a generic movie, not a Wreck It Ralph sequel. The first movie doesn’t seem to come into play much here, it’s not a natural progression and feels like it could have been written featuring any characters. Too many of the jokes veer into “this is a thing, we are referencing the thing, now laugh!” territory. There are some funny moments but they’re few and far between. This wouldn’t matter as much if the script was engaging, but it’s not. It’s incredibly bland, I was actually bored many times throughout this. When it approached what I thought could be an ending I was actually disappointed to be proven wrong. There’s an entire subplot about characters from the first movie starting a family which takes up a grand total of about 3 minutes of screentime. It’s kind of strange as you can tell the film was aiming to be emotionally heavy, and that would have been a good subplot to cut to to relieve tension and provide juxtaposition. It’s way too reminiscent of The Emoji movie for its own good.

December – Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

This film loves the character of Spider-man, you can tell this by the way it mocks him sometimes. It’s like the lego batman movie in that way, it does make fun of previous films, but it’s done with such knowledge and love. This is a different kind of comic book movie, for one thing, it’s REALLY weird. It’s a film for kids that deals with multiverse theory. It’s also incredibly meta, but not too much so. The voice work here is great too. The film-makers didn’t skimp when it came to casting, you’ve got real talent here: Hailee Steinfeld, Lily Tomlin, Nicholas Cage, Liev Schreiber, Kathryn Hahn etc. It also features what has to count as the best and most heartbreaking Stan Lee cameo ever. This is the first film released after his death (not counting the Deadpool 2 re-release), he appears on screen after Spider-man dies and says “I’m going to miss him”. F*cking heartbreaking. The most depressing part of the film, and there’s quite a lot of them, I mean, the original Spider-man gets killed early on, and all the alternate spider-men/pig/women are haunted by a death of someone, they’re defined by guilt about who they could not save. This is the best time to mention the characterisation of the different universe characters; they are all fully-fledged characters with motivations and backstories. This could be a film to launch a franchise.

The animation is some of the best you’ll see, with multiple styles displayed across the film, each incredibly distinct and gorgeous. The fight scenes are done brilliantly too, you never lose track of what’s happening, the final fight, in particular, is a masterpiece of surreal film-making that plays out like a AAA video game boss level. The soundtrack too, is amazing. It really suits the film, the songs are not only great but they go perfectly with the images. It does what a soundtrack should do, it complements the film perfectly. Yeah, I’ve said a lot of good things about this, with good reason, it’s BRILLIANT. The one downside is the flashing lights could cause a seizure, and that really should have been better publicised. Other than that? A great way for me to end the year, and this blog.

Lady Bird (2017)

This film will not be for everybody, and that’s okay. If you enjoy this film, you will enjoy it passionately, you will identify with it in a way that you don’t identify with a lot of films. You will feel it is a personal look into your mind. You will feel like the memories contained within are yours. But if you don’t enjoy this film, you will despise every second of it, you will find the characters annoying and unlikeable, you will find the lack of a clear narrative annoying, and the fact it’s not very “film-like” will annoy the crap out of you. This film is not for everybody, and that’s okay. As you can tell by now, I loved it. I loved how it seemed like a modern John Hughes movie. This film has all the archetypes of a classic 80’s Hughes movie: the outcast best friend, the frustrated parent, the two potential love interests (one of whom is a complete prick), prom, the focus on class differences in American culture (which is a subject which rarely pops up in American cinema, which is odd as it’s pretty much the basis of British cinema), and the obvious focus on music which transcends just accompanying the film, and becomes intertwined with it. Also, Molly Ringwald (or to give her her full name: Molly F*cking Ringwald) totally would have nailed this role. The director/writer acknowledged the influence that Pretty In Pink had on this film, and it’s obvious for all to see, but there also seems to be influenced by other films too; Boyhood, Freaks And Geeks etc. And it’s all the better for it. It makes the film seem familiar, so watching it is like welcoming an old friend into your home.

I read an article on BBC news a few weeks ago asking whether this was the most overrated film up for an Academy Award. They came to this conclusion by comparing critical reviews, and audience reviews. It’s got an average critical response of 94 (based on Metacritic reviews), but only a 77 in audience reviews on IMDB (well, a 7.7, but it’s not difficult to translate the scores). I was worried about that, I liked the trailer for this film and didn’t want to be disappointed. After watching this film I can say this: I know why people dislike it. The narrative structure is all over the place, it’s not a particularly beautiful film from a visual standpoint, and nothing really happens. It’s also INCREDIBLE! Kind of reminded me of Ghost World (which if you haven’t seen I highly recommend) in that it’s not so much about the story, but about the characters. I personally loved the visual style too. It made the whole thing look like a Polaroid picture. That, combined with the narrative structure, and the tone of the whole thing, made it seem like it was just a series of recollections from somebody, jumping from one topic to the next, sections missing as they’re not relevant to what they’re talking about at that exact moment. I know to some people that sounds like hell, and considering how often I go on about the importance of story, you’d think I’d hate this too, but it’s just too damn good for me not to love it. I know it’s early in the year, but I know for a fact that come January 2019, this will be on my list of favourite films of 2018. Usually I appreciate films more than I personally love them, this was the opposite; I loved it more than I liked it, but I still liked it a lot.