Jojo Rabbit (2019)

This was always going to be a controversial film, whenever you do films about Nazi Germany you run the risk of offending people. I remember in the 90’s if you made a film like this you’d have people say you shouldn’t make jokes about such a serious subject. In the last few years it’s different, especially since 2016, now films like this get deemed offensive by people who think they’re not pro-nazi enough. The Death Of Stalin was flooded with negative reviews saying it made Stalin look bad. This one was followed with similar feedback from racist dickbags, but it didn’t seem to overshadow it as much as it did Death Of Stalin.

I’m glad for that is this film deserves to be viewed on it’s own merits, and when you do you realise this is a brilliant film. It’s not perfect, the satire doesn’t hit quite as hard as it needed to. Although as weird as it this to say, it may not have worked as it well if it did. This is not really a nazi film, it’s a film set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany. It’s about the characters, and this contains some great ones. It’s got some great performances too. I may get hate for this, but I don’t really believe Scarlett Johansson deserved her Oscar nomination; her performance was good, but I don’t think it was one of the best of the year, it wasn’t even the best in the film. Roman Griffin Davis carries this film far more than you’d think considering it’s his first film role. His role is very difficult in this, he needs to play a member of the Hitler Youth, and still be likeable. It helps that the character is well written, showing that his hate is more from a place of vulnerability and youthful belief in authority rather than genuine malice. It’s summed up best by this sentence:

“You’re not a Nazi, Jojo, you’re a 10-year-old kid who likes dressing up in a funny uniform and wants to be part of a club.”

That line is said by Elsa, a Jewish girl who JoJo encounters hiding in his attic. Her character is the human equivalent of a hand grenade thrown into Jojo’s life, forever changing his life. Much like the literal hand grenade that scars him. Her performance is also a highlight of the film, and the relationship between the two characters provides most of the heartwarming moments of the film, and a few of the most heartbreaking moments. When this film wants to make you feel like shit, it does so brilliantly. I tend to cry more at comedies for some reason, I think it’s because it’s a wider variety of emotions in the film than when it’s just bleak all the time. It feels more realistic when it’s done like this, with highs and lows throughout the whole thing. So should you see this film? Definitely, without a shadow of a doubt. It’s funny, genuinely sweet, and yet will break you at times. Believe me, there’s so much more I could say about this, but you already know if you want to see it or not. If anything else the way the director played Hitler is to be commended. Especially when you read about the research he put in; zero because:

“It would just be too weird to play the actual Hitler, and I don’t think people would enjoy the character as much. Because he was such a fucking c*nt”

And that’s how I’m ending this blog. Now go see it

Isle Of Dogs (2018)

Have you ever seen a Wes Anderson film? Or even the poster for one? Did you hate it with every fibre of your being? If so this is not the film for you. The reasons you hate it: the colour schemes, the odd idiosyncratic nature of it all, they’re all prevalent here. But if you’re a fan of his work, then the reasons you love it: the colour schemes, the odd idiosyncratic nature of it all, they’re all prevalent here (thank you copy+paste). Personally, I adored it, and I chose that word specifically. I didn’t love it, it’s not the kind of film where I have a deep personal affection for it and will sing its praises to all and sundry. It’s not a film where I can spend hours talking about how it’s brilliant and everybody should love it. But it is a film I have warm feelings for, it’s the film equivalent of a cosy chair by a fireplace. You watch it and everything just feels, I dunno, right.

Part of that is down to the look of it. The stop-motion REALLY helps this. The style suits the story and is a great example of animation-story integration. If this was a heavily polished CGI film it would lose some of what makes it work. Even if it was animated like a 90’s Disney film it wouldn’t quite work. Characters are roughed up and damaged, this is great as it makes them seem real, like they’re actual things which have been damaged. So when someone is hurt in a fight, the damage stays with them throughout. The vocal work is great too, sometimes in animated films with all-star casts (and with Bryan Cranston, Bill Murray,Ken Watanabe, Scarlett Johansson etc, this is a definitely an all-star cast) it can be hard to be truly invested because every time a character speaks you go “hey, I know that voice”. You don’t really do that with this, probably because of how well suited the voices are to the characters, the characters sound exactly what you expect them to sound like when you look at the character designs.

The way the voices were handled was actually really well done too. The human characters mostly didn’t speak English, but Japanese, because the story is set in Japan (I know that seems obvious, but you’ll be amazed how many films make everybody speak English no matter what the location). The English come from either the dogs, an American, or a translation service, where the Japanese is still audible under the English (they essentially find an in-universe method of dubbing voices, and it’s genius).

So would I recommend seeing this? Definitely. Not if you’re a kid though (and if you are, why are you reading this?) Despite being marketed as a kids film I’m not sure how well this will be received by them. Also, it’s not quite as twee as the marketing and visual style might have you believe. It’s incredibly dark at times, one of the opening moments of the film features a dog dying of starvation, and it doesn’t lighten up too much in terms of story. If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson, watch it, if not, this won’t change your mind.