October 2020 in Summary: Suspense

Yes, it’s been yet another busy month for me. Sorry about that; I’ll try to get some actual reviews out next month. Hope you all are doing well!

Films watched in October 2020:

In theaters:

  • <None>

At home:

  • The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963)
  • The Fortune Cookie (Billy Wilder, 1966)
  • High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)
  • Boyz n the Hood (John Singleton, 1991)
  • Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)

I suspect I’m one of the very few people in this day and age outside of film buffs who ended up seeing La Grande Illusion before The Great Escape. I say this because I could definitely see a lot of parallels between the two films in how they both treat soldiers on both sides of the conflict as ordinary people. The early-to-mid 1960s was a rough time for films, as it was when Hollywood’s golden age was coming to an end, but I have little doubt that The Great Escape was one of the era’s last classics.

In The Fortune Cookie, Luther “Boom Boom” Jackson of the Cleveland Browns injures cameraman Harry Hinkle. Harry’s brother-in-law, a crooked attorney named William H. Gingrich, considers a scheme to get a large indemnity from the insurance company.

Making this the third-worst thing to ever happen to the Cleveland Browns.

The Fortune Cookie isn’t the first film that springs to mind when discussing Billy Wilder, but I would go as far as saying it’s one of his best films along with Sunset Boulevard. By 1966, the Hays Code was about to expire, and the New Hollywood movement had, depending on your point of view, just begun or was just around the corner. It’s easy to conclude that, based on its release date, that The Fortune Cookie was behind the curve, but it’s not true. In fact, it’s a testament to how legitimately progressive the talent in Hollywood was at the time that they were able to cast an African American man in a major role without coming across as heavy-handed. Otherwise, The Fortune Cookie is Billy Wilder-style black comedy at its best, and that doubtlessly makes it worth watching.

100 years before he wrote The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller terrorized an Old West settlement in New Mexico by going after Sheriff Gary Cooper. I think even if you haven’t seen a Western, most of the people reading this knows vaguely what they entail given the genre’s influence on other mediums. I say this because it turns out Fred Zinnemann was subverting expectations way before the likes of Rian Johnson or Neil Druckmann made it uncool. It’s seriously difficult to believe that a film this gritty was made in the squeaky-clean classic Hollywood era. In that regard, it has a lot in common with Ace in the Hole, and it is that quality that has allowed it to stand the test of time.

The definitive hood film. In Boyz n the Hood, Laurence Fishburne plays who is perhaps the single coolest father character in the history of cinema (with one of the single coolest names for any character in the history of cinema – Furious Styles) as he raises his son in the neighborhood of Crenshaw, Los Angeles. The problem I have with a lot of slice-of-life films (i.e. Gloria Bell and Eighth Grade) is their directionless nature, but that is absolutely not a problem with Boyz n the Hood; it knows exactly what it wants to convey to the audience, and is all the more effective for it. It’s a bit of a shame John Singleton was never able to follow up on the critical success of his debut, but Boyz n the Hood remains a classic film worthy of the praise critics have given it over the years. Also, Ice Cube is in it. If that doesn’t motivate you to see it, nothing will.

And finally, while on the subject of Billy Wilder, I ended the month by seeing one of his early classics. While I didn’t like it quite as much as The Fortune Cookie, it too is a classic well worth seeing. One may criticize Mr. Wilder for making two films about indemnity, but the truth is that the films are quite a bit different from each other. One involves insurance fraud while the other involves murder. Its conclusion is also a little more predictable when you consider the filmmaking standards at the time, but it remains one of Mr. Wilder’s definitive works.

Featured articles:

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A Miasma of Mediocrity: Mulan Synopsis – Let’s play a word-association game. Disney. Stagnation. Yes, Disney, having shot themselves in the foot repeatedly over the past few years, have followed in Mike Love’s footsteps in the last few years by remaking their classic animated films in live-action. Mulan appears to have gone over like a lead balloon, and Amanda Hurych explains why she believes it to be quite the mediocre experience.

I Always Feel Like SOMA is Watching Me… And There’s Some Philosophy (First Impressions Post) – Delving into the psychological aspects of horror in gaming, Athena takes a look at SOMA, one of the many such games to emerge from the indie scene.

Am I the only one disliking LIMBO? – It’s interesting that the gaming press, as it is now, tends to ignore indie efforts because back when Limbo was released, I would say their biggest fault is that they tended to grade on a curve. Sure, these efforts were praised, but the vibe I got from many assessments was “It was good… for an indie game” (and yes, you do have to say “dot dot dot” when reading that statement). Considering quality efforts such as Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, Undertale, and OneShot have managed to exceed AAA efforts either through stellar gameplay or a legitimately great story (and in some cases, both), “Good for an indie game” is no longer a meaningful qualifier. Limbo is still considered a hallmark of the indie scene, but Quietschisto makes the case that it hasn’t stood the test of time – a sentiment I fully agree with considering its rather backwards-looking approach to game design.

13 thoughts on “October 2020 in Summary: Suspense

  1. I kept thinking Disney would end up dropping their live-action projects, since they seem to be so widely either ignored or hated. I guess they must be making the company money, though, otherwise what would be the point? It’s certainly a sign of total stagnation, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Looking at the numbers, it appears that Mulan bombed big time, so this could end up being a case where their tactics receive diminishing returns on investment. Goes to show why getting complacent doesn’t work out well in the long term, though to be completely fair, the pandemic likely butchered the box office numbers quite a bit. That said, I have heard the remake of Pete’s Dragon is pretty good, though if what I heard is true, it’s because the original is something of a mixed bag. Personally, I think that makes more sense than remaking a film that is already good.

      Either way, I guess it goes to show why soaking up all the IPs wasn’t such a good long term strategy; it turns out having such a monolithic entertainment studio wreaks havoc on creativity. Who knew?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, movie remakes are kind of a weird bag anyways, and the Disney live action remakes seem especially weird. Normally, I’d gather that since they’re able to keep them going the way they have they must not be that expensive to make so they don’t need to get that successful on them to be worthwhile, but they’re using a fair bit of name-level talent and wide ranging CGI in them, so I can’t actually imagine they’re that cheap. In any case, I’d only watched one, the Beauty and the Beast, which was the epitome of OK, and all I really got from that was an urge to watch the animated movie because it’s so much better. Artistically, it just makes me wonder what the point of the live-action remakes are.

      And this is kind of apropos of nothing but I don’t have anywhere else to talk about it so I’ll put it here. Back when I worked with a film commission, we had helped out with a Disney movie but were never acknowledge in the credits because of internal political reasons. So I find it really ironically humourous the hot water Disney got into because of the external political reasons with their acknowledgements in the credits of Mulan.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Seems extremely shitty not to get credited for your work, no matter what kind it is. Though I did hear about those acknowledgments at the end of Mulan — they would be enough for me to never watch the movie, even if I had any interest in the first place.

        Liked by 3 people

        • I know, right? I know the anti-capitalist message in The Last Jedi was insincere, but their acknowledgements in the Mulan have upgraded (?) them to moral cowards in addition to hypocrites. Maybe it’s for the best the film bombed horribly; I’m pretty sure they managed to enrage both sides of the political spectrum with their antics, which is admittedly an impressive feat, but not one they should be proud of.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, it turns out that monopolizing the entertainment industry wasn’t such a hot idea in the long term, huh? When you just crush or absorb all of your rivals, it just means you have to fall back on your old ideas when nobody is creating anything new. And it also turns out such an approach eventually results in diminishing returns on investment.

        A lot of people say The Invisible Man remake managed to be successful, but not having seen any other version, I can only speculate as to why that is. I get the feeling the live-action Disney remakes fall short because they have the insurmountable task of attempting to surpass things people know are already good without brining anything new to the table. It’s probably why Pete’s Dragon tends to get a pass; it’s because it was an attempt to improve on a work that wasn’t considered one of Disney’s better efforts (that, and they apparently went in a different direction with the premise). So yeah, from a financial standpoint, the live-action remakes make sense, but from an artistic one? Not so much.

        Disney sure is a company of contradictions, aren’t they? The anti-capitalist allegory in The Last Jedi was hard to take seriously back in 2017, but seeing them bend their knee to the almighty dollar – even when it means (indirectly) enabling human-rights violations – makes their sentiments ring even more hollow. With their actions, they are very much guilty of moral cowardice – they can only be counted on to do the right thing and act progressive when it doesn’t affect their bottom line.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Aww thank you so much for featuring my post again!

    Those are some interesting movies you watched. I think I only saw Boyz In The Hood and I could not get to far into that. It wasn’t really my sort of flick. I do agree that it had a lot of direction and sense of purpose though. I just could not really get into the atmosphere.. I did watch it when I was super tired though so perhaps I should give it another shot!

    As far as Disney’s Mulan Remake is concerned.. I really think that Disney is trying to enforce modern messages on old tales that do not meet. Mulan never had super powers before that was the entire point.. That did not make her a weak woman it is something she overcame.. but for some reason Disney lost any sense of that a character can develop over time.. so Mulan has to have super powers from the get go.. I would place this a fair bit below a mediocre movie! .. Well at least as a below Mediocre remake. To me with these movies Disney above all has shown an inability to recognise their own stories.. .which might be in part because they already .. did not create unique stories ot begin with.. so these are copies of copies.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yeah, I’ve heard people using that term before. It’s not a very good long-term strategy, is it? You do eventually have to change up your game or else you’re on the fast (?) track to stagnation.


    • You’re welcome!

      Indeed, it’s because I try to consume a large variety of media. It’s to the point where on multiple occasions, I have gotten clerks to comment on my bizarre purchase combinations. Almost without exception, I’m going to favor the slice-of-life stories that have an actual purpose to them than the ones that take the genre too literally by having no plot to speak of, and Boyz n the Hood is a perfect example of the former. I do recommend giving it another shot because I’d say the results are worth it.

      And I do get this sense of Disney attempting to course-correct whenever they make these kinds of films. I think filmmakers tend to underestimate their audiences because a normal person is going to realize that not every piece of art is going to age perfectly, and I find these attempts at forcing contemporary sensibilities into old stories make them go from “kind of dated” to “instadated”. Whoever is writing these films needs to remember that characters need to undergo arcs in order to be compelling; having everything handed to them makes them unrelatable. It’s why I generally prefer old classics over the ones praised within the last few years; the quality of the writers decreased dramatically throughout the 2010s. There are still good stories being written, but they’re not coming out of Hollywood.


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