[A Quiet Place]

The story of a family surviving in a world under attack by creatures who hunt by sound, A Quiet Place pulls the viewer in immediately not for the lack of sound, but the use of it. I’ve seen it described as a silent film, which is wildly inaccurate given the frequent use of POV sound. We’re set up for this immediately as we transition from a hearing character to a deaf one, so we’re ready when we find ourselves hearing the world as the creature does.

I’m always going to be in favor of the theatrical experience – you don’t see 250-odd movies in the cinema a year if you don’t think that matters – but some films work there in a way they’re never going to work at home. Sometimes it’s just that you need to see it as big as possible. Sometimes you need to be forced to focus, to be in a space where your attention is drawn into the film when it wanders, not drawn into your phone. And sometimes you need to be with a bunch of other people who are also afraid to eat their popcorn lest they make a noise and endanger the characters on screen.

That’s a particular kind of spellbinding experience, and in addition to the sound, it’s helped along by the clear photography. You can easily imagine a less-effective shaky-can version, but Krasinski ensures we always know what we’re looking at and where we are geographically with clean framing and movement.

Aside from that that, A Quiet Place is notable for Millicent Simmonds’ character (if names were given in the film, I missed them). First, she’s a deaf actress playing a deaf character, which should not still be notable, and yet is. Also, her disability is key to the plot in a positive way. In any other movie the deaf character would have been forced to adapt to the hearing world, and her deafness would have made her a target, but in the world of A Quiet Place, the fact that her family adapted to *her* by learning ASL is what enables them to survive.

I also appreciated that though the parents hewed closely to traditional gender roles – and try to pass them on – it’s clear from the film that Millicent’s character is the one with the drive to learn how to protect and go into the dangerous world provide for the family, whereas her brother would be happier staying close to home. (The casting of John & Emily as the parents does a lot of heavy lifting in terms of how we perceive these likely-survivalist characters.)

There are plenty of plot holes – look, even I wondered how they were getting electricity – but I was too busy telling my knees to relax to notice most of the time, and the ending is perfect. You can get away with a lot when you have a perfect ending.

[What Did Jaci Think? Late March]

I watched The Death of Stalin mostly from between my fingers while muttering “oh my god” under my breath. It is very funny but it also never lets you forget the horror of what’s happening (sometimes audibly) offscreen. It fits perfectly into Iannucci’s filmography, another piece about mediocre men scrambling for power.

My personal favorite in the cast was Paddy Considine as the radio producer who sets up the comic-yet-deadly urgency of the whole situation for ordinary people as he drags back the orchestra, the pianist, and a crowd to recreate a live broadcast, with Olga Kurylenko, the pianist and conscience of the film, as a close second.

Operation Red Sea is also about power, but in a very different way. It’s three movies in one, and its obvious goal is to impress you with the might of the Chinese Navy. It’s overlong, but with effective action, and it’s always fun for me to check in periodically with what’s slaying worldwide box office. (When we saw it, it was currently number two worldwide, but with half the box office of Black Panther.)

Pacific Rim: Uprising is goofier but also less weird than the original, but here’s the thing: If you think you’d be into robots fighting monsters some more (who wouldn’t) & you like John Boyega (who doesn’t) you’ll probably have fun. I agree with everything in this review by Glen Weldon (especially that he points out a small thing I also loved: the care the movie takes to let you know that cities are empty before building smashing begins.)

Tomb Raider is also pretty goofy, in an Indiana Jones sort of way, an origin story with puzzles and curses and henchmen, but I liked it a lot more than I expected for a few reasons. First of course, Alicia Vikander, who the camera appreciates (on an athletic level) but does not leer at. It shouldn’t be praiseworthy that a lady action hero wears pants & has her hair pulled back out of her dang face, but it is. She also has a great moment when she is first forced to kill someone, but has to sit for a moment with what she’s done, as she is rightfully shaken.

Continue reading “[What Did Jaci Think? Late March]”

[What Did Jaci Think? Early March]

Thoroughbreds should totally have been my jam, high school girls with a side of murder, but it didn’t quite work for me. I needed it to be either darker or camp, & it played it too safe. I dig both actresses, Olivia Cooke from Me & Earl & the Dying Girl (which Film Twitter hated but I loved because I will always cheer on too-rare girl-boy friendship stories) & Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch. Also, the score & sound design was terrific.

It reminded me a lot of Lady Macbeth, another murderous young lady movie which I wanted to love but found too clinical. (It occurs to me now that Anton Yelchin is the Naomi Ackie of Thoroughbreds, in his case the more unlikely moral center.)

Also, a warning on Thoroughbreds: A horse is killed in the movie. We don’t see it, but we hear a pretty intense description.

I didn’t grow up reading A Wrinkle in Time* because I didn’t read fantasy as a kid, so I don’t have that childhood emotional attachment to the material, but it’s a film where I can see all the flaws and basically I don’t care. It has a big heart and it made me cry and when Oprah tells Meg she can do it, she just chooses not to, it knocked me into next week.

Continue reading “[What Did Jaci Think? Early March]”

[Love, Simon]

To be honest with you all, I kind of rolled my eyes at the first trailer I saw for Love, Simon. Then I registered for two preview screenings & blew off both of them. But finally I took my tiny stone heart to see the first Thursday night screening, and Reader? It is adorbs.

Love, Simon is a romcom of the teen fantasy movie variety: the well-off white family with the house straight out of a magazine, the supportive parents, the cute friends, all that jazz, all very palatable. That’s the point; this is a gay movie that kids can see at the mall.

At! The mall! Not just at a queer film festival, not just at an art house in ten markets across the country, not just on Netflix, maybe eventually if they’re lucky, but at the mall! It doesn’t have death or violence or abuse; it’s not saddled with an R rating because the mere idea of two boys kissing gives the MPAA palpitations.

It’s just a fluffy teen movie you can see & then go get fries & milkshakes. A gay movie at the multiplex so if you have to you can tell your mom you’re seeing something else instead. It’s a sweet, funny, comfort food romcom, it was exactly what I needed this week, and I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have a movie like this as a teen.

Continue reading “[Love, Simon]”

[What Did Jaci Think? Late February]

First & most importantly I saw Black Panther opening night. No one needs to read a white girl on it, but obviously I loved it & I’m looking forward to seeing it again. (Also, I’d never seen a Chekov’s rhino before, so well done there.)

This half of February was dominated by Noir City, which is always a treat. This year was a strong festival for librarians and lady booksellers, from the library noir Quiet Please, Murder, to the bookseller who let down her hair & spent a rainy afternoon with Bogart in The Big Sleep.

A-List faves include Mildred Pierce and Shadow of a Doubt of course, plus The Maltese Falcon for the very first time (Peter Lorre has my heart) and The Man Who Cheated Himself (for Jane Wyatt, femme fatale, & the turnabout is fair play school of murder).

Continue reading “[What Did Jaci Think? Late February]”

[Hostiles]

Note: I realized belatedly that this was its own thing, & pulled it out of What Did Jaci Think? Early February

I spent most of the over-long runtime of Hostiles thinking about why this story was being told in the first place, and even more so, why it was being told from this perspective. I think about this a lot, but this year I’m going to start talking about it more, so beware.

After a cold open of a brutal attack on a white pioneer family which leaves only the mother alive (the always-terrific Rosamund Pike), we’re introduced to Christian Bale’s Captain Blocker. He’s being charged with the task of escorting Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family home to Montana after seven years in prison for the crime of … I have no idea, actually, so I assume it’s for being Native American. Blocker doesn’t want the job, but he takes it, and he hates it, and he doesn’t open up exactly but he does sort of begin to understand that maybe he might be a little wrong but only a very little and…

I hate it. I don’t want another damned story about a racist white dude who gets to redeem himself and get the girl and (if timed correctly, which this wasn’t, thank god) the Oscar nomination. I would have much preferred even to have watched this exact story, but from the perspective of Chief Yellow Hawk. I’m over *~complex~* racist white guys. I want the Native actor to get the complex role for a change. I mean, just think about that story for a minute: you’re the chief, you and your family are stolen and taken far away from your home, then you’re locked up, unable to save them, for seven years? And then this too-old-for-this-shit jerk takes you home (only because you’re dying, btw) and treats you like you’re nothing and likely worse than nothing.

Surviving that with your humanity intact is much more interesting than inflicting it.

Also Hostiles wasted a terrific Native cast: Studi, of course, but also including Q’orianka Kilcher, Tanaya Beatty, and Adam Beach. Wouldn’t you rather see a movie starring them? I definitely would.

The one thing I am grateful for, other than the cinematography and Rosamund Pike’s wrenching, hollowed-out grief, is the fact that though there is the inevitable sexual assault scene, we don’t see it. We see the threat and we see the women after, but we never see it happen.

Even here, though, Blocker continues to demonstrate his lack of regard for the Native women in his care. He is worried that Pike’s character might be unable to ride a horse the next day. He does not express any such concern for the Native women who were also assaulted.

It’s 2018. I don’t want to see the racist white guy movie anymore. I’m over it.

[What Did Jaci Think? Early February]

I originally had an extended-for-this-venue take on Hostiles which I’ve now pulled into its own entry over here. I now return you to the post already in progress:

Some stories I will definitely see more than once. Till the End of the World is essentially The Mountain Between Us, but Chinese, set in Antarctica, and obviously not entirely the Western romance novel Mountain is. It’s ridiculous and completely my jam. It has the chartered plane, the leg injury, the snow (obviously), the conveniently-located cabin, but with a CGI penguin instead of a dog and scientist & a venture capitalist instead of a journalist & a doctor. There’s a strip-down-to-share-body-heat scene! There’s Mark Chao talking to seals and using a bra as sunglasses! There is room for both of these movies in my world is what I am saying.

Gosh, I should also say I do still see some movies genuinely worth seeing. I’m missing most of Cinerama’s Best Picture series because I’d caught everything already (before nominations, even, which is a first for me) and $17 a film adds up fast, but I did make the effort for Phantom Thread (even though it wasn’t showing on 70mm).

It’s even better the second time, both for silly personal reasons (I sometimes have a hard time with, let us say, bodily functions on film, so it was very helpful to know exactly what was coming) and also because it’s a masterpiece, by which I mean you can watch it focused on a different element every time and have a satisfying experience.

Continue reading “[What Did Jaci Think? Early February]”

[What Did Jaci Think? Late January]

It took me three tries to see Darkest Hour because I was just not motivated, and honestly, I can’t think of a reason why any of you need to see it, unless you are also Oscar completists with MoviePass. I always felt like I was watching prosthetics act, with an occasional flash of Gary Oldman behind them.

It’s a film built around the goal of getting Oldman an Oscar, & that’s not enough for me.

The high point was any scene with Kristin Scott Thomas (obviously); the low point was the irritating, fabricated Underground sequence.

Upon reflection, I only care for Joe Wright when he works with women (this is maybe like how I only dig Edgar Wright when he works with Simon Pegg). But really. I love Atonement, Hanna, and Anna Karenina, and I have a begrudging appreciation of his Pride & Prejudice, high praise from anyone who saw the Ehle/Firth miniseries at a formative age.

Well, now I’ve got that sorted.

Next up, Proud Mary, which I really wanted to love but didn’t, damn it. It’s a film that can’t figure out what it wants to be – an assassin flick or a family drama – and I needed it to pick one. And let’s be honest: I wanted the assassin movie. It’s clearly a passion project for Taraji P. Henson, & I do still love her and the idea of this character, but they both deserved better than the poorly directed, lit, written, & scored movie that they got.

Regardless, I’m happy to have thrown my dollars at it, though, because you know what? White dudes get to make bad action movies all the time and then keep on making big movies. I’m 100% going to be part of the demand for black lady action movies.

Continue reading “[What Did Jaci Think? Late January]”

[What Did Jaci Think? Early January]

Welcome to my 2018 experiment, What Did Jaci Think?, a biweekly series of quick film reactions, mostly because Twitter is a terrific distribution medium but terrible for retrieval.

The first half of January was dominated by the 9th annual Nordic Lights Film Festival, where I saw 13 of the 14 programmed films. Of particular note there: The Other Side of Hope, Borg vs McEnroe, and a strong shorts package. (The 14th film was The Square, a pretty divisive picture which I saw in the fall and dug a lot, though it’s not as tight as Östlund’s previous work, Force Majeure.)

The Other Side of Hope is allegedly the final film from director Aki Kaurismäki, but I hope that’s not true. Hope is a refugee story, delicately funny and sad, and despite the current subject matter, it feels like a film that’s been recently discovered, not recently made. It appears to be coming to the Criterion Collection this year, so look out for it there.

Continue reading “[What Did Jaci Think? Early January]”

[#lastweekslove: December]

I’m honestly impressed I finished this. Nobody cares but me, but I am going to go back and add text for these.

Time to bring on the December loves!

Week 49, Miao Miao

Caught up! For now. #lastweekslove

A post shared by jaye (@jacicita) on

More loves after the jump!
Continue reading “[#lastweekslove: December]”