glenn criddle | cynical celluloid | dec. 2019
As 2019 draws to a close, it's once again time for the awards that are so heavily respected and feared by the industry that they never ever mention them. So, let's sort the present stuffed stockings from the over-sized sweaty socks.
The Sneaky Sherry Award: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"
It's a story about the dark side of Hollywood told with the enthusiasm that makes people want to be a part of it. Taking historical figures and events and twisting them into a smart and snappy fairytale of sorts, complete with a happy ending (in a Tarantino way). The expectations you have from the familiar builds tension and investment with a pay-off that's satisfying in a way that's supplied not just by the cathartic violence but by injecting some justice for characters that we get to know and like. While I'd often decry historical revisionism, here it feels devoid of cynicism, done for honest and good reasons and it doesn't pretend to be a true story. It's exactly what the title suggests, a fairy tale, and it's a fun ride from start to finish, all powered by Tarantino's huge talent for dialogue and characterization.
The Rotten Brussels Sprout Award: “Rambo Last Blood"
The award for all that's nasty is back and so is John Rambo. Ranking as the most disappointing film of the year for me, despite my modest expectations, Last Blood is a film that throws out the desire for a good story or character study in favor of taking all the worst elements of a variable series and doubles down with some of the worst writing I've seen outside of the lowest budget exploitation. I enjoyed Rambo 4 but this? This is one of the worst send-offs I've sat through in a very long time. It's soulless, politically dubious and running with three blown out tires.
The 'Fortune Telling Fish' Award: “Shazam!"
The UK's favorite cracker prize is a simple piece of plastic that has an odd ability to amuse despite being a ridiculously simple thing. “Shazam!" has similar qualities of being a straight forward piece of entertainment that is surprisingly enjoyable considering the universe it comes from. Concentrating on a solid character study of Billy Batson and taking care with the supporting characters, it's only real let down is the fairly two dimensional bad guy. It's not enough to bring it down, though; it's all good fun with a solid sense of humor and doesn't shy away from getting dark when it feels the need. I take it as a sign of better things coming from the troubled DECU as it struggles with course correction and most importantly it's the beginnings of a solid rival to the MCU, something they need to keep them honest in their move into Phase 4, post “Avengers: End Game."
The Hideously Drunk Santa Award: “All the reboots" (Disney live action, MIB Int., Terminator:DF)
Meant to amuse the kids, these movies sadly ended up humiliating themselves and ruining our fond memories. Disney's live actions films are pointless and were destined to not compare to the beloved animations, “MIB International" was clearly under the influence to the point of being incoherent and who needed another in the Terminator series, a series that has written itself into a corner on multiple occasions and has pulled the “ignore the sequels after 2" card at least twice. Just because it superficially looks like Santa doesn't change the fact that under the beard is a cynical, alcohol and urine-soaked mess.
The Pigs in Blankets Award: “Midsommar/Joker"
Small, but utterly delicious treats that rise above the richer offerings on the tables, this joint award goes to two films that stood out as something surprising and very enjoyable. “Midsommar" was a refreshingly different film in the face of a lot of big-budget, largely soulless fare. It wasn't perfect but it did give us a cloying atmosphere and layered story, peppered with beats of horror that as sparse as they were, were highly effective. Meanwhile, “Joker" took the dark superhero world and used it in the most effective and purposeful way. Demonstrating that the DC universe actually can be used to tell complex, adult character stories, it blew Jared Leto's portrayal out of the water and Zack Snyder's superficial approach off the planet. It did it through great writing and an interest in the character, giving me some hope for the future of the DCEU if lessons are learned from this. A surprising offering from the director of “The Hangover" ... Who'd have thought?
The Undercooked Turkey Award: “Captain Marvel"
An underwhelming film that was further marred by the studio's and media's poisonous abuse of the audience who were expected to go see it. It's a world of “Meh!" It felt rushed to beat End Game's release and features a flawless character whose arc is, as a consequence, very flat. Annoyingly it attempts to revise aspects of the Avengers world to elevate Captain Marvel at the expense of the established characters and indeed Danvers was at one point intended to have a direct impact on the finale of 10- year journey of Captain America, Iron Man and the team. After a poor reception this was thankfully dialed back. Going forward, with Captain Marvel touted to lead the new generation of Marvel heroes, one could be forgiven for being a little concerned at the absence of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth or Chris Evans, amongst others if they're going to be replaced with this drab, all too capable character who likely has reached the pinnacle of her talents in the first film she was in.
That's it for this years folks. Happy holidays to you all and I'll be back in the New Year with a review of the new Star Wars film.
He's British so forgive the extra U's and the use of the letter S instead of Z. If there's one thing that typifies Glenn's writing it's the 'Video Nasties,' a long list of movies that offended all and sunder during the 1980s in the UK. It's those seemingly offensive fringes of cinema that informed his writing on cinema and the more political area of censorship with a more sympathetic approach to those films that push the limits of taste. But don't worry, he does talk about normal stuff too and isn't likely to go off on a horror movie fuelled rampage.