Joker–What Have We Learned? (A Film Review)

In Uncategorized on October 6, 2019 at 23:12

joker-joaquin-phoenix-1screengeekJoker from ScreenGeeks.

Joker is written by Scott Silver and Todd Phillips and directed by Phillips. The film presents the Batman and Joker story from the Joker’s mentally-ill perspective. 

There are various ways to look at the film. 1. The power elite ignore the poor and things are going to erupt. 2. A mentally ill man starts a riot. And 3. Poor incel white man does not get his way so he kills people. View #3 is myopic and completely off the mark. 

To call Joker a film about an out of touch, self-pitying white man is to miss the point. There is nothing about race or sexuality in the film and the main character happens to be white. And insane. The only people who would call Joker an incel fantasy haven’t seen the film, don’t know what incel is, call every lonely white guy an incel, or is an actual incel looking for a film to rally around. By the way, one can sympathize with Joker without empathizing with him.

The Joker is a misanthropic sociopath, period. He hates, and will kill, anyone who confronts him, like the six white guys he kills in the film. He’s such a lost incel that he doesn’t even know he’s supposed to kill minorities and women. The incel accusation is ridiculous. People call him an incel because he’s a loner? Really? And the “rejection” he was supposed to have experience in the film? That was a fantasy dating scenario that never happens. Watch the film if you want to criticize it. 

Let’s say Joker and his followers mirror Trump (though many Latinos and blacks are rioting along with the whites). Shouldn’t we try to help the people instead of cutting their services and mocking them. Remember Hilary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables?” How many votes did that gain her? It lost her votes, even from progressives who wanted her to succeed. I’m not saying coddle white nationalists, something Joker is not. 

Robert De Niro is great in Joker as a smarmy, smart-aleck talk show host, a cross between Carson and Jeff Ross. The actresses who play Joker’s mother (Frances Conroy) and neighbor (Zazie Beetz) do well in the film. The police going after him are a bit cartoonish, but not too bad. In all, the cast is excellent.

Joaquin Phoenix is great and deserves awards. As a manic depressive with antisocial personality, a sociopath, you never know how he is going to react to stressors or whether what is happening is real. And he reacts in a multitude of ways, all believable if often surreal.  

The film looks good. The gritty, dark alleys and run-down streets and apartment buildings match the action well. And the subway is given an exaggerate 1970s hell-scape visage, just the place for a Joker to be born. 

The plot has some holes and is unrealistic at times. However, the surreal tone of the movie allows for some unreal action. 

All the talk of incels, an important but here misused framing device, hides the true theme of Joker: class. The Joker becomes and unwitting symbol of the poor in the fight against the rich, the rich who defend a system that keeps so many poor. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden recently said he wouldn’t be “demonizing the rich.” And people are spreading lie that the rich are under attack. What Joker does is present an alternative version of saluting and defending the rich, one where Thomas Wayne is shown exploiting and manipulating his position through lies and usury. Wayne is the real societal villain in Joker. 

The Joker is by no means a hero. People will go mad during hard times, and some will rebel. That is what the Waynes, and the Trumps and Clintons, of the world fear. 

Rating: Pay full price. If you want to fully understand it to criticize it, go see Joker. You might be surprised. 

Tex Shelters




Rocketman, A Shaky Flight

In Uncategorized on August 25, 2019 at 16:48

Rocketman, A Shaky Flight

Elton john costume film
From themoviemylife.com

The film Rocketman doesn’t have enough dance numbers to call it a musical, and it is not chronological like a biopic. It’s an uneven mix of entertaining and dull scenes that leads to a Matinee rating.

One thing missing from Rocketman missing is a signature live performance. They discuss the concerts, but very little of the performances make it into the film other than an early show at The Troubadour in Los Angeles. The way they discuss his success isn’t artistic, it’s corporate. The film made sure we know he was worth millions, but they fail to give enough focus on his successful music. Instead of $$$, we could have listened to hits: Benny and the Jets, #1 in 1972, among 8 other #1 songs. There is also nearly nothing about the albums he put out, the titles, and the creative process. We just had to take it on faith that he could write good songs, and little about the process came through. On a personal note, I wanted more from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, a classic double record with many a great songs, two of which appear in the film. 

The scenes of Elton John in group therapy (something that never happened in real life) that frame John’s story is interesting, but they didn’t fully utilize the idea. They start Elton (Reginald) as a young child, then suddenly he’s a teen, then a rock star. What happened to his adolescence? What happened in his college years? How did he meet his band mates? I know they had to pick and choose, but it seemed random and not thought out. 

Another issue is that John’s story came across as boring. Whether another director with a better script could have made it more compelling, I don’t know. Sure, the film shows he was a prodigy as a kid, and his parents didn’t love him, but I’ve seen that before. The power of being lonely and abandoned didn’t come through. 

Other than Bernie Taupin, no other characters in the film distinguished themselves. However, Taron Egerton (Kingsmen) is entertaining and credible as Elton John, and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) does a great Taupin. Their relationship is the highlight of the film. 

The film is well shot, the dialogue is often interesting and clever even if the plotting is uneven. The triumphant, cloying Hollywood victory at the end of the film is too much for me, but I am sure audiences love it just like they loved LA LA Land and Mama Mia!  

Rating: Matinee– If you are a huge Elton John fan, go see it. There are funny, touching moments in the film, but no revelations. The film is shallow, so I don’t feel more or less about the subject after the film.  

Side note: Why does no one talk about how his 1971 hit, Tiny Dancer, was much longer than the hits of the day at over six minutes like they go on and on about Bohemian Rhapsody (1975) and Light my Fire (1967) being too long for radio? Why the length of Tiny Dancer an issue? If so, I never heard about it.  

Tex Shelters


“Yesterday”, A Good Netflix Film

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2019 at 21:42

“Yesterday”, A Good Netflix Film


From acsta.net

The temperature is hovering near 110 F in Tucson, so it’s the “see a movie while you have time off and it’s damn hot out!” season. So, I went to see Yesterday.

Yesterday is a quirky film that asks, “What if only one man remembered The Beatles and their music and he was an unsuccessful musician that used their songs to become famous, because as stated, no one remembers who they were or their music. I know you were all thinking that very thing.

Beside the heat, I also saw Yesterday because I am a huge Beatles fan, ever since I could remember. And I like Danny Boyle films, director of Slum Dog Millionaire, Trainspotting, and 28 Days Later. He’s no wazzock. 

The film’s set-up works, and the main actor Himesh Patel who plays the lead Jack Malik, is well cast. He is able to play the charming, humble man who, as people believe, just thought up these great songs on his own. The filming is fine and the music is great.

I am NOT an Ed Sheeran fan, but I can now say I like the lad even if I think the wanker writes shite music. Sheeran has no trouble sending up his celebrity status in the film, and it’s quite amusing. And Kate McKinnon is hilarious as always, even if her part isn’t the best written.

Lily James plays Jack Malik’s manager (Ellie Appleton) when he is unknown and soon loses the gig when his new batch of songs come out, starting with “Yesterday.” She is also, unfortunately, the anchor that holds down what is an interesting film and drags it into mediocrity. She’s window-dressing and is given the worst dialogue in the film. James is also Jack’s love interest, but works only to serve Jack. In the end, Ellie is boring like watching a turtle roll an egg around a bathtub. Actually, that would be more interesting. I worry that James won’t get any roles once her cuteness has faded and age lines appear. 


From videoSixteenByNine

On the up side, the film has a lot of spot-on observations about the music industry. There are clever jokes added for big-time music buffs like how Oasis wouldn’t exist if The Beatles hadn’t existed. Another bonus for fans of BBC crime shows is that two major characters in the film were played by Sarah Lancashire from Happy Valley and Sanjeev Bhaskar from Unforgotten (among other shows). The film is also a reminder of how great The Beatle’s songs are. And there is a surprise near the end of the film that I would rate: “See it Twice.” It was touching and well-done bit of alternate history.

Mild spoiler section
The romance in the film is “dramatic” because it gives us a false choice between Jack becoming a huge star and leaving Ellie, or Jack choosing NOT to become a star and staying with Ellie. I have grown impatient with false choices in film. This does not work at all. It was schmaltzy and overly-sentimental. He of course chooses Ellie. How cliché is that? Why not try both?

Another issue is the choice of songs in the film. Malik is a soloist, and starts playing Beatles songs that lend themselves to one instrument, like “Yesterday.” However, the writers Jack Curtis and Richard Barth didn’t choose “Norwegian Wood” or “Blackbird.” Instead, they used some songs from their early albums such as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There.” Those are boy-band songs and not their best. 


Rating: Rent it/Stream it. There is nothing in Yesterday you won’t catch on the small screen. The cliché romance and derivative plot points that vomit forth from the romance nearly ruins a good film. Here’s some advice for the writers and director: get the romance right, or leave it out. Get someone who can write romance to help you avoid romance tropes and hackneyed plots and rewrite those scenes. And give the female lead better lines and more agency. 

Tex Shelters