Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari -- a Review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma, Logan)  brings an immersive, kinetic style that keeps the lengthy Ford v Ferrari (runtime 2:29) from overstaying its welcome.  Throw in two dynamic actors--Matt Damon as race car developer Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as mechanic/driver Ken Miles--to supercharge the charisma, and we get one of the most enjoyable movies of the year.

It's the mid-1960s, and Ford Motor Company is losing out to competitor Chevrolet in both quality and style.  With the baby boomer generation entering its car-buying years, Ford marketing manager Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) pitches a plan to CEO Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) to shed the company's stodgy image by making sportier models and developing a racing division.  A scheme to buy out reigning LeMans champ Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) ends up insulting both owners.  Ford orders his managers to develop a team that will beat the Italians, and Iacocca approaches Shelby to head that team, promising him carte blanche.  Taking Iacocca at his word, Shelby approaches old friend Ken Miles to drive as well as help with the design.  Unfortunately, Shelby and Miles, race car experts who don't suffer fools, along with pit boss Phil Remington (Ray McKinnon) and the rest of the design and testing crew have to deal with Ford suits who have huge egos and small minds.  It's bad enough they have to go against Ferrari, but they also have to deal with the nastiest, most self-aggrandizing of the bunch, Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), Ford's right-hand man.  He undermines Miles at every turn because of a brutally honest assessment Ken gives regarding one of Beebe's automotive babies.

As much as FvF is a formulaic racing yarn--will the plucky Davids overcome the unbeatable Goliath?--it is, at heart, a story about relationships, both human and socio-economic class.  Carroll Shelby was a tough former military test pilot whose bad heart betrays his own racing career.  He recognizes much of himself, and then some, in Ken Miles, the WWII D-Day tank driver for whom racing was life, and cars were his passion.  For all of his maverick ways, Ken is a loving father to son Peter (Noah Jupe) and is perfectly matched with his wife Mollie (Caitriona), the only person Ken truly fears.  Shelby and Miles work together like hand in glove, two self-made working-class men tempered like steel.  They are blue-collar heroes whose industry and ingenuity line the pockets of capitalists who hold the delusion that they did it themselves--and happily take the credit.  Finally, it's about the relationship between humans and the automobile, and that may be the most irrational relationship of all.

Mangold goes the extra mile (pardon the pun) to show what's at stake during a race--the stress on the car, the danger to the driver.  No wide pans or overhead shots that depersonalize the race, making the cars look like toys that fit in grooves.  He sets the cameras on the doors, the fenders, the bumpers, inside the vehicle, so 200 mph feels like it.  Screenwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller provide the typical buddy humor and success-story sturm und drang, but they also bring colorful lingo from both Shelby's Texas and Miles' England as well as technical jargon that intrigues us even as it loses us. Marco Beltrami's and Buck Sanders' pulse-pounding soundtrack is reminiscent of Mark Knopfler's "Speedway at Nazareth."  Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael brings the grease gun heroism of Shelby and Miles racetrack world in sharp contrast with the slick, barren corporate office suites of Ford Motors.  But it is the seamless film editing by Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker, and Dirk Westervelt that makes the lengthy film fly.  This, along with other technical categories provide the best bet for awards.
8.5 out of 10

Brief Reviews: JoJo Rabbit and Parasite

Well, Gang, we got to see two small films that should garner big awards in early 2020.  First, Don Swedanya, Capt. HE Albano, Guy S. Malone, Researcher, and I saw JoJo Rabbit.  Yesterday, unable to coax either family or the few friends I have to see it, I paid GSM, R overtime and bought him popcorn as an enticement to see Parasite.  Here are our reviews:

JoJo Rabbit -- a review by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

All right, I will come out and say it since I'll have to stand by it later: JoJo Rabbit is the best film we have seen so far this year, and it should push Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok) into the upper echelon of writer/directors.  OK, we get it, we understand that directors known most for their comedy don't garner the same respect as the "serious" ones and neither do their films; we know that Waititi's brand of filmmaking isn't for everyone; we've seen the reviews ranging from hate to love with all of the PITA politically correct squawkers who have homogenized moral complexity and thus bravery out of American films.  But Waititi has adapted Christine Leunens 2008 novel, Caging Skies, into a film that is much more than one would glean from the trailers.

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a 10-year-old Nazi fanatic who can't wait for his first weekend camping/training with the "Jungvolk" (Hitler Youth--think angry Cub Scouts).  The camp, led by Capt. Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell) with Freulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson) heading the ladies auxiliary is as silly as it is sinister, and it's not a good experience for Jojo.  He fails a test of his sociopathy, resulting in his "Rabbit" nickname, and when he tries to reassert his ruthlessness, the attempt goes comically wrong.  Sent home to his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), he sulks, seeking consolation from his imaginary friend, Adolph Hitler (Waititi himself), who gives nothing but bad advice.  Just when he thinks he has hit bottom, a new horror reveals itself, he finds that his mother is harboring a 16-year-old Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie).  What is a good Jungvolk to do?  Turn Elsa in, and his mother dies for harboring a Jew; hide Elsa, and he becomes complicit in the crime.  What would Adolph do?  Study the Jew and publish his research, it seems, which leads JoJo to cognitive dissonance that only he can resolve.

To say that JoJo Rabbit is original is an understatement.  But what is more important, Waititi--whose father is Maori and whose mother is of Ashkenazi Jewish, Irish, Scottish, and English descent--imbues this satire with understanding and heart.  Yes, the Nazis are painted as preposterous, but only those who question the Fuhrer are given any sympathy.  Their hatred of Jews and their illusion of Aryan supremacy is turned on its head with touching grace, and the horrors of war come home with surprising power.  Credit Waititi with masterfully walking the delicate balance, and bringing a satire with sensitivity and a comedy with heart.
9.0 out of 10

Parasite -- a review by FilmZ

Two disclaimers: 1 - foreign language films are usually no fun for me, 2 - Cannes Film Festival entries are often too hoity-toity for me, and those that win the Palme d'Or (Best Picture) are like salt in the wound of my artistic Achilles heel.  Parasite fits both categories.  But I do like Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, Okja, The Host), who co-wrote and directed.  Those familiar with his films know they are difficult to classify.  Let's call the genre Bong.  OK, if you need a classification, we'll call them social satire, and if so, this film satirizes class struggle.  Many say his films are highly metaphorical, and Bong may be satirizing himself (or us) when several times he has one of his characters observe how metaphorical a very unmetaphorical situation is.

Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) and his family are underemployed, folding pizza boxes for a pittance as they live in a basement urban hovel in Korea.  Their dubious skills include pirating wi-fi signals, forgery, and scheming.  One day, Ki-taek's college-age son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) gets a visit from a friend who brings a good luck rock and an offer to take over his English tutoring job for Da-hye (Ji-so Jung), the daughter of the wealthy Park family who live in a fabulously cold architectural masterpiece on a hill high above town.  Indeed, the family's luck is changing, for soon, Ki-woo schemes to get his sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam), a computer whiz, hired as an art therapist for the Park's troubled 8-year-old son Da-song (Hyun-jun Jung).  Then, through cruel but hilarious chicanery, Ki-jung conspires to get her father Ki-taek hired as Mr. Park's (Sun-kyun Lee) driver, and they all work toward getting mother, Chung-soon (Chang Hyae-jin) hired as the housekeeper for the sweet but gullible Mrs. Park (Yeo-jeong Jo).  The trick is, to pull off the coincidental nature of the hiring, every member of the family has to pretend they have just met the others.

That's the set-up, and it's a comic high-wire act until hidden rooms, surprise characters, and unwitting class distinctions enter.  Then, in typical Bong fashion,  Parasite effortlessly moves from comedy to drama to thriller to tragedy and its tone from farce to moral relativity to righteous anger until it reaches its trancelike ending. Kyung-pyo Hong's cinematography captures the stench of the city and the sterile chill of life on the mountain, even as it tilts askew at the characters that inhabit both realms.  The score by Jaeil Jung is immersive, most effective when it tours the Park mansion.  I'll leave it to others to hail this as Bong's best film to date (I haven't seen enough of his oeuvre to judge), but it is a true original, quite self-aware, and if Roma deserved a Best Picture nod last year, then Parasite does in spades.
8.5 out of 10
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