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Don’t forget to select your favorite films!
A simplistic model of “humanistic” screenwriting complexity is to produce characters who initially seem Good but turn out to Do Bad Things and vice versa; Verhoeven regularly proposes a world with no well- or ill-meaning actors, where everyone’s waiting to take turn to get the upper hand and expose their true, almost invariably malign motives and/or assert themselves via brute violence. These actions are understandable as survival mechanisms within foul matrices (American society, the Catholic Church, righting nationalism); systems are the ultimate villains, but the people within them aren’t that far behind.
In American Gigolo, Light Sleeper and First Reformed, redemption gets conflated with sex in the single figure of a romantic interest; saddled with the latest iteration of this unenviable function, Haddish is unprepared to make the leap to her “comic performer shows off dramatic chops” role. But both the hits and misses in Card Counter are irrelevant to its central charm, which is comparing/contrasting how it varies the tropes of Schrader’s self-created genre. Gigolo harvested “Call Me” for two hours…
This is the kind of movie that causes strongly polarized reactions based on each viewer's capacity to tolerate/recognize/empathize with those on-screen. Some people just can't handle watching 20-/30-something white people undergo minor crises within a basically privileged framework, which is understandable. (That said, I'm not sure why someone with that mindset would ever go watch ANY NOAH BAUMBACH MOVIE and ask afterwards — as some guy did — " if it had any sort of larger social context… besides only…
Magic Mike XXL is a putatively "modest"/"small" film — $14.8 million budget, 28-day shooting schedule, a shambling road movie meant to showcase extended musical numbers and largely excising the first film's recessionary panic. (Business is discussed, specifically the hustle of running a small business, but it's not the dominant throughline motivating everything as in the first, a line of inquiry Soderbergh pursued in Erin Brockovich, Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience, in ways that increasingly played like a meta-text about his…