Don't Look Up

Don't Look Up

A message to David Sirota: You are the co-writer of a Leonardo DiCaprio movie by an Academy Award-winning filmmaker that is currently the #1 movie on Netflix. You are living the dream. You don't need to be upset because some NPR critics think your movie is smug. You don't need to argue online with the haters all day about why you deserve respect for making a movie with good politics. Take the W.

On to the movie. The buzz around this one has been pretty toxic in my online circles, so my expectations were not high. And my heart sank during an early scene where the scientists played by DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence meet with President Meryl Streep (75% Trump, 25% Hillary) to plead their case that a planet-killing asteroid is headed straight to earth, and the President and her staff simply laugh in their faces. The satire in this scene felt leaden and off-target. If these scientists have made it all the way to a meeting at the Oval Office, they're not going to be treated with this kind of flagrant disrespect. Just because demagogue presidents talk one way in public doesn't mean they talk the exact same way behind closed doors.

But I gotta say... after a bumpy start, this movie won me over! Sirota and Adam McKay go after many targets across this movie's 2 hours and 25 minutes, and while not everything works (there's a lot of stuff about celebrity culture that feels like a boomer shouting "Why do I have to hear about those damn Kardashians!?" at the TV), I laughed pretty often, and a lot of the comic archetypes ring true. Folks, I spent a few weeks watching CBS This Morning with my aged dad, so I appreciated the scenes with Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett.

I also think that McKay and Sirota's analysis of the problems facing us is basically correct. This isn't Jon Stewart's Irresistible. I like that the movie depicts America's institutions as irreparably corrupt: the head of NASA is a superdonor to the President, and a Steve Jobs/Elon Musk-like billionaire can easily persuade the government to halt the asteroid demolition to mine its minerals, and the TV anchors have bought stock in that billionaire's company. The institutional response is uniformly corrupt, but public response to the asteroid quickly predictable partisan lines, with competing "Look Up"/"Don't Look Up" movements (the former of which is celebrity-driven and hilariously ineffectual). Throughout, it is a given that the world will end and the super-rich will survive. I saw one very popular Letterboxd post say that this is like a feature-length version of the Gal Gadot ''Imagine" video, and I have to assume that this person is blind and deaf because the film's message is the exact opposite of that. This is about as close as we've gotten recently to a blackpilled Hollywood movie.

Do I like this movie because a lot of it reflects my own politics? Yes, obviously, but I happen to think those politics are correct. Also this isn't Steven Seagal delivering a lecture about alternative energy for five minutes, it's funny and well-acted and entertaining. Also, as my buddy Ethan noted on Twitter, it's weird that the critical community has suddenly decided that didacticism is a bad thing after four years of lapping up Stanley Kramer-ish cinema during Trump. I don't think this is any more didactic than, say, BlackKklansman.

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