By Kidus Tamiru, November 01, 2019
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz
Joker is a psychological thriller about Arthur Fleck, a mentally unstable clown living in a gritty, crime-ridden Gotham city as he tries to succeed as a stand-up comedian all the while slowly losing his grip on his fragile sanity. Right off the bat, you should not expect much fan service or actual connection to any of the cinematic or comic-based iterations of the legendary Batman villain when you see this. This is a purely stand-alone work of fiction that would be difficult to adapt to any superhero cinematic universe.
But that being said, it was a unique film that, very much like Batman Begins or Deadpool, might have carved a new direction superhero films can take; one which is entirely based on character study. This is a sad story about a man who is neglected and bullied by society on a regular basis and his need for attention, added to a vague list of mental
illnesses, drives him to a life of crime. This is quite a scary theme to me because it doesn’t come off as a far-fetched premise. Even though the film is graphically violent at times, it pales in comparison to the psychological violence it subjects you to. In one aspect, it follows the traditional superhero story formula, which is showing you a weakling character that you empathize and identify with as he gets pushed around and finally see him become strong enough to defeat evil in the end. It just so happens that people and society are evil in general in this case and that’s what makes it scary.
Social commentary aside, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is most definitely the strongest point of this film. It’s the type of good acting that even people that don’t normally notice acting can notice and appreciate. The entire reason for this film’s popularity and appeal can be attributed solely to his flamboyant and tortured performance. And it would be pretty cool if another actor wins an Oscar for playing the same comic book villain.
As for my main issue with this film, it is way too similar to its inspirations, namely Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. It overdoes it way past the point of just paying homage and almost crosses over to loose remake. If you’ve seen either of those films (If you haven’t, get on it immediately), you’ll know where the film is going within a few minutes.
But overall, it was a very enjoyable film. If you’ve been watching all the big superhero films lately, a dark, laidback character drama is just the break you need from all the bombastic explosions and giant sky beams.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Directed by: Vince Gilligan
Runtime: 2hr 02m
Starring: Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, Matt Jones
El Camino follows immediately after the events of breaking bad as Jesse Pinkman has just narrowly escaped his kidnappers and is the only survivor left. As a huge fan of the TV show, I was both impatiently excited and worried when this was announced. After all, how can it possibly live up to the myth and legend that breaking bad has become? And in true Vince Gilligan fashion, nobody had any idea what to expect. But against all odds, this turned out to be fantastic. I didn’t much like the ending of breaking bad. It didn’t live up to the show for me. But this film finally gives it the conclusion it needs. This is more of a farewell that ties Jesse’s story in a great way. We see how he’s transformed throughout the years and he’s not the same kid we knew the first few seasons. Carried by the great acting and distinctive directing and writing you’ve missed ever since the series finale, this serves as the true final episode of the show.
Directed by: Amha Deguma Tsehay
Runtime: 1hr 45m
Starring: Kassahun Fisseha, Kalkidan Tibebu, Elias Alemu
Anchin Lene is about a man who falls in love with a woman who happens to be his uncle’s boss so the uncle does all he can to cockblock him. Most comedy films have shitty plots that they make up for with the comedy. But this, they didn’t even try to write jokes for this. I almost admire the balls on the filmmakers. They wanted to make a movie, so they just went and did it. Basic skills, competence or even the desire to make a good film were clearly irrelevant. You can tell the filmmaker has seen at least a few Ethiopian films because he’s using the same rom-com formula. He got a veteran comedian to sell the movie and say a few “jokes”, a boring lead actor who’s practically reading his lines and a pretty, new actress to walk around and spruce up the scenes. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that they thought of the poster first, and then reverse-engineered this abysmal film into reality in the shortest time possible. The only joke they wrote was that the main character will say “excuse me” as a catchphrase (I’m not joking about that). And the only thing I found funny about the film was the tragic aspect, which was that the female lead has serious, and I mean serious, PTSD because she is divorced. What the fuck. I’ve seen many a dull film in my time but this is the one that felt the longest.