January 2020 Round-Up – Part 2

Part 2 of my (ridiculously late) January Round-Up will focus on films I consider to be 2020 films rather than the 2019 films I looked at in part 1.

Weathering With You(1/19/2020)

Weathering With You is the follow-up to the film Your Name, which was a major hit at the international (though not domestic) box office and is probably the best recieved non-Ghibli anime film since the death of Satoshi Kon.  That’s a tough act to follow and Makoto Shinkai seems to have opted to remain very much in the same lane as his success and has made another supernaturally tinged story about teenagers with really big emotions.  The film focuses on a sixteen year old who has run away from home and found his way to Tokyo right as an unprecedented string of rainy days has hit the city.  Eventually he meets a girl who has a mystical power to stop the rainfall for a short period of time and let the sun come in but there is a price for using this power which becomes increasingly clear as time moves on. Now, the think about Makoto Shinkai’s movies is that they tend to be aimed at and are tapping into the mentality of audiences of a very specific age, namely that of a young person of about 11-15 and they are in many ways kind of expressions of the really big emotions that young people of that age tend to experience and you sort of need to let yourself go with that sort of emo mindset in order to enjoy them.  Here we rather specifically have the weather reflecting the emotions of everyone involved and it’s all depicted rather vividly through Shinkai’s animation.  The film was clearly made for a higher budget than your average anime outing and can indulge in some really detailed drawings of modern urban life but the film is not as removed from modern anime tropes as the Ghibli movies.  This isn’t going to be a movie for everyone, but if you liked Your Name and can watch the movie within the spirit it was intended this is well worth a look.

***1/2 out of Five


Les Misérables(1/20/2020)

Lest the title confuse you, Les Misérables is not an adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel of the same name and of course has nothing to do with the musical of the same title and instead joins a strange little trend of movies like Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation which jack the title of an earlier work in order to sort of respond to it.  I think the film is set in the same neighborhood that Hugo’s novel was but in modern times and both works sort of focus on overly diligent police officers and the poor and downtrodden, otherwise there aren’t really overt similarities.  Instead this actually has more in common with Training Day of all things as it’s about someone’s first day on the force in a tougher area than they’re used to and they end up embedded with people who are semi-corrupt and use varying degrees of excessive force throughout the film.  This was France’s selection to compete in the Best International Film category at the Oscars, which was a controversial choice given that it beat out Portrait of a Lady on Fire and I suspect that this choice was made because Les Misérables spoke more directly to contemporary French society and from a French perspective spoke more for an unheard voice in society.

I can respect that but I must say that coming from the perspective of an American that’s spent much of the last half-decade following the discourse around the interactions between black people and police this all feels a little… lightweight.  Like, most activists in this country wish the local police were only as bad as the ones in this movie because the ones they have to deal with are even worse.  And looked at simply as a crime movie this also only succeeds within certain limits.  Ladj Ly feels rather accomplished for a first time director and certainly helms the film with skill.  He also seems to have some feel for the Parisian streets and the various subcultures that inhabit them and I kind of wish he had just made a movie about those people without the police butting into everything because I’m not sure he has much more of a grip on the psychology of law enforcement than your average TV procedural writer does. All that having been said, I don’t want to be too negative about the film.  Scene to scene and moment to moment it is a nicely gritty addition to the cop movie genre and it shouldn’t be docked too many points just because I’ve grown so suspicious of that genre as a whole.

***1/2 out of Five


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