Reviewing a movie was not my plan for this blog today. After doing multiple sports and culture related blogs, I thought it was time to write about the importance of mythology and why every historical culture has their own religious belief system that often defines and give context to their actions. And then I saw TOP GUN: MAVERICK and I thought to myself, “Fuck Off, Expert. You need to write about that movie.” What follows is a summary (No Spoilers) and review of the latest Tom Cruise blockbuster film.
Before diving into the details of TOP GUN: MAVERICK, I think it is important to explain how this movie was experienced in the theater. At my local theater, there were four different ways to watch the film; the classic 2D, IMAX, ScreenX, and 4DX. Since I had never seen a movie in the latter two formats, I decided to take a plunge and watch the film in ScreenX. Not understanding what ScreenX or 4DX were, I decided to research these formats before watching the film. So what is ScreenX? According to Woojer.com:
“Screen X is an immersive technology that projects footage onto the sidewalls as well as the main screen of the theater to create an immersive experience. It has enlisted since 2012 and was developed by the same company - CJ 4DPLEX - that created 4DX motion-theater technology that augments the movie-going experience with seats that move, wind effects, strobe lights, simulated weather effects, and olfactory experiences. The Screen X process can come in post-production, which is more common but not as preferred, or in pre-production, using three different cameras.”
This differs from 4DX in two key aspects. 4DX is a higher resolution picture and the theater itself becomes a sensory experience.
“4DX is a state-of-the-art film technology developed by CJ 4DPLEX which delivers an immersive multi-sensory cinematic experience. 4DX incorporates on-screen visuals with synchronized motion seats and environmental effects such as water, wind, fog, scent, snow and more, to enhance the action on screen. It is the world’s first and leading 4D movie technology brand for feature films including Hollywood blockbusters, local films, and alternative content such as concerts and commercials.”
During TOP GUN: MAVERICK, the ScreenX experience activated during each flight sequence in the film. The story and character development were isolated to the normal one camera shot which is viewed on the main screen like a normal movie-going experience. ScreenX adds two additional cameras into the shot that project onto the sidewalls of the theater on both the left and right side. Sitting inside the theater makes it feel like you are in a box surrounded by images with surround sound blasting you like a wind gust across your face. It is an overwhelming experience and definitely made the film more enjoyable.
Second, I have been reading about the technological innovations surrounding this film since they started shooting it four years ago. Because Tom Cruise and the actors became trained pilots for this film, the director decided that the most realistic flight footage would be placing the cameras onto the military jets themselves with the talent inside. The creation of these cameras and the engineering required to allow six IMAX cameras to survive the high speeds of a military fighter jet is fascinating in its own right without even watching one image from this film. The cinematography is stunning and an evolution for flight based storytelling. If this film does not win the Oscar in 2023 for the technology that was invented so this picture could exist, then the Academy will have lost the last speck of respect that I have for it. The only other film that compares is 95 years old. WINGS, the first Best Picture Winner from 1927, actually used cameras in the air that were activated by the pilots involved. Real explosives were used to give the movie a realistic feel. The cinematography from this almost century old picture still holds up in the present day.
This brings us to the review of the film. What can I say about it? Most of the enjoyment comes from the incredible flight sequences mixed with the wonders of experiencing the innovative cinematography and the new movie theater technology. The whole 137-minute experience left me flabbergasted. My 24-year-old daughter, who was also impressed with the movie trailer when it was released back in 2020, accompanied me to the theater and her opinion mirrors mine. This movie is why we go to the movies every summer. To have as enjoyable of a time in a two-hour window as possible. Does the movie have a story? Not really. The basis of the film revolves around Pete “Maverick” Mitchell being called back to the TOP GUN program by his old friend and rival, Tom “Iceman” Kazansky to train the next generation of pilots for a dangerous mission to disable a nuclear power plant built into a mountain that is posing a threat to the United States. The country is unnamed but resembles Iran by description. But the story is only a small, minor detail used as an excuse for the airborne training sequences that take up the majority of the first half of the film. The movie is a character study. It even throws in healthy doses of nostalgia by recreating the bar and shirtless beach scenes for the present-day audiences. Much to my satisfaction, the movie also engages in multiple close ups of Tom Cruise’s on-and-off again relationship with Penny, played by the 51-year-old Jennifer Connelly. Like so many movies from the 1980s do, the camera focuses on Jennifer’s body in multiple situations as she is walking away from “Maverick.” Watching these scenes, it feels like the filmmakers are telling the audience, “We made this film for everyone born between 1969 and 1980” using one of our favorite sex symbols from our childhood as bait. Watching Jennifer Connelly light up the screen took me back over 30 years to when I fell in love with her in the first place, in films like LABYRINTH and CAREER OPPORTUNITIES. This is one of the few films I have ever watched where leaving the theater left a gigantic smile of my face.
In conclusion, if TOP GUN was not your thing, I still recommend going to see this movie just for the experience. I was not a fan of the first film and only came around to appreciating it once it gained iconic status. If Grand Theft Auto V is satirizing the film and the music, then the movie has achieved a historical status that only few films ever can. This is not even bringing up Sterling Archer’s admiration for it. Does the movie gloss over the fact that the United States has the largest and most technologically advanced military in the world which makes the mission seem kind of ridiculous? YES. Do other countries have more advanced military jets than us? THIS IS HIGHLY QUESTIONABLE. Does the movie feel like an updated remake more than a sequel? ABSOLUTELY. Should this movie only be seen in a movie theater? ABSOLUTELY. Did the film images on the left and right side of the ScreenX movie theater not look as clear and focused as the main screen in the front including the fact that it seemed to get blurrier the farther the image was from the screen? YES, but this can be forgiven due to the fact that this technology is new, and it will likely be resolved as the technology starts to mature. I also do not recommend waiting to see this on home video because the experience will not be as enjoyable on a modern home theater system and the flaws of this film will come into deeper focus. But none of this matters. Go see TOP GUN: MAVERICK as soon as possible, damn it. You will not be able to take that smile off your face.
If you approached and asked me what my favorite show on Amazon Prime Video was, you would probably guess THE BOYS, GOLIATH or THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. But Amazon has been the one streaming service where I prefer to engage in their “artsy” shows instead of their more popular high budget offerings. The shows I have enjoyed on Amazon are the impersonation thriller SNEAKY PETE, the podcast adapted HOMECOMING, and the incredible MOZART IN THE JUNGLE. But no show on this streaming service has had more impact on my emotions than UNDONE. A show that re-embraces rotoscoping animation (A style that was reinvented famously in A SCANNER DARKLY), the incredible writing mixed with the animation which helps to enhance the ideas and themes that are presented makes this the best show on Amazon Prime Video that hardly anyone knows about.
UNDONE is created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, creator of three of the best animated shows of the last decade. BOJACK HORSEMAN remains one of my favorite animated cartoons of all-time slipping in just behind THE SIMPSONS and SOUTH PARK. A show that dealt with a washed-up celebrity horse that suffers from crippling depression and the consequences of his impulsive behavior, BOJACK dove into psychology like no previous animated show ever has. The episode where Bojack gets a look into his mother’s dementia-riddled mind remains my favorite animated episode of a cartoon of all-time. In terms of TUCA & BERTIE, I have not watched this show but have taken it under advisement due to the recommendations given to me. As good as these shows are, UNDONE maybe Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy’s masterpiece.
The show dives into the grief that a young girl suffers after her father dies in a tragic car accident. Season 1 revolves around the consequences of this accident and how her grief and the history of mental illness in her family impacts her behavior. The show is an emotional drama wrapped around science fiction themes. Season 1 was an incredible watch. But then, Season 2 hit Amazon last month. Diving deeper into its science fiction themes, this season starts inside an alternate reality where Alma’s father has not died in a car accident, and she discovers that her sister can move into specific timeframes tied to a person’s memory. The brilliance of this plot device is that it allows the viewer to experience the trauma experienced by an ancestor. The story revolving around Alma’s grandmother Geraldine (Whose real name is Ruchel) and the memory that she has spent her entire life repressing is heartbreaking. The family ties this event to the actions of the matriarch in the family who has been hiding a secret from her husband and children for the entirety of their relationship. Because of advice given by her future mother-in-law during a small conversation, her reaction to this advice leads to unintended consequences for a person that the mother loves dearly. The animation style is used perfectly to enhance the storytelling and express what happens inside people’s minds. The show is an advanced look at human psychology and the impacts that small decisions can make that will affect future generations long after your life has ended. The season ends on a cliff hanger and let’s hope that Amazon has the temerity to give the show creators one more season to wrap up some loose ends. While Season 1 dealt with the theme of grief, season 2 is about acceptance. Who knows what Season 3 will bring?
I highly recommend this amazing show. Bob Odenkirk, who also stars in the pitch perfect prequel BETTER CALL SAUL as the protagonist Saul Goodman/Jimmy McGill, plays Alma’s father and is an incredible presence throughout the show. One of my favorite young actors, Rosa Salazar, who also starred in one of my favorite, recent Netflix shows, BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR, stars as Alma. The mother is played by the underrated Constance Marie, who is most famous for being the matriarch on THE GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW. The show is about a biracial family and besides English, Spanish and Hebrew are spoken at specific spots. The rotoscoping animation is beautiful and is a necessary element for the type of writing and storytelling that this show requires. If you have an Amazon Prime Account (Like the majority of our nation), give this show eight hours of your time. You will absolutely not regret it.
2022 has been like no other year in my life. I have always been an individual who likes to pay attention to cultural events, educational opportunities, and political decisions since my high school years. All three of these things have been incredibly important in defining the type of individual that I have become. With politics, it is always a valid argument that for the majority of moments in your life, the behavior of our politicians really has no impact or effect on your life. Elections and political donations can be important when a particular cancerous individual has taken power and you feel the necessity to remove them democratically. But in your life, there will always be one moment when politics becomes incredibly important. If you believe in the idea of the Fourth Turning that every generation will experience some form of massive upheaval during their lives, then paying consideration to the politics of that era could become a matter of survival. This leads to my personal experience in 2022. Since the beginning of the year, my wife and I have spent over 10,000 dollars on updating our survival gear and food storage. No matter how bad things have gotten in this country, I never believed that there was a cause for dread. Now, I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to prepare themselves for a future of shortages.
Many economists, politicians, and cultural analysts agree. Food shortages are likely heading our way in the near future. These shortages appear to be the worst that any American will experience in their lifetime. Here is some evidence.
Joe Biden: If your president is warning you, absolutely believe that these shortages will be much worse than his rhetoric.
Baby Formula Shortages are already occurring (Due to inflation and supply chain issues caused by the Ukraine/Russia War and our own government’s incompetent monetary policy).
Farmers are warning about food shortages in the near future.
Even Joe Rogan is concerned about it.
Zerohedge has been talking about this problem on a daily basis.
Then there is the weird case of about a decade of tragedy at food processing plants that just happens to occur in a very short time frame. Intentional? Impossible to know but this should be investigated.
This has led to a few organizations that firmly believe that government-enforced food rationing is right around the corner.
An inevitable outcome with skyrocketing prices.
Consultants are warning buyers.
Even Zillow has gotten out.
TECH & CRYPTO COLLAPSE
Unfortunately, these two industries go hand in hand with one another.
Tech companies have been severely overvalued for the past decade. The incredible rise in their stock price and valuation was never legitimate. It was all speculation and faith. Now, reality has come home.
There are multiple causes. But the era of free 0% interest money is over. This is going to lead to a painful correction.
Crypto as a currency is proving to be closely tied to the value of tech stocks. So Bitcoin and hundreds of other coins are crashing as well.
Ron Paul called the economy of the last decade, “THE EVERYTHING BUBBLE.” Unlike the financial institution crashes of the 1990s, the tech crash of the early 2000s, or the housing market collapse in 2007-2009, this economic collapse will impact almost everything in our lives. Until deflation takes hold and prices drop to a more reasonable level, the next few years maybe some of the darkest times of our lives.
This obviously depends on your budget. Plus, there are some great deals out there if you look carefully.
Bass Pro Fish Shops: Got accepted for their credit card and used it to update our survival gear, camping supplies, weapons, outdoor clothing, and backpacks in case a quick escape becomes necessary. With the United States sending billions to Ukraine and escalating a conflict that could quickly slide into World War III while the Russians warn us about their potential usage of nuclear weapons if they face collapse, it may become necessary to escape into the wilderness for an undetermined amount of time. My best advice is to spend rationally and within your budget. My wife and I were able to pay off our purchases within 2 months mainly due to my budgeting and a lucky win at a Las Vegas casino. Plus, with 2% back on the card, we were able to purchase another 200 dollars of free supplies that were forgotten during our first couple of trips. Once you are done, cancel the credit card. Because unless you live inside that store, there is no real reason to keep it for the future.
Gas: Keep at least ten gallons of gas inside your garage in storage. Getting at least 100 miles away from an urban center that could break into rioting and violence if there is a lack of food is important. Going 100 miles in a particular direction in any city should take you into rural areas.
Food: Store at least six months of food. If shortages are coming (And they are), keeping this supply is important if some of the necessities aren’t available. Dried and canned food is the best way to go. Any fresh or frozen food is fine as long as your electricity remains on. But if blackouts occur, your fresh food will likely have to be trashed.
Buy a Generator: Important to use the aforementioned ten gallons of gas or propane available for usage when necessary. Generators will also help keep the electricity flowing if you only experience rolling blackouts.
I also recommend getting some credit cards. Make sure they are low balance cards that can be paid off quickly. The reason for this is because many current credit cards have incredible benefits if you apply as a first-time user. Any credit score of 670 or more should get you a decent mid-tier card. There is nothing wrong with accumulating free money to help with your purchases. Here are the three I recommend, none of them have a maximum limit of over 2500. Each of these cards also have a zero balance because it is important to pay them off in their entirety every month if possible.
AMERICAN EXPRESS BLUE CASH PREFERRED: 6% cash back on grocery purchases, 3% cash back on gas.
US BANK ALTITUDE CONNECT VISA SIGNATURE: 4X Points for Travel and Gas.
FIDELITY REWARDS VISA SIGNATURE: All Purchases give you 2X back into your retirement fund whether a 401K or IRA.
Do what is best for you. Chase, Capital One, and Citibank have their own family of cards if you happen to be banking with them. Get creative and take advantage of these deals because in an inflationary environment, every dollar or “point” is important.
Next time, I will be doing Part 6 on my educational indoctrination at Arizona State University involving my Masters Degree program. Until then!
I apologize for the delay between this essay and my previous one. Recently, the French film director Jacques Tati came to my attention. As a person who believes that comedic writing and directing exist on a higher scale than many other forms of filmmaking, I wanted to dive into why this particular director’s comedies are considered some of the greatest of all-time. After experiencing three of his most famous movies and a sixty-minute documentary, my opinion on Tati is a complicated one. His movies fit into the definition of how most film experts see French filmmaking. But even though there is much to admire about Tati, his filmmaking style also has its imperfections. For an individual who was a professional mime known for his physical performances before and after World War II, it is fascinating how Tati evolved from working on the stage to becoming one of the most legendary French film directors. This essay will look into this background before revealing my own complicated history with French filmmakers. Finally, I will talk about the filmmakers that Tati’s films influenced before diving into a final evaluation of Tati’s three most famous films, Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday-1953), Mon Oncle (My Uncle-1958), and Playtime-1967. These films deserve their place in the zeitgeist. But unlike some of the greatest films of all-time that hold up over the decades, can we really make this argument about Tati’s classical works?
Jacques Tati was born in 1907 into a comfortable middle-class life in La Pecq, a suburb of Paris. Showing no interest in academics, Tati spent his childhood being trained as a picture framer (How did this impact his filmmaking sensibilities?) by his grandfather before completing his compulsory military service in the late 1920s. Being introduced to rugby, he became a semi-professional player where his comedic talents were recognized by his fellow teammates. Taking a risk on his performing style during the dark days of the Depression in the early 1930s, he developed his comedic physical style as a mime street performer in the early 1930s. He eventually booked engagements at theaters in France and Germany and fine-tuned his craft as an actor in short films until the outbreak of World War II often working in night clubs and cabarets. When the war ended in 1945, Tati’s career as a filmmaker began.
Tati made six films during his lifetime. I watched his second, third, and fourth films in chronological order of release. You can definitely see an evolution in his filmmaking style during this almost decade in a half of time. On a personal level, I have always had a strong opinion about French films. While filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, and Jacques Demy are considered legends, I have always personally embraced the more unique styles of French auteurs like Luis Bunuel (His French films particularly), Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Michel Gondry. Godard, Truffaut, and Demy made some incredible films. But they also made some movies where the slow pace and visual style left me feeling empty and disappointed. With Bunuel, Jeunet, and Gondry, experiencing any of these films will give you a definitive idea based on their elaborate filmographies of the type of filmmaking to expect. Gondry in particular came to my attention based on the amazing music videos he produced in the 90s for many alternative acts like Bjork. Art is obviously incredibly objective. But I feel the French style of filmmaking is overrated. I feel the same way about most Japanese films (Not anime which is a different genre) and India’s Bollywood. In terms of films made by countries that do not get the same appreciation as the aforementioned nations, Russia/Soviet Union and their philosophically introspective filmmaking, the incredible talent of directors that have made fantastic films in theocratic Iran, and my favorite filmmaking country of the 21st Century, the immensely talented South Koreans, are underappreciated by film experts (Even though the talent of South Korea is now getting globally recognized). Tati slides between these two extremes. There are some truly fantastic moments in his films. Yet, I can’t help but admit that there were also long stretches in each film that meandered too long and often led me to divert my attention away from the film due to boredom.
After watching Tati, you can definitely see the impact his filmmaking had on some contemporary filmmakers. Particularly, Wes Anderson, Steven Spielberg, and David Lynch. In Anderson’s recent film THE FRENCH DISPATCH (2021), there is a comedic scene where a character moves through an M.C. Escher type building that looks like it was stolen from Tati’s MON ONCLE. Anderson has been very open about the inspiration that Tati has had on his filmmaking. Spielberg’s THE TERMINAL (2004) comes across as a homage to Tati’s most famous masterpiece PLAYTIME. Finally, David Lynch’s slow-visual style which can be seen in his most famous film can be partially attributed to Tati. Plus, Tati was fascinated with the modernism of the post-World War II era. The best jokes in each of these films revolves around the world that technology is creating and how his character, the simplistic Mr. Hulot, handles these changes. Tati’s films are a satirical post-modernist take on the rapidly changing world where technology and science would soon become ubiquitous.
Tati was inspired by the silent era slapstick of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. You can see it in the way that Mr. Hulot (Played by Jacques Tati in all three movies) interacts and navigates each scene. These films have almost no dialogue. Film is a visual medium and Tati understands the power of it. A Tati film moves from one scene to another with no underlying purpose. They are appreciations of the chaos of daily life. In Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, Mr. Hulot takes up residence in a vacation resort. Of the three films I watched, this one is the most difficult to enjoy for two particular reasons. First, the movie feels incredibly dated with sight gags that probably worked well on a mid-20th Century audience but come up incredibly flat in respect to our modern tastes. Second, even though this is his second movie, it still feels really raw like Tati was trying out different visual gags to see which ones worked. Even though this film was a hit in France at its time of release, the movie feels unfinished like the best moments were left on the cutting room floor.
This is not the case with MY UNCLE. His third film, and the only one to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, became an international sensation. Significantly more watchable than MR. HULOT’S HOLIDAY, this is the first film that satirizes the superficiality of French culture and the advancing of technology which was uprooting the world during this post-War era. The best scenes in the film all revolve around the house (Which inspired the design of the POWERPUFF GIRLS house in the cartoon). Whether it is the matriarch of the family turning on her distinct fish-shaped water feature every time a stranger comes to visit, or the incredibly well-shot scene of the husband and wife acting like eyeballs inside the windows of the house as Mr. Hulot moves around in the darkness of their yard, to an extended afternoon brunch that features inane social interactions followed by a water leak that changes the nature of the scene, the movie is Tati’s first that defines the type of filmmaker he will become. MY UNCLE is enjoyable and does not meander and lag like his previous film did. The only complaint is that the movie is a little long. A few extra scenes could have been cut to get the movie down to a more manageable 90 to 100 minutes.
Finally, we come to what I believe is Tati’s masterpiece PLAYTIME. Shot inside a city that was built from scratch (Affectionally called “Tativille” by the producers of the picture), PLAYTIME is Tati’s magnum opus. To describe it without explaining the visuals of the movie would not do the film any justice. The film is about a future city made of glass where technology controls every aspect of life. From a cinematography perspective, this is one of the best shot movies I have ever seen. After first experiencing the movie, I was unsure of my personal feelings towards it. As time goes by and my brain began to evaluate what Tati was trying to accomplish, this is an incredible picture. Being the second movie in his trilogy of three films about modern mid-20th Century technology (With TRAFIC being the last one), PLAYTIME is an amazing filmmaking accomplishment. First, a little background on this film. PLAYTIME costs so much money to make that it drove Jacques Tati into bankruptcy. The movie was not well-received at its time of release and has only been appreciated by future generations long after Tati died in 1982. This film has multiple scenes that are incredibly memorable. There is a scene of a receptionist at an office doing multiple tasks at once and moving from side to side in a dance-like state. The scene is improved when Tati shoots the receptionist from outside where you can only see his feet while his body is blocked by a sign. From this perspective, it does look like the receptionist is doing an interpretive dance. There is the great scene where residents from neighboring apartments are watching television, but the cinematography is framed in a way where it looks like they are watching each other. There is a wonderful visual Easter Egg where an individual is talking about taking a vacation. If you miss the posters in the background and what they are trying to tell you (HINT: Every city in the world IS THE SAME), then the entire scene is wasted. Finally, he ends the movie at a nightclub where the viewer comes into a restaurant at its grand opening. This entire scene is over 40 minutes long and gets more chaotic as the amount of people inside the club continues to increase and the problems that the nightclub faces get more complicated. The movie needs to be experienced just for these reasons alone. If I had to reflect back on the best movie of Tati’s career, the only one I would recommend that every person experience is PLAYTIME.
Looking back, I believe it is difficult for our current generations to appreciate a filmmaker like Jacques Tati. So many of the innovations in his movies have long been appropriated by other directors. The first thing I thought when watching Mr. Hulot was Peter Sellers performance as Inspector Clouseau in the PINK PANTHER franchise. The same physical slapstick comedy is present. The one significant difference is that Blake Edwards dialogue and Seller’s incredible performance gives these films a more modern-day edge which makes them more enjoyable to present day audiences. Tati’s Mr. Hulot is a slapstick character that can only be appreciated visually. It is incredibly different than watching the non-stop jokes that made A SHOT IN THE DARK one of the funniest movies of all-time. But if you have the patience to watch a filmmaker who was a truly innovative comedic force during his era, then I would recommend diving into Jacques Tati. It will help you understand the tropes of many modern-day filmmakers.
EXPERT OF SOME