i never saw judas & the black messiah in theaters due to it unfortunately being one of the films released when the pandemic was in full force, so i watched the premiere on hbo max. then i watched it again. and again. and again. and again.
even though this is about events in the late 1960s, it feels prescient—had covid not been a factor, it would have opened in the usa amidst the black lives matter uprising of 2020. but it also could have been released any year before or since & still felt completely relevant—a fact that in & of itself is a tragedy.
for the weekend of juneteenth, amc re-released this as ‘fan favorite’ film. the ability to watch this on the big screen was like seeing it for the first time all over. i like seeing movies in a theater because for the good ones, the emotion in the room is palpable—in this one, it was silent & heavy. no words were spoken as the audience slowly walked back to the hallway. everyone in the room had just experienced something that felt above a dialogue, because it is the dialogue.
to make a film that could be considered art is achievement enough—but to make a film about art while having the product result in a work of art as well is quite rare. some are too self-aware, others too self-serious, and others too self-important to check all the boxes. there are certainly fabulous films about craft—phantom thread comes to mind—but really the only recent films that i’d call art which are also focused around an artist would be inside llewyn davis & black swan (with an honorable mention for hustle & flow).
i guess this is why i’m talking about crimes of the future, still stunned now hours later after the feature. i wasn’t sure what to expect—which probably was a good thing—but the end result was about as visceral as it was poignant. it kept daring me to look away, but for such a bloody film full of scalpels & surgeries, there was no gore, no horror. if anything there was a contemplative sensuality set to dystopian minimalism.
i’ve seen my fair share of movies lately & some of them were really great, but this is something else. this is a film that knows what it is & pushes those boundaries just enough into what it wants to be. it is a completed vision by a master who commands those in the film to incredible peaks of performance. i can’t recommend it enough, even though i’d estimate a lot of people, upon viewing, would probably think i’m psycho for it.
i saw men this weekend, which was absolutely stunning. possibly the most exquisite cinematography i’ve ever seen that eases the audience into a slow burn of absolute horror. it’s the first film in recent memory i’ve seen where the audience applauded at the end. it was exactly what a horror film should be.
while i still haven’t fully processed what i saw—and will certainly see again—the drive home from the theater did get me thinking about the state of movies in america. last week i listened to a story on the closure of the landmark theater here in los angeles, and how it’s bringing about a greater question regarding the survival of indie movies in the age of superheroes on screen.
martin scorsese was beyond right when he said this:
“I tried, you know?” the director said when asked if he had seen Marvel’s movies. “But that’s not cinema.”
“Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
yet there was such ok, boomer outrage that anyone would insult the marvel universe—led by exactly who one would expect to champion such dogshit—that he even had to pen a clarification, which was basically an incredible fuck you, and here’s why.
the marvel universe began as a curse on cinema & has become a straight-up villain to the movie-going experience—both for independent releases & wide-release films. i was fortunate enough to see the northman on imax the first week it was released, as the next week dr. strange came out & northman was scraped from every premier screen. (not only that, but strange was playing in so many theaters that there were upwards of 70 showings per day, pushing indies like the duke out after two weeks of availability.) listening to tarantino talk about how disney handled business regarding star wars against the hateful eight on one screen in the whole world, i wouldn’t be surprised if they had deals with theaters regarding how many movies are allowed to be played against marvel or star wars franchise releases.
this isn’t to say good movies don’t exist, but looking at what is produced in america they’re fewer & farther between. half of the movies i’ve enjoyed this year haven’t been american productions—flee, petite maman, happening, you won’t be alone, the worst person in the world, benedetta—and absolutely none of them feature superheroes (or, for that matter, a green-screen as a filming location).
have i been entertained by a marvel movie before? sure, that’s what they’re literally designed for. but they aren’t worth the collateral damage of weighing down an art form that americans helped pioneer. i’ve been watching a lot of foreign films lately because, comparatively, modern american releases don’t hold up. and i’m not talking about art-house new-wave 60’s french classics, but just movies. enjoyable, thought-provoking, inspired cinema with great writing, fleshed-out characters, solid performances under competent direction & unique cinematography.
—a few examples that i’ve enjoyed over the past couple months—
sadly this is all one more example of how a capitalist, business-first mentality has ruined yet another part of simply living in america. there is no heart in superhero movies, i can’t imagine their makers are proud of the product (and that is all they are—products). like inkers in comics, they simply re-draw lines & stick to a ready-made format. the rest is just pr campaigns & late-night appearances. i wouldn’t give a shit if they weren’t a brain-dead megaphone—talking above the room & ruining the party for everyone else.