Why Nightcrawler (2014) Crawls Into the Deep Crevices of Your Mind

“Rick, I’m very pleased with how you progressed. However, you just spilled gasoline on my car, which will eat the paint. I need you to tighten up a bit on this. Because if you fill it like that again, I will terminate you immediately. I promise you.” 

Lou Bloom (Nightcrawler)

Prelude

The quote above is only a fragment of Lou Bloom’s passive-aggressive way of speaking.  A formal and well-spoken character, Lou finds he has a knack for filming horrible and gruesome crime scenes and selling the tapes to news companies. Willing to do anything to get ahead, taking the image of anything but his real psychopathic self—and not once losing his cool—Jake Gyllenhaal plays the Nightcrawler

Praise

What grabs us from the start is none other than Lou, who quickly grabs the watch of a guard that he beats up—possibly kills. Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of a high-functioning psychopath is spot-on and mesmerizing. A great example is his speech. It’s formal. It’s phony. Real people don’t talk like that. This tells us that Lou doesn’t actually talk to people—it’s explicitly mentioned how he spends hours on end scouring the internet. . . learning. James Rocchi—IndieWire interviewer—muses that Lou Bloom is what would happen “if you shoved the Great Gatsby under a rock and just fed him self-help books and other forms of bullshit for 50 years and then saw what crawled out.” And I definitely agree. His character is the reason we watch killer documentaries, awed and horrified by how their twisted minds work. Lou Bloom isn’t quite in Ted Bundy’s racket in terms of body count; instead, he channels his possible killer-tendencies into a similar outlet, which shows us how desensitized Lou is to gore, seemingly not phased throughout the movie at all. I would have to say this performance falls into the Psychopath Portrayal Honors Society, filled with the likes of Patrick Bateman, Hannibal Lecter, etc. Yes, that’s how high I’m rating this.

This film finds itself at the pinnacle of dark cinema, reminding me of a David Fincher film—more notably Zodiac, which Gyllenhaal also stars in. It’s very similar to Zodiac, one reason being its pacing. It’s slow and eerie, action and adventure substituted with tension and uneasy emotions. Speaking of Zodiac—a very accurate representation of a true story—Nightcrawler is only loosely based on real life, yet the way it’s presented makes me feel like I’m watching a documentary. It’s not for the majority, but for a person with an appreciation for cinema—specifically the thriller genre—it’s captivating. Although the acting and cinematography is often so life-like, some speculate that the character isn’t even real (in any sense). 

Message

A lot of reviewers like me believe that Lou is the physical embodiment of Big Business. All the ingredients for this are seen throughout the film. Lou has a cold resolve to succeed and do it any way possible, sprinkled with a hefty portion of motivational speeches and compliments—all in an effort to conceal the bitterness.  I’m not sure if Dan Gilroy intended to write a character that acts exactly like a money-crazed business that keeps a “good” reputation with fancy and uplifting vernacular, but it definitely lines up with the story and the main theme of the movie—so I gladly accept this theory. Speaking of themes. . .

This movie is a jab at capitalism and how society functions.

This movie peels back the layer of bullshit that we have been looking at and admiring, showing us what the news industry really is and does (even if we suspected that already): How the producer tells the anchors to repeat provoking thoughts that would cause panic and fear in the viewers—how they look for the bloodiest and most disturbing tapes of victims, only reporting on news that happen in rich neighborhoods and throwing the blame on minorities. It’s horrible.

But Lou is not the big bad monster taking advantage of the merry folk of Los Angeles. Nina–his business partner who works at the news station–is also to blame. She’s not as bad as him, but her morals are also askew. In the beginning, she’s disgusted with some of Lou’s intentions and manner, but we observe that disgust turn into admiration as she becomes more and more like him. Rick–Lou’s partner in filming–also seems to lack any sympathy for people. In fact, most characters that we meet are pretty bad people. The only-reporting-and throwing-shit-at-minorities point mentioned earlier is actually interesting because we are told that these are the news that get more attention. This is what the audience WANTS to see. The corporates and news are bastards—there’s no denying that—but they’re appeasing the people. Like in The Wolf of Wallstreet, the film tells us that we are the ones to blame. And it’s right. We truly are. We are the ones to blame for people like Lou, and this is only backed up when……. 

*NEXT PARAGRAPH IS A SPOILER* 

We see that Lou wins. He not only wins and gets off the hook from the police investigating him for the many crimes he committed, but we see that he expands his company and looks more legit and genuine than ever. Dan Gilroy mentioned that he wanted the audience not to blame the psychopath— but the system that he exploited. 

*SAFETY HERE* 

It’s a problem in the core of the system that this movie is pointing out—and it’s very right. I talk more about this in a review I did on The Wolf of Wallstreet and how it actually scrutinizes people like Jordan Belfort—in spite of showing him partying 24/7 and Jordan winning in the end. 

But don’t take this as a public shaming of all news outlets and society. Obviously, not every news network is bad, and it’s not my intention to paint this as a black-and-white painting. It’s actually rather grey. But it’s important to recognize a problem when there is one.

Conclusion

And so, Nightcrawler is a thought-provoking thriller with an important message that only rings too true and makes you question your morals and outlook on life. I don’t think this movie would rise to such heights in my mind if it didn’t have such a powerful theme. And despite not having any fight scenes or super villain, it will still make you grip the edges of your panic pillow with its thrilling story. Gyllenhaal has a field day, and the movie. . . {insert smart metaphor} 10/10.  

Perfect Pilot: Analyzing the Pilots of Three of Netflix’s Most Prominent Shows, and How to Write One

Prelude

What makes a good screenplay–specifically pilot? I watched three pilots for the best pilot scripts I’ve read so far: You, Mr. Robot, and Riverdale–just kidding, it’s Breaking Bad. In this post, I’ll talk about what makes a good pilot, how a script compares to the final product, analyze the three I chose, and more. These aren’t necessarily my favorite shows or whatnot, but they are the best pilot scripts I’ve read. And, of course, these points are my observations and collection of professional advice from actual writers saying how it’s done. 

Tease Me and Grab Me 😉

First and foremost, a great pilot has to grab you from the start. I feel that in this sense, You did it best. And I know what you’re gonna say: BuT BrEaKing baD WaS AmAzing! I know. I agree. But I’m talking about the script right now–not the TV interpretation. Full disclosure: my favorite script is for You. I thought its script was brilliant–but I was very disappointed with the final outcome (more on that later). From the very beginning, and I mean from the very first sentence, You has us in a stalker’s POV, and not even Breaking Bad’s legendary teaser (which rambles a bit) gets to the point and hooks us quicker. Also, I feel like crazy teasers are so overused (like in Breaking Bad), but, when it’s done right. . . it’s done right (also like in Breaking Bad). Teasers are like the thumbnail for a show. You usually put the craziest thing you can, and then we have a flashback, or something that takes us out of that moment and leaves us wondering how we got to that point. It’s classic. It’s textbook. It works.  Mr. Robot also does this–in a way–with the image of the businessmen that we see in the beginning and come back to in the end. Although that’s not exactly it because men in suits aren’t super exciting (depends on you, though ;), and we can’t be sure whether it’s vision or reality. But in any case, each pilot has to have a solid grabber that peaks the reader’s interest.

Let Me Know What’s Gonna Happen

The second point of discussion–which all pilots hit–is that the shows establish the conflict in the first episode, fast and clear. For example: In Breaking Bad, we see the meth lab. We see the cops. We know what the pilot is gonna be about (roughly). There’s a lot of ambiguity with terminology like teasers, hooks, and grabbers because things like this–let’s just call them teasers–act at the same time as a hook, and they tell us what the pilot is gonna be about. I’m sure that’s why they’re so popular. Case in point, introduction and suspense are good, but people wanna see your pilot get straight to the idea on what’s gonna happen. This isn’t a book, especially a Tolkien one, where we can just ramble about the fine details of Frodo’s family tree before getting on with the story. Each of these pilots was clear on what was gonna go down in the episode, except Mr. Robot, which kind of took its time building up and developing–but we had action from the very start. We knew he’s a hacker. We saw his job. At the risk of sounding contradictory but being totally honest, it’s not necessarily about telling us exactly what’s gonna happen but doing effective world-building, introducing us to the characters, the story, all in a matter of minutes without making it too cluster-fucky. 

Word Play

Something else I noticed in these pilots (and in all good scripts) is the word play. For a long time, I used to think scripts were unlike books–they were to get to the point and be as concise as possible, while the books were the ones that played with metaphors, verbs, alliterations, etc. I was wrong. It’s very important to be concise, but it’s extremely important to have compelling writing. It’s not enough to have a great story; you have to tell it great too–good english yes. I noticed how these writers made very clever metaphors and even cracked jokes in their narrative (descriptions, actions). Not just in their dialogue–in their fucking narrative! I feel like this might be one of the greater points I have in this post: make your descriptions and actions awesome. Dialogue already has to be awesome–that’s a given, but make what the audience isn’t supposed to see awesome too. Make your screenplays exciting–not just in content–in presentation. Don’t say The man had cavities. This character has very bad hygiene. No, say His teeth were like Swiss cheese: bullet-riddled, and they smelled like shit. Or is it French cheese that smells bad? Whatever. His whole body smelled like shit. That’s a bold example–perhaps too bold, but don’t be afraid to crack a joke wrapped in a nice metaphor. In fact, when I was reading the pilot for Breaking Bad, I was surprised at how much the author plays around with the reader. Meaning: he jokes, the tone is casual–and that’s really not something I’d expect from Breaking Bad. It’s actually kind of a juxtaposition to the story–I don’t know if I liked that. Personally, I say don’t be too funny if you’re writing a drama. Or at least a serious one. I don’t know. Just me. Puts me out of the story with the tone difference. 

Script vs. Shoot

Overall, I think these shows were pretty much a success–that’s probably an understatement. Breaking Bad went down in history, Mr. Robot made Rami Malek famous, and You left us with some great memes (I’ll show one down below).  I think it’s inevitable that some things get lost in translation when bringing a screenplay to life. It’s hard for me to look at things objectively because I read the scripts before watching the shows (I know; I live under a TV show-rock). The filmed version is always gonna look different then we imagined it in our heads, and that makes us angry (or me, at least).  Just take any movie-adaption of a book, and you’ll understand how I feel about these. But, interestingly enough, I liked the final product for Breaking Bad much more than the script (I still really liked it). The director really understood what the writer wanted and made an amazing pilot–probably because those two were the same person. The actors that they chose for Breaking Bad were also amazing. 

Sam Esmail, the writer and sole director for Mr. Robot, also successfully brings his pilot to life, with only a few things that strayed from the script that I did not like, but I am not one to talk. But, do take note that one of the most exciting and intriguing scenes of the pilot (Mr. Robot almost kills himself on the Ferris wheel in a weird, mind game-like act to get Elliot to decide who’s side he’s on) was cut out. I liked the script more, but the show only gets better, so that’s a thumbs up. 

As for You, the show I’ve been quietly throwing shade on this entire post–I feel that the Netflix production did not fully understand what the writers were going for. Some awesome lines of dialogue were cut out, scenes changed, unnecessary edits made, and I’ll save you the rant and say I just did not like the final product–compared to the script. It’s a good show, but a mere shadow of the written version (in my opinion, of course). One of my biggest pet peeves is Joe’s inner voice. In the screenplay, it specifically mentions that his inner voice is different than his outer–like you’d be surprised that such an innocent-looking guy has THAT inside of him. It was meant to be sarcastic, creepy, cold, but no–I had to listen to Penn Badgley ASMR for like all of it. That’s like the whole point of the whole stalker theme: the ~demon~ lurks inside someone you’d never expect–an average Joe. In the Netflix version, I don’t know why they made so many edits to the original work.  This might lead me into a point I’d like to present: The writer always needs to direct his show, or at least be very involved in the process–You was the only pilot that was not directed by the writers. I just feel that the directors, actors, and everyone involved with the process did not entirely grasp, as Tarantino once put it, the “poetry” of the writers, besides probably being great actors and directors. I would elaborate–but I’ll refrain at the risk of sounding like a know-it-all-shithead. 

Conclusion: Just Don’t Suck

But, as much as we can analyze the intricacies of ~the pilot~ and how different people write it–it really boils down to one thing: the idea. Great writing will make a good idea look awesome, and a shit idea look. . . well, shit. It’s still gonna be bad, but the piece will be less embarrassing. But anyways–hope this either helped or amused you in some way. 

Tee-hee

I’m Back and Here to Tell You How The Warriors (1979) Was a Few Decisions Away From Being a Masterpiece

PRELUDE

Okay, so I was gone for a while–but on the bright side–I watched a lot of movies, and got some more diverse practice in writing. So hopefully, I’ll write even better reviews and critiques for my very few fans out there (ya know who you are). 

All chatter aside, today we’re gonna talk about The Warriors. A cult film by Walter Hill, based on a book based on an ancient Greek biography. There were a ton of problems and controversies circulating around the film, but what you need to know is that the film was made with a laughable budget–like less than a million–and that the actors got pissed on by gang members (there will be no elaboration). Almost lost to time, gang violence, and shitty fighting sequences, it’s honestly amazing that people even know about this film today. Maybe, like me, it captures them with its strange yet so familiar feel, eccentric style, and Greek origins. But, just as Orpheus almost saved his wife from the underworld, this film came so close to being a masterpiece remembered for more than just some flashy costumes. I am no expert, but here’s my take. . .

I’ll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsicle – Ajax (James Remar) 

Fun Fact: Thomas Waites was fired from the film after being fussy and complaining about how there was too much “violence” in it.  Don’t know where he got that from, am I right? 

SYNOPSIS 

Before talking about how to improve The Warriors, we first have to talk about what it is. So we’re in New York City, and gangs (consisting mainly of teenagers) run rampant throughout it. There’s only one guy to rule them all (sorry), and that man is Cyrus, the charismatic gang leader who wants to unite all the small gangs to take over the city. Don’t get too attached though–he gets shot. No, really, Cyrus gets shot in the very beginning by the crazy leader of The Rogues: Luther (David Patrick Kelly). His bad-shit crazy ways make for an awesome villain–a shallow one–but that’s beside the point. During this assembly of small gangs with strange names and equally strange attire, Luther kills Cyrus, pinning the whole thing on the leader of the Warriors. You don’t need to know his name, ‘cause he’s freaking dead. He gets trampled to death as the cops crash the meeting, and the Warriors are now left leaderless, and far away from home territory. 

It’s now up to the remaining eight members of the gang to get back home, all while the other gangs are looking to “waste some heads.” Rumor travels like wildfire, and it appears everyone thinks the Warriors killed Cyrus. . . and they want blood. 

If you’d like to know how it ends, read the next paragraph. 

*Spoilers in this paragraph* 

The ragtag group makes its way through the streets of New York, encountering many gangs and other challenges that they either run or fight their way out of. Swan (Michael Beck) has elected himself to be the new leader, and the Warriors aren’t the only ones that fancy him. Along their way, they meet a girl named Mercy, and the group consensus is that she’s a “whore.” Like a stray dog, she follows them wherever they go. Then, while trying to hitch a ride in the subway, the gang gets separated by the cops. One group bolts one way and the other another–the only thing they know is the station that they’re supposed to meet at. Things don’t work out so well though, as one group gets there faster. That’s not half bad when you consider that the second group gets split again, getting caught up with a girl in the park. All in all, we lose two members, and we’re left at a beach in Coney Island. I’m really glad that the Warriors don’t let their guard down there, because the crazy Luther–who’s been tryna nail them all movie–has finally got his chance. In the climax of all the nail-biting situations the Warriors + Mercy have been in, one of the more powerful leaders realizes that Luther is the one to blame for Cyrus’ death, and we can only expect the same fate for him; meanwhile, our Warriors are left victorious, yet at what cost? Takeaway here is. . . women are to be blamed for all our troubles. Just kidding! The takeaway is in a different section, silly! 

*Spoiler Free Zone*

ATTRIBUTES AND STYLE

This is the type of movie that makes you remember that movie that you can’t really remember the name of. I think the best part about this movie is the stylistic choices. Filmed entirely at night, the movie makes it very clear on what type of aesthetic it’s going for. It paints New York in a somber tone: empty, cold streets filled with thugs. The setting resembles a mob movie, yet the gangsters are kids running around in baseball costumes. I really can’t stress enough how those shots made me feel. It was so strange yet so cool and gave a very dark undertone to the movie. It felt so authentic and real because it was–the movie was filmed entirely on the streets of New York.

The setting might have felt real, but the costumes were anything but. Each gang has a theme, and each theme is different. Some gangs choose to dress like baseball players and some like greasers. The only thing that we can expect is the unexpected–because those costumes are weird. They’re something you would find in the cheap aisle of Party City. It’s such a jarring juxtaposition to see those fun costumes on the backdrop of bad neighborhoods–and even stranger because the people wearing those costumes are hardened thugs. It’s like Hill is trying to explain gang violence to kids. Which is why I thought he made the following decision: 

For gangs of New York, there were very few guns. In fact, if my memory serves me right, there was only one, which Luther used to kill Cyrus. Forgetting that, I thought guns were nonexistent in this world, explaining why nobody else had them–including the police, brandishing British batons. Unfortunately, they did exist, which spurred many questions from me, a guy who’s always trying to understand the deeper meaning of a movie–freaking nerd. 

CONS

The Warriors was a very confusing movie, and that’s a good thing, yet all the clues do not line up, and we have a film that doesn’t have a clear message and many unanswered questions. I hate movies with no purpose or meaning, and what I mean by that is when a movie does not answer why it made the choices that it did. Why are there so few guns in this movie? Why are they all wearing costumes? Why is it the way that it is? There were so many storylines and possible answers that I was spinning in my head while watching the movie, but in the end, I was disappointed. The most meaningful part of the movie was when the main hero and a lady friend of his were in the subway (looking all types of grimy), and some nice-looking people walked in, fresh from a party. The people were laughing and having fun, as opposed to our serious and traumatized couple. The newcomer’s smiles quickly faded as they observed them, and our lady self-consciously went to fix her hair ( in an attempt to make herself look better) but was stopped by our guy, who stared those partiers down with a stern face–unapologetic of his appearance. That was cool. But besides that, there is no deeper meaning beyond what we see on the surface. 

HOW WE ELEVATE IT

I picked up on the Greek vibe, and I got really excited once I realized this resembled Odysseus’ journey back home with his crew. Not only because our heroes were returning from a faraway land, and not just because a lot of them had Greek names, but because–okay, it’s really hard to talk about this without spoilers. And I suggest you don’t be fussy and read. But, if you wish to be surprised, skip the next paragraph, where I will have some. 

*Spoilers in This Paragraph* 

Two of  Swan’s (Michael Beck’s) men did not make it back to Coney Island. This only reinforced my connection with the Greek tale, as all of Odysseus’ crew died in the journey. Not to mention the temptress Circe, who I thought was Mercy. So logically, I thought that the girl would follow Swan around while all his men die, or she is exiled from the group as Swan realizes she is only trouble. So the end result would be a lonely Swan, or just him and his girl–both tragic outcomes, yet so beautiful and poetic. Dude, they even had sirens (a group of girls who almost killed half our crew). I was so convinced this was Odysseus’ journey. 

*Spoiler Free Zone*

Okay hi, we’re back. Basically, what I said to my Spoiler Crew is that the film strays away from Odysseus’ journey, so the connection between the two is vague. The director wanted to incorporate Greek mythology, no doubt, but it was done in a sloppy and unmeaningful way, where ( I at least) was not satisfied.  

What also was a huge turn off is the whole gun thing. I thought that director Walter Hill was telling a gang story to a child. With goofy costumes and teenagers with no guns, this is a kid-friendly thug film in the backdrop of a very somber New York. It would have been very innovative of him to imagine a world without guns–where people fight with fists instead of barrels. I was personally very excited if the story were to have no guns because it would be such a cool touch: a satirical interpretation of gang violence, but its true colors shine through with the character’s attitudes and the setting–all based on Odyseuss’ journey . It would have been soooo cool–like the fantasy of a child who’s playing with his toys. 

But The Warriors did not do that. And yes, the movie does have some nice messages which I may not have covered, and I am well aware of the budget and time limit, as editors were scrambling to get this movie out before their competition. Yet still, in my opinion, this movie would have spurred lots of conversations if it had done the things I said, and perhaps gain critical acclaim–it’s still rocking that 89% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes though. 

So yes, my friends. The Warriors is a very different movie that oozes eccentricity from all pores and puts you in this crazy, silly world where chaos rules above all. I am no Tarantino, and I hope I don’t come off as a know-it-all, but you let me know what you think of my proposal. A half-baked masterpiece, I just wish they tied it all together. 7/10

Does The Wolf of Wall Street Glorify Hookers, Drugs, and Fraud?

I’ll tell you one thing… I’m never eating at Benihana again. I don’t care who’s birthday it is. 

-Donny Azoff (Jonah Hill)

*Spoilers Duh*

Short answer: no. Long answer: yes but no. Let’s get into it. The Wolf Of Wallstreet is a stunning work by Martin Scorsese and his favorite leading man: Leonardo DiCaprio. Although this isn’t a review, and I’m not here to tell you how great it is–it’s pretty great. Jordan Belfort, the sleazy mastermind behind Stratton Oakmont, is seen committing more than just one sin per scene. From doing hookers to doing cocaine, Jordan never seems to stop as he scams his clients for millions of dollars throughout the movie. Many people bash Scorsese for what seems to be a three-hour homage to this man, as The Wolf does a lot of bad things throughout the movie with very little reprimand. He gets sent to prison in the end, but has it easy and builds his money and life back up again once he’s out. This movie is largely based on the real story of Jordan Belfort, and that is what happens in real life–so you cannot judge Scorsese for the story itself or what happens in the movie. What you can judge though, is how he portrays this character. Is he gonna have a hard life filled with paranoia and drug abuse? Nah what the hell he’s gonna party! Many people might be shaking their heads right now, but this is a necessary evil–not to mention it makes for a great movie. Now, I have my case, let me present my facts. 

When making a film based on a true story, it’s important to present the facts as they were instead of letting your bias consume you. Sure, add in your own flavor and moral that you would like the audience to take away, but when making a film like that it’s important to tell the story how it was and not how you want it to be. Scorsese stayed true to Belfort’s journey as Jordan had a shit load of fun on it–no joke. DiCaprio does an incredible job portraying how wild and out of control The Wolf was. Did he really do all those incredible things that we see in the movie? Yes. Was The Wolf as attractive and charming as DiCaprio? Uhmmm he isn’t handsome but he was convincing enough to scam people for millions of dollars so judge for yourself. Did he really do all those drugs and get with so many women, was that really necessary? Yes and yes, he probably did even more. 

Now that we got that out of the way, we can dig even deeper. Over the course of time, most of the things Jordan does are portrayed as no big deal and he and his buddies get away with no punishment (Jordan’s friends and associates were caught yet we do not see too much of that in the movie). On the outside, it’s a happy and go-lucky film with an antihero who just can’t do no wrong. Yet if you really look, you start to see the true colors of the movie and its characters, just like in real life. It’s no accident that we have that scene of the sales associate shaving her head bald in the beginning half of the movie. For those who don’t remember, this lady was offered cash to shave her head. Okay, but why this scene? It’s not very exciting and offers little to no information or plot advancement. Although we kind of come to understand what it means when the lady, all shaven and weird-looking, is happily, almost melancholy, looking at her money amid chaos at the office. This is a great shot to symbolize how corrupt and money-driven this person is. We also later find out that this lady plans on using that money for upgrading her C cups to Double D’s. According to the Urban Dictionary, a C cup is pretty average and satisfiable. So this background knowledge serves to tell us how excess and lust-driven this woman is. If I were to go far enough, I’d say she’s the female embodiment of Jordan, someone who gave up their hair (his soul or conscience) in a twisted hunger for more when more is not needed. But don’t get tangled up in her cut-off hair, there’s so much more I’d like to show you. 

Remember that guy that married their new sales assistant at Stratton? No? The guy that was getting blown in the elevator? Oh, now you remember. So this man later married this very loose-behaviored girl, and the whole scene is incredibly funny, from the elevator blowjob to Jordan tag-teaming that same girl with Donny–it’s all laughs until Jordan says that the man later killed himself. Woah, that’s a bit of a dark twist. It’s not without meaning though; this suicide is one of many clues to string together that let us know how messed up and twisted this whole Wall Street-mentality is. People that succumb to temptation, later fall–and fall hard. Jordan is an exception, sure, but he is no lucky case. He managed to turn his life around because he was so relentless and cunning, otherwise he would just be another Wall Street disaster. 

In the beginning, we’re introduced to Matthew McConaughey’s character along with others. They seem to be likable and all very sinful, consumed by money. And we later see that their whole company shuts down–causing them to lose their jobs. I could keep going on and on. Everyone that Jordan has business with, pretty much ends up in a metaphorical ditch, showing the true nature of their ways and their relationship with Jordan. Jordan’s wife, oh they divorce after he cheats on her. Jordan’s second wife? They end up hating each other and also divorcing. Mind you, she stole Jordan from the first wife and didn’t even care. We feel very attached to Naomi because–well because she’s Margot Robbie. But once you look past the charisma and New York accent, you start to realize how much of an ass she is. She’s shallow and leaves him when things aren’t looking good for him, taking his kids. Donny and the rest of the gang? If Jordan went to prison you can bet Donny and the others did, only they’re not as rich so they wouldn’t exactly have it easy. The Swiss banker? Also goes to prison and has his life ruined. Sure, one might argue that’s for plot advancement. Then what would you say about Brad? Brad had a seemingly-good end: he got out of jail, he was rich and girls swarmed him. It is only through Jordan’s narrations that we find out that Brad’s wife was cheating on him and that he later died of a heart attack. I searched far and wide, yet was not able to find the real Brad’s fate. But whether for the sake of the movie or not, the simple fact that we are told this reinforces the underlying theme of the movie. 

The theme is that everybody’s past catches up to them, and that American society is wildly misled and twisted. The only reason that Jordan is able to do whatever he does–live this life and have so many followers–is because we (as Americans) support this kind of behavior. I bet nine out of ten people were rooting for him. Why? He was an asshole and barely did anything good. His charisma and charm had totally blinded most people. And just like his real-life version, Jordan used his charm to feed the temptation and hollow desires of people. He wasn’t much of an Adolf Hitler, who made false promises and tricked his supporters. He said it straight up: I want you to deal with your problems by becoming rich, he said. Now of course, the screenwriter had a blast writing this movie, but in real life, Jordan actually had a microphone to motivate and get his crowd going–and I’m pretty confident that some of those lines are direct quotes used by Jordan, and certainly convey his twisted ideals. And when Jordan said that, people cheered. Hell, I bet you cheered. 

Of all the things that Jordan promised his clients and followers, money was the main prize. Enough of this shit will make you invincible, able to conquer the world, and eviscerate your enemies. And this is true–we live in a society that supports this kind of thinking and makes everything revolve around this green paper. And America is at the helm of this ship of gluttony and lust, as I’ve studied and been to many different countries, and no one is quiet as power and money crazed as Americans. It’s the American dream. Get rich, do it fast, and fucking party. And although it’s a valid dream as long as you don’t let it consume you, money doesn’t just fall from the sky–only when Jordan throws it from his yacht on FBI agents. Many people wanna get rich and live the lifestyle that they think will make them happy, but they don’t wanna work for it. Many invest in stocks and play the lottery–two things that are very similar yet many people are under the impression that one is more legit. The stock market is as unpredictable as unpredictability itself, and you need to be either a genius or a really hard worker to make serious bank. There are always exceptions, but this promise of getting dumb rich and doing it quickly is what gets Americans hooked on things like this, just like gambling. And so Jordan was able to rip those people off because they’re dumb–someone who is so blinded by money that they’re willing to trust a stranger with thousands of dollars. Jordan made suckers out of all those people–and he’s still making suckers out of us: the people who watched his movie. The movie was loosely based on the book and you can sure as hell bet that he got a huge chunk of cash to sell them the rights for the movie. So he’s tricking all of us, because most people that see the movie don’t see any wrong in what Jordan did; he won didn’t he? They watch the movie, wanna be like him, and then google him and buy his book or some shit. And that is exactly what Scorsese was trying to address. 

Scorsese basically called out the American public for supporting and being in love with such excess, such lust and gluttony, idolizing people who are really shitty at heart. And those millions of people who left the movie theatre wanting to be like The Wolf are proof of it. Scorsese doesn’t make the movie so extreme and wild just for entertainment. The events are not all glamorous and awesome, sometimes they’re a little sickening. So much drugs, so much partying. Scorsese did his very best to show how over-the-top and shallow that life is. He presented viewers with an idea, and now it’s our job to understand and interpret it the way that we want. As I see it, Jordan Belfort is kind of like Willy Wonka–and not ‘cause he was dancing like an Oompa Loompa somewhere towards the middle. It’s because Wonka takes you to this magical land, it’s so extravagant it’s sickening. And he makes it look like paradise (the Willy Wonka I’m thinking of is Johnny Depp’s 2005 version) and the kids are amazed, just like Jordan’s followers. They eat and they eat, and one by one, each of them gets hurt, greed overcomes them and they become a huge blueberry–or go to prison for money laundering. The point is, this movie is a depiction of the twisted version of the American dream that resides in people’s heads, and although it glorifies the lifestyle, this hyperbolic glorification is intended to have the opposite effect. In the last shots of the movie, we see the honest FBI agent riding the subway. He won but he lost; honesty did him no good. And in the very last shot, we see a crowd of people, ordinary people, intently looking at Jordan, as he has managed to use their hollow dreams and make suckers of them again–and we are the ones to blame.

Parasite (2019) Review

If you’re reading this, then it’s probably because you googled Parasite, thinking What the hell is this Korean movie doing in theaters (now on Prime)? Don’t worry, South Korea, not North.

When I was watching this movie on an airplane, people were giving me looks because I was FREAKING out. From spine tingling moments to nerve-racking, cringing, close-your-eyes moments, Parasite plays with your feelings like 2020 has been playing with us. But enough stalling… What is Parasite?

What is it?

Parasite is a comedy/drama/thriller, ALL in one. It takes the best of all three worlds and seamlessly combines them into one concoction, no aspect of it feeling forced or unnatural. South Korean director, Bong Joon-ho, brings us a film that has so far won four Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, and many more under its belt. The action revolves around a poor but creative family that does anything in their power to get by. Through a series of coincidental events, they are introduced to their rich counterparts: a wealthy, seemingly-perfect family that makes up for what they lack in brains–with money. The young and main protagonist, Kevin, ends up working for this rich family and soon begins to develop a plan–a plan to frame and replace all the different assistants that this rich family employs in an effort to get his family those jobs. As the catalyst is set, all we can do is wait and watch what happens next between these two families.

Three Genres in One

As mentioned before, Parasite completely subverts expectations. Judging from its poster and name, one might guess it’s a thriller, maybe a movie that has to do with computer hackers. But as it starts out, you realize that you’ve been totally wrong. It begins as a wholesome comedy introducing a set of characters that are three-dimensional, who we quickly get very attached to. Our expectations are then subverted again, as the mood and the direction of the film changes, and then once more as the film begins to take the colors of a thriller. No spoilers just yet, but in my opinion there were two turning points in this movie that changed the entire plot and feel of it. Most movies have one at best, but Parasite has TWO! With its blend of genres across all boards, it tells a complex tale with a MAJOR plot twist in the middle or a little closer toward the end. The movie will leave you saying “what the fuck” an hour after it ends. 

Plot twists!!!

You really love to see a movie take its twists and turns like that because it often avoids the mistake which most others make. Although with some possible plot twists, the mood of a film usually stays the same. If it’s a comedy it stays funny and–comedic; good language, I know. And if it’s a horror movie then it’ll always be scary, or often foreshadow bad events which often make you feel uneasy. The point is, real life is not like that. The tone of our lives changes all the time, and I don’t think we can determine what genre a movie about our lives would be because life is so complex and ever-changing. Well, except mine, which is a comedy because I’m such a failure. That being said, Parasite, in a lot of ways, is realistic. It recognizes that some parts of life may be a comedy and some a horror movie and just sits back and lets the film take its course.

Message

Now there’s no doubt that this film sends a message about social classes: from the huge contrast between the two families, to the imagery that Joon-ho provides with the rich family living way higher than the poor, and the poor family descending back to their impoverished home and then the rain flooding down bla bla bla. You know all that. Everyone sees it and everyone talks about it. And if you don’t, then I’ll give you a brief synopsis: the director illustrates the difference between social classes by having two extremes of the two. He makes a social commentary on both, as the rich family is a bit dumb and arrogant, and the poor, needy and greedy. He also illustrates this with lots of imagery and it’s a recurring theme that runs throughout the movie.

Now, to the stuff that you may have missed or not thought about. In the movie, although we are inclined to side with the poor, Kim family–the rich, Park family, has also not committed any crime or grave sin for which we would disdain them. Near the end, you start to wonder who’s in the right, as the Kim family’s hands are not exactly clean. But the Parks aren’t too hot either, and a lot of the events that unfold are their fault. It’s very hard to talk about this without spoilers. The point is, this movie makes you question who’s good or bad, or if there is such a thing. How could one family be so benevolent but at the same time do such harsh things? This movie contemplates the meaning of good and bad and right or wrong and leaves the viewer with freedom for his own interpretation and contemplation.

Another bittersweet theme we could get from this is ruin. What I mean by that is the decay of something beautiful. And what I mean more specifically is the downfall and ruin of a person, and how one can go from being questionably good to VERY bad–how a situation can spiral out of control, and how the lives of some beautiful creatures can crumble apart, fast. As philosophical as that may sound, that’s something the film makes you think about. And although it may tie in to the previous theme I discussed, I still see it as a talking point of its own. It’s very cool when stories and movies explore this concept. It implies that villains aren’t born–but made, and even the purest of people can have their conscience poisoned. These types of things make characters complex and really add life to the story, just as Parasite has done.

My Thoughts (Spoilers)

No doubt I was PISSED OFF when Jessica died. What? I said spoilers. I think I speak for everyone when I say that Jessica was one of the favorites in the movie and it would have been much less of a blow if one of the parents had died. But that would’ve been too fortunate now huh? So I applaud and flick Joon-ho off for this, as he didn’t afford me the luxury of a more or less happy ending.

As for the ending, Kevin finds out his father is alive and hiding in the very bunker/basement that their foes hid in before (long story) and writes him a message. In the message he promises to get rich, buy the house, and find him. Meanwhile that’s happening, we see the images of him doing so. Very unfortunate though that in the last moments of the movie, we see that this was not the future but only a vision, and Boon-ho pulls the carpet out from under my hope of having ANY happy ending. But it’s fine! Life is often like this, and the ending is more or less left to interpretation, depending on how optimistic you are. You may believe that Kevin gets rich and frees his father. I mean after all, the family pulled this whole operation off. But you may also look at it realistically and say no way. Bong Joon-ho himself has also stated that it’s not likely.

Now as for Kevin, I know he’s like the main protagonist of the film and we feel very sympathetic towards him… BUT HE STOLE HIS FRIEND’S GIRL AND DIDN’T EVEN THINK TWICE ABOUT IT. No really. I was kind of waiting for some conflict or internal battle to arise within Kevin about breaking his promise to his friend and stealing the love of his life, who the friend intended to MARRY. But Kevin just takes his dream and makes it his own! I guess you could say that’s very–parasitic of him, ha ha ha–please laugh. And what bothers me is that he doesn’t think it’s wrong at all, and shows no remorse or any thoughts on it throughout the film. I don’t know, maybe the Kims had it coming. But then again, who’s right here? And sure, it was mutual, the girl also wanted to be with Kevin. But that doesn’t make it any better. In conclusion, if the Kim’s weren’t such assholes, things would have gone way different. Nevertheless, this is the choice that they made, and they surely paid the price. Although this analysis is entirely pointless, because without conflict and mistakes, there would be no movie. Secretly, we all want to see the lives of some innocent people get utterly destroyed–oh wait, just me? Sorry. But Bong Joon-ho made this process beautiful.

In conclusion, Parasite is a wonderful film that will capture your attention with its beauty and great story and will leave you questioning your morals. And staying true to its name, it will invade your thoughts–and keep you thinking about it–long after the credits roll. 10/10