Saturday, October 24, 2015

Crimson Peak: Beware It or Something

I've got to say, Guillermo can nab me on style every time, and his narratives are interesting, but this one fell a little flat.

Beware this place, apparently.

It all starts with Edith being haunted by the ghost of her dead mother, who warns her to "beware of Crimson Peak" when she is only a child. Fast forward a couple years and Edith grows up to become a headstrong woman trying to become a writer, a fact that becomes totally irrelevant to the plot when she meets Baronet Thomas Sharpe. They meet after Sharpe botches a meeting with Edith's father, a rich man who isn't interested in Sharpe's noble status or his made-up contraption for digging clay out of the Sharpe family's grounds. Edith falls in love with Sharpe and, after a series of strange, unfortunate events, agrees to marry him. When she arrives at his mansion, however, things start to become more sinister. Sharpe's sister, Lucille, is always acting like a weirdo, refusing to give Edith keys, acting standoffish, and always making her this gross tea. As Edith encounters the house's ghosts, we learn that Crimson Peak (a nickname for the manor, she learns once she's arrived) is home to some nasty secrets.

Here's what I liked:

Again, Guillermo doesn't not mess around when it comes to aesthetics. Between sets and costumes, the movie is nothing if not lush. Bright colors and beautiful fabrics dominate the entire screen, and even distracts a little from the story itself.

Look at those sleeves. Look at that collar. Good god.

The second thing I liked was the way he did the ghosts. I don't know how he gets away with it, but Guillermo del Toro is one of the rare people who can actually show you the true form of the monster hiding in the dark and still have you effectively scared. It's hard to evoke horror in plain sight, but he does it extremely well. The ghosts are grisly and scary without trying to look overly realistic and the mystical realism there works.

Here's where we had some problems:

The plot gets twisted up in itself a little too much from the get-go and leaves no room for the element of surprise. The movie announces to the audience that the Sharpes are suspicious folk right off the bat with phrases like "There's something funny about those two," baiting you. Which is actually kind of a shame, because without voicing concerns about the Sharpes' characters, things would be much more interesting. Instead of holding suspense and leading us to make our own assumptions about the character of these nobles, we're instead made to wait until the end like impatient kids at Christmas. We don't know what is it that they are doing nor why they are doing it but we know damn well that SOMEthing fishy is going on. Why dangle the surprise in front of our faces? Because of this, a plot twist that may have hit the audience with a bang instead deflates with a lame pffffttt. Additionally, Guillermo decides to stack on ANOTHER surprise because apparently one isn't enough, but it ends up reading as an afterthought.

Lucille, looking very suspicious.

6.5 outa 10. Long story short: Crimson Peak is a gorgeous-looking film full of jumps and scares, but a plodding narrative keeps the movie from reaching its potential.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Suffragette: Tough Watch but Worth It

To be perfectly honest, when I walked into the theater I knew this would be an emotional one but worth it. And I was right.

The movie takes place in 1912, when British women's voices are only just starting to be heard regarding the right to vote. Our story centers on Maude Watts (Carey Mulligan), a respectable middle-class woman, married with a young son, who works in a laundry. Maude's intial interest in the suffragette movement is minimal, but she finds herself being swept into the movement faster than she can imagine. In an age where women have to fight so hard to be taken seriously that they have to resort to destruction of property, how far will they have to go before their voices are heard?

Also look how bad-ass this poster is though, right?

Cinematically speaking, Suffragette was a fantastic watch for a piece of this usually-predictable genre. It's an interesting genre, reading almost more like a political thriller than a stereotypically emotional biopic. That isn't to say that it's not both, but I was suprised at the actions that they put into play, the conditions in the prisons at that time, the perspective of their neighborhood, and a dozen other things that almost made it feel more like an espionage movie than you would think for a movie that takes place in 1912.

In a sense, this movie hits uncomfortably close to home. I feel like it's less rare to find movies of this caliber when talking about developing nations, or about historical events so far behind us that it's hard to take them seriously. The disturbing thing about Suffragette is how this violent fight for women's rights wasn't that long ago.

This is a film that will have you internally screaming at the backwards minds of the greater population at the time. There are too many scenes of women being silenced by men who view them as lesser beings, or who view themselves as being custodial over women in general -- even the ones that they love. The unfairness of it all is enough to make you want to tear your hair out at certain moments, but also has you rooting so hard for Maude to succeed with spreading the women's message, to make it all worthwhile.

That being said, Suffragette serves as a reminder of the power of numbers. Maude says at a crucial moment, "Women represent half of the population, you can't silence all of us." And she's totally right. Especially today, with the technology at our disposal, one can only hope that movements, like the feminist one and others, can gain the effectiveness of organizations back then, who had to rely on eye-grabbing tactics more effective than Facebook Likes.

My girl Maude got arrested like 5 times.

Not like I'm encouraging people to run around blowing up mailboxes. I think to infer that violence is the answer is to misunderstand the larger message of the film. But if there's one message that Suffragette has for women, and for people in general who have a cause, it's to stand up for what you want. If it's for the greater good, you'll find a following. And if you really believe in it, you have to be willing to fight for it.

8 outa 10. Well made, effective, emotional, and moved quickly. Excellent.