Joker

Warner Bros

I was resisting seeing Joker for some reason. But then I gave in, all the talk of Joaquin Phoenix’s performance and the fact that it will soon pass Deadpool to be the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time made me curious.

I should’ve listened to my gut.

Roger Ebert once published a compilation of his bad reviews called “I Hated Hated Hated This Movie.” I think I’ve got the first chapter of my version.

The buzz about Joker has been evenly divided between masterpiece and piece of crap. All I can say is I am at a complete loss as to how anyone could have enjoyed a single moment of this movie, let alone call it a masterpiece.

Joker is the dreariest, most mind and soul crushing movie experience I’ve had in a long time, if ever. I haven’t come this close to walking out of a movie since Requiem for a Dream. I don’t want to spend any more time thinking about this movie than I have to —as it is, I need a shower—so let me just sum it up for you: DO NOT GO. It is a relentless exploration of human misery, a painful descent into madness with no let up and no payoff.

What really pisses me off is Phoenix is a great actor and I suppose what he is doing here is great, too, but there is no modulation to his performance. He is all out maniacal from the first shot and all you can do is squirm in your seat and hope your skin stops crawling. I realize that’s what they were going for, but it’s not how a normal person wants to spend two hours.

In all fairness, I realize that Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight was insane and twisted, too. The difference between Ledger and Phoenix, though, is that Ledger was entertaining, watchable and textured. Phoenix’s Joker is just all twisted—darkness has enveloped this performance so fully, you will have to fight hard to not get sucked in. It’s just not my idea of a good time.

I had enough of it after 10 minutes and it only got worse. Please, do yourself a favor and spend your time doing almost anything else. Life is seriously too short.

Parasite

Neon

I’m not a filmmaker, but I would imagine that every director’s ultimate aspiration is to make a movie that is everything a movie can be. But is that even possible? Is it possible for any single movie to be all things at once: socially conscious, morally perplexing, layered, inventive, complicated, universal, accessible, funny, serious, scary, dramatic, weird, heartbreaking, tense, thrilling, violent, sweet, fast-paced, beautiful, well-acted, well-written and entertaining? Can you even think of a movie that covers all of that? The closest and most recent one that I can think of is Get Out, Jordan Peele’s masterpiece from 2017. Well, I’m not calling Parasite this year’s Get Out, but it’s not the worst comparison. Let me put it this way: I thought it would be a long time until I saw a movie that was as many things as Get Out was and achieved it in as such a perfect way, but here I am, just two years later and another perfect movie has arrived. And we totally should have seen it coming.

Writer/director Joon Ho Bong has been building up to this. His slate of films has slowly increased in critical attention, from Memories of Murder in 2003 to The Host in 2006 to Mother in 2009 to Snowpiercer in 2013 to Okja in 2017, Bong has been building a catalog of films that keeps getting stronger and while each film shone a brighter spotlight on the genius of Bong by cinephiles and critics, he still was far from being a household name. His latest film, Parasite, just might change all that. If there is any justice in the world at all, Parasite will finally be the film that recognizes Bong as the master filmmaker he is and officially serve notice to Mexico that Korea just may be taking over as the new home of master film auteurs.

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