Rubber (2010) – Movie Review

Writer and director Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber is one of those movies that’s not really good or bad–just odd. It opens up with shots of a desert landscape until finally focusing on a car tire half-buried in the dirt. Slowly, the tire begins to tremble and soon fixes itself upright. It starts to move around on its own, falling down every few feet until it’s able to maintain balance. It rolls about, crushing a plastic bottle and a scorpion. It comes across a beer bottle, realizing that it’s unable to destroy it by simply running over it it starts to utilize psychokinetic powers to explode it from a distance. Then we see that there are a horde of people watching with binoculars, more impressed by the tire than shocked or perplexed. And it only gets weirder from there…

So, yeah, this is a movie–a movie about a killer tire. Well, you can make a movie about anything, can’t you? But the problem with Rubber is that the premise, despite the movie ticking in around only 80 minutes, runs thin pretty quickly; it would have made for a better 10-20 minute short than something feature-length. To compensate, Dupieux inserts some weird “meta-ness” via the crowd of spectators. The spectators are supposed to represent the audience as they are fixated on the tire and its shenanigans, commenting as it discovers its powers and watches a woman its obsessed with shower at a hotel. Soon, some guy with glasses is employed by an off-screen “master” to poison the spectators so the film can end, but one spectator survives and everything goes on. The remaining spectator represents the few people in the theater who have managed to stay with the movie.

In addition, the movie is classified as a “horror-comedy,” but it’s really neither. It’s not a horror film for it’s not scary, nor do there seem to be any intent, within the film, to shock. It’s closer to being a comedy, but the problem is that it’s not really that funny. The humor is mostly derived from the film’s absurdity, but that’s it; there aren’t really any “ha-ha” moments, just a single joke being stretched-out.

As I was watching I kept thinking of the film, Holy Motors, a movie that also seemed like they were making it up as they went along. Like that movie, there was some unrealized potential here as well. Instead of trying to be a post-modernist take on the horror genre and its inherent voyeurism, the movie really should have tried to excel as a silly B-movie. Yes, there are a lot of over-the-top comedic B-films out there, but this movie’s premise was just crying out for a similar treatment. And there could still be some elements of post-modernism of course, but emphasize the head-exploding and the possible scenarios surrounding a homicidal tire.

A teenager who might conjure up a similar concept for a film might think that Rubber is “out-there”–but it’s not. It’s interesting that a movie like this exists, but, beyond that, not much else can be said. What am I doing with my life?

The LEGO Movie (2014) – Movie Review

Not a terrible movie, but incredibly overrated. It has clever moments and I chuckled a few times, but on recall there aren’t really any jokes that come back to me aside from a few gags. The movie also isn’t that “smart,” nor is it very deep as some critics seem to assert. Narratively it’s basically a “hero’s journey,” albeit one that doesn’t take itself seriously. The animation is cute as it sort-of mimics stop-motion animation, but the effect wears off quickly. Otherwise, the movie, while fun, is too predictable and formulaic, preventing it from being truly entertaining.

There are a few reasons why I think this movie has been so widely praised, one being nostalgia. Another reason, however, might be the same reason why the children’s cartoon show My Little Pony has become so popular amongst people in their twenties. My Little Pony, from the few episodes I’ve seen, is basically like every other kid’s show: relatively well-made and colorful, inoffensive, but utterly mediocre. Out of the episodes I watched each plot and character arc were instantly familiar and predictable to me, but people like that show so much because it’s the television equivalent of comfort food. The same applies to The LEGO Movie: it’s well-wrought and nice to watch with a lot of memes people can latch onto, but because people are so used to shit they mistaken such things as signifiers for genuine quality. It’s as if people are desperate for something that isn’t gritty or depressing that they end up hyping certain movies that stray from the norm to an unwarranted and undeserving degree. The LEGO Movie represents qualities people like and represents them well.

Recently, one of my friends saw Inherent Vice and complained that the director, Paul Thomas Anderson, is all style and no substance. Unfortunately,  a lot of “Grade A” directors suffer from a similar affliction for not only is it easier to don a certain style or aesthetic, but also because critics tend to confuse or conflate style with depth. People, in general, praise certain films mostly because they fit into their idea of what good movies should be like, not because they’re actually good. While no one is going to place The LEGO Movie within the same category as Inherent Vice, they are both movies that have been hyped despite their (obvious) flaws. This reminds of, perhaps, the lone noteworthy moment of The LEGO Movie: when the main character, Emmet (Chris Pratt,) is arrested he’s shown footage of his fellow construction workers struggling to remember who he is. One of them theorizes that Emmet’s anonymity is the result of him not having a “personality,” or “thing” that differentiates him. The worker uses examples of people who have their own “thing” which are usually insignificant like whether they wear a hat or eat a certain type of food. It’s an interesting comment on how shallow people’s view of individuality is. Perhaps this is also applicable to people’s view of art as well, a view that’s lacking in depth. Or maybe I’m just talking out of my ass. Anyway, The LEGO Movie, despite what everyone has told you, is okay, but not great thought it probably doesn’t matter, considering that you’ve probably seen the movie already, making this review kind of pointless…um…thanks for reading anyway!