Review: Detroit

Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s newest picture, or should I dub it a docudrama, is a hard-hitting take on the events that transpired in the Motor City in 1967. Detroit follows the individuals and actions that lead to the horrible shootout that took place at the Algiers Motel, where the police shot and killed three African-American boys suspected of firing shots at National Guardsman and the aftermath of their actions.


Image by Annapurna Pictures

Detroit is a culmination of three subplots carried by a security guard named Melvin Dismukes, a Detroit police officer named Krauss and an aspiring Motown lead singer named Larry and his friend Fred. Each of them are eventually drawn to the Algiers where bedlam, fear and senseless violence take place after the police arrive and take drastic and dangerous steps to determine who fired the suspected gun.

Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have worked together to deliver two of the hardest hitting dramas echoing current cultural and societal issues. Detroit is no exception to the standard as it definitely packs an impact upon viewing it, but unlike The Hurt Locker and unlike Zero Dark Thirty, I found Detroit a mess.

I couldn’t get past the constant shaky Steadicam work. The cinematography of Barry Ackroyd was very unsteady to watch; I get that Bigelow wanted to go for authenticity and I respect for that but the camerawork was so over the top, I couldn’t find a way to settle.

I also found flaws in how this was written. Mark Boal is talented but I can’t help but think that he may have overdone it; especially after the film concluded and Bigelow wrote in a statement stating that a lot of the information about the events of this movie was incomplete. I understand how filmmakers can take certain liberties to enhance the appeal of a film, especially if they are based on true events but it just raises the questions how much of this film was influenced by the modern day news stories about black men killed by police for little to no reason at all.

Also I found that the script left some things unresolved by some of their characters like Dismukes, Krauss, Greene and whoever else was involved in this ordeal and managed to survive; this movie, felt incomplete primarily because of how it was written.

Bigelow made her intentions clear in Detroit and I can definitely see why she was drawn to make this movie; the problems relating to race and police violence are just as relevant and important today as they were back then and the system has not made a difference. The problem is that this film has problems and those problems dragged this film down; the writing muddles the impact and the camerawork hinders the editing of William Goldenberg and Harry Yoon, which felt very sloppy transitioning between Dismukes, Krauss, Larry and the guests at the hotel for a while.

What I can’t say is that the cast and the acting were not a problem. John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Anthony Mackie, Nathan Davis Jr., Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever and Jason Mitchell all do a fine job with their roles.

James Newton Howard’s music was fine, Jeremy Hindle’s production design was bold, the set decoration by Dennis Colvin and Kathy Lucas was sharp, the art direction by Greg Barry and Jim Wallis was good, the make-up and sound effects was top notch and the costume design by Francine Jamison-Tanchuck was very precise.

There were times where I tried to force myself to pay attention to this movie and that has never happened to me before with a Kathryn Bigelow movie. Detroit is an impactful film, it is, and it is worth seeing because it has relevance but it also has problems that are difficult to ignore and ultimately, it is disappointing.


Review: The Big Short

In high school, I was good at math but that changed when I declared my major in journalism/communication arts. I never really understood finances though and that has come back to haunt me when I was watching The Big Short.

I may not be good at math or have any discernable proclivity for numbers, finances and financial terminology, but I dare to say that I know movies and I know words and by God, The Big Short is one hell of a movie courtesy of an outstanding ensemble including Academy Award winner Christian Bale, Academy Award nominees Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt and a phenomenal screenplay courtesy of Charles Randolph and director Adam McKay!

The Big Short follows a collection of outsiders in a world where the powers that be have deceived their followers into thinking that all is well and the institution they lean on and depend on is rock solid, when in truth there is nothing solid about it; instead of a block of concrete, the institution is an enormous bubble and these outsiders, they see the wind rustling, they see the end coming and they move to preserve themselves when the apocalypse comes and leaves the world in ruin.

The apocalypse in question is the collapse of the American housing economy and rustling wind, the downfall of the mortgage bonds purchased by the hard-working American people, while the fatcat bankers raked in the dough. Alan Greenspan said one thing while Dr. Michael Berry, Mark Baum, Jared Vennett, Ben Rickert and others saw the truth, that the backbone of the American economy would buckle under the banks’ flimsy loans and in 2008 when the economy did collapse, the banks went under while these outsiders came out on top because they took advantage of the banks’ stupidity, arrogance, and penchant for greed because they bet against the economy and won.

Image By Red Carpet Report on Mingle Media TV from Culver City, USA, via Wikimedia Commons

The Big Short is The Wolf of Wall Street 2.0 and I showered praise upon The Wolf of Wall Street years ago. Adam McKay has ushered in the most resplendent,¬†outlandish, wild and completely off-the-rails motion picture of the year and I couldn’t take my eyes of this movie.

Whether it was a surprise cameo featuring Selena Gomez, Anthony Bourdain, Richard Thaler¬†or Margot Robbie taking a bubble bath, the brief montage sequences, the breaking the fourth wall, visually I devoured this movie the way a hungry and homeless man would savor and devour a perfectly cooked ribeye at a five-star restaurant. The writing was sharp, witty, nourishing and even though I couldn’t entirely comprehend the financial jargon, the overarching narrative I could understand and I applaud Charles Randolph and Adam McKay for their efforts to bring this to the big screen, in a way that educates the masses, criticizes, condemns and indicts the guilty while portraying these outsiders as mortal as possible; they’re not sanctified or demonized, they are simply human.

The Big Short shares so many incredible qualities with another fantastic film I’ve seen this year: Spotlight. Like Spotlight, The Big Short is technically well-rounded, carried by excellent writing, directing and features a collection of spectacular performances in an amazing ensemble.

Christian Bale delivers another outstanding performance as the brilliant, eccentric and reclusive, heavy-metal loving Dr. Berry, Steve Carell was amazing as the socially pessimistic Mark Baum-I felt that he was more comfortable to watch in this film than he was in Foxcatcher-Ryan Gosling was awesome as Jared Vennett, Brad Pitt was solid as Ben Rickett, the supporting cast including Marisa Tomei, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Melissa Leo, Karen Gillan all excellent.

I simply loved Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography, the use of close-up, the motions, I couldn’t help but be entranced by the camerawork of The Big Short and the editing of Hank Corwin was top of the line; be it a montage or jump to a cameo or shot-reverse shot, the editing of this movie was perhaps the best I’ve seen so far this year.

I can’t say much about the score by Nicholas Britell, the costumes by Susan Matheson, Clayton Hartley’s production design, Elliot Glick’s art direction, Linda Lee Sutton’s set direction, but I can say that everything looked fresh and modern simply had the right aesthetic tone for the time period this movie took place. Again, like Spotlight, The Big Short is a technically grounded, yet outstanding technical achievement.

The Big Short is a movie to root for, especially as it vies for Oscar gold in a few months. I can definitely see this movie landing between 6-10 nominations in a variety of categories but I can definitely say that The Big Short is a legitimate Best Picture nominee that needs to be seen in theaters ASAP!