Vice: A Must Watch but Not in Theatres (Score: 7/10)

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s VICE, an Annapurna Pictures release.
Credit : Greig Fraser / Annapurna Pictures 2018
Annapurna Pictures, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Christian Bale was phenomenal. You don’t need to read it here. Better film critics will tell you how magnificent-a-job he did.

This movie is memorable for sure — not only because of its biopic and unearthing nature, but also because of its courageous storytelling style. It somehow fuses elements of voiceover, time-travel, and theatre + breaks a lot of conventions (e.g. for 30-45 minutes it runs like a regular movie and then suddenly gives you the same scene twice in different reenactments) AND YET… manages to not feel too left field or “indie” (i.e. niche) or departed from the feature-film-feel we look for in a great flick.

All that said — I found several scenes to be unnecessary and unnecessarily long. My roommate Ahmed (an actor) fell asleep for a stretch, but still claims to have loved the film. I believe him — it’s that kind of film. I also thought the ending was problematic. The directors tried to rebalance over 2 hours of far-left-leaning bias in a closing scene where you’re almost coerced into empathizing with (and feeling compassionate toward) a Cheney who is continuously portrayed as a murderous monster. To be clear, I don’t take issue with the humanizing of a human — I just take issue with giving him the last word, and a damn powerful monologue at that. It was literally as if the defense lawyer built 2 hours of a case only to hand her closing statements over to the prosector to speak on her behalf. Like, huh? Bad impact on the viewer, for sure.

All in all, I say “MUST WATCH” but certainly not “must watch now…” — save it for a Netflix night.

-Ali

Movies (My Only Hobby)

ArcLight in Hollywood. My favorite (and most frequented) theatre {Photocred: Timeout.com}

Happy 2019 reader. I’ve been watching a lot of movies since moving to LA in 2016. Between 16 hour workdays making music, acting, and consulting, it’s safe to say that movie-watching is my one “hobby” — though my roommate (a fellow actor) calls it “research,” lol. We laugh about that but there’s truth to it — we learn a lot and generate new creative ideas based on what we see in theatres. And ever since studying audio engineering + being on set frequently as an actor, it’s become harder to listen to music or watch a movie as a passive consumer. When I’m streaming hits radio I’m analyzing vocals, arrangement, lyrics, the overall mix… and when I’m watching movies part of my attention is on the camera angles, the actor’s technique, the plot, etc.

But no matter how many hours I’ve put in on set or in the studio, I can still get lost in a great song or a great film… allowing my analytical mind to calm and submit to the soundtrack and the story. It’s been so much fun watching movies. But to take a step back from my new hobby… it’s been especially fun (and interesting) watching myself fall in love with movies. I’ve always enjoyed the theatres but admittedly I spent most of my 20’s feeling like it was an unnecessary time-sucker. I used to say things to myself like, you can go watch other people be great… or you can keep hustling to become great yourself.

I’ve grown to appreciate that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Not only because I’m in the film business, but also because I know how important it is to consume positive and/or progressive media, especially film and music. I also know how critical films are to keeping a pulse on what’s relevant in culture/society. Which leads me to something I’ve been saying a lot since early 2018… I truly believe we’ve entered a new cultural renaissance. In fact, I think we’ve entered its prime — and its just the very beginning of a long prime.

1920’s Harlem Renaissance. An era where Harlem became a hub for new and booming, Black intellectual thought and creativity. {Photo Cred: History.com}

(Sidenote: I don’t remember dates well, so if you asked me when the Harlem Renaissance began I would’ve guessed 30’s or 40’s. But having to look it up for this post makes me realize that the Harlem Renaissance and our “new renaissance” — in my belief — are happening a century apart. That’s pretty cool).

Here’s why I believe we’ve entered the prime of a new cultural renaissance that is going to explode in the 2020’s decade. The prequel to this prime happened in the 2010’s decade where new recording artists like J Cole and Kendrick Lamar exploded onto the scene, running parallel to new films like Fruitvale Station (2013), The Butler (2013), Selma (2014), and many, many more. These films certainly stand on the shoulders of socially progressive films that paved a path into Hollywood, but they also did what they were supposed to — turn the path into a Freeway. The same Freeway that ushered in the “Get Out’s” and “Black Panther’s” of the world.

If you take a step back to bare witness to what is happening in Hollywood — a creative Mecca that is historically (and still presently — don’t get it twisted) one of the most racist and sexist, white-male-dominated industries in the world — it’s incredible to watch (pun intended). It’s beautiful and exciting. And I’m geeked about being in the very beginning of my long prime while our most important creative industries — film and music — are entering theirs. So I’m going to start writing about it quite frequently here… especially when I come out of the theatre fresh off a new flick. But before I do that I’ll reflect on the last handful that I’ve seen in theatres, even though my memory won’t be as fresh. Perhaps that’ll be a testament to the riveting scenes and breakthrough moments that stick with me months later. These include unforgettable films like A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody, Creed 2, The Hate U Give, and many, many more.

So excited to share the magic. With love,

Ali

P.S. Theatre popcorn is on a shortlist of calories-I-never-regret. Probably in 3rd place behind Dr. Pepper (#2 and the only soda I ever drink – only at the theatre) and Cinnabon (#1 and the only cinnamon rolls I ever eat!)