Ok, Fine, I Watched It: “Wild Tales” and “The Usual Suspects”

Despite my better efforts, there are some huge gaps in my film-watching repertoire. Gaps which, since 90% of my friends are just as film-nerdy as I, I am constantly given sh*t for. Which I super deserve. So now, to shut all of them up, I’ve decided to get to work on catching up on these gaps.

This week, I check out 2014’s Argentine Anthology film “Wild Tales”, and the 1995’s Academy Award winner “The Usual Suspects”.

WILD TALES

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I was not ready for this movie. Hell, I didn’t even plan on reviewing it this week. The only reason this puppy is even here is because 1971’s “Straw Dogs” is literally available nowhere. So I made a last minute substitution and “Wild Tales” got a review slot this week. And thank f*cking god for that because this movie is goddamn awesome.

The film, written and directed by Daimián Szifron, is composed of six segments, all on one subject: what happens when everyday human beings are pushed to their breaking point? How much pressure needs to be applied before someone just snaps? And when they finally do, how much freaking fun is it to watch? Every segment in “Wild Tales” is composed of excellent build up and wonderful payoff. It’s so so good. Heads up, it is in spanish, though if subtitles stop you from enjoying a wonderful film, I really don’t know what you’re doing reading my opinions.

Just go and watch the opening segment, if you can. The opening segment, which is the shortest of the six, should give you a pretty damn good idea of how much you will enjoy the rest of the film. For me, the answer was “a lot”, since i literally applauded when the opening titles came up. The first segment takes place on a plane mid flight, as the passengers begin to talk about their pasts. I don’t want to say anything else about it for fear of giving it away (even though I personally figured out the twist thirty seconds in) but let’s just say it’s a great foot to start off on.

Segment two is, in my opinion, one of the weakest ones in the film. It focuses on a waitress being verbally abused by a terrible client, and her inner conflict over what to do about him. And the ex-con cook back in the kitchen isn’t helping much, what with her constant suggestions that the waitress make use of the box of rat poison in the cupboard. To be clear, I still think this segment is really good, it just isn’t as memorable or satisfying as most of the others.

Segment three is my favorite of the entire film. I love segment three so freaking much it physically hurt me when it ended. This segment follows a simple story: A rich businessman verbally costs a slower moving driver as he passes him. Not long after, the businessman gets a flat tire and has to pull over to fix it. But when the man he verbally abused catches up to him, things escalate. This segment is pure escalation of tension, and oh my god it’s damn good at maintaining that tension. The darkly comic tone is in full force here, as the struggle between these two men heightens to a ridiculous degree. Also, this one has my favorite ending of anything in this film.

Segment four is also pretty damn good. This one follows a demolitions technician who is fed up with society as a whole, and especially with the impound lot, as his car keeps getting towed unfairly. This one, while it does drag a bit in the middle, builds up to an immensely satisfying (if immensely predictable) conclusion. Also, let’s be honest, anyone who has ever been to the DMV can relate to this one.

Segment five is my least favorite. It’s about the patriarch of a rich family, who discovers his son has accidentally killed a pregnant woman in a drunk driving hit-and-run incident. The segment follows his attempts to protect his son as the they run out of time before the police arrive. This segment is still good, but it has the least likable main character as well as the least satisfying payoff of the set. oh, and it drags like a motherf*cker for the whole second half.

Segment six is a perfect choice to bring the anthology to a close. The segment takes place at a wedding reception, where the bride has just discovered her husband has cheated on her with one of his coworkers. A coworker, mind you, who is also a guest at the wedding. The segment proceeds exactly how you’d hope from there. It’s brutal, and satisfying, and far more even-handed than I’d expected. It also has a truly fantastic ending.

All in all, even though not every segment is perfect, the whole is in this case greater than the sum of its parts. So I have no choice but to give this film

FIVE out of five stars.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

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First thing first, if you have not already seen this movie, I sincerely beg you to f*ck right off and watch it. Especially if you don’t know the famous twist ending. I’m going to spoil the sh*t out of this film, and besides, the movie isn’t even two hours, you have the time to watch it. Go. Come back after, because I didn’t write this damn thing for nothing, but go watch it first. Now, god damn it!

Ok, everybody on the same page now? We’ve all seen the movie? Good, because now we can really talk abou–Kevin Spacey is Kaiser Söze–t the rest of the film without worrying about ruining it for anybody. Oh, and if I DID just spoil the twist for you, I have no sympathies for you, I warned you ahead of time and it’s impossible to talk about this film critically without spoiling it, so I wanted to get it out of the way.

The film, directed by Bryan Singer and staring Benicio Del Toro, Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak, and our high priestess Kevin Spacey, follows a group of criminals all brought in on trumped up charges, who decide to work together. There’s like, a sh*t-ton more to the plot, but you’ve all seen it, so you know. I do have to say that this film’s plot structure is masterful. It balances past, present, and multiple plotlines beautifully. Nothing is confusing, even when it easily could be. The visual storytelling in this movie is astoundingly well done. All the important moments work, the last scene is just as revelatory as is necessary, and the moments in the film that are supposed to be ambiguous accomplish that goal without being confusing.

The acting here is top-notch. Del Toro, Baldwin, and Byrne are all really good and all have a natural chemistry, as do the rest of the cast. I have always liked Kevin Pollak, so his appearance here was well-received. His character is among the most likable and has some of the best lines in the film. Kevin Spacey is, as he has always been, the bestest. He does a good job throughout  the film, but it’s the last five minutes that earn him the Oscar he received for his performance. Once he has revealed himself, his steady transformation is beautifully iconic. Without him, I doubt this film would be AS well-remembered as it is.

Let’s talk about the twist. This film’s twist is genius, not just in that it surprises the audience, but also in that it has a foolproof excuse if you try to poke any holes in it. Spacey’s entire story is a lie. Some of it is clearly true, but almost everything shown in flashback has the potential to be a lie. It doesn’t matter if the details don’t line up because NONE OF IT WAS TRUE. Also important is that the film narrowly avoids falling into the trap of making the rest of the film feel unsatisfying. Even though the rest of the film is revealed to be probably a total lie, you as an audience member don’t care, because the film itself was worth it. It doesn’t matter what was “real” (hint: none of it was: it’s a movie) because the ride was enjoyable as all hell. I would say that it is a must watch, but you’ve all already seen it, so you know that.

FIVE out of five stars.

Well, next week I’ll be reviewing something… different. Seriously, trust me, next week is gonna be a strange one.

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