3 posts categorized "Satire"

October 11, 2019

PARASITE

ParasiteCannes film festival favorite Bong Joon-ho (“The Host” and “Mother”) is a gifted Korean satirist with an international sensibility for the many ways that capitalist oppression operates against citizens. You don’t need to know a thing about the social mores of South Korea to empathize with a lower class family infiltrating a wealthy family’s home in the guise of private tutors, a personal driver, and a maid. This is a familial interloper movie on a Robert Altman narrative scale.

Parasite

If Americans feign condescension for welfare recipients, that knee-jerk class-aware prejudice is indisputably promoted through our capitalist propaganda that runs the gambit from movies, commercials, podcasts, news broadcasts, and from the oh-so-vocal (if inarticulate) editorial voices played on radio stations and online.

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If there’s one thing the filmmakers here know, it’s that you can never underestimate people in control of their own minds. So it is that our entrepreneurial family of domestic interlopers make do in their ghetto basement hovel by folding pizza boxes to make their daily living. The Kim family fight an ongoing battle with bums who pee in their window sills. Yelling isn’t always the best option.

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The family’s son Kim Ki-woo (persuasively played by Woo-sik Choi) learns from his college student pal about a family named Park in need of an English tutor for their teenage daughter Da-Hye (Jung Ziso). Ki-woo’s sister Kim Ki-jung (So-dam Park) employs advanced computer graphic skills to create a fake college diploma to assist in his job quest. Dog eat dog social-climbing strategies take hold. Behavioral skills are honed to a diamond edge as the Kim family work their way into the Park family household one by one.  

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Bong Joon-ho deftly shifts perspectives between the characters, enabling the audience to digest the story’s themes of alienation with different motivations in mind. Some are more noble than others. “Parasite” is an evocative title for an onion-layered filmic essay about our (humanity’s) place in social systems that reward corruption and punish poverty in not so equal measure. Every house holds secrets that can send the whole thing crashing down at any moment. If you come out of this movie thinking that the capitalist system is the invisible parasite of the story, you just might be on to something.   

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"Parasite" is a loving homage to interloper films such as Claude Chabrol's elegant "La Cérémonie" and Fred Schepisi's terrific adaptation of "Six Degrees of Separation." Suspense, danger, and humor are equal parts of the equation. No wonder "Parasite" won the 2019 Palme d'Or at Cannes, the film clearly deserved the honor.

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Rated R. 132 mins. (A)

Five Stars

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

July 05, 2017

OKJA — CANNES 2017

OkjaBong Joon Ho’s family-friendly political satire could well be the most important film of 2017. Without addressing this film’s canny political statements about corporate-controlled food production, “Okja” was preemptively ostracized at Cannes by Pedro Almodóvar who feigned indignation over “Okja’s” Netflix release because it wasn’t being played on big screens in France.

Almodóvar’s pre-festival comments most certainly queered the film's chances of winning the Palme d’Or, for which it was in competition. The Spanish filmmaker’s public statements during a pre-festival press conference at Cannes were pointedly overstated considering that there is already a French law that prevents VOD releases occurring until three years after a film’s theatrical run. Never mind that Pedro Almodóvar’s career has been on the wane since 2011 when he made “The Skin I Live In.” There were a lot of sour grapes at this year’s festival.

Bong Joon Ho’s mother country of South Korea blocked “Okja’s” release due to Netflix’s simultaneous theatrical and online release, which should be standard operating procedure by now to begin with. However much the cards seem to be stacked against “Okja,” the film is destined to go down in history based on its merits as an international satire with teeth.

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Director Joon-ho co-wrote “Okja” with Jon Ronson (“The Men Who Stare At Goats”) based on Ronson’s original script. While the film is not without its kneejerk clichés, it clocks editorial punches that connect regarding genetically modified food and ways in which corporations, and the corporate media, spin the sins they are guilty of committing. Think Exxon or Monsanto.

Tilda Swinton plays dual roles as good/evil siblings Nancy/Lucy Mirando, granddaughters of a corporate raider whose sins they are professedly correcting through ethical means. Sound familiar? Lucy gives a press conference announcing the breeding of a “super pig” which will be used to feed the world 10 years down the line.  

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Jump 10 years. Mija (An Seo-hyun) is a young girl living an idyllic life in the mountains of South Korea with her grandfather and her docile super pig Okja, that she has been given to raise. Naturally, the Mirando Corporation wants their prize pig back. They send in Johnny Wilcox, a goofball television animal expert to take Okja away from Mija. The film goes on a full frontal attack when it employs the Animal Liberation Front (referencing an actual international [leaderless] group committed to “engaging in illegal [nonviolent] direct action in pursuit of animal rights.” Paul Dano plays Jay, the group’s sensitive leader.  

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“Okja” is an effective piece of filmic political satire that can now only be viewed in the context of the pressures mounted against it. As is life, it’s good to know who your enemies are.

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Rated TV-MA. 118 mins. (B) (Three stars — out of five / no halves)


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March 30, 2013

STRAP-ON

Patty

Long Live Patty Hearst!

Trashmeister writer/director John Waters takes ironic comedy and social commentary to an all-time sleazy low in his new movie “Strap-On.” Waters deviates from his Baltimore roots to urban and rural areas of Afghanistan where Maya Stain (played by former SLA member Patty Hearst) fights for SOC (Socialism Over Capitalism), a left wing mercenary group caught in a cross-fire between Taliban fighters, the Mujahideen, American troops and desperate civilians. Hearst might be pushing 60, but she still knows how to handle a machine gun. You will never want to see another movie after seeing this one, and you won’t want to see this one again.

As the group’s gutsy feminist leader, Stain wears an 18-inch, neon-blue strap-on to symbolize her authority and to distract her enemies. The ploy works. Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS has nothing on Stain. At times Stain is content to keep the bulge inside her camouflage fatigues, but for most of the film, Stain allows the large member and its flesh-burning, squirting acid to protrude from her pants in a permanent semi-erect state.

Waters views the mercenary lifestyle as fodder for social camp. He satirizes the Afghanistan military and social structure of the country while also poking fun at things like their public bathrooms, which consist of a well from which the user must hang on a rope with a piece of wood as a half-seat. There is a scene where the strap-on-wielding Stain throws a knife into the back of a Tajikistan military officer, sending him down into the dung-filled hole, giving Stain the opportunity to lean back and roar like a banshee in devilish delight. Her victim is indeed left "stained."

However most of the film’s violence is directed at America’s private military firms. The SOC’s primary targets are private military contractors, i.e. rival mercenaries. “Strap-On” takes no prisoners. Stain’s torture of U.S. soldier — using her preferred method of violent personal intrusion — makes anything in “Zero Dark Thirty” pale by comparison. Think snuff-movie.

Tatyana (played by British comedienne Tracy Ulman) is an Uzbekistan national that Stain takes as a hostage during one of the SOC’s hostile take-overs of an American military facility. The movie really gets going when Tatyana, a cross between Deborah Harry and Hillary Clinton, becomes romantically-involved with Stain after the dust has settled. A wild pornographic lesbian love scene involves Tatyana singing “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” while Stain pounds her from behind like a steam locomotive.

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Waters’s “movie” satirizes death, sex, torture, weapons, military officials, the Taliban and the universal phallic obsession of all soldiers. “Strap-On” is yet another reminder that America has gone past the point of no return and dragged the rest of the world down with it. Just as America’s ethics have gone down the toilet, its films have followed suit. The stain cannot be contained. Cinema is dead. APRIL FOOLS!

Rated. 157 mins. (B-) (Three stars - out of five/no halves)

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