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Reviews

Musings about media. Mostly movies.
I'm @joaobfreire on Letterboxd.

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  1. Ford v Ferrari

    Watched 10 February 2020

    Silly me, I thought this was going to be a film about famous automotive designer Carroll Shelby designing and building a car from scratch. Nope, at some point Matt Damon just pulls a tarp and there it is — the car got designed and assembled off-screen and just needs some tweaks under the hood. The design differences that give Ford an edge over Ferrari are never quite explored except for “ours is faster” and “Italians are arrogant.” I guess dramatizing the design process doesn’t quite fit into the standard cookie-cutter biopic formula.

  2. Little Women

    Watched 7 February 2020

    This story has a point to make and the film certainly gets to it. The nonlinear editing wasn’t hard to keep up with, but it feels like an attempt at injecting more nuance and challenge into a script that didn’t have much of either. There are several effective emotional moments, but as a whole it just didn’t reach me on a very profound level. It might simply not be for me, or I might have ruined it by watching Uncut Gems right before.

    Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh were brilliant. I know Emma Watson is like that in real life too, but on camera her acting always looks a bit over the top. And I can’t say I cared for Laura Dern’s performance as the saint-level impossibly emotionally stable mother. And boy was Bob Odenkirk a wrong casting choice — I couldn’t control my laughter when he showed up, and all attempts at seriousness just failed whenever he was on screen.

    Despite all the faults I saw in it, I still very much enjoyed my time with the film. It’s refreshing to see a drama where everyone is just so nice every now and then.

  3. Uncut Gems

    Watched 7 February 2020

    The world feels a little different after watching Uncut Gems, and I don’t know that I can pay a bigger compliment to a work of art.

  4. The Good Place, Season 4

    Watched 13 October 2019 – 7 February 2020

    A perfect conclusion to the most wholesome show I’ve ever seen. Life sure is a wave.

  5. Black Mirror: Smithereens

    Watched 16 January 2020

    The most boring Black Mirror episode yet. Did you know people look at their phones a lot?

  6. Fleabag, Season 2

    Watched 8–9 January 2020

    How can this show be both the funniest and saddest thing I’ve seen I a long time? How can it be so potent, accomplishing so much with just a few short episodes? Now that I’ve tasted the emotional high of Fleabag, I’m afraid I might never again allow a show to waste my time with padded out writing. I absolutely loved the first season, but I had to put myself back together after this one.

  7. Fleabag, Season 1

    Watched 20–23 December 2019

    “They shouldn’t have just locked him up.”
    “He pencil fucked a hamster.”
    “Yeah, but he’s obviously not happy. Happy people wouldn’t do things like that.”
    “Fair point.”
    “And anyway, that’s the very reason why they put rubbers on the end of pencils.”
    “What, to fuck hamsters?”
    “No, because people make mistakes.”

    Despite my incredibly high expectations, I was still blown away by this show in ways I don’t even quite understand. Exceptional in every way.

  8. What Remains of Edith Finch

    Played 20 December 2019 on Nintendo Switch

    I wish I had been able to play this back in 2017, as it might have felt fresher. In a post-Breath of the Wild world I sometimes find it hard to appreciate linear experiences without wondering how much better they could be if they just let go of my hand. This game triggered that feeling a lot.

    Comparing it to Gone Home, a lot has evolved, but this game still feels stuck in the same uncanny valley: it’s not a true interactive experience as much as it is a museum exhibit. While that can be super interesting, video games seem capable of so much more. And now that Return of the Obra Dinn exists, we know that the valley can be crossed. I’m hoping that future “walking simulators” keep going in that direction.

  9. Knives Out

    Watched 19 December 2019

    As entertaining as they come. Will the numerous present day references date this film quickly? Well I sure hope so, because I can’t wait to watch it again as an even more charming old time classic.

  10. 6 Underground

    Watched 15 December 2019

    It’s grotesque and unrelenting, careless with death and violence to a shocking degree. While the premise is idiotic, even immoral, the writing shows enough self awareness to let you know that it doesn’t care. The action is at once vivid and artificial, grandiose yet somehow shot to feel claustrophobic. The whole thing clashes with itself, with good taste, with common sense; a bunch of absurd juxtapositions and contradictions firing at your eyeballs at extremely rapid pace. Watching it was both exhilarating and distressing, and judging by my headache, just too much for my feeble brain. I love it and I hate it. It is, without a doubt, an incredibly accomplished work of art.

  11. Ready or Not

    Watched 5 December 2019

    Very fun but not one for the ages. I feel like it could either have been campier or more grandiose, but it kept to a more normalized middle ground, never truly defying expectations. I keep imagining that had this movie been made in the 1980s (with all the differences that would entail) it would most likely be a cool as heck cult classic.

  12. Ad Astra

    Watched 5 December 2019

    2001: A Space Odyssey is one of my favorite films, yet I found this one very boring.

    Started out interesting — exciting even — but the story kept shrinking on itself, the ideas growing smaller and smaller. By the end, and much like the sad astronaut, I felt nothing. Please allow me to narrate to you how empty I feel, I’m such a sad sad lonely astronaut help me daddy

    Yeah this would have been a two star review if not for the moon rover chase sequence. That part was cool.

  13. The Lighthouse

    Watched 21 November 2019

    That scream really did it for me. This film could have been bad and that scream would have saved it. But no, the whole thing was excellent. Sets itself up as an incredibly precise and fastidious formal exercise, only to break with expectations in very unfamiliar, surreal ways. Rule-breaking cinema.

    And meeting real-life Willem Dafoe not within one minute of the credits starting to roll was also a surreal experience. That’s two for the price of one. (Humblebrag, I know.)