I’m not a movie critic but I am a movie critic. I mean, it’s art right, one man’s “Peanut Butter Falcon” is another man’s “Uncut Gems”. However I am a Sociologist, damnit, and as such I’m a trend watcher and dot connector.
Have you seen both the above movies, if not, go rent “Peanut Butter Falcon” and stay far away from “Uncut Gems” because while it’s nice to see Adam Sandler stretch out of his man-boy comedies, this is ugly. Watch “Funny People” instead, same Adam Sandler and you won’t feel assaulted leaving the theatre.
As I said to my wife as we walked out the lobby, “It’s pretty telling when the main actor gets shot in the face and you don’t care because you have absolutely zero sympathy for his character.” Oh, sorry, spoiler alert, remember, I’m not a movie critic.
But Peanut Butter Falcon is the other side of the coin. Written for the star Zack Gottsagen it is a beautiful film when watched without content and an incredible milestone in filmmaking when understanding the content. Written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz who met Zack at an acting camp where Zack asked them why there were no movies for people with Down syndrome.
Tyler and Michael responded by writing and filming a $20,000. Proof-of-concept video and sending it out to people like Shia Leboff, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern and Thomas Hayden-Church who saw the magic and signed on. More people signed on, the film was made for around 6 million, the awards soon followed and Zack’s idea has now turned into a 20 million dollar sleeper hit. Will it get nominated for the film of the year? Will Zack be up for a best actor award? Course not, but someday, maybe.
But that’s only part of the story, see, Tyler and Michael are also the creators of “The Moped Diaries” a 10-minute movie that I saw on Thursday at the 2015 Sonoma International Film Festival. It blew me away and after the audience Q and A I asked if they would come to my classroom on Friday.
They agreed, we showed the Moped Diaries and had a discussion with students where Tyler talked about being a hand model, characters wearing the same flannel shirt because there was no budget for wardrobe, how Winkie is a real character that cannot be created (He is also in Peanut Butter Falcon) and Michael talked about growing up in Santa Rosa (SRHS class of 1996). It was an inspiring day.
And that’s the real message. Become inspired and inspire others. Don’t make art that perpetuates ugliness (500 f-words, 30 n-words in “Uncut Gems”) but art that tells an uplifting story, connects people and makes the world a better place. Care about characters in life and in the movies.
Oh sure, it’s entertainment and not real life and don’t we deserve a break from reality? Well, your choice but for me the ugliness of capitalism, addictions, profanity and violence is exactly what I go to the movies to get away from.
Plus isn’t it time to celebrate the differences in people, not cover them up. Greta Thunberg would be just a Swedish kid with Asperger’s but because she looks at her disability as a superpower, she is now Time magazine’s person of the year. Isn’t it time to change disability into different ability?
I’m all for not yucking people’s yum and if you really think “Uncut Gems” is a brilliant piece of filmmaking then fine, put it on your top 10 movies of the year as many critics have. But I am also a firm believer that what goes in also comes out and the more we celebrate art that glorifies ugliness, the more ugly we become.
Let’s move past ugly in 2020.