One Popped Corn

I Just Watched This Movie; “The Founder”

Inspirational. Films often use real life success stories to inspire viewers. The new movie, “The Founder” follows the inspirational true story behind the expansion of McDonald’s into a staple of American culture. The movie follows McDonald’s founder Ray Crook Kroc as he sells the concept, and dream, of McDonald’s while cleanly disposing of the restaurant’s real founders and actual history. Unlike the business heroes portrayed in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “Wall Street,” this movie shows the right (legal) way to succeed. As a result, Michael Keaton as Kroc, ends happily wealthy with a wonderful wife he took from an associate and a franchise he took from a couple of nice guys. This movie will surely inspire a new generation to go out and grab what they want in life, staying within the law of course to ensure they get away with it. In the motivational words of Keaton’s character: “If my enemy was drowning, I would shove a hose down his throat.”

Commercialization. Art in it’s essence is an expression of emotions, thoughts, aesthetics, and many other lame touchy feely stuff. The true power of art is when it is used to mimic these motivations, but with a real financial goal behind it. “The Founder” is an expertly crafted commercial that the general public has been fooled into thinking is just a movie. I attended the screening of the film with a packed audience. They all had paid to see this movie with the anticipation of being entertained by Michael Keaton and as they put it “those guys are from tv shows right?” (it was an older audience). Anyway, when the credits rolled the entire crowd broke off into conversations about where they were going to eat lunch. Do you know what places they named? Literally everywhere but McDonald’s. You see, a conglomeration of restaurants; Wendy’s, Burger King, etc., made a movie about food and restaurants and convinced the audience that McDonald’s was born out of the pure evilness of it’s ‘founder.’ This was a perfect negative ad about McDonald’s that subconsciously convinced the audience to both eat out, and avoid McDonald’s.

Prop food. A movie isn’t shot all in just one take. For every camera set up, you can expect that the filmmakers have filmed several takes. In each take, the actors repeat their actions and lines more or less, with minor variations to performance. Due to this repetition, actors will often have fake looking food and mime eating. That way at the beginning of each take, they have just as much food as the last take (also you don’t want the actors to get fat because then that would be a mess for continuity, costume design, etc.). “The Founder” involved some of the best act-eating and prop food that I’ve ever seen. Even the extras eating McDonald’s cheeseburgers showed the same passion and delight as they would in real life. Michael Keaton is shown with food in multiple scenes and always fakes his chewing like a pro. Luckily the film fills most of it’s eating sequences with dialogue and actions as to suspend the audience’s disbelief. If there were awards for eating on screen, this film would take the cake, chew it, swallow it, and leave it untouched for the next person.

Though the protagonist is not the most likable (to say the least), the film’s editing and writing make the movie compelling and interesting to watch. I give this movie one popped corn.

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One Popped Corn

I Just Watched This Movie; “Fences”

Production Design. In order to immerse the audience in the reality of the story, a film must have production design that fleshes out the peripheral details. A set that denotes not just the setting but also the moods and ideas of the characters can create a deeper experience for an audience. The new film “Fences” takes the time to really explore the power of production design. The filmmakers chose to focus on one house, and even more specifically, that house’s backyard. As the characters play out their many scenes in that backyard, the filmmakers really explore the space and always introduce something new. We begin with a couple of chairs, then we find that there are a couple more on the other side of… what’s this? a little garden? and is that a pile of wood under that tarp? The attention to detail is astounding. And the way the characters interact with the set is always changing. Will they stand and talk over here? or over there? or will they sit? Is that baseball bat a symbol of his past weighing over him? or the power that he believes he wields over his family? The film even incorporates part of the set construction as the main character builds a fence over the course of the film.

Show don’t tell. It’s a common saying that actions speak louder than words, and film has always been a medium that exemplifies that. But what makes this film exciting is that it doesn’t follow that standard. I could tell you all the actions of characters on screen and you wouldn’t get a single spoiler. Troy sits and talks to Jim Bono. Rose comes out the door and talks to them. Troy gets up and continues talking. Rose goes inside. Bono gets up and talks to Troy. Troy and Bono walk to the other side of the yard. They talk some more. Lyons arrives. Bono leaves. Lyons talks to Troy, Rose talks to them. It’s all in the dialogue, and that’s what’s meant to keep the audience entertained. Could they have shown the plot points and events that they only talk about? Probably, but why would you waste such great actors as Denzel Washington and Viola Davis with scenes where they aren’t constantly talking?

Character complexity. A character in a movie, at it’s most basic level, must be someone that appears on screen. From there, a character is built into the person that exists in our experience of the film. A great character is one that the audience understands quickly and who shows their emotions in a very obvious way. The deeper the background and the more complex the thoughts and emotions of the character are, the harder it is for the audience to know how to feel towards them. “Fences” was filled with complex characters. At no point was I sure how sympathetic or angry to feel towards the characters. Most of the blame goes to the writing, but there is still plenty for the directing and multi-layered acting performances. I found that most of my experience of watching the film was spent thinking and being internally torn about what emotions I was experiencing. In a great film, I always know when to feel happy or sad, and who the characters are that I should be rooting for.

Though confined by the theater-like structure, the electric performances and strong dialogue were able to carry the film. If you can tolerate Denzel arguing for two hours, then there are definitely worthwhile moments. I give this movie one popped corn.

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