Reexamining ‘The Matrix’ as primarily a love story

Images courtesy Warner Bros.

Reactions to The Matrix Resurrections, the new long-gestating revisitation of the turn-of-the-century series, have been extremely strong and extremely mixed in ways that I don’t feel like quantifying. I’ve been torn between the desire to write about it and the desire to not actually dig through and really understand criticisms of the film that appear to be too varied for any kind of systematic approach.

The core of it seems to be that most everyone takes The Matrix really personally, which makes a ton of sense – the film’s central metaphor can be applied to just about any institution or cultural norm, and it can be a bit of a Rorschach test. How you read this film, which parts of it are important to you, it says something about you. Instead of trying to respond to points that appear to be completely different from one person to the next, I wanted to spend some time on what makes The Matrix personal to me and why The Matrix Resurrections ends up flowing so naturally from that.

These observations came from revisiting the sequel material for the first time since seeing them in theaters, but it’s also spelled out in a friend’s longform video essay here that keenly predicts what we end up seeing in Resurrections – relevant bit starts at 36:20. I’ll try not to repeat them too much, but there will be some overlap.

Continue reading
Posted in Reel understanding, White Noise | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baffling, bad, bland ‘355’ a hopeful franchise starter, likely a career ender

Image courtesy Universal Pictures.

1/10 There’s such a stigma around early January releases that at this point, any time a movie gets put in those slots, I stop for a while and laugh at it. Putting a movie with a major budget here, where it will wither under the glut of Christmas releases, is such an early admission of failure that you have to wonder what’s already gone wrong. Thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, writer/director/producer Simon Kinberg’s The 355 got not one, but two early January release dates.

The 355 is a movie about a team of female secret agents called Fox Force Five – “Fox,” as in they’re a bunch of foxy chicks, “Force” as in they’re a force to be reckoned with and “Five” as in there’s one two three four five of them. The redhead, Mace Browne (Jessica Chastain, who also produces), she’s the leader. The Chinese fox, Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing Fan) is a kung fu master. The black girl, Khakijah Adiyeme (Lupita Nyong’o), is a cybersecurity expert. Columbian fox Graci Rivera’s (Penélope Cruz) specialty is therapy. The German fox, Marie Schmidt (Diane Kruger), doesn’t seem to have a specialty, but she does always have a knife.

Continue reading
Posted in Entropy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Macbeth’ the dessert wine of 2021 cinema

Images courtesy A24.

9/10 The barrage of new work from heavyweight directors that sealed off 2021 like the frantic finale of a firework display is capped by The Tragedy of Macbeth, Joel Coen’s spin on William Shakespeare’s enigmatic tale of insomnia, self-fulfilling prophecy, madness and murder, which expanded on New Year’s Eve like a fine dessert wine uncorking for the end of the year.

“Macbeth” is such a primal story, it touches so gracefully on so many preoccupations that are so universal, not just violence but power, destiny, guilt, the list goes on and on, and it’s got such a high floor as a show, that it becomes a fantastic canvass for whatever troupe is putting it on to strut their stuff. What any team does to make it their own automatically becomes the highlight. Shakespeare is used like that in general, but “Macbeth” is probably the best individual play for it. It’s his shortest play, one of his most famous and certainly steeped in the most superstition, and just about every scene has an absolute banger of a line in it somewhere.  

Continue reading
Posted in Entropy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sad franchise happy to be resurrected in ‘Matrix 4’

The skittering noir elements are almost all gone in The Matrix Resurrections, but you still get some nice moments like this. Images courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

8/10 Fans of The Matrix in 2003 weren’t expecting a two-part Advanced Philosophy nightmare that turned into a cartoon whenever it wanted, and in 2021, we weren’t expecting a feel-good story about true love conquering all. But it’s been a really weird couple of years, and somehow, this feels right.

In The Matrix Resurrections, everything is happening not quite exactly as it did before. World-famous game designer Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), who designed the “Matrix” games, experiences frequent psychotic episodes around the idea that the games are real and he was their lead character, Neo, with fear of these episodes causing him severe anxiety, depression and suicidality. Just about the only emotion he can muster is longing for Tiff (Carrie-Anne Moss), a woman who frequents the same coffee shop he does, Simulatte. Fed up after being forced to design a fourth “Matrix” game 20 years later, Anderson discontinues his medication and completely loses his grip on reality.

Continue reading
Posted in Entropy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Del Toro’s dark fantasy a darker reality in ‘Nightmare Alley’

Images courtesy Searchlight Pictures.

10/10 Nightmare Alley is a macabre masterpiece of despair, cynicism and sin. It would be too simple to call this writer/director/producer Guillermo del Toro’s best work, but it is certainly his most refined and most cruel.

End of the line, 1939- Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper, who also produces), freshly orphaned in the deserted, post-Depression Midwest, runs away and joins the circus. Carlisle quickly becomes versed in the drugging and con acts of traveling carnivals at that time period, pushes them to even less ethical extremes and moves to Chicago as a new solo act, “The Great Stanton.”

Nightmare Alley is a long, dark journey through and empty and doomed New World, waiting for the last few straggling souls to settle up before closing shop, a bad dream of Carlisle’s anxieties around absentee parents, alcohol and the desire to be found out. Everyone Carlisle wanders into has a secret of some kind, most of which are just a little too similar to his own secrets. It’s not quite a full nightmare, more the recurring dream of someone who knows his fears and still can’t face them.

Continue reading
Posted in Entropy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment