Question for the room: Is there an actress as fantastic in every sense as Tilda Swinton? I don’t think so, so let’s close the discussion on that one right here, and instead speak of the glory available to all Netflix subscribers, which is to say “Okja,” streaming now.
I heard an interview with the co-screenwriter, Jon Ronson, on the way back from Columbus. The role of Netflix in producing films isn’t without controversy; hardcore film fans want films to be films, projected in theaters and watched by audiences. Netflix makes films to be streamed on televisions, which is where most Americans watch movies, these days.
I guess, when a Netflix-produced film debuted at the Cannes film festival, the audience booed. I’ll leave that debate for those who care about such things. But I was struck by something Ronson said in the interview, about how often film studios say no, but Netflix says yes. And in this case, the “yes” was to an action comedy that isn’t for children, with plenty of social commentary, and half its dialogue in Korean, with subtitles.
But it’s so! Fabulous! And funny, and warm, and touching, and a satire of modern life, spectacle and…TED talks, I guess. Tilda plays the CEO of a rapacious, relentlessly greenwashed Monsanto-like company that is breeding a super-pig to feed the world. It’s a 10-year project, with specimens distributed all over the world. The Korean pig is the Okja of the title, and boy, is she cute. What’s more, she’s spent the last 10 years becoming best friends with an even cuter girl, who is now a young teen. With the decade up, the company is coming for its property, trailed by a film crew making propaganda to flatter it.
Things get complicated from there. But it’s a wonderful journey, with what you’d expect — chases, jeopardy, complications — but produced with wit and verve and all very fun to watch. Even the soundtrack is surprising. When was the last time you heard “Annie’s Song,” really?
The following night we watched something very different, also on Netflix — “American Anarchist,” the story of how a 19-year-old working out his anger at the government wrote “The Anarchist Cookbook” and opened Pandora’s box in the process. Since 1970, the book has been found in the possession of school shooters, terrorists and ne’er-do-wells of all stripes.
The author, William Powell, went on to do real good with his life, as a teacher of special-needs children all over the world. But the book trailed after him like a demon, coming up time and again. The most powerful scene in the film is when director Charlie Siskel, who comes off as a bit of a scold here, lays out all the cases, many of which Powell appears to not even know about. He cops to Columbine, but there were more, many more, and you can see Powell deflating as it goes on. Powell was (he died last year) clearly highly intelligent, and as he points out in the story, all the information was freely available in the New York City public library, on open shelves. (He mainly used military manuals.) But his story is the 1.0 version of today’s social-media nightmares, where nothing ever goes away, no matter how much your repudiate and walk back and deny.
Should a man be held accountable throughout his life for something he wrote when he was 19? That’s the question.
And that concludes today’s movie reviews. What happened in the world today?
Eh, who cares? The president is in Europe, and doom will surely follow.
Have a swell weekend!