🍸 "May our enemies, if they exist, be unconscious of our purpose."
This week: Two planes, a train, three Mini Coopers, and a food truck.
Hello! The latest episode of Follow Friday features Ologies host Alie Ward, who is even more fun to chat with than the most ardent fan of her podcast might assume. We talked about unfortunate bird names, the comedian she's afraid to befriend, the time she angered her now-fiancé by calling him a "green banana,” and lots more.
I’m nearing the end of my watch-through of the original X-Men movie series, just in time for Disney to reboot the whole thing with an MCU tie-in movie, allegedly called The Mutants … although I like Glen Weldon’s idea for a musical called Mutants! Too bad they already wasted Hugh Jackman on nine non-singing X-Men movies.
“That review went viral.” “What does that mean?”
I finally got around to watching Jon Favreau’s Chef this week, and I liked it! It’s a big-hearted, easy-to-like sort of movie, filled with deliciously directed montages of food being prepared, and a buffet of famous people in small roles, including Robert Downey, Jr., Sofia Vergara, and Scarlet Johansson. And the young actor playing Favreau’s son, Emjay Anthony, holds his own quite well with all the star power around him.
However, you could make a case that the real star of the movie is Twitter, which is invoked constantly. Protagonist Carl Casper (played by Favreau) gets savagely reviewed by a powerful food blogger, and then goes viral for confronting the critic, twice — first in an unintentionally public tweet, then in an in-person meltdown at his restaurant. The rest of his story is marked by frequent invocations of social media features and products, including a brief, clunky shout-out to Vine that instantly dates the film.
On the one hand, Chef is a reflection of pre-2015 public attitudes toward social media; everyone attacking Casper on Twitter writes in complete and fairly polite sentences, and there’s never any discussion of how the internet might negatively affect his family or friends. Although Favreau’s character may feel persecuted, we in the audience are expected to sympathize with him without questioning the underlying systems that allowed him to “go viral” in the first place.
On the other hand, it is quite refreshing to see a movie about media and technology that actually seems to give a damn about accuracy. I’m coincidentally thinking similar thoughts as I watch through Succession, although the latter has a darker, more complex read on the media ecosystem. I don’t think hearing Anthony explain geotagging to his father does any favors for the film’s emotional core or pacing … but for the 10% of the audience that knows he’s right, it makes Casper’s culinary adventure seem a little bit more plausible.
Chef ★★★★ - on Netflix.
Other stuff I’ve watched recently
X-Men: Days of Future Past ★★★★ - Finally, an X-Men movie that’s better than “OK.” This is a big improvement over First Class, and my second-favorite of the entire series. The timey-wimey plot is complicated but comprehensible, the all-star cast fires on all cylinders, the direction is noticeably better, and the various villains are all believably scary. Plus: That Quicksilver scene is one of the best sequences in any superhero movie to date. On Disney+ and FXNow.
The Lady Vanishes ★★★½ - Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 comedy-mystery-thriller is entertaining throughout, with several great sequences and an unsubtle but still clever current of political allegory aimed at pre-WWII Britain. The acting and direction are very strong, and the central mystery is compelling until it starts to be answered, at which point the train-based movie loses steam. Although I may not have loved the final act, I still really enjoyed the ride. On HBO Max, the Criterion Channel, and Amazon Prime Video.
The Italian Job (1969) ★★★½ - Undeniably well shot, endearingly weird, and featuring a truly excellent chase scene and ending, this classic heist movie is unfortunately one of the kind that is surpassed by the films it inspired. The antagonists are not nearly as formidable as they initially seem, and most of the supporting cast is uninteresting and indistinguishable, but Michael Caine’s charm and the driving scenes obviate the need for the rest to really make sense. On Amazon Prime Video and Paramount Plus.
The Wolverine ★★★½ - Fox’s second attempt at an origin story for Logan/Wolverine is full of potential, with some excellent character work in the first half and a pretty strong supporting cast around Hugh Jackman. Transporting the character to a foreign land is compelling, as is the corporate-inheritance intrigue that seemingly powered an earlier draft of the script. But the final draft is undermined by some unnecessary additional characters and a pretty dumb final fight sequence.
Leave your reactions, questions, recommendations, and dank Vine memes in the comments below.