Are You Not Entertained? A trio of good films

If you need a bolt of violence and suspense to combat your ennui, this trio will wake you up. 

Midsommar (2019)  A couple travels to Sweden to visit their friend’s rural hometown for its fabled midsummer festival, but what begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult. (Wikipedia) Writer/director Ari Aster (Hereditary), continues his trend for psychological suspense with bits of in-your-face disturbing surprises. Midsommar is like a pot of water set for a slow boil. Perhaps viewers think the pace is too slow? I like the punishing pace. 4/5

The white imagery is not for purity and goodness, this time around. It’s a part of what makes the story chilling.

The storyline of Midsommar is plausible enough in the first third by establishing the motive of visiting the rural community in Sweden. The male anthropologist/historian Ph.D. students fight over the pagan society as they try to claim it as their dissertation topic. Dummies. White guys trying to “own” another culture is a sure sign they’re gonna go down. However, their tagalong, the anxious, fragile female will become the winner. Even though you can predict generally what’s going to happen, there are enough details and twists to make it an arresting film of the senses. Nothing like a beautiful setting to tell a horror story. It’s a contrast I appreciate. 

Once the guests arrive at the enchanting location, the pace picks up and the charming quirkiness of the village turns into run-for-the-hills horror. Three cheers to Florence Pugh for an electrifying performance. She gives sophistication to her complex character much the same way Toni Collette did in Hereditary. Beware of blind tradition; it’s as though author Shirley Jackson (“The Lottery”) whispered beyond the grave into Aster’s ears and he ran with the concept. 

The Nightingale (2018) Clare, a young Irish convict, chases a British officer through the rugged Tasmanian wilderness and is bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence the man committed against her family. On the way, she enlists the services of Aboriginal tracker Billy, who is marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past (Wikipedia). Director Jennifer Kent creates a stunning period film from the perspective of a determined, female protagonist. Actress Aisling Franciosi (Lyanna Stark, GoT) is convincing as Clare Carroll, a singing beauty who is a servant in 1825. She lives a harsh existence but is able to withstand the beasts of the British penal colony which will eventually become Tasmania. Kent holds nothing back as the violence in the story is filmed in a raw fashion as harsh as the Tasmanian setting. 4/5

Jo Jo Rabbit (2019)  Jojo is a lonely German boy who discovers that his single mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend — Adolf Hitler — Jojo must confront his blind nationalism as World War II continues to rage on. (Wikipedia). If you want to read an excellent review regarding what’s wrong with Jo Jo Rabbit, I recommend Owen Gleiberman‘s review in Variety found here:

Film Review: ‘Jojo Rabbit’

Mr. Gleiberman makes a compelling argument. I loved it anyway. I thought it daring, fun and sad like all good coming-of-age stories. Is it Moonrise Kingdom with sass? Okay. I agree with that. Is it “a feel-good movie, but one that uses the fake danger of defanged black comedy to leave us feeling good about the fact that we’re above a feel-good movie,” says the critic? I love feel-good movies without the Hallmark cheese. The acting of the entire cast was entertaining. Roman Griffin Davis (Jo Jo). Thomasin McKenzie (Elsa the hidden Jew). Taika Waititi (Hitler). Rebel Wilson (youth camp assistant) Sam Rockwell (perfect as the youth camp leader). Scarlett Johansson (Rosie, the mom with the cool shoes). In German class, my high schoolers loved it. Maybe that’s why I did, too, for it is pitched to the kid at heart. I’ll be watching this film annually for years to come. 4.5/5 

50 Comments on “Are You Not Entertained? A trio of good films

  1. I haven’t seen any of these yet, and want to see them all. I read a review comparing ‘Midsommar’ to ‘The Wicker Man’ (original) so that caught my attention.
    Best ishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya Pete. Yes, I sure see the comparison to Wicker Man. I think you’d like it. Well, all three. Especially the Nightingale since it’s an Anti-British colonization movie. I know you don’t like coming-of-age stories, but it has Scarlett and you love her, so I suspect it might tickle your dark funny bone. 🙂

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  2. I just told my wife we were watching “The Nightingale” tonight! “JoJo Rabbit” is BRILLIANT, and we also LOVED “Midsommar!” What a triple bill this would be!

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  3. I really can’t wait to see Midsommar. I’m really disappointed in myself for not getting to it sooner! I was a huge advocate of Ari Aster when he popped on the scene with Hereditary. That movie left an impression, to say the least. Toni Collette. The screaming. Oh man.

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  4. Great reviews, Cindy. I thought Midsommar was bravura filmmaking from a very talented filmmaker. Florence Pgh was indeed incredible. I thought the direction and design from Ari Aster was way better than the writing though. I mean, the characters were so dumb and their poor decisions (however much a trope of the horror film that may be) undermined the fear factor. The Wicker Man did the same story to much more powerful effect, because Edward Woodward’s character behaved logically throughout.Thus, the brutal ending in The Wicker Man stunned me to the core. In Midsommar it was just so ridiculously over-the-top. Still, there’s some amazing shots, iconography and imagery there.

    I haven’t seen The Nightingale yet, but JoJo Rabbitt was one of my favourite films of last year. I look forward to seeing it again very soon.

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  5. Great reviews, Cindy. I thought Midsommar was bravura filmmaking from a very talented filmmaker. Florence Pgh was indeed incredible. I thought the direction and design from Ari Aster was way better than the writing though. I mean, the characters were so dumb and their poor decisions (however much a trope of the horror film that may be) undermined the fear factor. The Wicker Man did the same story to much more powerful effect, because Edward Woodward’s character behaved logically throughout.Thus, the brutal ending in The Wicker Man stunned me to the core. In Midsommar it was just so ridiculously over-the-top. Still, there’s some amazing shots, iconography and imagery there.

    I haven’t seen The Nightingale yet, but JoJo Rabbitt was one of my favourite films of last year. I look forward to seeing it again very soon.

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    • Oh, good. I remember your review for Midsommar. Silly characters, yes. Still, there was enough for me to stay engaged. Try Nightingale. I wonder if you will like it…

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      • the silliness of the characters was the heart of the movie.. They were chosen for the trip because of who they were. Nearly every decision was a mistake that proved fatal. I thought Midsommer a much better picture than the over-rated Wicker Man, which was a study in dull inevitability.

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        • I didn’t care much for Wicker Man, either. Did you happen to see ‘Invisible Man’? I have heard good things about it and I’m about to rent it.

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          • i wouldnt bother with it. didnt like the originnal or ay of the sequesla d remakes. the concet just doesnt appeal to me, and the director and cast dont intrerest me. but let me know if its any good and f you like t, ill keep an eye out for it. for an excellent 2019 non gory horror film, i suggest colour out of space.

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  6. For what its worth Cindy, I wasn’t blown away by John Rabbit but Karen loved it. The other two films sound interesting. Hope you’re taking care, in this difficult time.

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  7. I haven’t seen any of these. I do like your description of Midsommar though, “like a pot of water set for a slow boil.” I think I might give it a whirl.

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      • No, at the moment I’m struggling with a health issue and find it hard to concentrate on reading a book, but your stories looked very interesting and I have noted to follow through with I feel better. Hard to access medical attention here with all resources geared toward fighting this international plague. The country is in lockdown and it seems to be working out positively.

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        • I’m glad. Would you mind reminding me where in Australia you live? I’m glad the virus is dying down where you are. I’m sorry you have a health issue. I hate them! Feel better soon, my friend.

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          • We live on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland Australia. It’s sub-tropical with miles of beaches to the north and south and rainforest and farming hinterland. The Crocodile Hunder’s Australia Zoo is about twenty minutes drive south of us and settlements in this area host international water sports events. We are not far from the University.

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          • Did you go to the Aboriginal theme park near Cairns and up the cable to the Atherton Tableland and take the train back down to Cairns. I presume you went to the Barrier Reef for the visit.

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  8. Great post 🙂 I have seen Midsommar and The Nightingale and I love them both. Midsommar is Ari Aster’s second film as director and it is every bit as great as Hereditary and Jennifer Kent’s second film as director, which is The Nightingale, is every bit as great as her first film The Babadook. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Speaking of Toni Collette, did you see Knives Out yet? That is a great one, here are two links below – one for the trailer (the second one)

    The other is Collette as her character promoting FLAM (her character is allegedly loosely based on actress Gwenyth Paltrow and her GOOP company)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goop_(company)

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  9. I am glad we share similar tastes, John. I have not seen Knives Out. I heard it was unabashedly political which is a big turnoff to me. However, what the heck. I do like Toni and if she is in it, I ought to see it. So g km and you stopped by, John.

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  10. I LOVED Midsommar! It played like a homage to the cult classic The Wicker Man (1973). I had some issues with Jo Jo (IMHO, Taika Waititi’s Hitler wasn’t funny), but it is an interesting movie (like Life is Beautiful, it does a great job mixing humor with tragedy) and the kid was brilliant! I still need to see Nightingale…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s fine with me that we have differing opinions. Taika made me laugh throughout the movie. Did you like ‘The Babadook’? Nightingale is nothing like it except they share the same director. I thought the setting matched the characters and creating the historical climate of 1825 is not easy, yet, it was done well here. I hope you get a chance to see it. It’s brutal at times, but that was a brutal time.

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  11. Three great films, I loved them all. So pleased to see The Nightingale get a mention as it got such a tiny release that not many people seem to know about it.

    On a side note, I have been to Sweden for Midsommar, and had a fabulous time, would recommend it to anyone who gets the chance.

    Liked by 1 person

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