Writer-Director Marin Ade’s Toni Erdmann, Germany’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Oscars, is a profoundly strange and wonderful film. It wanders between awkward comedy, heartfelt drama, and outright farce with a complete control of its own voice and tone. It’s an impressive and weird movie, and even though it stretches to nearly three hours in length, it never bogs down or loses focus on the central relationship between Ines and her father Winfried.
The minimally observant among you have probably noticed that Plot and Theme has been pretty dark over the last couple of weeks. The explanation is simple: I have just uprooted from the Midwest (Wisconsin) back down to the Grand Old South (North Carolina), and the recent past has thoroughly involved all things box-related. Now, the new home is up-and-running, only about 25% still in boxes, and I can start to wildly attempt to catch up on my review, essays, and other pieces here. Fortunately/unfortunately, August new releases look proper terrible, so I should have plenty of time.
In The Big Sick, ideas about cultural identity and family are united with a comedic style reliant on awkwardness and sarcasm, all in service of a brilliant romantic comedy plot. Kumail and Emily are growing into their new relationship, but a serious snag slams on the breaks. Then, a sudden illness befalls Emily and Kumail is forced into reconsidering everything that he just let go and the reasons why. The comedy and the characters in The Big Sick are great, but the way that the themes arise from this subject matter are far more poignant and impressive, resulting in one of the best romantic comedies of recent memory and strongest films in all of 2017.
Though he has only a pair of independent films to his name, director Jon Watts (Clown, Cop Car) sure knows his way around a friendly neighborhood Spider-man. The product of a team-up between Sony and Marvel Studios, Spider-man: Homecoming places the iconic webslinger in high school. This choice dictates many aspects of the film, from the story and characters all the way down to the sense of humor and the overarching themes of growing into one’s responsibilities. At the very least, it certainly establishes Watts’s version of Spider-man as different, which is absolutely crucial given that this is the third iteration of Peter Parker in the last 15 years.
Very early in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, as Doc (Kevin Spacey) sketches out the plans to a heist on a chalkboard, he explains to his crew that the driver “Baby” (Ansel Elgort) has tinnitus and chooses to drown out the constant hum by listening to music. Once he’s done with the obvious exposition, he puts down the chalk and exclaims, “Wow, I drew this entire map while explaining that. I’d say that’s pretty fucking impressive!” Thus Wright places his tongue firmly in-cheek, and we immediately understand the tone of the film: weird, energetic, and not taking itself too seriously.
George and Harold are two fourth graders with a penchant for potty humor, hanging out in their treehouse, and creating their own comic books. The cream of their crop is Captain Underpants, a broad knock-off of Superman, right down to his exoplanetary origin story, bizarre mishmash of superpowers, and proclivity for dressing in – you guessed it – underpants. George and Harold are just a little more to-the-point with their superhero.