While We’re Young: Nihilism in Aging

Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young is a film that stars Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as Josh and Cornelia, a married couple of a certain age (mid-40s) finding new friends in Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) a hipster couple of a jealous-inducing age (mid-20s).

While seemingly Baumbach’s version of This Is 40, full of his trademark witty dialogue and focus on relationships, this film is less about the relate-able theme of aging and more a nihilistic observation of the phonies of New York City and their inevitable successes.

The movie mostly focuses on Josh who is a documentary filmmaker stuck on a decade long project, either due to a lack of ambition or due to an abundance of morality depending on who you ask. Jamie, on the other hand, wants to be a documentary filmmaker and lacks neither the ambition nor the moral code of honesty.

Of course Jamie’s lack of ethics does not immediately come across to Josh who enjoys the energy and the praise that Jamie brings into his life. In fact Jamie revitalizes Josh and he returns the favor by agreeing to share his resources for a documentary that Jamie is filming.

It’s only much later than Josh realizes Jamie was using him to advance his career and get closer to his successful filmmaker father-in-law. He starts seeing Jaime for what he really is, he quips to his wife that “It’s like… he once saw a sincere person and he’s been imitating him ever since”.

As Josh follows the breadcrumbs to reveal that Jamie has been lying about the documentary he filmed he also discovers that nobody cares. Jamie’s lying and scheming is chalked up to his youth and his ambition and his sins forgiven for the same reasons.

As the themes of old versus young and honesty versus deception bubble up it’s easy to assume the film is suggesting that youth, for all its ambitions  and energy, is used to deceive people. Or that young people can do whatever they want as long as they are following their dreams. But there’s more to it than that. The film has an additional narrative that focuses on Josh and Cornelia’s older friends Marina and Fletcher who just had a baby and have been openly celebrating their exuberance for parenthood. As the film progresses their lives are used as another example of a couple that is living a fulfilling life in contrast to Josh and Cornelia. They’re accepting age with grace and they revel in the mundane parenting experience. This puts Josh and Cornelia in between two drastically different lifestyles that appear fulfilling for the parties involved while they struggle to find fulfillment in their lives.

Of course much like the reveal of Jamie’s dishonesty and Darby’s reveal of their unstable relationship, we find out that Fletcher and Marina are struggling too, “Before you have a kid, everyone tells you, ‘It’s the best thing you’ll ever do.’ And as soon as you get the baby back from the hospital, those same people are like, ‘Don’t worry, it gets better.’”

Both of their couple friends seemingly had it all together. One was hip, well-spoken, and ambitious, the other was mature, calm, and at peace but by the end the veil was lifted and it was clear that both were just playing their parts.

In the end Josh appears destined to be a cynic. No one cares that Jamie is a liar or that Darby seeks out other men or that Fletcher and Marina are dissatisfied with parenting. In fact, Josh appears to be the crazy one, “Josh, you know the world isn’t a giant conspiracy against you” states his wife.

Eventually Josh learns to let go of everything. He lets go of the jealousy, the hypocrisy, the disappointment and moves on in his life. And for Josh it’s less about beckoning Dylan Thomas as he doesn’t “rage against the dying of the light” and, in fact, he goes into the night gently. By the end Josh fittingly emits more of a modern poet in Childish Gambino, “I mean nobody out here’s got it figured out so therefore, I’ve lost all hope of a happy ending”.

While We’re Young is a film about aging but it’s also about learning to let go of things you can’t control. The movie doesn’t tell you to live your life to the fullest or to settle down and have children, it’s urging you to live the life that means something to you and don’t worry about what others are doing because it turns out those seemingly happy people you see everywhere, yeah, well they are just full of shit and probably as miserable as you.

Friday Film Roundup

Our Friday Film Roundup is an attempt to share what we are reading, watching, and listening to as we head into the weekend. We plan on sharing major film news, interesting film essays/videos, and recommended films you might want to check out.

Good morning! You might be a little confused by our title, because it is definitely not Friday. We’re not trying to trick you or anything. Our goal is to bring you more consistent content in the coming weeks and actually have scheduled posts that go out on certain days. You know, like an actual film blog!

But we failed in that respect last week. Sometimes life just kicks you in the nuts and says, “Oh I’m sorry, were you trying to go about your day without any painful interruptions?” Rest assured that we are fine and will continue striving towards a higher level of consistency. That’s why, although it’s Saturday, I wasn’t about to change the title of this post to Weekend Roundup or anything like that.

So join me for a quick journey on the very last day in February. Hallelujah!

Reading:

This is probably cheating, since this section is typically reserved for pieces from other websites, but given the timing I think this is appropriate. I saw an ad for A Quiet Place Part II this morning and it reminded me that I haven’t seen the first one for awhile. Kevin did a quick review for that back when it came out (along with some commentary on MoviePass) and it’s worth your time:

https://flimsyfilmcritics.com/2018/04/08/my-year-with-moviepass-a-quiet-place-review/

It’s wild because that was only a couple of years ago and MoviePass has already pretty much come and gone. Amazing how much can change in the world over a very short period of time.

Watching:

Recommendation: On a recent episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine (not my recommendation but I love that show and if you aren’t watching, what the hell are you waiting for?!), Christopher Nolan’s Memento was used as a running gag. One character hadn’t seen it and another character couldn’t believe it, so it turned into this whole thing.

And it made me think that most people probably know Nolan for his Dark Knight Trilogy and movies like Inception and Dunkirk, but I bet there’s a pretty large crowd out there that isn’t familiar with Memento. So do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven’t. Check it out even if you have seen it and it’s just been awhile. I doubt you’ll regret it.

What I’m Watching: My fiance and I just started binge-watching The Witcher on Netflix. I saw an article or a tweet recently saying that the show gets good after it stops trying to be Game of Thrones. Personally, I don’t know what that person was talking about. The Witcher is as wild and weird as the game was and as I’ve been told the books are (haven’t read them yet, but might do so now), and Henry Cavill is fantastic as Geralt.

I also caught the first two episodes of Better Call Saul’s latest season and as always was very impressed. I promise to watch some more movies to recommend here soon since this is technically a film blog.

Upcoming Flimsy Film Posts:

Welcome to New York: While We’re Young

Kevin’s cranking this one out and will have it to you guys next week. Tuesday maybe?

Bought It Before I Watched It: Sorry to Bother You

I picked this one up awhile ago and have yet to pop it in my blu-ray player. I’m sure once I do over the next week, I’ll kick myself for waiting so long… I hope.

Let’s Talk About: The Rise of Skywalker

This bad boy is still in the works as well. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it because of how much this one disappointed me, but it has to be done. And we’ll get it done.

Friday Film Roundup

Our Friday Film Roundup is an attempt to share what we are reading, watching, and listening to as we head into the weekend. We plan on sharing major film news, interesting film essays/videos, and recommended films you might want to check out.

Good afternoon! Nothing beats a February Friday am I right? Except June Fridays! And July! And…well every other month. February sucks.

Unfortunately for my happiness, my wife is out of town this weekend. Fortunately this means I have time to catch up on my endless movie watch list to fill the crippling void of loneliness.

Reading:

In the future this space will be more fleshed out with many different reviews or analysis or news that stand out to us. For now I only have one post from our friends at Slashfilm (I like to think we are friends even though they don’t know we exist.):

‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,’ ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and the Problem With Nostalgic Blockbusters

It’s a great analysis of one of my favorite topics of the last year, shit talking Avengers: Endgame and The Rise of Skywalker. Except it is actually well thought out and hits on a lot of my personal frustrations.

Watching:

Recommendation: I recently stumbled across Midsommar on Amazon Prime and if you are up for a twisted, dark tale set in beautiful Sweden that will make you want to forever avoid vacations, making friends, being in relationships, and psychedelic drug use then this is the movie for you! Written and directed by Ari Aster (the guy who brought us the unsettling Hereditary) and stars Florence Pugh whose performance makes it worth the horror.

What I’m Watching: My number one goal this weekend is to finally catch the Oscar winning film Parasite, it’s a movie that’s been on my radar for months now and my curiosity is killing me. I’ve been a huge advocate for Korean cinema ever since I say Oldboy and The Handmaiden. Wow I’m into some truly messed up movies.

Outside of that I want to continue the horror trend and finish Train to Busan on Netflix and I’ve been dying to rewatch Cabin in the Woods. 

And while this isn’t technically a “film” (such definitions of what constitutes a film feel arbitrary to me but whatever) Better Call Saul returns to our screens after a loooong hiatus. This show has definitely proven itself even in the shadow of Breaking Bad and now that Jimmy is embracing his Saul side, I expect this show to reach new heights.

And in case you can’t wait until Sunday for your Breaking Bad fix might I recommend you catch up on El Camino which is showing on AMC and on Netflix.

Upcoming Flimsy Film Posts:

Welcome to New York: While We’re Young

I’m jumping back into my ‘Welcome to New York’ series with Brooklyn’s own Noah Baumbach. What happens when a 30-year-old watches a movie about two 40-year-olds making friends with two 25-year-olds? Does it send the 30-year-old into a spiraling existential crisis about aging? Find out on Tuesday!

Let’s Talk About: The Rise of Skywalker

Oh this should be a fun read, two fans who loved The Last Jedi get to discuss all of the shortcomings of the final chapter in the Skywalker saga. I’m sure there will be a lot of yelling in the form of CAPITAL LETTERS.

 

Movies and Data: A Love Story

I am a natural lover of data. I use that love to keep me motivated on my goals. I keep track of my expenses, my miles ran, and in 2019 I started keeping tracking of the movies I watched. I started with an excel file but now I use IMDb to keep track. It was easy to download the data and then do the below analysis.

2019 was the year I started taking my movie watching habit seriously. I saw some of my favorite movies of all time (Into the Spider-Verse, Y tu mamá también, The Farewell), caught up with some classics I had missed (The Conversation, Silence of the Lambs, Taxi Driver) and sat through some duds (Avengers: Endgame, The Commuter, Always Be My Maybe).

Overall it was a great year and I am pumped to surpass these numbers in 2020. Do you keep track of your movies? Are you a data geek like me? Do you have a better system than me? Let me know and happy new year!

If you want to see the whole list, here is the link: Kevin’s 2019 Movies

LET'S GO SHOPPING!2

Star Wars: The Good, the Bad and the Kevin

Happy New Year everyone! My apologies for not producing more content recently. I don’t want to call it a New Years Resolution, but let’s see if I can’t crank out some more stuff for you guys this month, alright? Let’s begin by ranking the movies in a franchise that I’m sure all fans would agree with and that will cause no divided opinions whatsoever: Star Wars!

I recently rewatched every tale from a galaxy far, far away in order to prepare for The Rise of Skywalker. Most of it was fun, parts of it were excruciating and it was an important reminder that sometimes when it comes to the things you love, you have to take the good with the bad. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to do a post where I rank each film, talk about what I both liked and didn’t like for each one and then have Kevin chime in with some of his thoughts. I’m still sorting out how I feel about the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga, so we won’t get into that here. Maybe a future Let’s Talk About post, eh Kevin?

Without further adieu, here are my rankings. Should probably mention we’ll be getting into spoilers, but some of these movies are near or over 20 years old. What are you waiting for?

Continue reading

Movies to Stream this Weekend

Hello and happy holidays! My gift to you is a list of a few films you might want to stream over this long weekend/holiday break. We are lucky enough to have endless entertainment at our fingertips but it can be overwhelming so here are a few of my recent watches that I want to recommend:

Netflix:

Marriage Story: Yes the memes are trying to shift the latest film by Noah Baumbach from a beautiful, yet unsettling, view of a collapsing divorce into an over-dramatic and self-serious snoozefest but I still think this film is worth your attention.

From the opening moments of professed love to the closing moments of sacrifice this film is enthralling through and through. Especially for those of us who have ever struggled keeping their sanity in a relationship, aka all of us. Come for the headliners of Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver but stay for the destruction and celebration of love.

American Factory: This might be a stark departure from the previous movie but it’s a must watch. American Factory is a documentary about a Chinese glass company coming to America to create jobs and solve our country’s issues. Okay they’re actually in it for the money but either way this company finds a home in Dayton, Ohio and almost single handily employs a small city of blue-collar workers.

Of course, it’s not that simple, the company brings it’s own Chinese workers to help get the company off the ground. This creates cultural tensions and doesn’t always end well. The beauty of this documentary is it covers an array of issues including workers rights to unionize, cultural expectations of hard work, and the hardships of the working class but it never demonizes either side of any issue. It’s just a brutal and honest depiction of these, and many more, issues.

Amazon Prime:

Brittany Runs a Marathon: Now as a three time marathon runner I am letting my biases get the best of me. Regardless, this movie is inspiring and heart wrenching and worth your time. Just be warned, it will definitely inspire you to get off the couch more often.

A true story of a funny, underemployed 20-something that decides to take one simple step to improve her life, start running. And she really does start with a single, simple, step as she huffs and puffs her way down one city block before eventually taking on her first 5k. From here on out the familiar beats of any “makeover” movie start to hit but the final act is full of surprise, cringe, and beauty that will make you question our society’s obsession with self-improvement. Overall an impressive debut for director Paul Downs Colaizzo who wrote the movie based on a former roommate of his.

A Simple Favor: A deliriously fun and engrossing watch from start to finish. The movie follows a meek mom vlogger Stephanie as she becomes unlikely friends with Emily, a career-obsessed mom who doesn’t take any bullshit. Emily, played intensely well by Blake Lively, suddenly disappears and Stephanie, played pitch perfect by Anna Kendrick, tries to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of her new friend.

This movie covers a lot of ground and delves into unexpected territory. A Gone Girl-esque thriller matched with director Paul Feig’s remarkable comedy. A thrilling and fun time all around.

YouTube:

Life in a DayA free movie on YouTube that is powerful, stunning, and completely unique. People around the world were asked to document a certain day of their life, July 24th, 2010 and it was then crafted into a beautiful film that reaches every corner of the Earth.

As real as anything you will ever watch, this movie has a bit of everything: comedy, love, heartbreak, and is impossible to turn away from. For voyeurs, travelers, or film enthusiasts this is a much watch. This film illuminates the wonder, horror, and beauty of the world we share.

 

Frozen II: Rinse, Repeat, Refreeze

“That’s just your fear. Fear is what can’t be trusted.” -Elsa, Frozen II

*Spoiler-ish review*

It was about halfway through my rant about the importance of explicit representation to my wife that I realized I was ripping apart a Disney animated movie made for children. But let’s back up.

“Cowards!” I believe was my first word uttered walking out of a date night screening of Frozen II. 

“I liked it and I had fun” was my wife’s response.

“Of course it was fun! And gorgeous! And funny! And charming! But…” I couldn’t hide my disappointment and I also couldn’t verbalize it.

Frozen II picks up a few years after the events of the original, ground-breaking (ice-shattering?) Frozen. Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven live in the Arendelle castle singing songs about how great life is and how they never want things to change.

But Elsa can’t quite shake a restless feeling. After all, what is life without change? She is being called, somewhat literally but also figuratively, to a new adventure. She is grateful for what she has, her family, and her kingdom but there is something out there that she needs to discover.

And when she is finally forced to take action the movie follows our lovable group as they set off on a new adventure. Elsa is following a mysterious voice, Anna is following Elsa so she doesn’t get into trouble, Kristoff is following Anna so…he can propose marriage at the worst possible time, and Sven and Olaf are just happy to be there.

Yes, in this sequel, much like the original, the center of the story revolves around Elsa running into the wild to discover something about herself while her sister and a dude with confusing intentions follows behind. It’s a rinse and repeat of the prior arc except this time the movie feels foreboding.

The sing-song call that Elsa follows blindly is haunting, there are hints of a terrible truth about the sister’s ancestors and it bubbles around the surface, hell even the talking snowman is having an on-again, off-again existential crisis about his friends growing old.

The creators of this movie really seemed to be diving into something darker or deeper and un-Disney like for an animated movie. At some point I considered the possibility of a traumatic death, or a big reveal about a character’s sexual preference, or a statement on the long-term impacts of colonialism, or questioning of our society’s obsession with marriage. This journey felt different and more important and like they were gearing up to say something meaningful.

By the end, however, the big reveal was no reveal. Or at least no new reveal. Elsa learns to embrace her powers and that she can rely on her sister. It was a carbon copy ending of the original but without the epic rendition of “Let It Go”. It was a poor man’s retelling of Frozen but less entertaining that Olaf’s literal retelling of Frozen that occurs in the middle.

Which brings me to my cowards remark. Is it fair of me to demand the creators to take a huge risk with their beloved characters? Was I looking too hard at minor details as clues of an epic ending that did not exist? Do I have the right to be upset that they took an easy, unoriginal route in a movie that positively celebrates strong, independent women? Isn’t that aspect alone enough to satisfy my socially conscious mindset? What, exactly, did I want to happen? How did I want it to end?

I don’t have the answers. All I know is that the true beauty of the original Frozen was how different it was compared to a typical Disney princess movie. The original’s “twist” ending of the day being saved because of a sister’s love and not a man’s secured it’s spot as an all-time great film. That ending sounds trivial at this point in 2019 but in 2013 it was groundbreaking and important. And maybe that’s why I expected something bigger in this animated princess movie, because the original taught me it’s not only possible to push boundaries but it is important and necessary, no matter the genre.

So how did I want it to end? Without fear, I suppose, because even Elsa knows that fear is what can’t be trusted.