Kicking the Tweets

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

Back Here Again

"Did you know that Farrah Fawcett died the same day as Michael Jackson?"

--Riggan Thomson, Birdman

As I sat in a theatre watching The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies yesterday morning, Sony Pictures announced that it would pull Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's new comedy, The Interview, from theatres next week. This was an escalation of the previous day's events, which saw major chains like AMC and Regal cancel Christmas Day screenings, for fear that faceless cyber-terrorists would make good on their threats of "9/11-style" attacks on any venue showing the movie. A few hours ago, Sony killed The Interview altogether, placing it firmly on the Shelf of Legends with Jerry Lewis' unreleased Holocaust comedy, The Day the Clown Cried.

Faced with the prospect of never seeing our young century's most controversial film (no VOD, no Blu-ray, no nothin'), I struggle to find the words or enthusiasm to write about Peter Jackson's latest bloated, soulless, live-action cartoon--which will be on half of America's phones within six months. But I will soldier on, and in hopes of leaving this glossy, pixel-fisted cash-grab behind me.

To be clear, I rooted for The Hobbit to succeed. I was late to the party in appreciating Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, and was a champion of his first Hobbit entry, An Unexpected Journey. Though certainly drawn out, I dug the poetry of Bilbo Baggins' (Martin Freeman) mission, and the filmmakers' leisurely, lyrical approach to Middle Earth. An Unexpected Journey was silly and adventurous, where Lord of the Rings was gray and grim, and the contrast helped ease the feeling that I'd been roped into an identical eight-hour tour of the fantasy realm's greatest hits.

The dull and uninspired Desolation of Smaug knocked me off the fence. Halfway through Bilbo and his dwarf compatriots' quest to reclaim a mountain kingdom from its slumbering dragon overlord,* the focus shifted to skirmishes between humans, elves, and spiky-slimy things. There were CGI wars and rumors of CGI wars. Lots of rain and sorrow, made flesh in Luke Evans' cyanide-colored, reluctant-hero eyes.

In the end, Bilbo exchanges monologues with Smaug the dragon, just as he'd done in the previous movie with Gollum (Andy Serkis). Heroes are scattered to the four winds: wounded, imprisoned, or impaired by depression, and we cut to black as the dragon we thought for sure had been killed soars into the sky--fueled not so much by hatred as the desire for an even bigger holiday box office the following season.

That season is here, and I'm happy to report that The Hobbit trilogy is over. I pity the generation who will watch these prequel movies before Lord of the Rings. By the time they get to The Two Towers, they will likely be as fatigued and unimpressed as I was twenty minutes into Five Armies. At this point, Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh, Phiippa Boyens, and Guilermo del Toro are on narrative auto pilot. There is literally nothing in this movie that you haven't seen before, if you've seen any five other fantasy pictures.

Smaug is knocked off within ten minutes, leaving his kingdom wide open for the armed and ambitious factions of Middle Earth. Dwarf king Thorin (Richard Armitage) obsesses over finding a sparkly rock that will ensure victory over everyone. Bilbo has hidden the rock on his person, for fear that its power will corrupt and destroy his friend. He's also in possession of the Ring of Power which, we all know, is also a force of dark influence. That we never see Bilbo go crazy is, perhaps, proof that these two mythic elements cancel each other out--or something.

Soon (but not nearly soon enough), Smaug's castle is surrounded by more dwarves, a legion of elves, the displaced farmers of a smouldering Lake-town (the site of Smaug's last stand), the Orc hordes, and our tiny band of confused heroes.** Blades and shields clash, monsters pop out of the Earth for a second, and we're treated to more "all hope is lost" moments than you can shake a magic staff at. Seriously, this movie could be called The Drinking Game of the Five Armies, for all the embarrassing moments in which we see a hero on the ground with a foe overhead about to swing a sword/bring down a hammer--only to be interrupted by an arrow to the chest or another hero tackling him/it from out of frame. There's a single variant on this staging, towards the end, but it comes long after Jackson and company have expanded the Rule of Three into the Rule of Thirty-three.

Perhaps the movie would have been more bearable had it at least looked plausible. Jackson and his effects shop, WETA, plunge so far down the digital rabbit hole here that audiences can count the number of tangible objects on one middle finger. All the actors are bathed in a buttery, glowing sheen that makes the lighting on ABC Family commercials seem positively natural. In particular, Orlando Bloom looks like a sick experiment involving bad makeup, plastic surgery, and digital airbrushing. And don't even get me started on Billy Connolly's mad-dwarf warrior. I haven't read up on whether or not he's a complete CGI creation, but his mouth is a freakish melange of ones and zeroes to be sure.

Completists will see The Battle of the Five Armies because it's in their nature to do so. Casual LOTR fans may skip this one and wait for home video--rightfully so. Sadly, we've reached the point where Jackson's fantastical imagery, Howard Shore's sweeping score, and a host of great actors playing revered characters have become passe. Aside from Armitage's touching final scenes and Freeman's ability to sell snarky dubiousness in a simple head tilt (which wears painfully thin as this chapter hobbles across the finish line), there's not a single remarkable performance, character moment, or story beat to be found.

We're left instead with dodgy computer graphics of supermen who can, say, spot a dragon's weak spot from two miles away and survive the flaming collapse of a tower beneath his feet after shooting an arrow that he's balanced on his son's shoulders. I know these aren't "people", per se, but the denizens of Middle Earth were at least recognizable, a long time ago, as beings who mostly bowed to physics and didn't benefit from selectively impenetrable skin.

What was once a journey of narrative and cinematic discovery has been reduced to the filling of a slot in a studio's schedule. Rarely has fantasy felt so obligatory as it does here, and I long for the bold and dangerous days of Jackson's early career. If Hollywood keeps acquiring and neutering artists like this (and if artists keep allowing themselves to be acquired and neutered), it won't be long before terrorist threats aren't necessary to clear out multiplexes everywhere.

*Voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, 'cause he's growly, British, and new.

**Thankfully, the screenplay informs us that dwarves are "loyal to a fault", which kind of explains why twelve authority-bucking warriors' reaction to their leader's sudden irrational orders and petulant behavior is to sit around wringing their hands. 


Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Don't Believe a Word

It's been a great year for the Bible. Love it or hate it, the Good Book has enjoyed some A-list cinematic scrutiny in 2014, beginning with with Darren Aronofsky's Noah,continuing with John Michael McDonagh's Calvary, and rounding out the holidays with Exodus: Gods and Kings--directed by none other than Genre Jesus himself, Sir Ridley Scott.

Contrary to what you may have heard, this two-and-a-half-hour CGI spectacle is not a reading from the Book of Prometheus. Sure, parts of it are distracting and stilted, but Scott and screenwriters Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine, and Steven Zallian have more on their mind than sandals-and-salvation disaster porn. I wrote something similar in my Noah review, but it's a point worth underscoring, in light of the cynicism with which Exodus has been met.

If you haven't read the Old Testament, I assume you've seen The Ten Commandments--or at least seen it parodied on The Simpsons. If not, here's the plot in broad strokes: in ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh's (John Turturro) top commander, Moses (Christian Bale), grows a conscience regarding the ruling class's treatment of its slave-labor force. This radical idea pits him against Ramses (Joel Edgerton), his proud but slightly dim adoptive brother--who doesn't want to deal with discontentment once he ascends to the throne. Moses is exiled, and encounters a gypsy tribe and a burning bush in the desert; one renews his spirit, the other orders him to rise up against his former kingdom and free the slaves.

Cue Ramses' defiance, followed by plagues, pestilence, and rivers of bloody water. Scott and company throw in an interesting rebel subplot, wherein Moses trains his lower-class compatriots to fight, to ambush, to believe in the power of their numbers. It all leads to the climactic parting of the Red Sea, in which Moses leads half a million people out of Egypt and into the promised land, with Ramses' army chasing them closely behind.

You may find it challenging to enjoying Exodus on its own terms, due to some unfair criticism and expectations that have been leveled at it. I’ll do my best to dispel these as a means of A) encouraging you to check out the film before it disappears from theatres and B) doing so without any media-bullshit baggage.

First, there's the casting controversy. Many have fussed over Fox's hiring a bunch of Caucasians to play ancient Egyptians. I’ll confess, it took about a half hour for me to get over the hodgepodge of Brit, faux-Brit, and nakedly American accents—along with the WTF shock of seeing Turturro as the Pharaoh.* 

Thankfully, Bale is a great actor. It can be tricky to remember beyond the Dark Knight trilogy and that Godawful Terminator sequel, but beneath the movie star glam and lights-smashing ego is a gifted performer who effortlessly sells Moses’ journey from conflicted leader to identity-challenged wanderer to reluctant head of a chosen nation. For his part, Edgerton paints a simultaneously compelling and pathetic Ramses, an essentially good but gullible fool who was raised as a god. His hubris in the face of genuine miracles and constant upstaging by his illegitimate brother are understandable, if not exactly relatable, and Edgerton's villain proudly maintains cinema's fine tradition of dangerous idiots.

Sure, it would be great if any of the hundreds of equally gifted, ethnically diverse actors worldwide got a shot at playing these marquee parts. But no studio is going to spend tens of millions of dollars to make and promote a sprawling, star-free blockbuster—because they’re aware of the slim-to-none odds of enough people showing up in order for their film to make a profit. If you’re truly concerned with the “whitewashing” of Hollywood, vote with your wallet and use your social networking skills to mass-boycott the next dozen Transformers and Marvel movies. Make record-breakers out of Selma, instead--or Get On Up, or any of the other “minority"-headlined films you’ve never heard of. Then set your sights on foreign films (“Eeew, subtitles!”), and maybe we’ll get somewhere.

Next, let's look at the myth that Exodus is nothing more than computer-generated spectacle. It's easy to pick on the shpynx with Edgerton's face; the rolling storm clouds and thousand-foot-tall Red Sea walls from the trailer; or the fact that the swarm of locusts were very clearly Z-ordered onto footage of actors directed to swat frantically (and badly, at that). But one should not take for granted the practical artistry on display here. The costumes are magnificent, and there are more practical sets than you'd expect--all of which help create a truly immersive Egypt, one whose ruling and slave classes are drawn in gloriously evocative contrast.

With a $140,000,000 budget, one would expect that Scott to have all the toys at his disposal, but Exodus swings for the visual fences, top to bottom. The attention to detail speaks to the kind of movie the filmmakers thought they were making, which is to say, artful rather than disposable.

And about those CG effects: how can you not marvel at the climactic chariot pursuit through that narrow mountain pass? As the cliffs crumble away and men and horses plummet to their bone-cracking doom, Scott and his team of effects artists create a couple minutes of genuine horror and drama. I knew that I wasn't seeing anything real, but there was a moment when I caught myself asking, "How did they do that?"

The same goes for the dramatic Red Sea set piece, in which Moses and his people must scramble across miles of jagged beach to escape Ramses' forces. Instead of simply rendering a clear pathway, Scott oversees a spooky confluence of divine wrath that includes tornadoes, lightning, and impossibly high, pregnant walls of water. There's a keen orchestration between the visual effects and the emotional showdown between Moses and Ramses that signifies a director engaged--a man who, it seems, has settled for a digital solution in lieu of the power to actually control the weather.

Lastly, Exodus is not an endorsement of religion. It's an interpretation of a religious story and, like Noah, the material benefits from a secular approach and three-dimensional thought on the part of the filmmakers. This will no doubt be a polarizing movie, and may even be a money-losing proposition for Fox. Fundamentalists may tune out when the burning bush doesn't talk to Moses. Non-religious people will use the two-and-a-half hours they would have spent with Exodus bitching in forums about how Ridley Scott has lost his touch and/or sold out to the imaginary Christian ruling class.

Again, it's essential that you look at the film on its own merits. For an example of the richness therein, let's talk about that burning bush. When Moses awakens from an avalanche that's knocked him unconscious, he sees the famous illuminated shrub. Between him and the ostensible voice of God sits a sour-faced little boy (Isaac Andrews). The boy speaks, the bush does not. In this disorienting moment, we're left to wonder if perhaps the writers have inserted the Devil between man and God.

We learn very quickly that the boy is God, and that Moses finds himself taking orders from an omnipotent but very petty and vengeful deity--the God of the Old Testament. They have many encounters throughout the film, some of which are meant to make us wonder if those rocks hit Moses a little too hard. In the end, God's vision is one of peace for "His" people, but the road to freedom is paved with mountains of corpses, on both sides--not to mention the sticky question of how and where 600,000 refugees can settle in a land that already has an indigenous population.

Exodus looks at faith from several angles, and asks us to really consider what we believe or don't believe. Though you'll be hard pressed to find any atheists in the story, cosmic doubters teem behind the scenes, raising lots of interesting questions about what it means to devote one's life to interpretations of myth. Ramses bows to a polytheistic cadre of absentee golden gods; Moses follows an inconsistent but undeniably powerful destroyer of worlds; Moses's gypsy wife (Maria Valverde) insists that the god of her people would never ask a man to leave behind his family in order to go to war.

This rivalry of uncertainty isn't confined to the past,; it persists today in a world still eating itself over beliefs, resources, and countless cults of personality. The true secrets of the universe and the meaning of life elude us, just as an ant knows relatively nothing of the iPhone it crawls across. In the grand scheme of things, who's to say if there's any meaning to the Exodus's events--and, if there is, what that meaning, means?

Exodus is a not a particularly moving experience (thanks to some of the blocks to immersion mentioned above), but it can be a mentally engaging one and a feast for the eyes. This is Ridley Scott getting back to ideas wrapped in visual splendor, rather than hanging his hat on branding (Robin Hood, anyone?). Your reaction to those ideas, or even your ability to recognize them, largely depends on what you bring with you into the theatre. My advice for maximum enjoyment: don't believe everything you read--even this review.

*Things got so grim that I drifted into “Six Degrees of Alien”, in which I connected Scott to Sigourney Weaver, with a dotted line to Ewan Bremner from AvP.


Wild (2014)

The 2,200,000-step Program

Jean-Marc Vallée may be the new face of Oscar bait, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. With last year's Dallas Buyer's Club and the just-released Wild, the director is at the forefront of a movement (collectively conscious or not) to make awards season interesting to those who've given up on traditionally stodgy, predictable, year-end films.

Yes, Wild ticks off many boxes on the Gimme Statues checklist:

  • Based on a True Story
  • Period piece
  • Meaty lead-actress role
  • Plot-light, meandering two-hour run-time
  • Social commentary masquerading as a classic Triumph of the Human Spirit story

Most casual moviegoers I know see these as reasons to avoid the multiplex between November and December. But Vallée and screenwriter Nick Hornby bring Cheryl Strayed's autobiography to life through a series of disorienting, disconnected flashbacks that only complete the film's narrative picture toward the very end. Strayed (Reese Witherspoon), you see, is a heroin addict who's undertaken an 1,100-mile trek across the Pacific Crest Trail as a means of flushing junk, guilt, and regret from her system. Memories come and go as narrative whispers, aided by flashbacks to a failed marriage and a dead mother (the tragically radiant Laura Dern), and in un-Hollywood fashion, the filmmakers leave it to us to straighten out the events that set Strayed on her treacherous journey.

Unlike 127 Hours or Into the Wild, the anguish in Wild is a springboard and not a destination. Nothing "bad" happens to Strayed on her quest, though we are constantly aware (as is she) of the unique dangers that await a relatively inexperienced young woman hiking on her own. Vallée and Hornby don't slide into melodramatic confrontations, deciding rather to focus on Strayed's many positive encounters. Set in the summer of 1995, Wild has the benefit of looking like a contemporary film, but the lack of cell phones and irony in the California neo-counterculture movement was a bit shocking--and refreshing. Strayed develops an unofficial network of fellow travelers at checkpoints and camp sites. She never stays attached for too long, keeping her eyes firmly affixed on the trail.

This is not to say that Wild is a feel-good movie, through and through. Much of it is an unflinching look at entitlement, unmet expectations, and the slippery slope of chemically aided misery. Vallée and cinematographer Yves Bélanger plant us firmly on the trail with Witherspoon, who's believable as a person so thoroughly at the end of her physical and spiritual rope that the only thing more depressing than giving up is going on. We feel every pound of Strayed's backpack (nicknamed "The Monster"); we despair at the snake-, snow-, and shrub-marked vistas that she finds herself in the middle of. Memories, visions, and dreams keep her from getting bored, but they also remind her of what awaits if she dares turn back.

Wild isn't a movie you watch, it's a movie you live in and live with. Even those of us who didn't grow up as exquisitely damaged as Cheryl Strayed likely harbor romantic notions of packing up and seeing what we--and the world--are really made of. We live in a unique time, one marked by technologies that were ostensibly designed to bring us closer together. Yet many of us find ourselves more disconnected from each other, from the wider world around us, and even, to a degree, from ourselves.

Why bother reaching into our third grade memory banks to figure out the lunch tip percentage? We have apps for that. Overwhelmed by work, family, rent, and ever-fading dreams? Try leveling-up on Candy Crush for a momentary sense of accomplishment (those other problems can wait). Vallée, Hornby, and especially Witherspoon (in one of the year's most effective but un-showy performances) challenge us to confront our demons head-on by taking the bare minimum into the wilderness and fighting to become our best selves--perhaps with a detour to see this extraordinary film before hitting the road.


The Babadook (2014)


It seems really hard to do anything original with horror right now. The genre isn't dying, but it's slipping into a coma, for sure. Fright flicks are cyclical, though, and will rebound soon enough--just as they did after the 90s, PG-13 J-horror remakes, torture porn, and 80s brand-mining. Thankfully, writer/director Jennifer Kent's The Babadook provides a slight but reassuring spike in the life meter to see us through these dark times.

On the surface, this movie is everything we've seen before: a single mom notices changes in her angelic son. In this case, unexplained phenomena and odd behavior are brought on by reading a strange book called "Mister Babadook", which Amelia (Essie Davis) discovers on Samuel's (Noah Wiseman) shelf. After several days of dark visions, darker urges, and a clawed, top-hat-wearing gremlin going bump in the night, mom can't decide if she's losing her mind, or if the storybook monster is using her family's fear to manifest in the real world.

When Hellraiser, The Shining, and Trilogy of Terror are at our fingertips, it's really hard to sneak an "homage" past hard-core horror viewers. Luckily, what makes The Babadook worthwhile (unique, even) is Kent's achingly observed depiction of single motherhood. I don't know if she's lost a husband and had to raise a child, but the everyday gauntlets Amelia maneuvers are more chilling than anything lurking under Samuel's bed. In fact, this film is most effective when it centers on they dynamic between its sleep-deprived heroine and her son, who's desperate for affection from his emotionally unavailable mother.

Forget the jump scares (aided, I'm embarrassed to admit, by a top-notch sound team), The Babadook will freak you out with its hard, fast plunge into the gooey, secret feelings we're not even supposed to admit to ourselves. It's reasonable for Amelia to have never fully recovered from the car accident that took away her beloved husband (Benjamin Winspear)--which happened on the couple's way to the hospital to deliver Samuel. But we come to find out that she may have had more love for him than she does for her own child. Or are those dark thoughts the work of Mister Babadook?

Two terrific performances reinforce the screenplay's heart. Davis sells the anguish of sleep deprivation and paints Amelia as a strong woman who's just in sight of her will's limits. As Samuel, Wiseman's easiest comparison is to that of Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. It's also an apt connection, as both child actors elevated their spook-show material through natural, memorable performances. Wiseman keeps his character from becoming another generic, bug-eyed Creepy Kid by portraying Samuel as a normal boy whose difficult life takes on far more layers than even his beyond-his-years defenses can handle.

I would love to see Kent tackle some non-genre material next. The Babadook is a fine showcase of her insightful writing and effectiveness as a filmmaker, but (intentional or not) she gets just bogged down enough in horror tropes to make this movie memorable--but not necessarily worthy of adding to the shelf.

Note: It wasn't a deal breaker, but one scene involving a character death perfectly illustrates my underlying issue with The Babadook. The moment is telegraphed several scenes before, and I hoped to God that Kent was setting up one of horror's easiest, queasiest gimmicks for a zero-hour switcheroo. Unfortunately, she plays straight into the hands of convention. Instead of registering the intended shock, I sighed and thought, "C'mon, movie, you're better than that."


Foxcatcher (2014)

The Fortune Awakens

Due to illness, this review is officially a week late--and that's a good thing. After several days of fever dreams and frustration at not being with it enough to string four coherent words together, I revisited the Foxcatcher write-up I'd begun and found it to be garbage; the kind of awards-season prose you can find on at least half of the Internet's billion-plus Websites. Despondent, I wondered if I had any business talking about movies in this digital cacophany of New Millennium opinion.*

This morning, the new Star Wars trailer hit, and reminded me of a thought I had towards the end of Bennett Miller's black-hearted wrestling dramedy: in an odd way, Foxcatcher is the "Fall of Anakin Skywalker Story" that fans of George Lucas's original trilogy waited nearly three decades for--and never got.

Hear me out.

Set in the late 80s, Foxcatcher centers on Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), whose career stalled after he and his brother, David (Mark Ruffalo), took home gold medals for wrestling in the 1984 Olympics. For Mark, sharing wrestling coach duties with his older brother at the University of Oklahoma isn't enough: he covets David's charisma, his beautiful wife, Nancy (Sienna Miller), and their kids--mostly, he's jealous of David's apparent contentment. Mark lacks imagination and the capacity to dream beyond his body, which he spends every waking moment crafting into something that millions of adoring fans might one day cheer for again.

Enter John du Pont (Steve Carell), the impossibly wealthy heir to the DuPont chemical empire. He's a wrestling fanatic whose elderly mother (Vanessa Redgrave) neither understands nor approves of his passion (she values only her prize-winning horses, bred and trained at Foxcatcher Farm, the family's luxurious Pennsylvania estate). Du Pont seizes on Mark's drive, patriotism, and lack of self-worth, and offers him the world in exchange for prepping a team for the '88 Olympic trials. Mark agrees, and du Pont stokes the flames of fear and anger with drugs and promises of power and respect.

The demons of insecurity within Mark and du Pont fall in love with each other, even though both men's natural capacity for romantic lust were extinguished long ago (if, in fact, they ever existed). Foxcatcher Farm becomes a rural Death Star, a cold and isolated planet on which a titan and his wormy, misguided apprentice rule absolutely. Du Pont can and does buy everything--from the affection of his team to the complicity of his security staff, who think nothing of his walking into a training session with a loaded handgun. Mark's only chance at redemption is David, who is encouraged to visit at du Pont's behest, and for the most insidious of reasons.

In true Jedi fashion, David does his best to extricate Mark from his master's clutches. Unfortunately, this involves signing on with du Pont and moving his family onto the estate. By this point, you see, du Pont has realized that one Schultz brother is not enough. He has the brawn in his stable, but needs the brains and the heart in order to A) rally his team and B) sell Team Foxcatcher as a legitimate athletic brand to the public. Brotherly love comes to a boiling head with unchecked greed in a terrific scene where a DuPont lackey coerces David into filming a promo video. It's a turning point for all the relationships in the film, as well as the moment when an oddly funny movie about dangerous idiots becomes a tragic riff on the scorpion and the frog parable.

Some complain that Foxcatcher is slow. I get that, but I don't accept it. One of the story's themes is boredom, and the degree to which some people will try to fool themselves and others into escaping their own deficit of mental resources. Miller and writers E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman make the most out of what could have been a cookie-cutter "Based on a True Story" story by chucking convention in favor of contemplation.

The actors breathe in these characters who, in the presence of too much "business" would have seemed patently ridiculous in the first five minutes. Instead, we're given space to appreciate not only the performers' delivery but also their astute physicality: Carell is all hunched, cared-for sniveling creep wrapped in an air of fine breeding, while Tatum and Ruffalo carry their bodies as warriors--their hands in a perpetually wrung state, as if grappling is a more natural instinct than a handshake.

Because Carell, Tatum, and Ruffalo have the flexibility to wow us with weirdness, jaw-dropping stupidity, and hard-fought tenderness, respectively, Foxcatcher becomes a film populated by rich but very, very sad people. My Star Wars analogy breaks apart later in the climax, as we don't get a dramatic, lava-surfing confrontation between brothers. Instead, Mark, the Anakin figure, is sidelined in the ultimate fight between love and hatred--as personified by David Schultz and John du Pont. It's a beautifully staged, absolutely heartbreaking stand-off that both underscores and undoes the sweat put in by both sides during this epic struggle for one sap's sole.

I could have done with a more clear-cut ending. We get the obligatory "Where Are They Now" title cards, but the imagery that closes out the drama references an obscure moment earlier in the picture, which is a bit too far a reach for those of us still reeling from that doozy of a climax. Minor gripe aside, Foxcatcher is packed with moments beautiful, creepy, funny, and touching. Miller, his cast, and his crew, have made a movie based on real life that feels at once plausible and so weird that it might as well have taken place in another galaxy.

*This existential crisis manifests about twice a month, but gets positively grim when sickness strikes.