I said that I wouldn’t write negative reviews on this blog so I’ll try to find something positive to say about the mess that is Brian De Palma’s 2019 thriller Domino (currently streaming on Netflix). Any superficial criticism of the film can begin with the lack of originality in the title (the late Tony Scott also directed a film with the same title). More serious criticism can be the leveled at the film’s broad depiction of Islamic terrorists, its often poor-paced editing, and its general low-budget aesthetic.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (famous thanks to Game of Thrones) plays a Copenhagen police detective whose partner is killed on a routine arrest gone wrong due to Coster-Waldau forgetting his service weapon (just one of several implausibilities in the plot), Carice van Houten (also a veteran of Game of Thrones) plays another Copenhagen cop looking for the man who killed NCW’s partner, and Guy Pearce is a C.I.A. operative in possession of the killer everyone else is looking for.
Domino starts off as a film noir complete with a very traditional symphonic score and jarringly becomes an espionage film when it is revealed that the man who killed the hero’s partner is also looking for revenge against an ISIS leader who killed his father (you get an idea of how plotty this film is). So nearly every Muslim in the film is portrayed as a terrorist except for the necessary Muslim cop fighting with the good guys. De Palma rather recklessly includes a mass shooting at a film festival. The world has enough of these horrors already, and cinema doesn’t need to depict them especially if Muslims are to be typecast as the shooters.
The film’s edits seem to happen a beat or two before expected giving the editing an unnaturally noticeable feel. There is a great, nearly wordless sequence at a bullfight (this coming from someone who hates bullfights) that is both suspenseful and recalls silent films.
What else can I say that’s positive when it comes to such an unnecessary film? Well, Coster-Waldau is likable and handsome, Pearce is fun to watch as usual, and at least De Palma is still making movies.
I didn’t plan on watching the Oscars last night. The broadcast just happened to be playing at the restaurant I was located. I’m grateful that I got to see the last handful of awards especially Joaquin Phoenix’s win for Best Actor in Joker. Phoenix, once known for abhorring the awards show circuit he was paraded through with Walk the Line, displayed gratitude, humility, compassion, and wisdom in his wide-ranging acceptance speech that promoted forgiveness over woke ‘cancel culture’ and compassion for animals over destructive natural resource plundering. So now we know he is both a great actor as well as brave and thoughtful. Phoenix was already brilliant in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here. The rest of us are now caught up.
I’m five episodes into showrunner Richard Price’s miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s The Outsider on HBO. The premium channel is clearly looking to profit off the southern gothic whodunnit premise and aesthetic of its first season of True Detective as well as its own Sharp Objects miniseries. When a young boy is brutally murdered in a small town, the local baseball coach (Jason Bateman) is arrested for the crime despite being in another state when the murder occurred. Everything about the series indicates craftsmanship from the meticulous cinematography to the abnormally exceptional cast (Ben Mendelsohn, Bateman, Julianne Nicholson, Cynthia Erivo, Bill Camp, and Yul Vazquez), but this is a Stephen King adaptation so with that comes a supernatural doppelgänger premise that worked in a postmodern show like Twin Peaks, but only the remaining episodes of The Outsider will reveal if Price and company can pull the premise off in a more straightforward and earnest show such as this one.
I had the good fortune yesterday of driving from Long Beach to Rancho Palos Verdes for a close friend’s wedding. The drive from Long Beach through Rancho Palos Verdes for the wedding itself and then through Torrance, Hermosa Beach, and finally to Manhattan Beach for the reception was gorgeous. This world is certainly full of beauty and goodness.
Does the world need yet another film and music review blog? No, definitely not. There are plenty of those. Does a new blog need an introduction? No to that too. So why am I starting a new blog to review films, records, television shows, and books? The main reason is that the type of intelligent, informed, and big-hearted criticism I grew up is still out there, but it feels drowned out by all the drive-by snark and navel-gazing that seem part and parcel to the social media age. So I’ll have one main rule with this blog: if I don’t like something, then I won’t review it. This will be a blog for positive reviews and positive news. I hope you’ll follow me as I attempt to stay positive in the fertile land of pop culture.