By the time you read this I’ll be on the road to Denver Comic-Con 2017, where I will most likely take in more panels than I’ll even remember, miss out even more panels than I can count, eat overpriced food, stick my nose up at all those suckers paying a month’s rent just for celebrity autographs and then suddenly envy them when I see a celebrity whose autographic I’d actually love to have and hopefully come away with plenty of interesting content to chew over and maybe write about. However, that means I most likely won’t be updating the site for the next couple of days (I will try to still review the Doctor Who finale this weekend). Before I go, I want to post my brief thoughts on two new Netflix movies: Bong Joon-ha’s Okja and Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press.
They’re both good.
Wow. I guess I really did mean “brief thoughts.” Surely I can do better than that.
They’re both really good.
Alright, smartass. What’s the point of this if you’re not going to take it seriously?
Okja, of course, is the movie Cannes loved to boo because how dare Netflix come up in here and upend traditional theatrical distribution. Blah, blah, blah. All juicy, Hollywood business stuff, the type I love to write about, but what about the actual movie? Is it any good? Heck, what is it even about?
That’s actually a harder question to answer than you’d think because Okja starts out as a lovely, Spielbergian tale of a girl and her pet pig (er, technically genetically modified super pig) before it turns into a Coen Bros.-esque farce involving evil corporations led by Tilda Swinton and her twin (both trying to turn these super pigs into super foods to end world hunger), doofy animal rights activists led by Paul Dano and Jake Gyllenhaal as a Steven Irwin type if Steven Irwin had been an alien doing a lousy impression of a human being ala 3rd Rock from the Sun. There is an overall point being made about the evils of the meat industry and genetically engineering animals, but the messaging is somewhat muddled due to the film’s ongoing genre-hopping. Think of it as Pete’s Dragon meets Babe: Pig in the City meets a Coen Bros. movie. It’s a weird, but highly watchable combination, though perhaps easier to take if you are already sympathetic to the film’s clearly anti-meat eater point of view. Seriously, the climactic scene at the meat packing plant is genuinely disturbing, and will probably have me eating nothing but salads for the next couple of days. However, the film seems to be at its best or at least most consisent in the early scenes when it’s just the 14-year-old girl and her CGI pet, frollicking in the South Korean wilderness, content as could be.
Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press is similalry high-minded, with a clear goal to act as a rallying cry for beleaguered journalists everywhere, but it takes a more direct approach to achieving its goals. This documentary highlights several high profile recent cases of corporate interference in journalism (a billionaire with a grudge using Hulk Hogan’s sex tape case to bankrupt Gawker, a casino owner with a couple of columnists to silence secretly buying the newspaper they wrote for, etc.) to make a larger point about the uncertain future of the fourth estate, a certainly topical point considering all that has happened literally just in the time since I watched this doc two nights ago (Sarah Palin has sued the New York Times, The White House is waging war on CNN, ABC settled a suit over its pink slime reporting).
The doc is on somewhat shakier ground when it pivots from the Hogan-Gawker case (he had a sex tape, they posted part of it, he rolled with it and openly boasted about the tape, then another part of the tape revealing him using racist language was released and cost him his WWE job, he sued) toward Trump, mostly using outrageous clips of him to bridge the gap from the Hogan half of the doc to the Vegas half, but the larger point about the fourth estate being under seige is well argued and a necessary reminder that while Trump sucks up all the oxygen in the room other things are happening that we don’t notice. It takes hard-working journalists to uncover all of that for us, and watching the Gawker journalists dig into discovering who exactly is the billionaire bankrolling Hogan’s legal fees or the Vegas newspaper writers turning their own newspaper into the subject of their inquiry after a suspicious ownership change is like poetry in motion, enjoyable purely for the mystery-solving process of it all.
Have you seen either Okja or Nobody Speak? If so, what did you think?