Jojo Rabbit

How do you make Hitler NOT funny?


The lack of bad taste leaves... I dunno... something in your mouth.  
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Reported on 26th of January, 2020

Yes, I’d be banned from the internet for even saying that, if the internet even knew I existed. It’s an accomplishment of sorts. But this is the kind of joke absent from Jojo Rabbit neither Fish (Called Wanda) nor… Chicken Run is the best I got for ‘fowl’. A pastiche of awkward look-at-me edginess, it remains useful only as a teachable moment of what happens when you never find that most elusive of film properties: tone.

All over the place characters, motivations, jokes, story and even the history, the film suffers from not knowing what it is combined with wanting to show us so much how interesting it can be. It’s not unlike, say, a short film made by an eighteen-year-old who just didn’t know better, say… me

Jojo Rabbit

26 January 2020 @ The UGC Gobelins


-$23.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

§  §  §

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Yes, at the end of my senior year, I made the dubious short and yet too long “Bikini Blood Feast”. It was a huge success out of getting me out of doing sports for two semesters, but an embarrassing disaster otherwise.

It’s notable for the fact that I sat on my ass for seven months, than made it in two. Doesn’t sound notable? That’s because in the process of hurrying it together, I edited it on two VCRs, pausing and pressing record on one and play on the other. Like the old mix-tape days, it killed both the video quality and utterly eliminated all the recorded sound, which then had to be dubbed… live, in one take.

There is very little good in this short, mostly poor riffs on Monty Python absurdity, violent overlong parody and bad animation. Given the utter lack of laughs when I was watching it, I (not knowing who) William Castle (was) improvised and planted cast members in talk backs to the screen during its one screening on campus.

It didn’t save the experience of watching the film.

“Bikini Blood Feast”, however, contains one great thing. Being an utterly pretentious fan of Samuel Beckett, I had the moderately inspired idea of having a group of three characters sit in a room, waiting for an alarm to be pulled, whereupon they press the alarm to alert others. The function as no more than a human relay switch, and, in the interim, they wait. With dialog such as

 

Long pause.
Richard Massey
“What do we do now?”
Long pause.
Paul Gutierrez
“We wait.”
Pat McAtee
(long pause)
“Wait for what?”
Long pause.
Cut back to giant robot attacking city, etc.

 

It had its moments.

Whatever its dubious technical achievements “BBF” is considerably better than Jojo Rabbit. I’d be willing to endure the obvious personal mortification of people seeing it (that’s not going to happen), just for the sake of knowing that I’m not boasting, merely emphasizing how subpar Mr. Waititi’s film actually is.

Helluva windup, yeah. I know. You think I brought this film up to force you to relive my ignominy. But no, instead it’s because my film, as I remember it, ended thuslike:

 

Eric Gross
“What do we do now?”
Adam Rey
“We dance!”

 

Mr. Taika Waititi, seeming to lack the non-existent film acumen of an awkward and inept eighteen-year-old non-filmmaker still knew, as this is the ending of Jojo Rabbit.

Word For Word.

I’ve written way too much, so I’m going to write a bit more, mostly as a note for self. Now I’m a hater of writing backwards, having your ending and cattle prodding scenes to lead characters to the abattoir exit. But ends are important, and there’s ways to do this.

I was thinking of this during the one good scene of the film, which will in turn underline the terrible awfulness of the lousy craptasicality of the many other scenes that proceed.

Our lead, a ten-almost-qualifies-him-to-make-short-films-about-giant-robots-year-old, Mr. Roman Griffin Davis, is captured by the Russians wearing a Nazi uniform, and is about to be shot. He meets his old Hitler Youth captain. Mr. Sam Rockwell, also captured. Mr. Rockwell – cleverly, and working at more than one level, denounces the dedicated Nazi boy as a Jew, and pulls off the uniform, saving him.

The unseparate tickets demonstrate Dorothée’s and my love. But why this film? WHY??????

The smile on Mr. Rockwell’s face as he is dragged off to be shot goes right through you. The piercing clarity of that moment of sacrifice haunts you, mostly as the ghost of what this film could have been.

It would have loved to see a film that earned that moment, that culminated there. To be fair, this may not be the theme of your film. So be it. But that’s not the problem.

The problem is that all the scenes and characters and moments not only don’t lead there, they lead nowhere, like a river made of Rorschach’s. Mr. Rockwell is introduced as a wounded soldier, angry that he isn’t permitted to return to the front and now bitterly consigned to train Hitler Youth. Perfectly decent setup.

Then, it seems, he’s gay, in love with his lieutenant, and designing campy and fabulous uniforms with which to go into battle. Then, he saves Ms. Thomasin McKenzie hiding in the attic (with whom our titular character falls in love, below), and then he does that nice unearned moment at the end. Less arc, more tachycardic.

Mr. Rockwell’s tachy-arc is not unlike Mr. Waititi’s Hitler, who begins promisingly as how antisemitism might look like in a boy’s imagination, then swaps over to an overwrought life-coach for the weak, then in order to reach the climax, full Hitlerian rant.

Ms. Scarlett Johansson’s mother isn’t even given this kind of static character, instead just being the Saint Who Is Killed To Prove That This Film Is More Than a Comedy. While she does hide a young Jewish girl in her attic, the rest of her rebellion is shown – as one did in 1940s Germany – handing out flyers.

Seemingly unaware of what such a society might look like, or how our own can’t seem to let go of it, the best it can imagine for a member of the resistance is the current horde of twitivists with whom we contend today. What would these flyers say, one imagines? #NotMyFuhrer?

A line which I’m sorry to say, as middling as it is, remains a better joke than anything the film came up with. Because if you’re going to do a comedy about Hitler, you have to go all the way. Make it from Hitler’s point of view, make it from the contemporary perspective that can’t seem to shut up about Hitler, or even make it from the boy’s. Do what Monty Python did, realize that you ultimately can’t make a film about Jesus, and make it about the followers.

There is no good Oscar this year, in a group of films ‑ all but one I have seen ‑ about which the most complimentary one can be about the best of them is 'pathetic'.

But don’t make a pastiche. Don’t construct a diagesis with dire consequences… and then forget about them. Don’t show us wild flights of fancy and show mothers (and rabbits) are shown gruesomely dying. Wanna give Hitler retroviseur dialog, because wouldn’t that be funny? Fine. But then don’t suddenly realize that it’s not funny, and double down on the camp because you’re the director and there’s no one there to stop you.

Last night’s gift of the Oscar to Jojo Rabbit, stung a bit. Writer is the good Oscar, but there is no good Oscar this year, in a group of films – all but one I have seen – about which the most complimentary one can be about the best of them is ‘pathetic’.

What stings is the imagination is that this chaotic look-at-me drivel is what Mr. Waititi gets the accolades for. After the great, and you know, FUNNY, Thor: Ragnarok and What We Do In the Shadows, I’m imagining the Second Peter Hyams Rule in reverse. Let’s not be obvious and call it The 2010 Was Better Than 2001 rule.

Mr. Stanley Kubrick was a decent genre filmmaker, ruined by praise of his innovations, which did little/nothing to the actual enjoyment of his films. As poor Mr. Paul Thomas Anderson did with There Will Be Blood and Mr. Wes Anderson did with Rushmore, I imagine Mr. Waititi will ride the wave of this recognition into the cinematic equivalent of a Sumatra resort, killing millions.

With its poor characterizations and inconsistency. If they were horribly killed by actual tsunami, that would be in very bad taste indeed.

The Take

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Profits!
The thing I said about Mr. Rockwell, and that he as an actor seemed to know it
$3.00
The film was a sneak at UGC, which can sometimes involve cast and crew members introducing the film. Instead Dorothée and I were graced with an employee who fancied herself, I don’t know, someone who can introduce a film. She proceeded to read from a piece of paper that I noted – immediately – was ‘Oh shit, is that two pages?’ It was. The talk was an attempt to mollify the audience about a film that did its best to do the same. She gave away major plot points, was boring and explained that Mr. Wakiti had decided to leave out the part of the book, potentially interesting, where the young boy grows up. Why is this a profit? Because as soon as I heard this, I said to my brain, ‘Hey brain. All you have to do is remember that you don’t speak French’. To which my brain said, ‘Oh yeah. Thanks!’, and I didn’t hear a thing after that. Sorry Dorothée…
$2.00
Total Profits
$2.00
Losses!
I’ve said enough, so let me say one more thing. Mr. Griffin Davis, not terribly good, before he says ‘We dance’, falls in love with the Ms. McKenzie, in the attic. As the town is invaded, he runs about, without much purpose, getting into adventures and …
allowing Ms. Rebel Please Stop Casting Me Wilson to hysterically give guns to children to run into Soviet gunfire. Hr. Uwe Boll pulled this off in Postal because he’s incompetent and thinks he’s a genius. You can’t pull this off … because … shit. How incompetent are you?
$4.00
… anyway Mr. Rockwell saves him and so on. During this entire time, Mr. Griffin Davis FORGETS about Ms. McKenzie, potentially to be killed or bombed during any second he delays. Yes, it’s incompetent and makes for an inconsistent character, the fact that the entire movie is about his love for her. But it’s such an easy fix – he has to save her, and must then contend with Ulyssesian encounters along the way. It’s an easy fix the other way too: have him forget her, in the way of 10-year-old boys. Make it about the character. Find a tone. Stay with it. The Rockwell scene is what the film could have been; this is what the film was.
$24.00
Total Losses
$28.00

-$23.00

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