Now You See Me 2 & Birdman

Now You Do


We no longer hide the multiple ego clusterfucks that make films unwatchable; we put them in the logo.
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Reported on 24th of August, 2016

You didn’t see the production company slug at the head of Now You See Me 2. Maybe it’s because each territory has a different company assigned to it. Or because you didn’t see it. Or because you saw it and are now dead from this forced march of clichés and faux surprises, somehow static and scattered at the same time. I’m fine. I’ve been inoculated. Which gave me a horrible disease. Which makes me immune.

Realistic Magic


re: Now You See Me 2 & Birdman
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But it’s the slug that I’ll always remember, for the soon to be renamed-disbanded-hugely successful-failure: K/O Paper Products. It’s almost too good to be true, and reproduced here without any permission whatsoever. Take a look:

1162 copy

What does this tell us? Sure, there’s the towering laziness where they couldn’t be arsed to either build a typewriter with double the keys, or even do a competent job with a CG typewriter. There’s the clean symbolization of too many ideas lacking the single theme or mind or editorial capacity to make a film with a passing level of competence.

But what this really tells us is that they no longer hide the multiple ego clusterfucks that make films unwatchable. No, they we put them in the logo. K absolutely had to be included with O because of all of G’s amazing ideas about Z. They have happened upon the shortcut to actually being good: be lousy, then boast about it.

And while too many (bad) ideas is certainly the fate of NYSM2 (not the least which, call it Now You Don’t [thanks for that, Richard]. After Die Harder, make an effort here guys), it’s Bazin that really explains the failures best.

See, M. André Bazin was one of the world’s first film theorists. Among his more famous assertions: that the single take was the closest representation of reality. As such, NYSM2 put me in mind of the generally successful though evil Children of Men. I wrote about it in detail here, but neglected this one observation re: the difference between the various single take sequences.

The first, which involves a digital ping-pong ball and a digital 360° track around the car, not so interesting. It’s phony as shit, and invokes little feeling other than an undisguised to camera eye-roll. Not sure where the camera is, but you get the idea.

The second is an actual take (it isn’t, but the fakey-ness is minimized) where Mr. Clive Owens sneaks through the compound to rescue Pregnant Girl Who Will Certainly Save Us All. It’s entirely from his point of view, there are no cuts, and the tension is palatable. Not unlike Mr. Preston Sturges’ famous ten minute shots, the feeling that something could go wrong with the take translates into the viewing.

Gravity is more successful for the reason that the CGI is believable, so to speak. It’s not just that the effects are pretty decent, but that we have no frame of reference having not been in space. Also, Sr. Caurón had at this point developed past the let’s do everything in single take phase, and was just picking the shots that would work best.

And since we’re in Bazin country, let’s unearth all the vitriol I generated, then buried, about the despicable Birdman. Maybe I was waiting for a crap film to compare it to, and the fact that Now You See It 2 and Birdman are exactly the same film for exactly the same reasons is too good to pass up. There’s joy in the idea that the sucky award winner winds up as a footnote in an article about the least anticipated sequel since the I-had-to-look-it-up-because-it-actually-contains-two-forgettable titles Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

Birdman

5 January 2015 @ The Cineworld Crawley


-$11.71 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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Even on the face of it, Birdman is crummy. The writing lacks frisson, the motivations have no resonance and characters aren’t interesting enough to be terrible, just unpleasant enough to be hateful. In the end, he kills himself on stage to get authenticity. What a great idea for my 1990s student film! Oh my God, we should totally put in a Raymond Carver quote accompanied with jazz drums! (forgot that one, didnja?) As he wakes up in the hospital post-suicided, you realize it doesn’t even have the feeble conviction of that 1990s student film.

What kills me, other than its unwarranted praise, is its much touted technical achievement – the faux single take. This doesn’t, scratch that, this can’t work because it flaunts its counterfeit. We know it’s concocted. The point of the single take, as Bazin tells us and is right, is the excitement of reality. Birdman, taking place as it does over three days, is de facto fake. Instead of the tension of the increasing moment, we get a gimmick.

The film’s theme offers the gimmick equivalent. Not unlike Inside Llewyn Davis, we are told, by the famous and prestigious, that art only offers a choice between fame or prestige. To be filled with joy having made something beautiful does not occur, either to the filmmakers or during the experience.

In order to understand why this is apparently a ‘good’ film, I scoured the reviews (a sentence written in 2014; I’m seasonedly lazy these days). I noticed that each was intent on discovering what the film was critical of. One review would say how it hated critics, or pop culture, or high culture, or Raymond Carver. But it’s the aggregate that makes the point. The film has disdain for everything.

Nihilism has many faults. But most vitally, it’s no different than CGI single takes and fraudulent girl-girl kisses. It’s easy. It’s safe. In fact, this critical perspective is the safest place. There is no vulnerability, and hence no risk. This film despite the accidental moments of honesty brought out by its actors, remains cowardly hollow. The problem with nihilism, and it’s the problem with the film, is literal, inasmuch as anything metaphorical can be. In lieu of saying nothing, the film proclaims it.

The Take: Birdman

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Profits!
You know how this goes. I liked the scene of the with the critic. Her cynicism felt real. This means the only irony generated by the film is my making fun of myself.
$1.00
Total Profits
$1.00
Remember this clunker: ‘I’m your best friend and your attorney.’? Probably don’t. You couldn’t hear the line over the jazz drums.
$2.00
Here’s another one; took a lot of notes: ‘Not a bad first act, huh?’ This line works, ‘works’ defined here as masquerading cliché as art, in two senses. It is both a slack reminder of the the fourth wall, and a way to create tension for events that can’t do it on their own. It’s brilliant!, it seems to say about itself.
$3.00
He has superpowers. Or does he? It’s ambiguous.
$1.00
AMBIGUOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!
$2.00
Obviously the praise/praiseworthiness index applies here. Due to a new application of a formula that now incorporates how short a time period passes before everyone pretends they never saw it, I’ll say
$4.71
Total Losses
$12.71

$11.71

Now You See Me 2

27 July 2016 @ The Gaumont Rennes


-$2.50 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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In the case of Now You See Me 2, Bazin’s example is perversely appropriate: the magic act. When you see magic, it’s exciting because there are no cutaways, no tricks, so to speak. I was just as utterly horrified to discover that I actually remembered this correctly, as you might be that I would bother to check.

Now You See Me 2 contains no single takes, but it’s got a diaperload of very fakey CGI legerdemain. CGI magic tricks are not very exciting, and mostly kind of sad. But it’s more the second question of trickery, which one might think of the CGI of screenwriting.

There’s going to be a twist, of course, I think it was that Mr. Morgan Freeman was the good guy instead of the bad guy. It’s generally hard to remember since, when confronted with why he didn’t say so either in the first movie, the second one, or before any of the movies even took place, he replies ‘I couldn’t.’ Technically this is true – the previous film exists, and he couldn’t.

I believe the kids today call this retconning. This would imply that there is a NYSM universe, something that terrifies the Newtonian in all of us. What more interesting in a Bazinian sense (and what wouldn’t be) is these types of Lost-ish we’ll add a story in post shenanigans are the narrative counterpart to thinking that CGI is the same as actually being able to do sleight of hand.

Magic, not unlike writing, takes skill. Technically speaking, it takes repetition. I don’t mean this in the 10,000 hour rule sense, but in going back and back and back until you actually find a situation that plays both ways. The magic trick, as the underrated The Prestige tells us (I quoted Bazin, now I use Nolan movies. Sad really) is divided into three parts.

The last part is The Prestige, and I forget the other two. I’m quoting Nolan movies, what do you want from me?

But magic works because we think one thing will happen and another does: setup and twist. NYSM2 is film about magic that can’t be bothered with even a basic setup, only a twist. It is best thought of a magician who puts a rabbit in a box and then shows you a photo of it on their phone.

Makes you wish they had four hands.

The Take: Now You See Me 2

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Profits!
As you watch these true pros flounder (has Mr. Mark Ruffalo ever been bad? Yes!), one immediately wonders how the men with these super agents couldn’t wiggle out of the ill-advised sequel, while the relatively powerless Ms. Isla Fisher and Mlle. Mélanie Laurent managed to, well, escape. To get any joy, I’m going to imagine this was a feminist victory, and not a desire to avoid paying them even cents on the dollar.
$1.00
Mr. Woody Harrelson is having fun as the evil twin (yes, there’s an evil twin), likewise Mr. Daniel Radcliffe. The actors provide the only pleasure you’re going to get with the nonexistent material, either from goofing off, or imagining the ones that got away.
$1.00
Total Profits
$2.00
Losses!
Remember when we liked Jesse Eisenberg? It was before he turned into Mark Zuckerberg. I didn’t say ‘played.’
$1.00
There’s a placid scene where a card with stuff on it is thrown back and forth between characters as they are being searched. I believe it was supposed to be a set-piece, and cool. GGI throwing undermines any enjoyment, but the undermining digs even deeper as the card is thrown to characters who are being searched, characters that have already been searched but about to be searched again, etc. They didn’t realize that you couldn’t build a scene on a character being searched, then being thrown something once and that’s it. So they built it anyway.
$3.50
Total Losses
$4.50

$2.50

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