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Life Through the Lens: All things must come to an end

Jonah Hill, from left, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence in “Don’t Look Up.” (AP Photo)

“I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather…not screaming in terror like his passengers.”

***

Who would be at your “last supper”? What would the conversation be about? If you knew this was the end, how would you spend your final moments and who would you invite to share them? Would you all sit on the same side of the table…as custom is, obviously.

Although I don’t know you, your answers are probably the same as mine. That doesn’t speak to our secret similarities; that is a testament to humanity and its underlying needs and desires. In the end, you hold tight to those closest to your heart. Culture would tell you that friends are infinite, and a bond is as deep as a shared post…but “the end” would strip away all but a true and loyal band of brothers/sisters. The round table surrounding your heart has only seats for a few.

Amidst the tears inevitable at “the end” would come a joy that transcended the coming conclusion. When love is present, laughter is never far behind. The words exchanged would not be about fads and fashions. They would not circle the surface and the circumstantial. Your words would be precious few and numbered; your words would be of memories, of opportunities, of foundation. You would listen intently, you would share completely, and you would embrace fully.

There will be no supper like that last one!

***

The Beatles have conquered the charts, changed music, and solidified themselves as bonified world shakers…yet find themselves feeling stagnant and static. Their success aside, they are all yearning for MORE. More freedom. More expression. More originality. More depth.

Often times, the cost of “more” is purposeful “less”…less of something else. To achieve the more they so desire individually…maybe what they need is less Beatles. Is this the end?

They enter the studio in 1969 hesitating to label this “the end”…but knowing it to be true. What would be a fitting end? The initial idea is so simple: write and record a live album of 14 new songs, to be performed on a movie sound stage in front of a live audience, being documented by a camera crew the whole time, all culminating in a new Beatles’ movie…oh, and this is to happen in about two weeks’ time before their recording engineer and Ringo have to leave for prior engagements. With all of these constrictions and obligations, how can the fab-four find space for inspiration?

The tensions mount, the tempers soar, the expectations suffocate…then the genius surfaces, the brotherhood triumphs, and the music prevails!

Let me begin this criticism by stating that Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back is nearly eight hours long! That’s a long time, right? Full disclosure: I could have watched this production an hour a day for the rest of my life and never grown weary. The intimacy on display is shockingly accessible — the brilliance is so tangible it literally brought tears to my eyes. Songs like “Get Back” and “Let It Be” have more gravity than a small planet, yet we can watch them be conceived, worked, loved, shared, and, ultimately, perfected! Art is second-to-none…yet this is even more special than that in some ways. It is not the talent and technique of one artist — it is four virtuosos working in sync to create with one brush stroke. That is a wonder to behold!

Peter Jackson has an undeniable issue with dragging his material out, often saying in three movies what could be said in just one…but his unrelenting details are exactly what free this project into the atmosphere! It is unrestrained! It feels organic, humble, and authentic.

My favorite feeling in the experience is the battle-tested and achingly honest friendship shared between the four men. Yes, there is growing distance…but the depth to which they have relied on each other is as beautiful as can be imagined. Who better to share these final moments with than your brothers?

The Beatles: Get Back can be streamed right now on Disney+.

REPORT CARD: Get Back

Grade: A+

Comment: It is beyond words (and notes)!

***

In her routine telescopic viewing of the stars, graduate student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) finds something truly unexpected: a comet. That finding alone is cause for celebration! Dibiasky presents her finding to her mentor Dr. Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the excitement grows. In the midst of the academic euphoria, one calculation brings gravity to the discovery: that comet has a trajectory…and it just so happens to be planet earth! No matter how many times they run the numbers, the apocalyptic-truth remains: earth is doomed.

Dr. Mindy runs the information up the ladder, eventually leading him to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordinator named Dr. Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan). The panic and urgency is shared, and the ladder is extended to its final rung: the President of the USA (Meryl Streep). After many hours of waiting and excuses, the president’s door is finally open for their charitable 20-minute meeting.

President Orlean makes it clear right away that this problem is much too hypothetical; she herself has many more pressing issues that don’t involve yucky math. She brushes it off with a “we’ll think on it.” Dejected and desperate, they decide to leak the story to the public — light a fire under the White House the old-fashioned-way. They land a spot on America’s favorite morning talk show “The Daily Rip,” hosted by Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry); instead of transferring their fear to the public, though, the morning show duo keeps it light and brushes off anything not patter-worthy and smile-inducing. Dr. Mindy is now America’s official hot-scientist-guy while Dibiasky is pummeled through social media over her passion and seething anger.

The time is ticking, but no one is listening. Humanity is about to get decimated, but they can’t even be convinced to just LOOK UP!

Writer/director Adam McKay has become a favorite of mine. Although his roots are slapstick (Anchorman, Step Brothers), his true voice is much more complicated and rich. His direction has become sharp-satire, and his commentary is growing profound. He is continuing to impress me with his skill and wisdom. McKay is a rare-breed in Hollywood: one that can instruct through wit. This film, although not as complete as his 2018 film Vice, is as fun as it is challenging as it is moving as it is repulsive. “When I look at this world, Mr. McKay, I see satire, too! How else could someone swallow this bitter (yet full of natural minerals from Fiji and promises to extend your life without exercise) pill?”

The movie’s acting is steady. DiCaprio brings a form of childlike sympathy. Lawrence does her best to be the film’s moral (yet volatile) chewy-center. Streep is hilariously spoofy and simple — I hope this is not reflective of our political figures…but reality hurts sometimes. Jonah Hill, as President Orlean’s son and chief of staff, is a consistent source of bile and sarcasm. Cate Blanchett is one of my all-time-favs, and her role is a wonderful mix of plastic and explosives! Her character refuses depth…but she wears it on her heavily made face. Mark Rylance, as tech billionaire Peter Isherwell, delivers a brilliant piece of comedy — his hesitation and withheld energy is enough to drive you mad! Timothie Chalamet, as Yule, is a amazing late addition to the movie; his soft-spoken severity provides a genuine soul to the end. Overall, each part is acted well and blended with a thumb on the movie’s pulse.

Another standout is editor Hank Corwin. The movie has a pace to it that relies heavily on McKay’s vision but Corwin’s execution. Scenes don’t flow fluidly — they are often jolted and cut short. I love the effect: there is comedy in everything! Even editing lends itself to its own type of funny.

Don’t Look Up can be streamed right now on Netflix.

REPORT CARD: Don’t Look Up

Grade: A

Comment: A riotous and relatable doom-foretelling fable

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