The Zoom Call
When asked to describe his innovative use of overlapping dialogue, the pioneering filmmaker Robert Altman said, “If you've got fourteen people at a dinner table, it seems to me it's pretty unlikely that only two of them are going to be talking.” The same is true of the Zoom Call, a madcap ensemble of five hundred blabbing faces gabbing over one another in cacophonous fashion, without pause.
Despite her charismatic leading performance, the Host is lost in the noise of this drama - overstuffed by technologically inept cast members with whom she's forced to share the screen. Deplorable sound mixing, poor production design and purposeless CGI do nothing to help her shoulder the cumbersome film. (What are we to make of a narrative that indulgently transforms faces to spuds?)
Yet, there are nods to a simpler cinema peppered throughout. When a woke teen explains he's taken a vow of silence out of political protest, he writes to his confused contacts, “I'm not on mute, I am mute.” The ensuing quiet is delectable. One can't help but wonder what the Zoom Call might have been had it more enthusiastically embraced the silent film era. As it is, there's more joy to be found in the jingle of early 2000's Mazda commercials.
Papa John's No Contact Delivery
As with Spielberg's shark or Beowulf's Grendel long before it, the power in this cinema verité derives not so much from the spectacle itself, but what is left to the imagination — precisely how does the Papa John's pizza arrive to the floor of the front door?
We never see the delivery man stoop to place the pie on the welcome mat. We do not hear the crack and pop of his manipulated vertebrae as he gingerly lowers the cheese pie to the ground. Nor do we witness him adjust the edges of the corrugated box with his gloved finger and thumb, ever so slightly, so that after hearing the chime of the doorbell, we discover our steaming container of cheese squarely at our feet. (The exquisitely simplistic blocking is sure to woo Wes Andersonites.)
But we imagine the process and we envision the strain, endured with grace, so that a hot meal might safely arrive to our home. Not even Joon-Ho's scathing class commentary so palpably renders the horror of late capitalism social inequality. I ate it up. Order extra-large and leave a 25% tip.
The problem with Furloughed Guy isn't so much the “guy” as the “furlough.” How long will it go on? To what extent will it devastate our protagonist's finances? Will his unemployment benefits actually expire? Are we to believe he is any more deserving of sympathy than the millions of other characters who have permanently lost their positions?
A clearer understanding of the stakes is needed in this muddied existential drama - heavily influenced by the Coen Brothers' bluer comedies, and Murray's time-looping turn in Groundhog Day - to know whether our hero may wind up short on his bills or short on savings for a trip to Bali.
But hats off to our leading male for embracing the role's banal physicality. Each half-hearted push-up and mediocre squat suggests a jilted bachelor not trying to pass time so much as force it into existence. Though, this reviewer would have much preferred if the jump rope were played by the shape-shifting Joaquin Phoenix.
Blame Bill Gates
Not since Charlize Theron's unforgettable achievement in Monster has there been a character transformation as remarkable as that of the Anti-Vaxxer Who Resists Social Distancing and Blames Bill Gates for Manufacturing COVID-19.
Watching this self-anointed lifestyle expert disparage health care professionals on social media is not easy viewing. The caps lock screeds which deny the deaths of thousands, may cause viewers to avert their eyes from their screens. And yet, one can't help but watch our unhinged antihero descend the ever goopier slope into the world of conspiracy theory that causes her to conclude that the founder of Microsoft is in cahoots with the CDC to secretly assert a deep-state New World Order by deploying surgically implanted computer chips and 5G - a convoluted plot indeed.
Too few films blend family-friendliness with ultra-violent horror. In what might best be described as a marriage of Home Alone and David Fincher's Panic Room, this genre-bender does just that in spectacular fashion, while probing the psyche of the domesticated suburbanite to beg the question: What if the home was invaded not by those outside, but those within - our own restless, diminutive beings, capable of unspeakable atrocity?
Neighbor Walks Her Dog Again 5
In the absence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I suspect this derivative and scatological tentpole franchise isn't going anywhere anytime soon.