So I’m back, back from holidays. I took a trip across Europe, which was mainly an excuse from to getaway from Uni, but also proved to be a great break from The Blog Complainer. For most of June and July I wasn’t seeing any movies besides on the plane and I was often too tired from sightseeing to write anything substantial. Though its pretty funny my absence was actually quite detrimental to the summer movie season’s survival. Big movies while I was away like The Flash and the new Indiana Jones film were all huge flops and on top of that there is the current writers/actors strike that is likely going to have sour taste on the entertainment industry for the rest of the year. Though on the day I made my trek back home Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan’s new films Barbie and Oppenheimer both came out and have become instant hits. The popularity of these two films releasing on the same day spawned the Barbenheimer phenomenon a trend that encourages people to watch these two movies back to back for the ultimate tonal whiplash experience. As for one Barbie is based around the Mattel toy line and its a colourful comedy that the whole family can see whilst Oppenheimer is a biopic that deals with the anxiety and moral dilemmas of being the man to give World War II Americans the first ever Atomic Bomb.
With my return to cinemas I watched these on the same day, not just it was a popular thing to do, but more so I enjoy these directors previous movies and the trailers for these two movies looked really promising. Barbie’s trailer might my favourite of this whole year, with Oppenheimer would be my third. (I have soft spot for that Cocaine Bear trailer.) Anyway its nice to see this trend exist for two movies that I believe deserve this sort of attention, as its better than last year where a terribly bland movie like Morbius was getting all the online buzz. Its especially great to see a movie like Oppenheimer do well as without this Barbenheimer thing I don’t see it doing as well as it is. Anyway that’s my preamble hoped you enjoyed that for an entrée as the main course is next!
I believe I first saw the Barbie trailer when The Little Mermaid remake came out and I knew instantaneously that this was a movie for me. Even though I am clearly not the targeted audience for this movie and my younger self would probably cringe at what I am writing, the weird freshness of this movie was my calling. It was a dose of something that felt a little weird, somewhat surreal, but mostly importantly it was different from the status quo. It was the type of new movie I have been craving for a while as it’s a similar feeling to Everything, Everywhere, All at Once from last year or even Babylon from the start of this year. Barbie is a family film which features a huge slice of that divisive modern feminist viewpoint but has enough odd subversive elements in the writing and comedy to make me excited. This is my movie of the year. No more is to be said.
To be a little more specific, I think the main reason why I like Barbie so much is it’s very simple and, I’m surprised this comparison isn’t really coming up, but it is very much like The Lego Movie. Another popular toy brand that has no excuse for being as great as it is considering it has endless made for DVD movies of it but is a surprising meta subversive comedy with great characters and message for kids. Barbie opens with this weird Xanadu situation where there is the real world and there is Barbieland. In Barbieland it’s a Mattel commercial come to life where there are a bunch of Barbies living in their dreamhouses with endless amounts of colourful clothing options, their pink convertibles, and their Kens whose only purpose is to mind the beach.
The comedy really sells in this section as we see Margot Robbie’s Barbie’s morning routine of having a shower without any water, drinking coffee, but drinking it like she’s at a little girl’s tea party and not even touching her toast, because she’s a doll. Since Barbie’s dreamhouse is like one of those houses you would buy at a toy store she just floats off her house, because the house has no stairs besides a slide leading into a flat pool. I loved this section of the film, there’s so much detail in this all-pink toy like setting with the cars, the houses and also in how these Barbies and Kens having plastic dolls mannerisms by being very smiley, friendly and can’t do anything threatening. There is that iconic shot of Barbie getting out of her heels and still being on her tippy toes, which is a crucial plot point to this film when she is flat footed, because Barbies don’t go anywhere without their heels. I presume this a perfect in-joke for Barbie fans, which ain’t me, but still I thought it was funny. My Barbie childhood experience ends in the early 2000s with those direct-to DVD movies and the forever naked Barbie and Ken dolls that lived in my toy box.
Barbie is having an existential crisis, which takes her into the real world, with Ryan Gosling’s Ken tagging along for the ride, because why not? I’ll stop dwelling on the plot here, but essentially the film finds new ways of spicing up the comedy with Barbie and Ken running into normal people, and Barbie having her identity crisis because women in the real world are treated very differently to the ones in Barbieland. This part of the movie until the end of the movie had a lot of moving gears in the plot so I don’t think it’s as clean as the first half. It started to lose me in the second half as I think it especially got too carried away with its feminist message. Although none of this was a huge issue as the movie was still consistently funny. There aren’t many goofy satires like this anymore, which I really appreciate and miss in this market. I enjoyed the jabs it makes at Mattel, the Barbie brand, and its approach on using Barbies to promote feminism as being a bit shallow and dishonest. Also, the jabs made at the Kens and their manliness is golden material. Speaking of which, let’s talk about Ken, more specifically Ryan Gosling’s Ken. While Margot Robbie is great at carrying the emotional weight of the film besides the comedic value of casting someone as beautiful as the stereotypical Barbie, Ryan Gosling as Ken is another story as he is all camp and goof and I couldn’t get enough of him. I can’t recall the last time I saw such a scene stealer in a modern movie as every scene without Gosling’s Ken held a sense of anticipation of when will he show up again to give me a good laugh. Gosling fully embraces the childlike, man loving idiocy of Ken that makes him one of the funniest characters I think I’ve encountered since I started this site. Another reason to love Ken is because he gets a song. This movie is also a musical sometimes and Ken’s song is similar to one in the animated Super Mario Movie of wanting to be seen and appreciated by his crush by singing it in a pathetically lovable manner.
Another reason I like this movie is because it looks like a 2000s movie. I believe that was Gerwig’s intention with the rather obvious cheesy effects, cartoony characters, some of the songs and with most of the film looking like a toy commercial. Though maybe even older, with some of Barbie and Ken’s outfits feeling like they come out of the 70s or 80s. It reminded me a lot of that Mike Meyers Cat in the Hat movie with the colours of its sets, and costumes, whilst most of the movie ran on cartoon logic. Don’t take any of this seriously and you’ll love it like me. Unless you’re watching Oppenheimer, which is coming up next.
I would say the only problem with Barbenheimer is, depending on which order you watch them in you’re not going to be in the right mood to watch the other. For me, I watched Barbie first so by the time I got to Oppenheimer I almost fell asleep because the film is three hours long and Nolan wasn’t trying to be super funny with this. I didn’t really think of Oppenheimer that much before watching it as my mind was clouded by Barbie. I was still more interested in this than pretty much all the movies that came out in June, besides Across the Spider-Verse, but otherwise it was a wait and see type of deal.
Oppenheimer was going to be an interesting one to write about as it’s so dense, I’m not entirely sure where to start with it. To start, and to get it out of the way, I much prefer Barbie over Oppenheimer, but where Oppenheimer excels is with its richer story and technical achievement. The main reason I prefer Barbie over Oppenheimer is more a growing annoyance I have with Christopher Nolan movies. It’s mainly an age thing as the little issues in his movies really bother me as I get older. (There is some really great irony in this post.) My main distastes with Oppenheimer would start with the non-linear complicated plot. I know I just contradicted myself by explaining earlier that’s it rich, which I stand by because the film did a great job at making me interested in Oppenheimer’s life. There is a quote at the start of the movie about comparing Oppenheimer’s life to Prometheus, the god that shared his gifts with man and was punished for it; it sums up the film very well as by the end it all comes together beautifully. The problem is in execution as Nolan has three storylines going on which is very similar to Memento but more complicated, because it’s a Nolan movie. Some of the movie is in colour with Oppenheimer developing the theory for the bomb, which leads to it being developed for World War II; another part where Oppenheimer is questioned for his involvement in The Manhattan Project and the last being in black and white with Robert Downey Jr being cross examined about his time spent with Oppenheimer. All of these flip flop throughout the film and it was confronting to say the least. Not having much context for the court room scenes made them boring and the science stuff was all techno jargon that I was not awake enough to handle. It also doesn’t help that there are 20 something characters that are all crucial to this story, and half of them blend into each other, but if it means anything they’re all played by well-known actors. I was interested in the morality of building such a weapon and what it means for the future of mankind, but that aspect doesn’t come into play until well over halfway through. The film was an uphill battle, but I am rather resilient, so I guess it all paid off in the end, so yay I’m slightly less annoyed.
Another thing that irks me about Christopher Nolan movies is that this one has a loud cinema vibrating score play over the entire movie. The music is good, but it’s just overused. Pretty much every talking scene has this music playing, which makes you think its building up to something exciting, but it doesn’t, it’s just more talking. It’s mainly annoying as pretty much all the acting is great stuff and the dialogue is pretty interesting as well. Those are my main gripes with Oppenheimer and just Christopher Nolan movies in general and to now focus on liking this movie, because I do. If I ever ranked all of Nolan’s movies this would probably be sitting somewhere in the upper middle, mainly because it’s based on real people and not something he’s made up. I mainly like Oppenheimer because it’s a visual spectacle. The most noteworthy scene I can think of is when they test the atomic bomb, as it’s one of the few times the music fits the scene and adds to the tension. It’s also well shot, features great use of sound design and special effects and overall was an awesome sequence that woke me up.
So, the conclusion on the whole Barbenheimer experience is I like the idea of it, but it’s not really practical to do. Watching two tonally different movies is a drag I find. I have done seeing 2 or even 3 movies at the cinema on the same day in the past, but I usually aim for watching things that are somewhat similar like an assortment of blockbusters or Oscar movies. Though this is all personal preference and for me if I ever watch these movies again it won’t be back-to-back. I recommend you do the same if you intend to see these movies unless you’re only seeing one of them of course. That’s a wrap so Blog Complainer, signing out.