Showing posts with label Oppenheimer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oppenheimer. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

"Barbie" and "Oppenheimer"

I just couldn't bring myself to name this post "Barbenheimer."  I didn't want to jump on that odd couple bandwagon but turns out it was a genius marketing ploy because the film industry was able to turn the openings of two disparate films into one of the top five biggest opening weekends in film history.

But I was not lured into seeing the two as a double feature.  Even I, Rosy the Reviewer, can't do five hours in a row, but I managed to see both films within four days of each other (c'mon, I'm old.  I need to recover from things).

So...What did I think?  Well, I am glad you asked.

Barbie (2023)

Barbie has an existential crisis and must enter the Real World to save her perfect Barbieland.

I was 11 or 12 when I got my first Barbie doll.  I know.  I was still playing with dolls at 12! But little girls weren't as sophisticated in the 50's as they are now. No Internet to warp our little minds.  Just Walt Disney.  Anyway, I think of that doll often, particularly what she might be worth today if I still had her.  I had the black velvet evening gown and the pink party dress and all of her accessories.  I kept her safe for years but when I went to college my mother said my niece wanted my Barbie.  I hesitated but then said okay but I wanted her back when she was done playing with her. Guess what?  I never saw her again.

But Barbie had an impact on me.  And that's what this movie is also trying to do.  Yes, it's silly - I mean it's about a doll coming to life - but there is a message.

Barbie (Margot Robbie) lives in Barbieland, a perfect world where she gets up every day in her pink bed in her pink room in her pink Dream House.  Looking perfect, she greets her fellow Barbies and flies out of her house into her pink Corvette to go do whatever perfect dolls do. Barbieland is a society where the women run things.  They are self-confident and successful and hold all of the important positions, from doctors and lawyers and astronauts to positions on the Supreme Court to President.

Margot Robbie plays "Stereotypical Barbie," but Barbieland includes all of the various Barbies that Mattel has created over the years - from Midge, the pregnant Barbie (never knew about her) to Share a Smile Becky, the Barbie in a wheelchair.  Tanner, a toy dog that actually poops, is also there (didn't know about him, either) along with Ken's long forgotten friend, Allen (Micheal Cera), a running joke throughout the filmAnd, yes, then there are the Kens, but they hang out mostly at the beach. They don't have much to do. Beach Ken (Ryan Gosling) only feels good when Barbie acknowledges him.  He wants to have a relationship with her but Barbie prefers her independence and girl sleepovers. It's all a perfect Barbie World.

Until one day Barbie suddenly thinks about... DEATH!

What!!!  And then her naturally high-heeled feet go flat and horrors of horrors - she has cellulite.  What is going on?  She goes to see Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon). In case you didn't know, Weird Barbie is a Barbie who has been tortured and mistreated by her child owner as in having her hair cut off and her face painted with markers.  Anyway, Weird Barbie tells her that there has been an opening in the dimension separating Barbieland and the Real World and it has been caused by a child playing with her and feeling bad and Barbie needs to go to the Real World and find that child to solve the problem.

So off she goes and wouldn't you know, Ken has stowed away in the back seat of her Corvette.  She reluctantly lets him tag along.  Not good.  When they get to the Real World, which in this case is Los Angeles, Ken discovers the patriarchal system so rampant in the Real World and likes it. Here it's men who run things and he likes that. He feels respected for the first time.  He heads back to Barbieland to institute his own version of the Patriarchal System, which to him is more about horses and little beer fridges, but he also manages to subjugate the other Barbies to handmaiden status.

Meanwhile, Barbie has located the cause of her doll version of an existential crisis.  It's Gloria (America Ferrera), a Mattel employee, who was depressed about her daughter rejecting her so she started reminiscing and playing with her daughter's Barbies, thus transferring her angst onto them and causing our Barbie's issues.

Still with me?

When Barbie returns to Barbieland with Gloria and her daughter, she is horrified to learn what Ken has done and become.  He has become a mansplaining bro and turned her Barbie Dream House into the Casa Dojo Mojo House. 

Barbie needs to extricate her fellow Barbies from Ken's control and at the same time bring back her own self-esteem and help Ken with his.  Will she be able to do it?

Gloria gives Barbie a great speech about what we women have to live with and it helps shake Barbie out of her stupor.

"It is literally impossible to be a woman...Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we're always doing it wrong...You're supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you're supposed to be a part of the sisterhood...You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line... I'm just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don't even know."

Needless to say, you can image how this message would fly with certain male politicians and pundits.  Well actually, it hasn't flown. They are already objecting to the feminist themes and the portrayal of men in this movie, but of course the oppressors don't want the oppressed to talk about their oppression.

Margot Robbie is the perfect Barbie.  She is a really good actress but also beautiful.  Funny moment when toward the end of the film, Barbie says "I'm not pretty anymore" and narrator Helen Mirren says "Note to filmmakers: Margot Robbie is not the actress to get this point across."

As for Ryan Gosling, at first I thought he was an odd choice for Ken.  I think of him as a serious, even grumpy actor, who would never deign to play Ken, but he is quite wonderful and, if anything, steals the show (and I'm not talking about his abs).  He is funny and all in (and those abs are real)

Funny story about Ken playing second fiddle to Barbie.  When our daughter was growing up, she had Barbies but one day came home from a friend's house and said, "She has the MAN!" So, Ken, you had some fans out there!

The Barbie Doll has been a controversial figure because of...well, her figure.  Some have said she gave little girls unrealistic expectations about womanhood, but Barbie was also a feminist icon that showed little girls that they could aspire to any role.  Barbie was an early female astronaut, a doctor, even President!

There are some great moments in the film with lot's of pop culture references but the opening sequence, homage to "2001: A Space Odyssey" is particularly funny as is Ryan Gosling's Bob Fosse dance number. Also Mattel makes fun of itself with its all male Board of Directors headed by the clueless (and very funny) CEO (Will Farrell).

The film was written by Greta Gerwig and her partner, Noah Baumbach, and directed by Gerwig. It was the biggest weekend opening for any female director, which happily plays right into the theme of this film which is female empowerment and a reminder that the Real World is still a male dominated society, but we women don't do ourselves any good living in a bubble wishing for perfection.  It's all about dealing with the vagaries of life and going for what we want.

Rosy the Reviewer's very silly at times and uneven, but it's also vibrant and fun, the production values are fantastic and so is the message to young girls.  Mothers, take your daughters! (Now streaming on Max and available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime). 

Oppenheimer (2023)

Biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the inventor of the atomic bomb.

The younger generation probably knows little about Oppenheimer but also doesn't know much about The Cold War and what Baby Boomers went through during those years because of his bomb, how we had nuclear war drills at school which consisted of diving under our that would save us from an atomic bomb.  But the fear of a nuclear war was very real in those days and it seems we came very close during the Bay of Pigs.  But I'm not blaming Dr. Oppenheimer.  In the end, he actually felt guilty about his bomb.

But this film begins way before that.

J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy) is often called "The Father of the Atomic Bomb."  After getting a B.A. in chemistry from Harvard, he studied in Germany at the University of Gottingen where he received his doctorate and brought quantum physics to the U.S. He became a professor at UC Berkeley in 1936 and made significant contributions to theoretical physics. 

As portrayed in the film, Oppenheimer was highly intellectual and a brilliant scientist, but he was also arrogant and had a very messy private life. His wife, Kitty, played by Emily Blunt, was not a happy camper for a variety of reasons. 

And, in the end, Oppenheimer appeared to have had reservations about his part in dropping the atomic bomb on Japan to end WWII. To make matters worse, in the 1950's during the Red Scare, he was also denounced as a traitor because of his past with the U.S. Communist Party and his opposition to the development of the hydrogen bomb which led to the revocation of his security clearing. The film also gets into the whole issue of jealousy within the scientific community, especially related to his association with Lewis Strauss (played by Robert Downey Jr.), the Atomic Energy Commission chair, who turned out to be his arch nemesis.

So the film, based on the book "American Prometheus" by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, does a good job of covering Oppenheimer's life and career, but, sadly, it was very slow to get going and was an hour too long. There just wasn't enough drama for such a long film. 

Writer/director Christopher Nolan seemed to realize he needed more drama, so it felt like he tried to drum up some drama with a distracting score that was sometimes so loud it obstructed the dialogue and special effects that were irritating.  And speaking of the dialogue, it was either the kind of snappy dialogue you find in a sophisticated comedy or it was overdramatic. The editing was also distracting as it jumped around from Oppenheimer's personal story to one Congressional or court hearing after another and changed back and forth from black and white to color, the purpose of which was fuzzy. There was a lot of scientific talk which we civilians sometimes can't quite understand, so a little less jumping around might have helped us process all the big words and concepts like molecular wave functions and neutron stars.

However, the acting was first rate. 

Cillian Murphy was understated but fine and actually looked very much like the real Oppenheimer. Matt Damon, who played General Leslie Groves, the Los Alamos military advisor, was also good and believable, but I kept waiting for Robert Downey Jr. who I had heard was wonderful in this, and so was floored when I realized at the end of the film that he played Strauss!  I would never have suspected that it was he in a million years.  And it wasn't just the make-up.  In every way, he was someone other than Robert Downey Jr.  Expect Oscar nominations for him. Gary Oldman was also unrecognizable as Truman as was Florence Pugh in a small role that probably didn't really need to be in the film. Other big names came and went. But special kudos to the make-up department led by Luisa Abel.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...though I give this film props for its historical significance, all in all it was disappointing. There was not enough drama to sustain a three hour movie.  I would have enjoyed it more as a documentary (Streaming on Peacock Feb. 16).

Final thoughts: "Barbie" depicts a world run by women.  In "Oppenheimer," the world is run by men.  No bombs in Barbie's world.  I'm just saying.

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

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