Views on the news #5 A $46 Million Dollar Social Injustice?

Written by Nelson Cumming

So the news has broken that The Rock is the highest paid entertainer of 2016, earning $64.5 million a year. Apparently, this is a social injustice because Jennifer Lawrence is making $46 million dollars a year. The reason that is an injustice is because apparently because she is a woman and she has suffered from gender discrimination according to various news outlets. But is this case a good example of gender discrimination in Hollywood?

No, it isn’t because this is an example of one simple economic principle:

The law of demand.

There are many factors that should determine a person’s salary and it mainly falls under the umbrella of market demand. Demand is how much people are willing to pay for a product. I admit that I don’t know all the factors on how Hollywood determines salaries. What I do know is some factors that would contribute to it.

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1. Popularity

Ever wonder why advertisers pay upwards of two million dollars for thirty seconds of ad space during the Superbowl? That’s because 100 million people have their eyes glued to the screen (called “reach” in the advertising industry). It would be stupid to pay two million dollars to a channel that brings in 50,000 people at 2p.m.

I set you guys up with this because it establishes that the more exposure you have AND the more popular you are, the more people will pay money to see you or buy your product. If you look at the Facebook and Twitter followers The Rock has 56 million and 10.4 million respectively. If you look at Jennifer Lawrence’s Facebook and Twitter followers (16 million and 458,000 respectively) there is a massive gap.

I know this is only one metric but from this alone ask yourself this “Should I be paying person A the same about as person B despite the fact person B has at least 3.5 times the reach person A has?” If you would say “Yes” to that question I recommend that you don’t run a business in real life.

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2. Past Performance

Past performance is another factor in determining what people get paid. The most successful people get paid more than the least successful people because they have proven themselves to draw more money. If someone pays me a million dollars a year, it’s because I can generate more than a million dollars worth of value in a year to the employer.

Dwayne Johnson made considerably more money at the box office than Jennifer Lawrence did last year. I believe he almost single-handedly revitalized The Fast and The Furious franchise when he was in Fast Five. People had revitalized interest in the franchise because of who he was and are dominant physique made people think there was a villain that posed a legitimate badass threat because he was more muscular than Vin Diesel. Last year, Furious 7 made $1.5 billion. This fact will be very important later on.

Jennifer Lawrence is not getting $46 million because she is stupid and unprofitable. The opposite is true. She was the main reason the Hunger Games franchise nearly made $3 billion because she is the main star in the franchise and people wanted to see her. From 2013 to 2015 her annual salary doubled from $26 million to $52 million due to the Hungar Games franchise gaining in popularity. That shows how much Hollywood hates her because she is a woman doesn’t it? So why is she making less money now? Well, it may be because of…

3. Future Performance

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As I have already established, in any business, to make more money you have to convince the guy who is giving you the paychecks why you deserve the raise. It is possible to persuade them to do that if you can convince that guy that you will be more valuable to the company within the next 12 months.

In that case, I can imagine Dwayne Johnson’s pitch last year for $64 million in a nutshell:
“See how Furious 7 made $1.5 billion dollars. Well in 2016 I will be filming a sequel to that movie. Because it has such a strong following, I should make an easy $700 million at the box office even if Fast 8 movie is utter shit. I can clear the $1 billion mark if it’s a critical and commercial success due to positive word of mouth. I have proven to be a major factor in the franchise’s renowned success and have 56 million Facebook followers right on my doorstep that I can advertise and market the movie too.”

He is also filming Baywatch with Zack Efron which is easily I guessing another $300 million. If this guy is likely to draw $1 billion at the box office next year from what he films this year and he is one of the main reasons that people pay to watch those movies, why wouldn’t you pay a little more than a twentieth the amount he is likely to draw?

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Jennifer Lawrence has to take a different route. I guessing the reason she is getting paid less than last year is because the franchise that drew her the most money at the box office has ended. Even though she has produced critical and commercial successes (which is why she is still valuable) I would argue she will not draw as much Dwayne Johnson will next year.

Her route is to prove to Hollywood that she is still a bankable star that can make at least $400 million dollars wherever she goes if that is her goal. She needs to prove to Hollywood executives that she was not a flavor of the month with The Hungar Games franchise and that she is versatile. If she can do that next year, expect a pay bump from her in 2017-2018. She cannot do that by being in the X-men franchise as some would believe because of factor number four.

 

4. How Much of an Influence the Actor Has to the Box Office.

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If I was an extra in Captain America Civil War (Villian #17), Avatar, Titanic (Perished Civilian #57) and Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens (Stormtrooper #108), will I be paid $64 million? No.

Jennifer Lawrence has been in superhero movies like the X-Men franchise but people pay to see the X-Men as a whole, not her exclusively.

In the case of X-men, the whole is more valuable than the sum of the parts. In Dwayne Johnson’s case, his parts are more valuable to making the whole. It is a subtle but highly distinct difference that can mean millions and millions of dollars in Hollywood.

 

My Conclusion to this “Wage Gap/Gender Inequality” Case

I believe that there is has been a wage gap in Hollywood due to gender discrimination. When you look at the metrics, in this case, it really starts to make sense why Dwayne Johnson is paid more. That is because he is more valuable because there is a higher demand for him than Jennifer Lawrence. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just the way it is right now. That could change in the future.

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P.S. A Broader Issue: My Social Commentary

I just know from reading stories from the news and people comments on the internet over several years. I found that it is easier for people to point fingers and blame something else rather than the reality of the situation. It makes more money and it makes people feel better about themselves. Reassuring lies are easier to digest than inconvenient truths. These articles are living proof of that and are one of the many, many examples throughout the time pool of human existence.

To prove my point, while people cry in outrage about a person earning $46 million not being paid $67 million, that kid in Bangladesh who makes many shoes that sell for 100 bucks a pop probably make 10 cents an hour living in inhospitable conditions and signing contracts in another language just to live a better life. I digress because that is not real news. That is not the inequality that people want to hear. It’s a social injustice that is not unjust enough. It’s the people who live the lives we all dream about we should feel sorry for.

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Kubo and the Two Strings Review

Genre: Fantasy, animation
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes
Main Cast: Charlize Theron
Art Parkinson
Matthew McConaughey
Production Company: Laika
Written by: Marc Haimes
Chris Butler
Directed by: Travis Knight

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Kubo and the Two Strings is a movie with ambition which is something I like to see. It fell short of my high expectations but not by a lot. The story is surprisingly dark but does provide tonal variation by the visual splendor of the animation. I think story-wise it could have been better, but I liked it.

The story follows Kubo who is raised solely by her mother as she ran away from her evil family. Kubo entertains his village by producing live origami shows. However, he is strictly told by his mother to not go out of the house at night. One day, Kubo stays up at night only to awaken a vengeful spirit. Kubo must team up with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughy) to find three hidden armaments to battle the Moon King (Ralph Fiennes)

Kubo and the Two Strings works well on the visual spectacle. It is a rare movie that undertakes stop-motion animation but does it a Japanese anime style. It is intriguing not only because that’s a rarity in a film but also because it looks visually stunning. The animation has a great blend of darkness and vibrancy, strong colors and inventive visuals. The origami scenes and the evil twins are great examples of the movies variation.

The other thing that makes Kubo and the Two Strings interesting is Charlize Theron’s character called Monkey. She provides a sweet caring voice that balances the characters overprotected but sweet nature. She makes the movie more interesting than it already was and there was really good interplay with her and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey character)

Kubo and the Two Strings was great until about two-thirds in when it started to lose me a little. The main problem it has is that some of the plot elements are not explained in the universe it’s set in. I kept wondering why memories were forgotten by banished characters even through their eyes were still intact as well as other things. Also one of the subplots was predictable which was the revelation of the Matthew McConaughey character that I thought could have gone in another direction.

I, for some reason, felt that the themes were not well presented as I would have liked. That said, this movie has the guts to explore themes of death, morality vs. immorality, and the high importance of memory shaping a human being. I just don’t think they connected with me on an emotional level. On an intellectual level sure, but didn’t have the spark to connect with me emotionally. That said, they didn’t do anything wrong, I just wasn’t emotionally connected to it when it was clear the movie wanted me to.

I think the people who will like it the most will be people who are into Japanese anime because the characters, the animation, the symbolism and the story were stylised like the works of Studio Ghibli (The studio who made Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle) but I also think a casual audience will like it as well. I think that Kubo and the Two Strings is a different movie as it tries to bridge the gap between those two audiences: The anime enthusiasts and the casuals.

Overall Kubo and the Two Strings is pretty good. Its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. I believe that it’s weaknesses prevent it from being a great movie, but it doesn’t stop it from being a good one. It was well worth my time to see the style of the animation alone, let alone the high bar it aims to achieve. ***1/2

The Shallows Review

Genre: Survival, Thriller
Year:2016
Rating: M
Runtime: 86 minutes
Main Cast: Blake Lively
Production Companies: Ombra Films
Weimaraner Republic Pictures
Written by: Anthony Jaswinski
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

the-shallows

 

Written by Nelson Cumming

The Shallows was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I thought it would be a Sharknado-like exploitation film. I was glad to have been proven wrong. It succeeds in what it aims to do which is to make a 90-minute summer thriller (I know it’s winter but it’s summer in America). Structurally, it follows in the same vein as 127 hours but location wise, it follows Cast Away.

Brie Lively plays Nancy Adams, a girl who goes out on an exotic but secretive beach (the natives don’t even reveal the name of the beach) and while surfing, she gets attacked by a shark but clambers on a rock to safety. She is about 200 meters away from the shore, but there is one thing that’s stopping her: A deadly shark.

Lively is the black swan of acting. She struggles to do the simple things like talking without sounding dumb. When she has to act all by herself while being entertaining for 80 minutes straight, she can do that no problem. This astounds me as she is entertaining on her own, which only veteran actors can do, yet speaks like it’s her first week of acting. She is great because the movie’s success largely rests on her and she easily clears that hurdle but I hope her agent doesn’t her in Shakespeare adaptations!

The main problem is that The Shallows is slow to get going. The first 10 minutes is the worst part of the movie by a country mile. There are ridiculous amounts of product placement (Vaio, Ripcurl, Converse and Banaba Boat to name a few) the subplot is too vague and there is not much detail in it for me to care. There are also so many slow-mo shots of her in a two-piece that I was thinking “Ok I get it, she’s hot, get on with it. Don’t do a Michael Bay”

After the ten minute mark she goes out into the sea and with the beautiful cinematography of the waves rising and crashing under great lighting, I thought “Whoa, never expected some arthouse stuff here, how ambitious” Then when she gets bitten by the shark by the 15 minute mark and the clear blue sea turns into blood-red I thought “This is awesome, I didn’t think the director would show her bleeding so profusely”

The Shallows also has the gift of understanding suspense and the viscera. For suspense, they know the suspense is not what happens but what you fear is going to happen. In this case, The Shallows uses great techniques to build it up. It leaves you with a tense feeling. The viscera, on the other hand, makes you feel like you are experiencing the physical pain. One scene she falls hard onto sharp coral and another she is stung by jellyfish. Both made me clench my fists and cringe while imagining the pain which was good.

The other thing I commend is the short running time. This was to the Shallows benefit. It felt breezy, quick and consistently entertaining from start to finish. It is only 86 minutes long including credits. I felt the brevity of that, but I didn’t feel it ended too quickly either.

The Shallows, as I have said before, was way better than what I thought it would be, with beautiful cinematography, acting, and suspense. I thought Kubo and the Two Strings would be a shoo-in for the best new release this month, now I am not sure. I will know when I see it shortly. If Kubo beats or comes close to The Shallows, it will be a great week at the multiplex. ***3/4.

Bad Moms Review

Genre: Comedy
Year: 2016
Rating: MA
Runtime: 100 minutes
Main Cast: Mila Kunis
Kristen Bell
Kathryn Hahn
Christina Applegate
Main Production Company: Huayi Brothers Pictures
Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

bad-moms

Written by Nelson Cumming

When I saw the poster I prayed. Prayed that it would be smart, prayed that it wouldn’t be vile like Dirty Grandpa, prayed there would be a valid reason for the extreme amounts of hedonism that was about to occur and finally, and most importantly, I prayed that it would be funny. Thank God it was. Bad Moms is slow to get going but after the convenience store scene, I was laughing like an idiot the rest of the way.

Any Mitchell (Milia Kunis) plays an overworked mother who has a lazy husband and two children. After a protest from PTA leader Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), she liberates herself from her overworking, stressful personality and aims to succeed her as head of the PTA and mother Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn) want to help her do it. Gwendolyn doesn’t sit there and take it as she throws many spanners in the works.

What I like about Bad Moms and most comedies is that everyone is not only fair game but gets a chance to shine. Even the minor characters such a marriage counselor, who only gets one scene, gets a great line. I can’t repeat it as it spoils a plot point but Wanda Sykes did a great delivery as does everyone else.

If there is one actress I have to praise, it is Kathryn Hahn. She commits to her role 100%. She mostly knows when to push it and when to back off. She does some physical comedy where I would think there’s a stuntwoman involved. At one point she gets faceplanted. If she did that herself, that would be admirable. She even gives a monologue that is motivating and inspiring that surprised me. It shows she has variety and a thorough knowledge of how her role in comedy works. She is up there with Kate McKinnon.

The most important thing that this movie does right is that it gives a reason what being a “Bad Mom” is ok. Bad Moms finds the line of mild recklessness and never crosses the line of negligence and horror. They party because they are tired of their high societal expectations and their constant fear of not being a good mother if they don’t take care of everyone else’s responsibilities and problems. This was critical for me because I would not have bought most of the gags if they didn’t portray that. Too many R-rated comedies take the easy way out by giving us the rhyme without the reason. This doesn’t.

Overall Bad Moms is a funny movie. They hit their gags most of the time and it achieves what it wants. It is not a groundbreaking comedy, but it’s a good R-rated comedy that mums might enjoy (just don’t take the kids) which is pretty rare. Also, watch the end credits. The end credits were unique and interesting. ***1/2

Suicide Squad Review

Genre: Superhero Action
Year: 2016
Rating: M
Runtime: 123 minutes
Main Cast: Will Smith
Jared Leto
Margot Robbie
Joel Kinnaman
Viola Davis
Jai Courtney
Jay Hernandez
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Main Production Company: DC Entertainment
Written and directed by David Ayer

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Suicide Squad is a shade better than Batman vs. Superman. A shade. There are some redeeming qualities in Suicide Squad that salvages it from being terrible, but they are outweighed by a lot of the films elements that I thought DC would have learned by now not to do. The only thing I think DC have learned is to not make a dark, murky, muddled, two and a half hour film. Instead, they made a dark, murky, muddled, two-hour film in the form of Suicide Squad.

The plot itself is a bit farfetched so stay with me here: Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) suggests to the to the FBI (I think, but it’s not important) that after the supposed death of Superman, a group of villains should be eradicating evil as they are the only chance Gotham has. She recruits Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. What a name), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Slipknot (Adam Beach) . Meanwhile, Waller tries to recruit June Moone (Cara Delevingne) who has been possessed by a spirit called Enchantress. Enchantress goes AWOL and resurrects her brother who is also some sort of spirit beast in an attempt to wipe humanity because humans didn’t have the decency to resurrect a morbidly crazy spirit. Oh, and there is a guy in it called The Joker (Jared Leto), yeah, he does some cameos in a subplot.

The character development is either flimsy or non-existent. It falls into too-many-character-syndrome like The Hateful Eight did where not enough of the characters are developed because there are too many characters to do it. Out of all the characters, Deadshot is the only fleshed out character that you care for. Harley Quinn is also a fleshed out character but I found it hard to support her as she falls in love with a psychopath called The Joker and they did stupid things together and shoot innocent cops. The Joker has about 10 minutes on the screen and he never has a breakthrough moment. El Diablo’s character isn’t developed until “the bar scene” near the climax which made his character development feel rushed. Killer Croc barely speaks a word of English, nor was he enjoyable or engaging. Slipknot has about twenty seconds which were wasted. Captain Boomerang says about three lines and throws two boomerangs. If you notice how long this paragraph is getting, you can see where I am coming from and I only used 1-2 lines to describe each character. This paragraph represents the structure of the film: messy.

If action sequences interest you, do not worry because Suicide Squad finds ways to mess it up. Firstly, I was initially happy that the posters looked brighter and vibrant than Batman vs Superman. I thought “Thank God DC have learned their lesson!” That was until I saw the movie. The action sequences are either set in the dark or in the rain with dark, moss green lighting reminiscent of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It didn’t work in Harry Potter and it doesn’t work here. Secondly, the movie either has unnecessary action sequences or they are edited so erratically that you don’t have room to take it in. Harley Quinn fighting the bad guys on the elevator is the worst offender of them all.

If action and character development are not your thing, then maybe the music is. DC has the annoying habit of getting popular songs that are only relevant in the scene by song title only, not because the music matches the action that goes on. At one point Killer Croc is eating cops alive to the tune of “Fortunate Son” I gasped at the irony. Will Smith is beaten by cops to the tune of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in a prison. It made the dynamic so uneven that I was distracted by the songs instead of the visual footage. The other thing DC does is pays an orchestra to play only brass instruments as loud as they possibly can on the soundtrack. That was annoying too. Half their budget must have been purchasing the rights to play the rock songs and the other half was used to  to hire a whole orchestra.

After about 650 words of negativity, I must be positive and commend Margot Robbie. She has had a hell of a year and she kept me going. I wrote on my notes that she was “Deadpoolette” because she is the person that gets the endlessly funny one-liners and gave Suicide Squad some tonal variation that was desperately needed. Sometimes, she needed to stop as she jokes during some scenes that were meant to be poignant and meaningful, but I can tell she was figuring it out. I didn’t like her character but I liked her. Will Smith was good as well. I thought I was going to get a more entertaining Will Smith from his first scene, but he was still good the rest of the way. Those two performances made Suicide Squad better than Batman vs Superman on its own.

My final critique contains spoilers so:

SPOILER WARNING

For anyone who has seen a superhero movie, you must know this movie law:
“In a superhero movie, none significant dies unless it’s Bruce Waynes parents”
Halfway through the movie, the Joker crashes in a helicopter offscreen, inferring his death. My first thought was “He is not dead” I just knew he wasn’t. I thought “He is going to come back at the climax” He didn’t. That still didn’t dissuade me that he was not dead. Alas, like in Batman vs. Superman, you find out he was alive all along in the final shot. I just thought “Are you serious?” The Joker replied in my head “Why so serious?” and I said “Because you are doing the same thing over and over again and you expect audiences to fall for this stupid one trick pony act! Stop being condescending to them and stop thinking they are gullible. They are going to figure it out if they haven’t already” It’s such a tired cliche that I hate with movies in general. There might as well be a title card that says “Act surprised”.

END OF SPOILERS

Suicide Squad was watchable by the entertaining performances and chemistry of Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Other than that Suicide Squad has little to offer. It’s better than Batman Vs Superman but barley. Suicide Squad won’t persuade or even get Marvel fans to consider to switch, which is sad. Maybe one day DC will be good enough to compete with Marvel. That would be great as it would be double the greatness at the movies. Unfortunately, that day has not come yet. **1/4

Inside Out Review

Genre: Animation
Year: 2015
Rating: PG
Main Cast: Amy Poehler
Phyllis Smith
Lewis Black
Bill Hader
Mindy Kaling
Production Companies: Pixar Animation Studios
Walt Disney Pictures
Written by: Pete Docter
Ronnie del Carmen
Directed by: Pete Docter

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Inside Out is one of the smartest movies that I know. It is also one of the most honest movies and it came out at the most opportune time for me. It not only serves as a great visual aid for psychology, it looks for universal truths about how life and emotions develop people. It is also one of the rare movies that explore what people think, do and love.

Inside Out served as a great reflective experience as Riley is undergoing change and entering adolescence. When I saw this, I was exiting adolescence so everything that she went through was fresh in my mind as I starting drawing parallels between her life and mine. While I have seen Pixar movies that know how to get me emotionally invested, Inside out got to a point where I felt Pixar knew me. That never entered my mind before in a Pixar film, which is the reason I believe it is the best Pixar film to date.

The story is about a girl called Riley as she copes with adolescence and change as he moves into a new house in San Francisco. This makes her unhappy. Meanwhile, Riley’s personified emotions Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger try and process this change in their own way, leading to conflicting emotions that develop into a downward spiral in Riley’s emotive state. Riley’s emotions need to learn to co-operate with each other to prevent Riley from going off the deep end.

Everything in Inside Out worked to varying degrees of success. The first parallel I noticed between myself and Riley occurred when she has to recall a memory in her life on the first day of her new school. Her happy memory turned into a sad one, which was something I was experiencing when I was a teenager. Inside Out then goes on to show lots of psychological concepts that are easy to understand and relate to, from the train of thought, the loss of old memories, how the small emotive moments contribute to your personality and the loss of innocence. All of this was well written and very creative.

What was also creative was the scriptwriting. The entire movie was smartly written, even the comedy. All of the comedy is funny not because it was funny in of itself, but because it was relatable. The funniest scene was when Riley’s mom was trying to find the source of her daughter’s problems and tries to signal to her husband, who we find out is daydreaming about football. He snaps out of his daydream and thinks he is in the wrong, but doesn’t know why he is wrong and the mother is annoyed that he can’t take the hint. These are just classic familial situations that are done from a unique angle where they don’t point and make fun at it, but embraces it. That I think is crucial to a movie that sets to be wholehearted about what we do and how we behave.

The other thing that I noticed when I saw Inside Out was the animation. I haven’t seen a movie -even by Pixar- that had animation this radiant, especially the scenes inside Riley’s head. This helped reinforce the inner-beauty that the story contained. It was an integral part of the package. It gave the movie an added edge that made it feel more special than it was already.

I used the word “reflection” a lot because that was what the movie did for me. It made me reflect on my past. So much so I even used the experience as my essay on theological reflection (I made the theological aspects up using academic research of course) and got a distinction on it. Boy my mum was ecstatic about that one. This movie was so monumental to me that it made it on the Inglorious Reviews logo on the Facebook page, top-of-center.

All of that, and more, really hit me. It was like my emotional life was reflected on the big screen. The best thing about it was it shows how much the struggle of adolescence struggle reality that should be accepted and not looked down upon. It also makes you feel that you aren’t the only one going through it. I never felt better or happy when someone would say “you’re not alone” or when other people told their stories about their struggles growing up. This film was my reflection of a life stage that I just lived. It made me a better person. Roger Ebert said that if a movie makes you change your mind, it appeals to your emotions, not your reason. That had never been truer than when I saw Inside Out. *****

Embrace of the Serpent Review

Genre: Drama
Year: 2016
Rating: M
Runtime: 126 minutes
Main Cast: Jan Bijvoet
Nilbio Torres
Antonio Bolívar
Written By: Ciro Guerra
Jacques Toulemonde Vidal
Directed by: Ciro Guerra

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Embrace of the Serpent is a great and unique film. It’s one of those rare films that will have cinematic elements and story threads that you don’t see in many films and has the courage to blend it all into one great scene after another. When I first saw this film, I cannot deny that I was transfixed by it. It has ambition, great themes, and originality. After seeing this, I thought it was great but I wanted to know more about it before I made a final judgment. When I read up on it, I loved it even more.

Ciro Guerra is a great director and I have only seen one of his films (this one!). While plot-wise it sometimes isn’t clear (but easy to understand) it makes it up by the themes, the perspective of the story and the journey towards the yakruna plant. Critics have compared it to Apocalypse Now for its portrayal of the corruption of natives in the jungle, but I would argue that Embrace of the Serpent and Apocalypse Now are similar but different as they explore different dark themes.

The entire story is taken from the from the perspective of Karamakate (Nilbio Torres and Antonio Bolívar respectively) but is interwoven between the two time periods from when he is both young and old. It shows Karamakate helping both Theodor and Evan, both in different time periods, find the sacred yakruna plant, each has different motives for the plant and Karamakate helps both of them reluctantly, believing both men are honest.

I believe both Apocalypse Now and Embrace of the Serpent are films that look into the bleak morbid darkness inside the souls of the corrupt and the impact it has on people. While Apocalypse Now does this through the atrocities of war, Embrace of the Serpent explores this through the rape of cultural identity through European Colonialism.

It can be argued that the only good guy in this film is the main character is Karamakate who is the last of his tribe. He, at one point, forgets his entire culture as he has been alone for decades. At this point, he is an old man, a man who is a lone wolf survivor who tries to keep himself and his identity alive even though he is the last man of his tribe. His faith is once tested when a traveler wants him to search for the Yakurna plant “for a lot of money” showing two one-dollar bills. It is the beginning of the corruption and atrocity that ensues from the people and events that surround him.

There are multiple sequences throughout Karamakate’s travels that reveal the horrors of corruption in the Amazon. These themes revolve around torture (Shown in the “buckets of rubber” scene but not actually depicted) religious assimilation and fanaticism, loss of cultural identity, the ignorance of settlers with the lack of respect or understanding of native cultures. As you may have envisioned, this is one of the darkest, yet packed films that is filled with material and ideas. You would expect Embrace of the Serpent to be either too gruesome, preachy, tiresome or crammed. But how the story is executed made it a mesmerizing experience.

The execution of this story is phenomenal. Imagine a film with all those aforementioned themes. Add great acting, black and white cinematography, smooth, visual imagery of the natural landscape, two separate stories and that interweave throughout each other through different times while making it feel effortless. All of that and you get Embrace of the Serpent, a truly unique film.

It feels like a peaceful adventure every time they travel on the river, the violence is shocking but never overdone. It doesn’t gloss anything over. It shows horror and beauty the way it is. Every scene has a purpose and a reason for existing. I kept watching because 1. Karamakate is a wholesomely good character in a bad world and I wanted him to survive it with his integrity intact and 2. The visual splendor of this movie with great detail and the picture quality is detailed and enthralling. Speaking of which, The cinematographer is unbelievable. It reminded me of The Revenant as he smoothly traversed through the wilderness at a steady deliberate pace while constantly being in the right positions that trigger awe-inspiring visuals and captivating moments both the good and the bad.

Finally, I want to say this film is comparable to Apocalypse Now but more accessible as Embrace of the Serpent is slightly less brutal, more organic in the natural splendor, and has a shorter running time. Embrace of the Serpent is not a cathartic as Apocalypse Now, nor is it a poignant film, but it is mesmerizing for what it was and is better when reflected upon. I would guess that it gets better through multiple viewings.

This film and Mustang were two films that were nominated for the Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards last year. Neither won. It is starting to show me that the award for best foreign film is more important and prestigious than the award for best picture. Filled with hard-hitting themes combined with a great story and masterful cinematic flair, Embrace of the Serpent will be an absolute classic that will be worshiped by not many people in the English-speaking world. At least Embrace of the Serpent, while insignificant to the many, will be remembered by the few. *****