Velvet Buzzsaw

Before Velvet Buzzsaw, Dan Gilroy has directed only two movies, and he is the writer of both of those films. The first one was Nightcrawler, a genius film and clearly one of the best of the year. It is haunting, and Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of his best performances of his life.

The second one was Roman J. Israel, Esq., which people like to ignore. I mean, Denzel Washington was nominated for acting from it, but it didn’t have Gyleenhaal so no one cared. It was not was well received as his first film.

This brings us back to Velvet Buzzsaw, which Gilroy again wrote and directed on his own. And because it is more horror based and has Gyllenhaal in it, people were notably excited and declared it would be just as good as Nightcrawler! Being released on Netflix isn’t an issue, because Netflix movies can be good!

People like to hype, I guess I am saying.

Art
Nothing scarier than hearing I would have to analyze and judge pieces of art.

It is really hard to pick a main character to really talk about in this movie, but they want us to focus on Gyllenhaal with advertising, so I will. Morf Vandewalt (Gyllenhaal), probably a fake name, is an art critic in LA, one of the most famous and prestigious. He does fine work, people like him, he knows how to describe things like any elitist art man.

One of the galleries he tends to review at has a young fledgling art dealer, Josephina (Zawe Ashton), who is having a stressful time in life. To top it all off, some man dies in her apartment, she finds the body, it makes her late for work and she is demoted. After finding out that all of his items are to be destroyed per his wishes, she checks on his cat and finds hundreds to thousands of pieces of art, all originals, all haunting and powerful.

This? This could be her chance. You know, to deceive some people, act like it is her client, sell his art, get big in the community. Everyone is instantly amazed by the art, including her boss (Rene Russo), they want in on the action, want a piece of that huge jackpot of money they are about to create.

But as soon as more research goes into the now deceased artist, they find he had a troubled past, and has a good reason to have wanted all of the artwork to be destroyed.

Also starring Billy Magnussen, Daveed Diggs, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, Natalia Dyer, and Tom Sturridge.

STare
Everyone uses the same Gyllenhaal staring picture in their reviews,
I WANT A DIFFERENT ONE OKAY?

Velvet Buzzsaw, both the title, and the premise, is one that is able to draw you in slowly. It is set in a world that most of us are not a part of, dealing, making, selling art and making it a focal point of their lives. The rich, the elite. And that makes it a good film to have people die in.

Too many horror films are killing off our teenagers at record numbers. What about these rich people? The snobby elites? Why not watch them die in creative art fueled ways?

The concept is fine, but it definitely lacks the creep factor. It doesn’t seem to fully embrace the thoughts of horrors, and instead we get a strange drama/horror hybrid, where enough people definitely die, but never in ways that really seem exciting to talk about. The final death was a bit wicked, but other than that, it is mostly generic crazy death things.

It would be more memorable if it just went harder in the genre, but this movie plays it safe. We don’t have enough horrors set in museums, which are clearly some of the creepiest places to be. This adds to the list, but doesn’t top that list.

2 out of 4.

High Flying Bird

It has been a good long while since I received a Netflix movie early for a screening, not including the Mowgli one, as they played that in theaters for us. When I got a notification about it, I was excited, but I admit, I assumed it would have been Velvet Buzzsaw.

Instead it was for High Flying Bird, which I admit I would have probably ignored on description alone, if not for two reasons. First, obviously, I need to review it if they ask, so they can ask me to review more (makes sense!). And two, it was directed by Steven Soderbergh! As a general rule of thumb, I should watch everything that this man creates, as I will like or love them more often than not.

Now I do recall that he said before after doing Unsane that he will film all of his future movies with iPhones, or something to that regard, which did give me hesitation. It gives it a unique feel, that sort of fit with Unsane, but might not work for everything.

Fist
We will get to the issue of him doing a movie about race politics as a white dude, later.

Ray (AndrĂ© Holland), not Ray Ray, is sports manager/agent/pr man for namely basketball players, at a hard time to be an agent. Because there is an NBA lockout going on, and if most of their clients aren’t getting paid, then they aren’t getting paid. This isn’t great for job security, morale, or anything, and the lockout has been going on for months.

Ray’s newest client is Erick (Melvin Gregg), who was recently drafted number one overall! However, being drafted doesn’t mean shit. HE hasn’t received a paycheck yet, despite needing to move and figure out how to pay for bills and promises he didn’t expect to worry about. He is getting into trouble, and is in a weird spot with his own job. He has signed a contract, but it hasn’t been able to get processed. He has a team, but he really doesn’t have a team. Grey area can suck.

Ray wants to end the lock out, and decides on a strange plan, involving his unsigned yet signed talent. It is something that can put his own job, his player’s job, and a lot of people out of business. But is it crazy enough to work and get these men back to playing ball?

Also starring Zazie Beetz, Zachary Quinto, Sonja Sohn, Bill Duke, and Kyle MacLachlan.

dinner
This restaurant is so fancy, they even look whiter just by being in here.

Some of the topics in this movie deal with slavery, and how modern things can be attributed to past slavery notions in the USA. It also has a majority black cast, all done by a white director. It is however written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who wrote Moonlight, and is clearly not white. It sounds to me like the idea for a story was met, and they just brought in a director who wanted to just do all of his filming with phones, let him do his directing/cinematography thing, while giving pretty important input that he couldn’t possibly fully understand.

And that is probably fine. A team of white people didn’t put this movie together. It is a story that is set in a realistic setting, with realistic people, circumstances, and realistic conclusions. It is sort of a fantasy in terms of how quickly it all concludes at the end, I honestly thought there would be at least 15 more minutes.

Overall, the film is under 90 minutes if we don’t include the credits, and has a lot more set up than the conclusion really deserves. It is rushed, and despite all of the set up, we still don’t get a set up to fully explain Ray’s idea, or elaborate on how things will go down. The ending plays off like we were watching a heist movie, and we have to see how Ray did it, but of course on a much smaller scale than a heist.

Not enough gets to actually happen in the film for me to love it, but the ideas are there. The acting is believable. The camera work is unnecessarily weird and I never really get fully immersed in that choice. High Flying Bird as a movie just is unable to reach as high as its title would imply.

2 out of 4.