3 Films You Should Know About If You're An Artist
In one of our last articles of 2023, Blank Thought took to the movie theater to breakdown how recent films have influenced not only our artistic climate but our environmental one as well. Don't miss this exclusive review of 3 wonderful films and how their own storylines have impacted how creatives use real world problems in their art.
Now at first, this may seem like a rather abrupt turn from my other pieces on underground rap music & interviews with artists, but hear me out because I’ve had something on my mind recently. Given all the real world consequences and the relevance to today’s world and climate, humanity’s relationship with nature has been on my mind a lot recently. On top of all of the things I just listed, it's slowly been bleeding into some of my favorite media. While the balance between humanity and nature and the consequences of losing that balance is not a new concept in storytelling by any means. It’s existed for thousands of years even when they were about gods and monsters, but the themes existed nonetheless. However, the global outcry about global warming, the rapid increase of technology & the sweeping need for more and more natural resources to feed our ever expanding economy has brought this balance to the forefront over the last 30 years. As a fellow artist, I understand the concept of your reality bleeding into your music whether you want it to or not, but the films I’d like to talk about today feel extremely intentional in their thoughts on the subject. I am a massive fan of film and television and their potential as storytelling mediums. I’ve been going through a film phase as of recently, and a recent watch inspired me. I’m gonna write three short reviews for Godzilla Minus One, Princess Mononoke & Nope, and then discuss how these fit into the equation of my thoughts as of recent. Enjoy!!
The most recent film I watched, and the real inspiration for this article, is the absolutely incredible Godzilla Minus One, directed by Takashi Yamazaki, and produced by Toho studios. Now, as of right now I’ve only seen the movie once. I intend on seeing it again very soon, but of course my thoughts will be very different and more developed when that happens. However, this movie is devastating, incredibly well made & most importantly, thematically rich. Some of my favorite themes that run throughout this movie is the commentary on Japanese soldiers expendability in the eyes of their government, the tremendous display of PTSD and survivor’s guilt that makes you feel the true horror and pain, an incredible contemplation of loss and the human spirit to survive and love, and a truly heartwarming portrayal of a found family that is given time to really attach to. But none of these feels as on the nose of the thoughts on humanity's role in creating the titular character. When we first meet the monster, it's in the truly captivating and terrifying opening scenes. Godzilla is at this point a large creature that can still wreak havoc, but in no way is anything close to the behemoth that terrorizes Tokyo later in the film. The Godzilla that we know later in the film is created by the testing of atomic weapons by the U.S government. If you haven’t already figured it out, or haven’t seen previous Godzilla films, Godzilla is an allegory for nuclear weapons, or what may happen to those who chose to upset the aforementioned balance between nature and humanity. In most iterations, Godzilla is created by humanity by their hubris in testing nuclear weapons, and is a very physical consequence to this very balance. Some other highlights of this movie was the absolutely gripping and incredible score, the phenomenal performances by the lead actors in the movie, and the ludicrously low budget for such an incredible movie. I heard all the hype about it, and as a Godzilla fan I was nervous for my expectations to be too high. This is one of the best movies of the year, and will live on as a statement film just as the original was.
One of these stories that does indeed deal with gods and monsters as a storytelling device extremely effectively, while also presenting a different perspective, is the absolutely fantastic Princess Mononoke by Hayao Miyazaki by the incomparable Studio Ghibli. This movie was shown to me by my girl, and what a fantastic recommendation that was. This movie is full of rich themes and nuance, presenting this topic in a way that allows you to consider both perspectives without giving you a true answer. This is not a world of black and white, of good and evil, like your classic Disney films. This movie doesn’t hold your hand or present itself as the authority. It’s the passion and creation from a genius that allows you to reach your own conclusions, and not only that, but in a way that creates meaningful discussion on this exact topic. In this movie, there is no easy villain. Sure, the Lady Eboshi is trying to kill the forest spirit and the gods, which is a bad thing, but in the same right is very generous to many sections of humanity others look down upon including sex workers and lepers, and is shown to be extremely loyal & capable while also propelling humanity into a new era of technology. Sure, Jigo is greedy and wants to kill the forest spirit, but there is a palpable humanity to his character and all in this movie. These characters can do evil deeds, and it would’ve been easy to make this movie one that tells you that nature needs to be preserved and that humans are bad, but Miyazaki isn’t interested in such a thing. Throughout the whole movie, the main character Ashitaka puts his life on the line time and time again just to try and create peace between the humans and gods. His purpose in this conflict is to“see with eyes unclouded with hate”, which in my eyes means to see the conflict in an unbiased and neutral way in the way the movie attempts to examine the conflict. This movie is absolutely incredible and even in my limited viewing, I can even start to unveil all the layers of this incredibly complex and well made movie. Even though the ultimate message of the picture is to preserve nature & that humanity and nature can coexist given purposeful effort, I really enjoy the level of interpretation available in this film.
Jordan Peele has been wildly successful in his career, and his first film Get Out was an incredible success that changed the film scene in a big way, but Nope has always been his masterpiece to me. Not of planet earth, or more commonly known as Nope, is a film that seems from the outside to be another standard UFO flick with diminishing returns. This idea couldn’t be further from the truth. Peele has always had a knack for approaching plots in new and interesting ways, but this one is almost completely different from the initial impression. This movie is mainly about spectacle, and the lengths that people will go to experience that feeling that only a truly breathtaking event can emulate. But, in the background of those very clear themes throughout this movie, the relationship between animals and man, specifically in terms of respecting animals instead of exploiting them is a very palpable idea. This theme is explored more explicitly with the incident on the Gordy's home set, but more subtly with OJ (the main character) and his relationships with his horses, and the aforementioned UFO jean jacket. The Gordy’s home scenes at first seem out of place, but with the context of the full film, it embodies the way in which Peele decided to present this story. The only time in which the characters are able to coexist with these animals is by respecting their power and autonomy, and not exploiting them for their own entertainment and glory. These themes are laced throughout an extremely entertaining movie, with equal moments of horror and awe. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer give incredible performances as the leads, and it leads to a gripping picture with top tier cinematography and thematic work throughout. I think this movie in particular channels a message unlike the other two, unapologetically on the side of the direct consequences of exploiting and destroying the natural fabric and respect between man and animal, and does it in a way that allows you to find this meaning more and more weaved into the fabric of this fantastic film.
While this is a thought that has been on my mind for a bit, I will not pretend I am an expert film critic, or have honestly even fully grasped these movies in the way I will in the future on further rewatches. I wanted to write about something that inspired me, however I am not a professional. But, I do believe that these movies all bring about dialogue on this very complex issue in interesting and new ways, while also being fantastic films in their own right. My thoughts on the specific issue is that one of the many things that is wrong with our current world is the way we interact with nature. Capitalism creates an ever expanding and always growing economy, and there is nowhere where this is more felt than in the natural world. Natural resources are slowly diminishing because of this ever expanding need for them to create our products and wants. While it's honestly unrealistic to expect a drastic turn in the other direction especially without the aforementioned purposeful effort, conversations like these are important to the intellectual and natural future of the next generations. The more awareness there is of problems such as global warming, deforestation and the overuse of natural resources, the more opportunities for someone to step up and change something. If you haven’t seen these films, I tried to keep my thoughts relatively spoiler free. I would highly recommend them even if it isn’t for these discussions, but just to enjoy these genuine masterpieces.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading! I’ll be back soon with some more music reviews!
Written By Blank Thought: linktr.ee/b1ankthought