Thor: Ragnarok

It’s time you all knew that Thor has semi-secretly been my favorite Avenger since I first discovered superhero movies. I think I’ve watched the first Thor movie four times, and it’ll happen again. One year I even dressed up as Thor for Halloween. I pinned a red towel around my shoulders for my cape, made a winged helmet out of a hardhat, foam, and silver spray paint, and waited all night for a trick-or-treater dressed as Loki to come to my friend’s door so that I could swing him aloft and sing out: “HE AIN’T HEAVY, HE’S MY BROOOTTHEEER.” No little Loki’s came by that night, to my continued dismay. But at least I looked great.

What I love about the Thor movies is that they’re ridiculous and epic and fill me with joy. They are unabashed about their bouncing comic book absurdity in a way that actually feels more like an X-Men movie than the rest of the Avengers franchise, and I feel extremely positively about that. The first Thor flick, you may recall, was a grand, cape-swirling Shakespearean family drama in a gigantic golden space castle, with a comedy-of-errors astronomy interlude off in the hinterlands. Which tracks, given that it was directed by Gilderoy Lockhart himself, bonkers English thespian Sir Kenneth Branagh.

Incredibly, they managed to top themselves with their director choice this time. And how. Ragnarok, the third in the Thoeuvre, was blessedly given to maverick Māori improvisational auteur Taika Waititi, master of the misfit picture and maybe this blog’s favorite filmmaker. Applying his same incomprehensible genius that gave us a deeply lovable and hilarious buddy comedy about the broken foster care system, he took Marvel’s millions and turned out a rainbow-hued team-up smash-‘em-up about storming into your hometown on a fireworks-spewing party boat and tearing down everything built on imperialism and conquest. He’s perfect, it was perfect, I’ll go on.

Here’s a perfect thing for you: in this film, one of the central characters is a Fallen Valkyrie played by Tessa Thompson, who is hilarious and talented and a woman of color. And she gets to swagger onscreen drunk and badass, like a warrior, and get a plot about identity struggles and honor and reclamation, also like a warrior, and also like a commentary on displaced Indigenous peoples, BECAUSE TAIKA. And also because Taika: she spends the majority of her scenes riffing with a gloriously unchecked Jeff Goldblum, face done up in half the Wet ’n Wild line, and a thrilled Chris Hemsworth, who, thank god, is finally leading a movie that wants him to be the fantastically doofy comedic actor he was born to be.

Other perfections:
– Mark Mothersbaugh’s fabulous synthy rock score, especially during all the segments on the technicolor garbage pile of the universe
– Academy Award Winner and real-life goddess Cate Blanchett, who can do whatever the hell she wants, evidently wanting to stalk around in an antler headpiece and make evil villainess speeches at bald Karl Urban
– an actual staged Shakespearean dumb show of the concluding events of Thor 2
– the magnificent Rachel House stealing every and I mean every scene she’s in
– and Idris Elba’s Heimdall being given a plot that casts him as some wonderful mashup of Aragorn and King Arthur

In conclusion, Ragnarok was everything I wanted and more from Taika Waititi’s Thor movie, and the most gleeful fun I’ve had at the cinema with a big bucket of popcorn and an action movie since Mad Mad: Fury Road.

Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent is a film about the death of Vincent van Gogh, told through his paintings, and I mean that phrase much more literally than usual. Every single frame of this movie was hand-painted by a team of artists, building movement by repainting their brush strokes over and over, so that in these images you know so well, now the woman gets up from her chair, the man lowers his curled hands, the crows keep flying up over the shivering golden field and wing away into the dark sky.

It is one of the most beautiful and unusual things I have ever seen. From the very first moment it stuns you, your breath catching in your throat as a painting comes to life before your eyes. And then, a person comes life before your eyes. Because Loving Vincent is a meditation on art as much as a meditation on humanity. We get to know some of the people in Vincent’s life and in his works, and through these disparate, conflicting souls, get to know his. Also conflicted within himself, and tender, and ever, ever heartfelt.

Sometimes movies become known simply for a daring and original feature of their production. This will be one of them, because there has truly never been anything like it. Driving back from the theater, my friend and I were trying to figure out what Oscars it will even be nominated for anyway. Is it Art Direction? Does Art Direction apply to the incomprehensible feat of painting over 65,000 frames to make a movie? Or does it fall under the category of Animation? Is it still Animation if the artists were working off of filmed performances by actors?

But these are all questions I had after watching it. While watching it, there was only the hypnotic, vivid beauty of seeing the postmaster breathe under a starry night sky, listening with me to one of the countless exquisite letters Vincent wrote his beloved brother, Theo. Loving Vincent is more than its conceit. It is a simple yet introspective film, a picture book, a poem, and, yes, a work of art.