Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

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mfunk9786
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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#26 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Dec 19, 2018 12:41 pm

Again, I feel the need to make a distinction - when I stated that bit about a "glitzy, cheap salve," I meant it only as it pertains to Celeste's music in the film, as it is presented to us. It's not altogether good, and the stage show isn't either - and not for lack of making it work for the film's purposes or some excellent work by Sia of getting what Corbet needed here on the music end, but because the film is trying to show us a relatively mediocre product for a reason. Consider the song sung by young Celeste early in the film and older Celeste's adjustment of one of the lyrics to "epic fail" when it reoccurs later on at the concert (and in the soundtrack album). It's more a product than a genuine expression of emotion, and we don't know that for certain until the film's final narration. What's the line between those two things? Is there a line? The idea that the narrator shares, that the nation needed it to recover from a tragedy that occurred directly to Celeste is one that solidifies for me that there is little difference between something manufactured for the sake of striking while the iron is hot, and something poured out as though it is vital to share it with the world. Vox Lux itself is rife with that contradiction, the film itself lives within that purgatory.

But by seeing what an ugly person Celeste can be, we can ponder the key question here, whether the idolatry of someone who manages to successfully create a spectacle that appeals to people's emotional needs is an inherently healthy thing - dating back a long way as has been pointed out in this thread, but perhaps more feverishly engaged with today than ever. The more cultural unease, the more need there is for this, and perhaps the more apparent it becomes when, like you describe with Ingrid Goes West, there is not a ton of substance behind the cult of personality. How far is a cult of personality around a performer or someone who just appears in Instagram photos from a cult of personality around Donald Trump, or a terror group? [note: distinguishing between those two might not be necessary.]

I'm not at all contending that Corbet has really hit upon something that's never been explored in other films, or that can't be the stuff of dinner party conversations, but I am saying that this film raises these issues in a really bombastically entertaining and stimulating way. We have been living in existentially anxious times since the turn of the millennium, and that is a very big thing to even attempt to wrestle with in a film, let alone explain in a neat little package. Vox Lux doesn't attempt to explain what the preferable alternative to the questions it raises is, but the fact that it tries to at least pretend to be all-knowing makes it more thought-provoking than if it were just some hopeless provocation, without any intent but to cast judgment, or shock, or both.
Satori wrote:I am certainly not ready to concede that serious art can better address societal uncertainty and disease than popular art.
I agree with you 100% here, and not that this specifically exists within the film (Corbet touched upon it in a Q&A), but the more popular art and things like political policy (again, look who's in the White House, he's an entertainer with no political qualifications whatsoever) intermingle, it becomes more difficult to see a distinction between any of this stuff, and our entire collective society is on the line. What will address societal uncertainty and disease? Are we too far gone? There are pockets of far right idolatry going on around the world, and it's all not too different from the sort of cult that can form around an entertainer. But on both fronts, these cults are built around dangerously empty promises.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#27 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Dec 19, 2018 11:19 pm

Revisited this MST3K host segment today, and it made me think of the thesis of this film a bit. Spiritual... cousins, let's say.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#28 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Dec 26, 2018 5:26 pm


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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#29 Post by Omensetter » Wed Dec 26, 2018 8:06 pm

As an inveterate reader of Pitchfork since 2005---for better or worse, they definitely have an agenda against the film, and you can usually tell this by, yes, what they published, but also by the score, which they (probably) correctly assume is what most individuals look at. Kanye's album from this year was deservedly excoriated and received a 7.1. Most of what they review receives somewhere between a 6.8 and a 9.2., so that 4.5 on the soundtrack on a review that will be on their front page for five days is telling and unfortunate because I think they could have aided with the film's box office, especially in a crowded season. It's plausible they found a chance to be legitimately influential (something that pretty much died at the turn of the decade) and found two staff members who didn't dig the film.

I was fully prepared to view this in Wichita, of all places, but I forgot about the Christmas releases which, of course, waylaid the film in favor of robots, sea superheroes, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if Neon outbidding A24 on this one was related to Neon releasing it this year and gifting it an Oscar campaign; it's obvious now that it would have been a better fit with A24, who I'd guess would have held it over to next year, where it'd have more breathing room.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#30 Post by tenia » Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:04 am

It's not the first time that Pitchfork preferences or dislikes are shown beyond any journalistic sensitivities and are just written in a complete subjective manner. They still are my main source to follow the new releases but I've learnt to read though both this kind of obvious dislikes but also some of their dispropotionate raves.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#31 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Dec 27, 2018 1:04 pm

I guess it wouldn't bug me if the score weren't so awesome. This is obviously a divisive film that many are finding easy to dismiss, but that fucking score

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#32 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Thu Dec 27, 2018 1:41 pm

Pitchfork are weird. They love everything Arianda Grande releases and went big this year for the 1975, who they previously gave pretty lukewarm reviews too. Not that they don't release good material - the 1975 album is pretty solid - but it's almost like they don't want to be on the wrong side of the commercial scale.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#33 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Jan 03, 2019 6:07 pm

I was surprised at the end to see Corbet was sort of adapting Thomas Mann's novel, Doctor Faustus, in which
SpoilerShow
a composer makes a pact with the devil (an event whose reality is similarly questionable) for musical success, to the detriment of his character and relationships, and whose life and fame follows and gains context from the important events and tragedies of the early-to-mid 20th century.
Both are narrated and interpreted from the outside, too, tho' this similarity is more superficial/incidental.

As such I suspect the movie isn't really a critique of pop music any more than Mann's novel was critiquing atonal classical music. Pop music is a stand-in for other things.

I'd have to think about the movie more to pull it apart. In the mean time, I'm impressed with Portman's performance and both her and the movie's readiness to make her character persistently unlikable (tho' sometimes there's sympathy). I think it's no accident that all the things she complains people do to her are things she herself does to the people around her. Indeed, her defiant speech during the concert is a list of sins we've watched her commit. The layers of aggression, defensiveness, aggrandizement, self-justification, self-pity, recrimination, vulnerability, fear, self-awareness, and delusion in the diner scene alone is dizzying.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#34 Post by knives » Thu Jan 03, 2019 6:52 pm

The Mann connection probably isn't accidental either. His previous film was loosely adapted from Sartre after all.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#35 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Jan 03, 2019 6:56 pm

Thomas Mann might get you to Cannes, but Sartre is smart-ra

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#36 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Jan 04, 2019 12:50 am

Blu-ray release is March 5th, no word yet on the digital release or whether this will see the light of day in UHD

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#37 Post by Adam » Fri Jan 04, 2019 2:51 am

tenia wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:04 am
It's not the first time that Pitchfork preferences or dislikes are shown beyond any journalistic sensitivities and are just written in a complete subjective manner.
I don't quite understand your point here. Pitchfork is a review site and so by definition everything there is subjective; all real reviews are subjective. I think the issue is finding out how one's own tastes align with any particular critic, and then being in a thoughtful "conversation" with a thoughtful critic (even if just in one's own mind.) Editors, though, who might decide to have it our for an artist or film, that's another matter. Pitchfork's number system though is ridiculous to me What the heck is the difference between a 7.1 and a 7.2?

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#38 Post by tenia » Fri Jan 04, 2019 4:45 am

It's not about being subjective, it's about having favorites and nemesises and showing it so heavily in some reviews that they end up pointless and untrustworthy because the aura of the artist comes before the intrinsequial quality of the work being reviewed. In these cases, I usually go on Metacritic instead to try and have a better sense of whether the album is worth a shot or not.

I've also read some reviews that are so vague that you can't even understand why they give the album this or that score. It seems to review only a few tracks of the album, and spend tons of lines on peripheric and contextual appreciation, which again gives you no clue as to whether or not the album is worth trying. And that's while the review doesn't spend 2 full paragraphs raving about how the singer sings Yes and not Yeah in one song.

Pitchfork still remains my go-to website for music reviews, because they review just so many stuff and usually aligns with the consensus so that I can get a sense of what I can try, but I've grown being cautious with some of their reviews by experience.


I however have no issue with their scoring system, being someone who have scored movies and TV shows on a 100% scale down to the % and who wishes he could give 1/4 pt in his technical BD reviews instead of being stuck to 1/2 pts only (on a 10/10 scale).

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#39 Post by nitin » Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:52 am

Saw this tonight, swings for the fences and almost as many scenes work that don’t work, but it’s never less than interesting.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#40 Post by furbicide » Mon Feb 25, 2019 1:04 pm

This is a really, really impressive film. I wouldn't say I loved all of it – the second part dragged a little – but it's so refreshing to watch a director make ambitious, even bombastic, aesthetic choices and never fall into predictable tropes or narrative beats. My feeling after leaving the cinema was not unlike waking up from a bad dream, and I absolutely mean that in a good way.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#41 Post by Persona » Mon Feb 25, 2019 1:09 pm

It's interesting how little recognition this film has gotten at the end of the year. You really think Portman would have helped it carry a bit more impact.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#42 Post by Aunt Peg » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:45 am

I'm very much on the fence with this one as well. Some of it was quite brilliant but other parts were rather underwhelming - particularly the earlier parts of the film. Natalie Portman was excellent in the film, probably her best performance to date after Jackie. Whilst I'd be lying if I said I didn't say I was disappointed in the film overall given how much I admired Brady Corbet's Childhood of Leader, Vox Lux nevertheless does indicate Corbet as a filmmaker to watch.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#43 Post by dda1996a » Sat Mar 02, 2019 2:15 pm

Slightly better than Childhood, but it suffers from from the same problem, that Corbet asks me to think and connect everything while he barely makes what I watch interesting. The first half of this, until Portman arrives, was brilliant (the first ten minutes alone are downright perfect), but after Portman arrives, it just goes down hill (not because of her). All the menace, the fragility of the first half are just thrown away for obvious themes. And the final performance is incredibly dull. I got what Corbet was doing but it is shot, edited and performed so badly it just wasn't interesting to watch. But it appears Corbet makes me like him with each film he makes, and if next time he gives me those first however minutes they were, I'll be converted.

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Re: Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018)

#44 Post by Persona » Sun Apr 14, 2019 5:10 pm

dda1996a wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 2:15 pm
Slightly better than Childhood, but it suffers from from the same problem, that Corbet asks me to think and connect everything while he barely makes what I watch interesting. The first half of this, until Portman arrives, was brilliant (the first ten minutes alone are downright perfect), but after Portman arrives, it just goes down hill (not because of her). All the menace, the fragility of the first half are just thrown away for obvious themes. And the final performance is incredibly dull. I got what Corbet was doing but it is shot, edited and performed so badly it just wasn't interesting to watch. But it appears Corbet makes me like him with each film he makes, and if next time he gives me those first however minutes they were, I'll be converted.
Yeah, I really agree with you.

It was always sort of fleetingly interesting but the second half of the film definitely feels kind of adrift in its own loose sort of culmination of what the first half effectively set up but, well, didn't actually set up because I, personally, did not feel any remote sort of connection between young Celeste and Portman's Celeste.

And maybe that's part of the film's larger point about modern society and the commodification/exploitation of feelings/experience and what that does to the content creators... I don't know. I kind of feel like we're supposed to see more of a through-line, though, and it just is not there.

I also thought that maybe it was intentional how trash the songs and final performance are but again, not at all sure on that level, especially when it comes to those brief final shots.

If I was more engaged throughout maybe I would have found the film's playing against itself more fascinating and provocative but, as it is, I was left mostly indifferent, but not exactly regretting the time I spent watching it.

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