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"Ready Player One" and "Lean on Pete"

Three months after the delivery of "The Post" at Christmas, Steven Spielberg is back with another package that will carry the label "Ready Player One". Nothing will ever match his sinister – and perhaps disturbing – transition from "Jurassic Park" to "Schindler's List" within a single year, but it's still a stone's throw of "The Post," a towering liberal anthem in praise of pressure, to "Ready Player One," a movie in which no one gives the least signs of need or desire to read. The screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline is based on Cline's novel of the same name, but there every connection with the written word ends.

It is 2045, years after the "Bandwidth Units" and Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), an orphan in his late teens, lives with his aunt Alice (Susan Lynch). What is it with aunts? Peter Parker has one. James has two before he finds the giant peach. I suppose nephews and nieces feel half-separated, without the pull of close ties, and therefore more suited for adventure. Wade and Alice live in the Stacks, a slum of stacked caravans in Columbus, Ohio. What society in general is, what it works on and how it feeds itself, are questions that never annoy the movie, even though we see pizzas run over by drones. All that most people, including Wade, want to do is strap on a headset, leave their lumbering existence, and enter a virtual realm known as the Oasis. It is wild, weightless, boundless and without real pain. (When someone cuts you, money flows out of the wound.) Any resemblance to a heroin dose, let alone an opioid epidemic, is completely random.

The Oasis was conjured up by a furry named Halliday (Mark Rylance), who died seven years ago and left an annoying game. Anyone can participate in it, and so far all have failed to complete it, including Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the boss of a vicious company. The goal is to obtain three magical keys and, after collecting, to win a shining easter egg and take command of the oasis. Is that the best thing Cline and Spielberg can think of? And since we hope from the start that Wade will be the winner, what has changed since Willy Wonka transferred control of his chocolate factory to Charlie Bucket?

Well, unlike the spirited Mr. Wonka, Halliday is dead, but no important, because he stays alive in the form of his digital avatar, a gnomish greybear named ̵

1; give me power – anorak. In the oasis avatars are indispensable. You would never be so stupid as to reveal your real name, and besides you will adopt a new sex, a new body and even, in cases of extreme anxiety, a new species. Wade, who finds me a bit stubborn and deaf to a Spielberg hero, has created an alter ego named Parzival that suggests an implausible passion for medieval German love literature. Or maybe for Wagner, except that Parzival does not look like a knightly tenor. He looks like an extra in a Duran Duran video from the pit of the 1980s. So we approach the holy grail of the movie.

James Joyce once proudly confessed that "Finnegans Wake" would "occupy the professors for centuries," and a similar challenge is being made to outstanding pop culture scholars, from "Ready Player One." The task of freezing every frame and looking for Reagan trivia might not consume her for a hundred years, but she should fill her spare time until, say, the release of "Avengers: Infinity War," April 27th. In the search for the first key, for example, players must take part in a street race on virtual streets in virtual cars of their choice. Parzival has a DeLorean, from Robert Zemecki's "Back to the Future" – a striking proof that reinforces later as he and another avatar, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), avoid anger by using a special Doodad around the time to reverse 60 seconds. The name of this Doodad? The Zemeckis Cube

By far the most daring reunion comes when a bunch of avatars led by Wade through the oasis follow a hint from Halladie's past – it's a long story – and find themselves in "The Shining" (1980) stranded. Many of his notorious images are loaded directly into the new movie: the identical twins, the ax head that splits the door, the elevator that opens to unleash a bloodied flood – in this case, one of Spielberg's ragged characters Slither and Slips, pure to laugh. I have no idea, first, how he was given the permission of the Stanley Kubrick estate to carry out such a rude invasion, and secondly, whether it should be considered homage or indignation. Kubrickians, I suspect, will see them with their eyes closed.

There is an attempt to offset these online antics with a threat from the physical world that involves Sorrento, but the balance between high technology and lower sublunary cunning, so finely implemented by Spielberg in "Minority Report" (2002) , here is anything but absent. Instead, his attention is focused on the poetry of brands and icons (did not I see in the shadow of the "Doctor Who" police box?). Nothing is stranger in this very strange film than the mystical power endowed with pop culture; A vital riddle can only be solved by someone who is well-versed in the works of John Hughes. When Spielberg is nostalgic, it is less for his own childhood (he grew up in the fifties) than for the childhood he helped shape – for the epoch that was so effectively colonized by his films and those of his contemporaries. An old clip in the archives of the Oasis finds Halliday in a melancholy mood. "Why can not we even go back?" He asks, adding, "Bill and Ted did it."

And yet, to be honest, I would "trade" the whole "ready-to-play one" for the scene. ET "in which Elliott shows his" Star Wars "action figures to his friend from outer space:" That's Greedo, and then that's Hammerhead, look, that's Walrus Man, that's Snaggletooth, and that's Lando Calrissian, look, and that is Boba Fett. "Basically, he does what Wade does by analyzing the details of fictional places and storylines, except that Wade does this in a dangerously thin dramatic atmosphere, while Elliott has a rapt audience of one, what we focus on is the expression on ET's face as he ponders human habits, this intimate tranquility is alien to the new film that Spielberg resonates at such a rapid pace, stuffing every fissure with as feverish details as if his mission were at the age of seventy-one, not only in that recapture, but doubling the lust of youth I saw the movie in IMAX and a week later I'm still waiting for the safe return of my optic nerves, but it was the a meager emotional charge that shocked me the most – towards the end, as in many Spielberg films, there are tears, but for once they feel undeserved Are they apart from pure sensory depletion? In a concluding sermon we are told that "Reality is the only thing that is real." I would not even go that far.

A meeting between Wade Watts and Charley Thompson (Charlie Plummer), the hero of "Lean on Pete," would be full of interest. Both are in their teens. Both are motherless and bowed down by stressful lives. And both are looking for a way out, though nothing could be less virtual, or more of a thrill, than the way Charley chooses. Often it seems to be no choice at all.

At first he shares a house in Portland, Oregon, with his father, Ray (Travis Fimmel), a cocky loser who quickly disappears from the picture his son alone. Charley, who already has a part-time job with Del (Steve Buscemi), a local horse trainer, is now becoming his full-time dog hunter, or Nagsbody – cleaning the stables, driving the truck or leaning on Pete. Pete, as he is commonly known, is a five-year-old horse of gentle temper, bred to take short courses in the sprint. When Charley watches him race on a dirt road with a few spectators behind ropes, it's the first time we've seen the child crack a smile. For Del, however, Pete has reached the end of his usefulness and should be sold for scrap, so to speak: a prospect that Charley is so horrible to flee one night, with the horse in tow.

Not everything in "Lean on Pete" made by British director Andrew Haigh sounds true. Buscemi is the least grass-fed actor in the city's street races, and if I did not quite believe him as a country guy, I believed even less in Chloë Sevigny as a cynical jockey with a set of broken bones. But Plummer, who recently played the hijacked John Paul Getty III in "All the Money in the World," founds and ties the film to his name as an unclaimed soul with barely a dollar. When he speaks, he tends to look down or sideways without the confidence to look at someone. History drifts with Charley, in and out of danger, and becomes a sad rogue; While his face becomes hollow and dirty, we desperately want him to survive. And where is he going? Everywhere in the country to try – you guessed it – his aunt. ♦

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