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It appears that we have no thread for this and just a few mentions in festival threads. Given that it won the People's Choice Award at TIFF (as did Green Book) and is thus on an Oscar shortlist, I figured I'd give it its own thread. 

I wrote a review comparing it to Huck Finn as a way, I hope of explaining both why I liked it but also why it didn't quite have the emotional oomph that I thought it should:

https://1morefilmblog.com/2019/10/22/jojo-rabbit-and-huck-finn/

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In the case of both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Jojo Rabbit, this critique of the dominant ideology (racist pro-slavery sentiment, and fascist anti-antisemitism) is underlined by the growth of the protagonist’s moral consciousness prompted by prolonged exposure to a representative of his culture’s demonized or marginalized people-group.

Author’s note: Ahead there are plot spoilers.

What actually sold me on Jojo Rabbit, however, is that unlike some of the other stories referenced, it shows the moral development of the adolescent to be fragile and prone to setbacks.

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Wasn't a fan of this. I am sympathetic to vjmorton's dismissal of the film for failing to pick a lane and stay in it.

I made a point of watching all of Waititi's previous films before seeing this -- the only one I had already seen was Thor: Ragnarok (aka "Lego Thor"), which I really didn't like either of the times that I saw it -- and I was particularly charmed by Eagle vs Shark and amused by What We Do in the Shadows, while appreciating the boy-needs-a-father(-figure) storylines of Boy and Hunt for the WilderpeopleJojo Rabbit obviously has some of that absentee-dad stuff going on, but, ugh, it's way over on the Thor: Ragnarok end of the spectrum -- which is not a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.

Edited to add: In the controversy over Martin Scorsese's recent comments about Marvel movies and how they lack "genuine emotional danger", someone on Twitter seriously replied that Scorsese should see Thor: Ragnarok -- a film that goes further than just about any other Marvel movie in undercutting the seriousness of every scene with tone-shifting "humour". Jojo Rabbit has that same glib aesthetic (as I said on Twitter, if you liked Thor: Ragnarok's glib approach to the apocalypse, you'll *love* Jojo Rabbit's glib approach to the Holocaust). This is a movie for the sort of people who think shouting "Fuck you, Hitler!" is deep or something.

And yes, I know there's no point in complaining about the lack of "accuracy" in a movie like this, but the real Hitler was an anti-smoking vegetarian, and I have a hard time believing that any child raised in Hitler's Germany would imagine him chowing down on a unicorn or constantly offering a kid cigarettes. (Hitler had racist reasons for hating smoking -- something to do with his attitude towards Native Americans -- but reportedly his vegetarianism was motivated by his distaste for cruelty towards animals, which is of course weird in light of his cruelty towards humans, but those are the sorts of paradoxes that make us what we are.)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Count me in the disappointed category with this one.  Like Ragnarok, but unlike Waititi's earlier films, much of the humor felt forced.  I also felt that the clashing tones of humor, historical horror, and family tragedy did not mesh well.  By comparison with Parasite (fresh in my mind from seeing it last weekend), the social commentary seems so broad and unsubtle here that it lacked bite or significance for me.

So, I guess I'm reiterating every point Peter made last week.  Even Jojo's ahistoricity bugged me as well.  I have no doubt that the treatment of Nazi captors by US soldiers depicted here happened spottily across the war, but it was hardly typical, and I'm skeptical it would've occurred so flagrantly at this juncture of the war.  It made for a tidy plot point but struck me as phony.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I can't honestly dispute any of that, but I did find it one of those movies where,  especially the second time around, I didn't care about the faults all that much. 

I guess I'm about the feels these days, and Jojo Rabbit made me feet something whereas Parasite just didn't.

I've also been wondering how much those traits are typical in just about any comedy that somehow becomes popular. (I'm thinking especially of like Mel Brooks or Monty Python.) 

Plus, well....Rilke. The movie wins.

 

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On 11/24/2019 at 1:32 PM, kenmorefield said:

I can't honestly dispute any of that, but I did find it one of those movies where,  especially the second time around, I didn't care about the faults all that much. 

I guess I'm about the feels these days, and Jojo Rabbit made me feet something whereas Parasite just didn't.

I've also been wondering how much those traits are typical in just about any comedy that somehow becomes popular. (I'm thinking especially of like Mel Brooks or Monty Python.) 

Plus, well....Rilke. The movie wins.

 

Perhaps move this over to the Parasite thread, but can you expand a bit on why Parasite failed to move you, since I certainly felt a range of emotions during the film — elation, fear, sympathy, etc.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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On ‎11‎/‎24‎/‎2019 at 1:32 PM, kenmorefield said:

I've also been wondering how much those traits are typical in just about any comedy that somehow becomes popular. (I'm thinking especially of like Mel Brooks or Monty Python.)

I dunno; the truly great comedies - O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Blazing Saddles; Airplane!; Holy Grail; most of Scott Pilgrim, Borat - felt unforced to me on first and subsequent viewings.

Edited by Andrew

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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21 hours ago, Anders said:

Perhaps move this over to the Parasite thread, but can you expand a bit on why Parasite failed to move you, since I certainly felt a range of emotions during the film — elation, fear, sympathy, etc.

I can try, though such explanations are normally conjectural. 

One deterrent to emotion was predictability. I was never surprised in Parasite. I felt as though you could have told me the premise and the filmmaker and the film I imagined would be largely what I got. In Jojo, there were at least 2-3 places where the film surprised me even if I understood the basic arc and direction from the beginning. I found Parasite had pacing problems, which usually means for me that I'm ahead of the movie and waiting for it to catch up instead of having given myself over to the movie and willing to follow along. 

I suppose, too, that I found a kind of nihilistic determinism about Parasite the worked to repress emotion because I find the underlying philosophy so uninspiring. We're all victims of mammon, life is one giant battle royale, the poor share the same selfishness and contempt for those less fortunate as do the rich. There was nobody I could root for or identify with. Sympathy is a weaker emotion than empathy.

Perhaps the second half would have carried more emotion for me if if I felt the film in some way interrogated those ideas or if it had done a better job of seducing me into some sort of righteous identification that could have been undercut. But I felt like instead of doing the harder job of giving the antagonists moments of humanity, it goes the easier route of just making the protagonists more determined. 

 

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As I've said on Twitter and Letterboxd, Jojo didn't work for me at all, and as someone who really loves What We Do in the Shadows I was very disappointed for that to be the case. The Producers Wes Anderson mashup was too tonally jarring for my tastes, and as well-intentioned as the film was, I thought the quirky, twee aspect unwittingly trivialized the horrors of the Third Reich.

Parasite, on the other hand, committed to its bleak premise with 100% conviction and while it solely stayed in its lane, it did so with a no holds barred gusto that has it currently in contention for my favorite film this year.

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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  • 1 month later...
On 11/18/2019 at 12:59 AM, Peter T Chattaway said:

Wasn't a fan of this. I am sympathetic to vjmorton's dismissal of the film for failing to pick a lane and stay in it.

 

 

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I also felt that the clashing tones of humor, historical horror, and family tragedy did not mesh well.  

 

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. The Producers Wes Anderson mashup was too tonally jarring for my tastes, a

The more I've thought about this, the less this particular criticism of the film persuades me. 

In part this is because the film is about characters who are almost all knowingly playacting all the time. Rockwell's opening scene shows he is aware of the futility but going through the motions. SJ's discussions with the girl are very different from her interactions with Jojo or her interactions with the command office. I find a great deal of humor and pathos in the way that people respond to absurd situations by constructing incongruous narratives of what is happening or has happened and sticking to them. I suppose Jojo's progression and development is his own attempt to pick a lane, and I am glad he doesn't stay in just one so that the film can be safer, tonally. 

I suppose my one complaint is that it still feels very on-the-nose to me. Do we really need TW in a message before the film to tell us that intolerance and hatred is happening today? Oh, is that what the film is really about? Never occurred to me, even with the Beatles, that you might be drawing parallels to different kinds of idolatry...

I'm okay with anyone not liking the film...and it feels like a vocal minority don't....but I do think sometimes, whether we like a film or not, certain takes get passed around and repeated enough that they begin to be taken as given when they've only been asserted. Maybe that's the way that the Internet works, and fans of Jojo and Green Book or Star Wars Episode Wichever Episode You Don't LIke don't push back (while Tarantino fanboys most certainly do). Of course, it doesn't help matters at all that the whole "stay in your lane" take, whether it's in reference to film criticism or politics,has always struck me as presumptuous and entitled. 

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FWIW, my main critique of Jojo was less of genre or tonal dissonance (although that bothered me too) and more that it seemed to ultimately promote a misguided sort of “Not All Nazis” message, especially with Rockwell's character arc, but arguably also Jojo's. Maybe Nazis weren’t all that bad; perhaps some were just misunderstood misfits, like Klenzendorf and Jojo. Whether this is what the film intended or not is debatable, I suppose. And there's a part of me that wants to believe that message from a Christian redemption perspective—i.e. that even the very worst sinners can be forgiven and redeemed by grace—but I don't think the film is promoting that sort of redemption at all, nor do I think Nazis and the Holocaust can just be shrugged off with a little laugh and a silly dance (which seemed to be how Jojo ends). But there are plenty of critics I respect who really enjoyed the film, and I genuinely want to understand what they found valuable in it, because I can't seem to see it.

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SPOILERS

Hey, Joel, thanks for the reply. 
I think as far as the issues you raise, I keep going back to the exchange where Elsa says "your *not* a Nazi, you're just a boy who likes Swastikas and wanted to join a club." Or words to that effect. Klenzendorf's obvious homosexuality and seeming knowledge of Jojo's mom's activities raises the question of whether he was ever really a Nazi or just passing as one. 

That is, of course, part of the horror. Everyone starts passing as the thing and then suddenly the thing looks larger and more pervasive than it really is. (Another way in which I think the Nazis are just a cover for talking about fascism today.) 

I didn't think the dance was shrugging off the whole Holocaust but was a remnant of hope emerging from the rubble. (Regarding shrugging it off, I recall that Elsa slaps him and Jojo acknowledges somethign like "I deserved that," which signals that there is an awareness that there are or should be repercussions for actions done, even under duress. I'm also reminded of how long TW stays with Jojo when he finds his mother's body. The best moment, for me, is when Jojo does try to stab her, and I think the film acknowledges in that moment that the seeds of hate and scapegoating are in all of us, not that the Nazis were'n't  all that bad.  (The scene of the Americans executing the Germans didn't particularly bother me for that reason.)

That said, I totally see how the emphasis on how good (or mixed up) people respond to fascism could alienate people who preferred a film focused on the fascists themselves. 

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There's an interesting parallel made between Jojo Rabbit and the Dardennes' Young Ahmed in this MUBI piece on the politics and problems of Jojo and Bombshell, which I think articulates my critiques of the film and its "good people on both sides" better than I could:

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Most confusing is Waititi’s decision to portray Nazi psychology through an ironic, liberal purview, which disowns the chilling self-righteousness of the program with ingrained apprehension and balking. Our various Nazi characters as a result are portrayed as complicit, but begrudgingly so. These are good Nazis stuck in the wrong time and place, evinced particularly by Sam Rockwell’s Captain Klenzendorf, the gay, alcoholic head of Nazi youth services who turns a blind eye to the Jewish girl and confronts the Americans in the final showdown donning eye shadow and dressed in a pink-accented, bedazzled uniform. For all its attempts at a half-assed historical alienation à la Bertolt Brecht, Jojo Rabbit intends to be relatable to the average American, and uses the political talking points of a good Democrat whose greatest nemesis is an uncle who voted Republican. Jojo’s mother, a Marlene Deitrich-inspired member of the German resistance played by Scarlett Johansson, insists he’ll grow out of Nazism, and when a dinner table discussion turns heated, she insists they stop talking politics.  

Another film released this year about a fatherless, brainwashed youth comes to mind: Jean-Luc and Pierre Dardenne’s Young Ahmed, about a Muslim teen who succumbs to radicalization. Ahmed is stubbornly devoted and for the most part unsympathetic in his unbending misogyny, a worldview fostered by a crooked imam whom the boy sees, like Jojo does Hitler, as a father-figure. In both films, the appearance of a romantic female interest throws these boys into disarray. But whereas Ahmed challenges audiences to grapple with the corruption of an innocent, Jojo Rabbit never takes seriously the consequences of a kid buying into an ideology of hate.  

Hitler and Nazi Germany are easy targets for Waititi, but hardly do these universally accepted evils need a sentimental treatment. There are good people on both sides, the film seems to say in its presumably heart-warming conclusion that shows Jew and reformed Nazi celebrating the end of the war with a dance. 

Still, I appreciate that you found the film hopeful, Ken. And it does seem to be a favorite for many. Josh Larsen has a very positive review:

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This is either the worst time for a movie like Jojo Rabbit or the best time. I lean toward the latter. I’m perfectly willing to concede that the film may come across as gauche in the coming years, but in November 2019—as an irreverently comic middle finger to idiotic, irrational tribalism—wow, does it feel good.

...

It’s a wild melange in which pop fanaticism merges with fanaticism of a much darker kind. Waititi’s inspired performance works similarly. Yes, he’s mostly making fun of one of history’s greatest monsters—portraying Hitler as a petulant, insecure child (sound familiar?)—but there are two moments when he becomes alarmingly angry at Jojo and the performance turns deadly serious. Spitting out vitriol with the ferocity that can be seen in actual footage of Hitler’s speeches, he’s scary within the context of the scene, but also because we know that such hatefulness swayed a nation.

Living in a country that, at the moment, seems similarly swayed, it can feel almost revolutionary to sit in a packed theater for Jojo Rabbit and laugh alongside others. If only it were that easy. Jojo Rabbit is far from a revolutionary act, yet in the way it hilariously thumbs its nose at ignorance and sweetly depicts the opening of one small mind, the movie at least makes resistance seem possible.

 

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5 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

Most confusing is Waititi’s decision to portray Nazi psychology through an ironic, liberal purview, which disowns the chilling self-righteousness of the program with ingrained apprehension and balking. Our various Nazi characters as a result are portrayed as complicit, but begrudgingly so. These are good Nazis stuck in the wrong time and place, evinced particularly by Sam Rockwell’s Captain Klenzendorf, the gay, alcoholic head of Nazi youth services who turns a blind eye to the Jewish girl and confronts the Americans in the final showdown donning eye shadow and dressed in anpink-accented, bedazzled uniform. For all its attempts at a half-assed historical alienation à la Bertolt Brecht, Jojo Rabbit intends to be relatable to the average American, and uses the political talking points of a good Democrat whose greatest nemesis is an uncle who voted Republican. Jojo’s mother, a Marlene Deitrich-inspired member of the German resistance played by Scarlett Johansson, insists he’ll grow out of Nazism, and when a dinner table discussion turns heated, she insists they stop talking politics.  

 

HI Joel. So, full-disclosure, I haven't read the full MUBI piece, but I have seen the pull-quote a couple places.

I think this excerpt exemplifies the loose use of the word "Nazi" in the overarching claims about "Nazi" characters or "Nazi" psychology. It is not just Jojo's mom that insists that Jojo is not a Nazi, so does Elsa, so too do the other Nazis. Faux-Hitler-the-Jojo-Projection says that he is, though surely even the film's critics understand that the Hitler of the film is not intended to represent the actual Hitler (he exists even after the actual Hitler is dead) but as the psychological projection of whatever Jojo needs him to be. Rebel Wilson's character seems uncomflicted--or at least irretrievably committed--and in a late scene she turns *children* into suicide bombers. In that kind of insane environment, do I blame a mother (who is risking her life by the what-may-seem-feeble-but-hey-you-try-it gesture of disseminating anti-government literature) for trying to shut down political talk at the table? I do not. (Mom may also be trying to protect her own secrets and Jojo's.) To counter the charge of mom forbidding politics at the dinner table I offer the scene where Jojo tries to look away from the corpses of the executed resisters and mom firmly but insistently turns his head and forces him to look at them. Yes, mom is hoping he'll snap out of it, but she isn't just doing nothing. She is trying to figure out what she can do in an environment where her country has been overrun with craziness and one wrong step can be fatal for her, her child, and the innocent child who will most likely go to the camps if she is discovered. None of that seems "ironic" nor portrayed ironically....and I guess if is (or intended to be) "relatable" to the "average American" then the MUBI writer is postulating that the Average American is an apprehensive Democrat or a begrudgingly conflicted Republican? (More on that in a second.

I guess Klenzendorf is a member of the Nazi party (and so too is Jojo's mom, probably?) And surely there were people who were in the party under coercion but not ideological Nazis. (Cue: A Hidden Life.) Are people complaining about Bombshell because McKinnon's character shows there were good and bad people at Fox News, some of whom were only "begrudgingly complicit"? A better (but perhaps more volatile parallel might be The Report. If someone seventy years in the future watched it and complained that the film showed there are good and bad Republicans participating in or aware of the Enhanced Interrogation Program or that some of the participants in the administration or even in the torture program itself were "complicit, but begrudgingly so" would we insist (via a time machine) that, no, every American was a member of that ruling party and every member of that ruling party was unconflicted? 

I think (if my social media is any indication, even though I try to mute out much political discussion) that some people right now are suspicious and cynical and angry about people like Senators Murkowski, Collins, or Romney or previous senator Flake who express "concern" or misgivings about ideology of the present moment but act in a complicit matter. Hell, The Report extends that retroactively to Democrats and even the Obama Administration to take the position that anyone who is not actively and publicly confronting an evil or wrong is complicit, and their queasiness, motives, or goals to work within the system be damned. So I entertain Josh's notion that this could be the worst possible time for a movie like Jojo. But within the parameters of a comedy I think the film actually wrestles with the potential despair and hopelessness of people who aren't on board with a prevalent ideology or practice but feel as though resistance is futile. (In that sense I lump Jojo together with A Hidden Life; Bombshell; and Dark Waters). 

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