Issue #11: The Fame And The Furious 🎤
F4 + Eurovision
There's so much happening in the news this week it feels futile to try to hang this introduction on any of them. Instead, we'll simply wish that you are all well and managing as best you can during what are sure to be lean times ahead. Be a good neighbor and wear a mask!
Thankfully we've got light fare this week. Zosha returns to the Fast and Furious franchise with F4 aka The One Where It Starts To Get Good. And Cate is delighting in a silly little Netflix movie you might have heard of: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. We think they're both great and we can't wait for you to read about them. We're also still seeking feedback about our issues so far. Send us a love notes lovelies! We want to know all about what you like and don't like about our little operation so we can keep striving to make it a better and more enjoyable reading experience for you.
On with the show!
Zosha on Fast & Furious
Written by: Chris Morgan
Directed by: Justin Lin
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Alright folks, in the intervening weeks/months(/years?) of quarantine, I have watched exactly three (3) more Fast and the Furious vehicles. Now that I am halfway through the series—if only a third through its chronology? Ask me again in a few movies—it seems like a good time to do another Thoughts and the Furious installation. So here we go on Fast Four:
It’s actually called Fast & Furious, both the as-promised dropping of the “the,” and a great description of what actually happens in the film, unlike earlier installments where they were, more often than not, going fast and, like, ticked.
Let’s get this out of the way: Michelle Rodriguez is marked for death within the first moments of the film. You hate to see it.
Fast and the Furious producers, seeing that they are losing their main lesbian by killing off Letty, make the ultimate product placement appeal: a Subaru joins the fleet! And not just at any point in the film, but for the final showdown, when everyone knows you’re going to do the hardest stunts. Bless that Outback, and its resilient little hatchback maneuvering.
Apropos of nothing: On my driver’s test the driving instructor told me I did the best reversing around a corner he had ever seen, and in a Subaru hatchback no less. Where’s my Fast & Furious?
Gal Gadot is here! And she makes absolutely no effort to project, meaning that we were constantly wilding the volume dial back and forth in order to hear what she said and not get our ears blown out by the action.
And I know in 2009 it was a lot more common to get a willowy supermodel-type wandering into proceedings in heels and just sort of….I don’t know, facilitating? Asking for Dom’s number? But take a stroll down the brief imagination alley that my boyfriend and I did in the middle of the film: Our main pair are mending their fences and looking for this Braga guy who killed Letty. He’s a mysterious drug dealer who never shows his face, but O’Conner thought he caught sight of him at the club.
When the two get double-crossed, they call Gadot to set up a meet—she’s cleaning and testing her gun, while Braga’s right-hand man fields O’Conner and Dom’s request for an exchange with Braga directly. Once they’re at the exchange tensions are high—the FBI has finally matched the fingerprint O’Conner gave them for Braga; our fast and furious boys are withholding the $60 million in heroin until they see the big honcho. The file is printing and...it’s NOT Gal Gadot as the mastermind behind it all, but instead just the guy passing himself off as the right-hand man?? I mean what in the How to Train Your Dragon 2 is this nonsense. I believe, given the time frame of this movie in 2009 and in Gal Gadot’s career, that they might waste Gal Gadot. Can’t believe they wasted a perfectly good Keyser Soze reveal.
At the beginning of the movie, the FBI boss says that he hopes “reinstating” O’Conner to the bureau wasn’t a mistake. Except when last we met him he was a former LAPD officer (#defund) who was looking to absolve himself of past crimes/lapses in professional judgment?
While we’re on the subject: For a movie that is, all in all, about criminals doing criminal things, Fast & Furious has a rather predictably (for action movies) deep reverence for law enforcement. It’s almost Hays Code-ian, in the way that people who are bad must be punished and atone in some way. (At least, until O’Conner decides the sentence is bullshit, and then Dom is like “yeah cool, forget my morals.)
(The sentence is bullshit—what crimes did Dom commit that could get him sentenced for 25-life? I thought he was just stealing CRT TVs and other early 2000s electronics that are no longer worth anything by the time this movie was released.)
OK, it’s time to talk about the tunnel. The tunnel feels like an apt metaphor for where Fast & Furious falls in the franchise (again, guessing, as I have yet to see the next handful). It is constricting, heavily CGI-d, and both a little confusing and confused. It features many things that don’t seem to be well-designed at all—like Chekov’s load-bearing posts, that all the cars drive by way faster than they need to when they could just hang out under the mountain for a while. And yet, our intrepid heroes have to make it to the other side, because there are greener pastures on the other end of it. Sure if you think too long about it there’s nothing good there, and the heavy CGI sits unfavorably next to the LA/Miami/desert street races we’ve seen so far (even if those, too, were aided by computers). You just gotta do it to ‘em.
Fast & Furious marks a sort of endpoint of what the franchise was, and cohesion into a new world order. As such, it has to undergo the necessary growing pains that come along with that, seriously addressing (as much as these macho car-heads are capable) the betrayal and hurt between them. It’s a little uninformed, a little misguided, but hey, it’s gotta happen, so they can be criminal bros out in the world—maybe in Dubai? We’ll find out soon!
Early in the film, O’Conner and Dom glower at each other on the starting line as they wait to race for a spot on the bad guy’s crew. I do not know how we are supposed to think either of them heard each other when neither mustered so much as a half-hearted shout over the roar of the crowd and their engines. Plus with Dom’s grumbling voice this entire movie, the scenes with him and Gal Gadot were near incomprehensible.
Also lost amid all the growing pains: the family-first masculinity model. In the first film, Dom seemed like the ocean: he could kill you, but he was tranquil and inviting unless seriously provoked. It’s only when his Family™️ is seriously threatened that he lashes out.
Here, Vin Diesel is ready to pop off at a moment’s notice. When he finds out that Letty was working with O’Conner, he doesn’t stop to ask questions, he just throttles the shit out of O’Conner until a leg hold can calm him down enough. This is, perhaps, a bit unfair—Dom was rather even-keel with the men who killed Letty, at least long enough to properly exact his revenge. But he has somewhat entered a Mary Sue territory: he’s a perfect driver, a perfect fighter, a stoic man waiting for his (lesbian) girlfriend to return from the war. And as the male personification of that, maybe we expect him to be a little more twitchy.
I shouldn’t really bring this up now but: We’re led to believe that Dom gives his sister the payphone number in Panama City to use in case of emergency, right? So why tf does he answer the phone with “I thought I told you to never call this number.”
Also, what is he so afraid of? Sure, the FBI reported him in his old neighborhood as soon as he got there. Then again, even when they threatened to arrest him, kicking O’Conner off the force for what looked to them like collusion with yet another dangerous criminal (/the same criminal he shared an intense emotional bond with, again), he wasn’t exactly quaking. He was literally in his old house, with the garage door cracked open, tuning up an old car.
Han, come back to me.
A lot less Nos in this one than you’d expect. Then again, it’s used for innovative purposes!
God bless this franchise’s commitment to making absolutely doofy computers to run their cars.
Cate on Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Written by: Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele
Directed by: David Dobkin
Distributed by: Netflix
The thing about Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is that it is surprisingly, much, much more than the sum of its parts. The promotion for the film is precisely as ridiculous as it should be, but it also hides how genuinely enjoyable and well constructed the movie is. If you approach Eurovision expecting a silly Will Ferrell movie, you’re gonna absolutely LOVE IT. Ferrell’s output is generally spotty in my estimation, and despite being a fellow Trojan I have tended to find his overly broad style of comedy to be only occasionally funny. But with Eurovision, he finally hits true gold by blending the silly with the sincere.
The movie centers on two singers and longtime friends from Iceland Lars Ericksson (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams) as they fail their way into representing their country at the Eurovision Song Contest as the band Fire Saga. Eurovision has been a life-long dream for Lars, who thinks that winning the competition will prove his worth and finally earn his father’s respect. Sigrit, who has a gorgeous voice, is hopelessly in love with Lars and content to follow wherever he leads.
Along the way there’s a scheming money man, a disapproving father, a lusty competitor, a mass murder, a “song-along,” some feisty elves and a very sexual Russian man. But most of the rest of the plot is too fun to divulge. It truly deserves to be experienced firsthand.
One of the film’s few hitches is that it is painfully obvious that McAdams is not the one behind Sigrit’s singing voice. That honor goes to former IRL Eurovision contestant My Marianne. Marianne’s voice is powerful and full of passion, but while McAdams’ acting is easily some of her career-best, she never quite sells the emotion of connecting to the music during the big performance numbers. Thankfully though, Sigrit’s final number “Husavik” is a perfect movie song. The number exquisitely encapsulates the movie’s themes, while bringing the story to its natural emotional peak. It signals closure and fulfillment for both Lars and Sigrit and best of all, it’s a really good song! It’s genuinely lovely! I cried during that scene!
Part of what makes Eurovision so fun is that it takes itself exactly the right amount of seriously. Lars (and by extension Sigrit) is an underdog you can root for, but unlike so many of Ferrell’s characters, he’s not a complete and total buffoon. Fire Saga’s official Eurovision entry “Double Trouble” is a truly enjoyable and catchy electro-pop tune that would absolutely kill it in the clubs, so you’re never left feeling like the two are delusional for aspiring to the competition.
Even the technically shoe-horned romance between them feels earned by the film’s end, and you aren’t left feeling shortchanged when the extraordinarily talented Sigrit ends up with Lars after everything he puts her through. (We told y’all there would be spoilers, so don’t yell at me I don’t want to hear it.) All round, it’s the kind of movie that makes you wish it was safe to go to a movie theatre right now because it’s absolutely PERFECT for a drunk singalong with other game strangers.
And none of that even touches on the incredible cameos from former Eurovision contests including Conchita Wurst and former winner Netta Barzilai. Demi Lovato also turns up as Katiana Lindsdóttir, the Icelandic artist favored to represent the country until her death means Fire Saga moves onto the main competition instead. Yes, really.
I’d also be remiss not to mention Dan Stevens’ performance as the Russian, Alexander Lemtov, a fellow Eurovision competitor, and competing love interest for Sigrit. His number “Lion of Love” is a perfect example of the kind of campy, over the top perfection that the Eurovision Song Contest is known for. His vocals are provided by opera singer Erik Mjönes, who somehow manages to make the most ridiculous lyrics feel full of gravitas. Stevens himself plays Lemtov with the perfect kind of homoerotic hypermasculinity that Americans tend to associate with send-ups of Vladimir Putin. I will also admit that I did not see his character’s third act twist coming because of it.
Extraneous bit of information that will hopefully help convince you to embrace joy and watch Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga:
European electropop is the best thing in the entire world and precisely what you need to bring you out of your pandemic slump.
Rachel McAdams deserves everything and she’s somehow both ridiculous and perfect in this part.
Pierce Brosnan is so, incredibly hot in his old age. More men should embrace going grey! His hair is amazing!
If the riff-offs were your favourite part of the Pitch Perfect movies, you will 1000% enjoy the movie’s “song-along” scene. Don’t ask me what that actually means because they don’t explain it, but there is Cher involved so really what more do you need?
The entire soundtrack slaps and will be a great addition to your quarantine playlists. A particular favourite is “Fool Moon” by real band Anteros from their 2019 album When We Land.
¡Viva la Revolución!
Seeking funds: The Brooklyn Defender Services is fundraising for those incarcerated in NYC jails who desperately need lightweight clothing to help them stay cool and survive the summer heat.
Seeking support: This Linktree, which provides the email addresses to many local officials who could reopen, refocus, or reframe the justice done in the circumstances. That said: Make yourself harder to ignore by crafting your own emails within the auto-populated templates they provide! Put those city officials to work reviewing your words. Also, in Belgium they just banned headscarves at all universities, so thousands of protesters have taken to the street to denounce the Islamophobia; here's a community petition, if you're able to sign in support. And: Support Texas teachers who, as of press time, be doing in-class sessions come fall despite, y'know, the global pandemic, with little-to-no actual support.
Assorted Internet Detritus
Zosha: This week in Zosha's reading habits: Prestige TV is dead, long live comfort TV (this article is also written without judgement for those who never saw the distinction). The new Looney Tunes cartoon on HBO Max takes the guns out of the characters hands, but stay true to the ethos of the show. Who had to die for your food? And Scientific American finally asks the question we've all already known in our hearts: What if doctors stopped prescribing weight loss [under some old guard, debunked fatphobia]?
Cate: This week I've been thinking about power—who has it, who wields it, and who abuses it. To that end, I'm reading this essay that gets at why Kat's misunderstanding of who holds power on The Bold Type this season has been so deeply upsetting, this article that details why the furor over "cancel culture" can be categorized as a reactionary moral panic that's more about those in power losing some of theirs (ie, it's not a real problem you numpties) and this review of the new show P-Valley on Starz, about a group of black strippers and the way they navigate their own social, economic and financial power.
That's it for today! In next week's issue: Intolerable Cruelty and Misbehaviour.
Sheltering in place and yelling about movies,
Zosha + Cate <3