Tomatoes, The Lobster, and Originality in Cinema

I have a friend who is an aspiring cook. He used to intern at this high-end restaurant and would tell me all about the dishes he helped prep. Needless to say, he told me the food he eats at the kitchen is amazing. The reason why the food was amazing was not only because of the complex recipes and experienced chefs (though this definitely played a part), but also due to the ingredients. He described a food economy where we eat ingredients shipped over vast distances and preserved with chemicals. Barely anyone works with ingredients straight from the farm, except for high end restaurants who pay a premium.

As a result, most of us have forgotten the taste of truly fresh ingredients. When my friend first described this phenomenon to me, I thought to the child, Jack, in The Room (the one with Brie Larson, not the “worst movie ever made”). In a sense we are all like Jack, growing up in a confined box where all we know is the tomato from the grocery market (I can write another post later about that movie, definitely have A LOT to say about that).

Now what does this have to do with movies. Well a week ago I watched two movies by Yorgos Lanthimos: The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Lobster. The movies were weird by any standard. I mean a world where you must find a mate within 45 days or else be turned into an animal? A family where every member becomes paralyzed until their eyes start bleeding unless a curse is broken? Definitely weird, but intriguing. Yorgos transported me to a world entirely foreign, but with all too familiar consequences (I’ll write a more detailed analysis of the two movies later). He made me laugh, cry, but, most importantly, think critically about the nature of love, justice, and redemption. Yorgos definitely didn’t make it easy. There was no narrator explaining what was going on, no cue card painting the context, and no elaborate dialogue-based deposition. I had to work for my understanding of Yorgos’s image.

After I watched these movies, I found myself bored. I tried picking up a few new shows, but just thought everything was just so predictable or tried too hard to be unpredictable. It’s been so long since I’ve seen anything truly original and bold in Hollywood. Don’t get me wrong I love and appreciate storytelling in Hollywood, but at one point I yearn to see something that challenges the viewer. Now after having a taste of originality in film it’s hard to go back to movies that rehash themes that have already been explored similarly in other movies. Take Parasite for example, a great movie, but not original by any means. If you want to know why, watch Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, a similar movie about class conflict made just a few years ago with similar cast (Kang-Ho Song is to Bong Joon-ho as Samuel L Jackson is to Quentin Tarantino). Point is, was Parasite a beautifully crafted movie? Yes of course no one is saying anything against that. Was it original? No, it wasn’t, I can name a number of movies that explore similar themes with the same results.

This takes us back to that fresh tomato. Yorgos’s films made me realize that I had forgotten what originality had looked like in cinema. In this age of streaming where behemoths like Netflix, Amazon, and Disney try to populate their streaming platforms with an endless stream of mediocre rehashes, we are quickly forgetting originality. Yorgos pulls you out of this industrial movie machine and reminds us what a fresh tomato really tastes like. Bravo.

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Overworked, tired, and caffeine fueled grad student looking to share my love of movies and music. Pardon misspellings, just learning how to write

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Yasha’s Musings

Yasha’s Musings

Overworked, tired, and caffeine fueled grad student looking to share my love of movies and music. Pardon misspellings, just learning how to write

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