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My 12 for ’18: “Sorry to Bother You” & Getting Used to the Problem

It’s that time of year. I’ll counting down my top twelve films of the year daily on the blog between now and New Year. I’ll also be discussing my top ten on the Scannain podcast. This is number six.

“If you get shown a problem, but don’t see a way you can have control over it, you just decide to get used to the problem.”

2018 and 2017 were chaotic years.

It is almost impossible to fully process everything that has happened. Even just the headlines seem insane. The President of the United States is under investigation. There may be a tape that exists of that man being urinated upon by Russian prostitutes. Children are being locked in cages. Meanwhile, Britain is leaving the United Kingdom. Part of that is down to a campaign organised in consultation with a celebrity hypnotist. Prominent British politicians have threatened to recreate the Great Famine in order to create negotiating leverage.

All of this is just the headlines. It is possible to miss the smaller-scale insanity that is taking place around the fringes of the news. A Republican congressional candidate who is a “devotee” of “Bigfoot erotica.” The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development suggesting that slaves were really “immigrants.” The high volume of democratically elected doctors with frankly insane ideas about medicine. Elon Musk labelled a heroic cave-diver a “paedophile” for rejected his crazy plan involving a submarine. The world is a topsy-turvy place, and nothing makes any real sense.

With that in mind, Sorry to Bother You is one of the movies that perfectly encapsulates the texture and feel of the current moment.

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Non-Review Review: Sorry to Bother You

Sorry to Bother You is striking, vibrant and vital. And essential.

Boots Riley’s directorial debut is a work of striking confidence, one that emerges almost perfectly formed with the skill and craft of a director much more experienced. Sorry to Bother You knows exactly what it is doing from one moment to the next, without any sense of hesitation of self-doubt. Sorry to Bother You is strikingly self-assured, maintaining an incredible level of high-energy across its runtime. This sustained propulsive dynamism in infectious, as the movie bounces from one big idea to the next.

Dialing up the social commentary.

The most obvious antecedents of Sorry to Bother You are the vibrant science-fiction social satires of the eighties, most notably the work of Paul Verhoeven that used a hyper-stylised aesthetic to depict the grosteque excesses of capitalism. Of course, the true horror of Sorry to Bother You lies in the sense of how the world itself has moved to close the gap over the past three decades. Although Sorry to Bother You unfolds primarily in a lightly fictionalised Oakland, the most unsettling aspect of the film is how close it feels to the modern status quo.

Sorry to Bother You is a work of bold vision.

Few satires are a patch on this.

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