Thursday, 18 January 2018

IN THEATRES: The Commuter

Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) is a worker bee in the big city. Every day for the last 10 years he has taken the train to and from work. Every day has been the same boring routine - until today. Today, his train journey will be more eventful than irate fellow-travellers and bad smells = bad guys, broken bones and explosions.

I kinda loved this movie. Not enough to remember it in a year, or make this review longer, but still, this movie hit me the right way.

Jaume Collet-Serra has been earmarked for bigger things (Akira; Suicide Squad 2) but thankfully he has never graduated to the A List. Because it would deprive us of gems like this. With Liam Neeson as his muse, Collet-Serra is quickly turning into this century's version of Budd Botticher and Randolph Scott. Where those low budget luminaries favoured the western, Collet-Serra and Neeson have carved out a niche as purveyors of mid-budget high-concept action thrillers. 

Neeson's late-career detour into elder action hero has become a bit of a joke, but of all the b-movies he has taken on post-Taken, his collaborations with Collet-Serra have been the best.

And I think this one might be the best.

The plot is a load of contrived bollocks but Collet-Serra handles the material so deftly it never matters. He brings much needed style and visual panache to material that a) does not deserve it b) would be completely unwatchable.

The standout sequence is a one-take fight scene between Neeson and one of the villains in a train car. It is a stylistic exercise, but the lack of cutting works to increase the sense of peril. For once Neeson feels like an ordinary guy trying to stay alive, rather than a superman.

Of course by the end of the movie, after he has been punched through windows, jumped between carriages and ducked another falling carriage, any sense of verisimilitude has got off a few stops back.

While the movie goes off the rails (har har) in the third act,  it adds to the fun. Once again, Collet-Serra's sure hand at the tiller ensures that this escalation does not come out of nowhere.

The acting by all concerned is solid - Neeson gets to play a more vulnerable version of his usual persona (hard to believe someone with a pedigree like his has a 'persona'), and everyone does what they have to, and they all seem to know what kind of movie they are in.

On this evidence, I hope Collet-Serra gets more and bigger opportunities to stretch his skills - but not before he has popped off a few more gems like this. He is the real star here.

Overall, The Commuter is a fun, well-made potboiler from one of the best working genre filmmakers around. It does everything you expect, but with enough style and panache to make it entertaining.


In 1971, the Washington Post, a local paper in the US Capital, found itself at war with the US Government when it received the Pentagon Papers, a secret report on the history of America's decades-long involvement in Vietnam.

This movie hit me in so many different ways. As a history buff, as an ex-pat and as someone who trained as a journalist - this movie resonated in a lot of ways.

A passionate tribute to the Fourth Estate, The Post is a movie moulded in the dumpster fire of Trump's America. It might be the most urgent and pointed film in Steven Spielberg's career.

A companion piece to Alan J Pakula's classic All The President's Men, The Post is both a thematic sequel and a narrative prequel. The movie even includes an easter egg at the climax that literalizes the connection between the two films.  

In an era defined by over-stuffed runtimes and empty exercises in visual style, The clarity of Speilberg's direction and the script by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer is a breath of fresh air. There are a few scenes involving long takes which are completely seamless - they are never used as mere technical exercises, but are completely functional within the context of the story. The camera tracks editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) through offices, newsrooms, and - in one of the film's standout scenes - his house, as he bats away the paper's lawyers while reporters pour through sections of the Pentagon papers.

The performances are terrific. Hanks is good as Bradlee. I was not blown away, but he handles the role well. Bradlee is an important character, but he is not the central figure, which might be why he did not stand out to me.

Bob Odenkirk is great as Ben Bagdikian, the journalist who tracks down Daniel Ellsberg (The Americans' Jonathan Rhys), the whistle-blower responsible for smuggling the report out to the public. He lends the dogged reporter a jittery everyman quality that works to ram home the danger the Post is in.  His awkwardness and lack of overt bravery makes his ethical stand for publishing the report far more impactful. He knows what's at stake (and appears to be genuinely terrified of the consequences), but he is still willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.

Bruce Greenwood is also good as former Secretary of State Robert McNamara (star of Errol Morris's classic documentary The Fog of War). Greenwood is always great at playing intelligent authority figures, and that fits this conflicted, divisive figure to a T.

And now time for one of the great cliches of our time when it comes to movies starring Meryl Streep.

This movie starring Meryl Streep belongs to Meryl Streep. Playing publisher Kay Graham, if The Post has a central character it is her. The movie is as much about Graham learning to assert herself over the multitude of male voices telling her what to do. Beyond her performance, this storyline is the backbone of the movie - if the movie was not based around her, I don't know if the movie would resonate as much.
One of the main delights of the film is how it characterises this transformation. The expectation would be a sudden expression of steely resolve. Instead, Streep leans into the character's natural hesitance. The scene where she awkwardly decides to publish the findings from the Pentagon Papers, abruptly terminating a teleconference with various board members and paper staff, is brilliant. The Post never feels like a powerpoint of historical bullet points. Like Spielberg's Lincoln, it feels like people stumbling through significant moments without the audience's understanding of their significance.
The Post is a terrific and timely film that deserves a massive audience. Not just because of its message, but because it delivers its message with such power and precision. It is the best press the press could have right now.

On a related note, if you are interested in Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, check out the 2009 documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.

Saturday, 13 January 2018


A Hasidic widower, Menashe (Menashe Lustig), is determined that his son live with him. However this goes against a ruling from his rabbi that the boy grow up in a 'proper' home (i.e. with a mother). Unwilling to remarry, Menashe is caught between love for his son and his beliefs.

A small scale character piece, Menashe is the kind of movie that I like to soak in. There is no real plot; just a locale, a mood and a deeply human anchor in its central character. Featuring a cast of Hasidic non-actors, and inspired by his leading man's real life, Joshua Z. Weinstein's film is warm, empathetic portrait of a community that is rarely portrayed onscreen. 

As the lead, Lustig is great - he is naturalistic in his interactions with his son Rieven (Ruben Niborski) and is extremely affecting during the dramatic moments. Weinstein often lets his camera stay on Lustig, letting moments play out. The film's most affecting sequence is when Menashe, post-date, eats takeaway at a convenience store while the clerk awkwardly stares at him.

Because it takes place almost entirely in Yiddish, there is a layer of distance that might be shielding some of the performances, but the movie lives and dies on Lustig's performance. There is a weariness and a sadness to Lustig's performance that never feels telegraphed or shoved in our faces.

Like Malglutit which I reviewed last year, Weinstein makes no overt attempts to explain any aspects of Hasidic culture, instead letting the audience put the pieces together. Beyond the matter-of-fact presentation of Hasidic culture, the movie's strength is its emotional through-line.  

When you take away the context, the movie is just a story about a single parent trying move on in his life and raise his son. The movie only has a hair of a plot: Menashe takes it upon himself to make the preparations for the anniversary of his wife's death - if he succeeds, the Rabbi will consider letting him keep his son; if he fails, he will go to live with his brother-in-law. 

There are no contrivances or subplots to clog up the 82 minute runtime. The only obstacles are banal and straightforward: Nosey relatives, uncaring employers and Menashe's own personal flaws. 

Leavened by touches of humour and heart, Menashe is a sweet little movie that is worth a look.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

IN THEATRES: All the Money in the World

In 1973, John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) was kidnapped and held for ransom. When his grandfather, the world's richest man John Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), refused to pay, it fell to Paul's mother Abigail (Michelle Williams) and Getty's hatchet man Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to get her son back.

This movie was not on my radar until November, when original cast member Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual assault. In an un-precendented move, Ridley Scott declared that he was re-casting Spacey with Christopher Plummer AND that he would have the film finished by the film's release date in late December.

Movies with unusual production problems have always fascinated me. There is something incredibly arresting about watching a team of filmmakers struggle to bring a film to the screen. Recent examples include Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassuss (which coincidentally starred Plummer as the title character) springs to mind, or 2013's World War Z, where the filmmakers ended up re-shooting almost half of the movie.

Christopher Plummer fits in perfectly - there is one shot where the seams show, but other than that you would never guess that he was a late replacement who was added less than a month before the movie's release. 

Plummer is one of those actors who never quite disappears into a role - he makes recognisable choices in terms of the way he uses his body and voice. He has an affinity for playing amoral shits, and Getty is right in his wheelhouse. Unlike the performer he replaced, Plummer is able to leaven his characters with a sense of humour and charm in a way that allows him to remain just outside of a viewer's sympathies (think of General Chang in Star Trek 6 or his elderly patriarch in the Dragon Tattoo remake). He gives Getty just enough pathos that you can understand while people could overlook his complete ruthlessness and self-regard. 

It also helps that Plummer is closer to the age of the character he is playing. Besides verisimilitude, it also fits in with the bleakness of the mise-en-scene. There is something almost vulture-like about Plummer's profile, and almost cadaverous about his face in general, that adds to the sense of Getty as a purely selfish creature, drawing sustenance from the world around him.

Plummer is such a perfect fit for this movie that by the climax it is hard to imagine that another performer was in his place.

While Plummer was the draw, Michelle Williams is the real standout of the movie. Williams has been terrific in almost everything she has done for years now, and I am embarrassed that I forgot she was in it. 

Mark Wahlberg is fine as Getty's hatchet man, although I did not quite buy his character turn in the third act. Wahlberg is not quite old enough to give the role the gravitas and cynicism that the script intends. For most of the runtime, he seemed to fit in, but when it came to the character's biggest emotional shifts, he fails to convince.
Ridley Scott is on good form here. Following the meandering, bizarre Alien Covenant last year, All The Money In The World oddly feels like a counterpart to that picture: it takes a microscopic lens to a situation in which human beings do terrible things to each other for terrible reasons. While that picture felt interesting but half-baked, All The Money In Thew World is extremely focused.

Due to the compressed time scale - and the logistical issues involved - All the Money in the World is a remarkable case study in Scott's skills as a filmmaker. When left to his own devices, he can be a sloppy story-teller (see Prometheus or Robin Hood for recent examples). Scott is not a creator in the traditional sense - he is a terrific interpreter, using his background as an art director and a designer to build worlds around his characters that feel like extensions of whatever his film is about: think of hellish future-scapes of Blade Runner or the lonely conman's sterile home in the underrated Matchstick Men.

All The Money In The World is all about the price of greed. Though he is present in less than half of the picture, Plummer's John Paul Getty is the centre of the film. The film's focus is his single-minded focus on accumulating wealth, building an empire and a dynasty, and the way his family are dragged into his schemes.

Darius Wolski's  sharp, cool photography is a major asset - even before Paul is kidnapped, the Gettys' world is dominated by the patriarch's miserly ways. It always feels like the vitality has been sucked out of the image. 

A testament to Ridley Scott's fascination with human beings doing terrible things to one another - and his talent for overcoming impossible production obstacles - All the Money in the World is a mature thriller for grown-ups. It might be a bit mournful for some people, and takes a bit of time to get going, but overall it is a really good film and one of Scott's best efforts in years.


Alien Covenant

Thursday, 28 December 2017

IN THEATRES: Jumanji - Welcome to the Jungle

A group of high school students on detention find themselves sucked inside an old video game and have to work together to complete the game so that they can return home. Basically, it is the same plot as Zathura.

This movie turned out to be far better than it had any right to be. Most of Dwayne Johnson’s movies derive most of their entertainment value from their star - the scripts are generally unremarkable (Central Intelligence) and the filmmaking is by-the-numbers at best (Walking Tall, Faster etc). Jumanji - Welcome to the Jungle is easily one of Johnson’s best constructed vehicles. 

The premise is clear and straightforward, the characters all have something to do and the movie has a good basic theme - learning to become comfortable with yourself - which the movie carries through to the fianle. It’s really predictable, and does not do anything particularly original. But when the execution is this solid, who cares?

The movie is so solid, I’m in danger of having nothing to write about. There is nothing particularly bad about it. It is just a good, fun movie that does exactly what it sets out to do.

Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan are all good. The movie is more of an ensemble piece, and they all provide good counter-weights to Johnson. 

The most interesting thing about Jumanji is how it echoes last year’s Central Intelligence in having Johnson in a role that played against his out-sized persona. In that case it was a professional spy who is still trapped in the same mindset he has had since high school. Jumanji continues this trend by having him playing the super heroic avatar for a hypochondriac nerd. It speaks well of Johnson that he is willing to make himself the subject of mockery - and hopefully it signals a willingness to seek out more roles that allow to try different types of characters. 

There is one weird issue with Johnson’s role that  presents an interesting/problematic subtext that the film never explores: in the movie his real-life counterpart, Spencer (Alex Wolff) is a nerdy white kid who turns into Johnson's super-masculine explorer Dr Smolder Bravestone while his former friend, high school football star Antony/'Fridge' is transformed into Bravestone's lackey Franklin "Mouse" Finbar (Hart). Is the game turning Spencer into the person he wishes he could be i.e. someone like Fridge? Is Jumanji - Welcome to the Jungle a sequel to Get Out

Probably not. This aspect of the movie is another example of the ways in which Hollywood views Johnson. He is in a weird category with Vin Diesel where his race is never part of the movie. I first noticed it while listening to Black Men Can't Jump (in Hollywood) - the hosts have brought this absence/erasure when discussing Johnson's movies and  Outside of the Fast & Furious movies which throw in occasional references, in movies like Hercules and San Andreas, it is never referenced in the diegesis. The latter movie goes to the laughable extreme of giving him a whiter-than-white daughter, played by Alexandra Daddario. It’s like the filmmakers see him as a generic plug-in movie star. 

It is an interesting element of Johnson’s persona, reminiscent of the way Arnold Schwarzenegger just became ‘American’ in his movies, with no in-film reason for his accent or ridiculous physique. It is an interesting issue that keeps popping up with Johnson’s movies. Considering the vague moves toward greater diversity in Holywood, it will be interesting to see if Johnson continues to operate in his category.

Back to the movie! Jumanji - Welcome to the Jungle is a fun movie. Check it out!

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

RnB BIOPICS: TLC & Aaliyah

In the last few years, there have been several TV  biopics made about famous RnB singers. I have been slowly making my way through a list. I was going to wait until I'd watched a couple more, but better to keep it short and sweet.

CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story (2013)
From their discovery by LaFace Records, through early success, bankruptcy, illness, love and heartbreak, CrazySexyCool tells the story of the iconic nineties group TLC:  'T-Boz' Watkins (Drew Sidora), Rozanda 'Chilli' Thomas (Keke Palmer) and Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes (Natia 'Lil Mama' Kirland).

This movie has a lot of things going for it: First of all, TLC's story is a classic example of a 'rags to riches'-style superstar narrative.

The movie benefits from great casting: First off, Lil Mama is great as Left Eye. If you only know her from Lip Gloss or her interview on the Breakfast Club, prepare to have your brain explode. This was also one of her earliest acting roles which makes the performance even more remarkable.

Keke Palmer and Drew Sidora are also good as, respectively, Chili and T-Boz. Due to the nature of the characters, they do not pop in the same way that Left Eye/Lil Mama does, but they are both good. It's hard to really describe because Lisa Lopes had such a definable persona, but both Palmer and Sidora provide the human anchor. It helps that they both get the most dramatic subplots: Chili has a fraught relationship with producer Dallas Austin, while T-Boz balances her desire to perform with her sickle-cell anemia.  

Like most biopics, supporting characters do feel like foot notes. The one exception is the band's manager and nemesis, Pebbles, played by Rochelle Aytes. Oscillating between big sister and Big Brother, Aytes is wonderfully hate-able. She provides the movie with its only moments of real tension, and the movie loses steam when she disappears halfway through.

Pebbles (Rochelle Aytes)
The movie tracks through the timeline of TLC's first four album releases, ending with Left Eye's tragic death in a car crash. In between, we get all the key moments from their 1992-2002 run: Lisa's refusal to sing during the 'Creep' video; Lisa burning down her boyfriend's mansion; and the group's famous speech at the 1996 Grammys, where they revealed they were broke.

Like all biopics, the movie suffers from trying to cover so much material, and about halfway through the movie loses focus. It is never clear whose story this is supposed to be - T-Boz and Chilli narrate, while Left Eye is a cypher. The filmmakers do a great job of interweaving the womens' shared struggles (the montage of their various romantic snafus is the best) but as the movie heads into the home stretch, I began to lose track of where these threads were going.
    To be honest, once the group break off ties with Pebbles and start putting together Fan Mail, the movie loses a sense of conflict. Pebbles is such  great antagonist, but once she disappears, the movie loses a sense of conflict. It is in this section of the movie that you can feel the strain. Maybe if the movie had been a miniseries, so that these storylines could have been allowed to breath and resolve.

    Stylistically, the movie is more ambitious than you would expect from a  small-screen biopic. Director Charles Stone III (Drumline) juggles the movie's various tones with enough skill that the script's rapid transitions never feel jarring. He also finds ways to make the film's various montages feel fresh and original.

    Overall, CrazySexyCool is a fun flick. It covers too much ground, but it has great performances, good pacing and is far more cinematic than you would expect from a TV movie.  It is probably a good entry point for a newbie - you get a taste of most of the songs, and a decent summary of their career.

    Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B (2014)
    Aaliyah Haughton (1979-2001) became an overnight star with the release of her R Kelly-produced debut album in 1994. Following two more experimental albums, the fast-rising star's life was tragically cut short when she was killed in a plane crash.

      Made without her family's involvement and without the rights to her music, this movie was cursed with production problems. Original lead Zendaya dropped out of the project 10 days before shooting, and Alexandra Shipp (X-MenTragedy Girls) was parachuted in with little time to train for the dance and singing sequences.

      Top to bottom, this movie is a mess.

      First off, the movie has no real through line. We follow Aaliyah's rise from talent shows to teen star, but there is no real sense of development. We get a bit of her relationship with R. Kelly, which we are told profoundly affected her, but we never feel it. The movie is in too much of a hurry to get to the big career milestones - which is when we run into the other big problem with the show: the music.

      The only music we get are a few covers from her albums ('At Your Best (You Are Love)', 'Got To Give It Up') and 'Journey to the Past' from the Anastasia animated movie. Now the movie might have been able to get by with just these tracks if the movie had focused on something other than her music. The movie flirts with an emotional arc that might have strengthened the movie - we are told that Shipp's Aaliyah is profoundly affected by her relationship with R Kelly, and the movie tries to resolve  this by having her fall for Damon Dash. If treated as the movie's dramatic foundation, these two relationships could have given the movie a real shot at being good.

      But the filmmakers chose to speed through her career highlights, and pay too much attention to the music we do not get to hear. We have scenes of Aaliyah meeting and working with Timbaland and Missy Elliott, but we never hear anything they are working on. Tracks are referenced but any time it looks like we might get to hear them, the movie cuts to another scene. It is like making a movie about the Wright Brothers but not having the rights to show the plane.

      The cast do their best, and Shipp has a few scenes where she feels like a real person, but too much of the movie feels like a feature-length exposition dump.

      The singer and the cast deserved better.


      Aaliyah retrospective

      Saturday, 23 December 2017

      Bond 25 speculation: Why is James Bond relevant in 2019?

      A few things have changed in the Bond-sphere(?) since I wrote the last one of these things. We now have a release date (8 November, 2019) and a James Bond (Saint Blue Eyes himself, Daniel Craig). It will be a while before we start to get more details like a director (maybe middle of next year) or a cast (which, following previous form, will be just before production starts, around December).

      Until then, let's pontificate out into the void.

      I really hope this movie is good. I think this every time a new movie is on the horizon. Sadly most of the time I wind up disappointed.

      With the last three Bonds (Dalton, Brosnan and Craig), my favourite movie of theirs is always their first one. I have been searching for a reason why these movies work while their successors don't quite hit the mark. I think it boils down to one thing.

      With a new Bond, the filmmakers cannot rest on their laurels. With no established Bond, they have to justify why this actor is James Bond. More specifically, their debut movie is generally based around making the case for a new Bond at the point in time when the movie is released. With a new Bond, the key question facing the filmmakers is why is James Bond relevant? Why should we as a mass audience still treat Bond as a relevant piece of pop culture?

      With a character as long-lived as Bond, it is a question that will never stop getting asked, and that is a good thing.

      James Bond is a contradiction, with one foot in 1952 when Ian Fleming wrote the first Bond novel, and the other foot in the ever-changing present.

      When Bond was created, the Cold War had only just begun, and Britain was slowly coming to the realisation that it was no longer a world power. Bond was Fleming's answer to this national decline. The character was also a (then) contemporary re-working of the literary tradition of English gentlemen-spies created by writers like John Buchan, Sax Rohmer and Sapper. Characters like Buchan's Richard Hannay (The 39 Steps) and Sappers' 'Bulldog' Drummond took part in adventures in which they protected England from evil foreign agents that sought to destroy it. Epitomised by Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu, these villains reflected the air of xenophobia running through the Empire's involvement with other powers and cultures: the Crimean war against the Russians; the interventions in China; and the rise of Germany as a continental threat to British power.

      Fleming's James Bond continued that tradition with a series of villains that perpetuated this fear of the Other: all of Bond's villains are mixes of various ethnicities (Mr Big, Dr No), top loaded with non-heterosexual impulses (Wint and Kidd; Rosa Klebb; Scaramanga) and various physical impairments, injuries and disabilities (Mr Big's greyish skin; Hugo Drax's overbite and scars;
      Oddjob's cleft palate). To contemporary eyes the literary Bond villains are a laundry list of horrific stereotypes.

      The early movies aren't that much better
      In the transition to the screen, and in the fifty five years since the first movie's release in 1962, the character of Bond and the context around him (basically the his relationship with women, and the nature of the threats that he faces) has changed to maintain the franchise's popular appeal. The villains have lost most of their more overt racist and homophobic elements (they have been effectively reduced to white Europeans since the eighties), while the end of the Cold War has further separated the cinematic Bond from his origins. 

      The changes to Bond himself became more evident as the series moved further away from the books. Roger Moore's iteration leaned into the comic aspects of the character, moving further away from the introspective misanthrope of the books. When Timothy Dalton became Bond, the character was updated to become more monogamous (to reflect changing sexual attitudes in the shadow of AIDs).

      After a six year gap, Pierce Brosnan became Bond and his first film, GoldenEye, concerned itself with defining Bond's purpose in relation to the end of the Cold War and modern feminism. When Daniel Craig became Bond, the emphasis was shifted to redefining Bond in relation to contemporary threats (the relationship between terrorism and capitalist excess through the organisation Quantum) and, once again, modern feminism. 

      With these three latter examples, their debut movies were basically designed around answering the question of Bond's relevance. One of the big reasons that most of their follow-ups failed to catch fire is because that question was dropped. Once the filmmakers had a success, they would go back to the old well, rather than continuing to question the character and the tropes around him. Eventually, the filmmakers always stop trying and go back to the old playbook.

      Skyfall, the one follow-up that has broken through, is the one time in recent history that the filmmakers have made an attempt to answer the question of what Bond's place is in the modern world. It suffered a bit from fidelity to outdated conventions (the subplot with Severine being the most egregious), but at least tried to use its callbacks for a thematic purpose (which tied back to Bond's relevance). Spectre doubled-down on the homage, but unlike Skyfall, the return to formula was not greeted with the same adulation. Why?

      Because Spectre, like Tomorrow Never DiesThe World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day, did not contest the underlying question of why James Bond needs to exist. From a viewer's POV, it boils down to 'why should I care about this guy in this story?'

      Film Crit Hulk refers to the James Bond series as based on 'indulgence', based on giving the viewer a heteronormative male fantasy of gadgets, cars, violence and sex. The key to making a good Bond movie is finding a way to pepper these elements into a story, without these elements constituting the 'story'. It's the reason why a movie like On Her Majesty's Secret Service continues to gain an audience while Octopussy does not.

      And so, if I haven't lost you already, back to Bond 25, and the big question: Why is James Bond relevant in 2019?

      That question has clearly bedevilled the creatives. Before they signed back on, scribes Robert Wade and Neal Purvis were quoted expressing doubts about what a James Bond movie could be in a post-Trump/Brexit world. And that is good to hear.

      The fact is that when you are dealing with a character with a history like Bond's, you need to be aware of its original context, and how you should go adapting that character to a more contemporary one (it is the same problem that the makers of The Legend of Tarzan faced last year). There is no set way to go about this, and I will not offer any half-backed ideas on how the filmmakers should go about answering this question.

      The most important thing that they base their entire process around trying to answer that question. Because if they can crack that, we all win.