Tony Molina

It's Funny How One Verse Can F**k up the Game

””Kendrick Lamar said that on Hood Politics from To Pimp a Butterfly. He was right in 2015 when the song was released the same way he was right in 2013 and right again in 2024. Anyone with any semblance of understanding of modern hip-hop history knows about the “Control” verse. Kendrick Lamar, fresh off of the success of good kid, m.A.A.d city, hops on Big Sean's single, in the few-year stretch, when he was a still prevalent pop rapper. Sean still wanted to show off that pride in dense lyricism that Detroit was known for, along with that he invited Jay Electronica to the track, who, off the strength of a single song, “Exhibit C,” became a white-hot prospect and immediately earned the respect of legends. Noticeably Jay-Z who co-signed and supported Electronica over the decade-long wait for his debut album. With all this hype around the track in mind, it was eclipsed entirely by what Kendrick did.

Problemista Deserves to Go Far

”” “She’s just trying to get to that audition,” Julio Torres says about “our Queen” Anna Faris’s protagonist character in Gregg Araki's Smiley Face. This is part of his answer I asked him in a college roundtable promoting his new Dramedy and directorial debut Problemista. The question being: “In an interview with the Hollywood reporter, you referred to your film as an example of an I-Don’t-know-how-i’m-gonna-make-the-rent genre. Are there other films or narratives that come from that same vein that helped inspire Problemista?” In his answer he delves into a few films that fall into that frantic and straightforward narratives rooted in common human experiences, but what struck me the most is his admiration of Smiley Face, with how apparent of an inspiration it is on Torres’s own refreshing film. Both follow a lead with ambitious dreams for their lives while dealing with the anxiety-inducing humdrum of low-income living. Smiley Face though has been relegated to cult-classic status, ultimately an unfortunately underwatched movie. Problemista doesn’t deserve that same fate. It’s a crowd pleasing wonderful time, with a lot to say on the chaotic positive potential of Karen-dom in the service of ambition. A uniquely modern theme that Torres gets so much mileage out of in this fast-paced gem of a movie.

The Muiscal Success of Poor Things and Where it Came From

””Praise has been heaped ad nauseam on Poor Things. Lanthimos’ pristine direction, with his signature embellishments of morbid deadpan, has now taken to new heights with a whole world to play off of his usual tricks. With some of the best sense of pacing and mise-en-scène in modern cinema- provided by production designers James Price and Shona Heath. Stone's transformation into Bella Baxter, a career-high for one of Hollywood's best actresses– completely embodying the naivety, sexual agency, and sense of wonder and exploration of the character. The recognition is all deserved. It’s an ambitious odyssey to execute on screen, and every aspect of the production works in an oddball harmony to make one of the best films in a frankly stacked year for cinema. I’d argue what ties this all together is the music. Equally as weird but never veering to nonsense as the rest of the film, Jerskin Fendrix created his own marvel of an unconventional but enticing soundtrack– which when looking into his roots as an artist is no surprise.

Before Midnight; After Dreams

””Before Sunrise and Before Sunset feel like the most important things in the world for these two tender souls. Jesse and Celine’s two most pivotal moments in their lives. When they fell in love, and when they decided to spend the rest of their lives together. Fittingly, the trilogy ends in a naturalistic way; the ideal and dreamy atmosphere of the last two films is forfeited here for a vacation date for the couple that could have been anywhere, any day. With it being set on the backdrop of Greece, it is just a plus for the audience, despite most of the film taking place in a hotel room. The magic of the scenery that inspired their love in the first place has faded out. Their younger years are gone, they’ve settled into a rhythm, and they’ve built something together, a family, a marriage. Before Midnight asks earnestly if the love between the two as it exists in their middle age justifies their staying together in the absence of that idealized love that once existed so intensely.

Justifying my Purchase

””We’re at a point right now where the then-niche nerd interests of the past are the driving elements of pop culture. Being a superfan of anime, comic media or fantasy and sci-fi worlds is normal. These things make billions of dollars off of the casual interests of millions. A foreign concept not even two decades ago. Then comes the issue of quality control for these things- these companies have an incentive to “give the people what they want,” too often at the expense of the creative direction of the end product. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that a good fan speaks wisely with their wallet. Not everything associated with the intellectual property you’ve fallen in love with deserves the money you earned. However, every fan can make a sore mistake and see past their own bias- and contribute to a cycle that enables more half-baked content to be made. More importantly, it enables the continued exploitation of talented artists to keep pumping out this product rather than letting them work their craft. Recently I’ve spoken very badly with my wallet and bought a product that is not emblematic of the best qualities of the thing I’m a fan of. This isn’t a traditional review of the quality of my mistaken purchase, but rather a tale of how a deep love of something inherently nerdy led to nearly one hundred of my own money, being more or less wasted due to my fandom blinders. This is that going back to the beginning:

The Nightmare Technique of The Zone of Interest

””The 13th of October, 2023. The leads, sound designer, and director of the five-time Oscar-nominated film, The Zone of Interest, walk onto the stage of the Southbank cinema at the BFI London Film Festival, minutes after the credits are done rolling on the two-hour nightmare that the audience was subjected to. I was in that audience, and I was stunned. I was paralyzed in my seat after watching the most subtly effective drama film detailing the horrors of the holocaust I had ever seen, all done without a single drop of blood shown on screen. The sound of the film, paired with its precise and uncanny visuals, shook me. I felt a visceral sense of terror because I’m aware that just beyond the frame, but never beyond earshot, people are needlessly and systematically dying in sick, twisted daily slaughters. One of many things that have been ingrained in my memory in the short Q&A that followed was where lead actress Sandra Huller (nominated this year for her acting in Anatomy of a Fall) is asked about how she approached her character. The first part of her answer was a nuanced take on finding a way to honestly portray an evil of history without sympathizing or simplifying it, her character being the real wife of Auschwitz camp director Rudolph Hoss, but it's the second part I’m going to focus on here. That being the intricacies of the multi-camera system, as opposed to the much more conventional single camera.