Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Founder (movie review)

I like having this review in sequence with Suburbicon (below) as both are set in the 1950s and roll forward towards our time.  The Founder is about Ray Kroc and the story behind the McDonald's franchise.

Deke came over to watch it with me.  I picked it up from Glenn at lunch over at his apartment.  This copy is from Multnomah County Library.  I'll return it tomorrow.

In the Quaker circles I frequent, we inherit from way back the idea of a utopian business, like a company town that really provides.  I think religious orders that make chocolate or beer, may seem idyllic in the same way, at least from a distance. There's no need to grow bigger.

Ray starts with his country club friends, getting retirees to park their savings in his new restaurants.  Then he hires mom and pop couples who get the vision and stick to the script.  However as the franchiser he's not meeting expenses nor has he the leverage he needs.

The McDonald brothers who started the whole show in San Bernardino had tried franchising but didn't see a way to maintain quality.  The solution, according to the movie, came not from Croc but the future CEO:  make sure you own the land, meaning you can yank the lease if a franchise fails to conform.

I think the "welcome McDonalds" scene set in Minnesota tells the real story.  Americans were extremely eager to have this restaurant chain spread.  Kroc was right to see it as more than just a drive in (they movie doesn't mention the drive through window innovation).  He wanted to create a "religion".  He invented branding in many ways.

Deke stayed to watch the panel discussion as a bonus feature.  The actors, producers, and director, as well as McDonald brother grandsons, get to weigh in and share their personal perspective on the making of this 2016 film.

Micheal Keaton, who plays Croc, explains his understanding of the American Dream as something much more modest and attainable than what has become the caricature:  making a huge fortune and joining the tiny inner circle of mega-rich and famous.  Making that a goal may more likely be a source of nightmares.

I'd like to see the spread of "company town" campuses, somewhere between universities and Martian bases (on Earth), in terms of product placing and high technology.  Would these towns feature assembly line style kitchens?  Maybe so, though not exclusively.  I recognize the need for efficiency and appreciate the role of automation.

This movie takes a "tip of the iceberg" look at the more current McDonalds, mostly in the Bonus panel discussion on the DVD.  Ronald McDonald, the trademarked clown, is nowhere mentioned, nor the children's hospital.  The meat doesn't look frozen.  The new shake machines get zero focus.

In other words, there's room here for many more movies, whether they're ever made is another question.  We could make movies forever on the material already stockpiled, yet new generations are anxious to "make history".

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Suburbicon (movie review)

Rather than watch the Academy Awards of 2018, I'm watching and reviewing movies, so don't call me disloyal to the industry.

I don't remember Suburbicon showing up on marquees in nearby zip codes, including mine.  However I found it on the New Releases shelf and Movie Madness and thought it looked interesting.

The film is set in the stereotypical post-WW2 burbs, the new utopian paradise where white people fled to be with their own kind.  A black family moves in and at the same time, a crime occurs next door.  The neighborhood is already going downhill. 

The neighbors, jerks that they be, start trash talking, building fences and otherwise wrecking the neighborhood, in an effort to reject this shared heritage as Americans.

Against this background, of whites being jerks, the crime next door turns out to be the tip of some soap opera melodrama that only gets worse, turning wickedly ugly (more than daytime TV would usually show) and heightening the contrast, between a wholesome black family, and these ugly suburban Americans.

I'd say the genre is dark comedy and satire, a send-up of a certain demographic. 

Thanks to talk shows on daytime TV, audiences are a lot more savvy today (I'm thinking of Oprah and Donahue, the mom and dad of a specific boob tube generation).  True, Americans are still herded around by cowboys, taught to fear Russians on cue, but maybe not as much as in the 1950s and 1960s?

The protagonist is the young son (of Matt Damon's character), who befriends the black boy next door, only to be told later by his dad to cut off the relationship, by a king of the hill master of depravity.  Oh, and by the way we're sending you away to a military academy for your own good.

In the last scene, we see the relationship restored (with the black kid, not the dad).

It'll be hard to blame any more crimes, or nasty social trends, on these wholesome newcomers in particular, but as we know, those into shame and blame don't usually see their blame as unbecoming.  The suburbs still come across as somewhat ugly, when it comes to attitudes.