More than an anthology, an album of inconsequential vignettes soaked in black humor. Rather than telling a story, the six tales are meant to portray an Old West that feels both realistically cruel and cinematically whimsical. Unfortunately, great cinematography and solid performances aside, the film has not much to offer. There are many memorable scenes indeed, but the overall effect is a bit dull.
This is my first Paul W. S. Anderson in a while, and I am shocked to find out that his taste has not changed a bit in the last 30 years. Video quality aside, it feels like watching a direct-to-video action film from the late '90s. Monster Hunter is a franchise that could work pretty well with film adaptations, as it offers a detailed setting but gives you absolute freedom with the plot. Yet, they just went to the usual "American guys transported to a hostile world" gimmick. The action scenes are usually the only decent aspect of these films, but here they are so monotonous and repetitive that there is really nothing worth watching.
A lot of fun but too similar to "Guardians of the Galaxy"
Pulpy, ludicrous, and sardonic superhero film that is absolutely perfect for its main characters. Everything that happens is patently ridiculous, but at the same time, coherent with the self-aware atmosphere of the film. More than telling a story, it's all about triggering the interaction between characters and connecting the highest possible number of iconic scenes.
However, while the visuals, direction, and editing are constantly exuberant and inventive, many verbal jokes fell flat. The themes and characters are also too dangerously close to Gunn's works with Marvel. Same outcasts with a golden heart, same structure of the team, same cinematography, etc. The only significant differences are the uncontrolled use of gore and the fact that almost no character is immune to collateral damages. With its own personality, "The Suicide Squad" could actually become the better, more mature alternative to the "Guardians of the Galaxy", but for now, Gunn is still playing it safe, sticking to an already proven successful formula.
Needless to say, "Birdman" is an elegant film blessed by undeniable visual artistry and superb cast performances. However, it somehow falls short of its own ambitions due to its snobbish attitude and half-baked script. The illusion of watching one continuous shot for two hours straight is impressive indeed, and despite the leaps in time and space, the transitions are all handled elegantly. Other than that, it's yet one more self-referential film about the relationship between character and man, stage and life, theater and cinema, fame and genius, art and entertainment, and so on. The first half is actually pretty convincing, as it takes it time to introduce different artists who are all linked by their desperate seek for love and approval, as well as their tendency to sabotage their own happiness. Too bad that all these characters just appear and disappear without adding anything to the film, their portraits left incomplete and their purposes unknown. The only one to get full exposure is obviously Michael Keaton's, but he just keeps repeating himself with no character development or change of perspective whatsoever. There are fun dialogues and interesting scenes along the way, but the film as a whole felt like it could have been organized better.
The stylish visuals and rather interesting premise made me hope for something different, but in the end, "Vincenzo" is just one more cheesy Korean drama with soap opera level writing and cringeworthy humor. It could have worked as a "so bad it's good" show, but episodes are too long and possibly slower than arthouse cinema, with the same gags repeated all over again, embarrassing product placement, and endless slow-motion shots with people walking along hallways to show off or do funny faces. The humor rests mainly on the contrast between the dark tone of the main story and the goofiness of the support characters, but the jokes are corny and the performances are utterly annoying.
The protagonist is a Korean-born, Italian-raised mafia lawyer who is back in his motherland to deal with unfinished business. Yet there is nothing Italian about him - he just slurs random Italian sayings and listens to opera while drinking red wine (come on!!). He is supposed to be a cold-blooded mafia consigliere, yet they spend half of the series trying to justify his extreme actions as if he was a hero forced to fall to the same level as his enemies. The sparse moments of action are extremely dull and formulaic, but I have to admit that there are also a few absolutely crazy but undeniably original plot resolutions every now and then.
Both a zany surreal comedy and a Kafkaesque nightmare, "Being John Malkovich" explores the artist's need for self-actualization. In a society where everyone would pay to erase themselves and become someone else, the protagonist (a misunderstood artist) is the only one who actually needs a "vessel" (what a coincidence, an actor) to be himself and express his full potential. Spike Jonze's direction feels a little pedestrian here, as if to contain the exuberance of Kaufman's script and at the same time go along with the dreary tone of the characters' lives.
The original "Money Heist" series was written and planned as a one-time thing, with the story arc of all characters' perfectly closed by the end of part two. The writers hardly held back with their choices, killed characters when the story needed it and you could feel the tension and danger as the events developed, because there was no need to keep people clean and alive for future seasons. With this second story arc, that forcefully brings the original gang together plus a couple of new additions, it's clear that the writers are trying to keep everything suspended for as long as possible. People always get this close to real danger, but almost nothing happens. The writers forgot that the characters are after all criminals if not terrorists, but they are now reincarnated as teenager idols with philosophic ideals against the dirty and corrupted authorities. All episodes are filled with soap opera nonsense, especially in a big portion of part 3. Part 4 gets slightly better even if the whole structure and dynamics are borrowed straight from the original season. They even found a way to have Arturo back as a hostage, which was like the most forced and stupid thing they could ever come up with. They know him well enough but still let him disrupt as usual. Palermo plays as the new unstable leader of the gang, and he even has yaoi side stories with multiple characters. Tokyo still holds the crown as the most stupid character ever, but I guess that she needs a bigger role because of her Instagram followers? No idea seriously. The first season was nothing deep nor groundbreaking, but the scale tipped towards the entertaining end of the show instead of the average teenager Netflix drama.
Even though I found it a bit toothless and slow-paced at times, "The Promised Neverland" seemed to be a quite promising series (no pun intended). After an uncertain beginning, the show unexpectedly morphed into some kind of psychological thriller with fantasy/horror elements. The main characters fall into the usual anime stereotypes, but their chess game with "Mom" definitely offered some interesting moments. The writers seem to like throwing in continuous plot twists and cliffhangers: some worked, some don't, some were mere ass pulls.
On the contrary, the second season has nothing worth watching: just childish anime chit-chat and cheap fanservice. Despite literally nothing happening for eight whole episodes, the ending was rushed and solved way too conveniently. The lack of effort is evident when you get entire story arcs summed up with slideshows or weird recap episodes in the middle of the season. Maybe they canceled the show or got budget cuts, even though that seems highly unlikely considering how popular it is in Japan.
No wonder why this is still remembered as one of the best-written TV shows ever. The realistic, unvarnished approach to the mob's lifestyle is clearly inspired by films like "GoodFellas" (with which it shares a few cast members), but "The Sopranos" is surrounded by an aura of melancholy, cynicism, and sarcasm that cannot be found anywhere else. It starts off as some kind of offbeat comedy about a depressed Mafia Boss in a dysfunctional family, but you can notice that things are getting gloomier and gloomier as time goes by. Surely many things happen along the way, but it looks like it's always about the people more than the events. The writers keep teasing us for years about things that eventually never happen, but when it's someone's time to go, they are suddenly out, without offering dramatic build-ups or drawing any conclusions whatsoever. Today you are here, tomorrow you are not. That's it. It's a fascinating yet disorienting approach for us television literates. The characters and their stories are realistic in their mediocrity, but you always get the feeling that you are watching something sophisticated and cinematic.
The first few seasons are definitely more entertaining and offer more payoff for the audience, but the writing and performances are incredibly consistent throughout. It's never particularly engaging, but never disappointing either. After all, we are talking about the show that turned "low-key" and "anti-climatic" into its weapons - consistency and (relative) sobriety are the key, not twists nor tension.
The characters are sometimes too many to keep in mind, but the ones who stick are unexpectedly lovable (even though there's not even a single positive figure in the whole show). Tony is such an asshole, yet we can't help loving him. Being able to join his therapy sessions helps to build affection and grasp the depth of the character.
"Mr. Robot" is far from being the perfect TV show, but it deserves praise for how it always tries to do something different. Like "Lost", some crazy solutions worked, some didn't, but I still dare you to find another series that is as personal and innovative in the last decade.
The plot is convoluted and all over the place, often with too convenient plot contrivances, pointless deviations, and easy ways out in the most desperate situations. However, the story has only relative importance as, after all, it's just an excuse to make a pitch-black cynical social commentary on our generation's social anxieties, chronic isolation, and insecurities. Everything we see is filtered through the alienated mind of an unreliable narrator who is nothing but the product of our fucked up society. The subjective perspective of the show is tastefully portrayed by uncomfortably odd camera framing and glitchy editing that always go along with Elliot's feelings.
The first season seems even too over-stylized and naive in its social commentary to be actually taken seriously, but as the show progresses, we realize that we should keep questioning whatever happens, that Elliot is as delusional and self-contradictory as the other characters. At some point we are not even sure if we are actually with the good guys, if the revolution is actually making any sense. The second season is a little too slow and sometimes even displeasing in how it tries to be artsy at all costs, but it manages to set the right tone for the definitely more mature and possibly even more cynical third and fourth season. I was not always satisfied with the abrupt ways most of the characters' arcs have been closed, but Elliot's inner journey has been dealt with almost perfectly.
No wonder this show got canceled. The chemistry between Ruby and AJ kind of worked, but the writing is just too awfully dated for this to be remotely enjoyable. Situations and stereotypes we saw billions of times with sprinkles of weak LGBT propaganda and RuPaul self-celebration. Everything is so comfortably predictable that unless you are a Drag Face fanboy there is really little to enjoy. It's doesn't even fall under "so bad it's good". No way I could have watched the whole thing if someone hadn't forced me.
There is a difference between unique and influential products. While unique works tend to keep their edge and traits for years after release, influential works are strongly related to the time they were created. What was felt as fresh and innovative back then tends to become stale and trivial over time as it gets endlessly imitated by later products. "Twin Peaks" has a little bit of both. I got a chance to rewatch the series after decades and could feel both its unique and influential elements. It felt a bit old and trite at times, but after getting back into the mood I thought the show still holds pretty well. The exaggerated soap opera elements are hilarious, but are well-balanced by the crime fiction storyline and uncanny, surreal elements. The first season has very little action and takes its time to introduce Twin Peaks and its inhabitants. Quality is not so uniform as different directors and writers took part in the project, but overall everything is well-balanced and, despite the slow pace, hooky enough. Attention lowers a bit towards the end, but the intense and over-the-top season finale manages to effectively bring us back on board. Donna and James' story was the only thing that felt a bit tired, sometimes even painful to watch though. Did anyone really care about them?
The second season starts strong and offers some of the best episodes ever ("Lonely Souls", above all), but it gets completely lost after Laura's killer is revealed. The cheap soap opera elements are the only things left and it doesn't even feel like a parody anymore. Characters have completely different personalities and do silly things all the time. Ben Horne's descent into senile dementia and James new cringe-worthy love interest could be counted among the worst moments in television history. Windom Earle had some potential as the new threat, but he ends up just fooling around and acting like a weirdo with no real consequences. The last episode "Beyond Life and Death" makes little sense but is at least visually interesting. It might be what David Lynch's wanted to do but made me feel the previous 10 episodes even more useless.
Almost thirty years later, Lynch finally gets a chance to revamp the show and have full creative control. For the first time, he co-wrote and directed all episodes himself. However, the final product is closer to "Fire Walk With Me" than it is to the original series. As the characters also keep saying, it doesn't even feel like the same place anymore. America changed, television changed, we changed. A lot of the events do not even happen in Twin Peaks, and most of the historical characters just got minor roles. While the original series was fairly linear and self-explicative, there is no-one helping us figure out what is going on. There will be some challenges even if you are familiar with Lynch's recurrent themes and symbolism, especially in the ending. It's one hell of self-indulgent, purely Lynchian 20+ hour movie, but I personally enjoyed it. Despite some cheap-ass CGI here and there (God, that Bob ball and glove dude scene), there are a lot of visually and atmospherically striking shots and a lot of cult moments. I would recommend it to hardcore fans only though.
A messed up puppet show that digs into the underbelly of the showbiz: drug abuses, sex scandals, violence, STD's, various body fluids squirting everywhere... The film is packed with episodes and characters, has a cathartic finale, but plot-wise felt a little disconnected. However, it has that charming "obscure TV show from the 80s" atmosphere which lets you oversee the imperfections.
It starts decently but drags way too long for its little content. At least they spent enough time on the development of the main character for once. It's not easy to portrait Captain America in the 2010s without ending up looking ridiculous, and it was actually cool that they started him off as a cheesy fictional propaganda character before shaping him into an actual superhero. Just, nothing relevant happens afterward. The story is not interesting enough to make this worthwhile as a story-driven film, and action sequences are dull. I'm surprised no one mentioned the ridiculous CGI backgrounds that make the whole movie look like a cheap-ass music video more than a 3D sensation. I also hated their rendition of Howard Stark. They just tried to make him look and act like Tony so that they could have an interesting character but failed miserably.
The obvious reflections on masculinity and consumerism are trite as hell, but visually it's at least a decade ahead of its time. The film starts off with the apparently irrelevant story of a boring man suffering from insomnia, but Fincher constantly makes sure he is keeping his audience constantly stimulated and entertained through inventive camerawork, dynamic editing and sophisticated visual effects.
However, I had preferred if things were taken more symbolically. Norton's fights and conversations with Pitt could have been metaphors of the struggle inside his mind, but the film bothers to show that everything physically happened in front of everyone. Supposedly, the first members of the Fight Club were attracted by Norton kicking his own ass at the parking lot...
The Avengers didn't age well but is a highly entertaining movie regardless of your knowledge of its characters and universe. Sure it's cliche and super predictable just like any other superhero movie, but remember this is nothing that you should take seriously. It's just a big excuse to get all your favorite characters kicking each other's butts on screen with great special effects. Compared to all previous MCU movies it's very well-paced and while being fun and self-mocking it never gets to unbearable peaks of trashiness. The writing was surprisingly well-cared too this time. The characters have good chemistry, and each one of them gets introduced the right way, with the right amount of information being given still without getting too verbose. I still don't think that having Hulk suddenly being able to control his powers is a good idea though. It pretty much kills the whole concept of being indestructible but a threat to anybody around him at the same time. I understand that there are times he can't control himself when under stress like in the first part of the movie, but it's still too much of an easy card to play. Having the Avengers use his powers against the enemies but struggling to keep him in control at the same time would be more believable and balance the game better. Also Loki after being presented as the ultimate bad guy the first half of the movie gets completely lost after the aliens come in. Didn't feel his threat at all.
"Split" is a well-executed thriller based on an interesting concept: three girls kidnapped by a man suffering from a dissociative identity disorder. It sometimes feels more like a Friday night B movie, but it's clear that the director is trying to focus on storytelling and atmosphere rather than throwing in the usual gimmicks of the genre. The mood is uneasy and suspenseful, and both main characters are brought to life by convincing acting performances. However, it felt like the concept needed further development. Kevin is supposed to have 23 different personalities, but we only get a glimpse of the same five or six. Kevin and Casey both have a domestic abuse backstory, but we only get a couple of dull flashbacks. The character psychology is supposed to be the core of the movie, but we get nothing deeper than a bunch of didascalic interventions from Kevin's therapist.
"Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood" is a film that basically tells no story, but that beautifully conveys the atmosphere of Los Angeles during the final days of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the zenith of hippie culture. It's also a sharp meta-commentary of stardom and cinema, as well as an obvious homage to the director's favorite film genres. The lack of plot is balanced by Tarantino's masterful direction, the excellent screenplay, and the flawless acting performances.
Rick Dalton and his stunt Cliff Booth are the embodiment of the "old" Hollywood, while rising star Sharon Tate represents a new way of life and filmmaking. The two worlds run parallel for the whole film only to cross in the end with the historical revision of the Tate murders. Cliff is introduced as basically Rick's minion and initially seems to only have a marginal role, but the relationship between the two becomes the main driving force of the film. I liked how their opposite lifestyles and personalities managed to complete each other.
While Sharon's character works well as a double to Rick's, her scenes ultimately felt like unnecessary screen time. She was supposed to be at the center of the events, but unfortunately, we barely get to see her involved. Her contribution to the plot is so minimal that if you don't know about the Tate murders you would feel disoriented. This is the only real problem of the movie: it acquires most of its value only if you are familiar with the source material.
Overall, this film has a lot of brilliant dialogues and iconic scenes that are classic Tarantino, but it also has a more mature tone and relaxed pace that might displease long-time fans. It's perfectly crafted but more focus on the plot wouldn't hurt.
"The Shining" might not have aged too well, but it's undeniably another excellent example of Kubrick's filmmaking skills, especially if compared to its contemporaries. It still retains its value as a precious film study piece, but audiences who were born from Generation Y onwards might find it hard to connect to the material on an emotional level.
Kubrick's meticulous cinematography and attention to detail managed to tastefully recreate the uneasy atmosphere of the Overlook Hotel without relying on the gimmicks of the genres. It's the only haunted house film I could think of that has been shot mostly in such wide and bright spaces, with vivid patterns and cozy colors.
The ominous soundtrack also plays a significant role in emphasizing each scene, with droney sounds and screeching strings that reminded me of the soundscape techniques of David Lynch's "Eraserhead" (1977). It blends incredibly well with the slow pace of a film that is based on lingering images rather than dynamic scenes and jumpscares.
The film is also notorious for its pioneering use of Steadicams to help us feel the spaces for Danny's tricycle scenes and the chase in the maze.
However, no matter how many times I watch it, the horror elements do not work much anymore. It's true that so many classic scenes have been shown and parodied so many times that they lost a lot of their effect, but there are also a lot of unintentionally hilarious moments like those close-ups of Danny with his mouth wide open, the quick zoom on Dick Hallorann's corpse, or the skeleton rooms that show up towards the end.
The psychological sides are still valuable, though. All the scenes focused on Jack's descent into madness, and his visits to the Gold Room still retain that unsettling, chilling atmosphere. Many critics' theories expand on the possible allegories and the subtle sides of the relationship between Jack and his family, but the movie itself does not really dig as deep as I hoped it would. As with most of Kubrick's films, there are tons of studies and documentaries based on "The Shining", but I wonder how much of their discoveries match with the author's intentions.
"Memento" proved that a competent director, a revolutionary idea, and a decent cast could sometimes be enough to make a groundbreaking film. The film is essentially a neo-noir thriller played backward. Leonard is looking for the man who raped and killed his wife, but the traumatic events caused him short-term amnesia. Unable to store memories for more than a few minutes, he leaves clues for him to find, like scribbles, tattoos, and polaroid pictures. Every time Leonard loses his memories, he has to guess how things happened by looking through the clues he has.
At the beginning of the film, Leonard already found the killer, but cannot remember how. We are then progressively taken back in time and shown the events that lead to each piece of evidence. As the viewer only knows what would happen, but not how it happened, it's easy to feel in Leonard's shoes. Each episode starts where the following scene would end, and despite the fragmented storytelling, everything flows coherently. There is also a parallel timeline (shot in black and white) that proceeds forward in time to converge with the backward timeline in the end.
As the story progresses (or I should say, regresses), our view of Leonard and the other characters drastically changes, until we lose our trust in memory and reality. Facts and evidence are the foundations of truth and the only things that lead Leonard's search, but they cannot be reliable as they are subject to the influence of the individual who processed and recorded them. Leonard is so sure about the absolute value of facts and the impermanence of memories, but in the end, memories are the only things that help us define our reality. Wrong assumptions and fabricated evidence are enough to lead his search on the wrong path.
The success of "Memento" turned Christophe Nolan into one of the most prestigious directors in Hollywood, but at the same time caused his self-pressure to create increasingly revolutionary and conceptually complicated films, mostly with forced and incoherent results.
On the day of his wedding anniversary, Nick finds out that his wife Amy has gone missing. The case instantly causes a massive media frenzy as Nick's lies and contradicting behavior started raising doubts in the viewers' minds. Is he really the person he's trying to portray himself as? The solution might not be as simple as we imagined...
David Fincher is undeniably a talented and tasteful filmmaker, but his films tend to be hit and miss as what is narrated tends to fail at matching the beauty of the visuals. "Gone Girl" starts as one of those movies, but gets more and more convincing as the story progresses.
The film mostly tells the story from Nick's point of view, but at the same time also shows you how different people could have a completely different perception of the same facts. A considerable portion of the film has been taken to denounce the influence of media and people's lavish consumption of "murder porn". Fincher's tone is scornful and ironic, but things never get too much over the top to keep the cold, dark atmosphere of the case alive.
Rosamund Pike's rendition of Amy steals the scene for the whole second part of the film, but also thumbs up to David Fincher for making Ben Affleck look like a decent actor.
The camerawork is never intrusive and allows the viewers to feel as they are part of the story. Despite the narration going back and forth the different characters' perspectives, it goes on so smoothly that I didn't even realize that it had me hooked to screen for almost three hours. There are multiple twists along the way that manage to spice up what would have been a trite plot, but the ending felt a bit too simplified and implausible. Nevertheless, I think "Gone Girl" deserved praise as it goes beyond what other commercial thrillers and crime stories do.
"Parasite" is a smart, highly entertaining black comedy, and it's good to see a good film getting some recognition for once. However, I feel like all the people who praised it as an absolute masterpiece and one of the best films of all times must have been watched "Transformers" and "Avengers" all their life. The film itself is solid in most aspects, but conceptually I don't buy the cheap social critique and easy populism that one more time depicts the rich as spoiled, dumb, and not worthy of their wealth. Perfect food for the envious middle-class that dreams of living in big houses, driving expensive cars. Retrospectively, the last season has been full of this kind of "us vs. Them" films, and while "Parasite" might actually be the only one to be any good, it's not thanks to its message.
Actually, it would have been alright if the movie ended with the party scene without all that subsequent melodramatic crap to glorify the working class who "lost" gain. Up to that point, both families are almost equally ambiguous, with even some interesting reflections on how this generation's weak spot for resonant brand names and exclusivity, as even the humblest servant now is supposed to have a resume full of renowned names or belong to elite companies to get a job. The vertical depiction of society is also effective in its simplicity, with the Parks' physically living above everything else, but at the same time unable to see what lies beneath due to the high walls and trees that entirely cover the view from their garden. The layout of their house also mirrors this verticality with rooms and hallways they are not even aware of.
An above-average film overall but definitely no masterpiece, not even Boon Joon-ho's best.
"The Thing" could be seen as the natural evolution of the formula that began with Ridley Scott's "Alien". The two movies have an entirely different setting and atmosphere, but share the same simple structure: a group of humans ends up being stuck in a confined space as they are chased by an unknown alien entity. However, the "Thing" manages to become something more than a beautifully designed hungry monster: it's a threat with no discernible appearance, as it has the ability to imitate the organisms it consumes and blend in with its prey. This allows Carpenter to convey his trademark cynical, nihilistic view of humanity, focusing on how easily a team of highly unlikeable characters can fall apart as they slowly get consumed by their distrust and paranoia. The "Thing" has no evil intentions and is just trying to survive, but it won't take much to the humans to end up turning against each other.
It must be said that the film takes a damn long time to get to the point, but Carpenter's "chilly" cinematography and slow camerawork manage to build the story's tension and keep us craving for more flamethrower bursts to warm up the atmosphere. As mentioned, the "Thing" never shows its true self, but in return offers a lot of grotesque "transformation" sequences that managed to turn a mild psychological horror into a true cult film. The practical effects surely aged a bit, but the art direction and design are so over the top and visionary that the final result still holds incredibly well.
On a side note, the film is supposed to be a remake of Christian Nyby's "The Thing from Another World", but is actually based on the science fiction short story "Who Goes There?" (which also inspired Nyby's film). Other than the title font, the two movies are very little in common. Just think that "The Thing from Another World" cannot change appearance, is always recognizable, and gets its ass kicked by a cohesive team of heroes.
I must confess I have trouble digesting war films, as they tend to be either tedious propaganda, patriotic boredom, or just brainless action. It was not the case at all with "Full Metal Jacket".
Stanley Kubrick uses sarcasm and pitch-black humor to document the war in an uncomfortably cold, uncinematic way. As the whole training camp section suggested, soldiers are entirely dehumanized: they don't feel anything, don't know what they are fighting for, their deaths do not even matter at all. Joker seems to be the only character to still retain some kind of humanity, his sarcasm as a way to detach from the system and protect his individuality. However, it's not clear if he managed to go through the last scene intact or if he just became the "minister of death, praying for war" he was trained into being.
It's a highly atypical but masterfully written and directed film, with some of the most iconic prologues ever.
"Mulholland Dr." is by far the most complete expression of David Lynch's cinema. It has everything that made his films memorable but still manages to be accessible for most viewers (you will need to rewatch a couple of times, but at least we are far from the apparent close-to-nonsense of "Inland Empire"). A lot of people claim that the last 45 minutes prevented the film from becoming a real masterpiece and made it confusing for the sake of it, but it's quite the opposite. Surely the unsettling and surreal atmosphere that permeates the film is valuable, but those last 45 minutes are the ones that give a real weight and meaning to so many details and lines. They are essential to save the first half from being just a cheesy mystery movie with a unique atmosphere.
It has been one of my favorite movies for ages, but it took me over fifteen years to finally relate to the character. I guess I am finally old enough to feel the bitter taste of failure and self-delusion.