January 31, 2023

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Glass Onion’s Rian Johnson spoofs Elon Musk and the art of satire

5 min read

Author George S. Kaufman once said that “what goes off on a Saturday night is satire.” But nearly a century later, as real life has become more absurd than most art, satire is everywhere — from the movies “Knives Out” and popular franchises like “The White Lotus” to hits including “Parasite.”

Why now? In our post-Trump world, where the truth is controversial and issues like racism are impossible for anyone to ignore, talk-show monologues and “Saturday Night Live” skits have become some of the most critical critiques able to cut through the noise of political bickering and lying, arguably more satirical. Paving the way for films.

“Satire always puts events in a social context, often dealing with class and economic implications. So if you want to examine the times we’re living in, that’s a good starting place,” says writer-director Ruben Östlund, whose “Sad Triangle” decries influencers, the one-percenters and class divisions. “You’re somewhat immune to political correctness. Unless you cover a topic from a clinical perspective, viewers don’t know if you’re poking fun at their prejudices or expressing your own. Irony is controversial. Creates a safe space to explore and provoke thought, while allowing you to be joyful.”

It can add a punch to mainstream fare, as Rian Johnson demonstrated with the 2019 whodunit “Knives Out” and its sequel, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” which earned six critics’ picks and two Golden Globe Awards (best picture). including — musical or comedy), and estimated $15 million in its one-week theatrical run before Netflix bowed. “The Onion” star Edward Norton will remind many of a certain Twitter mogul, just as Dave Bautista echoes a talk bro podcaster and Kate Hudson echoes many a narcissistic influencer.

“It’s obviously the result of living in the world for the last six years, and wanting to give it a little shout out,” says writer-director Johnson. “I worked pretty hard to make these points entertaining. … [Satire] These movies were a big part of the whole reason.”

It also honors the films that inspired him, “We’re all involved in what we’re thinking and talking about now, which Agatha Christie was doing back in the day… When I first spoke to Edward [sequel]I said, ‘We’re going a little further.'[Dr.] Strange love’ with this one.’ If we’re going to reflect on the last six years, it’ll get a little ‘Strangelove’.

From Frank Capra’s 1938 social satire “You Can’t Take It With You” (best picture and director) to the 1950 theater saga “All About Eve” (best picture and five other wins), numerous satires have done well at Academy Awards. 1964 war comedy “Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (four names). the 1972 French middle-class sendup “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (foreign-language film), the prescient 1976 TV news takedown “Network” (four Oscars), the 1999 suburban romp “American Beauty” (best picture and four other trophies) and 2002 Fame and media sendup follows “Chicago” (Best Picture and five more wins). Most recently, the 2017 horror film/racism satire “Get Out” won original screenplay, the 2019 South Korean thriller category, “Parasite” won best picture, three more Oscars and a $262 million global gross, and 2021 comments on climate change. Don’t Watch” scored four.

Film historian and AFI Awards jury chair Jeanine Basinger, author of “Hollywood: The Oral History” (co-written with Sam Wasson), notes that most new satires are not as pure as the 1997 political comedy “Wag the Dog.” They’re usually tied to other genres as draws, such as the $36.5 million grossing horror-comedy “The Menu,” which sent affluent foodies into a cult following, with stars Ralph Fiennes and Anna Taylor-Joy landing Golden Globe noms. Basinger says that today’s young audiences “don’t want anything too romantic or human, so they like a lot of movies with satirical overtones. And it’s a good way to get people to accept political issues that they might not want to.”

Satire can be difficult to define. “The Banshees of Inishrein” can be seen to use the two friends’ self-destructive battle to satirize Ireland’s decades of conflict. But Basinger says “it [just] analogy. The film is more of an Irish fairy tale. you can figure out [its Irish Civil War backdrop] And there’s the same film.” And Noah Baumbach’s wry, absurdist humor in Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel “White Noise” (which earned Adam Driver a Globe fame) satirizes its cloud of panic about academia, pharmaceuticals and an “airborne poisoning incident.” can do

And, as Johnson points out, the goals may not be as specific as they appear. “With Edward Norton’s character, the moment I start thinking about any tech billionaire, it becomes distasteful, as opposed to this weird American thing that seems to mistake wealth for our knowledge or skill,” he says. “On the one hand, we want to shoot arrows at them. And on the other hand, I think we all have some quirks too [fantasy] Where we hope they will be Willy Wonka and take us in a glass elevator. It’s interesting to me as opposed to making fun of some dude in Texas.”

Johnson’s parodies of the rich are shaped by his own rags-to-riches story, which has taken him from indie fare like 2005’s “Brick” to a Netflix deal for two “Knife Out” sequels that could earn him more than $100 million. ? “I think there’s a lot of humor, like [our detective’s] response [billionaire’s] Island, it’s drawn from personal experience where rich people’s rules apply, and I’m not exactly sure what I’d do,” he laughs.

Although Swedish writer Östlund has yet to make it to Hollywood, he has succeeded in making satires abroad. In 2014 his inspiration of masculinity and relationships, “Force Majeure”, in which a father flees his family in the face of an avalanche, won him the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes. 2017’s “The Square” that lit up the art world won him the Palme d’Or at Cannes. He received a second for “Triangle,” his tale of a yacht cruise that upends class structures, which won best film, director and screenwriter at December’s European Film Awards.

One scene, in which a male model (Harris Dickinson) argues with his wealthy model girlfriend (Charlby Dean) over who should pay the check, comes from his own experience. His mother’s belief in communism led to “constant political debates in my house”, which he spoofs in “Triangle”. And his next film with “Triangle” star Woody Harrelson, “The Entertainment System Is Down,” abandons our reliance on technology by showing it dismantled on a long flight. “It’s partly based on a study that found we’re more upset when we lose our partner than when we lose our phone,” he laughs.

Östlund even parodied himself — and awards season — in a 2015 YouTube short “When we didn’t get nominated for ‘Force Majeure,’ me and producer Eric Hemmendorff had a fun time making this clip, ‘Swedish director is surprised when he misses an Oscar nomination,'” he laughs. “I don’t think I have to play the role of a dignified director.”

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