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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

When I think of this movie, I think of that moment. When you see Rosie's shoes. One of my favorite things about myself is that, even for all my snobbery about theater and movies and my knack for seeing where a story is going, when the storytelling is good, I get utterly suckered in and I can get knocked sideways by the even the most obvious twists. When Ben and I saw it in the theater, as Jojo saw his mother's shoes, I SOBBED "OH NO" and Ben turned to me and went, "really?" Afterwards he asked how I couldn't see it coming. "You see everything coming!" The storytelling is just that good.


I was worried that between my extreme cognizance of that moment, and, hey, the rampant antisemitism in our country right now, I wouldn't love this movie like I did in the theater. I honestly think I loved it more. Although, Taika Waititi knew how to twist the knife even in the rewatch with all those shots of her shoes. I prematurely cried three times, cried pretty much from that moment to the end of the movie and now I have a headache.


There's so much to say about this movie. The performances are incredible. I'm not always keen on Scarlett Johansson but she really delivers here. I want more movies like this for her. The young ones are SO stinkin' cute and talented. I want to see Roman Griffin Davis and Archie Yates in EVERYTHING. Yorki is a regular in gifs Ben and I send each other because Yorki. See above. I kind of really don't like Rebel Wilson in anything I've seen her in except for this. Watching this makes me feel like I've misjudged her because her comic timing is sublime here. Sam Rockwell is a perennial favorite of mine and he and Alfie Allen are so delightful to watch whatever they're doing. Alfie Allen has so few lines but he makes a meal of every gesture. I want to add additional gifs just for the swimming pool scene.


And of course, there's Taika. I am, admittedly, completely devoted to Taika Waititi as a creative. He's unhinged in a way I wish I could be while still staying incredibly emotionally grounded in his work. I suspect I'll write about this a whole lot more when The Producers comes up but comedy is my favorite act of defiance. And Jewish men utilizing Hitler drag is the ultimate. Making Hitler such a dolt and so successfully framing him in the lens of a 10-year-old boy's imaginary friend??? COME ON. Gleefully eating the unicorn head. Compulsively offering a child cigarettes. Needing constant validation. Delicious. Pass me a spoon. (The way I snorted seeing that bullet hole makeup in the final appearance. Fucking ridiculous. I want more.)


Tonight I thought a lot about the personas we adopt. Both the ones we put on for other people and the ones we use to talk to ourselves. Hitler-as-Imaginary-Friend is such a brilliant tool to illustrate the different directions this poor, lost kid is being pulled in. The incredibly destructive self-talk he uses (while sometimes hyping himself up with the kind of compliments he can literally only dream of his hero saying to him). The terror as he realizes he's drifting away from the model German citizen he thinks he should be. I know a lot of people criticized this movie because they said it made light of Hitler but 1) read a single interview with Mel Brooks about Springtime for Hitler and you will know my viewpoint on it (tl;dr: the worst thing we can do to Hitler and his followers is show them exactly how pathetic and laughable they are, we should laugh at them and make them so small) and 2) I think you could make an argument that we never see Hitler in this film. We only see Jojo's proverbial angel and devil on his shoulders, giving him peptalks and threatening him with maintaining the status quo. I want to keep writing on this but I think I need to move on. Maybe I'll come back to it later.


Whenever I hear that people don't like this film, I ask them what they think of the opening credits. I still remember the disarmed chuckle both Ben and I let out in the theater when we realized what was going on. Equating youthful fanaticism for Hitler with Beatlemania sets the tone for this movie, I think, more successfully than any other opening credits I've seen.


I had previously really enjoyed Captain K's costume at the end but tonight I clocked the pink triangle on his breast and the many pink triangles making up Finkle's cape and I felt gutted. The use of uniforms and clothing - what we put on to convince the people around us we are who we say we are - is so effective. Even Elsa getting into Inga drag to meet the gestapo, even though no one would know how Elsa or Inga dresses! Yorki's "paper-like" uniform.


The many many animal motifs. The rabbit, of course. The family as lions. Staring a tiger in the eye. Butterflies. How often Rosie and Jojo use animals as metaphors while Jojo (initially) insists on seeing Jews as base animals. Subhuman. In the first scene with Hitler getting ready for camp, Jojo likens himself favorably to so many animals. It's a really brilliant and subtle subversion.


If you question Taika Waititi winning the adaptation Oscar for this, go read a synopsis for Caging Skies, the novel that was the basis for this film. YIKES on BIKES. Holy wow. My brow could not have furrowed more reading some of the Goodreads reviews.


As I thought about this movie all week, mostly what I got from it was hope. I found myself staring an old tiger in the eyes this week, wondering if I'll ever escape my shortcomings, mistakes, and unfavorable opinions people have of me in theater. Can I ever be free of that monster? Freedom is such an elusive thing. It's a binary, sure, you're either free or you're not, but how often do we imagine ourselves caged simply because we don't remember what the sky looks like? Because we imagine that the trappings we've worn for so long have merged with our flesh? Obviously the Elsa's freedom is a much different matter than that of Jojo and myself. Her chains were placed on her while mine are an entanglement I created myself, ages ago, with the best of intentions. But I'm hopeful. I'll keep making mistakes but I hope I can recognize when it's time to dance.


Collage (mdf, paper, marker, watercolor, glue)


Takeaways:

-I've wanted to try collage work for a while but was always overwhelmed with where to start. When I visited Andy last month, he took me to see an exhibit by Lori Field at the art museum and I was blown away by her many many different media choices (sound like anyone you know?) but especially her collages. It's funny, I didn't consciously think about that exhibit as I worked on this but... go google "Lori Field tarot". I'll wait. As I put the finishing touches on this, I noticed the print of "The Hanged Woman" waiting to be framed and, well, hung up and went, "ohhhhhh". I was maybe a little totally 100% inspired by that.

-In a move that surprised absolutely no one but me this week, I bit off more than I could chew. Between hosting Thanksgiving (and cooking most of the meal), opening a couple shows in the last couple weeks, cleaning the house, prepping for my first craft show next weekend, and running a D&D game for Ben's birthday this weekend, I, um, yeah. I'm a little worse for wear. I initially planned on doing the collage like this, but it wasn't quite gelling in my mind. Then I saw a neat layered sketchbook collage on instagram (not unlike the piece I did for Labyrinth) and that felt correct. I love layers and depth. But that was in no way going to happen this week. So I went back to the original concept and I quite like it. I can definitely see myself doing more collage in the future.

-I especially liked the collage because I got to use up all the books I salvaged years ago at the used bookstore telling myself as I piled them in a box, "I'll find a use for you someday." VINDICATION! Also, I spent very little money on this piece. Hooray!

-As usual, my picture doesn't totally do it justice. I managed to get an iridescent shimmer on the blue butterflies that comes pretty close to the electric blue of the Schmetterling that leads Jojo to Rosie.

-It's hard to see (by design), but written on the left "wallpaper" is the Rilke quote from the end that crushes me into tiny tiny pieces every time I read it: "Let everything happen to you

Beauty and terror Just keep going No feeling is final"


Next week, as chosen by the birthday boy, FLASH! AAAHHHHHH (which is to say, Flash Gordon). I'm in it for the Queen soundtrack and Brian Blessed circa 1980.


I hope this week is kind, or more to the point, I hope you're kind to yourself. Small bites. Unfetter yourself a little. See the sky and dance. If you can't see the sky, just keep going.

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