A lot of filmmakers keep themselves apart from their work.

You can watch all of their films, learn to recognize their style and vision, and still be left with the mystery of who their creator is. That's not the case with New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi.

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In February New Zealand writer-director-actor Taika Waititi was awarded an Oscar for the screenplay of his film Jojo Rabbit.

On May the 4th—the holiest of Star Wars holidays (Revenge of the 5th is sacrilege)—it was announced that he'd received what might be an even bigger honor: He's going to co-write and direct a new Star Wars movie.

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Nestle

Taika Waititi is one of the most creative, talented directors currently working in Hollywood, and Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of the most beloved children's books of all time.

So naturally, Taika Waititi helming two animated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory series for Netflix should be a match made in heaven, right? Well, maybe we should slow down a bit first.

Taika Waititi Premiere Of Disney's "The Lion King" - Arrivals Getty Images

On one hand, Taika Waititi has proven himself as a genuine auteur, capable of stamping his signature shade of irreverence on everything from original indie comedies like Hunt for the Wilderpeople to blockbuster Marvel films like Thor: Ragnorok to book adaptations like JoJo Rabbit. But here's the problem: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory already has a definitive adaptation––Tim Burton's 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp.

There's no doubt that whatever Waititi chooses to do with the franchise will be fun, imaginative, and patently him. The issue is that, no matter how good it is, it can never live up to the best possible version of the story, which features traditionally handsome actor Johnny Depp wearing very white makeup and pretending to be a germaphobe. Undoubtedly, no actor could possibly step into Willy Wonka's shoes with the same gravitas as Depp. (In fact, Hollywood rumor has it that some former actor who played Willy Wonka in an older adaptation quit the industry after seeing Depp's performance and realizing that his own paled in comparison).

Perhaps best known for turning Dahl's book into a fantastical musical, Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory features a slew of memorable songs that have stuck with viewers for an entire generation. As each of the rotten children fall victim to their own character flaws during the tour of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, the Oompa-Loompa songs serve as eulogies, instilling viewers with morality lessons that they can carry with them through their life journey.

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If you watched that video closely, you might notice one of the boldest directorial choices that Burton made for his film: All of the Oompa-Loompas are played by the same person! Through the use of flawless digital effects and split screen photography, Burton was able to capture actor Deep Roy performing the roles of dozens of little orange men. And while Roy may not have won the Oscar he deserved for such a diverse array of character work, at least he gets bragging rights for being in the greatest Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie ever made.

Unfortunately for Taika Waititi and Netflix, no amount of talent can surmount the sheer impossibility of conquering an everlasting classic. The truth that Hollywood still fails to realize is that sometimes there's an artwork so stupendous, so memorable, and so definitive that it really doesn't need to ever be rebooted. Even if Waititi creates an adaptation that feels surprising and original, people will still say, "Yeah, that's okay, but is it as good as the 2005 Tim Burton version?" Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had it all––the songs, the sense of wonder, Johnny Deep feigning mental issues. Waititi is welcome to reach for the stars, but he might just miss and find himself falling into a chocolate river.

CULTURE

Werner Herzog's Interview in "Variety" Is a Sapiosexual Wet Dream

Werner Herzog is our philosopher of the end times.

If you've never seen Werner Herzog's 2005 documentary Grizzly Man, allow us to tease it for you:

Herzog pieces together real footage taken by Timothy Treadwell, a young and zealous grizzly bear enthusiast who takes to camping among packs of wild bears as often as he can, because he believed he could gain their trust and be accepted among them. While Treadwell said his ultimate goal was to protect wild bears from poachers, Herzog's interviews with park rangers, bear experts, and Treadwell's friends and family unfold an eerie picture of the last five years of Treadwell's life. Spoiler: Treadwell and his girlfriend were both killed by a grizzly bear in 2003 while camping too late into the season. Treadwell's rolling camera captured the audio of their deaths. Herzog's treatment of Treadwell's life story earned him acclaim and some criticism for the macabre subject matter.
But that's Werner Herzog's wheelhouse. Older than the baby boomers, the 77-year-old director, screenwriter, author, actor, and opera director has cemented a place in New German Cinema and among millennials favorite philosophical weirdos. Wired called him "The Luddite Master of the Internet"; though he rejects social media as a "massive, naked onslaught of stupidity" and refuses to use a cell phone except in emergencies, his work has slowly taken on subjects like the future of technology, and he's begun acting in more mainstream projects after appearing in 2012's Jack Reacher as Tom Cruise's nemesis.

Now Herzog's come to Disney+. With the streaming platform kicking off with much fanfare, at least $375 million in marketing alone, and technical errors on launching day, its lead original series, Jon Favreau's The Mandalorian, is at the center of attention. Aside from being the first live-action TV series for the Star Wars franchise, it presents Herzog playing a villainous character. Yet, as Herzog told Variety in a recent interview, he's never seen a Star Wars movie. In fact, he barely watches films. He does, however, take an academic—nay, philosophical—interest in Wrestlemania and Keeping Up with the Kardashians, presumably in order to study the 2019 zeitgeist and, you know, track its moral and artistic decline.

Herzog's fascination with the most absurd and uncanny aspects of modern existence already makes him Twitter-perfect, but his takes on reality TV and streaming services could make him as beloved a weirdo-philosopher as Slavoj Žižek (but with less saliva.) We (along with Twitter) have to honor the too-pretentious-to-be-true pop culture commentary Herzog has given us while starring in the Hollywood franchise he's either surrendered to or he's infiltrating in order to dismantle it from within, culminating in an explosive documentary to be released just before climate change ends the world in 2030.

No, He's Really Never Seen a "Star Wars" Film

Herzog allayed fears that he was too unfamiliar with the Star Wars franchise to do justice to a part in The Mandaloriani: "You shouldn't feel upset that I haven't seen the "Star Wars" films; I hardly see any films. I read. I see two, three, maybe four films per year."

He added, "I assume much of it was motion-controlleld cameras and green screens," which was enough to convince him that Favreau probably knew how to handle The Mandalorian artfully.

He Watches "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" Even Though They're "Vulgar"

This is the absolute best ad for Keeping Up With the Kardashians since Kim's 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries.

He Doesn't Give a Sh*t About Disney Live-Action Remakes

When asked if Herzog gave any f*cks about Jon Favreau's prestigious filmography (seriously, what?), Herzog responded: "I do not know what other films he has made." When informed that Favreau "made 'The Lion King' earlier this year with Beyonce and Donald Glover," Herzog said: "Well I like 'The Lion King,' but the animated version 30 years back or so. That was a wonderful film, the music was particularly great, Hans Zimmer's score."

Is this shade at Favreau? No. Is this shade at Beyonce or Donald Glover? No. Is this 100% Werner Herzog sitting in a chair in a room surrounded by books à la the first 5 minutes of Good WIll Hunting and not realizing there's been a Disney film released since 1990.

Disney (and Amazon and Apple) WILL Soon Rule the World, So Just Surrender Now

Herzog ends the interview by noting that the only streaming platform he's signed up for is Criterion. But now that the world will soon be run by Disney, Apple, and Amazon, he appropriately closes the interview by saying: "You're right. I have no choice but to sign up for Disney Plus and Netflix. I shall go do that now."

Does dubbing an interconnected franchise of superhero movies the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" necessarily make those movies "cinema?" The Old Guard of Hollywood doesn't seem to think so.

Acclaimed directors––nay, auteurs––Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Departed) and Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) have both recently come out to express disdain for Marvel's cookie-cutter action fare.

"I don't see them. I tried, you know? But that's not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them...is theme parks. It isn't the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being," said Scorsese during an interview with Empire Magazine.

Martin Scorsese Stephane Cardinale Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images


Coppola went a step further: "I don't know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again. Martin was kind when he said it's not cinema. He didn't say it's despicable, which I just say it is."

Naturally, their comments sparked a backlash from a number of prominent Marvel directors, including Taika Waititi (Thor Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit) and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither). Most of these directors grew up admiring Scorsese's and Coppola's work, so their disparaging comments must sting. But are Scorsese and Coppola telling a painful truth about Marvel's cinematic status, or is this simply a case of two old, once-prominent directors lashing out against the pop culture of a new era?

To answer that, first we need to unpack a fundamental question: What is cinema?

Per the dictionary, "cinema" is roughly interchangeable with "motion picture" and "movie." So, in technical terms, every movie that comes out, no matter how visionary or generic, is "cinema."

But let's not allow terminology to get in the way of communication. When Scorsese and Coppola say "cinema," what they really mean is "high art." To them, "cinema" is the lofty ideal of movies as a medium for conveying human experience and emotion. For a movie to be "cinema," it needs to have something to say, and its reason for existing must be greater than just "profit."

Guardians of the Galaxy Disney/Marvel


In essence, this is just the age old "high art vs. low art" argument that has raged amongst artists since the 18th century. High art is complex, mature, deep, layered, and subtle, specifically intended for intelligent people capable of understanding its intricacies. Low art, on the other hand, is dumb media geared for the lowest common denominator: the unwashed masses. Or, at least that's what directors like Scorsese and Coppola tell themselves to stratify their own work from the likes of everything else.

Even as someone who majored in film and can easily wax poetic about why most DC movies are absolute poop that nobody should enjoy, I've always found the high art/low art dichotomy incredibly elitist. Different movies impact different people in different ways, and there's absolutely no reason that a serious crime drama is necessarily more important or artistic or even real (at least in an emotional capacity) than a larger-than-life superhero brawl. Take, for instance, film essayist Lindsay Ellis' thoughtful breakdown of Guardian of the Galaxy 2 and its themes about coping with the loss of one's parents. If the criteria for "cinema," according to Martin Scorsese, is a movie's ability to convey emotional experiences, then Ellis' connection to Guardians 2 after the loss of her own parent proves that Marvel movies can easily pass the litmus test.

Jared Leto Joker Actual poop.Warner Bros./DC

I won't argue that every movie in the MCU is great, or even good. Many of them do feel generic and repetitive. I'd be lying if I said I still got excited for midnight premieres like I did when the first few came out and couldn't contain my hype for actually seeing Captain America on a big screen. But anyone who says that big budget superhero movies are incapable of conveying real human emotion is, quite frankly, speaking out of their ass.

The biggest problem is that, per Scorsese's own admission, he doesn't actually watch Marvel movies. And while it's fine not to watch a genre of movies you don't enjoy, it's incredibly arrogant to suggest that, without even watching a specific movie, you can speak to its themes and potential emotional resonance.

But even if every Marvel movie really was exactly the same, and even if every last one of them had no greater purpose or meaning than superhumans punching other superhumans, who's to say that's not cinema? Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, in spite of their great talent in the medium, are not the arbiters of what is and isn't "cinema." Nobody is.

FILM

Taika Waititi Stars as Adolf Hitler in Satirical "Jojo Rabbit" Trailer

Taika Waititi plays Hitler in Jojo Rabbit

Walt Disney Studios

New Zealand-born director Taika Waititi is best known for his comedies, namely vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows and Thor: Ragnorak (the only good Thor movie).

But even for someone who loves Waititi's screwball sensibilities, the premise of his newest film, Jojo Rabbit, might come as a shock. See, in his newest movie, Waititi (who's half-Māori and half-Russian-Jewish, by the way) plays Adolf Hitler. No, not the real Adolf Hitler! Just a child's good-natured, imaginary best friend version of Adolf Hitler. If that sounds absolutely bats**t insane, that's because it is. You can watch the whole trailer here:

JOJO RABBIT Trailer (2019) Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson www.youtube.com

The craziest thing about the Jojo Rabbit trailer is that it actually looks very promising. Although maybe that shouldn't be a surprise considering Waititi's excellent track record.

Billed as an "anti-hate satire," the plot of JoJo Rabbit focuses on a young boy in Nazi Germany who befriends an idealized, imaginary version of his hero, Adolf Hitler. As the young boy makes his way through Hitler Youth camp, his secretly anti-Nazi mother (Scarlett Johansson) harbors a young Jewish girl in their home.

The cast also includes Sam Rockwell as the Hitler Youth camp leader, Captain Klenzendorf; Alfie Allen as his second-in-command, Finkel; and Rebel Wilson as a brutish instructor, Fräulein Rahm.

Love it or hate it, there's no denying that this is one of the most original premises to hit movie theaters in ages.

JoJo Rabbit is set to be released on October 18th, 2019.