I’m a bad film student. I have yet to watch The Godfather, the Dark Knight Trilogy, or many other “must-see’s”. A lot of them don’t tickle my interest at first glance; my professors would be so disappointed in me. Feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt, but not to brag I am technically an award-winning screenwriter.

I’m usually not a victim of FOMO, but the Barbenheimer craze was too enticing. I watched Barbie first and then Oppenheimer about a week later. Personally, I am team Oppie, but I enjoyed both. Okay, I was bragging about my screenwriting “award”.

This review is long, 2-in-1.

Cinematography

Barbie

I think this movie unearthed my hidden, guilty pleasure for pink. Not that I’m some macho masc, but how could you dislike pink after watching Barbie. I especially loved the intro, it was like a music video.

Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer was actually a lot more colorful than its marketing, or lack thereof, made it out to be. A substantial amount of it is achromatic, but many interiors and exteriors offered a placating palette of cooler hues. Of course, that contrasts perfectly with the bomb’s fiery, billowing form. It’s no Barbie, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I especially loved when characters’ relevant dialogue segued to the next scene. It helped with the film’s swift rhythm and narrative transitions.

Nolan did a great job at portraying a characters’ headspace. Kitty Oppenheimer imagining the affair in that interrogation room was a standout. The thunderous sound design portrayed Oppenheimer’s dread. The flashes of effects, like particles bursting or stars swallowed in the sky, were nice insights into his mind.

Personally, I was fine with the decision to exclude pictures of the aftermath. I was on the verge of a panic attack so giant, flashing images of gore certainly wouldn’t have helped. Maybe we’re in the shoes of Oppenheimer here; he knows what he’s done but refuses to fully confront the cruelty he’s wrought. He can imagine all he wants, but it won’t ever compare to the real horror. Something to do with the theory vs. practice theme? Call that an excuse if you want.

Wardrobe & I Don’t Know Enough About Makeup

Barbie

I want that mink. If I was more femme-presenting, I would absolutely wear everything the dolls wore. Hell, even if I wasn’t. That’s true Hollywood glamor. It was really awesome seeing real-life doll clothes. I want that mink. Clothes are extremely important, perhaps even moreso in Barbie. I appreciated the specific showcase for the garment references. They really did this IP justice; what a fun blend of fashion and film. I want that mink.

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Oppenheimer

Everyone was sensibly dressed, a style I think was fit for the times. Realistic clothing for a historical drama makes sense. I can’t complain. I found Tatlock’s censorship funny. Where can I get my Italian censor bar dress?

Effects & Set Design

Barbie

I was absolutely blown away by the sets. Like everyone, I wish I could live in them. For the first time, I was jealous of the actors experiencing in the sets in person. The Barbieland painted backgrounds were stunning. Their realism exaggerated Barbie’s plastic absurd life. Was the “ambulance” on the beach real? If so, it should be in a museum.

It’s kind of amazing the two biggest summer blockbusters are pretty much opposites but are known for their use of practical sets and effects. It’s also amazing how Oppenheimer is a summer blockbuster; it’s a drab three-hour biopic.

Oppenheimer

When I heard Nolan recreated an atomic bomb explosion, I scoffed. But when I witnessed it in theaters, I was mesmerized. Had it been created in CG, I feel we wouldn’t have gotten the entrancing, intoxicating close-ups.

Music & Sound

Barbie

Fun music soundtrack. I’m still listening to it weeks later, and will continue to do so in the months to come. I’ve heard Barbie should’ve been a musical. I like that sentiment, but that might’ve been more work for everyone. I see the decision to opt out. There’s plenty of appropriately toned music and songs to jam to. In addition, not everyone is into musicals. Maybe it was a business decision?

Oppenheimer

The music was great, but it definitely relied on it too much for tension. Although, I don’t know how else I could heighten drama in such tight scenes. I felt the score perfectly fit. Allegretto repetition with legato strings embody theory’s pondering. It’s the perfect soundtrack to study to. The roaring instrumental play into the dreadful reckoning of practice’s destruction. Of course, you can’t have a Nolan film without that iconic, overwhelming blaring.

Perhaps it’s due to some accents, but I couldn’t make out some dialogue, albeit rare. Unfortunately, it happened in the final scene and slightly ruined the ending for me. However, the fortississimo sonic explosions were awe-inspiring; that’s an understatement. I felt it in my body, my bones, my heart. I was on the verge of a panic attack, partly due to nature calling. My god, that sound. It was a jumpscare at a certain point. Amazing.

Editing & Pace

Barbie

I most enjoyed the quick cuts of comedy. Otherwise, the general feel of Barbie was expectant of contemporary big Hollywood. Nothing editing-wise really stood out to me, which may be a good sign?

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Oppenheimer

I never felt it dragged, which is what I like. I loved how so much was cut. Characters would blink into new locations within a scene but the information held. Because it was so fast, I sometimes comprehended what occurred one scene later. Fortunately, I could piece it together quickly enough to find Oppenheimer entertaining.

But I can see the complaints why people find it pretentious in its exposition. Personally, I appreciated the brevity, I mean it’s three goddamn hours. It didn’t exactly follow the golden rule to drama, arrive late and leave early, but it scene lengths were prompt.

One small, inconsequential “error” I noticed was in the first sex scene. Tatlock faces a bookshelf and turns her head when Murphy talks to her. We cut to Oppie on the bed. Then we cut to her response, where she turns her head again to face him. Presumably, she would’ve held her posture. Anyway, just a continuity “mistake” that slipped past or they couldn’t reshoot. I don’t know. Making movies is hard.

Acting

Barbie

Is it bad I want to be Ken/Ryan Gosling? Whatever your answer is, I think we all agree he stole the show. Maybe that’s kind of the point? Protagonists are often overshadowed by their more colorful antagonists anyway, so it doesn’t bother me. Robbie’s acting was a joy to watch. She moved like a doll being played with and transitioned to natural human movement. That scene of her laying on the grass is a meme for a reason.

I never knew I would like Ryan Gosling’s singing. I’m surprised how much I listen to his tracks nowadays. Of course, his interpretation of Ken is outstanding. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I realized: he’s quite literally playing a boy’s brain in a man’s body.

Issa Rae swearing at the Kens was an unexpected laugh. I bet they wrote that specifically for her, or she improvised and they kept it in. All in all, everyone was believable despite the A-list celebrity cast. That’s my amateur criteria for “good” acting.

Oppenheimer

I felt Cillian Murphy was cast spectacularly for this role. His unique facial features highlights Oppenheimer’s eccentricity as something of an academic maverick. Matt Damon was the perfect contrast. He played Groves well, pragmatic and socially skilled. I also enjoyed Emily Blunt’s performance. She really felt like a weathered woman with a history just trying to live her life. I like to think the “sorry” she utters during Oppenheimer’s trial is directed at her interrogator.

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Again, everyone felt believable to me. Maybe Tatlock’s dialogue could’ve had another revision, but that’s not Pugh’s problem.

Scoring Or TL;DR

Barbie 7.5

Fun and funny, two of my expectations were fulfilled. I went in with high standards, hoping Barbie would be something I would obsess over. Unfortunately not, but I’m still satisfied. I also can’t get over how seemingly everyone is so attractive. Beauty standards successfully reinforced. Anyway, I didn’t push it over 8 because I’m a big idealistic nerd who’s into concrete messages and meaning. I’d love to hear your opinions on it though.

Barbenheimer Barbie Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer 9.5

I was actually a Nolan hater before this; the only film I’ve seen was Interstellar. To put it lightly, it was not my favorite by a long shot. However, Oppenheimer’s caliber is what I expect from someone so oft highly praised. It delivered on all fronts in my opinion, and I’ll give another chance to watch his other movies.

The only reason it’s not a 10 for me is because I didn’t feel excited for anything to come. I was engaged the entire time, but Oppenheimer just doesn’t have the “it” factor, for me, to put it over the edge. But I hope the Nolan fans are satisfied with my extremely subjective opinion on a 9.5 out of 10.

The point score below is the average between the two films. It would be lower had I watched both the same day. I’ll have to rewatch both movies for a more accurate review, but I think I’ll save that for the far future. If you’ve read all this, you’re a true camper. Maybe you should respect someone else’s opinions, someone better.

All in all, I felt the artists executed their ideas to their satisfaction and so I’m satisfied.

THE GOOD
Dynamic contrast of color, themes, and tone
Barbie is fun and funny, great eye-candy
Oppenheimer is engaging due to its concise pace
THE BAD
Too long if watched back-to-back. I felt Oppenheimer wasn’t too long but my bowels disagreed.
Barbie is essentially a giant ad to sell merch
8.5
Great

Review Summary

Barbie is a fun movie with laughter and impeccable style.
Oppenheimer doesn’t hold your hand, but keeps you in your seat with its rapid pacing and literal time bomb.

Luke Sakanashi
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