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A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
Holds up as a largely timeless classic and an all-timer from Poitier
I'm sure much smarter writers than me have waxed more eloquently about how simple and yet wholly perceptive and forceful Hansberry was with this story and the characters, about what shifts in generations mean, what women want from men or what's expected (now that I'm older I can say I really admired how plainly this is a Feminist text), or how materialism and dreams of money as opposed to what it means to have more emotional wealth, like what is in your heart matters more than just living better, or how most everyone in the family means to want better for their family but see it in sometimes stark and differing ways and what it means to straddle that gulf of difference (that is the mother vs the son, and son vs the wife).
And of course there's all of the aspects of upward mobility and that racism from the world of white men who act 'moderate' in their attempts to push out anyone moving into an area they don't like. Is it just a "filmed play?" Absolutely. I'm not even a hundred percent sure everything in the play still works as being as effective as it might have in the 50s (the African boyfriend is well acted by Dixon and has his place in the play, but I'm not sure if what he offers near the end to the sister is only there as one more conflict monkey wrench in the works).
But the performances rise this to the occasion and it may be Poitier's best work on film; it reminds me somewhat of Washington in Fences in that, at least for a long time in this film, Poitier is not playing a person who we can find a whole lot of sympathy in and the actor's innate liability and dignity is this interesting contrast with Walter being such a Full of His Own Big Dreams kind of self (not to mention drunk), but his evolution in the story is extraordinary, in particular in the scene in the bar with Walter's mother with the money. Try not to tear up during that moment, which is the kind that really touches one's heart because it's generosity in the face of ruin.
And this isn't to say McNiel and Dee and the rest don't rise to the example that Poitier gives in his role - if anything, they may be even more extraordinary because (mostly, I know McNiel's Mama is sometimes very BIG in how she delivers her lines and gets into such BIG emotional colors) the women are really running the house and are the heart of the piece. Why do they stand by him? Would the women we know or us in general stand by someone like that? Dee and McNiel et al find the truth that is both plain as day and complex in such a story, if that makes sense.
So, maybe I wrote more words than I intended here but I mean to convey that this is a moving, imperfect work that reminded me of why I enjoyed it as a younger person and that it is timeless; Black people, and anyone who is seen as "other" in this country face these struggles to this day - moving into a particular neighborhood is still seen as some controversial issue, and that White Moderate that MLK talked about is still a massive roadblock - and yet at the heart of this is about how family deal with each other in the face of massive changes, and thats at the heart of dramas all over for millennia.
The Bank Dick (1940)
Mr Nose Full of Nickels in a very funny movie
Now here's a confession for anyone who gives a half a rat's behind: this is my first WC Fields movie. Why didn't I see this when I was younger, or even as a kid? Maybe my folks couldn't agree (this despite Shemp being in the movie and both parents Stooge nuts, but I digress), or they just didn't get the 170% proof WC Fields concoction that this movie is. Coming to it as an ancient old miser myself I found a strange connection to this lumbering, puttering whacked out dude with such a potato face that it can hardly contain the great spud that could be called a nose. Am I making fun of how he looks? Nah, he knows he looks funny, in fact he anticipates it before you or I can, but not as a clown - he's just a drunk sob who is unapologetic about it... and is disarming in his hilarity.
This isn't structured necessarily like something that is so sophisticated, and it doesn't need to as it just requires a comic premise: a sometimes(?) Movie director -- is he even a director he kind of stumbles into that moment too, let's leave it that he is a Souse with the accent in the E of course - and after by chance stopping a bank robbery is made the main guard there (the Dick of the title, boy that must be fun for generations of kids to get to say, and that's not the only name that gets snuck by here). What else happens Meanwhile? He somehow comes upon a stake in stocks by other dumb luck with (checks notes oh wow) Beefsteak mines and has to try and foil a bank inspector from checking some records of who's got money where for investments.
Plot matters here as much - which is to say as little - as it might in a Marx brothers comedy, and that's more than fine. I might prefer the (best of) Marx antics to this, if only because of the variety part of the team, but this marks as good a place to start slas any with Fields. It's a latter film but who gives a hoot when he looked 60 already ten or more years before he actually got to thar age? From how he acts in this film it's hard to tell if he is hammered to bits, or if he's perfected his shtick to a point where only the eagle-eyed could tell (and what's the fun in that?)
His reactions to things are amusing at first and yet his personality builds on each scene until near the end when every little gesture and look and physical move is funny, and his physical comedic beats are graceful in their sloppiness, if that contradiction makes sense (and that one punch with the guy going out the window is priceless). Moreover, he and director Cline know that giving him great support is so important; I cracked up every time he interacts with his family, who may be even more cranky and miserable than him (oh the daughter who cries about Sunday school and looks 25 at the beginning who is that, so great) and those who work at the bank are amazing too. If anything, Shemp being here is more of a coincidence of what would come with him (he would join the Stooges a few years after this).
Would I call it an all-time comedy classic? On first view, not totally sure, like it's lunatic spirit is definitely inspiring, though it really takes to when he's at the bank for the movie to take off. But I could see it growing on me as time goes on too, and it makes me excited to check out his other major work like It's a Gift and (one of the great titles) Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.
Im Lauf der Zeit (1976)
"I've gone through a certain time, and that time is my story."
It took me two days to watch but this time I actually am going to finish it... that makes it sound like Kings of the Road, is a difficult film to sit through and it's the opposite; this is melancholic black and white Blues-soaked bliss, one of the coolest and most unlikely epics ever made about a protector repairman and his sad but curious traveling companion. It's fitting that this was largely inspired by photographs as you feel like you are walking into a carefully but free-floatingly curated series of them (or like a meditative version of what Buster Keaton does in Sherlock Jr).
But for all of how Wenders and his editor and Muller on camera craft the time to stretch at points, Vogler and Zischler never make us forget that these are two men, these "Kings" as it were, who can be sad do become emotional and don't bottle things up completely - after all, one of these is a loner who never met his father (died in the war) and the other had a collapse of his marriage and has an incredibly fraught relationship with his own dad, though they may end up shedding tears on their own - and these small towns don't add necessarily but do emphasize what little there is to do with the time that they have... except for a little while longer the movies are there. Until they're gone too.
In other words it is very interesting to think that most of this movie was improvised and that must have been a welcome challenge for the actors in order to chart where they would be with these guys along this journey if it wasn't already written out for them. Along with Wenders, They managed to give these men such a rich internal life even though it doesn't seem like they're doing too much and that's always tricky to pull off in a movie.
There aren't the kinds of usual stakes that you get in movies here as everything's internal, it's it's not like they have to go and fix these projectors because X will happen if why doesn't happen; Kings of the Road makes distinctly, subtly and dramatic and compelling what it means to be alone with oneself or to walk out into a field or among some sheep or to be alone in a place watching a movie - or, as it comes to pass in the last half hour as two men get drunk and frank about who the other is, how to move on and be OK. Or, of course, what it means to be suddenly entertaining a group of kids on the fly because some piece of tech isn't working.
It may work more on vibes than on a traditional structure but it still works like gangbusters. I could have watched another hour of this, though it ends at exactly the right time: the journey isn't really over (that one theater maybe but who knows even there), rather this is just where we are leaving them.
Ryû to sobakasu no hime (2021)
Deeply emotional and cheesy in equal measure with consistently breathtaking animation
Never tell anyone that you can't heap on the empathy in virtual reality by singing incredibly sappy and cheesy pop songs...
There's a part of me that wants to rate this even higher, or even possibly lower. At times this is staggeringly gorgeous - and I'm not sure if I'm in a minority opinion that the scene scenes taking place in the real world are much more eye catching and appealing than those in the U Dimension (except for the climax, where it walks a tightrope of like Care Bears energy and one of the most heart-soaring moments in modern film, but again animated with emotional gusto, like that thing at the end of movies where everyone is there to applaud/say goodbye to the hero) - and at other times it's that mopey-dopey teenage girl stuff that's not my thing. Have you ever seen an Anime where the teenage heroine freaks out because (gasp) a boy maybe looked her way or (extra gasp) people may know who she is from a virtual reality world in the real one? Lots of that here.
It's also completely open about it being so all-in on being Cornball and I admire and was involved by that. It may not address abuse and trauma and even grief necessarily in the most mature or well-rounded sense, but who would my old ass be to argue or look down if some young kid or teen somewhere found the messages about overcoming such rancid figures productive and meaningful (in real life as well as the web which is where all the horrors of the world multiply)?
It manages to use the main empathetic meat of Beauty and the Beast, primarily the Disney one (they even copy, brilliantly, that one image of the Beast showing regret after kicking Belle out), while not making it so verbatim it neglects its own characters. I guess this is to say if an anime has to do an homage to that, might as well do it with a pop singer and a giant dragon!
I'm not sure if it's great overall, and it's message about a daughter following in a mother's moral footprint is heavy - if, again, presented with a go for broke attitude for its emotional compass (this is BIG, and it's fitting if possible to see it in IMAX as I was lucky to do). I also wonder if it could bother to reckon with people living as a New Body in U. But I'll surely remember that little and pivotal scene where Suzu comes up with the song and how that is animated and edited is staggeringly good.
A great re-discovery, a sultry, violent, wild neo-noir with intense/great characters and performances
Forget that this is among the top films of the year it came out (a year with the likes of Fargo and Trainspotting), this is a stellar example of what independent filmmaking could be in the 1990s period - and it manages to be it's own complete thing as far as style and substance in a heady mix without feeling tangential to Tarantino (which is not nothing for that time).
This is so tantalizing and electrifying because the Wachowskis not only understand their genre influences, they understand firstly that we need at least a few really strong, multi dimensional and just deeply felt characters and we get that with Corky, Violet and Caesar in spaces. They're vital, intelligent and knowing (well, Caesar may not be as knowing as these brilliantly conniving dames, but as it goes on his intelligence is that of like the most vicious viper) and that makes this sordid tale of double crossing and plotting/conspiring all the more delectable. We want to see then get away with this... and when it goes deeply awry in the mid section, the Wachowskis know how to keep ratcheting up the suspense inch by inch. Forget Tarantino, this is like Hitchcock on steroids.
I read some trivia that the Wachowskis were inspired by Sin City comics for the look and feel of the film. As much as I enjoy that first actual Sin City adaptation, this is superior to what they came up with. This is, you might say, one of the slickest neo-noirs ever (ok I'll see myself out). More seriously, this is most importantly a gorgeous, sumptuous covered in all the sauces and dark-shadowy violent flavors buffet of intense performances and wonderfully suspenseful writing. Do you like movies with twists and turns? This is less a pretzel and more like a wild bonfire of the pretzel factory.
In short, Bound is an intense Rollercoaster ride, which may be the connective tissue to The Matrix, like they want to say "we will take you on an EXPERIENCE" and it's anchored by Tilly, Gershon and especially Pantoliano's acting. It does what the great Noirs do: to make us feel the dire straits like we are just as the title suggests, while the filmmakers simultaneously get the audience to revel in the desperation and general despair that these three find themselves in the deeper s*** gets. And last but certainly not least, it's as funny as it is thrilling; it draws you in with behavior and then ratchets it up to 1000 degrees.
Oh, and it's immeasurably sexy. Don't you miss landlines?
Three Ages (1923)
A gag reel more than a movie, which is a good thing when it's the ultimate physical gag man
I don't think you can intellectualize something like Three Ages too strenuously, as you either find it funny or you don't (or maybe to the degree not as much as Steamboat Bill Jr or The General, which is like saying Lou Gherrig's one home run early in his ballplayers time didn't match his other home run from when he was at his peak). Three Ages takes mild inspiration from Intolerance, only instead of showing us stories spanning millennia on how human beings come together and come apart on an epic scale this is more about Buster's frustrations over not getting laid, which is a noble goal for a movie to have. It features him making an entrance on a dinosaur in the Stone Age (hell yes), he is challenged to a chariot race and only manages to get dogs instead of horses, but my lord what he does with that cat (easily my biggest laugh of the movie), and in modern times he plays football and has to make a desperate phone call that leads to one of Buster's most thrilling and dangerous stunts.
It's largely silly and placing more emphasis than other Buster films I've seen on going for straight slapstick, which is far from a negative thing when its a modern master doing it all, and it features things like the (I'm not kidding) Wizard with a pointy hat in the Roman segment dispensing advice to Buster, and then when our struggling hero finds himself in a prison cell with a lion in place of doing the Pulling a Thorn from the Paw trick (a title card tells us he vaguely remembered it from somewhere and don't we all), he instead gives the lion ah uh manicure and a paw massage (!) There's plenty of fun and funny stuff here, and if it's a little slack when it comes to things like a more original story or characters or more amazing stunts - and clearly this was set up in case he needed three shorts instead of a feature - it manages to be funny on a fairly consistent level.
As Buster Keaton's first (co-directed) feature as an Independent, it's a silly goose with heart - and a nice ending for all three versions of the hero.
Saint Jack (1979)
A marvelous, dark and surprising character study, confident direction and all-timer performance
If I were to try to tell you what happens in the conventional sense in Saint Jack, I would probably sound like I was coming up short on story beats and the usual stuff we get in a story involving someone living in a kind-of-sort-of-yeah shady criminal life like Jack Flowers does in his Singapore brothel. But that's because director and Co writer (and Co star natche) Peter Bogdanovich isn't concerned with all of that - or I should say he has the confidence to not have to rely on things going so simply from point A to B to C or even having a completely defined Central Question to start the film off. And yet I hasten to also say it's an episodic kind of movie since the so to speak episodes don't really start and finish so much as temporarily pause and then pick up, like once say Denholm Eliot's expatriate bookkeeper cum Jack's buddy leaves and arrives and hangs out and leave again... until he doesn't.
It's simply the story of someone at a very particular point in their lives, and that sounds like not a lot happens but that's far from the truth. What Bogdanovich does with such conviction and honesty is to just show how this man Jack (not quite his name but close enough) goes about his nights and days in this corner of a city in Singapore where he knows a lot of people and people know him and he takes care of some of them while others, well, he'd much rather not deal with. In the first half of the film especially it doesn't seem like a lot is "going on" as far as how we are so often trained as moviegoers to expect natural conflicts and sets ups; Gazarra's title character takes Eliot's Leigh around and then another guy asks for him and they sit down, he looks over a "menu" of women, they sit in a room while two ladies do a show put to "Goldfinger" (oh the Golden Rule, a little sweet subliminal touch), but all this time something is... off. Two or more people are following Jack and Jack knows it, more or less, to the point where finally he runs off with Leigh and they give brief chase.
Somehow, this really does all add up to be completely absorbing because Bogdanovich is making it about Jack's point of view. I'm sure it's inevitable to try to compare to Cassavetes due to the Gazzara connection as well as a middle aged guy who may be down on his luck and trying to hide it ala Chinese Bookie, or the looseness like Altman, but if anyone flashed to me more than anything it was Scorsese and specifically the seemingly contradictory but wholly organic combination of laser-focus in point of view and a looseness in shaping character interactions and scenes. And like in many of Scorsese's work, especially around that time in the 70s, the city and location is another character to play with, or rather that our hero cant escape and it may shape him more than he cares to admit.
At the same time, with knowing only basic things as a casual admirer of the (late) director's life and work, it feels like a personal piece of some kind. Here is a guy who could be anything and he's in a world where he has to be Mr Amiable and Charming even as he misses home. I'm not sure if it was that that attracted Bogdanovich (maybe more literally it was the p***y let's be real), but he treats it all with this grounded reality while also letting his actors find the grace notes and taking dialog I'd have to think was largely scripted feel improvised - or moments that need to be explosive and messy, like when one of Jack's girls gets best and slapped around bursting out of a room into a hallway and he comes to look in on her as a crowd forms and the guy who did it looks as befuddled as he does. It's a bizarre moment that feels painfully real somehow.
And eventually there is Shape and dimension to this man, in part because of what he sees and has to endure, like the abuse from the gangsters to tattoo him (jokes on them as he adds to the tattoos to be fully flowered, ho ho), or what this shady CIA guy played by Bogdanovich wants from him (as it turns out, kind of a blackmail situation, what can Jack do, not go back to Buffalo at this stage that's for sure). Why does Jack stay in this city and country anyway? Maybe it's a freedom, or that there's this seedy escapism where he gets to be this Character of Jack Flowers Big Man, with everything reminding him of what he doesn't have while he has all this control... which can be taken away because he is in this land where white people are intruding.
(As an aside I'm now flashing to a George Orwell story called Shooting an Elephant where he wrote about a cop who's greatest anxiety was being laughed at, as every white man felt in the East. Maybe in this story, Jack doesn't exactly get laughed at and there isn't that imperial stronghold like it used to be with the British in the East, but there's that disconnect where he has respect but no love, as that costs money. Ok digression over).
And at the center of what makes this impossible to take your eyes off of is Gazzara. He sometimes seems so laconic, like Bogart but with even more Naturalism (or seemingly so), and yet there's so much sorrow and pain he's suppressing and yet there's this sensitivity that's underneath it all, maybe this understanding between director and actor that it can be shown, in little looks or in the eyes, or even in-between the lines so to speak as he gives that smile or grin of his. I love that we are plopped into this part of Jack's life and we only get little breadcrumbs (some of it from the CIA guy Eddie) how he got to this point - Jack even makes a deadpan remark that his English degree he got on a GI Bill (he wanted to be a writer) led him to this point. He's a cool guy to watch, but there's depth and sadness and distrust in him that be shows like it's a tap from a large fountain. It's one of the best performances of the 1970s.
As great as this is, I do wonder what Welles would've done with it. As is, it's a surprising piece of work from a director I largely peg as a "He does an Homage to this or that" and it has things it reminds me of but not to where it feels homage. Saint Jack is a genuine expression of a mood more than a traditional crime story, a mood and a vibe that has careful direction and skillfully cinematography.
You know, like that one where they fight the carrot from another dimension
It's difficult for me to get too mad at a movie that's only in existence because someone is still salivating and hunting for a share of the hill of beans from Alien - and not insignificant to me on the edge of Cameron making his Aliens, with apparently a few of the same special fx crew (not Winston, some of the others) - because O'Bannon wasn't entirely creating his movie from scratch and had his share of influences that he was taking from, both literary (Lovecraft) and cinematic (Planet of the Vampires but also It Came from Another World or maybe it was the other one). In a sense what he and Scott and Giger and all those cool cats did was elevate schlock above it's station into art and even something of a political statement. If they can do it, why not the guy who did (insert something not Alien here)? It's all in the execution, right?
William Malone's Creature wasn't the first or I assume even the last of the movies that B movie companies like Trans-World Pictures cranked out to chase the success of Alien (I almost typed Airlines not Pictures, what am I Howard Hughes), but what sets it apart is that the filmmaker has competency with staging his action and scenes, and with a make-up and special effects crew that isn't falling asleep at the controls (on the contrary that head explosion is really terrific glop, I dug the face work on the actors especially post transformations, and even the rubber suit isnt half bad for our... Creature).
And he has a cast that is second tier ie Ferris Bueller's Dad, Diane Salinger aka Simone from Pee Wee's Big Adventure who I was excited to see and to be the Take No Shit badass against that pervert Klaus Kinski, who by the way comes in for his few minutes and knows what he's in as he has I believe his lunch during one of the scenes of important dialog (LOL), but they all are trying as well.
Oh, of course it is like digging around to find the good taquito in the bunch on the winding oven thing at the 7-Eleven, but sometimes that can hit the spot (if you don't mind the indigestion of the stock dialog bits), and it takes some time for it to really get going - its character development level is that one of the astronauts is sort of seduced by another scientist-astronaut lady (because uh this might be the last time they can do it according to her, and she's half right ho-ho), and that another woman is good with fixing mechanical things - but once it settles into its "We got to get A thing to transmit to B ship" it's watchable, dank R rated fluff. Did I mention you get a mostly awake Kinski who is totally detestable and yet isn't entirely the villain of the thing? Well, not right off anyway.
Meanwhile it also features some sound effects that I'm sure are directly ripped from Ben Burtt's catalog from Star Wars, one ship is just the spinning thing from 2001, and the wide-screen 2:35:1 frame is used with some degree of sense with spring and lighting and smoke usage. I can't say this is even anything all that good, but I enjoyed it anyway; if you're not going to be in any way original, at least keep it moving and keep the blood sticky and stupid. Easy mark for this sci-fi fruit punch flavored taquito? Sure (do they make those? In my world, yes). Looks great on blu ray to boot.
Original Cast Album: Company (1970)
You could drive a person crazy, Bubby
A good problem I suppose to have is that at 53 minutes, this is much too brief a look at a part of the process in Theatre that gets underappreciated as far as when the cast of a production makes the recording for the album to go out into the world - in other words, as one of the cast briefly describes in one of the handful of interviews here (being Pennebaker its 98% Verite and 2% usual doc), when you're dancing and singing you do it once and it goes by so fast, where on record it's difficult sometimes to get that same energy up in live performance. It is worth noting this was a Pilot for a proposed series of documentaries showing the creative process with Broadway shows, and as happens sometimes the exec who green-lit the first one moved on and it was cancelled, so we all are lucky this exists as is at all.
What makes this so remarkable and indelible is precisely that you don't have to have seen the actual show of Company to get the gist (I certainly hadn't, my extent of familiarity was with the Documentary Now sketch and I'm sure many my age who aren't Theater Kids will be the same way coming to this after Sondheim's passing and may his life be a blessing etc). You can pick up quickly this is a biting black comedy about marriage and relationships, what it means to become married or about to get married or not get married (the one song where the woman is talking like a guy at an auction is incredible, no one you or I know could do that), and even when there's sincerity to the music and lyrics there's this razor's edge that Sondheim is dealing with - West Side Story in many places was the same- where the earnestness could go too far but is saved by the knowingness of how people act and relate in a society, and you must have humor with the heart.
And while it's thrilling to see the performers do these songs, in what may be the first or the tenth of many takes and this process is buoyed by Sondheim and the playwright and record producer finding what works on an equal footing with what doesn't or what needs so tweaks (like oh no you were in A and not F for this time dang), I love everything in the control booth and wonder if Pennebaker had even more footage of that and if so there could be a longer cut. Again his great tact as a filmmaker, like the contemporaneous Maysles Brothers and Charlotte Zwerin, was to manage to get so much on record without making anyone self conscious or notice the camera was there (or if they are aware of it they don't make it so known that it takes us out of it).
But then we get to Elaine Stritch and that last ten minutes or so when she tries to do the "Lunch" number and it's hard not to feel your heart kind of break... more for the creatives than for her who watch a take that even if we don't know it ahead of time that she has to go again can feel that she must since this is a take at the end of a long day (as a filmmaker I've been there, believe me, especially the frustration of wanting to make it work so badly).
The producer is up front with what's not working (the word facile or flaccid comes up I forget which), and meanwhile Stephen in that turtleneck and on the edge of two sides of ecstasy or chronic dissatisfaction buries his face in his arm in grief over this take. And it's not like he wants it that way but rather its the theme throughout throughout documentary: how do you not only get something to be Good but to go *Beyond* it and capture that spontaneity of a theatrical performance?
This film will always be a tribute to the satirical wit and musical glory that was Sondheim, but also how strong Pennebaker could be in his own element (again see how simply he or his cameraman move around the one singer from behind in that one performance, beautiful). Highlights include: "Getting Married Today" (with that ten words every two seconds part), "Another Hundred People" "Being Alive" (ok I get Marriage Story now), and "Barcelona.
A sweet and charming little Christmas animated movie with a top tier Simmons performance
I know logically that there's things here that are not really my bag or that have aged in a meh way over just a few years, like the song choices - "How you like me now" and that one ballad when Klaus rides his sleigh about midway through as a couple examples, more out of the Despicable Me movies Pablo came from than the Goofy Movie and recent Disney animation where this most takes its visual cues from - but this doesn't detract from the pleasures of Klaus.
It's a deep down warm-hearted story where the antagonists are local townspeople all hyped up on their traditions of small-village life that has no basis in anything except tradition for the sake of it, and Klaus is such a giant bulk of a man who is that character that just needs a nudge (or a few) to open up again to empathy - and as voiced by JK Simmons the filmmakers give him a real large and sincerely heartfelt character and, yeah, surprise he can be just as great as Klaus in a subtler key as in his large jerk roles.
The story beats are not all that original and the kids are maybe a tad too super cutesy as you can get in these animated movies, but you aren't watching this necessarily for the most original story (though it has a decent message for kids on embracing goodness over resentment and ego, and in the holiday package it's in, it works fine), it's about rhe world that these animators and the directors create, with the 3D lighting complimenting the more traditional 2D style of drawing for the character designs. I love the action, like the big chase down the snowy mountain, and it's hard to be too tough critically on something that's heart is in the right place as this.
At the least, it's a far more watchable and less unintentionally creepy modern Santa tale than Polar Express.
Nightmare Alley (1947)
Every boy has a dog! Quite an unlikely but total classic on a con man going in over his head
What appears at first to be like maybe it'll be a Fellini Postman Always Rings Twice (I misread maybe that Stan would knock off a particular character to get with Zeena, but the carnival is really more of a jumping off point despite it making for a vivid setting and where Stan finds himself as a guiltless con man, not to mention how the incredible in this world is... credible) soon unfolds into one of the more searing, enthralling and completely cynical character studies in Film Noir as we see this man dig his heels completely into his act without thinking too much or long about what those pesky cards might mean for him (face down, Stan).
It's also driven by this icy, serious, glib (can someone be glibly serious) yet not uninviting lead performance of Power's that I could only see someone like William Holden coming close to, though it's solely his own brilliant work; his Stan knows he's a hustler, he has charm, but there's something in him that can't help himself but to go even further with what he's got going in "reading" people's minds once he finds this connection with the therapist/specialist woman Lillith and she takes his con even further - into perhaps unholy territory (Helen Walker by the way more than holds her own with Power, as this specialist who knows how to read people on a whole other level that Stan can).
What this all boils down to for me is that it manages to succinctly and beautifull but brutally capture this post-war distrust in society - or that is to say how some can not trust people believing enough in themselves - and it doesn't even need to mention any war, but it's clear people in this society are pretty darn ready to believe what someone tells them if it sounds just below the line of being *too* good to be true. And how it shakes up Molly is really interesting too, Stan's bewildered and kind of scared young wife, and it adds to it being more complicated; deep down this guy Stan Carlisle is a damaged person and is using that damage on to others... and yet Stan, maybe more than anyone, can and will believe a carefully crafted illusion if it's strong enough.
C'mon C'mon (2021)
Blah Blah Blah
Firstly, it's simply... swell to see Joaquin Phoenix in a role like this. And it doesn't mean this man Johnny (or Uncle Johnny as his role here) has all his crap together emotionally or knows totally what he wants out of his life, or that of course he has a good bit of grief over a dead parent (mostly alluded to but we get enough of the gist to know there's pain there, as if the sad beard wasn't enough). But compared to his more recent work (we know the one), here he gets to vibe for a while with a totally delightful kid via Woody Norman, the kind of role that I hope is just this but I doubt it, he has too much natural charisma and forgive the wording spunk, and that's enough really to make it a worthwhile and even in its narrow ambitions kind of special.
It feels perhaps slightly, uh, twee or somewhat precious in those documentary snippets with Johnny asking the Big Questions of What's the Future and What about Nature and so on, like I'm seeing snippets from one of those New York Times Shorts that plays before movies at the IFC Center (that's not meant entirely to be a put down, just what it is), but even that makes for fairly interesting additions to the main meat of the movie which is watching this man and this child bond and sometimes bicker and sometimes grow closer and then apart and then have moments where Johnny gets the kid to yell out his feelings, and it's all presented in this lovely, semi-poetic stream of scenes as opposed to a traditional narrative.
This doesn't mean there isn't a strong emotional throughline due to the mom and her back and forth with her brother (Gaby Hoffman, who I can't recall in a movie in a long time and is absolutely wonderful and moving and is acting her tuchus off and matching Phoenix and possibly besting him as he coasts on the sad beard, sorry I can't help but bring it up again), or what the past, present and future of the kid's father, mom's bi-polar husband, dealing with all his mental health, and all of that baggage in the mix.
In short, Cmon Cmon I can see being the sort of film you do need to be in a certain mind frame for, with its luscious black and white cinematography and Mill's knack for juxtaposing moments with the voice over and then Johnny's own reflection on a day's events by himself with his microphone (basically doing a slightly more clever form of voice over) and all of the feelings being wrestled with.
What I responded to was just how pure and simple and yet not so simple this relationship is shown, and that it can be difficult to make a child be endearing in an adult drama and Mills even passable pulling it off feels like a miracle. It also has a good sense of depicting how a family tries to deal/be OK with someone so close with mental health disease (spoiler, it's hard and "better" never means over). And I can't stress enough how nice it is for Phoenix to have this guy to be in and all the time with this kid - it's almost like a vacation into semi-normalcy before he goes back to Ari Aster and Ridley Scott's Napoleon and all that jazz.
It's not a great film, but a very good one that's like a comfy set of Art Housr Pj's, one that may have been or just seemed more commonplace back in the 90s, and that doesn't mean it gets an extra bump in that sense but that to have a small, warm-and-dark intimate character study is unique more due to how theatrical distribution is presently. Oh, and what a superb needle drop for Velvet Underground and "Sister Ray!
Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
Wait, what is he doing with the gall bladder?
By about the 40 minute mark, as Udo Kier got into that one character's innards and pulled out and proceeded to orgasmically fondle a liver (or was it the gall bladder again) it finally clicked that this is uproariously funny. It took a few minutes for me to get into its tone though and it may for some others, as this is extreme and big and even grandiose in how Morrissey directs his actors, none of who have and consistency with accents - there's German sounding ones and vaguely British and then there's that delightful cad Delossandro who sounds like he's from Queens, NY. And the acting is uh.... full 3D Acting to go with the original presentation.
To this point Udo, Udo Kier is at a few points early on sounding like he is reading lines almost phonetically, like at the dinner table scene with the sister and kids in borderline Tommy Wiseau or something with a BIG emphasis but without fully understanding... words. But then when he is explaining to his wide eyed assistant what is up with his process he is completely magnetic, not to mention how knowing he understands the tone is in that moment, so it's funny as hell. Aside from the I Need This Man a and This Woman as My Perfect Creations and I Want to Impregnate My Zombie Lady, there isn't a whole lot of story to speak of but... maybe that's enough!
This is not the kind of Frankenstein movie I think I would need to be careful recommending to friends or family: the same relative that easily can enjoy Karloff's Monster or Gene Wilder's Doctor might feel a bit put off by the excessive organ-packed gore and total lack of taste when it comes to nudity and sex and did I mention Necrophilia (?) I'd say if you're already enmeshed in like Rocky Horror or John Waters it's more in that ballpark, where it really asks the audience to take all this lightly, though soaked in gaudy barrel of ether that I find delectable.
In short, Flesh for Frankenstein carries a tone that is uncanny, weird, off-putting, sleazy, deadpan, and may even appear inconsistent, but it's all of a piece. It's the kind of movie that could play at a Grindhouse theater and the MoMA on the same weekend, and I'm sure it was made to delight and confound audiences in equal measure. Oh, and it has mostly gorgeous cinematography and exquisite and tactile production design that pops especially in the new 4K from Vinegar Syndrome, which helps to add this realistic backdrop for the comedy to pop.
And last but certainly not least, a film that finally acknowledges the love an armpit needs as much (no, more, more I tell you) than a... well, you'll figure it out.
Licorice Pizza (2021)
Another stunning, hilarious, exhilarating film from PT Anderson with Haim and Hoffman with perfectly off-kilter chemistry
My initial impressions, aside from making a lot of hooting and hollering notices and bowing in a Wayne and Garth type of "we're all not worthy" stance at a portrait of PT Anderson, who returns here to the Los Angeles of the 1970s again for a third time with a coming of age story about Alana (Haim) and Gary (Hoffman) and their misadventures and awkward but total connection to each other as friends and more, is that sometimes a film just needs to give me good characters, and this does this and then some.
By this I mean we have people, Alana and Gary in this case, who are immediately deeply felt and lived-in as these young people (though the age range makes that idea of 'young' into its own self-conscious and for Alana even neurotic beast), and the connection that grows between them as friends is that there is sentiment expressed (oh God oh goodness that scene with the two of them on the water-bed as he motions closer to her but then stops as "Let me Roll It" is more emotionally charged than any scene I've seen this year - and there's strong competition) without it being sentimental.
This is hard to do, but what helps is we are "hanging out" with these people but they're wants and desires are being figured out barely as they go along and the world around them is so rich and textured sometimes all they can do is run to keep up with things. They're simply... compelling, fully heartfelt people, but PTA isn't shy about showing their foibles. And around them are more "name" actors like Penn and Cooper and to a lesser extent Safdie and Waits who make immediate and strong impressions and yet also are people you get right away.
Which brings me to another impression.... this is maybe Anderson processing in his way things in the world over the past few years re: #metoo? Of course one can say "but hey the 1970s, you know," but nearly every man who Alana meets - who may be more of the protagonist than Gary, I don't know, it's close maybe co-protagonists - is either a leering/lecherous creep or full of their own anxieties and issues. I've seen one or two things on social media criticizing Anderson about this possible/kinda sorta romance between this teen boy and 25 year old Alana (if she is that or rounding up), but I wonder if they're seeing the same film I did because the film is really more about not even the romance side of it (though romance is laced throughout this) as it is that feeling when you're a teen and you're doing as much as you can to be an adult, but when you become an adult there is that temptation or even desire, usually if around the right group, to want to be young again. If you got to make it in the world, maybe it's better to do it with someone who isn't a (bleep) as a character describes men near the end.
As for the title? I think that's Alana and Gary: they don't go together, and yet they totally do. I loved this film and I look forward to seeing it a couple more times and diving in deeper on this. If by chance you're near a major city playing this before Christmas, run - or steer your Empty-tank vehicle - to the theater to get absorbed in it all. And did I mention it's PTA's funniest since Boogie Nights?
Heartfelt but earns it's heart - a big nostalgic wonder
What was it Mike Nichols once said, a film is like a person and either you trust it or you dont? I think that could be said for Belfast but I thought of it more about a kind of personality that a filmmaker brings to a work as well as the cast and everyone else involved, and on that note Belfast to me is a total sweetheart of a movie, where it has many moments where it's quite cute and charming, but it's always based around the fact that this family is doing their best and more or less succeeding in caring for one another and (as Dornan's dad points out towards the end to the little boy when he asks about if a Catholic can be with a Protestant) what the basic power of kindness can do.
It's a film that manages the feat of having sentiment and even some sentimentality, but earning it throughout because (outside of maybe the bookends where the "Troubles" and all that horrible violence in the streets comes knocking) it doesn't cheapen what the stakes are or what these characters are going through. The basic question of "staying or leaving" is not one we haven't seen before in other films, and I'm sure we'll see again, yet Branaugh as writer/director gives the people here this honesty that is a family that is there together and there is this struggle (mostly for dad) to keep it together.
This is beautifully rendered as well with this point of view coming from the little boy (standing in for Branaugh at that time I can assume but as with like Roma who knows) as he peers in on these arguments and conversations that have a repetition that isn't repetitive, if that makes sense. If you've been in a family that has money problems, this is just the way it is, and Dornan and especially Balfe have this chemistry that works perfectly.
Another thing in its favor: you think the little boy Buddy (played by Jude Hill) will be cute and his interactions with others, especially the grandparents (good lord do Dench and Hinds, the latter I hope gets an Oscar, steal every scene they're in) could get tiresome, but Branaugh manages to keep him engaging and this mix that's hard to describe where he's universal and specific, like you don't even have to be a little boy just like at some time if you were young and trying to figure out a world that has so much stuff in it and there's the escape of movies and the wonder of astronauts alongside the horror of men in the streets throwing molotov cocktails... OK that part isn't everyone's experience, but there's little things Branaugh gets so right as a writer; my favorite is when his older cousin ropes him in as part of a "gang" initiation to steal something from the local sweet shop. How that resolves itself is ::chefs kiss::
This whole thing reminds me of like what if you took one of those stories of childhood via Frank McCourt (or Malachy, one of those) and imbued it with a lot more warmth and a generosity of spirit, and it's in general a difficult movie to dislike or be too hard on without sounding like a grouch without any feelings. At the same time, I am critical of how the film opens and comes to a climax inasmuch as the "Troubles" set pieces are shot and presented in this tremendous manner that, of course, are impossible to ignore as far as the history at the time in Ireland and that city as a whole
But it can't help but feel like... this is where it's a MOVIE in large letters, shot in an intense style like this is where it all becomes so overwhelming, which makes sense given the POV of this boy, and at the same time it loses that intimacy you have throughout the rest of the film, where it's power is in showing life's little moments having even more of a lasting impact. Also, with the one supporting character trying to force the Dad to pick a side as the one person I didn't quite believe (not the actor so much as the character, kind of one note you know). As a small technical aside, as much as I like Branaugh's eye for compositions (both usual and unusual, his framing is off in interesting ways), the digital quality of it all is distracting for me, and I wish this was shot on film for that crisper look.
All that doesn't take away from the pathos that is all here, with humor that works because it's based around like how much we may have enjoyed being around people like this in our families. Is it idealized? I don't know, but it doesn't come across as that, if anything it shows that the human soul and spirit can be resilient and this is a lesson for kids all over but also ones for the adults, too. How is one any *good* in a family? Hard to say, except it comes down to being there and not giving up. That's the kind of tone Belfast has, and it is filled with little grace notes - one that I'm sure to remember is when Dench's grandma tells the grandpa before he has to go to the hospital that she will go with him by bus and take him in and stay with him till its all done and then take him home. She doesn't state it in any way that sounds false, and none of (admittedly very good) Van Morrison music to score this beat. It's just two people who have a love that is self evident by actions.
So, in short: a sweet-heart of a movie, not to mention last but certainly not least that this is a fun time of expressing how remembering history through some pop-culture filtering can be entertaining and insightful (High Noon song, anyone?)
Devastating and sorrowful but full of poetry and grace
Ratcatcher is an unabashedly dreary film, but it's also painfully honest about the conditions that these children and their parents lived in at this time and place in Glasgow of the 1970s. The main spine is around a young man's sometimes guilt and pain over being with another boy who drowned in a canal (he almost could have drowned as well), but there isn't much to investigate with that as Lynne Ramsey as an artist wants to simply depict behavior.
And, of course, it's never so simple: we as an audience are made to witness the kinds of unruly young (male) bastards who don't have much to do and no intellectual pursuits, so the young people around James go about and make the local young woman be presented to them as a sexual object and bully and just do what adolescents do which is be terrible to one another... because what else is there to do?
I make it sound reductive but Ramsey finds these young faces and bodies and they feel plucked out of this place and time. Was it so miserable and sad then in Glasgow? Search me. But this could be seen in any number of places in the world where society doesn't do much for its people until, as it happens towards the end here, that it's time to come and take out the garbage en masse.
That doesn't mean dead rats won't pile up or the occasional boy won't drown again, or that mothers and wives don't have to take abuse from their father/husbands when they're without much in their own ways of aspirations. Why do much to do any better? There's a football game on TV and more beer and cigarettes to imbibe (and cigarettes not the word the dad played brilliantly and without a shred of ego by Flanagan).
I make this sound like a totally miserable thing to watch, but it isn't really. She doesn't shy away from how James is stuck in these decrepit apartments and hallways, metaphorically under in the water, and it may even be tipping up to the obvious when he goes off by bus to that one house and runs through those epically long and large wheat fields (does this place exist really? A small mystery that only comes back at the very end and itself is still ambiguous, which that part is actually a good metaphor, I think it's just the visual of the boy running in the field that was almost too clear for me).
Ramsey elevates it through this often lively and absorbing behavior from these kids, and those moments she sprinkles in where fantasy is not simply a fun indulgence but necessary; how she shows Snowball after going off on that one balloon is the main example, and it is exhilarating in how she and the crew render this.
Sandwich cringing times. Stewart is brilliant and Pablo Larrain captures a suffocating atmosphere
It would appear Pablo Larrain has done it again, following up on Jackie, another story of a woman depicted in an environment and film stock of despair with a film that is related to that while standing on its own as a story that lays bare a public figure to the gaping heart that's buried underneath years of speculation - where the image of someone like Diana has to be stripped away, and where the clothes themselves become like a prison of everyday life.
This was at times (a phrase I don't throw around lightly) downright Kubrickian in the equal sense of cinematographic grandeur and surreality/absurdity (here more the former than the latter), where there is so much space to take in and close-up faces of restraint and yet everything is heightened and even horrific. This is a film that isn't without nuance, but Lsrrain knows full well as Kubrick did to get at a deeper truth you got to make some bold decisions in directing a performance or making a shot so distinctly from our protagonist's pov that itself is a comment on the psychological spaces.
And this is by an easy mark Stewart's most successful, soulful, heartbreaking performance where the little tics she sometimes (arguably many times) has serves this character 1000%. Adding to this everyone around Diana - save for Hawkins' Maggie - is trying to maintain the status quo, and Spall is a particular stand out as well.
And you cringe because so much of this is about behavior, that for all of her mental and psychosomatic fragility this Diana is far more recognizable as a human being than any of these glowering royals - keeping the place cold as can be of course - and there is humor that has almost no choice at points but to come out from the cringe, but also just cringe at the sense of a human being caught in all of the hard rock places. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say there isn't a more torturous and uncomfortable dinner scene in modern cinema as from the POV of one character as here (those pearls falling down oy).
Another point of comparison in what I hope is a complimentary sense and it may be because of watching it so recently, but Dune came to mind; how a filmmaker can with this brooding yet delicate and consuming precision give you a total sense of how it FEELS to be a figure with all the pressure on them and st a moment where change MUST happen or all is lost.
Of course there are some differences as to how and where the hero and heroine of these respective movies go to break into what they gave to become - but I'm struck by in particular with Larrain he emphasizes the ghost figure, with Anne Boylen coming in like a figure out of Gothic tradition, that what she tells her sons at one point about Tense - past, present, future - is what it's all about. Spencer is a staggering portrait of order and disorder, of a figure in a place where everything has to be presented and be Just So, and all one can think is... someone really could use a friggin' hug!
A Perfect World (1993)
"Just a breed apart"
At first I thought this might be Clint doing his riff on Spielberg's Sugarland Express (if anything seeing this not so long after Cry Macho shows strikingly more parallels - instead of taking a kid back home and going on tangents, it's reversed, sort of). But he has not a... disinterest in suspense and thrills so much, he can have a rollicking good car crash or two here that can be quite funny, as he wants to emphasize the would-be surrogate father role of Butch with this boy who doesn't have a dad (and the Costner Butch character didn't have a dad either) and how this kid goes along with him because he has this cool air about him. He also protects him from the total goon character who breaks out of jail, in one of the more intense scenes between him and the kid.
But, of course, it's all a big thrill for the kid - via the Jehova's witness part of his upbringing there is no Halloween, or cotton candy or Rollercoasters or even birthdays - and it's part of a sort of Grand Illusion of a father who can give a child a lot of small creature comforts for a son he'll never have one can assume pretty safely. He never comes out and says it and doesn't have to, it's just the dynamic between the two; also crucial are a couple of scenes where Butch and the boy see how other families mistreat their kids (one is the white family who just act mean and then the black family who are more abusive, which leads to a showstopper).
If the kid was played by a marginally more interesting young actor, in TJ Lowther - he's not bad at all, far as child actors go he's decent and has one really great moment in that one family scene, though maybe the One-Take Clint part shows with him compared to everyone else - it would probably be among the director's major films.
At the same time there is an entertaining and more conventionally thrilling supporting story with Eastwood as the beleaguered but hard-nosed sheriff who eventually levels with the newcomer Dern is playing that sometimes in Texas things come down to what you can tell the judge to do the right thing with a particular rough customer/criminal. It has the professional drive of Hawks cinema at its finest where personality drives it but he never forgets how to keep the story going, or when to cross paths with the main characters they're all chasing (oh and an almost at first unrecognizable Bradley Whitford as a damn nasty FBI man is a standout).
Ultimately, it's really cool that Eastwood trusted that Costner, in one of his major performances where he conveys warmth and menace, sometimes in the same scene, could carry and was more than capable to be the dominating multi-pronged sort of failed bad-ass figure of Masculinity, so that he could hang back for a role he didn't yet to play much. Moreover, he went and realized Hancock's complivated script that doesn't sugar-coat but understands where this criminal was coming from, when he could have easily gone off and made Dirty Harry 6.
So, this is really really excellent, if short of masterpiece territory. But who knows when I revisit it, I'm sure likely on a lazy Sunday afternoon with an optional brew.
What's above the subtext? Very witty, often funny but melancholy with satisfying performances
Here's a sample of some dialog from Barcelona:
"Oh, shootings, sure, but thay doesn't mean that America's more violent than other people. We're just better shots."
Leave it to Whit Stillman to have the kind of dialog that could read very different in another context, but in world of these two intelligent but at other times not exactly wise cousins (one a salesman the other a Navy man), it's funny and you even like these guys even when they say something that shows Americans are... ever always so reliably American.
There's always something amusing in seeing men who are so very certain about a worldview, especially if the other knows they're full of it, and Fred especially is one of those people in modern movies. There's also Ted, who makes sure to correct Marta (or try to rationalize) how there is no AFL-CIA, but the way he explains it has this wit about it that is open and clear, like we know how silly it even is to have these nominal distinctions and that institutions should get mocked in such light but direct ways, and Nichols is superb at playing firm but easy to get rattled if hearing a disagreeable thing (America does gasp terrible things no way) and Sorvino can more than hold her own, she's given her own deep insights to play.
Come to think of it, Barcelona is a rich slice of a satire pizza where you can taste the layers but they all mesh well together: white male American superiority is easy to criticize, but what makes the text richer is when sides are being argued for with mixed metaphors (oh those red ants), or how these men are trying to reckon with themselves as relationships get more complicated (oh Ramon), and that this humanizes them. Moreover, it's about how we rationalize the place we're at in our lives, how we may or may not be cut out for something. And it also comes down to manners and customs, what is and what is just not done, whether it's dancing to Glenn Miller by oneself or driving a bottle of Old Crow or talking about a system of government.
In short, this is more amusing than very funny - though I definitely laughed a number of times, and they were big ones ("American Imperialism, what's up with that?") - but it's well done amusement, and eventually there's real drama and stakes that shakes things up in a tragic sense; these are believable characters who know how to talk about how they view the world, but they can't control how the basic things in life go for them.
Watch out for Maneuveur X!
House of Frankenstein (1944)
A strange and beautiful world - a half decent plot in great atmosphere and game cast
House of Frankenstein is a movie I find myself having admiration for and even affection simply for how it manages to go so quickly through the events that you almost (key word almost) don't notice that the thing is being held together by scotch tape. This is as many have noted really two stories of Dracula and then the return of Larry Talbot and that pesky Frankenmonster in Valaria (I think we are back there or the village of Frankenstein I dont know) connected together by Dr. Neimann (a with it and Delivering as Karloff a Performance Karloff can) and his Hunchback assistant Daniel (Nash), and I like both of them more or less on their own a bit.
Yes, as goofy as he appears and not all that scary I even like John Carradine for the short time he gets to impress as Dracula (how can you not laugh when he raises his cape so wide like the Master in Manos and then turns into an animated stock bat), and I especially like Gwynne as Rita, a beautiful wide-eyed romantic foil for Dracula and who can cut a strong figure when leaning over a precisely placed lamp in a room. The problem is just as we are getting into this story it stops - or rather ol Dracs gets burnt by the sun on a way to the coffin - and we have to move on to discovering Talbot and Monster in their last Temp Resting Place (frozen in ice this time, which makes for a fantastic set that Karloff and Danel get a few minutes to wander around).
I like Chaney in this as much if not more than in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, despite some of his clunky dialog, as he is mostly playing off of Verdugo and has sweet and believable chemistry with her. Other problem (the thing that makes me say "less" before) is that the Monster, here played by Glen Strange, with some direction to him by Karloff himself, is barely in the movie and by the time he arrives it's over. And yet I still enjoy the atmosphere of this movie, I like those scenes with Nash trying to impress upon a woman before she sees his disgusting hump (what hump? Ho-ho), and how quick Dr. Neimann is able to seize upon the late Dr Frankenstein's plans to make his next Mad creation.
So, I can't really argue for it on story grounds, but it's just good fast Monster Movie fun with a strong cast and a good ending.
The Velvet Underground (2021)
They're in a rock n roll band
(Jonathan Richman on Velvet Underground): "For me, it was like being in the presence of Michelangelo!"
Now, let's not get too crazy here - Michelangelo never created anything as rad as "I'm Waiting for the Man" :p
This is the kind of documentary you can sink into, that moves from one part to the next seamlessly. And it made me realize that how they created those first songs and that first album is even more miraculous than I had thought before. It's like a really clear and inspirational look - and inspiration that comes from depicting life in an honesty and sadness that came from personal spots - also at how this group managed to synthesize art into many forms... because it wasn't "with it" (oh how they go after the hippies here, or at least Woronov who is a great interview). Real art actually pushes past what came before while embracing so many other kinds of art (from the most avant garde to the Everly Brothers in pop), and Haynes's doc does a superb job of revealing that.
Haynes did a q&a after the screening I went to (oh I'm so glad I got to see the title on a big screen if nothing else, but those Warhol Screen Tests really are more interesting in a theatrical setting, though it helps that there's split screen to juxtapose and so on that's so great, I digress but the editing is some of the most invigorating in a doc in years) - he called this kind of a Dreamscape of the 60s and New York, and it's a dream that vacillates in the joy and thrill of creating something new and the edge and uncanny and dark that comes with that. And the fact that the footage of the Underground largely rests in the Factory world makes it a story of that, too... up to a point.
But at the heart of it and what drives it to being so absorbing is Lou Reed. There's a mystery and sadness to him that the film can only scratch the surface to see, not because it doesn't mean to try but because it would be too disrespectful to try to make hypothetical things. He's just... Lou.
And lastly... I still don't get Warhol, either. Frankly, maybe I've just never been cool or hip enough for it. Vinyl (1965) is not bad, though. And I'm glad there was mention of (the Factory) being not all peaches and cream, especially for the women.
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
"Why should we fear anything?"
After the very brisk pacing of the 31 and Bride Frankenstein movies, this clocking in at 100 minutes feels a bit long, and there are at least a couple of courtroom/inquest type scenes that could have been trimmed if not cut altogether. It's also impossible to watch this and not flash to the skeleton of Young Frankenstein - and Atwill/Kenneth Mars - and how close it is in resemblance (to the point where early on I was cracking up just as much if not more than how Mars did the character with that big fake arm).
But Lugosi is totally fabulous as Igor, a man who is completely giddy at seeing how easily Baron Wolf gets into The Work (oh what a name, nothing bad can come from that I mean he's a doctor after all) and then when it comes time for things things get serious he becomes possessive; Rathbone despite reportedly going BIG for the role because he wasn't a fan of horror films really nails this reluctance turned brief (if compared to Clive muted) excitement and then denial and negotiating with his own self sense of "oh this is nothing wrong" in that last third, and by the way anyone for darts; and yeah absolutely Karloff should be more in this, but what he gets to do in the second half is fun, I love the scene with him looking at his fur fashion item in the mirror (and how Igor gropes him in it oh wow), and bringing him back to being silent is an odd move but not an unwelcome one. And the sets are garish and creative in the decay and post-last film events rot.
So, this is good, and a fun sequel, though it can't help but be a letdown after what Whale did with it. All the same it should be seen for Lugosi, he gets what Clive got in part 1 and Thesiger in part 2: an iconic, larger than life performance - and remarkably, his Igor was created day to day as the script wasn't finished(!)
The Living Daylights (1987)
"We have an old saying, Georgi: you're full of it" solid entertainment, could be more but glad it's not less
Dalton is more than a solid Bond; it may be that I currently, since I didn't grow up on his take on the character, can't help but associate him as a hard-boiled Secret Agent Man, physical and commanding and not just with an edge but almost a potentially much darker side suggestable to him (and yes surely some of that is because of Hot Fuzz and that meme of him, but nonetheless). I like that he is a 007 who you can believe could blow someone's head off - or leave someone to die - with ease, but he also finds little grace notes of tenderness and a grin that tells us if he isn't as in on the joke as a Connery he's at least understanding that this character can have some depth as a semi-serious person, not to mention a certain bemusement when seeing a double-cross.
The plot is good and fairly intriguing if a little reliant on twists to keep us engaged; I'd be curious if I saw this again years from now how much I'd remember and also how much the turns in the plot would be so compelling, since the one real villain here, Koskov - not Joe Don Baker or John Rhys Davies, who can chew scenery like bosses even if they're not as believable as Krabbe (who you remember as the guy who pushed PROVASIC in The Fugitive, oh if only I saw this before that I'd know what to expect, but I digress) - is formidable but not quite fun enough to elevate things into being a full blown Entertainment.
As comparison think back to Sevalas in Majesty and how he was big but still threatening, not just like a Tom Clancy villain. And sadly D'Abo try as she might can't really hold her own with Dalton, maybe not fair but still, fine eye candy but kind of generic on any dramatic front and left out to dry by director Glen. It may be hard in general not to stack this up to other movies in the series, though as a stand-alone spy adventure, with the one cringe coming with the sight of Afghanistan and everything loaded with that baked potato, it doesn't get too bogged down and moves at a decent clip. It's not one of the best but far from the worst. I also love the A-Ha song as a fan of 80s cheese.
But will they understand?
Bob Balaban is a director in his debut completely invested in idiosyncratic, visually audacious and psychologically rich choices that maybe one or two others could have made, and that's a maybe (perhaps Tim Burton if he was on a good day, or maybe even Verhoeven if he decided to do a "domestic" story), and it makes for a sincerely unsettling black comedy of behavior. This is the kind of movie that today would be drained completely of life and be one of those tepid paranormal-ish movies where a kid is bringing disturbing blood-red drawings to school with a detached and depressive attitude, and the parents (or at least one of them) would be normal.
I'm not even sure if this is a comedy in a usual sense? It's so uncanny that the comedy comes out of not set up and payoff but just odd stuff like how Sandy Dennis roots around for a cigarette, and how deadpan Randy Quaid is is at first kind of amusing, but quickly it is exactly right for this total sociopath of a medical professional who, as the Justin Timberlake song Filthy goes, is cooking up a mean serving of all that meat. Meanwhile, Angelo Badalamenti is scoring this like I should be taking a cha-cha class to the point where I can picture his buddy David Lynch going "enough!"
It's questionable if Parents tonally all connects if it means to go for the darkest humor in the world, but as a stone-cold familial horror story the pace keeps things ticking without (forgive the expression in this context) an ounce of fat, and you understand right away why the son is like this because, well, look who raised him!
The nightmare sequences are chilling because of how Balaban keeps the frame going and uses the logic of illogical terror in a nightmare with the cutting. Maybe it was all in the script, but I'm not so sure. One could almost argue it's 'showing off' on a first go, but the suspense is tight as a cork: you know Michael will find out, but how the parents will react is when the cork gets pulled out. And the kid playing Michael does very well at looking like his small butthole is clenched to the point of an aneurysm.
The girlfriend character is needlessly odd, and I'm not sure it had to be so full of 50s homage (at times I forgot that was part of the milieu and other times it was very obvious), with the music cue in one kill scene kind of... inappropriate(!) But this is the perfect title to throw on when you're looking for one quick thing on Prime late at night, a true oddity that is my jam. I'm not eating meat for a while now, and definitely not making much in the way of burgers from chop meat. Maybe Julia Ducournau is a fan?
A good if just shy of great intimate Epic on the horror of war
This is a phenomenally handsomely shot and designed picture, where director Peter Weir, cinematographer Russel Boyd and his team (including none less than John Seale) manage to make so many scenes pop like these shiny memories encapsulated into an epic that is really about how human beings failed in a massive way through no fault of the young grunts who were eager to do right for their country. It's anti-war by design as well, which makes the forty five minutes of the film where characters are becoming closer by just screwing about with the locals in an Egyptian city equally involving and frustrating.
Of course there shouldn't be much more to these young guys, that's the point, and there is personality to go around... except that this, far more than even the first Mad Max, is Gibson's star making turn and he is so confident and yet relaxed and amused and bemused and full of all that piss and vinegar hiding total fear, that it kind of overshadows others including his co-lead Mark Lee, a perfectly sevicable actor who has the poor luck of having Gibson by his side. And it's not that Lee should pop more than his costar, but he is very good at one thing on screen which is seeming very high spirited and naive. That can work in spurts but only for so long, and indeed his character is gone for a long stretch until the two blokes run into each other in a training exercise scene.
What stands out to me when it's all over are those passages where not a lot or little is said and the visual grammar carries the day, like when the two young men are going through that desert and can't even have a fight because it's too hot out, or that one scene where the uncle is reading Kipling to the kids. There is bountiful ambition to behold, and in that last section a whole lot of "oh no, this stupid Face it All and You Will GO" s*** that also made a similar film about the horror of not simply being shot but being ordered to be shot in the face of total despair and ruin in WW1, Paths of Glory, so unforgettable Weir finds the tragic meat that we haven't been seeing till now.
I think... it's tough because I don't want to be like a few other critics I've read who say that the film isn't angry enough - not everything has to be Platoon or Full Metal Jacket - on the other hand, the PG rating and the intentions to make it fairly, well, tastefully depicted to a point means that the horror these people experience is kept at a slight distance. In order to critique something you have to show it, and there is only so much to show here as far as devastation (though the faces, those closeups, are tremendous in that sense of tight-lipped insanity and despair). Gallipoli is a good movie that I only wish went further.