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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 37, 2020

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sol
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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 37, 2020

#1

Post by sol » September 13th, 2020, 12:00 pm

Which Films Did You See Last Week?

Please share with us which films you saw last week. It would be great if you could include some comments on each film. It would be awesome if you could also take some time to comment on everyone else's viewings. Unfortunately, it has reached the point where it is no longer viable for me as host to comment on everyone else's viewings every week (especially since some people like to use the weekly thread to log their viewings and nothing else). I am always keen to promote movie discussion though, so if you comment on my own viewings, I will comment on yours at my earliest convenience.

Please also note that this is intended as a movie discussion thread, not a large image posting thread. Having too many large images makes this thread difficult to navigate through. If you wish to include more than five images in a reply, please use spoiler tags - [spoiler][/spoiler] - to hide extra images.

This is what I saw:

★★★★ = loved it /// ★★★ = liked it a lot; ~7/10 /// ★★ = has interesting elements; ~6/10 /// ★ = did very little for me; ~5/10 and lower

The Hoodlum (1919). Raised by her rich grandfather, a prim young lady has trouble adapting when she goes to live with her pauper father in this Mary Pickford comedy. Pickford is radiant in the lead role; while the film shies over how old her character is (she often acts like a teenager despite looking older), Pickford does an excellent job gradually progressing from stuck up to loving the "hoodlum" life. The film is frequently funny too. From causing all sort havoc as she is taught to drive, to shadowing an umbrella salesman to stay dry in the rain, to hilariously trying to run away from a baffled mouse (!), Pickford is always entertaining to watch. Sped up footage is well-used too and there are some great dreamy dissolves. Only a far too heavy reliance on handwritten letters to drive the narrative along (and a few too many title cards) mar the experience. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Down on the Farm (1920). Desperate to deter her greedy landlord from wanting to marry her, a farmer's daughter invents an imaginary boyfriend, which leads to complications galore in this quirky silent comedy. While the human actors all provide energetic turns, especially the always fun James Finlayson as the conniving landlord, it is the animal actors who really stand out here with some amazing sequences as the farmer's dog and cat perform all of sorts of tricks perfectly on cue. The narrative flow of the film is actually punctured by all of the inserting of animal stunts (including rescuing a toddler in danger!), but the animals are extremely amusing to watch. The human actors are not half-bad though, and the film has some hilarious moments as the man whose photo the daughter used suddenly turns up, utterly baffled by everyone's reactions. (first viewing, online) ★★★

One Exciting Night (1922). Dead bodies mount up and spooky events occur at a creaky mansion in this 'old dark house' comedy that often feels like a precursor to Paul Leni's The Cat and the Canary. And yet, while the Leni film is moody and atmospheric throughout, this similar genre entry is a chore. There are few effective techniques throughout (disembodied hands reaching out; violent storm special effects) but the majority of laughs come from some offensive racial stereotypes and first half of the film is burdened by too many title cards that are lengthy, wordy and hamper how immersive the experience is. The storm (which lasts for several minutes) is actually very well done, but little else about the project is notable cinematically, and the narrative gets too bogged down in character backgrounds for a comedy like this that really requires a brisk pace. (first viewing, online) ★

The Monster (1925). Made perhaps to cash in on the success of Sherlock Jr., this silent comedy similarly follows the adventures of an aspiring young sleuth. Try as he may though, Johnny Arthur is no Buster Keaton and while there is something refreshing in the bumbling Arthur being far from a traditional movie hero, the true star of the film is the set design and locations. While it takes the characters a good 25 minutes to stumble upon it, the film boasts a deliciously kooky asylum full of hidden passageways and doorways, trap door entrances and wild inventions. Lon Chaney is also pretty fun as the madman in charge of the place. He is not often present though, and the overall horror/madness content is actually pretty slim too as goofy comedy is more often favoured in the script. Even the title is misleading; this is only a horror film is the loosest sense. (first viewing, online) ★★

It's the Old Army Game (1926). Once in the army but now a humble druggist, a cantankerous man causes misery and misfortune as he tries use army tricks and techniques to solve everyday problems in this W.C. Fields comedy. While his character is borderline obnoxious, Fields is very watchable as he constantly tries to remain dignified even as his shop goes up in flames, prams collapse on him and his car falls apart. The film has little in the way of plot though. A subplot involving a shady business deal reappears at the end for closure, but this essentially plays out as a series of loosely connected skits. Some of the skits work better than others; the failed fire extinguishing is particularly good while a picnic on somebody else's lawn drags out for far too long. There are also a few too many scenes without Fields, who is at least in top form whenever present. (first viewing, online) ★★

Special Delivery (1927). Delivering the mail to those who take him for granted and winning the heart of a young woman (who is sought after by a richer man) prove equally challenging for a humble postman in this entertaining silent comedy. Eddie Cantor radiates energy in the lead role with great pantomime routines, expressive facial reactions and a handful of acrobatic stunts that rival the best of Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd. Particularly well done is his bafflement over a series of disappearing hotdogs and a sequence at a ballroom dance where he uses a lifelike mannequin to make his love interest jealous. The conclusion is a little rushed (though it does feature a magnificent chase sequence) and the catching a crook subplot only meshes moderately well with the love subplot, but this is highly watchable from start to finish with Cantor in such fine form. (first viewing, online) ★★★

The Battle of the Sexes (1928). Happily married but easily led astray, a wealthy businessman falls under the spell of a young "gold-digger" in this late career D.W. Griffith outing. The film is fashioned as a comedy but plays out as more of a melodrama with none of the funny bits working; the camera lingers far too long on lead actor Jean Hersholt as he attempts to exercise, lose weight, fit into a corset and so on. The film is technically well done though, with mobile tracking shots, nifty dissolves as the gold-digger concocts her plan - and a breathtaking overhead shot as Hersholt's wife contemplates jumping off the roof. Sally O'Neil is also fine as their daughter who takes action. When push comes to shove, this is preferable over One Exciting Night, Griffith's previous foray into comedy, but it is probably safe to say that the genre was not his strongest suit. (first viewing, online) ★★

The Snow Queen (1957). Her boyfriend kidnapped and his heart frozen by an evil ice queen, a determined young girl sets out to rescue him in this Soviet animation. The title character looks great, and some of the backgrounds are gorgeous, but the character design for the kids (and most of the animals) is incredibly simplistic. It is also a bit hard to root for the young protagonist; while determined, she whines the whole way through and constantly converses in a woe-is-me manner. Some of the scarier parts of the film are not half-bad - especially a bit where she is captured by a child-eating witch and the witch's pet-chaining daughter. The conclusion is so rushed though, and the "prince" framing device is so awkward though that the film leaves a strange aftertaste. For something that seems so magical at the start, all we get is a simple love-conquers-all tale. (first viewing, online) ★

Striped Trip (1961). Unlocked cages cause much chaos aboard a ship transporting a circus and their animals in this energetic comedy from the USSR. The humour is of the hit-and-miss variety but there are more hits than misses with a particularly funny scene that predates Jaws as various beachgoers run away from a group of tigers that have decided to swim from the ship to shore. As a film from a Communist nation, it is also hard to ignore the workers' uprising parallels in the animals let loose scenario which eventually leads to the ship crew locking themselves in the animal cages (that they were making light of earlier) to avoid being attacked by lions and tigers! The film could have done with less focus on Margarita Nazarova as the only person brave enough to take on the large circus animals, but this is amusing whenever the animals are in focus. (first viewing, online) ★★

Amphibian Man (1962). Surgically altered so that he can live underwater, a teenager with breathing difficulties seeks out the young woman whose life he rescued in this sci-fi themed Soviet drama that has been compared to The Shape of Water. It is an amusing comparison, but the protagonist here is clearly human and while the notions of grafting gills onto a human being and building underwater civilisations are intriguing, they generally sit in the backdrop. The focus is rather largely on the lovesick young man seeking out the woman - which is just as corny as it sounds. There is also a greedy antagonist for good measure and public misconceptions about him being some sort of sea monster, but this is mostly a romance film. The costumes are quite decent and some of the underwater photography is spectacular, but this is not all that it could have been. (first viewing, online) ★★

Operation 'Y' (1965). Divided into three distinct episodes with the same character but entirely different plots, Operation 'Y' works better than it sounds. Much of the film's success is due to Leonid Gaidai going for a different tone and comedy style in each episode, which results in each tale feeling fresh and original. The first is the most slapstick in nature as Aleksandr Demyanenko's ill-fated Shurik is partnered up with a man who he got arrested. A part whether his foe tries to brick him inside a wall is especially great. The second episode is the best though, with amusing déjà vu humour, a hilarious bit in which Shurik and his girlfriend do everything in synchrony and some funny confusing dog antics. The third is the weakest, but only by a slim margin. It is the most predictable episode as Shurik foils would-be robbers, but still plenty of fun to watch. (first viewing, online) ★★★

12 Chairs (1971). Searching for jewels hidden inside the lacing of a chair sends two desperate men and a dishonest priest on an adventure as they race to track down all of the chairs when the set is sold off individually in this energetic Russian comedy. While based on a well-known story often adapted to screen (including by Mel Brooks the year before), director Leonid Gaidai brings his own unique spin to things with sped-up chases up and down crisscross stairwells, chairs surreally smashed against crashing waves, hair dye antics, pig reaction shots and even an animated chess scene for good measure. Clocking in at over two and half hours, the film invariably drags every so often, and some of the humour (plump wives) is way too silly to work, but everything eventually culminates on a surprisingly dark and grim note with much to ponder about human greed. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Afonya (1975). More interested in drinking, staying out late and having a good time than being a responsible citizen, a grouchy plumber tries to change his ways when a new love interest enters his life in this Soviet comedy. The film is reminiscent of The Rowdyman, a Canadian film released a couple of years earlier which similarly looks at a grown man who refuses to act his age, though the protagonist here is more multidimensional. If moody and irresponsible, Afonya is actually a very good plumber and one who very often completes jobs for free if they are undemanding, and this duality (between generous in the daytime and self-interested when partying at night) keeps the film chugging along. He is still not a very likeable character and it is hard to see what his lover sees him, but the more we see him at work, the less and less irresponsible he seems. (first viewing, online) ★★

The Blue Bird (1976). Granted the magical gift of perceiving their pets and inanimate objects as humans, two siblings set out to retrieve a rare bird in this bizarre family adventure film that seems more like a '366 Weird Movies' candidate than something actually suitable for young kids. Much of the film is creepy and scary, from their dog appearing as an adult male in a cheap costume who proceeds to lick the young boy all over his face, to a before-birth world where unborn children are forced to make inventions to prove their worth. Most unnerving all of all though is a scene where the trees proceed to attack the kids (!). With some really out-there sets and costumes, this is a little too strange and uncanny a film to totally dismiss, and a young Patsy Kensit is absolutely adorable, but this mostly feels like a collection of ideas randomly meshed together. (first viewing, online) ★★

Dark Waters (1993). Returning to the isolated convent where she was born, a young woman suddenly finds forgotten memories of a troubled childhood flooding back in this Russian horror film. The project has oodles of atmosphere, from candlelit catacombs to burning crucifixes on the beach, while the frightening nuns seem to be keeping secrets. The film raises more questions than it answers though with a large number of unexplained plot elements soon mounting up. This lack of clarity seems somewhat deliberate without a single line of dialogue for the first ten minutes -- and then the nuns are very hard-to-hear when they do talk. On one hand, the film's dedication to mood and atmosphere over plot is refreshing. On the other hand, the lack of clarity makes the film feel like a motion picture built around how scary nuns can be portrayed as and little else. (first viewing, online) ★★

Interstelar (2014). Not to be confused with Christopher Nolan's near identically titled film from the same year, this ultra low budget Russian movie initially starts out as a decent parody of the Nolan movie, set in a food scarcity future. The film does very little with its premise though. Any morbid humour (cannibalism; eating one's own bowel movements to survive) is never actually depicted and comes out only in either throwaway dialogue or newspaper headlines. The story is also so threadbare that repeated shots of chickens moving about and repeated shots of the same buildings being exploded are inserted just to beef up the runtime to feature length. The special effects are pitiful too and not even in an enjoyably terrible sort of way. Had the film maintained its parody tone through this may have been half-decent, but the plot grinds to a halt after 15 minutes. (first viewing, online) ★

REVISIONS

Solaris (1972). Andrei Tarkovsky combines the mysteries of deep space with an acute look at grief, loneliness and what it means to be human in this stunning sci-fi drama. While the film moves slowly, it is never dull as Tarkovsky makes his film about tension and uncertainty as opposed to thrills and chills. The film is also very much about the way that we react to the unknown, with a curious parallel to draw between the boy scared of the horse in the pre-space part and how the crew react to their visitors with a mixture of fear, awe and excitement. Whatever the case, Donatas Banionis excellent through with his expressive, sad eyes, and every ounce of music is perfectly moody. The film also benefits from a memorable melancholic ending that highlights just how vulnerable we as human beings are due to our inability to control our own thoughts. (seventh viewing, DVD) ★★★★

Stalker (1979). Journeying to a mysterious "zone" where many have ventured without returning, three men discuss the rumours about the zone having supernatural powers and granting wishes in this deliberately paced drama. While it initially seems odd how little we are shown of the zone's powers, this is actually on-point as the film is about faith, those who believe things without questioning and those so discontent with the small miracles in their own lives that they feel compelled to search for bigger ones (and the slightly bizarre ending works well if interpreted along these lines). And yet, for all its intelligence, Stalker feels more and more like a patience test with each repeat viewing. Things do improve once the trio finally reach the Zone an hour in, but the majority of the film still feels too heavily focused on dialogue over mood and atmosphere. (third viewing, DVD) ★★★

Come and See (1985). Still powerful and harrowing upon revision, Come and See looks at both the general horrors of war and the role of children in war, focusing on a volunteer teen soldier who goes from playing war games with his best friend to enlisting against his mother's wishes. The film is quite sprawling and feels episodic as he bounces from one horror to another, but the potent bits reverberate - most notably, the grisly photo opportunity while pillaging soldiers go mad. The archive footage montage at the end is excellent too and Olga Mironova is perfect as a girl the protagonist's own age amidst all the chaos. Aleksei Kravchenko is less effective in the lead role (with too many scrunched up, over-the-top facial reactions) but there is lots to like in how old and wrinkled he is made to look by the end of the film, surviving so many atrocities. (second viewing, DVD) ★★★★

OtherShow
The Extra Girl (1923). Unable to make it as a Hollywood star, an aspiring actress instead takes a job in the costumes and props department, but excitement still manages to come her way in this silent comedy starring Mabel Normand. With her wide, expressive eyes, Normand is excellent throughout and has some great comic timing. Her interactions with a dog that she has dress up as a lion -- and with a real lion let loose in the studio -- stand out in particular. Unfortunately, a large section of the film is dedicated to her parents being conned out of tons of money and her efforts to retrieve the funds, none of which is particularly funny (a baffled bellboy aside). Also, while the end of the film is cute, it does uncomfortably reinforce some outdated 1920s values regarding the place of women in society. Still, this is generally enjoyable - and sometimes very funny. (first viewing, online) ★★

Helen's Babies (1924). Left in charge of his sister's nieces, a childless author of a book on child rearing soon discovers that looking after kids is not as easy as writing about it in this amiable silent comedy. Looking incredibly young (in one of his first film roles), Edward Everett Horton is fine in the lead role, but it is the two young actresses cast as his nieces who steal the show. Baby Peggy is especially remarkable with such expressive facial reactions for someone so young, though while her mischief (including almost shaving her face!) is both fun and tense due to the possible danger, it would have been nice for Jeanne Carpenter as her sister to have equal screen time. As for the story, it is all pretty simple and ultimately feels like a mere collection of kid mischief sketches, but there is definitely some tension towards the end with a dog and approaching train. (first viewing, online) ★★

Her Night of Romance (1924). Mistaken for an esteemed doctor, an impoverished lord plays along, resulting in complications as he falls in love with his latest patient in this romantic comedy. Ronald Colman tries to make the most of his role, but it is hard to root for him given his deceptions. His fumbling about when in quack mode is fairly funny though, most notably his attempts to listen to his female patient's heartbeat - without a stethoscope. As the patient in question, Constance Talmadge is okay, but far more interesting early on as she pretends to look dowdy to avoid detection. Albert Gran as Talmadge's father is probably the liveliest player in the mix. His reactions to his daughter being romanced by a stranger and then deceived do not quite ring true, but he plays the part with gusto, especially as he laughs off Colman's attempts to tell him the truth. (first viewing, online) ★★

Her Sister from Paris (1925). Neglected by her husband, a timid housewife pretends to be her showbiz starlet sister to seduce him in this silent comedy starring Constance Talmadge and Ronald Colman. Both stars do well with the material: Talmadge as she slowly regains her confidence incognito; Colman as he becomes increasingly guilt-ridden in his pursuit of the sister. The editing is magnificent too, with several great scenes in which Talmadge (playing both roles) converses with herself. Alas, the film is never quite as funny at it had the potential to be. The real sister disappears altogether until the end when the housewife initiates her plans with no gags resulting from them being mistaken for each other or appearing in two different places at once; Our Relations this is not. As it is, the film is fairly brisk but pretty predictable and never hysterically funny. (first viewing, online) ★★

Mystery Buff (1969). Oddly titled, this animated movie from the USSR has more to do with "history" than "mystery" at it symbolically captures a slice of twentieth century Russian history. The majority of the action takes place aboard a ship transporting a greedy tsar, his blind followers and working class citizens who are locked away below deck. His followers grow discontent as the tsar devours all of their food for the entire journey and thus revolution begins. While all this might sound quite interesting, it feels very fragmented in execution, often cutting away to the animators in mime sequences and some nifty (if jarring) silhouette shots that incorporate archive footage of everyday Soviet workers. This is a bit too much of a mixed bag to wholeheartedly recommend, but with some of the paintings actually burnt for fire effects, there is quite a bit of interest here. (first viewing, online) ★
Former IMDb message boards user // iCM | IMDb | Letterboxd | My top 750 films // Long live the new flesh!
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Perception de Ambiguity
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#2

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » September 13th, 2020, 12:00 pm

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«The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something—because it is always before one's eyes.) The real foundations of his inquiry do not strike a man at all. Unless that fact has at some time struck him. —And this means: we fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and most powerful.»


愛なき森で叫べ / The Forest of Love: Deep Cut 2020 sion sono. 6
-The Serial Killer Appears 6+
-The Serial Killer is Before You 6+
-That's the Serial Killer 6
-Here Comes a Hard Rain 7-
-Who's the Serial Killer? 6
-The Crazy Family 6
-Into the Loveless Forest 5-
real spoilerzShow
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まひるのほし / Artists in Wonderland / Mahiru no hoshi 1999 佐藤真/makoto satô. 6
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SpoilerShow
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The Alchemical Dream: Rebirth of the Great Work 2008 maxine & sheldon rochlin 6+
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"The I Ching says never confront Evil directly, and never name it directly, because it finds weapons to defend itself. We are not an army, so our strategy must be stealth. It's an alchemical strategy, and what do I mean by "stealth". I mean the house of constipated reason must be infiltrated by art, by dreamers, by vision. Find the others. Find the others, and then you will know what to do. All truth which springs from the individual is subversive."
- Terence McKenna

Resurrection 1980 daniel petrie. 5+
Greetings from Machu Picchu!Show
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I'm Thinking of Ending Things 2020 charlie kaufman (w/ Carmel). 8+

shorts

Beyond Enchantment 2010 larry jordan (2 viewings). 7

La Notte Salva 2019 giuseppe boccassini. 7+

Hunter 2015 scott barley. 6

焼星 -短縮版- / A Burning Star (short version) / Shosei 1995 kenji onishi. 6

Le Cristallin 2002 carole arcega. 7-

Nocte 2003 carole arcega & sébastien bros. 7

Ville Marie - A 2009 alexandre larose. 7

Wittgenstein Plays Chess With Marcel Duchamp, Or How Not To Do Philosophy 2020 amit dutta. 7
«Wittgenstein writes: Work on philosophy is, as work on architecture frequently is, more of a kind of work on oneself, on ones own conception on the way one sees things, and what one demands of them.»

Sol Levante 2020 akira saitou (2 viewings). 5

Fem minuter för Amerikas döda / Five Minutes for the Souls of America 1993 césar galindo (no subs). 5

A Hand in Two Ways (Fisted) 2017 dani leventhal & sheilah wilson. 5

Woton's Wake 1962 brian de palma. 5

Umbra 2019 florian fischer & johannes krell (2 viewings). 8
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i must be dreaming #108


music videos

The Smashing Pumpkins: Bullet with Butterfly Wings 1995 samuel bayer (rewatch). 6
The Smashing Pumpkins: Ava Adore 1998 nick goffey & dominic hawley (rewatch). 6
The Smashing Pumpkins: Today 1993 stephane sednaoui. 4+
The Smashing Pumpkins: Cherub Rock 1993 kevin kerslake. 6-


other

The Joe Rogan Experience - #1351 - Dan Akroyd 2019. 6

The Joe Rogan Experience - #1531 -Miley Cyrus 2020. 6

The Joe Rogan Experience - #629 - Andrew Hill, PhD 2015. 7

partly experienced Joe Rogans: #1533: Adam Curry;#1534: Ron White


didn't finish

Glide of Transparency (Betzy Bromberg, 2017) [35 min]
Mesto na zemle / A Place on Earth (Artour Aristakisian, 2001) [c.20 min]
Pandemonium (2010) [13 min]


notable online media

toptop:
Carl Jung - Inferiority Complexes and the Superior Self
top:
ELECTRIFIED -- David Blaine, One Million Volts, Always On
Aggressive Mantis Squad
ClericBeast_irl
leaf sheep
[David Blaine stuff]
[Mitch Hedberg stand-ups]
ClericBeast.mp4
Parenting Expert Has Nerve To Tell You How To Raise Your Own Goddamn Kids [rewatch]
World First - Skydiver Luke Aikins Jumps 25000 Feet Into Net With No Parachute
Bunch of walking Leafes 😱
rest:
[Joe Rogan Experience clips: ("Paintings with Aliens", "Nazi's Almost", "Mitch Hedberg Wrote", "Importance of Fiber", "Stevia and Aspirine", "Favorite Vitamins and Supplements", "Benefits of Vitamin D", "Benefits of running", "Fish Oil")]
[YT channel "PINGTR1P"]
Harry Potter and the deathly weapons.
Fun With Shorts: Senses of Man Part 1
The SATOSHI KON PROBLEM [partly]
What Happens When My Cat Lives With A Meerkat Is lol
Marnie T. on the hillside
This is NOT a Dandelion. | Deep Look
8 Ways To Enter The Present Moment
Praying Mantis eating a whole Locust ( TIMELAPSE 3 Hours in 1:30min ! )

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«What changes when we come to understand are not the facts but the attitude. The change is a change of perspective, a rearrangement of what has been in front of us all along. Wittgenstein recorded in his notebooks: The world of a happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man. In order to be happy I must be in agreement with the world. And that is what being happy means.»
(opening and closing quotes taken from "Wittgenstein Plays Chess With Marcel Duchamp, Or How Not To Do Philosophy")
We do not have to understand new things, but by dint of patience, effort and method to come to understand with our whole self the truths which are evident.Image
LETTERBOXD | MUBI | IMDb | tumblr.

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peeptoad
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#3

Post by peeptoad » September 13th, 2020, 3:13 pm

Hi sol...
I've only seen Dark Waters and Come and See of your views this week. Come and See is of course fantastic; did you find it as impactful the second time around? The visual transformation the lead goes through will stick with me for awhile, for sure, not to mention some of the other visuals, actions, and etc.
SpoilerShow
the result of the gang rape in particular
:(
Dark Waters I have rated much higher than you do, I think. It's an 8 at least. I remember it being pretty surreal, at least in parts, and very creepy also in certain parts. On the version I saw there is an amusing (imo) intro by the director that's worth watching. Not sure if there is an actual Lovecraft connection to the story, or if it just felt that way to me, but I liked that feeling/aspect also.

mine-
Let's Kill Uncle (1966) 6
Hunger (2008) 8
Die Welle (2008) The Wave 8
A Street Cat Named Bob (2017) 7
Gomorra (2008) 7
Allegro non troppo (1976) 7
Chugyeokja (2008) The Chaser 9

I had a pretty good viewing week despite being very busy at work. Tried out the IFC films app, since there were a # of films I wanted to see available on that, and it was well worth it. I'll probably reactivate it once I have more time to indulge. Chugyeokja was the best of a relatively strong lot. I liked it at least as much as The Wailing, if not slightly more. Yoon-seok Kim was phenomenal imo; I felt every ounce of emotion he exhibited coursing through my veins, especially during the last 40 minutes or so. Towards the beginning of this film I was a little hesitant since it seemed it might be a little heavy on the torture/suffering side of things, but it really isn't. There are violent/graphic scenes, but they are beautifully balanced with the rest of the film. De Welle was also quite good, as was Hunger. I could predict some of the outcome (above and beyond since this story has been done several times before) of the former, but it was still pretty well played. I would have preferred if the middle section had been a little tighter though. That part seemed to drag out somewhat and had a slight negative effect on the subsequent portion of the film. Hunger was a tough watch at points and left me feeling unclean. Quite effective in spots and I appreciate the director's lack of fear in terms of the representation of difficult subject matter.

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Onderhond
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#4

Post by Onderhond » September 13th, 2020, 4:33 pm

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Had a pretty good week. Lots of good to very solid films, a relatively low amount of disappointments.


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01. 4.0* - Crazy Samurai Musashi by Yuji Shimomura (2020)
A 75-minute, one take, no cuts, sword fighting action scene lies at the heart of this film, where Tak Sakaguchi takes on between 400 and 600 (because who's counting) adversaries with only a single sword. This is a film that deliberately seeks out the audience's breaking point, but if you manage to withstand the all-out assault it's an amazing experience. One of a kind, crazy Musashi indeed.

02. 3.5* - The Blood of Wolves [Korô no Chi] by Kazuya Shiraishi (2018)
Shiraishi goes oldskool Yakuza. The Blood of Wolves is a film that will feel very familiar to fans of Japanese crime cinema, but to see it through Shiraishi's filter does give it a fresh and contemporary edge. Just don't expect a film that will reinvent the genre, as you won't find it there. We're not just looking at a simple clan war though, Shiraishi focuses more on role of the police and how they try to uphold a muddy balance between the different clans, in order to avoid outright wars and public chaos. It's not the first Yakuza film to take this angle, but it is one of the better ones I've seen so far. The cast is excellent (Kôji Yakusho, Renji Ishibashi, Tomorô Taguchi, just to name a few), the violence is raw, the cinematography gritty and vibrant. The film may lack something that truly sets it apart, but this is once again a quality project that underlines Shiraishi's talent and establishes him as one of the more interesting directors working in Japan today.

03. 3.5* - The Babysitter: Killer Queen by McG (2020)
McG returns to his Babysitter franchise to try and repeat the success of the first film. The Babysitter became somewhat of a cult hit. I don't think Netflix expected anything much when they released it, but the surprisingly jolly mix of comedy and horror made it a very likeable film that was good for more than a handful of giggles and chuckles. This is an ideal franchise for a platform like Netflix, since they don't get too involved in the creative process. It's obvious that McG had free rein here, which results in a comedy that blatantly references other films, throws in some outrageous gore, subverts genre clichés whenever it feels like it and isn't afraid to be utterly daft when called for. It's an oddball combination of horror and comedy elements, but that's why it works so well. The sequel is a film that exudes fun. It might not be the most memorable of films, some actors look ill at ease (Lind is a miscast) and there are some technical hiccups, but that's easy to forgive when the rest is so utterly joyous. If they can keep up this level of quality, I wouldn't mind a third film.

04. 3.5* - Noisy Requiem [Tsuitô no Zawameki] by Yoshihiko Matsui (1988)
A film that might be grouped with the oeuvres of Gakuryu Ishii and Shinya Tsukamoto. But instead of going for an overt punk aesthetic, Matsui's film is more subdued and poetic. In some weird, perverted way that is, as its gritty black and white aesthetic and nihilistic themes will limit the film's appeal to a niche audience. There are plenty of uneasy scenes here. Crude and unlikable characters showcasing repulsive and misanthrope behavior for seemingly no apparent reason are what makes this film a rather tough experience, especially considering its long runtime. But it never started to drag and Matsui kept it intruiging from start to finish. The only reason why it's not a masterpiece for me is that I simply prefer the more vital and dynamic approach of its contemporaries. Matsui's more poetic execution is nice, but not that spectacular, which made me think the film didn't reach its full potential. But if you like Japanese grit and nihilism, it's definitely worth a try.

05. 3.5* - Extraction by Sam Hargrave (2020)
A very simple but spectacular action film. Don't expect too much of the plot (the title explains everything you need to know), Hargrave cares more about the elaborate action scenes and spectacular gun fights than he cares about his characters. Not everyone will appreciate that, but hardened action fans can rest assured: Extraction delivers. For the most part at least, as Hargrave can't quite keep the pacing going. The film slows down once or twice, which are by far its weakest moments. The poor attempts at introducing thriller (and even drama) elements feel forced and unnecessary, especially when the action stands out the way it does. The extraction scene is clearly the highlight here. Cut to be one lengthy, continuous scene, it's action cinema the way I love to see it. Gritty, dynamic, made with a lot punch. It even trumps the finale, though only by a small margin. Good stuff for people looking for a great action film, others shouldn't even bother.

06. 3.5* - Blind Witness [Mienai Mokugekisha] by Jun'ichi Mori (2019)
Japan loves its police thrillers. They're not the most remarkable films and few of them make a splash overseas, but once you start paying attention to them it's obvious that every year there are at least a couple of high profile ones. Many of them can be traced back to literary works or TV series, but it seems Blind Witness is a stand-alone film. Not that it matters that much, these films tend to follow a very rigid structure, the main difference is that you get to spend a bit more time on the introduction of the characters. Natsume is a detective who quit the police force when she went blind, but when one night she hears a voice calling for help, she decides to investigate the possible crime herself. The production is extremely slick, the pacing is solid and the main character's disability makes for some interesting tweaks on its basic formula. The film is extremely predictable and by the numbers though, so don't expect any big genre twists or novel takes. Blind Witness is a very solid police thriller, nothing less, nothing more.

07. 3.5* - The Owners by Julius Berg (2020)
A film that offers a pretty amusing mix of thriller and comedy elements. The Owners may not be the most original of films, but the presentation is meticulous and it feels so incredibly British that you may get an instant craving for tea with scones. That is, if you aren't too squeamish. A bunch of trashy British kids are planning to rob an old couple. They break into their mansion when the couple is out eating, but when they get to the safe they can't get it open. It sounds a lot like the intro of Snatch, but The Owners borrows more from films like Don't Breathe, where the roles are bound to be reversed. The performances are pretty hilarious, the build-up of the tension is solid, the reversal halfway through is effective and even though the film never really ventures into horror territory, there are some pleasantly twisted scenes. Nothing I hadn't seen before, but fun and very well executed.

08. 3.5* - Midsummer's Equation [Manatsu no Hôteishiki] by Hiroshi Nishitani (2013)
A film that begins like a regular "island" drama, but turns into a murder mystery later on. While that came as somewhat of a surprise to me, by the time the film ended I suspected Midsummer's Equation was part of a larger franchise. I wasn't surprised to find out then that this is a book adaptation (from the Keigo's Galileo series). The main character is the biggest giveaway. Manabu is a very methodical man, a scientist who believes in truth and facts as the ideal guidance for human choice. He's really the perfect lead for a murder mystery, though that also makes things pretty predictable. With a man like that on the case, you know everything will be neatly wrapped up by the time the film's finished. The setting's a big plus, performances are on point and the cinematography is well above average, especially for a franchise film like this. The mystery takes up a little too much time though and I would've preferred a bit more island drama (like the water rocket scene), but all in all this was a pretty pleasant watch.

09. 3.5* - Kokkuri [Kokkuri-san] by Takahisa Zeze (1997)
I never really pegged Zeze as a horror director, so I was quite curious to see how Kokkuri would turn out. The Japanese horror wave had been budding since the early 90s, but wouldn't become an international success until the release of Ringu in '98. From that perspective, Kokkuri is pretty impressive. Zeze's film differs in the sense that it doesn't follow the less-is-more approach that was gaining popularity around that time. Instead, Kokkuri plays more like a traditional drama, only with horror elements added. The curse that follows school kids is already present though, so is the creepy little girl that appears out of nowhere. The pacing is deliberate, Zeze does a good job building up the tension and the underlying drama is strong, which is a bit unusual for a horror film. On the other hand, don't expect this to be very scary. It's mostly just very atmospheric, with a strong dramatic base and solid styling. Better than I expected it to be.

10. 3.5* - Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest [Yaga. Koshmar Tyomnogo Lesa] by Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy, Nathalia Hencker (2020)
Podgaevskiy seems to be having a lot of fun turning Russian legends and folklore into horror films. I've been trying to keep up with his work and while his films are never truly exceptional, Podgaevskiy has a knack for entertaining, well-made horror cinema. Baba Yaga fits that description to a t. The Baba Yaga is a pretty basic witch. She lives in the forest and steals children away from their parents. Once in her power, the children are forgotten by their families. When Egor's little sister has vanished though, he feels something isn't right and because his parents aren't willing to listen to him, he gathers a few of his friends to find out what happened. Podgaevskiy's films aren't gory, nor are they very scary. Instead, he aims for mood and atmosphere, adding minor fantasy elements and putting a strong focus on lighting and cinematography. Performances are solid too and the score is also pretty decent. All in all a fun, stylish and entertaining horror film.

11. 3.5* - My Octopus Teacher by Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed (2020)
I've always had a fascination for marine life. As noted in the beginning of this documentary, the creatures that live underwater are weirder than the maddest sci-fi or horror ever made up. Safe to say this doc about the friendship between a diver and an octopus was something that immediately appealed to me. Octopuses have been gaining broader popularity since a couple of years now. Their intelligence is often highlighted, and they're simply incredible creatures to watch. The way they move about, change their colors and (learn to) catch their prey is just amazing. It's no surprise then to see a smart and inquisitive creature like that make friends with a human. This documentary was slightly too poetic and manipulative to be truly blown away by it. It would've been nice to have had a more scientific voice weigh in, but the shots are absolutely amazing and to see this creature bond with another person is quite powerful. I'm just not entirely sure how accurate Foster's story really was.

12. 3.0* - The New Mutants by Josh Boone (2020)
Pretty decent, all things considering. For one, it's not tied in to any other Marvel (sub-)franchises (yet), which is an incredible relief. No doubt this is meant to be the start of something new, but for now, it can be seen as a stand-alone film. After almost 20 years of MCU, it's a blessing. It's also just over 90 minutes long, which is more than enough to tell the rather basic story. No comic interludes, no random drama, no action filler, just a slick and stripped down plot that offers more than enough juicy bits. Again, after seeing so many Marvel film needlessly breaking through the 120-minute barrier, this feel truly refreshing. The attempts at making this a bit darker are a little half-arsed though and the characters are a bit bland, still it's all pretty entertaining. Performances are decent, the mystery is sufficient and the finale is quite spectacular. One of the better Marvel films I've seen, that's not saying a lot, but at least it's something.

13. 3.0* - Always: Sunset on Third Street '64 [Always San-chôme no Yûhi '64] by Takashi Yamazaki (2012)
The third and final entry in Yamazaki's Always series. A film that stays true to the previous episodes and repeats its shtick one more time. That's perfectly fine for those who liked the first two films, others should probably just skip this one as there's nothing new to gain from watching '64. This is a series that shouldn't really appeal to me, on paper that is. I'm not a big fan of nostalgia and that's the main selling point of the Always films. But because it aligns rather well with Yamazaki's peculiar charm they're actually quite fun and easy to watch, even when their runtime's a bit excessive. Japan is doing better, the Tokyo Olympics are right around the corner and the people living in Third Street are looking ahead with hope. Expect the necessary (light) drama, thick but amusing stereotypes and a very cozy, laid back atmosphere. It's not riveting cinema, but when you're looking for pleasant filler these films are just perfect.

14. 3.0* - Magnificent Bodyguards [Fei Du Juan Yun Shan] by Wei Lo (1978)
A simple but fun Jackie Chan martial arts adventure, helmed by Wei Lo. It's not a very remarkable film, but when you pit it against the myriad of Shaw Bros productions of that time there are some notable differences. One of the most notable ones is the use of outside locations rather than studio sets, which does give the film a different feel. Main attraction (and no doubt the primary reason for the relative popularity of this film) is Chan's presence. It's the first time I see him collaborating with Wei Lo and while the result isn't too exceptional, it does make for an amusing martial arts spectacle, with a couple of dynamic and lengthy action sequences. It lacks the inventive choreographies of someone like Yuen though, and I have no clue why they tried to copy the Star Wars soundtrack (which sounds absolutely ridiculous), but these are minor hiccups that don't really stand in the way of the overall enjoyment. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but if you're looking for decent martial arts filler, this is a prime choice.

15. 2.5* - Sabrina by Rocky Soraya (2019)
I'm not really sure why Sabrina isn't part of Soraya's The Doll franchise (especially since he seems to be working on The Doll 3 right now), but it's not even distinctive enough to be considered a true spin-off. It's really just a carbon copy of the first two films, all traits and defects intact. Sabrina is another ghost-infested Doll flick. This time the doll is even uglier compared to the ones in his previous films, to the point where you have to wonder who would actually buy these freakishly uncomfortable things. Not that it matters. The doll draws a ghost, a new family is being haunted and once again Laras is there to save the day. Performances are a bit flaky, the CG is also far from perfect and the runtime is at least 20 minutes too long, but Soraya does know how to create tension and regardless of the film's faults, there are still a fair few good, effective horror scenes. Far from a great film and I hope Soraya reinvents this franchise with his next film (not getting my hopes up though), but this was decent enough horror filler.

16. 2.5* - New York Stories by Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese (1989)
I was a bit surprised to bump into this film. With names like Scorsese, Coppola and Woody Allen directing, you'd think the film would be better known. Honestly, I'd never heard of it before. Anthologies are rarely seen as worthwhile films though, so that's probably what's been holding this one back. Scorsese's short is pretty decent for a Scorsese film, but his attempts to be a bit more artistic feel rather forced and Nolte's performance is too over the top (2.0*). Coppola's entry is probably the weirdest of the bunch as it seems to be targeted at kids (2.0*), luckily there's Allen's film to give this anthology a needed quality boost (3.5*). Allen's short is by far the most interesting and funny of the bunch. It's also the film that feels the most like "New York". While not a terrible anthology, considering the names involved people would be excused for expecting a bit more. Apart from Allen, the other directors disappoint.

17. 2.0* - Elizabeth by Shekhar Kapur (1998)
A rather basic and typical costume drama, detailing the life of Queen Elizabeth (and the start of England's Golden Age). The only way that it sets itself apart from countless similar films is that it feels just a tad lighter in tone (Vincent Cassel in particular stands out), but it's not enough to make it something special. The cinematography is decent, though it alternates beautiful moments with downright kitsch. Performances aren't that great and feel over-the-top, the soundtrack is cheesy and the drama didn't really interest me that much. That's usually my problem with this type of film though, so your mileage may vary. It's obvious that director Shikhar Kanpur tried his best to add something extra to Elizabeth, but it never quite happens. At least it's nice to see someone try, it makes that it isn't a complete bore, even so the second half starts to drag and never really recovers with a rather poor finale. Not terrible, but hardly noteworthy.

18. 2.0* - Ishibumi by Hirokazu Koreeda (2015)
I tend to like Koreeda's feature films, his documentaries are a lot tougher to stomach. It's a bit surprising because Koreeda's best films are the ones where he draws very natural performances from his cast, even so his documentaries tend to feel somewhat forced and poorly constructed. Ishibumi tackles the Hiroshima bombing, no doubt Japan's biggest scar of the past century. Koreeda decided to rework a classic TV program for this, but in order to keep thing intimate he has actress Haruka Ayase read the script. About 75% of the documentary is just that, the other quarter is filled with street interviews, though these are mostly situated near the end. It's a baffling structure that doesn't work at all. The reading is actually quite entrancing, though is interrupted by people reorganizing the stage where Ayase is reading. The interviews intersect at poorly chosen moments and pierce through the meticulously built up atmosphere. Some parts are pretty effective, but as a whole it's quite awkward.

19. 2.0* - Anything Can Happen [Wszystko Moze Sie Przytrafic] by Marcel Lozinski (1995)
A documentary with a very simple concept. Take a 6-year-old boy, send him to the park and have him talk to some elderly people sitting on benches. Document these conversations from a distance, so they don't lose any of their charm and that's that. I can't say it sounded terribly appealing. These conversations are supposed to highlight the difference between youthful inquisitiveness and seasoned experience, but too many of them ended up being quite empty and meandering. Not sure if that's due to the material they shot or because Lozinski wanted to keep it light, but it doesn't make for riveting cinema. Lozinski mostly shoots from concealed places, making this a pretty static affair. Luckily the soundtrack (consisting of ambient park noises) creates a soothing atmosphere and some conversations turned out to be quite amusing, but in the end I wasn't that impressed by the result. A bit too light on content.

20. 1.5* - Bad Moms by Jon Lucas, Scott Moore (2016)
This could've been light, simple fun, sadly it's way too uptight for its own good. The film just tumbles from one annoying cliché into the next. From the frantically overworked moms to the brattish and crude women, from the controlling soccer moms to the flawed but perfect mothers. I liked none of the characters and none of their evolutions. It's a shame, as the tone of the film is quite alright. It's pretty breezy, the pacing is solid and the film doesn't dwell too long on pretty much anything, especially not during the first half. In the second half it becomes more serious and dramatic, with some utterly cheesy and regrettable moments that completely ruin the vibe. Performances are decent and the main trio is actually quite fun, regardless of their characters behaving like assholes. The soundtrack is pretty bad though and there are quite a few jokes that don't land, but overall everything was there to make this a decent comedy. Everything except the balls to cut out the drama and fully commit to the comedy.

21. 1.5* - The Bravest [Lie Huo Ying Xiong] by Tony Chan (2019)
Chinese disaster flick that pays homage to firefighters. A big oil storage goes up in flames and threatens to destroy the entire city, several teams of firefighters try to keep the blazing inferno under control. Safe to say, not everyone is going to come out alive and sacrifice for the greater good is one of the main themes of the film. If you think Hollywood films tend to be too patriotic and/or heroic, it's best to stay for away from The Bravest. It gets beyond ridiculous here, with lots of posed shots, cheesy music and bland drama piling up in an attempt to make every moment even more heroic than the previous one. The action scenes are pretty decent, but there's simply too much false drama and the film slows down way too often to accentuate how brave these people really are. It's a cheap way to stretch a film to the 120-minute mark, it's no surprise then that the second half starts to drag. This could've been fun, but the result is highly uncomfortable.

22. 1.5* - Joseph Kilián [Postava k Odpírání] by Pavel Jurácek, Jan Schmidt (1963)
A film that is often described as Kafkaesque. While I'm not that familiar with the work of Kafka, the overly bureaucratic society with a slightly absurd/surreal twist that forms the center of Joseph Kilián doesn't leave much room for interpretation. While that sounds intriguing enough, I can't say I enjoyed it much. The short follows a man on the lookout for Joseph Kilián. When he stumbles upon a place that rents out cats, he decides to try it out. Upon bringing the cat back the next day, the shop is gone. And then some more random scenes that vaguely connect, but don't seem to go any place specific. Apparently communist critics rallied against this film, so no doubt there's a bit of subtext I missed. Performances are rather wooden and uninteresting, the soundtrack is quite plain and even though there are one or two impressive shots, the cinematography overall isn't that remarkable either. This could've been fun if it had been a bit more atmospheric, the dry delivery and seemingly pointless ending killed it for me.

23. 1.5* - Miss Congeniality by Donald Petrie (2000)
A completely harmless comedy. Pretty much what you can expect from a Sandra Bullock film, the uncontested queen of harmless, middle-of-the-road cinema. Miss Congeniality is the kind of filler that is ideal for a low priority TV slot, for some reason I never caught this one on television though. Bullock is a hardened tomboy cop who needs to turn into a pageant queen to complete an assignment. Bullock is fit for neither parts, luckily this isn't the film to take itself too serious. From there on out it follows a very predictable and familiar path, equal part comedy, action and drama, but none of it making a big impression. The film's too long, something simple like this should last more than 90 minutes. But at least the atmosphere is light and the pacing is decent. Even though there's hardly anything positive to say about this film, it never really drags or irritates either. It's just very plain, safe, forgettable but comfortable entertainment.

24. 1.5* - Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron by Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook (2002)
A film with ups and downs. At the very least, it's nice to see a US animation film that dares to take minor risks. Nothing too overt or mind-blowing, but the fact that the animals can't talk is already a big plus. It would've been better if they'd taken it all the way (the main character has a voice over), but it's definitely something. It makes for a much quieter, tranquil film. None of that ADHD stuff you find in just about every animal-led US CG animation, but a slightly more subdued tale about a wild stallion and his encounters with humankind. Truth be told, the plot is rather bland, but at least the presentation is a lot more agreeable. That soundtrack though. No clue who thought it was a good idea to get Bryan Adams and Hans Zimmer on board, but the songs and music are so bad that it's simply ridiculous. It's a shame because a more stylish soundtrack definitely would've made this a better film, now it's just some decent animation and a calm atmosphere with a bunch of inappropriate cheesiness underneath.

25. 1.0* - Obsession [Ossessione] by Luchino Visconti (1943)
Visconti's first. I'm not a big fan of Italian neo-realist cinema, but it's clear that Obsession was a key film in its rise, even when the real boom would only come in the next decade. All the trademark elements are already here and it's a big change from the kind of cinema that was popular at the time. My biggest problem with the movement is the excessive/expressive acting, which stands in strong contrast with the realist overtones of the story and the cinematography. There are too many grand gestures, too many overt emotions, almost as if the actors were still used to doing silents. It takes me out of the drama and makes for rather annoying characters. And that's a real problem, because Visconti leans quite heavily on the drama. The story is pretty basic, the crime elements are minimal and the pacing is slow. The cinematography is unremarkable, the soundtrack rather shrill, so aesthetically there's not much there either. Not my thing, but no doubt an important film.

26. 1.0* - The Prince of Egypt by Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Well (1998)
Not sure who thought it a good idea to turn Moses' story into an animated film, I wouldn't be surprised if it was a thinly veiled attempt to introduce kids into Christianity. This isn't the most interesting story to sit through as an atheist, not in the least because the film is quite pushy when it comes to its morality. Technically speaking the animation is fine, though the character designs aren't what I call pretty and the overstated animation style isn't a personal favorite either. It's the incredibly loud, cheesy and obnoxious soundtrack that killed it for me though. It's omnipresent and 100% horrendous. I don't understand why it's so hard for most US animations to come with a half-decent soundtrack. The Prince of Egypt runs just over 90 minutes, which isn't all that long, but the plot is terribly dull and the soundtrack absolutely grating, so it still ended up a rather tiring experience. At least the animation kept me occupied, even though it wasn't that aesthetically pleasing either. This film was basically just one big disappointment.

27. 0.5* - Fantômas: The False Magistrate [Le Faux Magistrat] by Louis Feuillade (1914)
I don't think the work of Feuillade is meant for me. The False Magistrate is the second Feuillade film I've seen, I'm afraid it nearly bored me to death. While I think silent cinema works fairly well for comedy and horror (or any other type of film that relies on atmosphere), it's a real drag when it comes to purely narrative films. The False Magistrate is a simple story told through intertitles and endless shots of people talking to each other (without sound). It's sluggish and uninteresting, even for a film that's barely 70 minutes long. There are just a handful of scenes that qualify as more action-oriented, but even these were pretty dim and uneventful. Performances are formulaic, the cinematography is way too static and the plot and characters felt lazy. I just didn't care for any of it. I don't think I'll be watching the other episodes in the series anytime soon, no doubt Feuillade's work here was inspirational for directors who explored more narrative-focused cinema, but in this form it's painfully insufficient.
Last edited by Onderhond on September 14th, 2020, 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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prodigalgodson
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#5

Post by prodigalgodson » September 13th, 2020, 8:30 pm

What a spectacular week! All thanks to pda.

Le Horla (Jean-Daniel Pollet, 1966) 9/10

One of the oddest and most fascinating little psychological horror art flicks I've seen. Like the Tenant, it gets both goofier and more unsettling as it progresses, and it'll probably feel uncannily familiar to anyone who's spent too much time alone. Up to a wide array of interpretations, generally I’d say it’s about the rabbit holes dissatisfaction can send our brains down. Low budget high style independent filmmaking a la Rappaport or Rivette; an inspiring reminder of how much can be done with some images, some words, and an actor.

Passion (Jurgen Reble, 1990) 10/10

It’s always hard to discuss things which there’s nothing else like, but this especially feels dredged from some bizarre corner of abstract cinematic potentiality. A user recently wrote "half-comatosed might have been the best viewing condition for it" -- hopefully a THC stratosphere was a good substitute. One of the most vivid and hypnotic things I've ever seen. Big props to Systematicer for sharing this.

Berenice (Eric Rohmer, 1954) 7/10

Another unique single-location film about isolation and madness, this time adapted from Poe. The weathered film stock and lack of diegetic sound give it the feel of an incomprehensible silent short someone rediscovered and added a classical score and a vaguely applicable voiceover story to. A wild place to have started his career, but early iterations of several classic Rohmer ingredients appear: it's a low-key melodramatic chamber piece (The Marquise of O) about an obsession with a female character's single body part (Claire's Knee), delivered via absurd artifice (Perceval) featuring rapid dialogue (monologue in this case) over simple images (pick one).

The Turin Horse (Tarr Bela, 2011) (rewatch) - hypnotic, almost too minimal for its own good

Carol (Ed Emshwiller, 1970) 6/10

A brief abstract ode to the filmmaker's wife. My initial, cynical take was that it feels both very much a product of its time and like it's covering what was already well-trod territory for experimental film. But I was feeling it more the second time -- a sweet, pleasant 5 minutes.

Alaska (Dore O, 1968) 7/10

Most interesting to me in the inexplicable evolution of its images. Also felt like a long 16 minutes, I think to its credit.

Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011) 5/10 - ooh, this did not age too well

Life of a String (Chen Kaige, 1991) 7/10

Always dig a meandering spiritual quest even if I'm not feeling every particular beat it hits. Truly stunning sensuous imagery and inscrutable transitions disoriented me into thinking it was gonna be more ambitious than it is, but after spinning its wheels in the second act, redeems itself with a grandiose finale out of a dark parable. And boy, Chen had way too much fun with his crane.

Back and Forth (Hollis Frampton, 1969) 8/10

Goes from gimmick to extradimensional by the time it crescendoes.

Number One (Leighton Pierce, 2007) 3/10

Couldn't engage with this the way I imagine it's meant to be engaged with. The kind of thing that requires immersion, but the digital image manipulation aesthetic kept me at a distance. Not my style.

The Fourth Dimension (Trinh T Minh-ha, 2001) 10/10

“Why travel if not to be in touch with the ordinary in non-ordinary ways?”

Long landscape takes from moving vehicles, reflections on film vs. video, metaphysical and -textual dabbling, digital alteration done right for relevant reasons, animal closeups, musical sequences, a shoutout to Judith Butler...Trinh's trip to Japan has it all. One of the most dense and thoughtful essay films I've seen.

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sol
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#6

Post by sol » September 14th, 2020, 11:10 am

peeptoad wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 3:13 pm
Come and See is of course fantastic; did you find it as impactful the second time around? The visual transformation the lead goes through will stick with me for awhile, for sure, not to mention some of the other visuals, actions, and etc.
I don't think so. While certainly still harrowing the second time round, I don't think the impact was quite the same since I mentally downplayed the film's two biggest weakness (the episodic nature of it all and the lead actor's performance), thus the film was not quite as encapsulating as I recalled it being... but yeah, still pretty great. More a case of it being a film that I expected to rise my estimation upon revision, whereas in actuality my stance on the film was about the same.

And yes - his visual transformation is insane. He frequently looked like a senior citizen in many of the scenes towards the end: bags under his eyes, wrinkles across his forehead etc. I wonder how much of that was makeup and how much was pure acting.
peeptoad wrote:
September 13th, 2020, 3:13 pm

Dark Waters I have rated much higher than you do, I think. It's an 8 at least. I remember it being pretty surreal, at least in parts, and very creepy also in certain parts. On the version I saw there is an amusing (imo) intro by the director that's worth watching.
Yeah, the version that I saw did not have any intro. I'm not sure about surreal (the film does flash back and forth between childhood memories, though most of that seemed generic to me) but I do get how the film could be seen as very creepy if one had a nun phobia entering into it. The whole evil nun thing just isn't all that novel these days though, and I don't know whether I would have liked Dark Waters more if I had not seen the likes of Verónica and The Nun beforehand, but I was just like, "evil nuns, so what, I've already seen Alucarda", er.

Yours:

Allegro non troppo was an odd one for sure. Been too long to really comment beyond that; the director's West and Soda is pretty decent too.

I didn't really like the first half of Hunger (before we meet the main character). I pretty much knew the plot so I kept waiting and waiting for things to ignite. There were some beautiful shots early on (snow fading into a bricked background) but I only really felt something once the hunger strike started.
Former IMDb message boards user // iCM | IMDb | Letterboxd | My top 750 films // Long live the new flesh!
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#7

Post by Teproc » September 14th, 2020, 1:18 pm

In the Name of the Father (Jim Sheridan, 1993)

An Important film, and all that this entails. Pete Postlewaithe is excellent as the eponymous father, but the film doesn't quite nail that relationship, often because it spends too much time underlining it I think. The scene on the docks is a great example of this: DDL turning back and saying "Bye dah" would make for a great scene if we didn't have the voiceover explaining exactly what we've just seen. "Show, don't tell" may be an overused maxim, but it feels particularly silly when the film did a perfect job of showing in the first place. Still, that initial dynamic works between the two, but the prison scenes later in the film don't quite work for me, perhaps because the film is set on its righteous pace of rehabilitation at this point, which is not the best mode to be in for a film really, as exemplified by the courtroom scenes. It's a shame, because Sheridan is avoiding the biggest sin these films usually commit, in that this film absolutely has a reason for existing aside from moral outrage, it just doesn't quite nail the balance there. Still quite compelling throughout though.

60/100

Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935)


I liked that a lot more than my previous Astaire/Rogers experience (Swing Time), mostly because Astaire was actually pretty likable this time. Their first dance scene together is magical, and the other dance scenes are generally very good, aside from the final one (why are we singing about some Venetian dance exactly?) and the eponymous one. The story... well, it's better than Swing Time for sure, and it's pretty funny at times, with a Lubitschian air about the whole thing but yeah, it's a typical farce misunderstanding that could make for one good scene stretched for over an hour, so that's a limiting factor on the film's charms for me.

Pretty surprised at how racy this was, with plenty of quite obvious sexual innuendos (has it ever been more obvious that dance numbers stand for sex?) and infidelity a key plot point, but I guess this is still the beginning of the Hayes Code being more strictly enforce.

57/100

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (Robert Zemeckis, 1979)


Zemeckis is admittedly fully formed formally in his debut, this is a rather well-hotfilm, but does it have anything insightful to say about Beatlemania? The make out session with the guitar is fun and all, but I don't think Zemeckis really connects the dots here, and the film feels pretty messy, which is of course also a result of the splitting of the narratives. Nancy Allen is pretty good, but I guess I just didn't vibe with the comedic tone this film is going for overall.

36/100

The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)


I'm a little befuddled by the seemingly universal love for this and its predecessor. Beautiful sets and good cinematography, and Ernest Thesinger as Praetorius is a decent villain, but Frankenstein's moral dilemmas seem more like window-dressing than any attempt at actually engaging with the notion of hubris and the monster seems to alternate between wantonly killing people who just happen to be there and be some kind of a gentle giant (the first film was at least more consistent on that point). And this suffers from a lot of usual sequel problems, starting with the very sweaty retconning of the original's ending and just playing the hits again after that. The Bride herself is cool but she's there for five seconds, so... not sure what I'm missing here.

36/100

@sol

Love Solaris and Stalker, definitely agree with you re: Solaris being about encountering the unknown (among other things). I tend to be annoyed by how unimaginative we can be when imagining extra-terrestrial life, but Tarkovsky manages to go pretty far away from our understanding while still telling an intensely personal and emotional story. I find his style hypnotic in the best way, and though I see what you mean re: Stalker's talkiness, I would disagree that it is emphasized over the atmosphere of the Zone, which is definitely the prevailing element I took away from the film. Swamps and humidity are to Tarkovsky as the wind is to Miyazaki: his natural element, and Stalker feels like going into a swamp you can't extricate yourself from, both in terms of mood and in the ideas it's wielding, if that makes any sense.

Speaking of swamps, Come and See certainly feels indebted to Tarkovsky in some ways, a harrowing experience, perhaps the best "war is hell" film.

@prodigalson

Drive's popularity around here is somewhat surprising to me, I was very excited to see it and endedn up very disappointed... the epitome of "style over substance" for me, and I usually like the films that get accused of that, it just felt so hollow to me, and Ryan Gosling is at his best when not talking, which NWR clearly gets... yet he still talks too much here. I've since like Gosling a lot more in other roles, but NWR just feels like he's perpetually stuck doing student films, showing promise but never fulfilling his potential (though maybe his early films are where he reached that).

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#8

Post by sol » September 14th, 2020, 1:32 pm

Teproc wrote:
September 14th, 2020, 1:18 pm
@sol

Love Solaris and Stalker, definitely agree with you re: Solaris being about encountering the unknown (among other things). I tend to be annoyed by how unimaginative we can be when imagining extra-terrestrial life, but Tarkovsky manages to go pretty far away from our understanding while still telling an intensely personal and emotional story. I find his style hypnotic in the best way, and though I see what you mean re: Stalker's talkiness, I would disagree that it is emphasized over the atmosphere of the Zone, which is definitely the prevailing element I took away from the film. Swamps and humidity are to Tarkovsky as the wind is to Miyazaki: his natural element, and Stalker feels like going into a swamp you can't extricate yourself from, both in terms of mood and in the ideas it's wielding, if that makes any sense.

Speaking of swamps, Come and See certainly feels indebted to Tarkovsky in some ways, a harrowing experience, perhaps the best "war is hell" film.
Great to have you on board as another Solaris fan. The scenes with the kids at the beginning of the film have always generally left me scratching my head, but this time round I think I really got the whole point of the boy being scared of the horse. And then the way the boy and girl interact with each other - that also has some parallels to later on since the film ends up being about how we interact with the unknown, and there is such a quantum difference between the boy and girl's ultra-polite greetings of one another and Kris throwing his wife into a rocket!

Oh yeah, the environments and locations in Stalker are great, and they are definitely what stood out most potently in my mind from my first and second viewing of the film... which is perhaps why I was disappointed that they did not feature more. Some of the lengthy shots also really irked me - I mean, outside, definitely, and the room full of sand piles, or the rain pouring in, just great - but then there is that shot from outside the doorway as the trio converse and then suddenly get a phonecall. I don't know. I just sort of felt like Tarkovsky was so heavily invested in what his characters were saying that things sometimes fell to the side. Of course, the interesting thing is that Solaris is very talky-heavy at times too, but never quite as often as Stalker is.

Yours:

Agreed that In the Name of the Father is more a film about moral outrage than anything else. Also agreed about Pete Postlethwaithe being the highlight.

I love love loved I Wanna Hold Your Hand. I really felt invested in the main characters and what the Beatles meant to them, and I absolutely adored the way Zemeckis managed to avoid showing the faces of the Beatles at all. Perhaps for budgetary reasons primarily, but thematically it is on-point as the film is all about what the Beatles mean to the impressionable teens rather than the Beatles themselves. This might even be my favourite Zemeckis film.

Not seen Top Hat or Bride of Frankenstein. I mean, eventually I'll rewatch Frankenstein and then give Bride ago, but I haven't mustered up the enthusiasm for that yet.
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#9

Post by Onderhond » September 14th, 2020, 1:54 pm

@sol:
From yours, I've only the three Russian revisions. Most interested in giving Stalker another go. I liked it the first time I watched it (4.0*), but not quite sure if that high mark was due to the surprise of actually liking a Russian/Tarkovsky film. Not quite sure if the mark will hold, so I've been putting the rewatch off :) Come and See (3.5*) was pretty nice too, though mostly the first half, it did get a bit too dreary during the second part. Also wasn't as emotionally invested as the film clearly wanted me to.

@peeptoad:
Only seen Hunger (2.5*) from yours. Wasn't that impressed by it, though it was interesting enough to keep an eye on McQueen's work. The acting was decent, but stylistically the film didn't do that much for me. McQueen did lose me with 12 Years a Slave, still interested in catching up with Shame (which my girlfriend loved, she actually owns it on DVD).

@prodigalgodson:
Seen nothing of yours, apart from Drive (2.5*), which I found to be terribly overrated. It's also the film that pushed the whole 80s retro vibe back into the mainstream, not something I was happy with. Quite interested in that Kaige Chen film (though mostly because it's one of the few I haven't seen yet - together with Killing Me Softly). The Fourth Dimension sounds interesting too, but I haven't had much luck with essay films yet, so it all depends where the balance style/content lies and how much I like the style.

@Teproc:
Seen all yours, the one I liked best was I Wanna Hold Your Hand (3.0*). It surprised me a lot because I'm not a Beatles fan and I'm not a big Zemeckis fan in general. I liked Sperber's performance and could appreciate the strong focus on comedy, with only some minimal drama towards the end of the film. If there's one thing I hate about US comedies it's the way the turn dramatic/moralistic halfway through. Didn't get that from this film.

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#10

Post by sol » September 14th, 2020, 2:50 pm

Onderhond wrote:
September 14th, 2020, 1:54 pm
@sol:
From yours, I've only the three Russian revisions. Most interested in giving Stalker another go. I liked it the first time I watched it (4.0*), but not quite sure if that high mark was due to the surprise of actually liking a Russian/Tarkovsky film. Not quite sure if the mark will hold, so I've been putting the rewatch off :) Come and See (3.5*) was pretty nice too, though mostly the first half, it did get a bit too dreary during the second part. Also wasn't as emotionally invested as the film clearly wanted me to.
I have seen Stalker three times now, and each time it has dropped further and further in my estimation, so rewatch at your own risk. :lol: I don't know if it is really possible for a film like Come and See to be too dreary (isn't that the point?) but yeah, my emotional investment wasn't totally there either due to the ineffective lead performance and some of the choppy narrative structure. But certainly lots of powerful moments - especially during the soldiers burning the village scene. Damn, that grandmother dragged out in the flames...

Oh, and I think you'd like Dark Waters. Minimal narrative drive, lots of mood/atmosphere - depending on how scary you find nuns to be. Sample image:

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Yours:

Loved Ossessione - especially Juan de Landa's performance and Giuseppe Rosati's music score, so glad that you didn't find this totally worthless. I wasn't too enthused by any of your other viewings this week, but in brief:

Yes, Woody Allen's segment in New York Stories is excellent and easily the best of the bunch. So fun to have Mae Questel in a significant role. Don't remember too much of Elizabeth other than that it did not exactly wow me. I wasn't expecting the world from Bad Moms, but after 21 & Over, the Hangover trilogy and Flypaper I was expecting something slightly more worthwhile. And yeah, if you're not a Bullock fan in the first place, I wouldn't expect Miss Congeniality to change your mind, but I thought it was a pretty fun/funny movie and I really liked Bullock in the lead role - certainly more so than in some of her more acclaimed dramatic work.
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#11

Post by Onderhond » September 14th, 2020, 4:59 pm

sol wrote:
September 14th, 2020, 2:50 pm
I don't know if it is really possible for a film like Come and See to be too dreary (isn't that the point?) but yeah, my emotional investment wasn't totally there either due to the ineffective lead performance and some of the choppy narrative structure. But certainly lots of powerful moments - especially during the soldiers burning the village scene. Damn, that grandmother dragged out in the flames...
That was one of the scenes that didn't do all that much for me. It's been at least 16 years since I last saw it though. I remember the bombing vividly, that was by far my favorite moment. And from my own review, I also seemed to like the sound design a lot. But when it leaves the main character behind and goes for more generic "war atrocities" moments, the film kinda lost me.
sol wrote:
September 14th, 2020, 2:50 pm
Oh, and I think you'd like Dark Waters. Minimal narrative drive, lots of mood/atmosphere - depending on how scary you find nuns to be. Sample image:
Looks interesting enough. I don't find nuns scary at all (also not very hot, that's a thing too, right?) but I love mood/atmosphere. I'll keep this one in mind.
sol wrote:
September 14th, 2020, 2:50 pm
and I really liked Bullock in the lead role - certainly more so than in some of her more acclaimed dramatic work.
Hmmm, is that even a thing? :D Never realized Bullock was ever seen as a viable/good actress. I just figured she had some kind of bland commercial appeal. Maybe I've missed her better films :)

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#12

Post by prodigalgodson » September 17th, 2020, 12:23 am

sol
aris 6 - glad you still got so much out of this, interesting point about the boy and the horse
Stalker 10 - ah, the journey to the Zone is one of my favorite parts
Come and See 6 - wasn't as involved the second time I saw this, and I actually don't like those makeup wrinkles

pda
seen none, but dig those Wittgenstein quotes

toad
Gomorra 7 - yeah, not bad

hond
Spirit - liked this as a kid
Prince of Egypt - this too
4th Dimension - doesn't seem like your bag, very content-heavy with outmoded video effects

proc
Bride of Frankenstein 8 - nah, it's delightful
Drive - like your hot take on Refn, agree a lot of his films ring hollow

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#13

Post by sol » September 17th, 2020, 3:20 pm

prodigalgodson wrote:
September 17th, 2020, 12:23 am
sol
aris 6 - glad you still got so much out of this, interesting point about the boy and the horse
Stalker 10 - ah, the journey to the Zone is one of my favorite parts
Come and See 6 - wasn't as involved the second time I saw this, and I actually don't like those makeup wrinkles
Yep, Solaris seems to be one of those films in which every scene, shot and moment has a distinct purpose, if not always one obvious at first. It was a real breathtaking experience watching this again as always; it is also the only film that I can think of in recent memory that I wanted to start watching again as soon as it ended. Just so many great mysteries to all the mythology in the film, and so much to unpack as a film about the memory process and how we act/react as human beings.

Honestly, I thought the same about Stalker, but my memories failed it. I actually noted the same thing in my second-viewing review from a few years ago; that I had misremembered how powerful I found the overall film to be since the good parts stuck out the most to me. I don't think I will forget this time round how much bits and pieces of the film underwhelmed me, but time will only tell...

I wasn't as involved with Come and See the second time either (though I definitely found it quite harrowing still). Interesting comment about the makeup wrinkles. I thought they were incredibly realistic and if I recall correctly, his face slowly progresses in how wrinkled it gets.

Yours:

Back and Forth is an excellent film, borderline 10/10, but you can't really give Hollis Frampton all the credit for it since it was directed by Michael Snow. As per all of Snow's films, Back and Forth works best due to its playfulness as Snow plays around with our perceptions and expectations, often lulling us into a false sense of comfort before something unexpected happens. And yes, the ending is certainly transcental.

Drive was a disappointment for me too, but I love Refn in general. He uses neon so, so well. The Neon Demon and Bronson are my favourites from him. Pusher II is pretty good too, but the first Pusher is a lot harder to sit through first.
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#14

Post by Onderhond » September 17th, 2020, 5:53 pm

prodigalgodson wrote:
September 17th, 2020, 12:23 am
hond
Spirit - liked this as a kid
Prince of Egypt - this too
It's a shame I didn't review films when I was young, even though these films are a bit too recent, so seeing them as kid was never an option for me. It would be nice to read back my own reviews from my childhood.
Even back then I wasn't impressed with US animation though. I wonder where that comes from.

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#15

Post by OldAle1 » September 20th, 2020, 8:28 pm

Time to get back on the horse...

This Film ROCKED
This Film SUCKED

Tokyo File 212 (Dorrell & Stuart E. McGowan, 1951)

There are few kinds of mysterious, unknown and forgotten films that I look forward to more than the B-noirs of the late 40s and 50s...few places I'm more likely to strike silver or bronze, if not gold. OK, gold's pretty rare, and sometimes I don't even hit copper or aluminum. This one's probably in the "tin" category, though it's worth noting in the curio category as a rare Japanese-American coproduction from this era. Florence Marly - the Czech-born actress with an interesting little filmography in several countries and languages - stars as a multilingual Eurasian woman trying to get in touch with her sister in North Korea - OR IS SHE? Yes she's our femme fatale character, and American agent Lee Frederick has to find out what the Commie plot is behind some Japanese labor uprisings, and whether Marly will be a help, a distraction, or HIS DEATH! It starts out promisingly with a literal BANG, a bomb which looks to kill our main characters, but then the rest of the film is all a flashback that leads to the opening, a serpent grabbing it's tail. Alas the circular construction, Marly's presence, and the Tokyo location shoot and Japanese cast apart from the two principals aren't enough to make this interesting; mediocre and obvious storytelling and direction from the two brother McGowan is probably a big part of it, the two mostly worked in TV and in more family-oriented projects and they seem out of their element here.

Sirocco (Curtis Bernardt, 1951)

Much better is this story of cynical American ex-pat Humphrey Bogart playing both political/national sides in a simmering, intrigue-infused Middle-Eastern city, getting involved with a tall, dark-haired Swedish beauty, and finally figuring he has to take a stand for what's right...nope, not Casablanca, not really close to it, but certainly an attempt to rekindle that film's hold over the public, 8 years later. Märta Torén is our ersatz Ingrid Bergman; Everett Sloane and Lee J. Cobb are French officers, respectively a racist asshole general who thinks violence is the only way to do things, and his more broad-minded, peace-oriented second in command; Zero Mostel, Onslow Stevens and a host of lesser lights play the Arabs on the other side of the conflict in this 1925-Damascus-set film that gets it's noir credentials mostly from the awesome monochrome work of DP Burnett Guffey. Guffey was one of the key noir cinematographers, notable for his work on In a Lonely Place, The Reckless Moment and Knock on Any Door among many others, and he's aided by some great sets here, especially the wonderful tunnels/catacombs where Bogart goes to set up arms deals for the Syrians. The story isn't really that special - if you've seen not just Casablanca but also Pepe le moko and/or Algiers, you pretty much will guess every moment, but the great visuals and the performances, especially Lee J. Cobb in the most complex character in the film, make it worthwhile.

The T.A.M.I. Show (Steve Binder, 1964)

TCM. Not much to say about this - it's a concert film, taken from two shows on two consecutive evenings in Santa Monica, and featuring an incredible lineup of the biggest names in rock and roll - R&B of the day. Not the Beatles or Elvis, no, but you do get The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, Lesley Gore, Marvin Gaye and about 10 others for 2 hours, each doing 2-5 songs, with Jan and Dean hosting and introducing them in turn. I'm definitely with the majority - including the Stones themselves - in being most knocked out by James Brown, but I liked pretty much all of it. The direction and camerawork are fine, nothing special; the sound strikes me as above-average for the era.

Astérix le Gaulois / Asterix the Gaul (Ray Goossens, 1967)
Astérix et Cléopâtre / Asterix and Cleopatra (René Goscinny/Albert Uderzo, 1968)
Les 12 travaux d'Astérix / The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (René Goscinny/Henri Gruel/Albert Uderzo, 1976)

The Asterix books weren't really a thing where and when I was growing up, in the midwestern US in the 70s and 80s, so it's only due to the fact that I took several years of foreign languages that I learned about them as early as I did - they were, and I suppose still are, along with Tintin a popular series translated into many languages which are often used in language classes, particularly in middle and high schools around here. So I probably read the first few books that I did read (no memory of which ones they were, unfortunately) in German - possibly in Spanish also though I don't remember that class having them. But the German teacher definitely promoted them and they have had a small place in the back of my mind ever since; there's an antiques mall about 2 km from me that has a selection of them (in English) and I've considered grabbing a few but...I don't know if the nostalgia will work this time, so I haven't, yet. I never saw the films when younger - if they got theatrical distribution here it would have only been to big cities, and by the time I lived in Chicago in the 80s-90s I had other priorities. So this is a long way around way of saying that here's another instance of something I've been aware of for most of my life, but just now gotten down to seeing. Too much anticipation is often a killer and...

So it is here to a certain extent. I didn't dislike these exactly, but they didn't do a huge amount for me. The first is definitely the weakest of the three, with a bare-bones plot (Romans discover the Gauls have secret potion, kidnap the druid, Asterix has to get him back), rather weak background work, and a little section where Asterix and Panoramix (named "Getafix" in the English subs on this copy) are engaging in a series of puns that were completely lost on me - and the translator. Meh.

Cleopatra offers significantly improved backgrounds and better animation overall, and a slightly more entertaining story, with Aterix, Obelix, Panoramix and Idefix (Obelix' dog) going on a trip to the titular ruler's country to help Panoramix' friend complete a new palace for Cleopatra, which he can't seem to do without magic. Of course there are bad guys (not Romans this time) to tangle with who want the architect Numerobis to fail. Probably the best action scenes in this series of three, and mildly enjoyable overall. The fact that series creators Goscinny and Uderzo take over directing duties I'm sure has at least a little to do with the improvements here.

Les 12 travaux is on about the same level, with certainly the most interesting and varied animation and backgrounds - Asterix and Obelix have to, you guessed it, complete 12 tasks along the lines of Hercules' monumental labors - if they succeed, their tribe will be acclaimed gods by Caesar, if they fail they will submit to Roman rule. The main problem here is that many of the tasks are dealt with in a really perfunctory manner - the film is only about 80 minutes and the first few minutes are the set-up, so that leaves just 5-6 minutes on average per task. The labor of dealing with the bureaucratic building is definitely the best bit.

Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed / The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger, 1926) (re-watch)

When I first saw this over a decade ago it was listed as the oldest surviving animated feature - and it still is. What's up cinema historians and hunters? Nothing else found in the last decade? But to be fair, given how laborious the process of detailed animation was - of any kind - in those days, it's not surprising that there were very few films made that got to feature length, and that this is the only survivor known. But given the incredible beauty and quality on display here, one can only hope that there are more treasures to be found yet, as this still stands among the greatest achievements in the field. Reiniger's art is simultaneously wildly detailed - as detailed as 2D silhouettes can be anyway - and subtle - what I noticed particularly this time is the small deft choices she makes in creating faces which are all quite distinct from each other. I love the way she creates her monstrous characters and the way they often combine with each other, and the way she handles flight, and combat - it all seems years ahead of it's time, and yet at the same time something hermetic and sealed, in a special class of it's own. Probably because it was so time-consuming, and because a decade later the Disney factory came along, and other animators in France and elsewhere were more likely to following along something like that path, Reiniger's achievements were sidelined to a great extent, and apart from Michel Ocelet in the past couple of decades, she hasn't had many followers in her giant steps. Which helps to make this treasure seem all the more special.

Apart from the animation, there are plenty of interesting elements to the story as well. It's based on stories from the Arabian Nights, but the major character of the witch, who first seems like a foe but turns out to be the implacable enemy of the sorcerer who has stolen away hero Achmed's sister (the daughter of the Caliph) seems a little unusual in the medieval context. At any rate it's interesting that the crux of the story pivots around her, and that Achmed's love, the rule of Wak Wak, seems a bit pale as a heroine in comparison. If the film has a flaw really it's that it's a bit too short and fast-paced but I can't really fault it greatly for that.

Ralph Bakshi, American Precedent-Setter, Sorta

Fritz the Cat (1972) (re-watch)
Heavy Traffic (1973)
Wizards (1977) (re-watch)
The Lord of the Rings (1978)

Here's what I wrote about Bakshi in a thread a couple of years ago:

He was kind of a name when I was growing up and I remember seeing posters of the films, and probably reading about it in geeky places like Starlog - Americans of a certain age will remember - and for many years I always felt good seeing his name or an ad or a shot from one of his films; he was the nly "adult" animator visible on the American scene making moving in the 70s-80s, and I was a comic book & fantasy geek too so stuff like Fire and Ice, Wizards and his LOTR film were right up my alley.

Except they really weren't and they mostly suck. I guess I like F&I the most because of it's designs and it's reasonably well-directed, but even that isn't much beyond passable. I still remember how much I hated Cool World back in 92...


And I wrote some more in reply to Onderhond early in this thread. And now having seen and re-seen some more I can say...

Meh. The guy was doing something different, sure - he really was the only guy doing adult-oriented animation in the USA in the 70s-80s, at least the only one who was doing it in films that got major theatrical distribution. So he deserves credit for plowing this lonely road, it must have been difficult - and he stopped making films after the disaster that was Cool World in 1992 when he was only in his 40s; I guess he's spent his time painting since then. But his films weren't big hits - some, like Fritz and LOTR, were definitely successful, but they weren't monsters, and there just wasn't a big enough market for this kind of stuff in the USA either to give his career enough legs to keep him going, or to generate many newer animators to follow in his footsteps. And in 1989 The Little Mermaid came along, rejuvenated Disney, and we all know the rest. Adult animation continues to be a real rarity - almost a fool's game in this country (in the cinema - TV is a different matter to some extent).

Bakshi's films divide into two basic categories "street" films about generally working-class people (or anthropomorphic animal-people) trying to get by, fucking, doing drugs, and maybe occasionally drawing or playing music; and fantasies of the heroic-epic type. Cool World is an exception, sort of, if I'm remembering correctly - but was clearly modeled on the success of Roger Rabbit - and I haven't seen Hey Good Lookin' and probably won't bother this month - someday, for completion's sake, maybe. I can't say I like one category more or less than the other - I think he's equally suited, or un-suited as the case may be, to both basic genre-types. His main problem to my mind is that his characters are so often irritating and uninteresting, and they often seem to communicate his own obvious arrogance and ego (watch most interviews with him and you'll see what I mean). I always feel like I'm subtly being told I'm not cool enough when I'm watching a Bakshi film, because I don't think smoking dope or fucking every woman available or whatever is just cool all by itself. Maybe he's just a poor storyteller, and doesn't give his characters anything to do - or shows them doing it in ways that don't make sense or don't engender any interest in me. Maybe he's a beatnik who never grew up.

Fritz I'd have to say on this re-watch is definitely the best of the bunch. It's got a certain verve to it, great music (most of his contemporary-set films have pretty cool music), and it's not rotoscoped - it's traditional animation, perhaps primitive at times but having a cartoony feel as opposed to the odd mishmash of live-action-tracing that characterizes a lot of the later films. I love the dingy backgrounds, the feel of it is closer to the New York I first saw in 1982 than most live-action films of the 70s, and the longueurs of the story don't seem to matter much. Also I like Robert Crumb's art a lot, and while I suspect Bakshi doesn't get the particular cynical-romantic feel of Crumb right (been a long time since I've actually read any early Crumb), he does get the look down pretty well.

Heavy Traffic has a bit of an autobiographical text to it - the main character is a cartoonist in a low-rent New York neighborhood and is half-Jewish - but goes off in some surreal directions and deals a lot with race (he ends up going out with a black woman) and violence (there are mob elements throughout); it also has several live-action inserts and like Fritz uses real New York backgrounds, sometimes drawn-over and sometimes as photos. This is the part of Bakshi's style that usually doesn't work for me - this mixing of "real" backgrounds and animated foregrounds - though it's mostly OK in Fritz. Here it all just felt like a mishmash to me; to be fair I watched this fairly tired and I do feel like it could improve on reflection and another viewing - someday. Maybe.

Wizards just sucked, pretty much. The main problem for me - and I suspect a lot of people won't have this issue - is that the characters all talk like 70s Brooklyn residents, while the film is supposed to take place millions of years into a post-apocalyptic future, a sort of science-fantasy world. The dialogue just takes me right out of the story, which would be OK if it were meant to be a satire or comic, but it feels more like an attempt at an epic and it fails on every level, including the fact that the "quest" to destroy the Evil Wizard doesn't really get underway until about halfway through the 80-minute film. The Good Wizard - brother of the Evil Wizard and thousands of years old - sounds like Columbo and the fact that it all comes down to bad guys imitating Nazis is just lame. I will say that this is interesting for fans of fantasy in American comics - one of the artists who worked on it is Mike Ploog, who created his own comic series for Marvel Comics called "Weirdworld" right around this time - it only comprised two stories over four issues of a couple of different comics, but the art and characters designs have a striking similarity to parts of Wizards. Wendy and Richard Pini's independent comic "Elfquest" which began publication around the same time also has some visual similarities. Also, this marks Mark Hamill's film debut doing a couple of brief voice parts. The back story's more interesting than the film...

The Lord of the Rings is probably up to a 3rd viewing - don't ask me why. Maybe the last now. I don't think I saw it when it came out - I was either actually reading the novel for the first time then, or had just read it. The film did get quite wide distribution so I'd imagine it played here, so I'm not sure why I didn't see it then - but I did see it sometime in the 80s or 90s, and another time around, I dunno, 2005-7 or so. Glutton for punishment. Here we have the main characters all fully rotoscoped, so their movements and such look more "realistic", but to me that almost never actually means they look good - realistic fighting or dancing or singing with simplistic animated features just doesn't work for me - give me all-cartoony or all-live-action please. And the "background" characters are often rendered in a technique called "solarizing" (I learned that from the making-of doc on the dvd) where they take live action footage and sort of "burn" it. It doesn't necessarily look awful on it's own though it wouldn't be a preference for me - but when you combine it with the rotoscoped main characters, it just looks really weird and unattractive.

On the other hand, the voice work is pretty solid - acting has been a strong point in every LOTR or Hobbit adaptation I've seen (or heard - the 1981 BBC radio version of LOTR is quite stunning) and this is no exception. John Hurt seems like a weird choice for Aragorn until you hear him for a couple of minutes; Peter Woodthorpe voices Gollum for the first time (he repeated in the BBC radio version) and he gives Andy Serkis a run for his money. Michael Scholes' Sam is the only real disappointment - he takes the "yes sir, right with you sir, I'll lay down me life for you sir" business a mite too far - and the way he's animated with the missing teeth and ugly mug reminds me too much of Shane MacGowan. The backgrounds are fairly well done and the pacing is, well, decent I guess given that they're cramming 50 pages of material into every 5 minutes or so. And as mediocre as it all ends up being, I still wish Bakshi had managed to make the sequel - the Rankin/Bass TV version of The Return of the King is just an embarrassment, and that's coming from somebody who actually likes R/B most of the time, including their Hobbit.

Mystery in Mexico (Robert Wise, 1948)

Like Tokyo File 212 above, this is another early example of the American studios trying to expand the reach of American films, shooting locations, etc, in the days before the international box office became the big thing. I'm sure it was of at least some value to RKO to develop some potential Mexican audiences, and of course in the postwar years there were also lots of Mexican actors and other talent who were actually welcomed in Hollywood - we sure have gone backwards in some respects. Anyway this is a solid film on the whole but it does have one significant problem, which is that it can't quite decide whether it's a tough little noir (the opening shots - a safe - a gun - shots - lights out - a man running down a lonely night-times street - more shots - are absolutely pure noir perfection) or a light wisecracking romantic comedy, as insurance investigator William Lundigan gets involved with the sister (Jacqueline White) of the man he's tracking, who may have robbed that safe in the first scene. There are some other really good little sequences and the ending isn't bad, if very quick, but it's the expert low-key direction, the ace cinematography by Jack Draper (who spent nearly his whole career in Mexico, working with Buñuel and Gavaldón among others), and the excellent use of Mexico City locations that make this worthwhile. I should also note that a fair chunk of this is in unsubbed Spanish (nothing that makes the plot challenging in any way though) and that several of the secondary cast were fluent Spanish-speaking Americans. Those were the days...

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Gary Trousdale/Kirk Wise, 1996)

After disliking the 3 previous Disney feature animations (Aladdin, The Lion KIng, Pocahontas), I gave up on bothering with the studio's new films - or at least gave up being a completist; I did see Tarzan new because I'm a Tarzan/ERB fan and I've seen a few of the others since because they looked interesting. But Disney lost it's specialness for me in the early 90s and at this point I don't think it will ever come back, and catching up to some of the films I "missed" on video hasn't been helping.

This one is - as I suspected it would be - particularly terrible. Oh the animation is all right - I will always like Disney's polished, very fluid, often highly detailed style; Tony Jay does some good voice work as the evil Frollo, sounding so much like George Sanders at times that I wondered if there was a resurrection involved here; and the storytelling is...OK. But like Pocahontas this is taking a tragic story - albeit a made-up one, and so certainly not offensive in the way the earlier film is - and turning it into a typically positive, let's-all-love-each-other cartoon where the bad guy gets his and everybody's happy at the end. Not having read the book I can't really get into the details, but I certainly know the story a bit from previous film versions, and even if I didn't I suspect I'd feel something is really askew here - it just doesn't feel like it's heading towards the kind of ending it gets, the darkness feels to great to be overcome in this simplistic fashion. And of course, like all Disney films starting with Aladdin, the dialogue and jokes and songs all feel wholly contemporary, and there isn't an ounce of feeling for the period. Not that I would expect characters to be speaking in early-Renaissance French or anything; after all Victor Hugo's novel was written in the contemporary language of the 19th century so a little updating is to be expected; but Disney habitually goes too far and places you firmly in the here and now - where such a story of course doesn't make any sense. It's a schism in their storytelling technique that I just can't tolerate, which is probably why the later films that I have liked at all (i.e. Zootopia) haven't been period pieces.

None of the songs are particularly memorable - even the ballad "Out There" is just meh - I'm usually a fan of the Disney ballads but this one I wasn't humming even 5 minutes later in my head. The voice work apart from Jay is all right but nothing special; and the gargoyles are just fucking stupid. Once again, we have to stick to the formula, don't we? Fuck this shit.

Dom na Trubnoy / The House on Trubnaya Square (Boris Barnet, 1928)

And odd film with a lot going on in a fairly short running time. First we're introduced to a several-story house and many inhabitants who always seem to be feuding and getting in the way of each other, particularly over the stairway where a couple of men split logs in defiance of the rules, and the staircase seems on the verge of collapse. Then while we're still getting an idea of these people, the scene shifts to tell the story of Parasha, a young woman who has come to the big city (Moscow) with her goose from the countryside to find her uncle - who meantime has missed her on the train and returned home. Parasha gets a job for an uppity and pretentious barber and his wife in the apartment building, and things go rapidly downhill until there is unexpected news which might turn her life and the whole building's around...

This had a bit too much going on in too short a time for it all to make much sense - I get that it's sort of a screwball comedy, but other than Parasha and her hairdresser boss the characters just didn't resonate and this made the propaganda pro-Soviet elements a bit less meaningful; still it's quite lively and visually inventive (the beginning staircase sequence is quite marvelous) and frequently pretty amusing. So overall, pretty swell, if not even close to Barnet's best work.

Flåklypa Grand Prix / Pinchcliffe Grand Prix (Ivo Caprino, 1975)

Or, a tribute to the power of the IMDb lists. Have to admit I probably got around to this sooner rather than later because it was on a whole bunch of lists - while I'm hardly an animation expert or anything, I have seen a good chunk of the most-famous and most-listed features, but for whatever reason never got to this one until now. So are all the IMDb voters right...?

Well...not really. It's not bad, in fact I rather liked it - I love stop motion animation as a rule if it's done at all well, and Caprino was surely one of the masters. Cinematically this is pretty brilliant, with really great use of perspective and several sizes of models contributing to make it feel pretty "real" at times despite it obviously being all animation; yes, there are plenty of newer films that do this better digitally, but Caprino and his small team really manage as well as anybody from the last century at creating the illusion of reality. Nick Park is the only person I can think of in the same ballpark.

Unfortunately the story just didn't do a lot for me at all, and it's a pretty repetitive and long-winded film for what it is; the fact that we don't even get to the big race until the last 15 minutes or so and there's very little real "action" before it is a problem. There's only so much patience I have for the cutesy animals and all the little Rube Goldberg-esque inventions that we see. It's ultimately a film to marvel at how it was made, to salute for it's craftsmanship, but not - for me - one to enjoy a great deal beyond that.

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#16

Post by prodigalgodson » September 20th, 2020, 9:16 pm

sol wrote:
September 17th, 2020, 3:20 pm
Yep, Solaris seems to be one of those films in which every scene, shot and moment has a distinct purpose, if not always one obvious at first. It was a real breathtaking experience watching this again as always; it is also the only film that I can think of in recent memory that I wanted to start watching again as soon as it ended. Just so many great mysteries to all the mythology in the film, and so much to unpack as a film about the memory process and how we act/react as human beings.

I wasn't as involved with Come and See the second time either (though I definitely found it quite harrowing still). Interesting comment about the makeup wrinkles. I thought they were incredibly realistic and if I recall correctly, his face slowly progresses in how wrinkled it gets.

Yours:

Back and Forth is an excellent film, borderline 10/10, but you can't really give Hollis Frampton all the credit for it since it was directed by Michael Snow. As per all of Snow's films, Back and Forth works best due to its playfulness as Snow plays around with our perceptions and expectations, often lulling us into a false sense of comfort before something unexpected happens. And yes, the ending is certainly transcental.

Drive was a disappointment for me too, but I love Refn in general. He uses neon so, so well. The Neon Demon and Bronson are my favourites from him. Pusher II is pretty good too, but the first Pusher is a lot harder to sit through first.
What's your take on the driving scene in Solaris? I figure it's something like to show how artificial and otherworldly the earth has become and set up the appeal of Solaris' own brand of artifice, but I feel like that sequence gets a lot of flack with regards to purpose. You're kind of making me want to watch Solaris again haha. I've been so interested in the formal aspects of film lately, and while I maintain it's a letdown in that regard maybe I should approach it more as a fan of sci-fi and psychology. Well, I'm sure I'll keep revisiting Tarkovsky's work throughout my life.

Haha, yeah it's not a bad example but aging makeup has always been a pet peeve of mine, from Citizen Kane to Star Trek.

Ah yeah, thanks for the correction on Snow. There were times watching it I considered giving it a 9 or 10, but it doesn't linger with me as much as my personal favorite La region centrale.

I was a big Refn fan, but with the last few things I've seen from him, I wonder if I still am. I'd agree he gets some gorgeous imagery, but I also find him to be a very superficially-oriented filmmaker. Valhalla Rise was the first I saw from him, and still my favorite, with Bronson and Only God Forgives not far behind.

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#17

Post by Good_Will_Harding » September 22nd, 2020, 12:26 am

OldAle1 wrote:
September 20th, 2020, 8:28 pm
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Gary Trousdale/Kirk Wise, 1996)

After disliking the 3 previous Disney feature animations (Aladdin, The Lion KIng, Pocahontas), I gave up on bothering with the studio's new films - or at least gave up being a completist; I did see Tarzan new because I'm a Tarzan/ERB fan and I've seen a few of the others since because they looked interesting. But Disney lost it's specialness for me in the early 90s and at this point I don't think it will ever come back, and catching up to some of the films I "missed" on video hasn't been helping.

This one is - as I suspected it would be - particularly terrible. Oh the animation is all right - I will always like Disney's polished, very fluid, often highly detailed style; Tony Jay does some good voice work as the evil Frollo, sounding so much like George Sanders at times that I wondered if there was a resurrection involved here; and the storytelling is...OK. But like Pocahontas this is taking a tragic story - albeit a made-up one, and so certainly not offensive in the way the earlier film is - and turning it into a typically positive, let's-all-love-each-other cartoon where the bad guy gets his and everybody's happy at the end. Not having read the book I can't really get into the details, but I certainly know the story a bit from previous film versions, and even if I didn't I suspect I'd feel something is really askew here - it just doesn't feel like it's heading towards the kind of ending it gets, the darkness feels to great to be overcome in this simplistic fashion. And of course, like all Disney films starting with Aladdin, the dialogue and jokes and songs all feel wholly contemporary, and there isn't an ounce of feeling for the period. Not that I would expect characters to be speaking in early-Renaissance French or anything; after all Victor Hugo's novel was written in the contemporary language of the 19th century so a little updating is to be expected; but Disney habitually goes too far and places you firmly in the here and now - where such a story of course doesn't make any sense. It's a schism in their storytelling technique that I just can't tolerate, which is probably why the later films that I have liked at all (i.e. Zootopia) haven't been period pieces.

None of the songs are particularly memorable - even the ballad "Out There" is just meh - I'm usually a fan of the Disney ballads but this one I wasn't humming even 5 minutes later in my head. The voice work apart from Jay is all right but nothing special; and the gargoyles are just fucking stupid. Once again, we have to stick to the formula, don't we? Fuck this shit.
Time for me to break my COVID-long silence on this forum (not entirely intentional BTW - just burnt out/haven't been watching as much lately/don't have much to say) to tell you the following in response to your assessment of the soundtrack for Hunchback:

Image

In all seriousness, I cannot disagree one bit about the "Disneyfication" of the original novel (which I've read - and your assessment of the looseness of the film's translation of the story is definitely accurate; virtually every central character is dead by the conclusion, for instance) and the tonal shifts from the heavier passages to the more comedic moments are some of the most jarring in the modern Disney era. But I would absolutely praise the majority of the soundtrack for being some of the most immensely effective and grandiose from any of Disney's output in the past few decades. I'd personally rank "The Bells of Notre Dame", "God Help the Outcasts", and especially "Hellfire" among my favorite Disney musical moments... ever, I think. But I'd be lying if I said the lighter side of the soundtrack didn't dilute the film's overall impact. Damn gargoyles... :angry:

If you have the time or interest, this is a pretty well done video that charts the evolution of Hugo's Hunchback story from before it had even been written all the way to the recent Broadway musical adaptation of the Disney film. Definitely worth a watch if you can manage to waste anymore brain space on this flick ;)


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#18

Post by OldAle1 » September 22nd, 2020, 1:02 am

Good_Will_Harding wrote:
September 22nd, 2020, 12:26 am
OldAle1 wrote:
September 20th, 2020, 8:28 pm
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Gary Trousdale/Kirk Wise, 1996)

After disliking the 3 previous Disney feature animations (Aladdin, The Lion KIng, Pocahontas), I gave up on bothering with the studio's new films - or at least gave up being a completist; I did see Tarzan new because I'm a Tarzan/ERB fan and I've seen a few of the others since because they looked interesting. But Disney lost it's specialness for me in the early 90s and at this point I don't think it will ever come back, and catching up to some of the films I "missed" on video hasn't been helping.

This one is - as I suspected it would be - particularly terrible. Oh the animation is all right - I will always like Disney's polished, very fluid, often highly detailed style; Tony Jay does some good voice work as the evil Frollo, sounding so much like George Sanders at times that I wondered if there was a resurrection involved here; and the storytelling is...OK. But like Pocahontas this is taking a tragic story - albeit a made-up one, and so certainly not offensive in the way the earlier film is - and turning it into a typically positive, let's-all-love-each-other cartoon where the bad guy gets his and everybody's happy at the end. Not having read the book I can't really get into the details, but I certainly know the story a bit from previous film versions, and even if I didn't I suspect I'd feel something is really askew here - it just doesn't feel like it's heading towards the kind of ending it gets, the darkness feels to great to be overcome in this simplistic fashion. And of course, like all Disney films starting with Aladdin, the dialogue and jokes and songs all feel wholly contemporary, and there isn't an ounce of feeling for the period. Not that I would expect characters to be speaking in early-Renaissance French or anything; after all Victor Hugo's novel was written in the contemporary language of the 19th century so a little updating is to be expected; but Disney habitually goes too far and places you firmly in the here and now - where such a story of course doesn't make any sense. It's a schism in their storytelling technique that I just can't tolerate, which is probably why the later films that I have liked at all (i.e. Zootopia) haven't been period pieces.

None of the songs are particularly memorable - even the ballad "Out There" is just meh - I'm usually a fan of the Disney ballads but this one I wasn't humming even 5 minutes later in my head. The voice work apart from Jay is all right but nothing special; and the gargoyles are just fucking stupid. Once again, we have to stick to the formula, don't we? Fuck this shit.
Time for me to break my COVID-long silence on this forum (not entirely intentional BTW - just burnt out/haven't been watching as much lately/don't have much to say) to tell you the following in response to your assessment of the soundtrack for Hunchback:

Image

In all seriousness, I cannot disagree one bit about the "Disneyfication" of the original novel (which I've read - and your assessment of the looseness of the film's translation of the story is definitely accurate; virtually every central character is dead by the conclusion, for instance) and the tonal shifts from the heavier passages to the more comedic moments are some of the most jarring in the modern Disney era. But I would absolutely praise the majority of the soundtrack for being some of the most immensely effective and grandiose from any of Disney's output in the past few decades. I'd personally rank "The Bells of Notre Dame", "God Help the Outcasts", and especially "Hellfire" among my favorite Disney musical moments... ever, I think. But I'd be lying if I said the lighter side of the soundtrack didn't dilute the film's overall impact. Damn gargoyles... :angry:

If you have the time or interest, this is a pretty well done video that charts the evolution of Hugo's Hunchback story from before it had even been written all the way to the recent Broadway musical adaptation of the Disney film. Definitely worth a watch if you can manage to waste anymore brain space on this flick ;)

Thanks for all that. In fairness, I was so irritated with the film generally that it's entirely possible I'm trashing the music too harshly - well, actually I didn't trash it, just called it boring. One of my (many) faults as a viewer/reviewer is in sometimes not being able to isolate the good parts of bad films - or the bad parts of good films. I tend to view films very holistically as a general rule and this is particularly true towards either end of the scale. Maybe if I heard that music completely separate from the film I'd have a slightly more positive feeling - and I do generally like the music in even the films I dislike from this period, or at least I typically find it "pleasant', something like that.

I'll watch that video within the next day or two and let ya know.

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#19

Post by Good_Will_Harding » Yesterday, 12:55 am

OldAle1 wrote:
September 22nd, 2020, 1:02 am
Good_Will_Harding wrote:
September 22nd, 2020, 12:26 am
OldAle1 wrote:
September 20th, 2020, 8:28 pm
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Gary Trousdale/Kirk Wise, 1996)

After disliking the 3 previous Disney feature animations (Aladdin, The Lion KIng, Pocahontas), I gave up on bothering with the studio's new films - or at least gave up being a completist; I did see Tarzan new because I'm a Tarzan/ERB fan and I've seen a few of the others since because they looked interesting. But Disney lost it's specialness for me in the early 90s and at this point I don't think it will ever come back, and catching up to some of the films I "missed" on video hasn't been helping.

This one is - as I suspected it would be - particularly terrible. Oh the animation is all right - I will always like Disney's polished, very fluid, often highly detailed style; Tony Jay does some good voice work as the evil Frollo, sounding so much like George Sanders at times that I wondered if there was a resurrection involved here; and the storytelling is...OK. But like Pocahontas this is taking a tragic story - albeit a made-up one, and so certainly not offensive in the way the earlier film is - and turning it into a typically positive, let's-all-love-each-other cartoon where the bad guy gets his and everybody's happy at the end. Not having read the book I can't really get into the details, but I certainly know the story a bit from previous film versions, and even if I didn't I suspect I'd feel something is really askew here - it just doesn't feel like it's heading towards the kind of ending it gets, the darkness feels to great to be overcome in this simplistic fashion. And of course, like all Disney films starting with Aladdin, the dialogue and jokes and songs all feel wholly contemporary, and there isn't an ounce of feeling for the period. Not that I would expect characters to be speaking in early-Renaissance French or anything; after all Victor Hugo's novel was written in the contemporary language of the 19th century so a little updating is to be expected; but Disney habitually goes too far and places you firmly in the here and now - where such a story of course doesn't make any sense. It's a schism in their storytelling technique that I just can't tolerate, which is probably why the later films that I have liked at all (i.e. Zootopia) haven't been period pieces.

None of the songs are particularly memorable - even the ballad "Out There" is just meh - I'm usually a fan of the Disney ballads but this one I wasn't humming even 5 minutes later in my head. The voice work apart from Jay is all right but nothing special; and the gargoyles are just fucking stupid. Once again, we have to stick to the formula, don't we? Fuck this shit.
Time for me to break my COVID-long silence on this forum (not entirely intentional BTW - just burnt out/haven't been watching as much lately/don't have much to say) to tell you the following in response to your assessment of the soundtrack for Hunchback:

Image

In all seriousness, I cannot disagree one bit about the "Disneyfication" of the original novel (which I've read - and your assessment of the looseness of the film's translation of the story is definitely accurate; virtually every central character is dead by the conclusion, for instance) and the tonal shifts from the heavier passages to the more comedic moments are some of the most jarring in the modern Disney era. But I would absolutely praise the majority of the soundtrack for being some of the most immensely effective and grandiose from any of Disney's output in the past few decades. I'd personally rank "The Bells of Notre Dame", "God Help the Outcasts", and especially "Hellfire" among my favorite Disney musical moments... ever, I think. But I'd be lying if I said the lighter side of the soundtrack didn't dilute the film's overall impact. Damn gargoyles... :angry:

If you have the time or interest, this is a pretty well done video that charts the evolution of Hugo's Hunchback story from before it had even been written all the way to the recent Broadway musical adaptation of the Disney film. Definitely worth a watch if you can manage to waste anymore brain space on this flick ;)

Thanks for all that. In fairness, I was so irritated with the film generally that it's entirely possible I'm trashing the music too harshly - well, actually I didn't trash it, just called it boring. One of my (many) faults as a viewer/reviewer is in sometimes not being able to isolate the good parts of bad films - or the bad parts of good films. I tend to view films very holistically as a general rule and this is particularly true towards either end of the scale. Maybe if I heard that music completely separate from the film I'd have a slightly more positive feeling - and I do generally like the music in even the films I dislike from this period, or at least I typically find it "pleasant', something like that.

I'll watch that video within the next day or two and let ya know.
Heh, thanks for humoring my retort, since I'm sure you weren't' expecting to have to further discuss your opinion on this largely forgotten 20+ year old Disney animation. I was really just using this as a springboard to try and get back into posting more regularly once again - but I still stand by everything I said. ;) Guess I'm just starved for filmic discussions, since there aren't that many current releases around to prompt consistent back-and-forth's as there were this time last year. Unless you or I are feeling brave enough to venture back into a theater for the new Nolan joint - doubtful if any of the regulars here would be comfortable going back to the theater (myself included), if I had to venture a guess... :whistling: Thank goodness for drive-in's!

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#20

Post by prodigalgodson » Yesterday, 3:21 am

Great to see you back Will! :cheers:

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#21

Post by Good_Will_Harding » Yesterday, 8:44 pm

Thanks! :cheers: Good to be back... well, "back". I never technically logged off and have been lurking for months now without posting, but figured it was time to dive back in.

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