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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 6, 2020

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sol
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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 6, 2020

#1

Post by sol » February 9th, 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

Lady for a Day (1933). Reduced to selling apples on the streets during the Great Depression but too proud to tell her overseas daughter, an old woman enlists the help of her local community to make her a lady for a day (actually, more like a week) in this early piece of Capracorn. May Robson is well cast as the proud mother in question, making quite a transformation from rugged street vendor to posh society lady, however, as the film wears on, she becomes more and more of a supporting character with focus instead turning to the gangster who leads the ruse. Warren William is okay in the role, but a lot less interesting to watch than Robson. The dramatic side of the film also feels overplayed at the expense of possible laughs from the ruse going awry. The whole thing is rather nice and very watchable, but it never feels as dynamic as it could have been. (first viewing, online) ★★

Change of Mind (1969). Along similar lines to Watermelon Man, a Caucasian district attorney faces uncomfortably different treatment when his brain is transplanted into the body an African American in this indie drama. The film is a bit different to Watermelon Man since the DA is not racist and does not try to change back, which gives greater focus to how everyone reacts based on the colour of his skin; "how can you look so different without being different?" his mother questions. The film is well photographed too with a haunting shot of his outstretched arms when his wife refuses to embrace him early on, and some nifty POV shots as he adjusts to the new body. Alas, the final third of the film is nowhere near as strong as the build-up with the proceedings soon descending into standard courtroom drama territory, but this is intriguing for sure. (first viewing, online) ★★

Watermelon Man (1970). Waking up one morning to discover that he has somehow become African American, a racist insurance salesman struggles to cope in this comedy from Melvin Van Peebles. It is a very funny film, playing on both negative and positive racial stereotypes (checking in his pants to see if he is more well endowed) and full of amusing quips ("I'm Spanish!") but the movie also comes with a lot of topical anger just beneath the surface with its protagonist differently treated based on the colour of his skin. At close to 100 minutes, the film runs a tad long, dwelling a bit too much on him trying to become white again and not quite enough on him embracing the new identity. The whiteface makeup in the early scenes is also unconvincing. This is solid stuff though despite any shortcomings with its acute look at a personal identity crisis. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Def by Temptation (1990). Two African American friends team up to take down a succubus who is seducing and killing the young men in their city in this Troma horror movie. Photographed by Ernest R. Dickerson (aka Spike Lee's right arm), the film often looks great, full of eerily lit fog and with lots of pronounced red and blue hues throughout. The first appearance of the succubus in a church flashback is pretty spooky too. As a narrative though, this is a poorly paced affair with lots of lulls in the action as the characters sit around and yap for minutes on end. The characters are never particularly interesting either to the point that it is hard to care whether or not the succubus succeeds in getting them to cave into temptation. There is arguably a good film in here somewhere, but the project is never quite as enticing to view as it is sumptuous to look at. (first viewing, online) ★

House Party (1990). Grounded but intent on attending a hip party, a teenager has to avoid both his father and arch nemesis finding him in this comedy that launched Kid 'n Play's brief film career. Having risen to fame as a rap music duo, the best scenes here are the ones in which Kid 'n Play rap in a manner that constantly feels spontaneous and real, and their rap battle is a true highlight. Outside of the music though, this is average at best. It often feels like the movie is trying to be a crazy all-night comedy a la Thom Eberhardt's The Night Before, but nothing that insane happens, while the father and bully's search for him seems to randomly come and go with lots of romancing and dancing in between. The film ends well with an amusing rap by his father over the end credits, but Class Act with Kid 'n Play is much more consistently fun and funny. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

House Party 2 (1991). Now in college, ridiculous circumstances lead to the protagonists of House Party once again having to throw a party on the sly, this time a pajama-themed fundraising event in this inevitable sequel to the cult comedy. The titular party oddly does not even occur until the final third of the movie as the filmmakers try to throw tiresome messages about true love and the benefits of studying in the mix. The first two thirds benefit from some great supporting performances though - most notably rapper Kamron as a jive-talking Caucasian roommate, William Schallert as a sympathetic dean and Iman as a chief antagonist. A young Queen Latifah appears too but has little to do. Either way, the first two thirds are certainly quite tolerable, especially compared to the messy chase shenanigans of the final third when the party goes off the rocks. (first viewing, DVD) ★

Grand Canyon (1991). Amidst freak accidents and near death experiences, several Los Angeles residents question the meaning of life in a world that no longer makes sense to them in this meditative movie. Covering more than half a dozen main characters, the film sometimes feels choppy as it cuts and changes between intertwining story threads, but there are many memorable moments. Danny Glover and Kevin Kline's first scene together is remarkably intense; same goes for Steve Martin's encounter and Mary McDonnell's discovery. Ultimately, Grand Canyon sits a bit on the fence with regards to whether there is a bigger meaning behind everything or whether the characters are making more of all the coincidences and whatnot, but this is highly engaging stuff with a couple of spectacular astral projection dream/nightmare scenes for good measure. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Hyenas (1992). Adapted from the same play as the powerful Ingrid Bergman/Anthony Quinn film The Visit, this is a hard film to view without making comparisons and contrasts. It is certainly curious to see the material taken to an African setting with some real zany elements (she hires a Ferris wheel for the desert town!) serving to further highlight the power of money to influence and manipulate. The film lacks the Kafkaesque paranoia of The Visit though, which had Anthony Quinn roaming darkened streets and scared that somebody was out to get him. We do, however, get some sense of the male protagonist's anxiety here as he notices his friends smoking Cuban cigars and wearing boots possibly gained via bribe. Ami Diakhate also plays the female protagonist as more down-to-earth than Bergman's deliberately larger-than-life turn in The Visit. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Poetic Justice (1993). Reluctant to ride together but encouraged to tag along by their mutual friends, romance gradually blossoms between two twentysomething African Americans in this road movie from John Singleton. The hate-to-love character trajectory is pretty obvious and predictable and there is a lot of repetitive shouting and arguing to sit through before the film rather abruptly ends. The performances are really spot-on though, with both Tupac Shakur and Janet Jackson providing very three dimensional turns. The film also has a nifty opening that parodies Woody Allen's Manhattan, while an interrupted family barbecue along the way is a real highlight. Jackson's character comes up with some great poetry too, as per the title, though this is sadly often sidelined for the central romance (and tension between their mutual friends) to develop. (first viewing, online) ★★

Pootie Tang (2001). Capable of dodging bullets and using his belt as a whip, an African American celebrity faces off with an evil fast food company that wants to use his likeness to sell fattening food to kids in this madcap tribute to the blaxploitation movies of the 1970s. The film is full of energetic performances, deliberately garish colours and kooky scene transitions, and it is initially engaging with how absolutely WTF it is, the title character whacking others with his belt and so on. The premise tires quite quickly though and fun as Robert Vaughn is as the chief villain, neither him nor his evil company are developed beyond plot function, and even at less than 80 minutes, this feels very long. Chris Rock is also uncannily cast as the three different characters yet acts the same way for each, but Lance Crouther is certainly amusing as our not easily fazed hero. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

The Blind Side (2009). Based on the true story of a privileged woman who caused a stir by adopting a homeless African American teen while helping him pursue a sporting career, this is less cloying and sentimental than it sounds. For all the accolades that Sandra Bullock received, it is Quinton Aaron with his sad and expressive eyes who really makes the film work and the project is at its best when focused on him. Bullock's family is actually rather lifeless with how warm and inviting they are with a nary a reservation. The film almost hits some curious ground with a brief suggestion that the family has an ulterior motive, but they are ultimately far less complex than that. Bits and pieces of the movie are almost unavoidably heartwarming, but with some very heavy-handed symbolism (Ferdinand the Bull?), the film only resonates to a limited degree. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★

The Fish Child (2009). Madly in love with her family's Paraguayan maid, a privileged Argentine teenager's plans to run away with her become complicated by a number of unforeseen factors in this lesbian love story from XXY director Lucía Puenzo. Once again Inés Efron stars under Puenzo's direction and delivers well as the disillusioned teen, while Mariela Vitale is fine as a maid. The story is never especially engaging though, or at least not in the way that it is delivered here in a deliberately non-linear and fragmented fashion with Efron's memories and the present day timeline of the film blurred. Bits and pieces of the movie certainly stick out with Efron having several great moments as she discovers secrets in Vitale's past and has trouble reconciling them, but all passion between the pair is really stunted by the disorientating non-linear narrative. (first viewing, online) ★

Body/Ciało (2015). A widower progresses from concerned to curious about his anorexic daughter's new therapist who claims that she can communicate with the dead in this drama about grief and loss from Poland. It is hard to pinpoint what exactly writer-director Malgorzata Szumowska is trying to say with the movie, but it is seldom boring to watch even if the subplots - which include a young womsn who killed her newborn child in a public toilet and a spooky séance - are a lot more intriguing than the central trio interacting with one another. The performances are very spot-on, with props to a noticeably exhausted Janusz Gajos in particular, driven to the point of questioning whether the therapist could really be a genuine medium. The final scene caps things off very well too. It is an uneven ride getting there, but the film leaves a decent impression overall. (first viewing, online) ★★

Keanu (2016). Posing as gangsters in a reckless attempt to retrieve their stolen kitten, two well-mannered cousins get more than they bargained for in this action comedy starring Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. As in their skit show, the chemistry between the duo is gold and Key is especially funny with his gangster personality a complete turnaround for his posh and polite character. Things never quite feel as a madcap as they had the potential to be and the well-trained kitten receives precious little screen time, but there are many amusing moments along the way, including wacky cameos from Anna Faris, Luis Guzmán and the voice of Keanu Reeves. There is also a fun (if brief) spoof of The Shining and Key having a thing for George Michael's music leads to some great bits, including a subversion of his "Faith" video clip. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★★

Little Women (2019). Forced to compromise on a semiautobiographical novel in order to get it published, a young female author reflects on her sisters who inspired the book in this acclaimed costume drama. The four sisters are well cast and all credibly act like real siblings; their interactions are, however, hindered a bit by the unusual narrative structure of the movie, which keeps jumping back and forth in time with little to distinguish which timeline is which (the actresses all look the same, save for one haircut). The film also dedicates an inordinate amount of time to the sisters finding romance for a movie that proposes to be about women also having minds and souls. All of the authorship stuff is pretty compelling though with shades of Adaptation. as our heroine rewrites her own life, and it is hard not to wish that this was the focus of the film instead. (first viewing, cinema) ★★

Marriage Story (2019). Inspired by his own experiences, this movie about a messy divorce from Noah Baumbach constantly feels authentic and real. The solid performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are a large reason why the film works, both using the subtlest of facial inflections to convey volumes in their non-dialogue scenes, mostly notably when they listen to their lawyers argue their case. There are a lot of great, small directional touches too though, such as Driver glancing at a clock while his costly lawyer tells a joke and the tension when Driver arrives unaware that he is about to be served with divorce papers. The film is a tad one-sided with Driver often painted as bending over backwards and never wanting the divorce, but Johansson gets a handful of strong moments in which she is allowed to her express her side of the story. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

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Stigma (1972). Already unwelcome, the new African American doctor of a bigoted coastal town has trouble convincing the community that there is an infectious outbreak of syphilis in this racially charged thriller. The film has some potent moments as the doctor confronts racism head-on and his physical examination of the first infected patient is shown in painstaking detail. As the movie wears on though, it starts to feel like an educational scare film on the subject; we are shown an entire didactic documentary on the subject, while the protagonist tries (hilariously) to talk on the same level as the local teens ("you cats") while he explains the dangers of venereal disease. There is something intriguing with the suggestion of a conspiracy to cover up the outbreak, but this is mostly a film about racist citizens and their distrust of an African American doctor's opinion. (first viewing, online) ★★

Yeelen (1987). Worried about confronting his father who has been using magic for dishonorable purposes, the son of a sorcerer travels the countryside in search of wisdom and advice in this acclaimed drama from Mali. The landscapes of the large African nation look great, especially with some of the unusual colours at hand. Purple lighting filters are used particularly well to show off grassier areas at twilight and the protagonist's mother praying while seemingly purple water trickles down her face looks gorgeous. As a narrative though, the film is unfortunately less interesting. The whole thing feels random, roundabout and highly episodic and while the eventual, inevitable confrontation with his father is well done with some thoughtfully distributed silences, it is an often tiring journey getting there. The whole father/son tension feels very underdeveloped too. (first viewing, online) ★

Flame (1996). Set during the twilight years of colonial rule in Zimbabwe, this war drama from the African nation follows two young women who join the local freedom fighters when one of their fathers is forcibly detained by the government. The film is quite curious as an insight into the zeitgeist of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) at the time, as well as the training that such guerrilla soldiers underwent. As a narrative though, the project leaves a bit to be desired, mostly coming off as melodramatic with rather bland performances. The movie is also at its most interesting in its post-war scenes as the two women have trouble readjusting to civilian lives, yet this section of the movie is so brief that it feels like an afterthought. There is quite a bit to appreciate here though as an early indigenous narrative from Zimbabwe, and the bazooka scene is at least great. (first viewing, online) ★★

Spud (2010). Less physically developed than his peers, a shy teenager has trouble fitting in at a 1990s boarding school in this coming-of-age comedy from South Africa. The film has some quirky bits and pieces with John Cleese a standout as an alcoholic English teacher who constant talks about "rogering". There is also an intriguing subplot involving a closeted albino student who has a crush on the protagonist but has trouble making a move. Alas, rather than focus on this subplot or the Mandela stuff going on in the backdrop, the film soon narrows its focus to the protagonist choosing between two equally beautiful potential girlfriends who both inexplicably throw themselves at him at every opportunity. Suffice it to say, this is not the most realistic movie under the sun, but some of the dorm high jinks ring true if one can get past the film's absurdly narrow focus. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Peeples (2013). Best described as an African American Meet the Parents, this comedy stars Craig Robinson as a man who drops by unannounced at his girlfriend's parents' summer home with the hope of introducing himself before proposing. As he has trouble winning his potential father-in-law's approval, the film follows a familiar path, and a running gag of his proposal attempts being interrupted tires quickly. The film also misses comedic potential from how intrusive and impolite Robinson actually is with his spontaneity. Robinson is solid in the lead role though, while David Alan Grier is excellent as the father who keeps insisting on being called "Judge", and as per Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, the film is at its best when they play off each other. There are some fun singing bits here, but is chiefly the performances that edge this one notch above average. (first viewing, DVD) ★
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Perception de Ambiguity
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#2

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » February 9th, 2020, 12:23 pm

Des autres terres souples (Pre.monde, l'âme ou la vue cède) (Marc Hurtado, 1976-79/1982) (2 viewings) 7+/10

Le soleil, la mer, le coeur et les étoiles (Marc Hurtado, 1984) 8/10
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L'autre rive (Marc Hurtado, 1986) 8/10
i must be dreaming #52

僕らは歩く、ただそれだけ / Bokura wa aruku, tada soredake (廣木隆一/Ryuichi Hiroki, 2009) 6+/10

Japan: 3 Generations of Avant-Garde Architects (Michael Blackwood, 1989) 5+/10

घाशीराम कोतवाल / Ghashiram Kotwal (K. Hariharan & Saeed Akhtar Mirza & Kamal Swaroop & मणि कौल/Mani Kaul & Mohan Agashe, 1976) 7/10

日本の夜と霧/Night and Fog in Japan (大島渚/Nagisa Oshima, 1960) 8/10
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儀式 / The Ceremony (大島渚/Nagisa Oshima, 1971) 7/10

Je l'ai été 3 fois! / I Was It Three Times (Sacha Guitry, 1952) 6/10

Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie, 2019) 6-/10

Knives Out (Rian Johnson, 2019) 6+/10

Movimentos Perpétuos: Cine-Tributo a Carlos Paredes / Perpetual Movements: A Cine Tribute to Carlos Paredes (Edgar Pêra, 2006) 5/10
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shorts

Arcana (Rainer Kohlberger, 2011) 8/10

Tokyo - Ebisu (Tomonari Nishikawa, 2010) 6/10

Pestilent City (Peter Emmanuel Goldman, 1965) 8-/10

Peter Emmanuel Goldman - 8mm reels /

Moon's Pool (Gunvor Nelson, 1973) 8/10

Western Sunburn (Karl Lemieux, 2007) 5-/10

Angel in the Attic (Lára Martin, 2003) 3-/10

Abraço do Vento (José Miguel Ribeiro, 2005) 3/10

True Detective: Matthew McConaughey Out Takes (2014) 2/10


music videos

Lindemann: Platz Eins (Zoran Bihac, 2020) 7/10


other

Claude Ripoche: Focus On ("Night and Fog in Japan" extra)

"The Ceremony" video introduction


didn't finish

Soy Cuba / I Am Cuba (1964) [44 min]


notable online media

top:
ligeti [by Axxon N.]
Joaquin Phoenix does not care at all
John Frusciante, Flea & Omar - Jam [by Frusciante World] [mostly audio only]
[a bit of Jim Carrey tooting his horn for the "Sonic" machine]
rest:
[various interviews, Q&A's, etc with the Safdies and the "Uncut Gems" cast]
Ein großer Wurf: DER SCHWARZE DIAMANT - Kritik & Analyse zu UNCUT GEMS [audio only]
Joker — What Todd Phillips Was Trying to Say
Lindemann - Allesfresser live in Hannover 2020
The Oscars Were a Mistake – Wisecrack Edition
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LETTERBOXD | MUBI | IMDb | tumblr.

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Cinepolis
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#3

Post by Cinepolis » February 9th, 2020, 1:33 pm

@sol "Hyenas" will be an interesting watch since everyone over here in Germany has to read "The Visit" in school. I'm looking forward to finding out how exactly the African culture combines with this classic play.
Is "Yeelen" really that bad? It wanted to watch it for this challenge.

My watches:

Mueda, Memory and Massacre (1981) - Documenting the yearly reconstruction of a massacre that was carried out by the Portuguese colonist regimes.
La Vie es belle (1987) - Light-hearted comedy lacking anything special to make it stick out from other African comedies.
Allah Tantou (1992) - Very personal documentary about the director's father who was falsely imprisoned by the post-colonialism Guinean government.
X - He's Always Watching (2013) - Found footage movie about the Slenderman. Nothing special, but simple fun if you have 80 minutes to spare.
Sarraounia (1986) - Colonialism epic about French troops invading the land of Queen Sarraounia, who is told to have magical powers.
What Did Jack Do? (2017) - Typical Lynchian weirdness but boring.
Savageland (2015) [Rewatch] - Accidentally rewatched the whole movie. It just shows how captivating it is.
Occult (2009) - Japanese found footage thriller with good acting and an intense build-up. The ending is beyond ridiculous, however.
Dead Horse Nebula (2018) - Started out very promising, continued monotonously and finally left me disappointed.
Noroi: The Curse (2005) - There was an underlying feeling of mystery throughout the whole runtime and the acting is, like usually with Shiraishi productions, quite strong.

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#4

Post by Onderhond » February 9th, 2020, 1:34 pm

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It was an insanely good week, with three new favorites, but two of those reviews are delayed to next week, so the list here looks a little less impressive. Even so, some very good films at the top, with solid new films from Stanley and Yuasa. At the bottom some throwaway nonsense, mostly filler stuff I watched because of the directors involved.


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01. 4.0* - The Animatrix by Various (2003)
A fine collection of Matrix-related short films, dominated by the Studio 4°C efforts. The anthology sports a varied range of art styles, first-class animation and several interesting takes on the Matrix universe. Not all shorts are a hit, but there are plenty of stand-out pieces that make this one a very easy sell.

02. 3.5* - Color Out of Space by Richard Stanley (2019)
Richard Stanley's long awaited return to feature film cinema. As if Stanley himself wasn't cult enough, he joins ranks with Nicolas Cage and takes on a HP Lovecraft story. The result is every bit as crazy as you'd expect it to be, but also a little stuck in the past. There's really a lot of fun to be had here, but it's no masterpiece.

03. 3.5* - Ride Your Wave [Kimi to, Nami ni Noretara] by Masaaki Yuasa (2019)
Slightly fantastical romance that deals with grief. The film is beautifully animated and has its fair share of stand-out moments, but the art style is a little underwhelming and the soundtrack doesn't really help the film forward either. Not quite up to Yuasa's own standards, but even a lesser Yuasa is still worth checking out

04. 3.5* - My Dear Liar [Shou Yi Ren] by Ao Shen (2019)
A pleasant mix of crime and dark comedy elements. The film takes a while to get going and the editing should've been a bit tighter, but decent performances, above average cinematography and a couple of interesting twists set this film apart from its peer. Definitely not an outstanding film, but as filler it's more than satisfactory.

05. 3.0* - Kidan Piece of Darkness by Various (2016)
A decent but slightly underwhelming horror anthology. Six respected directors tackle 10 horror stories, but with a setup like this there simply isn't enough variation in style and themes. There are no real weak entries, on the other hand far too few shorts that make an effort to stand out. Solid filler, but nothing more.

06. 2.5* - Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla [Gojira vs. Supesugojira] by Kenshô Yamashita (1994)
Extremely silly and cheesy, but that's when Godzilla films are at their best. The middle part is a little drawn out and some special effects look a bit too cheap, especially for a film from '94, but the final 30 minutes are a real hoot. It's not first-rate cinema of course, but it's pretty entertaining and it passes the time quite effectively.

07. 2.5* - Love Massacre [Ai Sha] by Patrick Tam (1981)
Patrick Tam does his best to deliver a stylish thriller, but his attempt isn't entirely successful. The film is a little too reliant on the plot, not all actors are up to the task and visually it's a mixed bag. It's definitely better than the average Hong Kong genre effort, but despite some decent moments the film fails to engage.

08. 2.0* - Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight by Ernest R. Dickerson (1995)
Cheesy and kitsch. Billy Zane is terrible, the rest of the cast isn't any better really. The effects are fake and the plot is a mess, luckily there are a couple of scenes that are a bit freakier than normal. Not enough to save the film, in the end it fails both as a horror film as well as a comedy, but at least it wasn't a total disaster.

09. 2.0* - The War of the Gargantuas [Furankenshutain no Kaijû: Sanda tai Gaira] by Ishirô Honda (1966)
Feels slightly more serious than most entries in the Godzilla franchise, at the same time also a little less entertaining. It's a decent film that is going to please fans of Honda, but the Frankenstein creatures aren't as enigmatic as Godzilla and even though the film is short, it does drag a little in places. Not bad, but not a stand-out Honda either.

10. 1.5* - The VelociPastor by Brendan Steere (2018)
A film that loses itself trying to be ode and parody in one. Steere is clearly aware of the kind of film he's making here, which is fine as long as he keeps introducing new and crazy things. But halfway through the ideas start to dry up and what's left is a cheap parody of trash cinema. Some laughs to be had, but it's not enough.

11. 1.0* - Vengeance Is Mine [Xue Yi Tian Shi] by Chi-Ngai Lee, Hin Sing 'Billy' Tang
A simple revenge tale that is dragged out unnecessarily and fails to engage because the direction is so lackluster. Mediocre performances, bland cinematography and a slavish fixation on plot make this a very forgettable affair. A poor genre exercise that tries to be edgy and relevant, but doesn't work on any level.

12. 1.0* - The Forbidden Past [Xiao Lou Can Meng] by Yuen Chor (1979)
Cheh Chang doing contemporary action is a little awkward, but it has nothing on Yuen Chor doing romance. The film is incredibly cheesy, from the poor performances to the horrendous soundtrack and the tepid drama, nothing works. It's a disaster from start to finish, though somehow it's an oddly compelling disaster if you're familiar with Chor's work.

13. 0.5* - Shazam! by David F. Sandberg (2019)
Childish, lame and incredibly dull. This was supposed to be a comedy, but I didn't get to laugh even once. The actors are terrible, the superhero jokes are tired and predictable, the film looks like a children's horror flick. It took me a lot of effort to sit this one out, DC & Sandberg should be ashamed of this disaster.

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#5

Post by sol » February 9th, 2020, 1:51 pm

Cinepolis:

Yeah, Hyenas is certainly curious an African version of the play, but definitely see the Ingrid Bergman version first if you haven't already. The black and white photography in the 60s version does wonders for capturing the male protagonist's growing insecurities and paranoia. The film's in our 500<400 too.

Re: the other African film, it all depends what you mean by "that bad". As indicated upthread, one-star films encompass the entire range of 1/10 to 5/10 for me, and a 5 is what I voted for it on IMDb. The film has clearly earned a lot of respect over the years as a pioneer indigenous African feature and some of the photography is simply exquisite with rich purple filters applied here and there. The narrative, however, did not encapsulate me in the least and I found the characters very lacking. Perhaps if I was more familiar with the myth upon which the film was based I might have warmed to it more, but an outsider looking in, I found it an incredibly hard film to engage with and I would not recommend it to others except as a curio.

Yours:

Only seen La Vie es Belle, which I watched for the 2018 African Challenge. I enjoyed the music at the time and the performance of the lead actor, but I would agree with your sentiments overall. I actually cannot remember much of the film outside of the main character and music - and it has been less than two years.
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#6

Post by joachimt » February 9th, 2020, 2:53 pm

A zori zdes tikhie AKA The Dawns Here Are Quiet (1972, 4 official lists, 587 checks) 8/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Could have used a bit more story, so I'm glad I watched a shorter version than the 3h+ one, but still a pleasant watch.
Last Cab to Darwin (2015, 0 official lists, 94 checks) 8/10
Watched because it's in WC 1D.
Strong characters. Good story, not overdone.
Zamani barayé masti asbha AKA A Time for Drunken Horses (2000, 3 official lists, 675 checks) 8/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Harsh story, nice scenery, decent kid-acting.
L'amour en fuite AKA Love on the Run (1979, 3 official lists, 1031 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Maybe I could have appreciated this more, if I had seen all the movies that came before this.
The Beguiled (1971, 2 official lists, 1167 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
I've seen the version by Sofia Coppola not so long ago, which was a little bit more sensual and a little bit less intense, but I liked both about the same.
L'ombre des femmes AKA In the Shadow of Women (2015, 1 official list, 194 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Okayish drama with a rather thin story with hardly anything to tell.
The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950, 1 official list, 142 checks) 6/10
Watched because it used to be on TSPDT.
The story is too dated to be funny.
Et mourir de plaisir AKA Blood and Roses (1960, 1 official list, 130 checks) 5/10
Watched because it used to be on TSPDT.
A vampire movie without vampires.
Go Go Tales (2007, 1 official list, 154 checks) 4/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Boring. At least I saw some boobs.
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peeptoad
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#7

Post by peeptoad » February 9th, 2020, 3:21 pm

sol-
seen none of yours, but I'll let you know how I like Yeleen when I watch it later this month...
Perception de Ambiguity wrote:
February 9th, 2020, 12:23 pm
Knives Out (Rian Johnson, 2019) 6+/10
PdA-
same (6/10)… I thought this was way too long. It would have been tighter and more clever if about 45 minutes shorter, imho.
Cinepolis wrote:
February 9th, 2020, 1:33 pm
Noroi: The Curse (2005) - There was an underlying feeling of mystery throughout the whole runtime and the acting is, like usually with Shiraishi productions, quite strong.
c-
6/10- don't remember much, but there were a couple points that startled me a bit...
joachimt wrote:
February 9th, 2020, 2:53 pm

The Beguiled (1971, 2 official lists, 1167 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
I've seen the version by Sofia Coppola not so long ago, which was a little bit more sensual and a little bit less intense, but I liked both about the same.

Et mourir de plaisir AKA Blood and Roses (1960, 1 official list, 130 checks) 5/10
Watched because it used to be on TSPDT.
A vampire movie without vampires.
j-
I liked The Beguiled slightly more than you did, but not by much... and I've got a copy of Blood and Roses so I'll be watching that one in coming months.. seems like it might be pretty sexy (I hope).

Onderhond-
seen none, but I am planning on watching some of those Godzilla movies from the 90s and earlier 00s (like Final Wars you mentioned previously). I am underwatched for 'zilla in that timeframe.


mine (mostly watched for Conquer the World ongoing challenge since I want to complete that someday)-

The Lighthouse (2019) 7
Wo 11 (2011) Eleven Flowers 8
Malpertuis (1971) 6
The Blue Elephant (2014) 8
Prípad pro zacínajícího kata (1970) Case for a Rookie Hangman 7
Caníbal (2013) 8

I prefer The WWitch (vs Lighthouse)from Eggers... just a bit.
11 Flowers was a very good coming of age tale set against mid-70s decline of the Cultural Revolution. I loved the kids, esp. "Louse" and "Mouse"...
The Blue Elephant was not quite what I was expecting, by the film's end anyway, but it was strong... The acting was very good and it was pretty grim in spots. Not quite a favorite, but still an 8...
Caníbal was also a really good view (prob my best of the week); the lead character was one of the most subtle and downplayed that I have ever seen, both in terms of development and the performance by Antonio de la Torre and I am def going to seek out a few more of his films (never heard of him before this). There was one really unsettling sequence in this film and it managed to be intense while also being minimal and very understated. It's also slow (which I like), but be warned if you're not a fan of that sort of thing.

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#8

Post by OldAle1 » February 9th, 2020, 11:28 pm

Overall a bit less impressive than last week, but still solid.

This Film ROCKED
This Film SUCKED

The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz/William Keighley, 1938) (re-watch)

Watched this on TCM, even though I own the BD, because I just got tired of the StupidBowl and it just happened to be on. Don't know what I have to say about this that's meaningful - it's one of my favorite swashbucklers from the classic era and I've probably seen it around 10 times now, and it never gets old. I like most of the other pairings of Flynn/de Havilland and/or Flynn/Rathbone, but none of them really comes close to this. From it's exuberant cast, also including Claude Rains, Alan Hale Sr, Eugene Pallette and Una O'Connor, to it's rousing score, to it's Technicolor - probably the best use of the process up through that year - and it's near-perfect editing, it's a film that really defines what a big budget and lavish production values could achieve at that moment. In my opinion it deserved it's three Oscar wins, should have at least been nominated for Cinematography, and beats out the Best Pic winner You Can't Take It With You though I'd probably give that award to La grande illusion even though it's furrin and thus inferior to even the worst of Hollywood films.

Chinatown at Midnight (Seymour Friedman, 1949)

Surprisingly very good super-low-budget noir from hack producer Sam Katzman, certainly one of the best things I've seen that he was associated with. Hurd Hatfield plays a multilingual thief doing jobs in the San Francisco area, mostly involving jewelry and fine arts, and selling them through unscrupulous dealer Jacqueline deWit - until something goes wrong and MURDER enters the scene. Because he's able to speak several languages and has a rather neutral vaguely "dark" appearance he's been able to seem to be of different ethnicities, a nice little twist that I don't recall seeing in a film of this era. Very suspenseful as the cops start to figure things out, more bodies pile up, and our thief also has to deal with malaria medication which he needs and can't easily get while on the run.

Bus Stop (Joshua Logan, 1956)

Backwoods barely literate, totally uncivilized and deeply ignorant neanderthal Don Murray travels from Montana to Phoenix for a rodeo and to win him a lil' missus, an "angel" who he finds in the form of Marilyn Monroe and proceeds to terrorize and eventually kidnap her to take her away with him as his unwilling bride, all the while being scolded for his behavior by his older friend Arthur O'Connell and others, but hearing none of it. Eventually he learns his lesson and of course there's a happy ending because hey, it's a late-50s rom-com (yes, that's what it is, really) and women really want their guys to be macho shithead assholes, just as long as they show the tiniest bit of gentleness in the end. Maybe.

Total garbage. Haven't been as angry at a film in a while. I will say the acting is actually pretty good, even if the characters aren't. Murray is certainly compelling even if I wanted to see him fed into a wood chipper very slowly before he even gets to Phoenix, and Marilyn does a pretty good hillbilly and O'Connell is always good. But this is as offensive and obnoxious as any film of this type from this era, and that's saying something. Also really looks ugly - it's supposedly Technicolor but I'd have guessed the cheap rust-brown/blue-tinged Cinecolor process if asked. Maybe TCM had a poor transfer, I dunno. Like I said Murray is good - in his first role yet - but Anthony Quinn in Lust for Life definitely deserved the award over him, and there are probably other better performances too. It's hard to judge when you hate the role - mostly the writing - so much.

Phaedra (Jules Dassin, 1962)

I' haven't read any of the early Greek or Latin works telling the original Phaedra legend, though I think I may have read Racine's French play in college; in any case I had a vague knowledge of this story of a middle-aged woman falling in love with her husband's son from an earlier marriage, here updated to modern Greece and London. Melina Mercouri is our Phaedra, and Anthony Perkins is Alexis (Hippolytus in the ancient versions), she the wife and he the first son of Thanos (the Italian Raf Vallone - this is one of those 60s stars-from-everywhere casts), a shipping magnate. Mercouri is good, there's some great production design and yes, costumes, and a good Theodorakis score though not as good as some others in films I watched last month, but Perkins really seems miscast to me and overall by the end of the film I just didn't believe in or care much about what was going on, before the inevitable tragic conclusion. Ehh, OK. Probably deserved it's Oscar nom for costume design, but it's been too long since I've seen any of the other nominees to me to say more.

Se rokh / 3 Faces (Jafar Panahi, 2018)

Finally caught up to Panahi's latest which I guess has to count as a disappointment in relation to his other work, though I still liked it quite a bit overall. The 3 Faces in question are those of three actresses - or would-be - or used to be - members of that profession: a young girl who wants to go off to Tehran from her remote village to go to school, a mature and well-known name in her 40s or 50s, and a legendary, unseen pre-Revolutionary figure popular in the 70s. The middle-aged actress (Behnaz Jafari as herself) travels to the remote village in the company of Panahi's usual star these days, himself, acting in this capacity mostly as a chauffeur and onlooker than anything else, to find the young girl who had sent her a video from her phone of her suicide...maybe. This follows Panahi's usual formulas in some ways, the mixing of reality and fiction blurring to indistinction, it's beautifully shot and certainly I don't mind seeing him again explore one of his usual themes of the oppression of women - and the oppression of youth and knowledge-seekers in a backwards village. But I guess it just isn't as compelling or extraordinary as most of his other work, at least not on one viewing.

Klaus (Sergio Pablos, 2019)

Meh. Though I do wish I'd seen this on the big screen - no idea where it played near me or for how long, most of what I have are AMC and Marcus theaters that don't play Netflix stuff - because animation even more than a lot of live action benefits from it, I doubt I'd have liked it much more. I do like the animation/visuals for the most part, and I don't mind the calls back to earlier Disney animation (Pablos got his start there during the "Renaissance" era) and I think there are some nods to films like The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and 101 Dalmatians that are nice. But the story is really just a melding of several different Christmas stories - most obviously the Rankin/Bass Santa Claus is Coming to Town and more than a bit of Chuck Jones' original Grinch - and the one really novel feature, making Klaus this forbidding and initially very dour character - just didn't work for me despite the perfect casting of J.K. SImmons in the role. And I felt like the film's just not bothering to explain in any way how Santa Claus still exists today - just saying he "returns every Christmas" was a cop-out in a film that wanted to play it safe by neither kowtowing to nor criticizing the relgious/mystical/spiritual elements in the holiday. Then again I'm not 5 or 10 so maybe I'm not in this case capable of being the film's intended audience or understanding it.

Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019) (cinema)

This is the fourth Noah Baumbach film I've seen, and like the three others I like it a lot but... there are just things that either I don't get, or that don't work for me. Baumbach's particular kind of comedy and the way he integrates it here doesn't always work, and I have to use the word "mannered" like everybody else does about him. This isn't necessarily a problem for me at all times - nobody is more mannered than Whit Stillman and I tend to love him; but Stillman's films never feel bound in any way to the constraints of realism, and this film - based clearly and heavily on the breakup of Baumbach's marriage to Jennifer Jason Leigh a decade ago - certainly does. And many bits - particularly the comic bits but also most of the scenes with Laura Dern as Scarlett Johansson's rather over-the-top lawyer - do come off to me as forced and more movie or theater than real life, and to me this too often undercuts the emotional power of the film.

BUT this is unquestionably a film primarily about two people and dominated by two actors, and Baumbach probably couldn't have done better than to have Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson - both maybe giving the best performances of their careers so far - as his leads. When the two of them are on screen together, and quite a bit of them time when it's just one of them, they seem to be able to power through the artificiality and give it a fair amount of emotional reality. I also liked Alan Alda and Ray Liotta as Driver's two very different lawyers; Dern is getting the plaudits for a showboating performance and I think that was the intention; as one reviewer I read suggests, this lawyer is the one character from real life, presumably modeled on Leigh's lawyer, who Baumbach can't stop hating. And to be fair she makes some very good points at times and she is no more aggressive or obnoxious than Liotta, it just feels to me like we're supposed to see her as something of a villain and that doesn't work for for me. And Dern is better in Little Women, and gave the best performance of the whole decade of the 2000s in Inland Empire so to see her win for this, if she does, will just be another stupid Oscar moment IMO.

The Gentlemen (Guy Ritchie, 2020) (cinema)

My first 2020 film (according to IMDb anyway), and it's a Guy Ritchie film? I fucking hate Guy Ritchie. But this happened to be the only film convenient between the one above it and the one below it, and so I went ahead. And y'know, it wasn't bad, thanks mostly to an impressive cast, especially Hugh Grant as an oily tabloid journalist trying to get his mitts on some of the cash from American pot entrepeneur and gangster Matthew McConaughey's fortune, as he spends the film's frame story weaving a hugely complex narrative of betrayals and murders to McConaughey's right-hand man Charlie Hunnam. This goes back to Ritchie's lower-budget earlier films like Snatch and it suffers from some of the same flaws - just a ridiculous over-reliance on profanity and insults, many of them at the expense of the film's various gay, Asian and female characters - wouldn't be Ritchie without some casual bigotry. "But that's the way they talk" people will say. Maybe. In any case it wasn't as big an issue for me as it was in the earlier films (in dim memory) and maybe I was just in the mood for this kind of thing after Baumbach's emotional powerhouse. Also quite nicely shot unlike the dreary washed out Sherlock Holmes flicks. Still nothing great and I don't know that I could recommend it but it was better than most of my recent first-of-the-year choices I can tell you.

Jojo Rabbit (Taikia Waititi, 2019) (cinema)

I don't know quite how to deal with this one right now, but I seriously doubt I'll bother to see it again anytime soon (probably ever) so here goes. There are obviously inherent problems in taking the Holocaust and World War II and making them into objects of humor or ridicule; I know the intent is much the same as it always is when ridicule is used against authoritarian leaders, monarchs, oligarchs, etc - it's to cut them down to size, it's to make of the situation not a joke per se but to make those doing evil seem stupid and clueless and ultimately self-destructive - which of course the Nazis were. But I don't know that this ever really works in real life - if you mock the powerful you usually just end up dead - and so we only see it often long after the fact, where it may have the effect more of sanitizing or humanizing evil, and turning the whole event into a picture-book, than damning and condemning the atrocities. I guess on the whole this brand of historical revisionism, which I think encompasses La vite è bella, Forrest Gump and three of Quentin Tarantino's last four films, doesn't work for me, though this is probably the least-offensive and most successful effort along these lines. I think perhaps it's the way in which Hitler (director Waititi), as the imaginary friend of our title character, a 10-year-old boy in the waning days of the war, is basically just a familiar figure of hope and the shining future - as all too many Germans really thought he was - but is never portrayed as having anything more than a pernicious effect outside of Jojo's daydreams. Scarlett Johansson as the boy's mother and a secret partisan delivers another terrific performance in a role that mingles comedy and drama more successfully than Baumbach's film, though the film itself ultimately ends up to me as much ado about nothing. It's creative and different, I'll give it that - not really much like the other Best Pic nominees this year - but as a comedy it's only intermittently funny, and as a film about a very serious and awful time in our history which we will no doubt, sadly, continue to repeat on other peoples in other places for the few years or decades humans have left, it doesn't really have anything very pointed to say.

Atlantique / Atlantics (Mati Diop, 2019)

Definitely one of my favorite narrative strategies is the kind where a film starts off in one genre or place, seems like it's going to stick with it - in this case it's a low-key romantic drama set in Dakar about a young woman in love with a construction worker but promised to a rich capitalist of some kind, and her struggles with family and with deciding what to do, that eventually takes a supernatural direction after the construction worker and his friends take a ship to Spain in search of opportunity but are apparently lost...and then found again, under unusual circumstances. I don't want to spoil what happens here, it certainly surprised me and I have to say at first it didn't really work - and I still think that I'm missing some cultural connection involving ghosts and spirits and such - but eventually I figured out what was going on, more or less, and why. Really well done, visually striking, and terrific use of music.

Little Women (Gillian Armstrong, 1994)

Had to see it after going crazy for Greta Gerwig's new version, and had to assume it would pale in comparison. Well, it's no masterpiece, but this first version directed, written (Robin Swicord) and produced (Denise di Novi) by women is a very respectable if fairly conventional effort. It feels a little long overall -despite being 20 minutes shorter than the new version - and it's got a significant problem, which just about everybody seems to have mentioned, in the fact that young Amy (Kirsten Dunst) is sooo much better than older Amy (Samantha Mathis); in fact Dunst's performance, filmed right around her 12th birthday, immediately shoots to my shortlist of great child acting performances. It's not so much that Mathis is bad as that she doesn't have much interesting to do, a problem also suffered by Claire Danes as Beth, and a problem I'm guessing with most adaptations prior to Gerwig's - and Gerwig doesn't succeed entirely in making Beth exciting either. And the development of her relationship with Laurie just doesn't come across as naturally as it does in the new film, thanks in part I think to Gerwig's choice of time structure. Trini Alvarado is fine as Meg, and Susan Sarandon solid as Marmee; where the film works nearly as well as the current one is in the roles of Bhaer and Laurie, here played by Gabriel Byrne and Christian Bale, both quite fine IMO, though I agree with some others that the scene with Bale and Dunst in the carriage is creepy - no fault of the actors, just our modern sensibilities seeing a 21-year-old male in a romantic situation with a 12-year-old female. Winona Ryder is a solid Jo and a good choice in 1994, not sure who could have done better, but I think having her narrate doesn't really add anything. I liked the conversation about abolition, and there were a couple of other brief conversations that add something to the moral compass of the work that I think Gerwig might have done well to include; overall this beats out the '33 version pretty easily for 2nd place, the '49 is still to be seen. I haven't seen a lot of the nominees in the awards this got notice for, so hard to say if I agree whether it deserved the recognition or not. Newman's score is really nice but sounds an awful lot like his work on The Shawshank Redemption and some other films from the same period.

LOL (Joe Swanberg, 2006)

I'm officially on a Greta Gerwig quest now, to see all the films she's acted in, and this is her first - though it's not a typical performance, as she's only heard on the phone a few times, and seen in a few (mostly nude FYI) photos on phones or laptops. Far and away the best of the three Swanberg films I've seen, this is an interesting little flick about the internet and cell phones and how they are fucking with the male psyche - fairly ahead of it's time it seems to me, I can't recall anything going into this kind of depth on these issues from this year or earlier (if anybody reads this and knows some other films or TV dealing directly with this stuff lemme know) and while this is typically Swanberg in it's very amateurish acting and camerawork, at least you can pretty much understand all of the actors here, and there is something of a story, and themes, and not just people talking about their dull lives. One guy is obsessed with internet porn to the point of getting a ride under false pretenses from Chicago to St. Louis to meet a camgirl - seemingly oblivious to the fact that the cute girl who's giving him a ride actually might be interested in him; another guy wants to have phone sex with his girlfriend (Gerwig) in New York and can't understand her disinterest; the third (Swanberg) seems to be actively trying to push away his own girlfriend and while less consumed with online or phone sex is certainly more interested in looking at screens and zoning out of the reality he's in. Some good stuff here and the DVD is just packed with extras.

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATED SHORTS - LIVE ACTION (cinema)

a) Une soeur (Delphine Girard, 2018)
b) Brotherhood (Meryam Joobeur, 2018)
c) The Neighbor's Window (Marshall Curry, 2019)
d) Saria (Brian Buckley, 2019)
e) Nefta Football Club (Yves Piat, 2018)

Cinema. This was a bit less gloomy overall than last years' program, though Saria - about the horror of a girls "reformatory" in Guatemala that climaxes in fiery tragedy - would have fit right in. It's a tough one, made with heart for sure and if the amateur actors aren't always perfect, it's overall well done. The first two are also pretty serious, the first about a fateful connection between a caller from a car who is apparently being kidnapped and a travel emergency service, the second about an ISIS fighter returning home to Tunisia and not being particularly welcomed by his father. They're both pretty solid with the first probably a bit more cohesive and exciting. The Neighbor's Window didn't do a lot for me - it starts out a comic story of a thirty- or maybe forty-something couple watching a young couple across the way who seem to fuck all the time, and then turns quite serious. It felt very incomplete to me - like this was the beginnings of a feature that didn't get made. The last is the only purely comic short, about what happens when a couple of kids near the Algeria/Tunisia border attain accidental possession of a lot of white powder, with the younger kid thinking it's laundry detergent...this was my favorite, maybe mostly because I wanted some laughs at this point.

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATED SHORTS - ANIMATION (cinema)

f) Hair Love (Matthew A. Cherry/Everett Downing Jr/Bruce W. Smith, 2019)
g) Dcera (Daria Kashcheeva, 2019)
h) Sister (Siqi Song, 2018)
i) Mémorable (Bruno Collet, 2019)
j) Kitbull (Rosanna Sullivan, 2019)

The animation program on the whole was less impressive IMO, with the first and last being fun but not much more - the first one kind of goes into some serious stuff but it's too short to really develop the black is beautiful/kinky hair is cool vibe as well as it could. Sister is a sad little bit about the narrating boy wishing he had one, in the years of China's one child policy, and Mémorable is a nicely crafted claymation work about memory loss that calls to mind last year's Late Afternoon but isn't in the same league. That leaves Dcera, on all counts the most impressive work, which is shot in a way I don't recall ever seeing in animation - it looks like it's all handheld throughout; not necessarily Paul Greengrass shaky-cam, though there are a few moments of that, but just handheld and in your face or rather the faces of the stop-motion animated puppets. A bleak story of a father-daughter relationship, but so beautifully done and distinctive if not outright unique. I will definitely keep this director in mind.

There were four other shorts added that weren't nominees:

Henrietta Bulkowski (Rachel Johnson, 2019)
The Bird & the Whale (Carol Freeman, 2019)
Hors piste (lots of directors, 2019)
Maestro (even more directors, 2019)

The only one of these that stood out to me was the hilarious Hors piste which might have been a favorite if it hadn't ended so abruptly. The other three are all fine but nothing to really remember.

Varda par Agnès / Varda by Agnès (Agnès Varda, 2019) (cinema)

Worth the long wait for a good seat at the UW Cinematheque, with an audience as enthusiastic and well-behaved as usual though I was irritated by the guy who sat right next to me after I was the first person in the cinema and proceeded to go on about his millions of dollars of inheritance that he's suing over to his buddy next to him, until the lights went down. Anyway that's perhaps the kind of thing the matriarch of the New Wave might have noticed - and she'd have been bold enough to talk nicely to the guy, and ask him what he was so upset about. What a treasure she was, and her films still are. This is basically a tour through her work, a master class in an auditorium but with many filmic asides demonstrating for example the tracking shots in Sans toit ni loi. There isn't any new ground broken here but I don't think she intended that, knowing the end was near - I think this was meant very much to be an introduction to her work and perhaps - if we have the right kind of eyes and ears - a guide on how to view it. Maybe even a guide on how to be interested in people, for as she reminds us over and over, though she's making a film about herself (and not for the first time), she's always more interested in what other people have to say. Thank you for all the faces, the voices, the memories.

In the Absence (Seung-jun Yi, 2018)

Documentary short nominee. Powerful expose of the incompetence and outright lack of humanity that helped lead to the deaths of hundreds of people - most children - in the sinking of the South Korean ferry Seyom in 2014. This doesn't get very much into the background, like the lack of seaworthiness of the boat in the first place, but it's only half an hour and the choice to focus on the accident and it's aftermath is a good one; it's a clear case of hubris, passing the buck, and elitist unconcern for the lives and deaths of others, on the part of the SK President at the time and a good chunk of her administration and the Coast Guard, and the heroes of the story are the civilian divers who went in to help, and later to retrieve the dead, when the government's own divers just weren't good enough. Strong stuff.

J'ai perdu mon corps / I Lost My Body (Jérémy Clapin, 2019)

I've only seen two of the nominees in this category this year (Klaus, reviewed above, is the other) but I feel pretty safe in saying that this is the standout, given that two of the others are sequels in apparently endless series and the other looks indistinguishable from dozens of other cutesy CGI American animated films of the past decade. This French production, digitally made but then converted to 2D and given a hand-drawn look, is not only unusual and special in it's creation but in it's narrative, the story of a hand trying to get back to it's body in a harrowing journey across a dangerous city in the winter snow, interspersed with the story of the hand's owner and his generally traumatic life. The way it weaves memory and fantasy and makes us question whether we're seeing a dream or reality at most points in the story is right up my alley when it comes to narrative pleasures, and I have to admit I felt a powerful (and unfortunate) sense of recognition in our young man Naoufel's attempts to get to know Gabrielle. Great use of music as well; easily the best of the admittedly small number of animated films I've seen this year, probably the best I've seen actually since Kimi no na wa three years ago, and most certainly deserving of it's nomination this year.

Fast & Furious Presents; Hobbs & Shaw (David Leitch, 2019)

After the last couple of entries in this series I basically told myself that I wasn't going to pay money for any more of them (I think I only saw those two in the cinema anyway) and maybe this would be a good test to see if I can break off the obsession with watching every series to the end. Well I succeeded at the first part of that promise, but not at the second. And this ended up being one of the better entries - although of course it's sort of a side project, and only Dwayne Johnson's Hobbs and Jason Statham's Shaw are present. Even though the "family" of the series proper isn't present here, this still ends up very much embodying that "you're nothing without your blood relatives" notion that American culture (among others) has to shove down our throats ever chance it gets, as Statham's sister is the major plot device they have to protect (she's a badass herself but not enough for this story) against bad guy Idris Elba who wants to, ho hum, end the world, and Johnson's Samoan family eventually has to come to the aid. I'm not sure how much more ridiculous they can make the action scenes anymore, and I'm not sure how much greater a percentage future films can be devoted to those scenes without losing all sense of narrative/story/character, etc. Seriously I don't think there's more that 10 minutes devoted to anything besides punching, shooting stabbing, driving running, flying, falling, etc. And there are not one, not two, but THREE inter-credits sequences at the end just to bad things out to...shit I don't know what the fuck I was even going on about, just thinking about this bores me to death. Not awful but still, why the fuck did I watch this instead of some 70s action film with Charles Bronson that might have actually had a story?

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#9

Post by mightysparks » February 10th, 2020, 5:35 am

Not really in the mood to write much right now, but:

sol
Def By Temptation (1990) 5/10 - but yea, not good
Hyènes (1992) 4/10 - don't remember it, aside from thinking it was pretty bad
The Blind Side (2009) 6/10 - generic Oscarbait trash, but I didn't mind it
Little Women (2019) 5/10 - I'm glad someone else agrees about the poor narrative structure, I think it might've been alright if they'd done it properly and used actual child actors (something ala It Chapter 1/2 would've been more fitting)
Marriage Story (2019) 6/10 - agree that it works so well because of the two leads good performances. I struggle accepting Adam Driver as a human with his odd face, but he changed my mind with this film
Yeelen (1987) 4/10 - another forgotten film

PdA
Uncut Gems (2019) 8/10
Knives Out (2019) 6/10

cinepolis
Noroi: The Curse (2005) 6/10

Onderhond
Colour of Space (2019) 6/10 - yea, I thought it was decent fun and had some cool moments but something missing from it
Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995) 8/10 - pretty sure you mean awesome and tons of fun :folded:

joachimt
The Beguiled (1971) 5/10
Et mourir de plaisir (1960) 4/10

peep
The Lighthouse - 6/10 - probably like this and The Witch equally. I think they're both really interesting and solid films, but don't quite connect with me all that much. Curious to see what else Eggers comes out with though.

OldAle
The Adventures of Robin Hood 8/10 - not seen in a long time but yea this is pretty cool and fun. Not really a 'swashbuckler' fan, but it's definitely onf og e of the better ones (if not, the best)
Marriage Story (2019) 6/10 - I thought Dern was a bit over the top but idk something also felt kind of genuine about her too, though it took me a while to decide whether I was liking her or not
Jojo Rabbit 6/10
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#10

Post by mightysparks » February 10th, 2020, 5:35 am

1917 (2019) 6/10
Better than I expected and I liked it, but despite its one take 'gimmick', it feels quite plain and is very predictable. It's not a typical war film, which is nice, and the war is only a backdrop. But as soon as they left the trenches, it just felt more and more like a video game. The environment was nice (and all the dead bodies all over the place made me keep thinking it was a zombie film), but everything felt too clean and sterile. The dialogue was very generic, everything that happened felt super contrived to make sure that it hit every beat on the dot (which was what made it feel so predictable and gamey). It surprisingly lacked tension for the most part, and it was really difficult to get drawn into the world.

Good Bye Lenin! (2003) 6/10 FOK Top 250, Platinum 1/3
All I know about the Berlin Wall is what I've seen in film, and a lot of the humour seemed to depend on understanding the differences and history between East and West Germany - all of which I learnt from this film. I never found it funny, but it had a light and 'innocent' kind of mood and feel to it (it reminded me a bit of Amelie). It seemed like it would've been much better as a family drama, as the genuine relationship between the family (particularly the son and the mum) is the most interesting aspect, but is never dealt with in much depth. I also didn't really like any of the characters and the most interesting character was only in it for a couple of minutes at the end. I felt it also really captured the look and feel of the time well, despite having never lived in that time or place myself.

Herutâ sukerutâ (2012) 5/10 FOK Top 250, Platinum 2/3
A pretty unoriginal and lame film about beauty/power of beauty/fading beauty. It's an interesting theme, but the film fails to explore it in any meaningful way. There's the occasional nice looking shot, but it's never stylish enough for the aesthetic to work, and it instead mostly looks cheap and ugly. It doesn't really seem to know what it wants to say, and is all over the place tonally which nothing really working. The energetic photoshoot montages are the highlights of the film, but the rest is slow, poorly paced and dull. The lead actress does bitchy really well, but doesn't have the charisma or screen presence to pull off 'sexy', and is not a strong enough actor to pull off a descent into madness. Nothing that happened was very interesting, the whole detective subplot thing was completely pointless. The music was horrible and felt like it was made for a different film.

Marius (1931) 6/10 IMDb 1930s, Platinum 1/3
Takes a little while to find its groove, but then it's moderately enjoyable. All the characters are pretty fun and bounce off each other well. It's nice to see the perspectives of the parents; them talking with each other, and also with their own kid. But damn Marius is such a big piece of shit and the film has some super outdated views (men can do whatever they want, women are scum unless they are married, oh and a really weird joke about rape). He's a spoilt little kid who only wants his toy when someone else wants it. Gets what he wants and then grumpily stomps around saying 'fine I'll marry you if I have to, oh the sea calls to me woe is me' so that she'll let him go and he won't feel guilty about it. I didn't buy that he had any feelings for Fanny whatsoever and he didn't even really seem to care that much about travelling and being on the ocean, just needed something to do to keep his psychopathic mind occupied. The film is still fun to watch, but he really didn't deserve to be the hero of the film.
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#11

Post by Onderhond » February 10th, 2020, 10:37 am

@sol
Only saw Marriage Story from yours. It seems we experienced the film very differently. I felt it was extremely scripted, it lacked nuance and the performances were very much overdone. But that may be just me not really feeling USA drama in general.

@cinepolis
I'm not the biggest Shiraishi fan, but I generally like his work. Watched Kidan this week, which wasn't bad at all. Not sure which shorts he directed (it's an anthology - not much info online and the regular places like IMDb/TMDb have got it wrong), but since the quality was pretty stable throughout it might be fun to check it out.

@peeptoad
90s Godzilla still feels very 60s to me. There's not all that much to betrays its relatively younger age. With most of the Godzilla films behind me I'm trying to find more non-Godzilla Honda films now.

@mightysparks
I'm sorry, but Tales from the Crypt looked like a cheap 80s films that was made in the 90s. Definitely not my kind of "cool" or "fun", more like "old rocker not acting his age". I've been picking from the Zombies list once in a while, but it hasn't brought up too many great horrors yet.

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#12

Post by sol » February 10th, 2020, 10:45 am

peeps:

Well, I would come close to recommending Yeelen the very least out of the films that I watched last week. If you want something more interesting outside of the 2019 Oscar season films, I would recommend Grand Canyon from my viewings. Reminded me a lot of A Serious Man and some of Woody Allen's films with its collection of characters trying to work out whether there is some grand purpose to the chaos life.

Yours:

Seen none either. Would really like to see Malpertius; never released over here. The Lighthouse in currently playing in select cinemas over here, so I might make time for that one this week, we'll see.

mighty:

Oh, yeah - The Blind Side was surprisingly tolerable for a film that I had procrastinated seeing for so long. Heavy on the symbolism and blah supporting characters, but the actor playing the black teen had me hooked all the way.

I can't express how glad I am that Greta Gerwig did not win the Oscar for her Little Women screenplay. I haven't read the novel or seen any other screen adaptations, but I find it hard to believe that the source material was ever meant to be so disorientating. Something that I said to those that I saw the film with: "this is some deep level Christopher Nolan stuff, like Memento with all the flashing back and forth, and like Inception with its story within its story". I wish that I could say that I meant that as a compliment. Anyway, really cool to know that I'm not alone in finding the film fairly average.

Adam Driver does have an odd face, that's true, and after The Force Awakens, I never thought I would be citing him as a top level actor, but between Marriage Story, Blackkklansman and Paterson, I'm really coming to like him as an actor.

And ah, another Yeelen dissenter. The acclaim for this one really went over my head, some pretty images aside.

Yours:

Pretty polar opposite reaction to you on 1917. I felt really stressed out during the second half of the film and I was enthralled the whole way through. It probably helps that I had only seen the trailer once or twice and had most forgotten it by the time that I saw that film. The part where the rat trips the wire made me physically jerk.

Good Bye Lenin! was pretty good when I saw it theatrically some 16+ years ago. Amazing to think that's half a lifetime ago.

Onderhond:

Yeah, I don't know. I have seen a lot of American dramas, and Marriage Story felt much more real to me than most. A lot of that though came down to the way Baumbach handled his performances. Very little of it was his characters making speeches or screaming/shouting at one another. Most of the drama was rather conveyed through subtle looks, stares, glares and glances - especially during the meetings with both lawyers present.

Yours:

Only seen Shazam!, which I didn't quite hate as much as you, but it was a definite disappointment amid generally positive reviews. I thought that Zachary Levi is as the adult protagonist came across as a young man acting goofy rather than a grown-up version of the morose and moody teen actor.
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#13

Post by mightysparks » February 10th, 2020, 10:59 am

@sol, yeah I jumped at the rat scene too. Actually had a few gasps in the audience. One lady in front of me was constantly jumping and putting her hands to her face lol. But the rat scene was exactly when I realised it felt like a game. I never watched the trailer and only found out about the one take gimmick the day before I saw it and I expected it to really like it because of that but just never quite got there for me. Still a decent film.

And yea, the Little Women book is a standard coming of age type of story, the first half is them as children and the second half is them 7 years later. Not Inception like at all :P I didn’t find the film disorienting exactly but the structure was definitely jarring. Not really sure why they went in that direction (and using a 20 year old to portray a 12 year old lol).
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#14

Post by Onderhond » February 10th, 2020, 11:03 am

sol wrote:
February 10th, 2020, 10:45 am
Yeah, I don't know. I have seen a lot of American dramas, and Marriage Story felt much more real to me than most. A lot of that though came down to the way Baumbach handled his performances. Very little of it was his characters making speeches or screaming/shouting at one another. Most of the drama was rather conveyed through subtle looks, stares, glares and glances - especially during the meetings with both lawyers present.
Maybe it's because I'm an avid fan of Japanese drama, where stilted and introverted is the norm? Whatever the case, it didn't feel very subtle to me, then again the situation (with two lawyers who were portrayed as Marvel-like villains) didn't feel that subtle either. Neither Driver nor Johansson came to life for me, which is a lethal for a film like this (I had similar complaints about Boyhood).
sol wrote:
February 10th, 2020, 10:45 am
Only seen Shazam!, which I didn't quite hate as much as you, but it was a definite disappointment amid generally positive reviews. I thought that Zachary Levi is as the adult protagonist came across as a young man acting goofy rather than a grown-up version of the morose and moody teen actor.
Levi felt awkward, like a cross between Ben Affleck and Jimmy Fallon. But the entire film felt rather childish, so maybe that was the point?

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#15

Post by sol » February 10th, 2020, 12:52 pm

mightysparks wrote:
February 10th, 2020, 10:59 am
Not really sure why they went in that direction (and using a 20 year old to portray a 12 year old lol).
Yeah, that was just ridiculous. :shrug:
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#16

Post by peeptoad » February 10th, 2020, 12:58 pm

sol wrote:
February 10th, 2020, 10:45 am
If you want something more interesting outside of the 2019 Oscar season films, I would recommend Grand Canyon from my viewings. Reminded me a lot of A Serious Man and some of Woody Allen's films with its collection of characters trying to work out whether there is some grand purpose to the chaos life.
Lo and behold I have seen Grand Canyon and it doesn't surprise me that I overlooked it on your list since I rated it a 4. Think I saw that in the cinema with one of my cousins on initial release...

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#17

Post by sol » February 10th, 2020, 1:01 pm

peeptoad wrote:
February 10th, 2020, 12:58 pm
sol wrote:
February 10th, 2020, 10:45 am
If you want something more interesting outside of the 2019 Oscar season films, I would recommend Grand Canyon from my viewings. Reminded me a lot of A Serious Man and some of Woody Allen's films with its collection of characters trying to work out whether there is some grand purpose to the chaos life.
Lo and behold I have seen Grand Canyon and it doesn't surprise me that I overlooked it on your list since I rated it a 4. Think I saw that in the cinema with one of my cousins on initial release...
:unsure: The film seems quite divisive based on the Letterboxd comments that I came across, but I liked it a lot. I probably have a higher tolerance for Kasdan than most though as the director of my #1 films of 1981 and 1988 - the latter of which I hold very close to my heart.
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#18

Post by peeptoad » February 10th, 2020, 1:20 pm

sol wrote:
February 10th, 2020, 1:01 pm
peeptoad wrote:
February 10th, 2020, 12:58 pm
sol wrote:
February 10th, 2020, 10:45 am
If you want something more interesting outside of the 2019 Oscar season films, I would recommend Grand Canyon from my viewings. Reminded me a lot of A Serious Man and some of Woody Allen's films with its collection of characters trying to work out whether there is some grand purpose to the chaos life.
Lo and behold I have seen Grand Canyon and it doesn't surprise me that I overlooked it on your list since I rated it a 4. Think I saw that in the cinema with one of my cousins on initial release...
:unsure: The film seems quite divisive based on the Letterboxd comments that I came across, but I liked it a lot. I probably have a higher tolerance for Kasdan than most though as the director of my #1 films of 1981 and 1988 - the latter of which I hold very close to my heart.
Body Heat is good, I'll give you that.... B) haven't seen much else from Kasdan other than The Big Chill which I don't remember and don't have a rating for, and French Kiss, which I also disliked. I'll have to check Accidental Tourist someday though.

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#19

Post by viktor-vaudevillain » February 10th, 2020, 5:00 pm

سکوت / Sokhout / The Silence (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1998) - 8

Uncut Gems (Josh & Benny Safdie, 2019) - 9

The Seventh Walk (Amit Dutta, 2013) - 7-

Mary (Abel Ferrara, 2005) - 7+


Shorts:

L'hippocampe, ou 'Cheval marin / The Seahorse (Jean Painlevé, 1934) - 6

Ghost Algebra (Janie Geiser, 2010) - 7+

Arrière-saison / Late Season (Jean-Claude Rousseau, 2016) - 7

یک آتش / A Fire (Ebrahim Golestan, 1961) - 7
not everything is fish, but fish are teeming everywhere

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#20

Post by peeptoad » February 11th, 2020, 2:13 pm

For some reason, as I was walking to the train earlier this morning, I realized that I saw two films last week that contained scenes of birds attacking a human and pulling out his entrails. Hopefully there is no bigger meaning behind that... lol.

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