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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 17, 2020

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sol
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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 17, 2020

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Post by sol » April 26th, 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

Hondo (1953). His horse stolen by hostile Apaches, a cavalry rider is sheltered by a woman with a young son and husband away, but any serenity is short-lived in this John Wayne western. While the romance that eventually develops is predictable, the film captures well their initial friction with both Wayne and Geraldine Page communicating volumes without saying a word: her fear that he will rape her, and his knowledge of this, while nodding as she keeps talking about how her husband will return at any moment. Wayne also has a touching relationship with her son (outside of teaching him to swim, that is). The tensions between the trio become diluted as the film begins to focus on the hostile Apaches and Wayne's need to protect Page. The way the Apaches are depicted is a little racially insensitive too, but this is a surprisingly appealing film otherwise. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Cowboy (1958). Unhappy working as a hotel clerk, a young man seizes on an opportunity to join a band of cattle-drivers, only to discover that the life of a cowboy is not as glorious as he once thought in this revisionist western from Delmer Daves. At first, Jack Lemmon seems like an odd choice for the clerk role, but it is actually a fantastic bit of casting since the film begins as more of a frothy comedy with the plot only gradually growing grim and serious as Lemmon becomes increasingly disillusioned while on the cattle drive. Glenn Ford is also solid as an idol/mentor who he soon comes to resent and the building tension between them, culminating in a memorable fire scene, is very intense. The film ends on a rather strange note given where the material seemed to be heading, and the romance angle falls flat, but this is a highly decent film overall. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Follow a Star (1959). One of Norman Wisdom's best vehicles, this comedy takes a note from the Singin' in the Rain playbook as Wisdom plays an aspiring singer whose voice is secretly recorded and stolen by a fading crooner desperate for a new sound. Jerry Desmonde is excellent as always as the mischievous singer and the fact that he brings much of the misery that Wisdom causes upon himself makes this a lot more amusing than the average Wisdom/Desmonde outing. The film is a little slow to warm up with around half an hour elapsing before Desmonde hatches his plan. Some of the comic shenanigans (Wisdom playing himself as a baby and child under hypnosis) are a little groan-inducing, but this is funny stuff more often than not. The film has a solid supporting cast too, including the ever-indignant John Le Mesurier and Hattie Jacques. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Two Men in Manhattan (1959). French journalists investigate the mysterious disappearance of their country's diplomat in Manhattan in this Jean-Pierre Melville thriller. The film begins well with picturesque shots of the city's skyline that look equally as sumptuous in stark black and white as in the similar shots in Woody Allen's Manhattan. The streets look amazing also with Melville's camera often favouring the neon lights and bright signs that illuminate the nighttime streets. The plot is intriguing at first too with the initial suggestion that the diplomat might have chosen not to attend to avoid voting. As the film progresses though, the mystery becomes less engrossing and ultimately like the sort of plot of a second-rate noir, complete with femme fatale characters. Taken as a French tribute to noir, this is quite arresting; as a noir entry itself though, less so. (first viewing, online) ★★

From the Life of the Marionettes (1980). Opening with an intense scene shot in vivid colour as a young man kills a prostitute before things turn black and white, this late career Ingmar Bergman film begins well. The film subsequently jumps back and forth in time as we see flashbacks of his troubled marriage, psychiatry sessions and interviews with his shrink and relatives, all surprised by his actions. This might sound interesting, but there is an overload of title cards and the film ends up so heavy on dialogue that it barely feels cinematic. Intriguing ideas crop up regarding what we repress and are afraid to tell others and the consequences of bottling things up, but there is never really enough time spent on developing the characters. The psychiatrist in particular seems aloof and reprehensible, unable to foresee his patient's behaviour, but perhaps that's the point. (first viewing, VHS) ★★

Ghare-Baire (1984). Set in 1907, this Satyajit Ray drama involves a Bengali housewife torn between her husband and the charms of a political revolutionary who may just be romancing her to get to her husband. With fiery street demonstrations and talk about Indian independence in the air, the period of history is fascinating. The extremes represented by her husband and revolutionary are interesting too, with the husband embracing British values and customs. As an allegory, the film is a bit simple and heavy on the symbolism, but as a tale of a woman encouraged by her husband to think for herself and then unsure of whether she is being manipulated, it is often enticing. The film is a very dialogue-heavy affair and the camerawork is pretty static, but from a shot lingering on ashtray smoke to how the night fires are captured, it is quite good-looking too. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Schramm (1993). Marketed with the subtitle "Into the Mind of a Serial Killer", this unusual horror film attempts to show a serial killer's life flashing before his eyes as he lies dying on the floor. At its best, the film plays out like a nightmare with childhood memories interspersed with his murders, and the film has an ample dose of out-there imagery (especially a vagina dentata monster) and much downright disturbing imagery as he recalls various parts of his body being severely injured or removed, with the film nicely blurring whether these are memories, fantasies or fears incarnate. There is also an amazing 360 degree camera tilt and lots of neat dark touches, like a victim's blood spilling into his cognac glass. There are also quite a few mundane stretches which play out as simple memory recollections, but when it nightmare mode this is hard to pass up. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Cold Fever (1995). Haunted by a vision of his dead parents talking to him, a Japanese man travels to Iceland to perform the traditional burial that they wanted in this quirky road movie. The film is a bit of an up and down ride as the protagonist encounters various strange and unusual folks in his travels, most notably Fisher Stevens and Lili Taylor as a couple on their honeymoon who communicate via hand puppets. At its best, the movie is mysterious, bordering on fantasy territory with such oddities as a random woman whose screams shatter icebergs and restart cars, yet the film also feels grounded in reality with the harshness of Iceland's freezing winters and so on at the forefront. It is a pleasant enough trip, and the portrait of a mystical foreign land in which anything seems possible is appealing, even if it is the eccentric folks who end up most memorable. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Sleepers (1996). Best entered into with as few expectations as possible, this highly engrossing film involves a group of mischievous kids sent to a reform school after a prank gone awry, the abuse they suffer and the aftermath of their experiences. The prank is shown in shocking brutal detail, though this is nothing compared to what they soon undergo at the corrupt facility with Kevin Bacon absolutely electric as a sadistic guard. Some of the plot turns in the post-reform school part of the film feel very coincidental and highly unlikely, but this manages to remain powerful thanks to the stellar performances of all concerned and director Barry Levinson recognising the power of a silent, lingering stare to convey volumes. The film goes on for just a tad too long, edging into sentimental territory towards the end, but it still packs quite an emotional wallop. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★★★

Songs from the Second Floor (2000). Strange and absurd events occur as an arsonist begins to regret burning down his business for insurance money in this unusual black comedy. While the outline of a narrative can be made out, the film mostly plays out as a series of loosely connected, darkly comic vignettes, photographed in a single unbroken take while the camera remains static. It is a curious approach and very effective in a scene in which several businessmen get up to view a cataclysmic event from their window that we simply cannot see ourselves. Not all the episodes are as effective though and while there is much interesting symbolism (particularly designer-made crucifixes), the film feels just a smidge unfocused for what is ostensibly a tale of a man whose world literally collapses around him as he further and further contemplates his misdeed. (first viewing, online) ★★

Dogville Confessions (2003). This behind-the-scenes Dogville documentary takes its title from the fact that Lars had a video confession booth installed on the set of his film to allow his actors to vent about their frustrations while making the film. While the video confessions only form a small part of the documentary, this is still interesting stuff with an intimate look at Lars von Trier himself and all his insecurities, talking about himself in third person, demeaning his choice to add the "von" part onto his name and so on. A black silhouette/red background technique is very effective in these moments too. We also get to see Lars telling his actors not to look through the imaginary walls of the set, Nicole Kidman delighting in how unpredictable the film feels (before later just wanting to go home) and the tension in the air as Lars tells Lauren Bacall off for overacting. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

The Fall (2006). Injured after an accident on set, a silent movie stuntman passes his time in hospital by spinning an elaborate fantasy adventure story for a young girl with a broken arm in this visually sumptuous fairytale of sorts from The Cell director Tarsem Singh. Boasting amazingly vivid colours and breathtaking locations (especially a maze), the fantasy/story part of the film is always aesthetically arresting. The fantasy tale itself though, populated by standard heroes and villains, is unfortunately less interesting than the gradually developing surrogate father/daughter bond in the reality of the movie - especially when the stuntman reveals his dark ulterior motives for telling the girl the story. There is, however, a lot to like in how heavily invested both become in the ever-evolving fairytale. The film also concludes with a fantastic silent movies tribute. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Black Dynamite (2009). Unprepared to sit idly by as the preteen orphans in his neighbourhood become addicted to crack, an African American kung fu fighter uncovers a conspiracy that goes deeper than mere drug peddling in this Blaxploitation parody. Delivering his increasingly ridiculous dialogue in a constant deadpan manner, Michael Jai White is great in the lead role and the film is cleverly shot and colour graded to look like an authentic 1970s movie. The plot zigzags all over the place though with many subplots popping up only to soon be forgotten - but this was likely intentional. Indeed, this is a hard film to grade because with visible boom mikes and the occasional jump cut, this is designed to look and feel like a bad movie. Whatever the case, the film certainly concludes on a surefire memorable climax with a surprise villain behind it all. (second viewing, online) ★★

Regretters (2010). Two men who underwent sex change operations (and tried living as women) before changing back talk about their experiences in this intimate documentary. As mostly just one long conversation, this is not especially cinematic, but there is a lot to like in how the pair simply ask each other questions without relying on an interviewer or off-screen narrator. It all feels genuine and free-flowing and many of their recollections are intense, such as one describing how he stayed married to a man for eleven years without telling him that he was born male. The film touches on lots of intriguing personal identity issues too while questioning if gender is non-binary; "I represent a third sex", one of them claims. It is also curious to hear their experiences as men in their sixties who grew up in time well before the term LGBT became part of the vernacular. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

Butter (2011). Competition heats up between an uptight housewife, her husband's hooker and a ten-year-old foster kid as they each try to win in a local butter carving pageant in this lively comedy. The film does not always get the balance right between satire and sentimentality, especially as it pivots back and forth between the three protagonists, but all three lead actresses deliver well. Jennifer Garner at times seems to be channeling Annette Bening in American Beauty, powered on by self-help cassettes, while Olivia Wilde is perfectly spunky as the spiteful prostitute and Yara Shahidi is simply adorable as the young girl. Rob Corddry also has excellent chemistry with Shahidi as her adoptive father, plus Hugh Jackman has a fun goofy cameo, and amidst this, the film all deftly highlights the absurdities of US pageants in which winning is taken too seriously. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Killing Them Softly (2012). Brazenly robbing a local illegal card game, three amateur criminals spark an unstoppable and increasingly grisly chain of events in this US crime thriller set against the 2008 presidential election. While the film goes a little over-the-top with its agenda as political speeches on the radio and television are heard left, right and centre, practically wherever the characters are, it is an intriguing backdrop with the film questioning what modern America really is like. Brad Pitt's powerful final monologue also fits in very well with this grim look at the 'land of opportunity'. Themes and message aside, this is a pretty classy movie overall, with lots of stylish slowed down violence, an insanely intense hold-up scene and some extremely effective bursts of music at key points - most notably to eerie effect in the opening scene of the movie. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★★

When Animals Dream (2014). Noticing sudden changes in her body, including hair growing in unusual places, a teenager in an isolated fishing village begins to wonder if there is more to why her mother is kept in constant sedation by her father in this Danish horror film. While the languid pacing and limited jump scares distinguish this from the average Hollywood horror film, the basic tale is quite familiar and the whole idea of a girl turning into a werewolf to mirror puberty and sexual maturation has been done better elsewhere before. The movie also shies away from elaborating on its mythology with lycanthropy intriguingly a hereditary characteristic here. There are certainly several effective moments in the mix though, from her near transformation in a bathroom before interrupted by a knock, to hair sprouting on her back during intercourse. (first viewing, online) ★★

Weiner (2016). Hoping to put the past behind him as he makes a bid for New York City mayor, a disgraced former congressman is rocked by another scandal on the campaign trail in this documentary. Unfazed by his earlier controversy and keen on being known for more than just an error, this is a compelling look at human determination and pride that knows no bounds. Altman's Secret Honor would make a curious companion piece with its portrait of a fragile Richard Nixon ruing how everyone only remembers his misdeeds and not his achievements. There is not quite the same sense that Weiner did amazing things before mucking up, but all the hubris stuff similarly resonates as the filmmakers quiz him at the end over why he agreed to do the documentary in the first place. The child fan post-credits bit also provides a great note for the film to end on. (first viewing, online) ★★★

God's Own Country (2017). Forced to spend several days alone with a migrant worker in near isolation, a young farmhand becomes increasingly intimate with the foreigner in this film that has been accurately described as a British Brokeback Mountain. Promising as this might sound, it lacks the likeable characters and solid acting that made Ang Lee's film so compelling. The monotony of living in isolation for days on end is also drilled in so hard that their relationship feels like something brought on by sheer boredom. With some graphic animal violence in the mix too, this is not the easiest film to digest. Things get a little more enticing in the movie's final quarter as an incident with the farmhand's father forces him to reconsider his life, but the film may have benefited from more emphasis on this angle and less attention to how monotonous farming can be. (first viewing, online) ★

Vox Lux (2018). Surviving a high school shooting, a teenager becomes a singing superstar after a solidarity song takes off in this indie drama starring Natalie Portman as the adult protagonist. With the end credits played over the start, glitzy costumes and makeup and creative lighting choices, this is an undeniably stylish film, though to what end is unclear. The film jumps between violence, drug abuse, neglectful parenting, sibling rivalry and so on as these issues in some way impact on her life, yet the film never focuses on anything, and topped off with an abrupt ending that resolves nothing, it is hard not to go "so what?" afterwards. Intrusive third person voiceover narration does not help either. Still, it is difficult to dislike a film that gives Portman such an opportunity to explore her acting range and the school shooting itself is amazingly intense and impactful. (first viewing, online) ★★

And one revision:

Fanny och Alexander (1982). Alexander does not wish the bishop a good night. This five-hour coming-of-age drama from Ingmar Bergman is so rich in themes and ideas that it is nearly impossible to sum up in one sentence. It is mostly though a tale of a young boy with an overactive imaginative who learns to stand up for himself and view himself as his own person when taken away from his family in which he is only one of many. Indeed, while the first hour sometimes seems slow an unfocused as it concentrates on the adult characters with Alexander generally only seen in the periphery, this creates a great contrast to the subsequent scenes in which he becomes the centre of his own tale while suffering abuse at the hands of his stepfather, the local bishop.

On that note, it is all too easy to read the Bishop as the film's antagonist and Alexander as a helpless victim, but things are never as clear cut as that in Bergman's masterful hands. Shakespeare's Hamlet forms a template for the film in many ways; Alexander watches in awe at his father rehearse the opening scene of the play in which Hamlet is visited by his father's ghost. Not too soon later, Alexander's own father falls ill and, as is the case with Alexander's vivid imagination, he keeps having visions of his own deceased dad wandering solemnly around the house, looking on disapprovingly as the Bishop romances his mother. Has Alexander made a subconscious connection and projected murderous intentions onto the Bishop?

Everything regarding the Bishop is left nicely vague and ambiguous. Did he murder his previous stepchildren and their mother? Is he an evil person who enjoys torturing and tormenting others? Or (as Alexander's mother herself points out, explaining why she was attracted to him) is he just a lonely man, worried about having nothing to cling to in old age? Rather than a traditional villain, the Bishop is a highly flawed individual: a caring person but with no real idea of how to deal effectively with children or misbehavior, and that ends up being his downfall when all that he ever wanted was to have his own family. Jan Malmsjö is especially effectively as he candidly confesses that he never thought that someone could ever hate him.

As the movie progresses, things become increasingly fantastical. With the nephews of a local magician as key supporting characters, plus lots of philosophical talk about time and space not existing and of two separate persons flowing into each other, the lack of clear explanations ends up being part of the charm. Much of the film could be chalked up to Alexander's perceptions and the ghosts that he continues to see and hear throughout. The ghosts are also very intriguing, essentially just ingrained memories of individuals. You can't escape me. Indeed, the film conclusion is bittersweet since Alexander will never again be the same after his experiences. That's growing up for you. (fifth viewing, DVD) ★★★★

OtherShow
Let Us Live (1939). Curiously predating The Wrong Man and 12 Angry Men, this earlier Henry Fonda film has him as a taxi driver incorrectly identified by a group of witnesses as a murderer and sentenced by a jury to death. Fonda's character progression does not quite ring true since his initial unwavering faith that the law will be on his side seems downright childlike and idealistic. Maureen O'Sullivan is pretty good though as his girlfriend fighting for justice and doing what she can on the outside. Her tenacity is cut short though when Ralph Bellamy as a kindly policeman suddenly decides to help her out based on insubstantial evidence. The film also wraps up a little too quickly. The final few dialogue exchanges cut really deep though, especially what O'Sullivan has to say, and Lucien Ballard provides some great shadowy images throughout. (first viewing, online) ★★

A Ship Bound for India (1947). Returning home after seven years away, a lonely sailor recalls his torrid affair with his father's mistress in this early career Ingmar Bergman film. While the 'return home' framing device does not add a lot to the story (especially considering that the protagonist recalls events that he never witnessed), the film becomes quite compelling as the flashbacks begin and we see the extreme tension between father and son, even before the affair. Holger Löwenadler is very effective as the father who mocks and scorns his son but who at same time is coping with the fact that he is slowly going blind. All of the gradual blindness and father/son dynamics are a lot more interesting than the love triangle though, and yet they sadly gets less focus, but the right ingredients are certainly here, making this one of Bergman's better early films. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

This Can't Happen Here (1950). Ingmar Bergman's least favourite of his films, this espionage thriller is from far removed from his famous meditative work, but stylistically it has a lot of interest. Erik Nordgren's score is typically atmospheric and particularly potent when a woman is scared by a cupboard door flying open. Gunnar Fischer's cinematography is exquisite too with the influence of American noir heavily felt in the high contrast compositions and moody shots of characters only partially illuminated by window blinds. A car chase sequence is filmed from varied interesting angles too. Alas, the film is let down by an overly complex plot that often feels rushed and characters that vary from interchangeable to simply poorly developed. The story has something to do with refugees, spies and Communists, but none of it is as engaging as Bergman's noirish visuals. (first viewing, online) ★

Half Angel (1951). Her wild side emerging when she sleepwalks at night, a nurse has a romantic nighttime escapades, only to have no memory of them when awake, which causes problems when her lover tries to see her in the daytime in this curious comedy. The premise is certainly rife with comedic potential and Loretta Young does well playing two polar opposites to the one character, but it is all too ridiculous to buy into and never as funny as it could be. The film actually becomes rather creepy towards the end as the lawyer catches onto the fact that she only loves him when sleepwalking and then conspires marry her against her conscious/waking will (!). The film at least touches a bit on subconscious desires, but it mostly comes through in a pop psychology fashion that just makes Young look like a prude for not acting on her baser instincts while awake. (first viewing, online) ★

Jumping Jacks (1952). Pretending to be enlisted in order to help his corporal friend with a military show, a civilian nightclub entertainer ends up keeping up the pretence when their show proves successful in this Martin & Lewis comedy. For a film built on the singular joke of Jerry Lewis being an utterly incompetent soldier, this is a surprisingly entertaining affair with Robert Strauss (of Stalag 17 fame) well cast as a no-nonsense sergeant who ends up liking and promoting Lewis further and further thanks to happy accidents making Lewis appear adept. The scenes without Strauss are not nearly as dynamic though, and there is not quite enough of the two stars playing off one another, but an under-the-table train scene is certainly hilarious and - at the very least - this is infinitely preferable to stagy At War with the Army starring the duo. (first viewing, online) ★★

Sailor Beware (1952). Joining the Navy non-patriotic reasons, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin get up to mischief in this early big screen venture. While an improvement on At War with the Army and That's My Boy, this nevertheless pales against Jumping Jacks, their other 1952 comedy, not to mention their subsequent Frank Tashlin films. There are amusing bits and pieces (Jerry's stare back; a sinking submarine; a kooky boxing match), but the plot is extremely episodic with the flow of the film further interrupted by providing way too many opportunities for Dino to sing. It is also a shame to see Robert Strauss, so effective in Jumping Jacks, wasted in pretty much a throwaway role. Having various women chase Jerry who claims to be allergic is also not nearly as funny as it sounds; The Ladies Man would soon do that sort of thing better. (first viewing, DVD) ★

Sailor Beware (1956). Her daughter about to be married to a sailor she dislikes, a very vocal housewife takes out her anger on everyone around her in this British comedy starring Peggy Mount. Best known as Mrs. Bumble in Oliver!, this was Mount's first leading role and she certainly plays the part with gusto. Unfortunately, she is never once likeable and with her constant shouting and complaining, her act tires quickly (Mount would fare much better in Ladies Who Do seven years later). The supporting players here certainly do fine though, with Gordon Jackson solid as a nervous fellow sailor and Geoffrey Keen getting a nice turn towards the end as a kindly vicar, plus Ronald Lewis and Esma Cannon fend off Mount's insults well as her closest relatives. The film has nothing deep to say about transparency in marriage but it is decent while it lasts. (first viewing, online) ★★

The Long, Long Trailer (1954). Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz play a newlywed couple here who buy a trailer rather than a house to live in, resulting in all sorts of problems. Most of the chaos is fairly easy to predict and several sequences (e.g. trying to back the trailer into a garage) go on for way too long, however, Arnaz is good throughout as the increasingly frustrated husband. He gets some great bug-eyed moments as well as some hilarious bits and pieces - in particular, a pantomime routine as he performs gymnastics to use the trailer shower. Ball by comparison is less funny and given less chance to flex her comic muscles. The pair both do well together though with some tilted trailer shenanigans, and their mountain ascent is downright suspenseful. This is an up and down ride overall though, and one that is generally more amusing than actually funny. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Living It Up (1954). Incorrectly diagnosed with a fatal condition, a young man and his doctor keep up the pretence upon realising the mistake to take advantage of the publicity and free services thrown their way in this Martin & Lewis comedy. This is possibly the best of the team's pre-Frank Tashlin efforts, though it pales against what they would achieve with Tashlin at the helm. The film's funniest sequence (if racially iffy) comes late in the piece as circumstances lead to Jerry impersonating various doctors while slamming doors with perfect comic timing. The gags and comic sequences in general though are very hit-and-miss. There is also a ludicrous romance between Martin and a young Janet Leigh when all that Martin does is try to molest her from the moment they meet. Leigh holds her own fairly well though, playing a feisty, ambitious reporter with zest. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Anything Goes (1956). Seeking a female star for their Broadway show, two vaudevillians run into trouble when they both promise the same part to different women in this musical starring Bing Crosby and Donald O'Connor. It is an idea with decent comedic potential and an awkward dinner where the two ladies meet (unaware of that they have both won the same part) is great, but the film does not play up its comedy angle for all that it is worth. Instead, there are lots of musical numbers, and while most of them are pleasant as Cole Porter tunes, some just lead to the characters sitting down to sing rather than dancing or bouncing around. The clear highlight is O'Connor singing a "bounce right back" song with a group of kids while performing similar acrobatics to what he did in Singin' in the Rain, and O'Connor is at least great whenever on screen here. (first viewing, online) ★★

Just My Luck (1957). Shady bookmakers try to con Norman Wisdom in this film that sees the comedy actor scurrying around a horseracing track and trying to buy a horse to stop it from racing. While there are some genuine laughs early on as a cinema date goes awry, and later as Wisdom sneaks into the races, this is one of his weaker films. The plot does not really give Wisdom much chance to inadvertently upset others or perform stunts as he usually does so well. The plot also wraps up too quickly and neatly with a conclusion that feels rushed. Perhaps most disappointing though is how wasted the cast feels. Edward Chapman has almost nothing to do (especially compared to the following year's The Square Peg), Leslie Phillips never really gets much chance to strut his stuff either and Margaret Rutherford only briefly appears in the final twenty minutes. (first viewing, DVD) ★

Face of Fire (1959). His face disfigured in a house fire in which he rescued a child, an upstanding citizen becomes a pariah overnight in his close-minded community in this non-genre film from horror luminary Albert Band. While the way the town turn against him is arguably more horrific than any of Band's other films, the whole thing feels repetitive and drawn out even at 80 minutes. There are potent bits early on: the low camera angle, point-of-view shots as he is taken away from the fire on stretcher; the doctors arguing about whether they should euthanise him while he can hear them because the scarring is so bad. As the film wears on though, it mostly just consists of characters repeating the same things about how heroic he was and yet how he should be removed from society. If never once boring, this may have played out better at half its length. (first viewing, online) ★★

Harry & Son (1984). Laid off work due to his declining health, a former construction worker constantly clashes with his lackadaisical son in this movie co-written, directed and produced by Paul Newman, who also casts himself in the lead role. While his other duties on the film are nothing too remarkable, Newman's performance is sensational, maintaining a tough exterior while noticeably upset over his job loss, gradual loss of eyesight and loneliness following his wife's death. Far less effective is Robby Benson as the titular son with constant wide-eyed expressions and over-the-top disbelief at his father's stoicism. The tension between them is pretty interesting though with Benson being able to work but not liking any of the jobs that he lands while Newman struggles to find work. Benson also has some strong scenes with a very young Ellen Barkin. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

The Architecture of Doom (1989). Were the Nazis merely lovers of art and architecture who were only ever driven to murder by a desire for perfection? This Swedish documentary is propelled by a compelling thesis and the film is very intriguing at first as it goes into Hitler's own failures as a painter, his love of Wagner's music and his reluctance to destroy Greece for the significance of its ancient architecture. As the film wears on though, it becomes a far more conventional Nazism documentary, detailing (and showing excerpts from) their propaganda films and killing methods. Every so often there are reminders that it was the perceived imperfections that the Nazis were trying to kill off, but the case never ends up as convincing as it initially promises to be. The near monotone narration - at least in the English language version - does not help either. (first viewing, online) ★★

The Dark Side of Chocolate (2010). Cleverly titled, this Danish documentary investigates rumours of unpaid child labour on the African plantations where brands such as Mars and Nestlé source their cocoa from. It is a fascinating topic, especially as the filmmakers travel to Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire to interviews the locals. The thriller-like structure, with them having to sneak around and use hidden cameras, is not very helpful though. The film also tends to run over the same points again and again without presenting a solution. But maybe there is no easy solution. Is it really possible for the chocolate companies to closely monitor the operations of those they source cocoa from? We do intriguingly see a contract that several companies signed to stop using child labour, but what consequences are meant to come if they dishonour the agreement are not clear. (first viewing, online) ★★

Easy Money (2010). Pretending to be affluent to fit in with his preppy college classmates, a penniless student gets involved with drug dealers to fund a fake lifestyle in this thriller from Sweden. While this alone would have made an interesting film with his lies and deception, the filmmakers dilute things by also making it about a mob enforcer on the hunt for a man the student is protecting. Dragomir Mrsic is very good as the mobster and has a touching relationship with his daughter who he ends up having to take along on business, yet this angle feels totally at odds to the college student's side of the story. The film manages to mount a few thrilling scenes as it bounces between characters, with a person tailing a person tailing who is tailing another person bit coming off particularly well. The thrills are often cut short though as the plot zigzags between characters. (first viewing, online) ★★

City State (2011). Various shady underworld figures and corrupt and adulterous police officers clash as their fates gradually overlap in this grim Icelandic thriller. The film benefits from excellent, down-to-earth performances all-round - including a Jonathan Pryce cameo - and while there is not a lot of violence, what we do see is appropriately grisly and brutal. After all, the movie seems to question if violence begets violence and whether the police and underworld can ever really exist without some folks being on the take. The presentation of the tale is not exactly helpful though, full of events played out of order, and while the structure of four subplots gradually converging sounds good in theory, it is a tad disorientating in practice. This is still a gripping ride though with a lot of the connections between the plot strands stinging when they start to make sense. (first viewing, online) ★★
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#2

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » April 26th, 2020, 12:03 pm

ख्याल गाथा / The Khayal Saga / Khayal Gatha (Kumar Shahani, 1989) 7/10

চরাচর / Shelter of the Wings / Charachar (Buddhadev Dasgupta, 1994) 5+/10

That Cloud Never Left (Yashaswini Raghunandan, 2019) 4+/10

Bodhvriksha / Wisdom Tree (Rajan Khosa, 1986) (2 viewings) 8+/10

On the Move (S.N.S. Sastry, 1970) (2 viewings) 9-/10

You Are Here (Daniel Cockburn, 2010) 8/10
On knowledge versus consciousness, essentially. What do you know what you know and can it tell you who you are? It's in the form of intriguing allegorical vignettes that illustrate how knowledge (information, data) is misleading, inaccurate, doomed to be misinterpreted, something we adopt and ape without understanding, an irreconcilable jumble of fragments, a hindrance to pursuing ones own path, etc. Don't follow the red dot, follow the third eye. Makes for a good meditation ad.

Right Here, Right Now (आनंद गांधी/Anand Gandhi, 2003) 6+/10

Becoming Animal (Peter Mettler & Emma Davie, 2018) 7/10

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (Adam Curtis, 2011) 6-/10
- Ep1: Love and Power 6/10
- Ep2: The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts 6/10
- Ep3: The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey 5+/10

Om det oändliga / About Endlessness (Roy Andersson, 2019) 3/10

Kirikou et la sorcière / Kirikou and the Sorceress (Michel Ocelot & Raymond Burlet, 1998) 6/10

Il demonio/ The Demon (Brunello Rondi, 1963) 5+/10

The Informant! (Steven Soderbergh, 2009) 6+/10

Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik, 2012) (2nd viewing) 9/10


shorts

Deforest (Grayson Cooke, 2015) 4/10

Jeux arborescents: Fugue en mineur (Émile Malespine, 1931) (2 viewings) 6/10

From Day to Night (Robert Orlowski, 2018) 4/10

Surprise Boogie (Albert Pierru, 1957) 6+/10

What’s left is wind (Leighton Pierce, 1988) 5+/10

Thursday (Leighton Pierce, 1991) 5+/10

Avasesh (Girish Kasaravalli, 1975) 2+/10

Black Holes (Meat Dept & David Nicolas & Laurent Nicolas & Kevin Van Der Meiren, 2017) 5+/10

Love and Theft (Andreas Hykade, 2010) 4+/10

Fist Fight (Robert Breer, 1964) 2/10

Bushworld Adventures (Michael Cusack, 2018) 8-/10

Hindenburg Disaster Newsreel Footage (1937) (2nd viewing) 3/10

Phenomena (Jordan Belson, 1968) (2nd viewing) 7/10


music videos

Mr. Oizo & Charli XCX: Hand in the Fire (Meat Dept & Kevin Van Der Meiren, 2016) 4+/10

Tocotronic: Hoffnung (2020)


series

Police Squad! - Ep6 - "Testimony of Evil (Dead Men Don't Laugh)" (Joe Dante, 1982) (rewatch) 6/10


didn't finish

Pokkuveyil / Twilight (Govindan Aravindan, 1982) [37 min]
En rade / Sea Fever (Alberto Cavalcanti, 1927) [21 min]
Ayer Maravilla Fui / Yesterday Wonder I Was (Gabriel Mariño, 2017) [17 min]
Jui kuen II / The Legend of Drunken Master (Liu Chia-Liang, 1994) [16 min]
Animal Kingdom (Dean Kavanagh, 2017) [14 min]
El violín / The Violin (Francisco Vargas, 2005) [3 min]


notable online media

top:
Joe Rogan asks Sam Harris & Dan Harris about Mediation [rewatch]
Oh Hi Mark scene recreated in Dreams
Himalayan Sadhu Shares Secret to Happiness
Russell Brand & Neuroscientist David Eagleman | Under The Skin Podcast
rest:
The Time When Buddha Explained Death - BUDDHA STORY
Viktor Frankl: collective guilt does not exist
Eminem Gets on the WRONG SIDE of Mike Tyson
Wim Hof's 61st Birthday & 61 Minutes Ice Bath Celebration
California Floater Mussels Take Fish For an Epic Joyride | Deep Look
KOTH Edit: Love
dream realityImage
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#3

Post by mightysparks » April 26th, 2020, 12:57 pm

A few weeks behind again >.<

Mommy Dead and Dearest (2017) 7/10
An intriguing and entertaining documentary examining the events that led to Gypsy Rose Blanchard participating in her mother's murder. Since Gyspy Rose was a baby, her mother had pretending that she had a variety of illnesses and was diagnosed with Munchhausen by proxy after the arrest. The story and the people involved are interesting, but the documentary itself is well-paced with a wide range of interviewees and footage (home videos, messages, police interviews etc) and gave a very fair treatment of Gypsy's character and actions. The intense dislike for Dee Dee by everyone who really knew her was kind of funny/sad. What a strange person she was.

Caged (1950) 6/10
Interesting for its time, but a pretty outdated melodrama now. The prison slang was hilariously silly, like the writer had gone through a list of known prison slang and just tried to put all of them in every sentence. Whilst Eleanor Parker gives a decently convincing performance, as both the naive fresh prison fodder and the toughened up prisoner later on, and is likable enough, she is not at all convincing as a 19 year old. Hope Emerson is good as the sadistic prison guard. It's pretty drab and dreary, but the film is quite stagey in its acting and in the way it looks.

Swallow (2019) 6/10
A good film but not all the pieces really came together for me. Haley Bennett's performance is solid as a 'pathetic', though sympathetic, housewife who slowly learns how to get back control of her life through swallowing random objects. The husband and his family are suitably unlikable and aggravating. There is less focus on the act of swallowing as I thought there would be as I'd expected a body horror film, but it is instead a psychological film about isolation, control and the trap of domesticity. The way it dealt with pregnancy was quite interesting too. The subplot surrounding her father didn't really make sense to me and this, along with the ending, left me a little unsatisfied.

*Hereditary (2018) 8/10
I thought this was really good the first time I watched it, but I loved it much more on a rewatch. I had felt hit and miss about Collette's performance, but now it's a delight. I also didn't like Alex Wolff's performance or his character at all, but now I think he was really good. The whole film is deeply depressing and the way grief is dealt with differently by each member of the family (and the differences in their reactions from both 'grief' events) is really interesting. It constantly loops back on itself through plot points, imagery, dialogue, character and always stays true to the familial elements. It's also very well shot and edited, lingering on moments that could've been jump scares, and focusing on one character's face whilst another character is experiencing something. The last 20-30 minutes do feel a little like a loose thread in an otherwise tightly knit film as they are quite vague and confusing, but still preferable over an exposition dump.

The Hunt (2020) 7/10
My rating is somewhat generous as the film is very flawed, but also quite clever in certain ways and is overall very entertaining. There are many recognizable faces that help make the film a bit more likable too (Glenn Howerton! Macon Blair!). The film has a lot of 'fake outs' and keeps this up throughout so it never feels by-the-numbers and instead feels fresh and gives you the feeling that anything can happen. Betty Gilpin is a great lead and Crystal is a really interesting female character. The major issue is that it is not funny at all. The comedy is either just plain dumb, or it's just acceptable because the lightness is the only way the film could've gone in the directions it goes in. It's a shame because it's so good in so many other ways, but the jokes are just frustratingly terrible.

Klaus (2019) 5/10
Wanted to reclaim a few IMDb platinums, though this didn't seem like it would be up my alley. And it wasn't. The animation is really beautiful, but that's where the good stuff ends. All the voice acting is irritating, especially the annoying little girl, and it was difficult for me to find anything to like about the characters after that. The story wasn't that interesting either though the Santa origin story was a cool concept and it might've been more enjoyable had the characters been at all likable. It was also way too kiddy-ish and the 'comedy' was not funny at all.

Ghost in the Machine (1993) 5/10
90s technophobe horrors have possibly aged worse than anything. The computer hate and 'knowledge' is cringey, but kind of amusing in its own way. Found it impossible to believe that anything from that time could translate handwriting to text so well; I've been trying to find a program to read my handwriting since 2006 lol. Not sure how we're supposed to get excited about an 'Address Book Killer' who has the lamest motivation and method. The effects are bad and pretty typical 90s but slightly nostalgic in a way. The pervy kid and his pedo babysitter were also pretty gross, Karen Allen was dull as usual and Chris Mulkey was just ok.

Macabre (2009) 5/10
Though I despise the term 'torture porn', this is pretty typical torture porn stuff and its slight twist was not focused on enough to make it stand out. Shareefa Daanish gives an impressively creepy performance as Dara and discovering this was based on a short film centering around her character, I'm assuming that is probably better than this film. She's underused here. The other 'villains' are sinister enough. The victims/heroes really fall flat and are just boring, it's hard to find someone to root for. There are a few gory moments and the effects are surprisingly good. Aside from that it lacks atmosphere and originality.

Pulse (2006) 4/10
I've put this film off for years because I knew exactly what it was going to be and I knew it was going to suck. It doesn't disappoint. In the first ten minutes, every trope of 2000s horror films whizzes by. The characters are horrible, as are the actors; though some of the acting is hilariously bad, so you get groan/chuckle every now and then. Laughable dialogue and editing, the therapist talking to Mattie about suicide was painful and then her randomly crying: wtf? I don't know how much of Wes Craven's script is left in here (he's disowned the film), but it's difficult to believe he had any involvement. Scenes just jump from one to the other with little development at all. Goes for cheap jump scares and the scary stuff is also a laugh. Not a big fan of the original either, but I remember finding some suspense in it and liked the concepts, as vague as they were. This one doesn't know what it's about or what it's trying to be, a mess.

The Children (1980) 5/10
This should be much worse than it is, but it has some charm to it. The quirky characters help eg, the random bodybuilder husband in his undies and his stilted dialogue and the wife who finds it exciting that her child has gone missing. Some of the shots of the kids are cool, lit from below, creepy smiles and extended hands with black fingernails just looking for a hug, but mostly they are not scary and just silly. Probably because the director cast his own children and was just a general disappointment to everyone lol. The effects are not very impressive either, but mostly because of the killing scenes' ridiculous editing.

La orgía nocturna de los vampiros (1974) 5/10
I expected to find a really boring vampire sexploitation film, but found instead a mediocre vampire village horror instead. There are some boobs and sex but hardly lives up to its 'orgy' name; a positive. If not a sex orgy, maybe you'd expect a violence and gore orgy but not much of that either. The English dub is awful as you'd expect and the acting is bad, but allows for a few giggles. The setting is nice and moody, the silent townsfolk are eerie but it's a drag. Dunno what they were thinking with that soundtrack, but it's annoying, weird and makes no sense.
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#4

Post by mightysparks » April 26th, 2020, 1:08 pm

@sol, haven't seen most of these in a long time so remember little..

Schramm (1993) 5/10 - I loved Nekromantik so had been excited about this one but remember finding it boring. I wonder if I'd be more or less into this kind of thing now..

Sleepers (1996) 7/10 - Agree with your comments, I wasn't expecting much from this and found it a pretty solid thriller.

The Fall (2006) 7/10 - Expected to hate this, and I did at first but it grew on me. I remember it being quite beautiful and found myself emotionally connected to the characters (I'm pretty sure I cried or nearly cried?).

When Animals Dream (2014) 5/10 - Don't really remember this one at all, so I probably thought similarly to you.
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Post by Onderhond » April 26th, 2020, 1:28 pm

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Not too many surprises this week, apart from an Austrian horror flick and a Mitani TV film. The last in particular was pretty unexpected. Apart from that a lot of catching up. With bad US CG animation, older horror flicks and the final American Pie film. Oh, and another disappointing Edward Yang film. His reputation keeps puzzling me.


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01. 4.0* - No Longer Human [Ningen Shikkaku: Dazai Osamu to 3-nin no Onnatachi] by Mika Ninagawa (2019)
Interesting biopic on Osamu Dazai, one of Japan's famous writers. Like many of its peers, Ninagawa's film exploits the scandals around its central figure rather than laud its subject with praise and admiration, but that just makes things more interesting. Add the beautiful cinematography, a fine score and a superb cast and you have another winner.

02. 3.5* - Hagazussa by Lukas Feigelfeld (2017)
Strong mood piece that relies heavily on its soundtrack. Dark and vibrant guitar drones lead the way, while pagan rituals, disease and barren circumstances torture the main protagonist. The acting is superb too, only the cinematography, while still beautiful, isn't quite on par with the rest. A very interesting film though.

03. 3.5* - Airport [Daikûkô] by Koki Mitani (2013)
Impressive, especially for a TV movie. It's vintage Mitani, but the fact that he made it a one-shot movie is not something I was expecting. The comedy is solid, the family banter is fun and the pacing is exquisite. Airport can't really hide its TV roots, but for once I couldn't really a fault a film for that. Watch this if you can.

04. 3.5* - Last Winter, We Parted [Kyonen no Fuyu, Kimi to Wakare] by Tomoyuki Takimoto (2018)
Very much by the book. Takimoto's latest crime mystery doesn't try very hard to bring anything new to the table, but at least the execution is on point. The actors do a good job, the film looks stylish and the twist, while hardly surprising, works well enough. Nothing exceptional, but very worthy filler.

05. 3.5* - Full Throttle [Lie Huo Zhan Che] by Tung-Shing Yee (1995)
Classic HK street racing flick, a somewhat forgotten niche by now. The film delivers on the promise of the talents involved. With Yee behind the camera and Lau in front of it, this is a solid drama with some slick racing scenes and plenty of fan service for race bike enthusiasts. A tad long maybe, but good fun nonetheless.

06. 3.5* - 1BR by David Marmor (2019)
Pretty solid horror flick that takes a couple of unexpected turns. Tension and gore are quite limited, but there's a definite sense of dread that makes the film quite effective. Performances are good, direction is decent and the runtime is perfect. Not a stand-out horror flick, but it's memorable and to the point.

07. 3.0* - Nowhere by Gregg Araki (1997)
A very strange coming of age drama, one that combines the usual partying and boozing with comedy, horror, aliens and LGBT issues. The acting is a bit flaky and the films looks a little cheap in places, but it's so lively and off-kilter that it didn't really bother me that much. Not one of Araki's better films, but definitely interesting.

08. 3.0* - Mori, the Artist's Habitat [Mori No Iru Basho] by Shûichi Okita (2018)
A light-hearted, quirky, but also somewhat tepid and expected look into the life and habitat of a peculiar artist. The tone of the film is comfortable, the characters are enjoyable and the drama is pleasant, but overall the film feels a bit aimless and doesn't make a big impression. Good, but not great.

09. 3.0* - We Are Still Here by Ted Geoghegan (2015)
A solid horror flick. The beginning is a tad slow and the haunted house shtick is pretty dull, but halfway through Geoghegan ramps up the tension and things get pretty nasty. Decent special effects, solid acting and a couple of gory moments make this a good recommend for horror fans. Not great, but great filler.

10. 3.0* - Matango by Ishirô Honda (1963)
One of Honda's most serious films. The camp is almost entirely absent, which is a curse as well as a blessing. The plot is still pretty cheesy, but the execution is very straight-faced. Overall it's moodier and more atmospheric compared to his other work, but the radioactive mushroom stuff is just too goofy to be taken seriously. Quite fun though.

11. 3.0* - Duel of the Century [Liu Xiao Feng Zhi Jue Zhan Qian Hou] by Yuen Chor (1981)
A fine Yuen Chor martial arts film. The sets look pretty cool, the camera work is on point and there's plenty of action. The plot is not quite as interesting, but because the production design is well above average Shaw Bros quality, that's not really an issue. This is the kind of film Chor built his reputation on.

12. 2.5* - Puppet Master II by David Allen (1990)
Considerably less ambitious than the first movie, but ultimately the better film. The sequel is a more straight-forward horror flick, but at least it plays to its strengths. It's pretty camp and silly, but that makes it a lot more enjoyable and digestible than the first one. Not great, but at least it was quite entertaining.

13. 2.0* - Fantasy Island by Jeff Wadlow (2020)
A very messy and convoluted attempt to blend several popular genres together. There's a little horror, a bit of fantasy and an overarching mystery, but none of it really works. And that's ignoring the action and comedy bits thrown in for good measure. It's not a terrible film, but in the end it's not even all that memorable, despite its overload of genres.

14. 2.0* - The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wes Craven (1988)
It's nice to see some classic voodoo zombie, but Craven has trouble building up the atmosphere. There seems to be a bit too much plot to wade through and whenever things get tense, Craven always takes one or two steps back in the next scene. It's not a terrible film, fans of 80s horror are sure to get their kicks, but I'd hoped for a little extra.

15. 2.0* - The Terrorizers by Edward Yang (1986)
Slightly more refined and polished than the other Yang films I've seen, but he still cannot make me care about his characters, not their mundane problems. I did appreciate the more distant, restrained approach, but Yang simply lacks the class and eye for detail needed to make a film like this work.

16. 1.5* - Rise of the Guardians by Peter Ramsey (2012)
The story is quite decent and the fantasy elements are nicely realized, but the characters are mind-numbingly stupid and the comedy is a total travesty. It's a shame they dumbed this down so much in order to fit it into the stereotypical USA CG animation mould, otherwise this could've been pretty good.

17. 1.5* - American Reunion by Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg (2012)
The fourth one is just more of the same (again). The protagonists are a little older, so the comedy takes aim at marriage and failure, but the nature of the jokes is still exactly the same. Only now they've tacked on another extra 20 minutes, which serve no good purpose at all. It's not a great franchise really.

18. 1.5* - Jaws: The Revenge by Joseph Sargent (1987)
Pretty cheap, lame and nonsensical, but not quite as boring as the first two films and a lot shorter too. And it's better than the third one of course, but that's hardly an accomplishment. It's pretty basic genre fare, brought down by terrible effects, an overall lack of tension and some subpar performances. Not good.

19. 1.0* - Shark Tale by Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, Rob Letterman (2004)
Completely overshadowed by the release of Finding Nemo, looking back on both films that isn't too surprising. There is so very little here. Poor voice acting, dumb characters, a flimsy story and terrible jokes. At times, it felt more like a cheap TV cartoon instead of a blockbuster feature film. Not good at all.

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#6

Post by sol » April 26th, 2020, 1:31 pm

mightysparks wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 1:08 pm
@sol, haven't seen most of these in a long time so remember little..

Schramm (1993) 5/10 - I loved Nekromantik so had been excited about this one but remember finding it boring. I wonder if I'd be more or less into this kind of thing now..

Sleepers (1996) 7/10 - Agree with your comments, I wasn't expecting much from this and found it a pretty solid thriller.

The Fall (2006) 7/10 - Expected to hate this, and I did at first but it grew on me. I remember it being quite beautiful and found myself emotionally connected to the characters (I'm pretty sure I cried or nearly cried?).

When Animals Dream (2014) 5/10 - Don't really remember this one at all, so I probably thought similarly to you.
We'll see what peeps says when she chimes in, but I don't know if the effect of Schramm would be quite the same on a female viewer given all of the genital mutilation scenes. They really made me squirm. In any case, I would never once found the film boring. Disgusting and repulsive sometimes, but there was waayy too much going on, so I was invested the whole way through. And surprisingly so, since I actually disliked Nekromantik at the time.

I almost didn't watch Sleepers because of its massive runtime, but I am glad that I did. I was hooked from the first twenty minutes in. That food cart incident: never saw that coming. Same with all of the developments post-reform school. I actually knew almost nothing about the film beyond the basic child abuse at an institution theme before going in, and I think it was a better experience for that.

Yes, I cried during The Fall - in the final quarter with their conflicting views on the developing story. I wasn't expecting to be so moved by the film because I was not at all immersed by the film at first. Things got a lot more interesting to me once it was revealed why he was telling the story. Damn.

And that sounds about right with When Animals Dreams. Pretty forgettable against stuff like Ginger Snaps. The Danish fishing village setting was interesting though, and I don't know if I had previously seen someone be sexually molested with a live fish??

Yours:

Cannot remember off-hand whether the age thing was an issue to me (actually, I don't even remember her being a teenager off-hand) but I was really sold on Eleanor Parker's performance in Caged at the time. I recall giving her my preference of the five Best Actress Oscar nominees that year.

Agreed about the final 20-30 minutes of Hereditary, which was enough to leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Then there is the fact that the film's single most intriguing character disappears very early on. Toni Collette was great though for sure.

Seen nothing else of yours. Are you watching all those "random" horrors to maintain Platinum on TSZDT in the next update? :unsure:
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#7

Post by mightysparks » April 26th, 2020, 1:41 pm

I was.. but I've been making a lot of adjustments and stuff and the bottom part of the list keeps changing so they may or may not end up on the list. You should thank me for sitting through Pulse and finding out one of it's biggest supporting lists was meant to be marked as unranked :whistling:
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#8

Post by Onderhond » April 26th, 2020, 1:56 pm

@sol:
Haven't seen Sleepers in ages, from before I was even rating films. Didn't think that much of it then, on the other hand I can appreciate Levinson. Not a great director, but makes consistently good films. As you, I am surprised the film isn't in any top lists, because it was quite a big release back then. Liked Songs from the Second Floor (4.0*) more than you, though it's also been a while since I saw that one. I remember expecting quite a bit from The Fall (2.0*), but being very disappointed by it. Didn't like the hospital scenes and was somewhat disappointed in the visuals, especially after all the praise I'd been reading. I like the other Singh films better. Also didn't like Weiner (2.0*) that much. It felt to me like a solid doc about the ridiculous way politics works, except the documentary itself didn't really realize that and was more focused on Weiner, who is quite boring. I've also seen Fanny och Alexander (0.5*), but the less I think of that film the better :D

@mightysparks:
Pretty much agree with your Swallow (3.5*) review, just rated it a bit higher. Also liked The Hunt quite a bit, but it was the action that pulled it down for me. Actually enjoyed the humor in the one, not so much the dull end fight. I've seen Klaus (2.5*) too, was pretty disappointed with that one too, though I probably shouldn't have seen it with the English dub. Appreciated Macabre (3.5*) more than you, but I don't mind a bit of torture porn personally. The mom stood out though, not quite as cruel as I'd hoped, but at least it was pretty bloody.

As for Hereditary, it's part of that A24 horror scene I'm not really in love with. Not nasty/genre enough to be good horror flicks, not elevated enough to be interesting auteur films. Just a bit of this and that, they rarely make a big impression on me. Same goes for Midsommar. I hope it's a phase that quickly passes. On the other hand, I did like Pulse (4.0*) when I first watched it, even liked it more than the original. I remember absolutely nothing of it though, apart from a flashy/cool ending. So yeah, in dire need of a rewatch, that one :)

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#9

Post by mightysparks » April 26th, 2020, 2:03 pm

@Onderhond, I didn't like Midsommar, but Hereditary made me cry both times lol. Don't really know anything about A24, I don't follow that kind of thing.

Yours:

We Are Still Here by Ted Geoghegan (2015) 6/10 - agreed with your comments. Found it really nasty and intense, and thought the effects were great, but not enough to love it.

Matango by Ishirô Honda (1963) 6/10 - agreed again.

The Serpent and the Rainbow 8/10 - nah buddy this is great atmospheric stuff

Jaws: The Revenge 1/10 - this was the first Jaws film I ever saw and I was like wtf how is this popular

Shark Tale 5/10 - saw it when I was 13 and don't remember it now but I remember finding it better than most of the other kids stuff at the time and even laughed a couple of times but I think I downrated it at some point years ago since I didn't think I'd still like it much (gave Finding Nemo a 1/10, I was a harsher rater as a 12 year old lol).
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#10

Post by peeptoad » April 26th, 2020, 2:27 pm

sol wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 1:31 pm
We'll see what peeps says when she chimes in, but I don't know if the effect of Schramm would be quite the same on a female viewer given all of the genital mutilation scenes. They really made me squirm. In any case, I would never once found the film boring. Disgusting and repulsive sometimes, but there was waayy too much going on, so I was invested the whole way through. And surprisingly so, since I actually disliked Nekromantik at the time.
Schramm is my 2nd favorite Buttgereit after Der Todesking and, yes, the genital mutilation stuff did make me cringe. The nail, ugh. I loved the visual style of this one; it had an almost abstract quality at times, both visually and figuratively. It also was never boring, as I enjoyed the story (for what it was), the style and the running time is pretty short. I had no problems engaging from start to finish. As for Nekromantik I like it quite a bit too, but it's third best for me behind those other two of B's. The content in that one just didn't intrigue me as much and I had a real difficult time watching some of the animal scenes (particularly the cat, even though I know it was faked). I still rate that one an 8. The film of Buttgereit's that I don't care for is German Agnst (or his segment in that one). I also found Nekromantik 2 far less interesting than the first, but all of these save the more recent film I saw well over a decade ago so Nekro 2 may need a rewatch.

On Hereditary - it's a really strong film imo, esp Collette's performance . It's probably the best part of the film. I'm one who preferred Midsommar , but both were strong. I look forward to what Aster comes up with next.

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#11

Post by peeptoad » April 26th, 2020, 2:34 pm

Onderhond wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 1:28 pm
02. 3.5* - Hagazussa by Lukas Feigelfeld (2017)
Strong mood piece that relies heavily on its soundtrack. Dark and vibrant guitar drones lead the way, while pagan rituals, disease and barren circumstances torture the main protagonist. The acting is superb too, only the cinematography, while still beautiful, isn't quite on par with the rest. A very interesting film though.
This was an interesting film...I watched it due to the setting, timeframe and the pagan witchcraft slant, but overall it didn't leave much of an impression on me, but the style and tone were sort of intriguing. I recall feeling a little depressed after I watched it. but I can't remember exactly what about the film impacted me that way. There were also scenes that I found pretty gross (from a body-fluid stance I guess).

I agree with mighty on Serpent & the Rainbow, loved Matango and yes Jaws the Revenge sucks. Sharks do not roar.

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#12

Post by Onderhond » April 26th, 2020, 2:38 pm

Interesting to see so many people loved Collette. I thought her performance was dreadful in Hereditary, so much in fact that I cringe whenever she appears in other films. But I had problems with the serious tone of the film, which didn't register at all for me. In that light Collette is just impossible.

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#13

Post by peeptoad » April 26th, 2020, 2:42 pm

mine-
The Night Runner (1957) 6
Jäniksen vuosi (1977) The Year of the Hare 7
Stranger From Venus (1954) 5
Yi boh lai beng duk (1996) Ebola Syndrome 7
small roads (2011) 8
Le désordre et la nuit (1958) The Night Affair 9
Daikaijû Baran (1958) Varan the Unbelievable 6
Le plaisir (1952) 8

Le désordre et la nuit was the highlight of the week, easily. Here's what I responded to burneyfan in the challenge thread:
It was fantastic... the music was phenomenal (esp. Hazel Scott, wow), I really felt some of the chemistry between the two leads, and something about Tiller's character I found myself identifying with strongly. Gabin in particular was great in a rather low-key way (and he was part of the reason I watched Le Plaisir last night). I might actually rewatch this sooner than later. If it gets elevated to a perfect 10 I wouldn't be surprised and it would be joining relatively elite company with regards to my favorites, if that were the case. Really great film.
Ebola Syndrome was about what I expected (actually it was less gory than I was anticipating, if anything), but I have liked Anthony Wong in everything I've seen him in thus far.

small roads was a good, meditative watch. I've driven across the US 5 times in an automobile, taking anywhere from 3 days to 6 months doing it and almost every time I was driving on roads like these. It brought back some of those feelings. I would have liked it more if the "journey" in the doc had been literally from west to east (seemed like it started that way and then became more random in terms of geographic location, but I could be mistaken about that).

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#14

Post by peeptoad » April 26th, 2020, 2:43 pm

Onderhond wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 2:38 pm
Interesting to see so many people loved Collette. I thought her performance was dreadful in Hereditary, so much in fact that I cringe whenever she appears in other films. But I had problems with the serious tone of the film, which didn't register at all for me. In that light Collette is just impossible.
How did you liked her in Velvet Goldmine (if you've seen it)? That's actually my fav performance of hers, though there are much of her prominent work I haven't seen.

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#15

Post by sol » April 26th, 2020, 3:27 pm

mightysparks wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 1:41 pm
I was.. but I've been making a lot of adjustments and stuff and the bottom part of the list keeps changing so they may or may not end up on the list. You should thank me for sitting through Pulse and finding out one of it's biggest supporting lists was meant to be marked as unranked :whistling:
You actually piqued my interest with Pulse since you mentioned that Wes Craven penned the original script in your review. tehe
Onderhond wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 1:56 pm
@sol:
Haven't seen Sleepers in ages, from before I was even rating films. Didn't think that much of it then, on the other hand I can appreciate Levinson. Not a great director, but makes consistently good films. As you, I am surprised the film isn't in any top lists, because it was quite a big release back then. Liked Songs from the Second Floor (4.0*) more than you, though it's also been a while since I saw that one. I remember expecting quite a bit from The Fall (2.0*), but being very disappointed by it. Didn't like the hospital scenes and was somewhat disappointed in the visuals, especially after all the praise I'd been reading. I like the other Singh films better. Also didn't like Weiner (2.0*) that much. It felt to me like a solid doc about the ridiculous way politics works, except the documentary itself didn't really realize that and was more focused on Weiner, who is quite boring. I've also seen Fanny och Alexander (0.5*), but the less I think of that film the better :D
It seems (from what I have read) that Sleepers hit some controversy/blacklash over the novelist's repeated insistence that everything in the film was true and actual evidence refuting that. Pretty powerful tale though if you can accept the contrivances. I wanted to like Songs from the Second Floor more, but the whole thing never really coalesced for me. Interesting concept for sure. I would actually agree with you about the visuals in The Fall being overhyped, but I liked them all the same and certainly found the whole thing a lot more tolerable than The Cell. Funnily enough, I actually liked the fact that Weiner was more about the politician that politics itself. I found him to a fascinating guy. I didn't mean my Richard Nixon comparison in jest. And my latest viewing of Fanny and Alexander has convinced me that it is the best film that I have ever seen, so sadly we have to part ways there.

Yours:

Your ratings this week once again solidify how polar opposite our tastes in film is. :lol: American Reunion is a lovely film and I think the entire franchise is pretty great. I love all the characters and have always felt that there is a lot of heart to the films beyond the crude surface jokes. Can't say that about a lot of American comedies. Would never conceive of ranking Shark Tale below Jaws: The Revenge. Not a big fan of the animated film, but jeez that fourth Jaws film did nothing for me. I agree though that the second Jaws movie was not much good, so that's something, but considering how harsh a marker you tend to be, I'm taking that as a faintly positive Jaws 4 review, though I guess if one dislikes the original in a franchise it is always easier to be more lenient when judging the sequels. Moving on, The Serpent and the Rainbow is far from Craven's best, but I thought it was very decent, no surprise. At least we seem to agree on the merits of Nowhere, though I would say that it is one of Araki's better films - definitely top 5 for me.
peeptoad wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 2:27 pm
sol wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 1:31 pm
We'll see what peeps says when she chimes in, but I don't know if the effect of Schramm would be quite the same on a female viewer given all of the genital mutilation scenes. They really made me squirm. In any case, I would never once found the film boring. Disgusting and repulsive sometimes, but there was waayy too much going on, so I was invested the whole way through. And surprisingly so, since I actually disliked Nekromantik at the time.
Schramm is my 2nd favorite Buttgereit after Der Todesking and, yes, the genital mutilation stuff did make me cringe. The nail, ugh. I loved the visual style of this one; it had an almost abstract quality at times, both visually and figuratively. It also was never boring, as I enjoyed the story (for what it was), the style and the running time is pretty short. I had no problems engaging from start to finish. As for Nekromantik I like it quite a bit too, but it's third best for me behind those other two of B's. The content in that one just didn't intrigue me as much and I had a real difficult time watching some of the animal scenes (particularly the cat, even though I know it was faked). I still rate that one an 8. The film of Buttgereit's that I don't care for is German Agnst (or his segment in that one). I also found Nekromantik 2 far less interesting than the first, but all of these save the more recent film I saw well over a decade ago so Nekro 2 may need a rewatch.
Interesting comments. I haven't seen Der Todesking or German Angst. Certainly intrigued by Buttgereit now even though I disliked Nekromantik.

Yours:

Been too long on Le Plaisir but I recall it being exquisitely photographed. Small Roads is pretty typical of James Benning. I prefer One Way Boogie Woogie of his non-narrative work, but Small Roads definitely had more of a feel of something go on than his lakes or skies films. Another good one is Casting a Glance, which I recently watched for the DTC Challenge.
peeptoad wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 2:43 pm
Onderhond wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 2:38 pm
Interesting to see so many people loved Collette. I thought her performance was dreadful in Hereditary, so much in fact that I cringe whenever she appears in other films. But I had problems with the serious tone of the film, which didn't register at all for me. In that light Collette is just impossible.
How did you liked her in Velvet Goldmine (if you've seen it)? That's actually my fav performance of hers, though there are much of her prominent work I haven't seen.
Try Japanese Story. :)
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#16

Post by peeptoad » April 26th, 2020, 3:33 pm

sol wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 3:27 pm
Try Japanese Story. :)
Added to my watch list, thanks.
I think you would like Der Todesking. It's more similar to Schramm than Nekro is...

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#17

Post by joachimt » April 26th, 2020, 6:03 pm

The Art of Flying (2015, 0 official lists, 19 checks) 8/10
Watched because it's a short DtC nominee.
Beautiful images. :wub: A shame it was so short. Ah well, if it was longer, I wouldn't have selected it to watch.
3 Tage in Quiberon AKA 3 Days in Quiberon (2018, 1 official list, 63 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
This relies completely on Marie Bäumer's performance. As a character study it lacks depth and development.
Eva AKA Eve (1962, 1 official list, 203 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Great B&W compositions. A shame the story felt unfinished or not worked out well enough.
Grim (1985, 0 official lists, 69 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a short DtC nominee.
Not really my type of thing, but this was pretty cool actually.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011, 9 official lists, 77869 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Amazon Prime.
Fun ending to the series. At least this didn't suffer from the teenage stuff. It throws in more big fantasy stuff with the battle at the school. I thought that made it more fun and it speeded up the movie.
Rozhdestvo obitateley lesa AKA The Insects' Christmas (1913, 0 official lists, 189 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a short DtC nominee.
Early stop-motion is always fun to watch.
Wunder der Schöpfung AKA Our Heavenly Bodies (1925, 1 official list, 39 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's on the Unesco list.
This is a weird movie. For the most part it's just an educational movie about all the basics of astronomy. No story. It should be listed as documentary. Only in the second half there is some science fiction, the rest is just science.
Beograd prestonica Jugoslavije (1932, 1 official list, 12 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's on the Unesco list.
Typical Unesco stuff.
Calcutta (1969, 1 official list, 180 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Okay
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010, 4 official lists, 75907 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Amazon Prime.
Again too many unnecessary scenes and the teenage love drama was annoying and misplaced. For example the scene with Harry and Hermione dancing in the tent: what was that? Crinchworthy. At least it had the best part of the movie in it: a Nick Cave song.
Les horizons morts (1951, 0 official lists, 79 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a short DtC nominee.
Debut of Jacques Demy. Nice first attempt. Bit empty though. He has a broken heart, I get it.
Sisters (1972, 3 official lists, 2301 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Bit messy but fun early De Palma.
Ventriloquist Cat (1950, 0 official lists, 130 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a short DtC nominee.
Just another Avery cartoon.
Azghyin ushtykzyn'azaby (1993, 2 official lists, 9 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's on the Unesco list.
It's about some bored youngsters and there's nothing much more to this if you ask me.
Die dritte Generation AKA The Third Generation (1979, 1 official list, 340 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Dragging. Too many uninteresting scenes of the terrorists doing nothing but hanging around and talking.
Politiki kouzina AKA A Touch of Spice (2003, 1 official list, 447 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
The scenes with the young boy and his grandpa were nice and saved the movie. The rest felt like a cheap TV movie. Ugly cinematography and bad acting.
Psalm IV: 'Valley of the Shadow' (2013, 0 official lists, 23 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's a short DtC nominee.
Which one was this? Oh right, that one, almost forgot. Don't watch this in daylight, because you won't see anything. It's almost completely dark the whole time.
Tian shu qi tan (1983, 0 official lists, 19 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's in WC 1H.
My thoughts kept wandering off. Not very interesting. Animation wasn't very special as well.
Ya es tiempo de violencia (1969, 1 official list, 38 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's an official short.
The combination of audio and video (a shame of the bad quality) didn't work at all. Some really disturbing news footage was combined with a very simple quiet interview. A total mismatch.
Cheaper by the Dozen (2003, 2 official lists, 10510 checks) 4/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Disney+.
I don't like Steve Martin. The movie was a cliché. The jokes weren't really funny. Some kids were okay though.
I Want to Go Home (1989, 1 official list, 77 checks) 4/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
OMG, that man was annoying. I wanted to punch him in the face constantly.
The Trollenberg Terror AKA The Crawling Eye (1958, 1 official list, 295 checks) 4/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Amazon Prime.
So bad, it's good…... No, scratch that, because I never know what that means. So bad, it's fun to watch…... That's better. Lame story, laughable special effects, stupid characters, but hey… it's fifties B-movie horror, so it's actually fun to watch. Luckily it's not very long.
Las hijas del fuego AKA The Daughters of Fire (2018, 1 official list, 47 checks) 3/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Lesbian explicit porn without a story. Don't watch this.
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#18

Post by prodigalgodson » April 26th, 2020, 8:35 pm

Dogville (Lars Von Trier, 2003) 9/10

Wow, as incisive a look at nascent darkness in small town America as anything Lynch or anyone else has made, and Von Trier's vision of corruption of truth and morality in American society feels more relevant than ever. The sparse set design works wonders in contributing to the sense of a thought experiment come to life (and is inspiring to low-budget filmmaking everywhere). The quirky chapter titles, quaint British narration, and idyllic violin/harpsichord/flute score add to the sense of ironic aloofness. Everything except the rat-in-a-maze overhead shots is captured via kinetic handheld photography, and I haven't seen anything filmed like this for awhile, with the panning wide shots and tight closeups, zooms, and jump cuts putting the camera fully in service of the characters and actors. The script is amazing, with a climactic philosophical exchange and explosive finale that manage to be incredibly cathartic without sacrificing any thematic relevance -- actually the ending feels very Tarantino, no surprise he's a fan. Many of the occurrences and eventualities seem metaphorical for America and the capitalist system in general, though it's hard for me to pick out exact analogs. The whole ensemble puts in stellar work (I'm running out of adjectives), with Kidman in maybe career-best form, elevating a character that could easily feel more like an idea than a person to full-fledged humanity. Poor Ben Gazzara looks like the entirety of his life's aging process occurred in the decade since The Big Lebowski; I liked his blind lecher's obsession with qualities of light. The ornery doctor from Curb Your Enthusiasm ("little prick") plays exactly the same role here as a retiree, to my delight. That "tiny change of light" early on where Kidman turns around and suddenly everyone's looking at her, or she feels they are (it's ambiguously literal, since everyone's inside their "houses"), is such a familiar feeling to me and I love how it's portrayed. Really there are a lot of clever nuances. Overall one of my favorite films of the century so far and a very pleasant surprise for me from Von Trier.

The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg, 1934) 8/10

Feels like the first half of Sternberg's masterpiece; unfortunately the scope is limited to Catherine's early romantic intrigues (the 1,000 extras promised in the title are in maybe two shots, lol). But the chamber piece focus gives Sternberg free reign for his incredible, just stupid opulent shots -- the whole preparation/marriage/reception sequence is probably the stylistic high point of the 30s. I can certainly see why this is a favorite among a certain kind of aesthete. Rewatching this was a great way to kick off 420.

La region centrale (Michael Snow, 1971) 9/10

This fragment of video feed from a manic-depressive piece of alien landing gear having a breakdown is something only cinematic hedonists and nutcases like me would choose to spend 3 hours watching, but as such it's great 420 viewing -- you don't feel like you're missing a thing being what Hank Hill would call doped off your gourd the whole time, and it flies by considering the length and structural boundaries of the content. [Spoilers] The meditative exploration which the bulk of it comprises left me completely unprepared for the hyperactive spinning segment and the even more feverishly abstract finale. The electrical sound track provides a hypnotic vaguely rhythmic section, and the whole thing has a mysterious artifactual feel to it -- you don't even see the shadow of the filming device in full until 2 1/2 hours through. [/Spoilers] In how he invites us into a totally different approach to cinematographic vision, Snow feels like a Wellesian pioneer of a whole as-yet-unexplored avenue of filmmaking, and for me this towers over Wavelength. The fact that this low-res TV rip (with the opening credits of The Steamroller and the Violin tacked on at the end) has over 2,000 views on Vimeo gives me a bit of hope for humanity.

Two Weeks in a Another Town (Vincent Minnelli, 1962) 7/10

Douglas visits Cinecitta ten years down the line from The Bad and the Beautiful (which gets a meta screening here); both an embrace of the evolution of filmmaking in that decade and a celebration of the classic Hollywood approach. Maybe it's a form of exoticism, but the mismatch of European setting and studio filmmaking, much like Preminger's Bonjour Tristesse, had me hooked off the bat, and Minnelli keeps it visually spiced up throughout via his immaculate tracking shots and assorted flourishes (shadow of shutters like prison bars across the lead's bed as the trappings of his past come back to haunt him, pipe smoke engulfing the frame as he's tempted to betray his friend). Ultimately a lusciously dressed bit of psychoanalytic self-criticism on the parts of Minnelli (via his stand-in Robinson, who gets all the best lines and tears the scenery to shreds) and Douglas, and one of the latest films I've seen that feels vintage Hollywood (it's remarkable how much the industry would change over just the next few years). That said, the climax is one of the more bizarre culminations I've seen in a Hollywood film, both daring and unsatisfying. There's an echo of La Dolce Vita and presaging of 8 1/2, and as a whole, the film's more than a curio but less than the elegiac classic it could've been.

Labyrinth of Dreams (Gakuryu Ishii, 1997) 8/10

As mawkishly magnificent as the title would suggest, the best I can describe it is a collision of the world of Wakamatsu and Oshima with the world of Ozu and Naruse. Would make a great double feature with Eureka of turn-of-the-century postmodern Japanese bus movies.

Chelsea Girls (Andy Warhol, 1966) 9/10

"You're not supposed to like it at all."
"I love it!"
"Shut up!"

The concept's simple enough: initially two black-and-white screens projected side-by-side featuring long takes of the loony goings-on in various rooms in a hotel, with sound from one side at a time (the juxtaposed screens are supposed to be divided moralistically too, though I wouldn't have worked that out if I hadn't read it afterwards). The fixed camera often stays still, but it's free to pan, tilt, zoom, and rack focus to capture or obscure whatever minutiae of its subject it deigns to follow. As it progresses Warhol starts tinkering, its form evolves, and it ultimately escalates into proto-Lynchian insanity. I was delighted to find, despite its reputation, that it has more the form of a movie than an art installation, complete with a musical outro. It's undoubtedly tiresome, especially its more low-key first two hours, but in a charmingly Warhol way, and I was viscerally reminded by contrast what a unique experience it is when the field of vision is first reduced to one silent screen somewhere in the middle. As a document of 60s funkiness it maintains its potency, but it's also an avant garde haunted house classic in its own right, and more ideal isolation viewing.

A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011) 6/10

Starts out with two sequences of bureaucratic and interpersonal annoyance, and continues as a humanist chronicle of the stifling pain-in-the-ass factor of everyday life in a society whose rigid regulations Farhadi obviously doesn't take kindly to, which progresses into a more serious web of ambiguous injustices and disappointments as the film goes on. As they accumulate the reveals and moral quandaries start to feel a bit soapy and manipulative, but it's fairly affecting stuff. It's shot in an artful, deceptively workmanlike style -- thoughtfully-framed handheld compositions, narrow depth of field, well-lit with a nice color palate, lots of visual jail bar metaphors -- which captures the subject matter nicely. Judging from the couple I've seen, Farhadi doesn't strike me as a torch-carrying talent on the level of Iran's previous generation of internationally recognized filmmakers, with whom he's often compared, but it may be that I'm just not the target audience for his moralizing Cassavettesesque bickerfests. Worth noting that his portrayal of the more conservative aspects of society might ironically play conservative in the US, but it never feels one-sided, and it's remarkable how, despite the difference in specifics, the degree to which societal, religious, legal, functional, and interpersonal annoyances constrain so much of quotidian life for many Americans make it somewhat transposable to here.

House of Games (David Mamet, 1987) 4/10

Mamet's debut looks like a clunkier episode of Seinfeld, and has a real feel of a playwright giving directing a shot, replete with corny overcooked dialogue that reminded me why I don't like theater -- that this guy had the chutzpah to write a book called On Directing after just one other film is something else. The big twist is obvious about as soon as it's set up, and the ultimate resolution is unsatisfyingly pat. That all said it's a mildly entertaining piece of wannabe Hitchcock.

Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (Wang Bing, 2002) 10/10

"Get this place on film now, because it won't be around much longer..."

Probably the most surreal documentary I've seen and a towering work in the medium's evolution. The first part, Rust, follows the few remaining workers at nationalized factories in Shenyang wandering like ghosts through the decomposing industrial wasteland -- idling, drinking, and fighting in break rooms when they're not performing menial mechanized labor (mostly loading and unloading machines, it seems) -- at the turn of the century as China shifts to a more privatized, hi-tech economy and the factories slowly go bankrupt and shut down. The second part, Remnants, follows the absurdity of the day-to-day social lives of families living in the factory district housing communities as they prepare for relocation. The third part, Rails, is the most intimate, meditative, and sentimental segment, focusing on the immediate circle of a railway scavenger scraping by in the industrial twilight, and serves as a comparative palate-cleanser after the sustained madness of the previous seven hours. Wang's lo-fi, gritty camerawork redefines immersive filmmaking, and despite the Tarr-esque long takes and the overall sprawl, his sense of timing as an editor can't be overstated. A sense of despair is potent throughout, but the relentlessly escalating lunacy and sheer apocalyptic strangeness make it hypnotically watchable, and its cynicism is tempered with caustic dark humor and the occasional glimpse of human warmth. A scene near the end where the scavenger's son is looking through photos from the recent past and the district looks just like any bustling, middle-class American factory compound really nailed home the ease with which the failure of a system that rewards corruption and lacks any structural ability to cope with change can so quickly and thoroughly devastate a whole way of life.

The aesthetics of factories, trains, and entropy have always held a fascination for me, as has the otherworldly aura of industrial landscapes on an inhuman scale, but form-challenging chronicles of social change are something I've only become passionate about more recently (eg Middlemarch, War and Peace, Hour of the Furnaces), so this feels like an ideal time in my life to see this. It's a totally incomparable experience, though it's hard not to think of Dante, Kafka, and Steinbeck at various points. Looking for historical counterparts, I'd say most of all Wang Bing's relationship to digital feels like Dziga Vertov's to film: revolutionizing the form as a new kind of collective political document amid a young century's upheavals. I can imagine a whole generation of both documentary and fiction filmmakers being influenced by this -- I don't think I've ever left a movie so eager to get my hands on whatever camcorder I can and get to work.

“We depend on each other for life. It’s always the same struggle, whether it’s people or animals. What I’m talking about here is survival of the fittest. The weak become extinct. You can’t get a piece of the pie, a piece of the market? Well then, you die out. That’s just the way it is. A lot of people are out there wondering: ‘what the hell? I can barely afford to eat!’ Doesn’t take a scientist to understand why. It’s just the way things are today.… I know we’re not what you’d call ‘educated,’ but we read the papers, we watch the news. We know what’s going on out there. We know how our lives compare.”

The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980) 6/10

Another one of those major movies I'd missed, and the reasons I had for postponing it seem justified. The murky feelings evoked and sense of melancholic unease are tres Lynch, but it feels like too conventional a take on its subject matter to really play to his strengths, with only hints of that oneiric alchemy he would come to hone over the course of his career. It might sound disingenuous in a week I watched La region centrale, Chelsea Girls, and West of the Tracks, but the story that's presented really doesn't feel like it justifies its length, retreading the same moral territory and narrative patterns throughout with diminishing returns. The silvery high-contrast photography is beautiful and the insular settings an apt reflection of Merrick's isolation. Some scenes seem to have a tinge of meta subtext about the sensationalist aspects of the film itself, and it's moments like these, when the film gets away from the more obvious aspects of its emotional core, that feel most successful. It hadn't occurred to me before, but Anthony Hopkins is a very strange actor, and pairs well with Lynch's style as a foil for the Elephant Man. It also didn't occur to me until I started watching this how personal the story must be to a weirdo like Lynch -- he demonstrates an intuitive understanding of the minutiae of this breed of alienation. Damn that man has had a graceful career arc.

Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006) (rewatch) 8/10

The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963) (rewatch) 8/10

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#19

Post by Onderhond » April 26th, 2020, 8:47 pm

prodigalgodson wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 8:35 pm
Labyrinth of Dreams (Gakuryu Ishii, 1997) 8/10

As mawkishly magnificent as the title would suggest, the best I can describe it is a collision of the world of Wakamatsu and Oshima with the world of Ozu and Naruse. Would make a great double feature with Eureka of turn-of-the-century postmodern Japanese bus movies.
Maybe add Hiroshi Shimizu's Suicide Bus (1998) for a nice triple bill?
Interesting to see people are suddenly discovering Ishii's Labyrinth of Dreams. Very nice film. Not quite my favorite, but it shows what an underrated and versatile director he is.

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#20

Post by prodigalgodson » April 26th, 2020, 9:40 pm

Onderhond wrote:
April 26th, 2020, 8:47 pm
Maybe add Hiroshi Shimizu's Suicide Bus (1998) for a nice triple bill?
Interesting to see people are suddenly discovering Ishii's Labyrinth of Dreams. Very nice film. Not quite my favorite, but it shows what an underrated and versatile director he is.
Thanks for the Suicide Bus rec, I'll put that on the to-watch list. Anything that makes Matthew's top 10 off the bat is gonna peak my interest haha. I haven't seen anything else from Ishii -- any recommendations?

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#21

Post by Onderhond » April 26th, 2020, 9:56 pm

Sogo/Gakuryu Ishii is one of my all-time favorites, so I have almost nothing but recommendations :)

He started out as a punk director, those films are quite incomparable to Labyrinth of Dreams though. But films like Mirrored Mind, Bitter Honey and August in the Water might be interesting to try next.

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#22

Post by kongs_speech » April 26th, 2020, 11:38 pm

I had another fairly slow week. I only made it through 11 films this week. I'm not really sure why, I guess maybe I was sleeping too much again. Anyway ... eight first time viewings and three rewatches, two with scores that jumped way up.

Vanya on 42nd Street (1994, Louis Malle) Probably just about everybody has heard of the play Uncle Vanya, but I had never seen a production of it. I was fascinated by this adaptation, which finds Wallace Shawn and others performing it without sets or props in an abandoned Manhattan playhouse. Even in such a minimalist form, the story and dialogue gripping and the performances are top-notch, especially Shawn and Brooke Smith. 4/5

Gas Food Lodging (1992, Alison Anders) Great little coming-of-age indie made by and about women. Faizura Balk is terrific, and the film does a good job of making its characters feel authentic. 4/5

Cockfighter {1974, Monte Hellman) My favorite of this World Cup round is this look at the barbaric sport of cockfighting. Despite how stupid and wrong cockfighting is, the film is highly enjoyable. Our protagonist is a loser, effectively played by Warren Oates, but his misadventures are entertaining, even humorous at times. The final cockfighting scene that serves as the film's climax is brutal, but also superbly directed. 4/5

The Unforgettable (1967, Yuliya Solntseva) The Ukrainian WC entry is a WWII film, one that is told through a fragmented narrative that made it difficult for me to connect with the material. There are great moments, and I like the shift between color and black and white (although if there was a thematic significance to it, I didn't quite pick up on that), but overall, I didn't care that much for it. 3/5

Hunting Scenes from Bavaria (1969, Peter Fleischmann) According to someone on Letterboxd, this German film is Michael Haneke's favorite. I have no way of knowing if that's true, but if so, it's a fun fact. It's interesting to see a film from the '60s tackle homophobia in some manner. I liked this fairly well, but it hasn't stayed in my mind. 3.5/5

The Day Shall Dawn (1959, A.J. Kardar) This Pakistani film about rural fishermen was my least favorite of the WC bunch. I don't have much to say about it, I was just generally bored. It's a well-made movie, but not one that captivated me. 2.5/5

Day for Night (1973, Francois Truffaut) Truffaut stars as a director dealing with all sorts of behind-the-scenes drama in this very fun and somewhat humorous film. Obviously, the writing and direction are masterful. I prefer Contempt, but it baffles me that Godard considered this film "a lie" and ended his friendship with Truffaut over it. His loss. 4/5

The Stendhal Syndrome (1996, Dario Argento) This is the second Argento film I've seen, after Suspiria. It was recommended by one of my best friends and also by someone in last week's thread. Sorry for the disappointment, but I didn't care for it. I don't mind an implausible premise in a horror flick, so that wasn't my concern. Rather, I felt that the acting was terrible, and that kept me from engaging with the material. Still, it's a pretty film, and the ending elevates it a bit. 2.5/5

Crash (2004, Paul Haggis) Best known as "the film that beat Brokeback Mountain," Crash is widely hated. Until two nights ago, I was one of those people. However, it occurred to me that I had never truly given the film a chance. My first viewing was clouded by all the hate I had read on Internet forums. When I saw it again in college, it was screened by a teacher who was a pretentious jerk. So for my first watch in nine years, I decided to go in with an open mind. Perhaps this is a case of the right film hitting me at the right moment, but I was stunned by how much I not only appreciated, but loved the film this time. Yes, the characters are a bit broad, but this was clearly done intentionally to sell the message. Crash is a film of powerful scenes and brilliant acting. After watching the film, I read Ebert's review, as well as his article "In defense of the year's worst movie." If you strongly disagree with me, I'll refer you to his writing. He makes the case for it much better than I can. 4.5/5

Southland Tales (2006, Richard Kelly) As you may remember from two weeks ago, I rewatched Southland Tales, a long-time favorite of mine, and bumped it all the way to my #6 of all-time. One of my best friends informed me the other day that he planned to watch the film on MUBI, so I insisted that we watch "together" by chatting on Facebook. He not only loved it but gave it a 10/10. I appreciated it even more than I did before. 5/5

I Am Legend (2007, Francis Lawrence) This is another movie that I saw in high school and did not like. I honestly can't recall what I didn't enjoy about it, so I felt compelled to give it another shot. I'm glad I did, because there's a highly entertaining sci-fi film here with some parallels to our current coronavirus crisis. Will Smith, one the most charismatic actors to ever come out of Hollywood, gives one of his typically likable performances. I think The Omega Man is a bit better than this remake, but there's no reason why one shouldn't seek out both. 3.5/5
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#23

Post by kongs_speech » April 27th, 2020, 1:04 am

Everyone else:

sol:

Two Men in Manhattan - I liked it a bit more than you, but I don't disagree with much of what you wrote. 3.5/5

Schramm - This one has been on my radar for a long time. I hope to see it someday.

Butter - I hated this film. I'm glad you enjoyed it, but for me, it was an unfunny, tonally inconsistent misfire with more of Hollywood's typically mockery of rural Americans. I do recall liking Ty Burrell. 1.5/5

Killing Them Softly - I think I was one of few people who bothered seeing this in theaters. A shame, really, as it's a great film that probably looks even better in our current political situation. I'd be curious to revisit it sometime. 4/5

Vox Lux - One of my favorites of 2018. Portman and the music are phenomenal, as is Corbet's direction and the dark satire of the script. 4.5/5

Perception:

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace - I plan to watch this soon, as I've just seen HyperNormalisation this afternoon and it blew me away. I love essay films and want to see as many of them as I can.

Killing Them Softly - See above.

Bushworld Adventures - The Rick and Morty April Fools thing, yeah? I recall enjoying it, but 2019's [adult swim] April Fools prank, Gemusetto Machu Picchu, is a masterpiece.

mightysparks:

Hereditary - I know this is a "hot take," but I didn't care much for it. I agree with Sol that it nosedives once the best character leaves, and after that, I felt like it wasn't anything that I hadn't seen before. But perhaps I should rewatch it, seeing that I consider Midsommar one of the best films of the century. 2.5/5

Swallow - I plan to see this and The Hunt soon. I want to work my way through 2020's films so far, seeing as there aren't too many of them. That will include watching every wide US release, as well as significant limited release and streaming films.

Onderhond:

We Are Still Here - I love weird, somewhat low-budget horror flicks like that, so I had a great time. The gore is pretty badass. Pretty sure I have this sitting around here on DVD somewhere, but I can't recall. 3.5/5

Fantasy Island - Not looking forward to this at all, but I plan to see it as part of my 2020 quest.

Rise of the Guardians - It's pretty, but the comedy is awful and the message encouraging blind faith really rubbed me the wrong way, though I guess that's par for the course with Christmas movies. I generally like those, but this one got on my damn nerves. 1/5

American Reunion - It's not as good as the first two, but I found this likely final chapter a good deal more pleasant than Wedding. It was fun to see the entire cast back. I've seen the original enough times to make them feel like old friends. 3/5

Shark Tale - Hard, hard pass. My man Will Smith has been in some real stinkers. And Scorsese -- what the hell? 1.5/5

joachimt:

Cheaper by the Dozen - Hell no. 0.5/5

prodigal:

A Separation - I liked it much more, but that's a fair review. I was captivated by the characters. 4/5

The Elephant Man, The Birds and Children of Men are all films I liked that need rewatches.
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#24

Post by sol » April 27th, 2020, 1:44 am

kongs_speech wrote:
April 27th, 2020, 1:04 am
sol:

Two Men in Manhattan - I liked it a bit more than you, but I don't disagree with much of what you wrote. 3.5/5

Schramm - This one has been on my radar for a long time. I hope to see it someday.

Butter - I hated this film. I'm glad you enjoyed it, but for me, it was an unfunny, tonally inconsistent misfire with more of Hollywood's typically mockery of rural Americans. I do recall liking Ty Burrell. 1.5/5

Killing Them Softly - I think I was one of few people who bothered seeing this in theaters. A shame, really, as it's a great film that probably looks even better in our current political situation. I'd be curious to revisit it sometime. 4/5

Vox Lux - One of my favorites of 2018. Portman and the music are phenomenal, as is Corbet's direction and the dark satire of the script. 4.5/5
I think I might have liked Two Men in Manhattan more if I had not also recently seen Le Silence de la Mer. It's really quite amazing how great a film Melville managed to begin his career on. Oh, and Schramm isn't an "easy" film, so approach it with that in mind. It's disturbing in the best possible way.

Interesting that you would single Ty Burrell out from the Butter cast. He is reasonably fun in "Modern Family" but does not really have a lot to do in Butter. He is a pretty passive character in a film absolutely dominated by its women (and one girl). I never thought about the film as mocking rural Americans, and maybe I wouldn't like it as much if I knew or was a rural US citizen myself. As an outsider though, I really just enjoyed the over-the-top pageantry competition, promotion and stuff. Sort of like Best in Show or Election, but more focused than the former and not quite as satiric as the latter. Quite interesting to hear your differing take on it as a US citizen yourself. Maybe this plays best with foreigners.

Nice to see that we are eye-to-eye on Killing Them Softly. I agree that it seems all the more pessimistic today. On that note, I don't know if I regret skipping it when it was in cinemas. Plays out much better in the Trump era I think.

Very different take to you on Vox Lux. I'm always up for a good Natalie Portman performance, but I would not rate this as one of her best turns. The music actually did not do much for me either (though I liked the music video masks and glitzy costumes) and I didn't see very much in the way of satire. I don't know; I guess the film is partially about how she rises to fame more based on public sentiment regarding her music than the quality of it, but the whole thing seemed more about her strained relationships with her daughter and sister. The film looked pretty enough but I found it unfocused.

Yours:

I found Gas Food Lodging to be very ordinary at the time. I have seen a lot of coming-of-age girl films in my time and this did not strike me as one of the better ones. I would recommend Personal Velocity for a better Fairuza Bulk performance.

Cockfighter was another unimpressive film for me at the time. Monte Hellman did a really great film rather recently (Road to Nowhere) but I have never had much interest in his earlier films. Warren Oates is certainly quite an actor though, but again I prefer him a lot more elsewhere - Alfredo Garcia in particular.

The Stendhal Syndrome though, (l)! Now there is a film that I can get behind. Going through your reviews, it looks like we have quite polar opposite tastes in films. I thoroughly enjoyed this tribute to Vertigo myself. I can't remember the supporting performances too well, but I thought Asia Argento was amazing in the lead role.

Southland Tales - already discussed before.

I Am Legend though I agree was quite decent (maybe our film taste isn't that polar opposite) - though I prefer it to The Omega Man myself.
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#25

Post by mightysparks » April 27th, 2020, 4:51 am

kongs_speech wrote:
April 27th, 2020, 1:04 am
mightysparks:

Hereditary - I know this is a "hot take," but I didn't care much for it. I agree with Sol that it nosedives once the best character leaves, and after that, I felt like it wasn't anything that I hadn't seen before. But perhaps I should rewatch it, seeing that I consider Midsommar one of the best films of the century. 2.5/5

Swallow - I plan to see this and The Hunt soon. I want to work my way through 2020's films so far, seeing as there aren't too many of them. That will include watching every wide US release, as well as significant limited release and streaming films.
I felt similarly about the 'best character' leaving the first time I watched it, but knowing where it went the second time I found it easier to focus on what is brought out in the other characters after they leave. I think plot-wise it's not that different to anything that's been done before, but it's emotionally/atmospherically/viscerally powerful enough for it to stand out as quite original to me. The careful camerawork and set design help give it that dread and claustrophobia too. My boyfriend watched it with me this time and he loved it but found it scary (he doesn't like 'scary' films lol), I don't really find it scary but there is a hopelessness to it that I really like and I don't usually have strong visceral reactions to films.

Swallow and The Hunt are the only 2020 releases I've seen so far and both were good, so here's hoping the rest of 2020 can live up to them...

Yours:

Cockfighter 6/10 - don't really remember this tbh
Day for Night 8/10 - been a while but I loved this, thought it flowed well and was engaging
The Stendhal Syndrome 4/10 - don't remember this either but must've been bad
Crash 5/10 - I was pretty confused about how much hate this got, I thought it was alright. Nothing really memorable to me, but there were some good scenes and doesn't really deserve its rep.
I Am Legend 8/10 - I haven't seen it since it came out but I found it really fun. The effects and the ending are awful, but otherwise I think it's pretty good. I liked it more than The Omega Man.
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#26

Post by prodigalgodson » April 27th, 2020, 8:12 pm

God damn it, I got signed out and had to start again the second time in a row :circle:

sol
Two Men in Manhattan - sounds interesting
From the Life of the Marionettes - still sounds interesting lol
Ghare-Baire - sounds good, I've been meaning to check out more Ray
Sleepers - thanks for the rec
Songs from the Second Floor 9/10 - don't remember any of the plot, but the imagery and mood have stuck with me
Dogville Confessions - sounds entertaining
Killing Them Softly 8/10 - yeah, pretty underrated
Fanny and Alexander - I'd like to rewatch this, preferably in miniseries form this time

pda
Killing Them Softly 8/10 - yo
Hindenburg Disaster Newsreel Footage 8/10 - hard to know how to evaluate watching real time death lol

sparks
Caged 5/10 - all sounds about right
Hereditary 4/10 - not my cup of tea, especially the last act

hond
The Terrorizers 9/10 - ouch, wish I remembered this enough to defend it specifically, but I think there's a lot going on; I know it's been described as the ultimate postmodern film or something
Shark Tale 1/10 - yeah, even as a kid, this was awful

toad
small roads - nice, I've been in the mood for more Benning lately; can I ask where you saw this?
The Night Affair - cool, thanks for the rec
Le plaisir - love Ophuls, don't usually dig anthologies, and found this uneven despite the aesthetic beauty

jt
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 3/10 - hated the climax stretched into a movie feel
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 8/10 - aww, one of my favorites of these movies, liked the flow and sense of adventure and actually really liked that Harry/Hermione dance
Sisters 7/10 - I think my first De Palma, I remember enjoying it
Psalm IV: Valley of the Shadow 8/10 - Solomon is that dude

ks
Cockfighter - Hellman and Oates is a match made in...well, hell, but I want to see this
Day for Night 5/10 - didn't do much for me at the time
The Stendhal Syndrome - glad for a second opinion lol
Crash 6/10 - some good stuff, but much of it plays manipulative to me
Southland Tales - glad your friend liked it so much!
I Am Legend 6/10 - one of the first movies I saw by myself in the theater; liked the beginning a lot, less as it went on

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#27

Post by sol » April 28th, 2020, 10:26 am

prodigalgodson wrote:
April 27th, 2020, 8:12 pm
sol
Two Men in Manhattan - sounds interesting
From the Life of the Marionettes - still sounds interesting lol
Ghare-Baire - sounds good, I've been meaning to check out more Ray
Sleepers - thanks for the rec
Songs from the Second Floor 9/10 - don't remember any of the plot, but the imagery and mood have stuck with me
Dogville Confessions - sounds entertaining
Killing Them Softly 8/10 - yeah, pretty underrated
Fanny and Alexander - I'd like to rewatch this, preferably in miniseries form this time
I feel too exhausted after returning to work (after two weeks off) to provide any sort of lengthy reply, but in brief:

Only ever seen the miniseries version of Fanny and Alexander myself. I have often thought about given the shorter version a go over the years but it seems pointless. I mean, the 5-hour version is a perfect film as is and I can only imagine its effect being diminished with 45% of the runtime missing. And yeah, Songs had some interesting images for sure. I just wish it added up to something more. First Roy Andersson film that I have seen, by the way.

Yours:

Too much to read on Dogville but based on your last sentence, I think you would enjoy Dogville Confessions - available as a special feature on the DVD. La Region Centrale is my least favourite of Snow's feature-length works, but a curious film all the same. I just really dig how his other films are so playful. That element didn't quite seem as prominent to me in Centrale. Forgotten most of Two Weeks and The Elephant Man. It has been an especially long time with the latter. Was not impressed with Children of Men, but I guess for an uncredited remake of ZPG it was okay. Agreed that The Birds is not top tier Hitchcock, however, I loved House of Games myself and was personally surprised by how well it stacked up to revision knowing the twists.
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#28

Post by peeptoad » April 28th, 2020, 11:13 am

prodigalgodson wrote:
April 27th, 2020, 8:12 pm
small roads - nice, I've been in the mood for more Benning lately; can I ask where you saw this?
It's on YouTube :thumbsup:

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#29

Post by OldAle1 » April 29th, 2020, 5:19 pm

This Film ROCKS
This Film SUCKS

Thriller - en grym film / Thriller: A Cruel Picture (Bo Arne Vibenius, 1973)


I think this is my first film starring Swedish sexpot Christina Lindberg, though I've known the name for decades - we used to get lots of request for her films at the video stores I worked at in the late 80s - 90s. 70s sexploitation is not exactly an era/genre that I've explored deeply, but when I have I've usually found a little interest at least - maybe I've been careful and just haven't seen much of the real trash. Anyway this seems a well above-average example, with Lindberg as the grown-up young woman who went mute after a horrible rape when she was a child, now forced into slavery and narcotic addiction by a vile scumbag (Heinz Hopf) who also half-blinds her when she initially refuses to put out for his customers and attacks them. But she'll get her revenge, oh my! This is a fairly silly film - knowing this woman has the potential for violence, why does Tony give her SO much leeway that she can spend apparently hundreds of hours training in martial arts, combat driving, and shooting? Why does he even allow her to have her own money? Nothing's explained particularly well, most of the acting is mediocre, but Lindberg herself is actually pretty good in an admittedly limited role and character, and she's certainly an eyeful. One thing I found curious is that she seems very, very short - I'd have guessed only about 5' / 150 cm - but the intrawebs claims she's a good half-foot taller, and in the film I watched right after this she's paired with the very tall Stellan Skarsgård and that listed height looks correct. So I think this was shot to try to make her seem smaller than she actually is, so as to make her action feats in the last third of the film even more exciting and extreme. Also love her vengeance goddess get-up, reminiscent of Meiko Kaji in broadly similar roles at the same time:

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Anita (Torgny Wickman, 1973)

Pure sexploitation - as opposed to the revenge motif in the previous film, this just offers us Christina Lindberg as a nympho who wants to have sex with somebody new all the time, and who can't commit to or love anyone, and of course it all goes back to her parents, as psych student Stellan Skarsgård finds out while sort of taking care of Anita in the house he shares with a bunch of music students. Eh, this one was pretty tiresome and the pop psychologizing unconvincing - clearly the only reason to see this is for the nudity, which is fairly abundant. Not worth my time writing more, and I suspect it's not really worth exploring this particular branch of exploitation cinema any more, at least not for me.


TIger in the Smoke (Roy Ward Baker, 1956)

Meg (Muriel Pavlow) is about to marry Geoffrey (Donald Sinden), several years after the war in which she lost her first husband - but then she sees him, or thinks she sees him, on a railway platform, shortly after getting a mysterious letter. Being actually cautious and smart, she's alerted the police, and the man turns out to be a counterfeit, apparently.. but why? Soon a complex little web involving a "treasure" found or stolen in France during the war, a group of veterans who live in a cellar and mostly beg for a living, and a master criminal-psychopath (Tony Wright) starts spinning, mostly in one of the foggiest film Londons you'll ever see. This is another quite solid film that never really adds up to anything truly special, but certainly worthwhile for Brit-noir specialists.

The Long Memory (Robert Hamer, 1953)

John Mills has just been released from prison after 12 years spent paying for a crime he claims he didn't commit. Now he's living on an abandoned boat on the coast, plotting his revenge against the people who put him away for the crime - one of whom is a woman (Elizabeth Sellars) who is now married to the police superintendant (Johm McCallum) tasked with watching over Mills! This small Dickensian coincidence aside, this is another solid if unspectacular little film, distinguished primarily by some really terrific photography (by Harry Waxman) and mostly real location work in the London area and Gravesend. Probably the best of the three British noirs I watched in a row, though only by a small margin.

Street Fighter (Steve E. de Souza, 1994)

In the mood for 80s-90s action, this was actually on the Action movies official list, and it's one of the few Van Damme films from this era I hadn't yet seen. "For good reason" you are saying to yourselves, and you'd be right. While there are moments of hilarity and stupidity here that almost put it into the so-bad-it's-good category, ultimately it's not enough and it's just too dull. I wouldn't say the film exactly takes it too seriously - star bad guy Raul Julia (sadly in his last role) seems to be aware of the camp value of playing a leather-clad pseudo-Nazi based on a video game character in a James Bond villain type hideout, threatening the world if it doesn't cough up billions of dollars - but it's just not cheesy enough. And the action is just OK, like most western films that are martial-arts heavy it's cut too fast and the action just unconvincing and repetitive. And JCVD is just bland here - not that he's ever brilliant exactly, but usually I'd put him at least a bit ahead of Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal in both the acting and charisma departments; here, not so much. Writer-director de Souza was responsible, as a screenwriter, for some significant action material in the 80s, including Die Hard and Commando, but if you look at his post-1990 filmography there's not much gold, or silver, or maybe even copper to be found; high-concept had become nonsense in Hollywood's typical action approach by this point and he certainly didn't rise above it. Apart from an amateur effort made 20 years earlier, this is his only film as director, and it's easy to see why.

Byôsoku 5 senchimêtoru / 5 Centimers per Second (Makoto Shinkai, 2007)

Three brief stories in the lives of a couple of young people who meet just before middle school and try to stay connected over several years, despite moving to different schools in different parts of the country. The more I see of Shinkai's films, the more they seem similar, all of a piece; this isn't a bad thing really but I do wonder a bit as to whether my greatest affection for Your Name has to do to some extent with it being the first film I saw; most of his themes - the vagaries of memory, particularly from childhood, romantic longing, the feeling of not belonging to the world, of missing something, the obsession with space and flying - are here and in just about all of his work. But this is a beautiful film on it's own, even if the short running time and tripartite structure make it feel a little bit thin at times, particularly in the last section.

Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982) (re-watch)

TCM. I didn't have this checked - wasn't sure if I'd seen it, perhaps because bits of both the film and (especially) Philip Glass's score have embedded themselves in pop culture over the decades, so I knew it in a fractured way for sure, but had I seen it properly all at once? Answer is, yes I had, and even the experience came back to me to a certain extent on seeing it last week for the first time since, I'm thinking, the late 80s, at the Music Box Theater in Chicago, with one of my best friends at the time who was a HUGE Glass fan and a fan of the film. Seeing it didn't do much for my opinion of either film or composer at the time, and 30 or so years later, still doesn't. And if I wasn't impressed seeing it on a big screen with blaring sound, why would I be impressed watching it home alone? This is surely a big-screen experience, but what it has to say and show just isn't that impressive to me outside of the shallowest of responses. Perhaps in 1982 there hadn't been many films showing man's impact on the environment in quite such a way, but there certainly have been now - and I guess I question how valuable this non-narrative purely visual/aural approach to the subject is in any case. I have warmed to Glass a *little* more but I still prefer many other "minimalists" and allies of his generation - John Adams, Steve Reich, Michael Nyman and especially Gavin Bryars. Some day I'll sit down and listen to Glass' Einstein on the Beach straight through, maybe that'll be the key; I doubt I'll ever watch the sequels to this film though. Certainly worth seeing once, especially if you can see it on a really big screen with great sound, but not really my kind of experiment.

Charulata (Satyajit Ray, 1964) (re-watch)

Another film I'd seen before but largely forgotten, though much came back to me. I'd had this pegged as my favorite Ray film over the years, and as I've been slowly going through his work, re-watching many and seeing others for the first time, I've really been looking forward to getting back to this, wondering whether it would hold up. As I watched the story of the dissolution of a marriage - and in particular, of the problems caused by inabilities to communicate or articulate feelings, on the parts of all three main characters - a husband and wife and the brother of the husband, whom the wife comes to fall for - it all came back to me, my own experience watching this as my own relationship at the time (summer of 1995) was coming to and end, and for some of the same reasons - an inability to communicate, to articulate desires, needs, feelings. And this film takes place over a hundred years earlier, in a different country and culture, and yet so much remains the same. Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee giving one of the best female lead performances for a director who really excelled in getting great work out of his lead actresses) is educated - she can read and write, write well even - but still not really a part of her husband's work (he's an editor for a politically-oriented newspaper) and when his younger brother Amal (Ray regular Soumitra Chatterjee) comes to visit, and tries to push Charu into asserting herself more, new feelings and responses come to the fore.

Part of what makes this film brilliant I think is that the men in the film are definitely "liberal" - in the sense of believing in liberal democracy - and really do believe in women having greater roles in society, and yet they and Charu are all still so constrained by the weight of custom and tradition, and by an inability to actually see each other first and foremost as fellow human beings rather than looking at gender, class, wealth, etc, however much they try. There are no bad guys here (there rarely are in Ray's work), and everybody on some level is trying to make life better for themselves and those around them, and yet it's an impossible task, and for Charu in particular there simply is no world that she can be happy in. The way that Ray uses stills at the end - something he does in a few other films, but never quite so brilliantly as here - does as much as anything in the film to articulate the impossibility of communication and understanding when you don't even have the concepts of these things within you. This remains a shattering and heartbreaking experience for me and easily still tops Ray's filmography. Also probably my favorite of his scores (so far).

Kapurush / The Hero (Satyajit Ray, 1965)

Madhabi Mukherjee and Soumitra Chatterjee return in Ray's next film, another love triangle of sorts in a more constrained setting - both in run time (70 minutes) and themes. Here Chatterjee is young screenwriter Amit, whose car breaks down out in some sparsely populated country area, and is taken in for the night by good samaritan Bimal, a wealthy middle-aged businessman (Haradhan Banerjee) with much younger wife Karuna (Mukherjee) --- who turns out to have been his former lover back in university days, and who he left because he felt he couldn't live up to the standards of her wealthier family. During the night's stay, and the drive all of them take the next day, all kinds of feelings and memories surface, and the meaning of the title starts to suggest elements in all three main characters' personalities. Not ultimately one of the director's absolute best, but still a near-brilliant commentary on the ways our choices - our cowardice or bravery - may come back to haunt us, with a particularly devastating ending.

Mahapurush / The Holy Man (Satyajit Ray, 1965)

Another short feature, this one exploring the theme of religious fakery, with a charismatic holy man (Charuprakash Ghosh) and his assistant claiming miracles and cures, and a group of better-educated friends who hatch a scheme to expose the fakery. This was entertaining enough, broadly comic and interesting as a take on belief and disbelief that I haven't really seen in Indian cinema, but on the whole it didn't do a whole lot for me, and I definitely found some of it a little challenging due to cultural ignorance on my part.

Nayak / The Hero (Satyajit Ray, 1966)

Or, Satyajit Ray does 8 1/2. Uttam Kumar, one of the biggest Bengali stars of the period, plays Arindam - one of the biggest Bengali stars of the period - reminiscing and reflecting on his life and career, the good decisions and bad, drinking and women, on a long train trip. He's interviewed by Aditi (Sharmila Tagore, only 19 when she made this, her 14th film, but seeming very mature if still looking very young) for a women's magazine along the way, and the development of their relationship from borderline hostility to respect and maybe the beginnings of friendship - but nothing more than that - is probably the best element in the film, which otherwise I found a little ordinary, frankly. Maybe it is the fact that, besides 8 1/2 there are so many other self-portrait films out there; maybe it's the fact that Ray isn't at his best doing dream sequences; I'm also not sure that having Ari wear dark sunglasses that can't help remind one of Mastroianni is such a good idea. It's still good for sure, and I liked the bits where Ari remembers his more politically radical friend, and how they become distanced as his friend continues to care about social justice while Ari becomes a movie star and wedded to capitalism - perhaps a commentary on Ray's relationship to the more leftist and uncompromising Ritwik Ghatak? In any case a bit of a disappointment for me given the reputation.

Chiriyakhana / The Zoo (Satyajit Ray, 1967)

Ray does an Agatha Christie-style mystery, with very mixed results. While like all of his films the acting here ranges from just very good to impeccable, and while there's nothing particularly wrong with the story or the way the narrative comes together at the end (people sitting around in a room like in all such mysteries, as the detective explains things to them and finds the killer), it's too long (about 2 hours) in the end for what ends up such a simple tale, and as is usual in these kinds of films, we get introduced to innumerable characters who are never allowed to develop beyond being types. I did like our two detectives and their banter a fair bit, and I got the sense that this was maybe designed as the first part of a series that never materialized. In the end kind of a snooze and probably Ray's weakest film up through 1970 (still plenty of later films I haven't seen).

Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne / The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha (Satyajit Ray, 1969)

Ray not only performed his usual tasks for this kid-oriented fantasy adventure - writing, directing, and scoring - he also is credited for the lyrics and costumes, and (uncredited) he provided the voice for the Ghost King. So either it was a super-low budget film (doesn't look like it in the context of his other work) or it was really a labor of love. It certainly is quite different from anything else up to this point in his filmography - even his couple of other more comic works aren't as broad or goofy by half as this story of a couple of wandering musicians who are given a magical gift - the ability to summon up food and clothing, and to transport themselves anywhere on command - and how they try to keep a great kingdom from being invaded by another. I liked the music, Tapan Chatterjee and Rabi Ghosh make a great team as our hapless heroes, and it's just lots of fun overall. Might be a favorite if I'd gotten to see a better copy with subs for the songs (a common problem).

Aranyer Din Ratri / Days and Nights in the Forest (Satyajit Ray, 1970)

Back to more typical Ray, a drama (though with a fair bit of humor) about a group of four young Calcutta men, up-and-comers in the world I suppose who aren't quite there yet, who go on a holiday out in the country, with lots of culture- and class-conflicting results. Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore are on hand once again, as the most well-off and polished of the four visitors, and the beautiful younger daughter of the nearest neighbor to the bungalow where they're staying. This has a little bit more "relaxed" and almost improvised feel to it than most of the director's earlier work, perhaps in part due to a larger and somewhat disparate cast, and a fairly minimal plot - it's mostly just various interactions exploring the differences between the four men - who it's clear will not be friends for life - and between the various attitudes towards city and country life. It feel like a small film with some fairly big insights and ambitions, mostly hiding and bubbling up at unexpected moments. Pretty terrific in the end, and I look forward to continuing on with Ray's work in the 70s.

Mother India (Mehboob Khan, 1957)

I think this was the Indian film on the highest number of official lists (9) that I hadn't seen, and I haven't seen all that many Hindi films from the classic era, so why not? It was a bad sign that the copy I had - which was sharp and with beautiful color - didn't have the songs subbed, but hey, I found a YT copy that did, even if the subs were hard to read and the color not so great. But then the subs cut out on that copy altogether at the halfway point to I had to switch back to my original copy. Why do I mention this? I suppose this frustration could be an element in my overall displeasure in the film, and it's certainly worth repeating to anybody who cares that SONGS SHOULD BE SUBBED ALSO. That said, I don't think the songs here are as important as plot elements or movers as they are in many musical films - though there are quite a lot of them, particularly in the first half. And I'm not sure anything could have made me really like this. I get that it's supposed to have some very particular meaning within Hindi culture and that there are some allegorical elements that I probably don't understand, but I have to go with my own instincts here, and this is just not a great experience. Nargis is pretty good I guess, at least in the first half, as the long-suffering Radha, who goes through every kind of awful experience that a poor woman can go through it seems, losing house and home, a child, etc, and as I said the color is quite brilliant - it's a nice-looking film overall. But the cartoonishness of the characters and action in the second half, particularly Sunil Dutt's monstrous Birju, just took me out of any kind of feeling I might have for the story or the broader social significance of it all. Not downright terrible or anything, and the music is if not memorable for me, not bad, but on the whole this has to be one of the worst films on the TSP main list, and one of those films that just seems - unlike the vast majority of Indian films I've seen from this era - a product of a culture I can't understand in the slightest.

Tasher Desh / Land of Cards (Qaushiq Mukherjee, credited as "Q", 2012)

There's no credited screenwriter listed on IMDb but the film - or perhaps it's only some of the film-or-theater-within-the-film - credits the stories of Rabindranath Tagore. And indeed there are bits of dialogue, particularly in the earlier parts featuring the prince and his - assistant? much is (deliberately) unclear - that suggest the early 20th century world of that writer. "A fantasia around ideas of Tagore" might be appropriate, though I don't know the writer's work apart from film adaptations, and this film in it's references and mix of styles and storytelling techniques is clearly going in it's own route. Hard to describe really, after one viewing at any rate - there are several layers, including a tall, bald storyteller in a b/w cinematic world, the prince, the people dressed as cards who sort of remind me of both Alice in Wonderland and Nazis at the same time; lots of psychedelic, experimental, non-narrative elements, a strong dose of eroticism... I honestly can't articulate much beyond this; perhaps if I'd written it down immediately after viewing, but even then I think it would have been tough, this is one of those narratives (quasi-narratives?) that is dreamlike in the best sense, it cannot be accurately captured by the conscious mind. I'm hesitant to call it a great film after one shot but it was certainly a powerful and strange experience.

Uski Roti / Our Daily Bread (Mani Kaul, 1970)
Duvidha (Mani Kaul, 1973)

Puppeteers of Rajasthan (Man Kaul, 1974)
A Historical Sketch of Indian Women (Mani Kaul, 1975)


Kaul's first feature is also the first one I've seen. It's another film that's rather hard to describe, that needs a new language or way of looking at cinema separate from what came before or from what I am used to, even having seen a reasonably wide variety of the cinemas that Kaul certainly drew on. The name that comes up first is Bresson and indeed in his particular way of using close-ups - particularly hands and eyes - and in the "objective" acting styles at play, it's a useful comparison. But the way he constructs his narrative, and particularly in the way we feel time here, is something I'm not sure I've seen in Bresson (maybe Lancelot du lac) and it's offputting and makes for a difficult experience at first. It's not necessarily that the order of events is scrambled or that it's deliberately vague, moreso that there seem to be events left out, or connective material that we would find in most films, and so this fairly simple story of a woman who waits for her husband the bus driver on a lonely road outside their rural village every day, and comes to suspect he's got a mistress in town, requires careful examination of every gesture and glance, and every word spoken, to pry open it's inner story about the roles of men and women, and the age-old arguments about tradition, largely unspoken. It's all shot in grays it seems - not b/w, but gray/gray/white would be more accurate... a gray world and a gray life that never varies.

Duvidha is just as beautiful, difficult, and fascinating, perhaps more so because it's easier to "connect" with, if that's a meaningful word to use for a director who seems to want us to keep a certain distance. A young couple marry, and the man immediately leaves - apparently without even consummating the marriage - for work, trading in far lands. But a ghost, seeing this, falls for the woman and decides to impersonate the man, and come to live with the woman, with whom he has a child. The man returns, but the ghost looks just like him, and the people of the village can't tell them apart, and at first reject the actual husband. Like Uski Roti this has a deep subtle eroticism to it - well, perhaps not as subtle - and the main argument, about a man's duties as provider or husband/father, is articulated in a fairly novel way. Again, I don't feel I understand this material well enough at this point to go further, but both of these films are beautiful and fascinating enough that I'm sure I'll get back to them, and pry out a few more secrets, someday.

The two shorts are both solid enough works; both are narrated in English but unsubtitled, and this is a little problematic, especially in the case of the first film (the film about women has less total dialogue). Both nicely done, politically-charged works as a westerner I'm only slightly equipped to deal with.

Nickelodeon (Peter Bogdanovich, 1976)
Saint Jack (Peter Bogdanovich, 1979)

TCM. The best thing about TCM is when they show stuff that interests me enough to watch - but didn't interest me enough to bother finding on my own. That's this program in a nutshell. I've liked most of the director's films, liked a few quite a bit, but not so much that I've ever really made an effort to see more - just watch it as it comes my way. The first of these is, as described by Ben Mankiewicz in the intro, the last of his three big flops in a row, which nearly ruined his career, and Saint Jack is the film that set him back on the road to at least a modest recovery, though he has never achieved anything close to the heights he existed on in the early 70s.

Nickelodeon should be right up my alley and those of anybody really interested in American film history, in particular the early silent era, just before World War I. Ryan O'Neal and Burt Reynolds are two young guys who through a series of misadventures and mixups, mostly involving Jane Hitchcock, who both fall for, wind up in the movie business in the southwest, doing knockabout comic westerns in the vein of Mack Sennett, early Arbucke & Keaton, etc. There are some enjoyable individual scenes and the film is clever and certainly shows the director's intimate knowledge of movie history... but the constant breathless stream of non-stop dialogue, the totally fake quality of nearly all the characterizations (probably in large part deliberate), and the... I guess inconsequential feeling of all of it add up to very much ado about absolutely nothing. Brian Keith is fun as the showman movie producer but he's only in it for a few scenes at the beginning and end. Snnnooooozzze.

Saint Jack is definitely much better, with Ben Gazzara giving one of his best performances as a likable pimp - rather, the owner of a house of ill repute, but ill repute with good repute as one might say - in Singapore, and his befriending of a British accountant (Denholm Elliott) who visits him once a year to do his books. It was all shot on location in Singapore and it has a much looser and low-key feel than the previous film - more natural and never forced. I'm not sure that overall it adds up to anything beyond a well-shot character study of a basically good guy in a basically bad business (the kind of role Gazzara excelled in), but maybe that's enough.

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