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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 18, 2020

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sol
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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 18, 2020

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Post by sol » May 3rd, 2020, 12:00 pm

Which Films Did You See Last Week?

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

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

This is what I saw:

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

The Spieler (1928). Two small-time grifters take circus jobs so that they swindle spectators by "finding" wallets that have been "lost" and return them in the hope of reward, however, getting to know the pretty young circus owner causes them to slowly change in their tune in this American silent. While all of the romantic plotting and criminal reform stuff is by-the-books, the film is elevated by Alan Hale's charisma as the main grifter and Renée Adorée whose silent, disapproving stares convey more than words ever could as the circus owner. Clyde Cook is also fine as the other grifter and has one surefire memorable final scene. In fact, the film mounts quite a bit of tension towards the end, and coupled against several solid montages full of overlapping imagery and some fun circus action, this is an immensely likeable film - and briskly paced as well. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Rancho Notorious (1952). Bitter over the brutal rape and murder of his bride to-be, a ranch hand tries to infiltrates a safe haven for wanted fugitives in order to track down the killer in this Technicolor western from Fritz Lang. Disparaged by Lang himself in Godard's Contempt, this is not one of his better efforts, but there is still much of interest. Arthur Kennedy is effective in the lead role and his befriending of Mel Ferrer's master criminal with ulterior motives is well-handled, as is his initiation to the safe haven where he has to try to work out who the killer is. Kennedy seems to forget his objective though for significant stretches in the second half with an undercooked romance and Marlene Dietrich strutting her stuff instead taking centre focus. Everything does manage to culminate in quite a powerful climax, but it is a bumpy ride getting there. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Travelling to Paris by ship, two showgirls contend with potential suitors, possible blackmail and a young boy wise beyond his years in this musical comedy. This was the film that catapulted Marilyn Monroe to stardom and it is easy to see why; she does a great job playing ditzy and seducing rich men left, right and centre while displaying a quiet intelligence on the side, pointing out that women marrying men for their money is not much worse than men marrying women for their good looks. Not everything about the film works; the male romantic leads are very bland and the musical numbers (if nicely choreographed) feel at odds to the story with the plot often coming to a stand-still for the leads to sing. The glitzy costumes are great though, young George Winslow is a lot of fun, and Monroe really does shine. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★★

How to Mary a Millionaire (1953). Three women set out to net themselves millionaire husbands in this lavish Cinemascope comedy that is unfortunately never as amusing as it sounds. While the title promises clever scheming, deception and trickery to get their desired men, the film offers none of that as their 'plan' never goes further than living in a posh apartment. Marilyn Monroe at least gets some funny moments thanks to her refusal to wear prescription glasses; Lauren Bacall also offers a droll comment about "that old fellow in African Queen", but humour is oddly never at the forefront here. The film is additionally beset by opening with a six minute orchestra recital filmed in the most uncreative way imaginable. The proceedings conclude well at least, but Thoroughly Modern Millie did the whole search for a rich husband trifle much better. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★

When You Read This Letter (1953). Vulnerable after her parents' death, the younger sister of a novice nun crosses paths with a scheming mechanic, leading to heartbreak and misery in this melodrama from Jean-Pierre Melville. The film has several interesting elements, with the nun a particularly fascinating character given how her behaviour outside the convent conflicts with her religious views. Philippe Lemaire also plays a manipulative and shallow human being well. It is over halfway in though before the pair properly meet and then none of their actions feel credible. The motivations of Irène Galter as the younger sister are wildly inconsistent too with the film adopting a really uncomfortable stance on how to deal with rapists. While it is initially intriguing waiting to see where Melville goes with intercutting the parallel tales, the results are underwhelming. (first viewing, online) ★

Animal Farm (1954). George Orwell's classic tale is brought to the screen in this curious if uneven animation. The movie gets begins well with an appropriately nightmarish drunken rampage by the farmer, animated to look aptly ghoulish. The gradual changes to the revolutionary principles (pigs altering the slogans) come with ample doom and gloom too. A number of the animal creatures come off as cute Disney-like creations though and much of the humour, such as a record player startling the animals, interferes with the mood. The voiceover narration is also pretty cut and dry, often only spelling out what is being shown. The film's weakest aspect though is the changed ending that both softens the blow of Orwell's novel and feels far too abrupt. The overall story is still quite haunting even in such a fractured form, but the potential for more is striking. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Ride Lonesome (1959). Escorting a wanted murderer across the country, an ageing bounty hunter eventually reveals an ulterior motive in this Budd Boetticher western. A tonally inconsistent Amerindian attack aside, this is a very dialogue-heavy affair and the first half of the film does not have a whole lot driving it. The characters seem fairly black and white too, what with the murderer being a coward who shot men from behind and the bounty hunter being a man of principles. Things become a lot more interesting though as they come across an ominously photographed hanging tree and the bounty hunter reveals some dark secrets. The film has a pretty excellent showdown too with Randolph Scott doing well projecting an air of ambiguity as to how far his character will go. The final image is absolutely haunting too, but the first half still feels weak. (first viewing, online) ★★

One-Eyed Jacks (1961). Learning that the man who double-crossed him years ago is now a reputable sheriff, a bandit is talked into robbing the local bank of the sheriff's sleepy town in this sole directing effort from Marlon Brando. While some sensational seaside locations give this a different feel to the average western, Brando's directing work is not especially remarkable and clocking in at close to two and a half hours, the film feels needlessly long and drawn out. It is a full half-hour in before Brando learns about his former companion's whereabouts and while Karl Malden is solid as the shifty sheriff with oodles of tension between him and Brando in their every scene, far too much time is dedicated to Brando falling in love with Malden's stepdaughter. Every single Brando/Malden scene here is cinema gold though and this should have really been the focus. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Reptilicus (1961). Denmark's answer to Godzilla, this low budget sci-fi flick has been widely denigrated over the years, but it is not without its merits. The special effects are certainly pretty dire, with lots of unrealistic green slime and some pitiful effects for the monster as it devours bystanders. The monster also only tends to appear in either very obvious rear projection or cutaways. The film actually begins very well though. The gooey flesh and blood discovered by the miners in the opening scene is really creepy; the notion of a monster that can regenerate like a starfish taps into some curious pseudoscience too, with some solid scenes as the soldiers have to be convinced that exploding the creature would only make matters worse. The film spends way too much time on the monster action though, which is not only unconvincing but repetitive. (first viewing, online) ★

A Day Off (1968). Deceptively titled for a reason, this South Korean movie seems like a breezy comedy from the outset as a young couple meet for a date one sunny Sunday morning. As the pair converse though, the film gradually grows darker as they grapple with a pregnancy and whether abortion is an option or even what they want. The vast majority of the film focuses on how the man processes the situation, with some tense scenes as he considers stealing money (for the procedure) and as he later drinks away his misery. With the film so quickly deflecting to the pregnancy, it does not spend a lot of time on developing the characters, but the whole thing is engrossing due to how lusciously it is filmed with lots of atmospheric shots of them wandering eerily empty urban landscapes. Some of the lighting in the second half also rivals the best American noir. (first viewing, online) ★★★

The Ruthless Four (1968). Forced to kill his double-crossing partner, a gold prospector reluctantly enlists the help of three other men to assist him with transporting a large supply of the precious metal from a mine, with nobody capable of trusting one another in this enticing spaghetti western. Van Heflin is well cast in the lead role and his initial chase and shootout inside a dark mine shaft is very intense. This tension lessens as Heflin recruits replacement partners, but tension mounts again once the foursome reach the mine, with all concerned uncertain if the others will kill them out of greed - or perhaps a grudge as we gradually learn more about them. While such themes and ideas have been handled better before (c.f. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), this is encapsulating all the same - and a possibly half-mad Klaus Kinski on hand is never a bad thing. (first viewing, online) ★★★

The House That Screamed (1969). Less lurid than one might expect from the title, this Spanish mystery movie is often billed as a horror film, but even that is overstating the case. It certainly benefits from a spooky setting, with all of the action confined to a gothic-looking boarding school full of dark corridors illuminated by candlelight. Lilli Palmer is also decent as the headmistress who rules with an iron fist. Very little in the film happens plot-wise though. There is the suggestion that an unusually large number of students are fleeing the school, never to be heard from again, but it is over halfway in before anything horrific occurs, and even then it is only the confronting ending that registers as real horror. It does not help that the culprit's identity is obvious from early on either, but the film does at least end on an amusing line given everything Palmer had earlier said. (first viewing, online) ★

The Night Visitor (1971). Opening with an intriguing sequence in which a man in his underwear crosses harsh, snowy terrain to arrive at an isolated cottage where he kills the first person he meets before vanishing, this is enticing from the get-go. As the film progresses, we learn more about his motives and how he managed to arrive at the cottage, all of which is best left unspoiled. Suffice it to say, Max von Sydow is excellent as the title character, playing a physically demanding role with zest and it becomes easy to sympathise with his actions, heinous as they are. The way he manages to inadvertently drive others insane is pretty neat too and the film has an amazingly eerie score from Henry Mancini. The jokey ending is a bit of a disappointment and some of the developments push the limits of credibility, but this is a highly engrossing revenge tale. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Man on the Roof (1976). Investigating the savage murder of a fellow policeman, a Swedish detective discovers that the deceased officer had an unsavory track record in this Swedish crime thriller. While the murder is shown in grisly detail, this is a hard film to get invested in with over an hour spent on police procedural drama with much more dialogue than mood or atmosphere. Things take a curious turn in the final 45 minutes though as - per the title - a sniper (who may or may not be the killer) starts shooting at cops from the top of a building. With backwards tracking shots and nifty editing, this final stretch is riveting, especially as children and bystanders appear in danger, and it is easy to recommend the film for this alone. The first hour is nevertheless not easy to endure, yet the contrast between the two deliberately different halves is fascinating. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Hail Mary (1985). Pregnant despite having never had intercourse, a college student finds herself at odds to her friends and family in this curious modern day subversion of Immaculate Conception. The film begins well with Mary attending college courses in which her lecturers debate the existence of a god and whether humans might actually be extraterrestrials; a blindfolding demonstration is particularly potent. Disappointingly, these ideas tend to fizzle out as the pregnancy takes centre focus, but its handling is interesting too. Jean-Luc Godard goes to great lengths to show how flat Mary's belly is (frequently walking around half undressed) as if to question our own faith as viewers over whether she can be pregnant. The film feels a little drawn out even at less than 80 minutes, but this highly fascinating stuff, and Godard's music choices are sublime. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Ofelas (1987). Sometimes distributed under the English language title Pathfinder, this Norwegian drama is set a thousand years ago and focuses on a teenager who (with an ulterior motive) agrees to be a pathfinder for the warmongers who slaughtered his family and destroyed his village. The film benefits from some stunning snowy landscapes and the middle section of the film is suspenseful as he navigates the warriors through dangerous mountainous terrain. It takes a long time though for the film to reach this point with a love interest and other superfluous characters thrown in. The mystical stuff near the end does not quite click either with some very dated special effects. The guiding sequences are amazingly well filmed though and it is easy to see why the film has gained a following over the years even with an arguably weak first half and ending. (first viewing, online) ★★

3 Ninjas (1992). Trained by their grandfather to be ninjas, three preteen brothers fight and fend off potential kidnappers in this lively action comedy. Clearly aimed at a young audience, the film comes with very low stakes: the villains are more goofy than menacing (three of them act like the Three Stooges on pot) and the trio never feel in any real danger. The whole thing though still kind of works thanks a spirited supporting turn from Victor Wong, the occasional good bit of choreography -- when the villains or not simply defeated by bumping their heads -- and an energetic midsection in which the brothers take on three home invaders Home Alone style. In fact, this is a downhill ride after the Home Alone stretch since it all becomes about Wong (rather than the boys) saving the day, but the movie is certainly quite cute and likeable if silly. (first viewing, online) ★★

Matthew's Laws (2012). What starts off here as an amiable documentary about a young man asking his friend to explain what it is like to live with autism (and all alone) gradually morphs into a look at the friend trying to deal with landlords who want to evict him over self-made alterations to his apartment. The film is arguably more engrossing in its early stages as he talks about recording phone conversations because, with his literal mind, he needs to listen to them more than once to truly understand what is being conveyed, and as how he tries to explain that recalling facts and dates just comes naturally to him. That said, the second-half of the film is certainly quite powerful as he has trouble keeping his emotions in check while being taken to court, even attempting to take him own life in some harrowing moments. This certainly lingers long in the mind. (first viewing, online) ★★★

The Fury of a Patient Man (2016). His girlfriend killed in a story robbery gone awry, a bitter man befriends the wife of the criminals' getaway driver as part of a complex revenge plan in this Spanish thriller. The set-up is certainly intriguing here and Antonio de la Torre is well cast the jaded protagonist, but the plot often feels too complicated for its own good with some baffling character motivations in the mix. It all ends very abruptly too and some of the violence is borderline comical - in particular, the use of boiling kettle sound effects as the protagonist eyes a screwdriver for a whole minute before deciding to use it as a weapon. There are some tense moments for sure here with a lot of uncertainty as to just when he will exact his revenge on each culprit and how, yet the film requires a lot of patience (pardon the pun) and lacks a resonating payoff. (first viewing, online) ★

The Invisible Guest (2016). Accused of murdering his lover inside a locked hotel room that nobody else had access to, a Spanish man discusses different ways with his lawyer that he could spin a case to prove his innocence in this riveting thriller. Indeed, for a film that is essentially just one long conversation, the movie drums up a truckload of suspense with plenty of twists and turns along the way that lead to intriguing shifts in audience sympathy. This is perhaps the greatest power of the film: how it shows the ability of added perspectives and new information to turn one's perspectives on the head. The whole thing is very well acted too and the conflicted versions of events (with different scenes replayed from different angles) are divine. The ending also packs a huge emotional wallop with the protagonist's final stare lingering long in the mind. (first viewing, online) ★★★★

What Men Want (2019). Suddenly discovering that she can hear men's thoughts, a sports agent uses the power to get ahead in her male-dominated industry in this gender flip reworking of What Women Want. It is an okay idea, but the dynamics differ in reverse; whereas the original was all about a male chauvinist softening, Taraji P. Henson does not really learn a lot about men due to her fantasy gift here - though she certainly plays her part with plenty of gusto and energy. She also has great rapport with Josh Brener as her gay assistant. The structure of the film is weird though. It is a full half-hour in before the film actually gets funny as she gains the special power, and then she loses it when there is still the balance of half an hour to go. The middle hour when she gets to use her power is certainly amusing, but the opening and closing quarters are weak. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Stuber (2019). Chaos ensues when a partially blind policeman forces a timid Uber worker to drive him around the city in pursuit of a copkiller in this action comedy starring Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani. Despite the silly title, this actually gets off to a decent start as the mismatched pair unexpectedly learning a few things from one another, with a particular highlight being Nanjiani using Twitter rather than violence to coerce a criminal into talking. As the film progresses though, there is less and less of Nanjiani relying on brains over brawn. Also, for a film that initially opposes toxic masculinity, Nanjiani's character trajectory comes uncomfortably close to reinforcing it. As an action film, this certainly rarely disappoints with some great stunts and chases in the mix, but as a comedy it is very hit-and-miss and as a message movie it just feels confused. (first viewing, DVD) ★

OtherShow
Johan (1921). Unhappy living on an isolated island in the middle of nowhere, a newlywed woman is seduced by a rogue with alluring promises of "freedom" in this Swedish silent. The story is no great shakes with the woman undergoing lots of very sudden changes of heart throughout; the rogue never really seems that charming either, while constant poetic title cards about how he sails "dishonestly" soon tire. What the film really gets right though is the outskirts setting with a daunting river in between the island and the mainland. The locations are simply breathtaking, captured in a range of long distance and medium shots, while the river reacting to wind and other weather factors is photographed in stunning detail. The basic plot idea (doubting one's recent marriage and relocation) is pretty decent too even if the dynamic is only explored in limited depth here. (first viewing, online) ★★

Zoo in Budapest (1933). Romance develops between an animal rights activist and a runaway orphan after circumstances lead to them staying overnight at the local zoo in this unusual melodrama. The two leads lack chemistry and Loretta Young does not really pass for a teenager. The zoo setting is really great though and we get to see lots of animal action, mostly notably in the first half-hour as the plot darts between various visitors to the zoo before settling on the two protagonists. In fact, this rather free-form opening third is where the film feels the most alive before getting somewhat bogged down in the doomed lovers angle. The animal activism stuff is intriguing either way with the male protagonist stealing minks and scarves, and a rather shocking bit in which a lady admires a fox at the zoo before exclaiming that she should buy it off the zoo for its fur. (first viewing, online) ★★

How to Murder a Rich Uncle (1957). Strapped for cash and too proud to ask for a loan, an English nobleman instead plans to murder his American uncle for the inheritance money in this black comedy from Britain. The basic idea is not bad with some sharp satire as all of the nobleman's relatives approve since it would be beneath them to actually try to earn money like commoners. Alas, this satire is never at the forefront with the film instead quickly becoming a re-tread of The LadyKillers from only a couple of years earlier as all of the murder plans end up going awry while the intended victim remains oblivious. It also becomes rather repetitive and quite predictable once the LadyKillers trajectory becomes clear and we never quite get the same sense of everybody meeting a just demise. The acting is certainly solid throughout though at least. (first viewing, online) ★★

The Devil's Messenger (1961). Edited from three different TV episodes, this is a surprisingly lucid horror anthology with an amusing wraparound story in which Lon Chaney Jr. is cast as a playful Satan who tasks a woman with bringing three souls for eternal damnation. Chaney is clearly having a lot of fun, particularly with some audience-winking near the end and the tales themselves are decent. The first has a great premise (a still photo that spookily keeps changing) even if its potential is never maximised. The second tale is the weakest, circling around lust, but is intriguing all the same. The third episode is simply excellent though, telling an eerie story of a man trying futilely to escape from a fortune teller's prediction of his demise. The ending is a bit over-the-top and this is an expectedly uneven ride, but it is certainly above par as far as horror anthologies go. (first viewing, online) ★★

West and Soda (1965). Spoofing the western genre, this Italian animated comedy follows the experiences of a mysterious gunslinger who takes on two drunks and their greedy employer who are wreaking havoc in a small country town. While the animation style is pretty basic with the characters often moving against still backgrounds, there are several striking images and memorable sequences that simply would not play out the same in live action (his liquor glasses repeatedly being shot at whenever he tries to drink). The film is, however, only populated by characters that vary between annoying and simply flat. The two drunks are especially irksome with one of them giggling for no reason all of the time and the female lead is far too helpless to be truly sympathetic. The animal characters are fairly dull too. At least the stranger gets a few amusing lines. (first viewing, online) ★★

Naktibalda (1973). Known as both Nightbird and Midnighter, this brief feature from Soviet Lithuania revolves around a schoolboy who is convinced that a heroic general who he had a dream about was real - a conviction that leads him continually trying to fall asleep and lucidly dream the general back. With such a quirky premise, this is hardly a dull moment to be had here, especially as some of his subsequent dreams have him engaging in duels with his teacher and getting stuck on ferris wheels. The dream sequences look pretty cool too, shot through pink filters. The reality of the film is by contrast far less interesting; there are a couple of bullies and a young girl who appears to be his best friend, but none of the supporting characters are really fleshed out. The boy's music-loving dad is quite fun though and has great chemistry with him. (first viewing, online) ★★

Shady Chocolate (2012). Following The Dark Side of Chocolate, this documentary investigates whether child exploitation in the cocoa plantations of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire has changed in the two years since the Danish documentary came out. The chocolate companies claim that they have cleaned up their act and even funded schools for child workers to attend, but of course this is not entirely true. While there are some potent bits and pieces (a trafficked Burkinabé boy injured with the machete he was told to use), the film has none of the shock value of the original and holds few real surprises, and having a third of the documentary dedicated to the crew dealing with denied visas indicates a cover-up from way too early on. As the second film about the continuing issue, everything seems even more tragic and hopeless, but to what end is unclear. (first viewing, online) ★★

Tangent Room (2017). Confined in a locked room, four scientists are instructed to solve a mathematical riddle that their lives depend on in this intriguing Swedish thriller. The film has landed comparisons to Cube and Coherence, but it more readily resembles Exam or Fermat's Room, only without the great set design of either of those. For a film noticeably made on a budget though, Tangent Room is highly decent stuff; the acting is a bit second-rate, but the situation is fascinating with the film taking some thought-provoking turns as the scientists begin to experience all sorts of anomalies during their confinement. It is perhaps a bit unrealistic how little the characters focus on trying to escape, but that's also part of who they are: curious academics who would much rather solve something than run away from it. Interesting stuff. (first viewing, online) ★★
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peeptoad
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#2

Post by peeptoad » May 3rd, 2020, 12:12 pm

O Sangue (1989) Blood 9
A Little Princess (1995) 8
El bosque del lobo (1970) The Ancines Woods 7
Call for Dreams (2018) 7
Operation Felix (2008) 6
Los ojos de Julia (2010) Julia's Eyes 6
Bye Bye Bluebird (1999) 6
The Droving (2020) 5

Decent enough week as far as movies go... O Sangue was easily best and I will def be watching more of Costa's films in the future. This was his debut apparently, and the camerawork and photography was excellent. The BW style really suited the film imho and a lot was accomplished with very little and even a real sense of simplicity. Excellent film.
A Little Princess was not anything really special but I enjoyed it and thought it was done well enough. I don't normally go in for family films at all, but I was in the mood for something lighter and Cuaron directed this so I had to give it a view.
El bosque del lobo was good, but not great. It's a stronger 7 for me and I believe the subject matter caused it to suffer from censorship problems, meaning the adaption from source (that I am not really familiar with) had to be toned down extraordinarily in order for the film to be made. The setting and the recreation of the time period were very strong though.
The only other worth mentioning is Call For Dreams, which was extremely surreal (of course) and weird...I felt like I simultaneously couldn't follow what plot there was while also understanding everything completely. I want to see the director's other film which was made almost a decade earlier since it seems there might actually be a tie-in with this one.

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peeptoad
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#3

Post by peeptoad » May 3rd, 2020, 12:19 pm

sol wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 12:00 pm
The Night Visitor (1971). Opening with an intriguing sequence in which a man in his underwear crosses harsh, snowy terrain to arrive at an isolated cottage where he kills the first person he meets before vanishing, this is enticing from the get-go. As the film progresses, we learn more about his motives and how he managed to arrive at the cottage, all of which is best left unspoiled. Suffice it to say, Max von Sydow is excellent as the title character, playing a physically demanding role with zest and it becomes easy to sympathise with his actions, heinous as they are. The way he manages to inadvertently drive others insane is pretty neat too and the film has an amazingly eerie score from Henry Mancini. The jokey ending is a bit of a disappointment and some of the developments push the limits of credibility, but this is a highly engrossing revenge tale. (first viewing, online) ★★★
Seen a few of yours, sol, but this is the only one I feel like making a brief comment on. I'm glad you found something to like in it... I think I liked it slightly more than you and it was the best of the small # of Nordic films that were FTVs I saw last month. Von Sydow scaling the side of the building and then swinging onto an adjacent ledge will be forever burned into my brain. I found that scene (when he climbs out the window and then swings back and forth) in particular to be very tense and there were others in similar style that I felt the same way abut. I think he injured himself during that scene if you look at his reaction to his hand afterwards. I'm not surprised; the athleticism he exhibited was noteworthy, if nothing else. There must have been an intense amount of planning that went into these escapes as well. I also found the general setting and mood to appropriately bleak, but I do agree with you somewhat on the conclusion.

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#4

Post by Onderhond » May 3rd, 2020, 12:49 pm

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A week characterized by decent films, nothing too special but solid watches. Some classic Chinese films positively surprised me though (I expected a lot worse), wish I could say the same about the US CG animation. I've been doing some catch-up there these past couple of weeks, it's crazy how insanely one-note all these films are.


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01. 4.0* - Saw by James Wan (2004)
Time hasn't been kind to certain aspects of Wan's breakout hit, but the scenes that matter haven't lost any of their shine. Some mediocre performances and a rather plain criminal investigation cannot derail this film, especially not when the famous games start running their course. It's still a great horror flick.

02. 3.5* - The Flowers of Evil [Aku no Hana] by Noboru Iguchi (2019)
Surprisingly mature and serious film from Iguchi, best known for his crazy horror shlock. This manga/anime adaptation is a pretty typical Japanese coming of age drama, though it fosters a darker side that brings an interesting edge to the film. Well acted, solid visuals and intriguing characters make for a fine film.

03. 3.5* - Skyfire [Tian · Huo] by Simon West (2019)
West follows the money and ends up in China. Turns out that wasn't the worst decision, because with a hefty budget to his disposal he cranks out a pretty amusing disaster flick. The CG isn't perfect and there is some cheesy melodrama, but the action is riveting and the pacing is splendid. A pretty nice surprise.

04. 3.5* - Enter the Fat Dragon [Fei Lung Gwoh Gong] by Kenji Tanigaki, Aman Chang (2020)
Amusing nonsense. The CG is pretty sloppy and the comedy is hit-and-miss, but this one is all about the action and that's where it delivers. Donnie Yen is great, the action choreography is impressive and there are some pretty amazing stunts. It's short, silly and inconsequential, but pretty good entertainment regardless.

05. 3.5* - Perils of the Sentimental Swordsman [Chu Liu Xiang Zhi You Ling Shan Zhuang] by Yuen Chor (1982)
One of Chor's best. The film is quite short and to the point, contains some nifty action sequences, some stand-out fantasy elements and it benefits tremendously from Chor's trademark colorful and atmospheric cinematography. It's everything a great Shaw Bros film should be, and it delivers in spades.

06. 3.0* - Endings, Beginnings by Drake Doremus (2019)
Not the best Doremus. His style is as dreamy and captivating as ever, but the characters and the story didn't really grab me this time around. It's just little details that make the difference, but the romance lacked sparks and the actors failed to make a big impression, leaving all the hard work to Doremus.

07. 3.0* - The Purge: Election Year by James DeMonaco (2016)
A Halloween for adults, as the film calls itself. There are incidentally also the best bits of the franchise, the silly/creepy dress-ups are what makes these films so much fun. The action and thriller elements and the plot keep it from reaching greater heights. Pretty cool in parts, but there's too much unused potential.

08. 3.0* - Butter by Jim Field Smith (2011)
A solid comedy that draws a lot of humor from its incredibly silly setup. Performances are good across the board and there are some fun jokes here, sadly the film loses some steam towards the end. It would've been better if they'd simply stuck with the comedy, but it's not the first film to fall into that trap.

09. 3.0* - The Wretched by Brett Pierce, Drew T. Pierce (2019)
Decent horror flick. Didn't really care for the teeny summer vacation nonsense, but the horror bits were quite effective and the creature designs were on point. Would've been better if this had been a more straight-forward horror film because the potential for creepy and disturbing was there, but overall it didn't really disappoint either.

10. 3.0* - Asian Three-Fold Mirror 2016: Reflections [Asia Sanmenkyô] by Brillante Mendoza, Kulikar Sotho, Isao Yukisada (2016)
Decent anthology, though based on the talent involved here, expectations were slightly higher. Three solid shorts, but it's all a bit expected and safe, i.e. socially conscious drama without visual excess. It's not the best use of the anthology medium if you ask me. Still, not a bad trio of shorts.

11. 3.0* - Detective Chinatown 2 [Tang Ren Jie Tan An 2] by Sicheng Chen (2018)
Silly and over-the-top, sometimes a little annoying, but overall quite entertaining. Even though the film is 2 hours long, the pacing is incredible and there's hardly a dull moment. Baoqiang Wang's performance is crazy loud, then again it does fit this kind of film. Just some blockbuster buffoonery.

12. 3.0* - Zillion: Burning Night [Akai Kodan Zillion Utahime Yakyoku] by Mizuho Nishikubo (1988)
A bit random if you're not familiar with the franchise, but the animation and art style are pretty cool and the constant barrage of action makes for a very fun 45 minutes. The musical focus doesn't really add much (but is somewhat typical for that era) and it's hardly a landmark animation, but in the end I had a pretty good time with this one.

13. 2.5* - Dreamkatcher by Kerry Harris (2020)
A fair attempt to make a moody and atmosphere slowburner of a horror film, but the result appears a little dulled and soulless. All the ingredients are there for a good horror film, but somehow it never really materializes. Nothing particularly wrong with this one, except that it left me pretty cold.

14. 2.5* - The Goddess [Shen Nu] by Yonggang Wu (1934)
True Chinese classic. I was surprised how serene and subtle this film was. Western classics tend to be quite overstated and busy, this felt more intimate. The actors do a good job and I liked the score (which I suspect was a more modern composition), the drama on the other hand was basic, which made the film somewhat dull and too long.

15. 2.5* - Spring in a Small Town [Xiao Cheng Zhi Chun] by Mu Fei (1948)
It's easy to see why this became a Chinese classic. A very calm and moody film that takes its time to tell its story, which is not something you often see in pre-50s cinema. The problem for me is that it felt completely upstaged by Zhuangzhuang Tian's remake, making it a little redundant. Not bad though.

16. 2.5* - The Delinquent [Fen Nu Qing Nian] by Cheh Chang, Chih-Hung Kuei (1973)
Pretty fierce film. The drama doesn't work at all and the direction is so over-the-top that it almost feels like a parody of itself. But the action scenes do stand out and there's so much energy and drive that the film did win me over in the end. Not one of Chang's best, but one of his better films in a contemporary setting.

17. 2.0* - Urusei Yatsura 3: Remember My Love [Urusei Yatsura 3: Rimenbâ Mai Rabu] by Kazuo Yamazaki (1985)
It's clear that the post-Oshii Urusei Yatsura films are a big step backwards, though that's hardly surprising. There is some fun to be had here, but overall this third film feels way too serious and there isn't quite enough material to fill the entire 90 minutes. The animation is pretty poor too. Only for fans of the franchise.

18. 2.0* - Anger Management by Peter Segal (2003)
Not my favorite Sandler film. I actually prefer Nicholson in slightly more subdued roles, the chemistry with Sandler is somewhat off, performances of the secondary cast are mediocre and the number of jokes that truly land are few and far between. There are a couple of memorable scenes though, just not enough to carry the entire film.

19. 1.5* - Kung Fu Panda 3 by Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh Nelson (2016)
Third time's the charm, but not for this franchise. Another dull entry that might've been something, if only it had dared to be different. It's clear that the art style could've been pushed further and that the story could've been expanded into a more action/martial arts focused direction, but alas, it turned out to be just another CG comedy animation for kids.

20. 1.5* - The Beast of Yucca Flats by Coleman Francis (1961)
Amusing for 15 minutes or so. As long as the voice-over keeps cranking out weird, unrelated commentary there's some fun to be had, but once you get used to that there just isn't much else to it. And then there's still a while to go, even though this film is less than an hour long. It's a bit weird, but not weird enough to be enjoyable.

21. 1.0* - The Age of Stupid by Franny Armstrong (2009)
An eco-documentary that feels dated and does little more than illustrate the lack of impact these things have. It would've been better if this film had been more focused, if they had dropped the Postlethwaite bits and if the material had been better substantiated. What remains are some tired conclusions.

22. 1.0* - Onward by Dan Scanlon (2020)
Another bland Pixar film about a world that flips expectations and a protagonist that is out of his comfort zone. They just keep rehashing the same old formula. The characters are drab, the jokes aren't funny and the drama is sappy. At least there's some technical innovation here, but that hardly redeems the gross laziness.
Last edited by Onderhond on May 3rd, 2020, 2:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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sol
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#5

Post by sol » May 3rd, 2020, 1:59 pm

peeptoad wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 12:19 pm
sol wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 12:00 pm
The Night Visitor (1971). Opening with an intriguing sequence in which a man in his underwear crosses harsh, snowy terrain to arrive at an isolated cottage where he kills the first person he meets before vanishing, this is enticing from the get-go. As the film progresses, we learn more about his motives and how he managed to arrive at the cottage, all of which is best left unspoiled. Suffice it to say, Max von Sydow is excellent as the title character, playing a physically demanding role with zest and it becomes easy to sympathise with his actions, heinous as they are. The way he manages to inadvertently drive others insane is pretty neat too and the film has an amazingly eerie score from Henry Mancini. The jokey ending is a bit of a disappointment and some of the developments push the limits of credibility, but this is a highly engrossing revenge tale. (first viewing, online) ★★★
Seen a few of yours, sol, but this is the only one I feel like making a brief comment on. I'm glad you found something to like in it... I think I liked it slightly more than you and it was the best of the small # of Nordic films that were FTVs I saw last month. Von Sydow scaling the side of the building and then swinging onto an adjacent ledge will be forever burned into my brain. I found that scene (when he climbs out the window and then swings back and forth) in particular to be very tense and there were others in similar style that I felt the same way abut. I think he injured himself during that scene if you look at his reaction to his hand afterwards. I'm not surprised; the athleticism he exhibited was noteworthy, if nothing else. There must have been an intense amount of planning that went into these escapes as well. I also found the general setting and mood to appropriately bleak, but I do agree with you somewhat on the conclusion.
Agreed about the bleak mood and setting of The Night Visitor and yeah, it was possibly a top 5 viewing for me from last month's Nordic Challenge. Regarding the ending, it is probably not so much the joke that rubbed me the wrong way, but rather the way that it is forced into the story. I mean...
SpoilerShow
...we are expected to believe that he carried out his entire plan successfully without hearing or feeling the bulge of the parrot in his pocket, only for the bird to conveniently move and talk for the first time in the moment when the detective opens the cell door. :huh:
Arguably, none of that is any harder to believe than Max doing all of that athletic stuff without injury, but argh, it just really was not the final note that I was looking for at the end of such a compelling, sobering and very different sort of revenge movie.

Oh, by the way, if you are looking for another break-out/break-back-in film, Logan Lucky might be worth a spin. Very different type of film though.

Yours:

Seen none. I do have O Sangue and Julia's Eyes unwatched on DVD though, so maybe this is the right month to finally give them a spin? I have to admit though that I have higher hopes for the latter. The film had some good word-of-mouth at the time (though I missed seeing it theatrically) and Guillermo del Toro is the main producer or something if I recall correctly.
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#6

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » May 3rd, 2020, 3:05 pm

7915 Km (Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 2008) 6/10

Et le cochon fut né / And the Pig Was Born (Julius Ziz, 2000) 7/10

路上の霊魂 / Souls on the Road / Rojo no Reikon (村田実/Minoru Murata, 1921) 7-/10

അമ്മ അറിയാന് / Report to Mother / Amma Ariyan (John Abraham, 1987) 5/10

To Be Continued (अमित दत्ता/Amit Dutta, 2007) 7-/10

The Gentlemen (Guy Ritchie, 2019) 7/10

Testament (John Akomfrah, 1988) 7-/10

A Intrusa / The Intruder (Carlos Hugo Christensen, 1979) 6/10

소나기 / The Shower / Sonagi (Go Yeong-nam, 1979) 6/10

Schramm (Jörg Buttgereit, 1993) 2/10

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Russ Meyer, 1970) 4+/10

High School II (Frederick Wiseman, 1994) 7-/10

1408 (Theatrical Cut) (Mikael Håfström, 2007) (2nd viewing) nope


shorts

Moon Breath Beat (Lisze Bechtold, 1980) 6+/10

Omen (Peter Rose, 2001) 6+/10

Hymen (Carole Arcega, 2002) 6+/10

L’Echo des îles (Sonya Stefan, 2012) 6/10

यात्रिक / Yatrik (मणि कौल/Mani Kaul, 1966) 4/10

Red Swing (Leighton Pierce, 1986) 6/10

श्री कृष्ण जन्मा / Shri Krishna Janma (Dadasaheb Phalke/Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, 1918) 6/10

Film/Spricht/Viele/Sprachen / Viennale Trailer 1995 (Gustav Deutsch, 1995) 3/10

Uranium Hex (Sandra Lahire, 1987) (2nd viewing) 6/10

Moon Blink (Rainer Kohlberger, 2015) (3rd viewing) 8-/10


RiffTrax & MST3k

Virus / Hell of the Living Dead / Zombie Creeping Flesh / Night of the Zombies / Zombie Inferno (Bruno Mattei, 1980) [personal riff] 2/10


music videos

Kontra K: Namen (2020)


didn't finish
Nora-neko rokku: Bôsô shûdan '71 / Stray Cat Rock: Beat '71 (Toshiya Fujita, 1971) [19 min]
Nostra signora dei turchi / Our Lady of the Turks (Carmelo Bene, 1968) [8 min]
Ana (António Reis & Margarida Cordeiro, 1982) [6 min]


notable online media

top:
Joe Rogan Experience #1283 - Russell Brand
Russell Brand - Two Crazy, CRAZY Comedians - 3/3 Visits In Chronological Order
Joe Rogan Experience #906 - Henry Rollins
New Senses, New Reality? | Russell Brand & Neuroscientist David Eagleman
Joe Rogan Meets Roe Jogan [2 viewings]
Joe "it's entirely possible" Rogan
Coronavirus Lockdown Protest [by All Gas No Brakes]
Alex Jones - God Doesn't Know Where He Came From | Joe Rogan
when you listen to death grips for the first time
Learn to Read Korean in 5 Minutes (seriously)
Life as a Quest - The Antidote to a Wasted Existence
[various other Joe Rogan Experience clips (Amazon, Cudi, Glaser, Wiseau, workout, war veteran recovering, Exposing WHO,...]
rest:
Get to Know Joe Rogan in Six Jokes
Joe "a Buddy of Mine" Rogan
Sadhguru shares how his life got changed after Enlightenment | Mystics of India
A Buddhist Story For your Life - The Other Side
Releasing a stranded octopus and it thanked me
Baby laughing hysterically at dog
Bulldogs Frantically Warn TV Canine Of Danger in Classic Horror Scene
Cat Stands for Russian National Anthem
Alexa, Do You Work For the Government?
Wifi Password [by Brian Jordan Alvarez]
What it's always like when someone says you remind them of someone [by Brian Jordan Alvarez]
Dr. Anthony Fauci Cold Open - SNL
HOW TO MASTURBATE | Mantak Chia On London Real
dream realityImage
LETTERBOXD | MUBI | IMDb | tumblr.

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Onderhond
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#7

Post by Onderhond » May 3rd, 2020, 3:27 pm

@sol
Saw Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (0.5*) and How to Marry a Millionaire (0.5*) from your. I really don't like Monroe, but I won my girlfriend a Monroe BR box once and we watched most of the film together. Also seen Animal Farm (1.5*), which I didn't like much either. Never read the book, but on the one hand the message was so on-the-nose, on the other hand the animation itself so childish, that I got quite confused about who this film was for. The Invisible Guest (2.5*) I liked a bit better, the styling in particular was quite moody, but there's way too much focus on plot and once I saw where this was headed, I felt like I could've just as well zoned out until the end and gotten the explanation there. These twisty movies often bore me.

@peeptoad
My short review for Call for Dreams: Interesting film that sports moody and dreamy cinematography, but is let down by an overly harsh, sharp digital look. Slavin shows a lot of promise and delivers a unique film that is hard to pin down, but fails to fully immerse the viewer because of some technical hiccups. But worth a try if you're looking for something different.. I'm also quite interesting in exploring more from Slavin.

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#8

Post by joachimt » May 3rd, 2020, 3:56 pm

Kamera wo tomeruna! AKA One Cut of the Dead (2017, 2 official lists, 657 checks) 9/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
One of the funniest horror movies I've ever seen! The first 37 minutes were amazing. I'm a sucker for long shots. This seemed very well done, but there were some moments that felt really weird, lacking pace, etc…... Little did I know…...
SpoilerShow
Then we went back in time and I started to get less interested when we were just following the preparations of the movie. I thought "what's the point in watching this all now?" But when they got to the final preparations on scene and they started shooting, it was absolutely hilarious. It's been a while since I jumped back in a movie to check things. You can't do that in a cinema of course, but in this case I really wanted to check some stuff when I was watching the "making of".
It helped that I went into this without any expectations, because I never heard of it before......
The Small Back Room AKA Hour of Glory (1949, 4 official lists, 548 checks) 8/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Well shot. Tension, Romance. Fun dream sequence in the middle. What's not to like?
He Walked by Night (1948, 2 official lists, 685 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Plex.
The whole semi-documentary scenes about the policework really slowed down the pace. Otherwise a fine movie. Final sequence was the best.
La prima Angélica AKA Cousin Angelica (1974, 3 official lists, 126 checks) 7/10
Watched because it was FotW.
Lovely movie. I had to pay attention in the beginning to see what was a memory and what was reality.
L'important c'est d'aimer (1975, 2 official lists, 322 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Decent. Won't remember a lot later on, I guess. Klaus Kinski was the best part of this.
A Boy and His Dog (1975, 3 official lists, 2424 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Plex.
Weird post-apocalyptic story. Kinda liked it, although it didn't make a lot of sense.
Dark Phoenix AKA X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019, 1 official list, 2029 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Disney+.
Just another X-Men pic. I was just really set back by
HUGE PLOT SPOILERShow
Raven dying. When she was killed, I actually said to my wife: "Don't worry, she will survive this, because she lives in other X-Men movies that take place later in time." So I was really surprised that she actually died. Since I don't remember all the plot details of all the X-Men movies in the right order, I didn't know that the space-time-continuum was broken when Wolverine went back in time in Days of Future Past, so the film makers can actually do what they want by now regardless of what happens in the first installments of the series. I think that's a rather stupid way to create this kind of freedom.
Ghare-Baire AKA The Home and the World (1984, 5 official lists, 257 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Too much talk that didn't interest me all that much. Not the most interesting Ray movie.
Southland Tales (2006, 1 official list, 2938 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Well, this was… uh… I don't know… weird… enjoyable I think… At least I really enjoyed the unpredictableness of it.
Tarde Para Morir Joven AKA Too Late to Die Young (2018, 1 official list, 95 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
It feels to me like there are a lot of the same kind of movies on the latest Cinema Tropical list. Another movie in which we follow some kids/teenagers with hardly any story. Even after a few days I'm already mixing them up.
Tromeo and Juliet (1996, 2 official lists, 751 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Weirdest Shakespeare I've ever seen. So over the top, that it was actually funny.
Appalachian Spring (1944, 1 official list, 47 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's an official short.
A lot to say about the background of this, nothing to say about the short itself…...
Die unendliche Geschichte AKA The NeverEnding Story (1984, 1 official list, 10453 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Amazon Prime.
Maybe I would have liked this if I watched it as a kid in the 80's. Now it seems very dated and boring to me.
The Tingler (1959, 4 official lists, 1185 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Plex.
Such a ridiculous story and a lame doll for a monster. How on earth is this in TSPDT 1001-2000? It's also in the top 200 of TSZDT. I can understand its inclusion in the weird list though. (already posted this a few days ago in Last Movie Seen and some people replied there already)
Warum läuft Herr R. Amok AKA Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? (1970, 1 official list, 370 checks) 4/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Natural acting, normal people, this almost feels like a documentary. But not an interesting documentary. We just follow very dull people with a very dull life, going to a dull office, visiting their dull parents (in law) and having a very usual parents-teacher meeting about their kid, etc...... Nothing interesting to see. And then
HUGE PLOT SPOILERShow
there is a climax and he kills his wife, their neighbor, their kid and himself. This all happens within the final moments of the movie without any huge cinematic climax. It just happens. Of course that's the point. He is unhappy, that was very clear already. So anyone could snap. That doesn't make it interesting for a movie the way it was brought to me.
The Incredible Torture Show AKA Bloodsucking Freaks (1976, 3 official lists, 389 checks) 3/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Tasteless.
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sol
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#9

Post by sol » May 3rd, 2020, 4:06 pm

Onderhond wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 3:27 pm
@sol
Saw Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (0.5*) and How to Marry a Millionaire (0.5*) from your. I really don't like Monroe, but I won my girlfriend a Monroe BR box once and we watched most of the film together. Also seen Animal Farm (1.5*), which I didn't like much either. Never read the book, but on the one hand the message was so on-the-nose, on the other hand the animation itself so childish, that I got quite confused about who this film was for. The Invisible Guest (2.5*) I liked a bit better, the styling in particular was quite moody, but there's way too much focus on plot and once I saw where this was headed, I felt like I could've just as well zoned out until the end and gotten the explanation there. These twisty movies often bore me.
Maybe it just comes from having watched the dire How to Marry a Millionaire first, but I'm really surprised that you rate Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on the same level. I would certainly place it quite a few notches above, even if its appearance in the TSP Top 1000 is eyebrow-raising.

I haven't read Animal Farm in at least 15 years, but I remember being really affected by the end of the book. The movie didn't have that impact on me, and reading up on the differences, I am not surprised. Agreed that the intended audience is confusing.

I absolutely love twisty movies, so obviously we depart company there. Not all twisty movies stick up well to rewatch, but the ones that do are great. Anyway, agreed about The Invisible Guest being incredibly stylish. It was an awesome way for me to begin the Iberian Challenge.

Yours:

Disliked Saw at the time, but at least it had some originality, which the sequels lacked. I'm not really a torture porn horror fan in general and there is a lot of stuff (Would You Rather; the Hostel films) that I would preference above Saw. I liked Election Year as well. I think I have the first three Purge movies on about the same level, each doing something a bit different with the basic premise. Did not really fancy the fourth film though. Pretty much eye-to-eye with you on Butter, which I reviewed on last week's thread. Don't remember much of Anger Management from 17 years ago. Was okay as a film to watch in the cinema with a couple of high school mates. Probably agree with you on Nicholson. And yeah, Kung Fu Panda 3 was a step down from the second film, which I liked more than the first.
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#10

Post by peeptoad » May 3rd, 2020, 5:35 pm

sol wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 1:59 pm
I do have O Sangue and Julia's Eyes unwatched on DVD though, so maybe this is the right month to finally give them a spin? I have to admit though that I have higher hopes for the latter. The film had some good word-of-mouth at the time (though I missed seeing it theatrically) and Guillermo del Toro is the main producer or something if I recall correctly.
Julia's Eyes was underwhelming for me, though not without merit. It tailed off and lost some of the tension about half way through imo. I preferred The Uninvited Guest from the same director and found that to be a more interesting (and more unique) thriller. I plan on watching El Cuerpo this month, which is directed by one of the co-writers of Julia's Eyes, so I am curious to see how that compares/contrasts with the others, if at all.
I hope you like O Sangue if you watch it...

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#11

Post by dark_frances » May 3rd, 2020, 7:56 pm

Hi again, sol & all! I'm super glad to see that you're all still here, and the board is bloomin', and this is a place I can come back to - not as often as I'd like, not by far...

My highlight of last week was an exploration of the following 6 Yojimbo/Red Harvest/Glass Key stories:

Yôjinbô itself (Akira Kurosawa, 1961) - third viewing.
Per un pugno di dollari (Sergio Leone, 1964) - second viewing.
Last Man Standing (Walter Hill, 1996) - first viewing.
Omega Doom (Albert Pyun, 1996) - second viewing.
Sukiyaki Western Django (Takashi Miike, 2007) - first viewing.
Miller's Crossing (Coens, 1990) - um, sixth viewing or so.

This might be one of the most watchable storylines ever, and one that also gives a lot of room for new elements. An extra lot of room, if you're Takashi Miike. It typically has a main character impossible to not love (although I'm not a big fan of Squint Eastwood), even when he's not quite the focus of the story (Sukiyaki). I love the fact that he's almost never paired with a love interest - Miller's Crossing's Tom Reagan being the exception here, but he's so chill about it and gets The Third Man treatment so hard that we can almost ignore it.

Of the 6 (more or less) Namless Strangers, Mifune's Sanjuro might still be the most convincing one - him and Eastwood's Joe being the ones still trying to preserve an ounce of antiheroism, while Hauer's Omega Doom, Ito's Gunman, Byrne's Tom and Willis' John Smith are more obviously the good guy. Still rugged, still punished at one point of the story (Tom Reagan does keep his "most beaten hardboiled protagonist of all times" title), but obviously do-gooders. I like the fact that the protagonist usually just happens to stumble upon his story - except for Tom Reagan, of course. More about this in the end.

Now, one thing that thrills me about this storyline is the fact that you can wrap it in so many genres - neo-noir/hardboiled, gangster thriller, western, jidaigeki, cyberpunk, Japanese Madness with Cowboys Warring States Miniguns and Katanas, and I have also seen Stuart Heisler's The Glass Key with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, which is pure noir, but a looong time ago.
I also love the fact that you can paint it in so many colours: Yojimbo is mostly humorous, Fistful is amusing with a heavy touch of drama, Omega Doom is desolated, Last Man is gritty, Sukiyaki is insane and Miller's Crossing is lyrical.

The warring factions are also quite diverse: stock evil in Yojimbo and Last Man, human evil in Fistful, silly in Omega Doom, silly and creepy in Sukiyaki and entirely human in Miller's Crossing.

The main character could be seen as a Deus Ex Machina who usurps the whole storyline: we have two factions crossing and double-crossing each other into a deadlock, when tada! suddenly someone lands between them and solves the conflict. Or we could see the Nameless character as a Horseman of the Apocalypse, setting an end time upon the world as harbinger of the Last Judgment. Or we can see him as the hero who saves the innocents from 2 terrible dragons scorching the land.

...Or we can see it as narrative meaning activation in slow motion. One important role of storytelling is to infuse meaning into people and events. That's why we need and create stories so much. Well, in this story the Nameless is roaming around meaninglessly, until he happens to comes across a narrative. Sure he might be good at heart, and might want to save the innocents out of kindness. But I do suspect that he lingers around to solve the 2-factions conflict out of sheer need of a story...


I also saw and would love to talk about Holy Mountain , but I don't even know where to start. I'll just say that it was far less psychedelic and more coherent than I expected, and I loved the final fourth-wall breach to pieces...

Finally, I finished the TV series Bojack Horseman, which made quite an impression on me, due to its extreme perceptiveness of the human soul, warts and all.





Of your movies from this week, I saw three. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Mary a Millionaire were a bit hard for me to digest - I am a bit allergic to ditzy Monroe. I did like her in The Misfits, though - and I could stomach Some Like it Hot because she was not quite the focus. Her style is just not for me, although I do understand its strategy, where it's coming from and whence the appeal.

Ride Lonesome
Not my favorite Boetticher, and I agree that there's a lot of black-and-whiteness going on. One of the reasons why this film stood a bit out of the crowd was the character of Boone. Brigade was the rather typical dry lone ranger (he even had the dead-wife-to-revenge prop, when he started the "I had a wife once" speech, my eyes were rolling dangerously close to the edge of the sockets), the madam was kinda tough, but still just the madam, the bad guy was the bad guy (not really very present in the movie, actually), but Boone was one of the kind - the side kick who turns out to be ethically almost more straight than the main hero (who's not particularly antiheroic either). You expect Boone to shoot Brigade in the back (even more so if you've seen Seven Men from Now), he doesn't. You expect him to steal the much desired Billy and run away with him, he doesn't. You expect him to jump on the lady, he just tells her really warm and kind words. He even tells Brigade why he wants Billy, and why he thinks he needs Billy more than him, he saves Brigade's life, he helps him fight the much-feared Frank. At the point of the unaccomplished duel in the end, frankly, I could not understand the meaning of Brigade's actions anymore. So I was quite relieved when I saw him finally give up Billy, otherwise Brigade's character would have become totally incoherent. Also, I liked Boone's reaction when he saw the smoke in the woods better than the iconic final scene per se: "well, that figures...". :lol: That very brief sign of understanding was so warm. Plus, it was told in a half-amused tone, as in "yep, totally knew he'd do that", or "there you have it, the end of the story, let's move on now, guys".

But I would also like to talk a little about one of your viewings from last week, Vox Lux. I agree with your take ("this is an undeniably stylish film, though to what end is unclear"). I thought it wasn't a bad movie, just a very unpleasant one. The thing is that it did make me think about it, and rethink my attitude, and re-rethink it again, several times.
The "young" segment felt very standard. The credits / ambulance sequence was ghostly and very fast, and matched the later story about Celeste's recurring dream. But after that, everything played out first like a BBC school shooting documentary, then like a teenager-in-adult-world sequence.
We get to hear that Celeste's connection to her sister was deep and significant, then one scene later they are cold with each other and full of drama.
Then grown-up Celeste is a horrible person, and I have never quite noticed so far how screeching Portman's voice is.
BUT 1 it was not bad to have (one more) look into the crazy world of showbiz which turns artists into crazy people. I may have seen a bit more clearly now how hard it must be to live in a world where everybody thinks they are entitled to a piece of you. Makes one appreciate anonymity a bit more, that feeling of navigating a social environment as if it was just another part of nature, just another background. It must be quite horrible to have the background trying constantly to interact with you. BUT 2 this was not a unique perspective that we may have not seen before, and Celeste was still not someone with whom I'd like to spend any second.
BUT 3 after writing all this I thought: here I am, being mean to a piece of art, which is (a very small) part of the reason why people like Celeste turn into bitches and drama queens. Imagine being not just observed, but judged all the time, coldly and carelessly - must be part of the reason for her breakdown before the concert.
BUT 4 art survives through judgment, it exposes itself and tries to generate reactions, without which it would be nothing more than our high-school poetry at the bottom of a drawer. And exclusively positive reactions would have pretty much the same effect as no reactions.
So I'm afraid that this negative criticism is nothing but a part of the game.
I understand that this movie involved a lot of work and dedication, but, well, I didn't like it.
Areck!

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#12

Post by prodigalgodson » May 3rd, 2020, 8:24 pm

Festen (Thomas Vinterberg, 1998) 7/10

I went into this expecting a bitter black comedy about a dysfunctional family, which is how it starts, but it soon develops into a heavier study of complicity and the legacy of abuse, and ends up more cathartic, less nihilistic, and warmer than I would have imagined, almost incongruously so. It's the first Dogme 95 film, with a rough, grungy look that anticipates the digital age (digital pioneer Anthony Dod Mantle dp'd) and gives the film a home-video found-footage vibe in its more intimate, less expressionistic moments. Not too much to say about it, but I found it both entertaining and powerful.

1900 (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1976) 5/10

Another long one, this time an epic following two friends born on the same day, a landowner and a peasant, in Emilia-Romagna during the first half of the 20th century, as the Italian oligarchy gives way to the opposing tides of socialism and fascism. The broad swath of the story follows a fairly predictable set of beats, though it's hard to figure why it skips over big chunks of history and lingers in so many unexpected and unsettling corners, often to explore its bizarrely persistent penis fixation. A number of odd, disturbing characters pepper the landscape, including Burt Lancaster's impotent would-be molester patriarch and Donald Sutherland's fascist foreman, who for a start head-butts a cat to death. When we're not getting a bunch of sensational extraneous specifics, many of the wide cast of characters feel underdeveloped and broad. Their dialogue frequently veers into bombastic clunkiness, to the extent that it's hard to imagine how some of these lines made it past the brainstorming phase. The English translation may be responsible for some of it, and I can't remember seeing such distractingly disjointed dubbing before: De Niro speaks with a New York accent, Depardieu with a French one, and the English dubbing of Italian actors is wildly out of sync. The cinematography is probably the most interesting aspect of the film. The first section, set after the turn of the century, is shot in blazing daylight, which looks blown out, or in the golden hour, which gives everything a sickly red hue and jaundices the skin tones -- the intention seems to be to convey a sense of pastoral nostalgia (old-school actors, Lancaster and Sterling Hayden, also dominate this section), but whatever film stock or color process was used at the time is not flattering to this approach. Once the film moves onto the adult years of the two friends, almost everything is shot on overcast, foggy days with a more muted palate to match its more cosmopolitan setting, and most of this looks fantastic. It takes on an increasingly colder, diffused look as time goes on, culminating in borderline grayscale to mirror the darkest days of fascism. The last bit, set post-Liberation, returns to the earlier, warmer tones, with a correspondingly (and surprisingly) sentimental resolution.

I've heard "bloated" used to describe movies before, but at 5 plus hours, this was the first time I can remember it really coming to mind for me, with the attention to subplots and tangents at the expense of more relevant story details distracting from the world-building instead of contributing to it. I tend to be easy to please when it comes to sweeping historical melodrama, but this is both too ambitious and too narrow, lacking the scope and insight that draws me to that subgenre. It's an interesting mess, but mostly valuable as a curio.

The Pillow Book (Peter Greenaway, 1996) 4/10

Say what you will about Greenaway, he did push things to the limit, and the kitchen sink aesthetic here was initially refreshing after watching so many looong dedications to one stylistic approach. Unfortunately once I got used to it I found it more tiresome than anything else, too adept and deliberate to feel gimmicky, but not gripping enough to elevate the scant story. I don't want to open the style/substance can of worms, but it often feels like Greenaway's using his bag of tricks to obscure a paucity of meaning.

Scenes from a Marriage (Ingmar Bergman, 1974) 9/10

"Remaining content requires a certain technique. You need to put a lot of effort into not caring."

I watched the miniseries version of this, slightly afraid I'd feel burnt out after a run of long movies, but it's truly bingeable. From the start, it uses the relationship drama structure to explore the human experience of modern reality and the various ways we interpret and interact with it. It's Bergman operating at his most human while retaining his metaphysical allure, reminiscent in its talkiness and philosophical bent of my favorite of his, Winter Light, but more grounded in lived experience. The compositions are immaculate, especially the close-ups, but they only work so well because of the strength of the actors. Liv Ullman seems descended from another realm: every expression and intonation is a work of art, even giving such excessively Bergmanesque lines as "sometimes all you get is the vast silence of outer space" a natural and slyly ironic read. Erland Josephson's beady-eyed strengths also emerge as his character's strengths recede, gradually revealing the vulnerabilities behind a stoic facade. It's a testament to the subtlety and vividness of the direction and acting that I could relate to these characters on a gut level despite sharing so few of their fundamental problems (I understand their sense of emptiness and confusion about the world, but I can't (yet?) empathize with their angst related to repression and conformity). Reinforcing the sense of hidden depths, Sven Nykvist plies his supernatural finesse to render the ordinary interior settings masterpieces of light, color, and texture in a grainy, painterly mode (I'm guessing this was shot on 16mm). I can't think of any cinematographer who was able to bring so much beauty out of and to the commonplace, and getting to the nature shot at the end of each episode was almost as incentivizing to watch another as the story itself. Off the top of my head, this is my favorite thing of its kind; I'm eager to explore the Fanny and Alexander miniseries soon.

A Zed & Two Noughts (Peter Greenaway, 1985) 7/10

This contains the most boldly impressive compositions I've seen from Greenaway yet; zoos are evocative spaces and I don't think I've seen a film set in one before. Greenaway seems to have a very specific set of interests and sensibilities, which align perfectly with mine in some ways and not at all in others -- I'm still not crazy about his self-consciously clever writing, which works worse here than in a historical context a la Draughtsman's Contract. Some of these preoccupations he shares with Thomas Pynchon -- eccentrics, sex, conspiracies, death, scientific minutiae, body enhancement, lists -- and much as with that author of some of my favorite books I've learned not to give too much weight to every little detail for fear they'll fail to cohere satisfyingly. With this mindset I was able to just kick back and enjoy the experience. I also appreciate Nyman's music more the more I hear it.

Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, 1935)

Riefenstahl demonstrates an intuitive mastery of the cinematographic image, a poetic eye for form and movement matched with the boundless scope of her subject, directing from an editorial standpoint to maintain a constancy of stunning variety. I hate to say it but if I was able to detach myself from history and just judge it on aesthetic standards as the depiction of some grand occult ritual I'd have to give it a perfect score. It's crazy how harmless it can feel in its quieter moments if you let your guard down. The speechifying really raised my blood pressure though. I kind of wish I'd seen this when I was younger and less sensitive to this sort of thing.

Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie, 2013) 7/10

Sex and death always make an intriguing combination -- this is like the gay Twentynine Palms. Guiraudie initially seemed too self-conscious with his compositions, but I think I just had to get used to the style. His vivid sense of place was the biggest selling point for me. I found the resolution oddly pat, but liked the ending itself.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Christi Puiu, 2005) 7/10

An immersive nighttime odyssey that nonetheless left me a little cold. It has that emblematic Eastern European art movie thing going on where it's composed of a bunch of long takes with not much going on per se at any given moment, but it's still gripping and goes by quickly. It's hard for me to gauge what specific interests lie behind Puiu's brand of claustrophobic realism: human nature, broken systems, maybe world building? The lingering long takes signify a deep love of character, using the dysfunctional system around a man desperately seeking medical care to study different aspects of human nature. The broad spectrum of personalities and behavioral tendencies on display reflect a barely positive overall outlook on humankind, which makes the inevitable failings of their socioeconomic structure as a whole all the more poignant. The dry humor would probably have come across better in a theater setting; as it was I more recognized than enjoyed it. There's also some stuff, like having the protagonist's middle name be Dante and his brother-in-law be Virgil, for instance, that just feels like vague spoon-feeding. Sometimes I felt like it should be a favorite, but it didn't quite hit me like that.

Dog Soldiers (Neil Marshall, 2002) 6/10

Watched this with half an eye with my girlfriend, and I was pleasantly surprised. The Zabriskie Point line was the highlight for me.

Un flic (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1972) 6/10

A cop-and-robber story stripped down to almost Bressonian fundaments. Other than some all-time dolly shots, funky architecture, and other visually slick shit, though, I found it hard to get involved. The interminable train heist in the middle especially throws off the rhythm without offering anything more impressive than a contemporary Bond flick, with more hair-combing. Still, hard not to enjoy if only aesthetically -- those icy blue hues look great on 70s French film stock. I appreciated the little touches like a quick stare-off with a Van Gogh self-portrait.

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#13

Post by kongs_speech » May 3rd, 2020, 11:36 pm

I'm tired of typing so much every week, so I'll just dump my scores here. If anybody wants to know how I specifically felt about a film, feel free to ask.

HyperNormalisation (2016, Adam Curtis) - 4.5/5

Zombie (1979, Lucio Fulci) - 4.5/5

The Tenant (1976, Roman Polanski) - 4/5

My Friend Dahmer (2017, Marc Meyers) - 4/5

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999, Anthony Minghella) - 5/5

Driving Miss Daisy (1989, Bruce Beresford) - 3.5/5

Fire and Ice (1983, Ralph Bakshi) - 2.5/5

Almost Famous (2000, Cameron Crowe) - 5/5 (new #1)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, Ang Lee) - 4/5

The Shawshank Redemption (1994, Frank Darabont) - 5/5

God’s Own Country (2017, Francis Lee) - 3.5/5

Mark Kozelek On Tour: A Documentary (2012, Mark Kozelek) - 4/5

Chirpy (2001, John Goras) - 4/5 (rewatch)

Chirpy Returns (2007, John Goras) - 1/5

Untitled: The Bootleg Cut (2000, Cameron Crowe) - 5/5 (director's cut of Almost Famous)

The Iron Rose (1973, Jean Rollin) - 4/5

Sincerely Louis C.K. (2020, Louis C.K.) - 4.5/5

Onward (2020, Dan Scanlon) - 4/5
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#14

Post by sol » May 4th, 2020, 10:08 am

dark_frances wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 7:56 pm
Hi again, sol & all! I'm super glad to see that you're all still here, and the board is bloomin', and this is a place I can come back to - not as often as I'd like, not by far...
Likewise good to see you still around, though I don't know about the board blooming. Despite a couple of new recent participants, I think this weekly thread at least has been moribund ever since I decided that it was not worth replying to every single person every week at the start of the year. While that has reduced the pressure, I still have my scruples about the usefulness of this thread, especially since I have also recently found Letterboxd and therefore have somewhere to store my reviews and a reason to write beyond the off-chance of actually being able to discuss one of my viewings. But I digress. At this stage, I'm planning to still keep the weekly thread going, but it's still bordering on being an onerous task for me at times even with my acceptance that it is not worth replying the many users each week who just post their own viewings and are too busy to comment on others'.
dark_frances wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 7:56 pm
Of your movies from this week, I saw three. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Mary a Millionaire were a bit hard for me to digest - I am a bit allergic to ditzy Monroe. I did like her in The Misfits, though - and I could stomach Some Like it Hot because she was not quite the focus. Her style is just not for me, although I do understand its strategy, where it's coming from and whence the appeal.

Ride Lonesome
Not my favorite Boetticher, and I agree that there's a lot of black-and-whiteness going on. One of the reasons why this film stood a bit out of the crowd was the character of Boone...

But I would also like to talk a little about one of your viewings from last week, Vox Lux. I agree with your take ("this is an undeniably stylish film, though to what end is unclear"). I thought it wasn't a bad movie, just a very unpleasant one. The thing is that it did make me think about it, and rethink my attitude, and re-rethink it again, several times...
Marilyn Monroe's best performance was Niagara for my money. I am not a big fan of her ditzy blonde act either, but Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a rare film which suggests more to her than meets the eye, only acting like a scatterbrain because it helps her to seduce men as she admits at one point. I don't know if she has ever been more cunning. As for How to Marry a Millionaire, Monroe has the best scenes because she is pretty much the only one of the three leads playing everything as a comedy. The rest of the film sucks though, and while I had always mentally pegged both 1953 Monroe extravaganzas together, I really see the two films as apples and pears.

Intriguing reading of Ride Lonesome. Yes, I have seen Seven Men from Now and it was likewise a mere 6/10 from me. I wasn't particularly impressed with A Time for Dying either. I did like The Tall T quite a bit though - same goes for Decision at Sundown. Have not seen anything else from Boetticher, but his films tend to be fairly short as far as features go, so they are pretty easy to consume.

Agreed that Vox Lux was not a bad movie. There was too much go on (stylistically and thematically) for the film to register a negative mark from me, but I really just felt very indifferent to it at the end, and that's sort of like the last thing you want to ever exit a film feeling. Even with films that I hate, I'm usually like "at least I felt something". That wasn't the case with Vox Lux though, but that is an interesting point re: how "art survives through judgment"; there are probably countless films out there that have survived (whereas others have been lost) based on constant negative appraisals that entice others to keep seeking them out, e.g. "can Fear and Desire really be that bad?" - and, by the way, it isn't.

I don't know if you have seen Ruben Östlund's The Square, but that's the film that I thought about the most during Vox Lux. In case you don't know, it is about a museum curator who does something horrible to a neighbouring kid and refuses to apologise for it despite being at fault, while at the same time is compelled to apologise for an insanely stupid television ad released by his museum despite the fact that he was in no way responsible for the decision. Celeste's dilemma in Vox Lux felt similar to me: Celeste having to do interviews and media press statements after the overseas terror-related incident that she was not responsible for, yet at the same refusing to be responsible for her own daughter.

Yours:

Interesting read regarding Yojimbo and the five other films. I have been meaning to rewatch Leone's take for quite a while now, and if/when I ever do revisit it, I think it would be a good idea to pair it up with the Kurosawa original. I think I must have rewatched Yojimbo at some point, but it has been more than 15 years since I saw A Fistful of Dollars and of course I am reluctant to watch the more acclaimed second and third films in the Dollars trilogy without the first fresh in my mind.

It's been a couple of years since I last saw Miller's Crossing, but it is a top 4 Coen film for me and I have seen it multiple times too. For whatever reason, the Yojimbo connection never came for me before. I really love the film as an exercise in style, all those daunting low camera angle shots looking up at the tree, and every time my hat blows away in the wind, I keep thinking that there is nothing more ridiculous than a grown man chasing after his hat. tehe
Former IMDb message boards user // iCM | IMDb | Letterboxd | My top 750 films // Long live the new flesh!
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#15

Post by Onderhond » May 5th, 2020, 6:22 pm

sol wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 4:06 pm
Maybe it just comes from having watched the dire How to Marry a Millionaire first, but I'm really surprised that you rate Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on the same level. I would certainly place it quite a few notches above, even if its appearance in the TSP Top 1000 is eyebrow-raising.
Reread my old reviews and apparently I was irritated by the gold digger parts of Monroe. Also didn't like the musical bits (even less than the Astaire/Kelly ones) and the crass use of color in both films, though apparently worse in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I'm purely going on what I wrote though, can't remember anything from both films :D
sol wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 4:06 pm
I absolutely love twisty movies, so obviously we depart company there. Not all twisty movies stick up well to rewatch, but the ones that do are great. Anyway, agreed about The Invisible Guest being incredibly stylish. It was an awesome way for me to begin the Iberian Challenge.
I wouldn't say I hate twisty films, what I dislike is when they become strongly focused on just the plot. I like a bit of mindfuck when supported on an audiovisual level, but if it's just about the big reveal at the end and the twists in between, I quickly get bored. I don't like to play the guessing game and you know everything will be revealed at the end anyway, so what's the point ...
sol wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 4:06 pm
Disliked Saw at the time, but at least it had some originality, which the sequels lacked. I'm not really a torture porn horror fan in general and there is a lot of stuff (Would You Rather; the Hostel films) that I would preference above Saw.
I liked Would You Rather, hated the various Hostel films. What I like about Saw is the fact that the killer
SpoilerShow
gets away with it
+ the various contraptions and the dirty, rundown look of it. I also don't mind the harsher stuff like Grotesque, but clearly ICM is not the place for that kind of horror :D (I think I've seen it in the bottom 250 here).
sol wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 4:06 pm
I liked Election Year as well. I think I have the first three Purge movies on about the same level, each doing something a bit different with the basic premise. Did not really fancy the fourth film though.
I liked them all the same (3.0*), only the second one I have at 3.5*. I like the start of each Purge night best, when the freaks come out and it's actually like "Halloween for adults". These parts also tend to be the most cinematic (the fourth film's scenes were standouts in that regard). After that, it becomes too much action/thriller for my liking, especially because the films don't really excel in that department. But good fun, especially when seen far enough apart from each other :)

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#16

Post by Lonewolf2003 » May 5th, 2020, 8:06 pm

I've been working trough my Bergman boxset last few weeks, watching them all chronologically. So my last week viewings were all Bergmans.

Vargtimmen [Hour of the Wolf] (1968, Ingmar Bergman) (rewatch):7.8 > 8.0

Skammen [Shame] (1968, Ingmar Bergman) (rewatch): 8.5 > 8.5 - By keeping a background info and details about the war unknown, Bergman succeeds in making a touching movie that's purely about the innocent people caught up in a conflict. Plust it feels less like a home movie of someone interviewing his neighbors.

En passion [The Passion of Anna] (1969, Ingmar Bergman) (rewatch): 8.0 > 7.5

Riten [The Rite] (1969, Ingmar Bergman): 6.8 - Typical uneven effort; there are some good parts about it, like the acting, but the divided story structure doesn't work.

Fårö dokument (1970, Ingmar Bergman): 6.2
Fårö-dokument 1979 (1979, Ingmar Bergman): 6.5 - The only two non-fiction features Bergman made. The second one is slightly better, cause it gives more room to delve into the people portayed.

The Touch (1971, Ingmar Bergman): 7.0 - Bergman first movie that was (partly) in English is a movie about the quest for real human contact: the need and desire for love, and the difficulty of giving, accepting and sustaining it. This is clearly partly lost in translation; the English dialogues fall flat, while the well written characters proof Bergman didn't lost his written skills suddenly. Those well-rounded characters are brought to live by outstanding acting, especially by Anderson. Bergman's directing is not flawless tho, scenes do go on too long.

Viskningar och rop [Cries and Whispers] (1972, Ingmar Bergman) (rewatch): 6.5 > 7.2

Scener ur ett äktenskap [Scenes from a Marriage] (1973, Ingmar Bergman): 8.8 This is the first time I've seen the tv mini-series version and the added length makes this is honest and unflinching portrayal of marriage in all it ups and downs even better.. It is at it best when it cuts out all secondary characters and focuses entirely on its two protagonists locked almost episode long scenes discussions.. Like Bergman himself said about these characters: “They have grown rather contradictory, sometimes anxiously childish, sometimes pretty grown-up. They talk quite a lot of rubbish, now and then saying something sensible. They are nervous, happy, selfish, stupid, kind, wise, self-sacrificing, affectionate, angry, gentle, sentimental, insufferable and lovable”, or simply said purely flawed humans, and therefor immensely recognizable. Of course all this stands or falls with the acting, luckily Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson give what surely rank among their career best performances.

Trollflöjten [The Magic Flute] (1975, Ingmar Bergman): 7.5 - Bergman adopts Mozart's famous opera for the screen, and it works way better than it sounds. My unsuspected enjoyment is largely thanks to the enjoyable playfulness of Mozart's opera and Bergman's deep love for this that shines through. He infuses enough cinematic elements to make it work as a movie, like his famous use of close-ups. It even turns more and more into a film, f.e. scenes in the first act are all clearly set on stage still, while later ones in the second act aren't anymore. Meanwhile Bergman also keeps faithful to its theatrical roots, f.e. with scenes with signs with subtitles clearly held up by stagehands, giving the movie a extra meta-layer about the enjoyment of a staged performance. This also is evident in the opening during the overture when Bergman edited to the rhythm of the music films the faces of the public of all ages and races; saying this opera this can be enjoyed by all.

The Serpent's Egg (1977, Ingmar Bergman): 5.0 - Bergman's big production made in Germany, during exile from Sweden cause of problems with the taxman is one of his major missteps. David Carradine is totally miscast, plus on top of that gives a poor performance in which he either just looks stoic or overacts. To be fair the ending almost redeems this, if everything before wouldn’t have been so extremely aimless and empty.

Höstsonaten [Autumn Sonata] (1978) (rewatch, Ingmar Bergman)): 8.5 > 8.8 - Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Bergman are phenomenal in this.

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#17

Post by kongs_speech » May 5th, 2020, 10:20 pm

sol wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 12:00 pm
When You Read This Letter (1953). Vulnerable after her parents' death, the younger sister of a novice nun crosses paths with a scheming mechanic, leading to heartbreak and misery in this melodrama from Jean-Pierre Melville. The film has several interesting elements, with the nun a particularly fascinating character given how her behaviour outside the convent conflicts with her religious views. Philippe Lemaire also plays a manipulative and shallow human being well. It is over halfway in though before the pair properly meet and then none of their actions feel credible. The motivations of Irène Galter as the younger sister are wildly inconsistent too with the film adopting a really uncomfortable stance on how to deal with rapists. While it is initially intriguing waiting to see where Melville goes with intercutting the parallel tales, the results are underwhelming. (first viewing, online) ★

Hail Mary (1985). Pregnant despite having never had intercourse, a college student finds herself at odds to her friends and family in this curious modern day subversion of Immaculate Conception. The film begins well with Mary attending college courses in which her lecturers debate the existence of a god and whether humans might actually be extraterrestrials; a blindfolding demonstration is particularly potent. Disappointingly, these ideas tend to fizzle out as the pregnancy takes centre focus, but its handling is interesting too. Jean-Luc Godard goes to great lengths to show how flat Mary's belly is (frequently walking around half undressed) as if to question our own faith as viewers over whether she can be pregnant. The film feels a little drawn out even at less than 80 minutes, but this highly fascinating stuff, and Godard's music choices are sublime. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★
I liked When You Read This Letter, but I don't recall much about it. It's never considered one of Melville's greater efforts. Hail Mary, on the other hand, is one of my favorite Godards. I felt it was a total masterpiece, and I also really enjoyed the short that plays before the feature.
Onderhond wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 12:49 pm
01. ]4.0* - Saw by James Wan (2004)
Time hasn't been kind to certain aspects of Wan's breakout hit, but the scenes that matter haven't lost any of their shine. Some mediocre performances and a rather plain criminal investigation cannot derail this film, especially not when the famous games start running their course. It's still a great horror flick.

07. 3.0* - The Purge: Election Year by James DeMonaco (2016)
A Halloween for adults, as the film calls itself. There are incidentally also the best bits of the franchise, the silly/creepy dress-ups are what makes these films so much fun. The action and thriller elements and the plot keep it from reaching greater heights. Pretty cool in parts, but there's too much unused potential.

08. 3.0* - Butter by Jim Field Smith (2011)
A solid comedy that draws a lot of humor from its incredibly silly setup. Performances are good across the board and there are some fun jokes here, sadly the film loses some steam towards the end. It would've been better if they'd simply stuck with the comedy, but it's not the first film to fall into that trap.

18. 2.0* - Anger Management by Peter Segal (2003)
Not my favorite Sandler film. I actually prefer Nicholson in slightly more subdued roles, the chemistry with Sandler is somewhat off, performances of the secondary cast are mediocre and the number of jokes that truly land are few and far between. There are a couple of memorable scenes though, just not enough to carry the entire film.

22. 1.0* - Onward by Dan Scanlon (2020)
Another bland Pixar film about a world that flips expectations and a protagonist that is out of his comfort zone. They just keep rehashing the same old formula. The characters are drab, the jokes aren't funny and the drama is sappy. At least there's some technical innovation here, but that hardly redeems the gross laziness.
I'm a fan of the Saw franchise, and the first film is indeed the best. However, I believe that my change with the upcoming Spiral, which has unfortunately been delayed until May 2021 because of COVID. Election Year is the only Purge I haven't seen, but I like the franchise. I talked last week about hating Butter. Anger Management is funny to me, but some of the jokes have aged poorly. I am a Sandler apologist and enjoy most of his pre-Netflix output, so I'm lenient with his work. I'd give it a 3/5. We had polar opposite reactions to Onward. I feel that it's one of Pixar's best films. I was drawn into its unique and exciting world, and I felt that the voice acting was terrific. I also found the relationship between the brothers very heartwarming. I watched it last week as my "birthday movie," and my mom and I both loved it. To each their own.
Perception de Ambiguity wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 3:05 pm
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Russ Meyer, 1970) 4+/10
I haven't seen it since I was in high school, so I'm iffy on specific details, but I recall having a blast with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Ebert's screenplay, I felt was very sharp and witty. I own the Criterion, so I ought to revisit it sometime and see how I feel about it over a decade later.
joachimt wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 3:56 pm
Southland Tales (2006, 1 official list, 2938 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Well, this was… uh… I don't know… weird… enjoyable I think… At least I really enjoyed the unpredictableness of it.

Tromeo and Juliet (1996, 2 official lists, 751 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Weirdest Shakespeare I've ever seen. So over the top, that it was actually funny.
Southland Tales is in my top 10 of all-time, but I can see how someone would be a bit baffled by it. It's certainly a strange one. So is Tromeo and Juliet, which I liked a bit more than you did. It's pretty stupid and ridiculous, but because James Gunn wrote the script, it's a bit wittier than the normal Troma fare.
prodigalgodson wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 8:24 pm
The Pillow Book (Peter Greenaway, 1996) 4/10

Say what you will about Greenaway, he did push things to the limit, and the kitchen sink aesthetic here was initially refreshing after watching so many looong dedications to one stylistic approach. Unfortunately once I got used to it I found it more tiresome than anything else, too adept and deliberate to feel gimmicky, but not gripping enough to elevate the scant story. I don't want to open the style/substance can of worms, but it often feels like Greenaway's using his bag of tricks to obscure a paucity of meaning.

A Zed & Two Noughts (Peter Greenaway, 1985) 7/10

This contains the most boldly impressive compositions I've seen from Greenaway yet; zoos are evocative spaces and I don't think I've seen a film set in one before. Greenaway seems to have a very specific set of interests and sensibilities, which align perfectly with mine in some ways and not at all in others -- I'm still not crazy about his self-consciously clever writing, which works worse here than in a historical context a la Draughtsman's Contract. Some of these preoccupations he shares with Thomas Pynchon -- eccentrics, sex, conspiracies, death, scientific minutiae, body enhancement, lists -- and much as with that author of some of my favorite books I've learned not to give too much weight to every little detail for fear they'll fail to cohere satisfyingly. With this mindset I was able to just kick back and enjoy the experience. I also appreciate Nyman's music more the more I hear it.

Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie, 2013) 7/10

Sex and death always make an intriguing combination -- this is like the gay Twentynine Palms. Guiraudie initially seemed too self-conscious with his compositions, but I think I just had to get used to the style. His vivid sense of place was the biggest selling point for me. I found the resolution oddly pat, but liked the ending itself.
The two Greenaway flicks worked about equally for me. I wasn't blown away, but as always, I admired his direction. 3.5/5 for both. Stranger by the Lake is a film that I loved. I appreciate how it takes a long time to get to the actual plot. It was a good deal more sexually explicit than I was expecting, but that kind of thing doesn't bother me at all. It's tame compared to Caligula or Gaspar Noe's Love.
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#18

Post by prodigalgodson » May 6th, 2020, 12:11 am

Everyone else's:

sol
Rancho Notorious 9 - bumpy ride indeed, but in the best way possible (as I remember, it's been a number of years)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 6 - love Hawks, don't like musicals, so this balanced out
Ride Lonesome 9 - was my favorite Boetticher the first time around, loved the way it was shot and sense of mystery
Hail Mary - cool, I need to see more late Godard

toad
O Sangue - need to dive deeper into Costa's filmography -- I've only seen his Jeanne Balibar doc, also in black and white, which I loved

hond
Spring in a Small Town 7 - liked this but didn't really understand the hype, I think I need to see it again
Onward 5 - didn't hate it, but it does feel very lazy

pda
Fauci cold open - I liked this episode a lot more than the last one, but this didn't feel as good as it could've been

jt
He Walked By Night 5 - I don't generally dig police procedurals so I found this one kinda dull, but remember liking how it was shot
Dark Phoenix - didn't finish it, wow it was bad
Soutland Tales 6 - sounds about right
The Tingler 5 - yeah, kinda fun for schlock value but pretty bad in and of itself
Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? 9 - ah, my favorite early Fassbinder

frances
Red Harvest thing - cool idea for a quest; I like those kinds of stories too
Holy Mountain - kind of enjoyed it back in the day, definitely liked the ending
Bojack Horseman - yeah, one of the best

ks
The Tenant 9 - nice
The Talented Mr. Ripley 4 - ah I actually didn't like this, though I love Plein soleil and The American Friend; haven't read the book
Almost Famous 6 - alright, you gotta talk about your new favorite!
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 5 - really didn't get the hype but maybe I should watch it again sometime
The Shawshank Redemption 6 - not bad, but kinda crazy it has the reputation it does, topping the IMDb top 250 and whatnot
Onward 5 - felt like the most formulaic Pixar yet

wolf
Hour of the Wolf 8 - good stuff
Shame 8 - one of his most underrated as I recall, wouldn't mind seeing it again
Cries and Whispers 9 - the first one I saw, and when I watched it again more recently on film it lived up to my memory
Scenes from a Marriage 9 - watched the miniseries last week too, kinda renewed my interest in Bergman

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#19

Post by Onderhond » May 6th, 2020, 8:33 am

kongs_speech wrote:
May 5th, 2020, 10:20 pm
I am a Sandler apologist and enjoy most of his pre-Netflix output, so I'm lenient with his work.
I actually don't mind Sandler all that much, not even his Netflix stuff (but it's still a bit hit & miss). Though it's not just Sandler alone, it's the whole crew around him that grew on my over time. That's something I miss in modern comedies (the same goes for Will Ferrell and related), big comedy crews making upbeat, lighthearted comedies instead of the endless stream of dramadies we see nowadays.

Maybe that's why I didn't take to Anger Management so kindly, as the secondary characters also didn't do it for me.
kongs_speech wrote:
May 5th, 2020, 10:20 pm
I'd give it a 3/5. We had polar opposite reactions to Onward. I feel that it's one of Pixar's best films. I was drawn into its unique and exciting world, and I felt that the voice acting was terrific. I also found the relationship between the brothers very heartwarming. I watched it last week as my "birthday movie," and my mom and I both loved it. To each their own.
Hehe. I dislike the whole niche of kid-friendly US CG animation-though, so it's not just Pixar. I guess, compared to other studios, they do make the best quality films, but it's almost impossible for me to compare. It's all in the 0.5*-1.5* range for me.

From yours I've seen a bunch (Zombie 2, Almost Famous, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Shawshank Redemption), but none of them received positive scores from me. I did like My Friend Dahmer though, liked the original approach and what wasn't shown in the film.
prodigalgodson wrote:
May 6th, 2020, 12:11 am
Spring in a Small Town 7 - liked this but didn't really understand the hype, I think I need to see it again
I guess that makes my 5 a more positive number than your 7 :D I'm completely in love with the remake though, which is so much closer to my aesthetic sensibilities. But I expected much worse from this one.

From yours I've seen Festen (1.5* - Dogme was such a terrible idea), 1900 (0.5* - so long and so boring). Same feeling about Dog Soldiers (3.0*) and I liked The Pillow Book (4.0*) way better it seems. I do still need to see that again, because it's been 15 years or so. Can't remember anything and no clue if it would still appeal to me. But I do have it set away as a film that plays with aesthetics quite explicitly, so that should be right up my alley.

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#20

Post by sol » May 6th, 2020, 10:30 am

Onderhond wrote:
May 5th, 2020, 6:22 pm
sol wrote:
May 3rd, 2020, 4:06 pm
I absolutely love twisty movies, so obviously we depart company there. Not all twisty movies stick up well to rewatch, but the ones that do are great. Anyway, agreed about The Invisible Guest being incredibly stylish. It was an awesome way for me to begin the Iberian Challenge.
I wouldn't say I hate twisty films, what I dislike is when they become strongly focused on just the plot. I like a bit of mindfuck when supported on an audiovisual level, but if it's just about the big reveal at the end and the twists in between, I quickly get bored. I don't like to play the guessing game and you know everything will be revealed at the end anyway, so what's the point ...
What I loved about the twists and turns in The Invisible Guest was the way they kept constantly changing my preconceptions and sympathies regarding the protagonist. It was a magnificent ride for me since I dig films that cause me to reevaluate how I feel about certain characters.
Onderhond wrote:
May 5th, 2020, 6:22 pm
I like the start of each Purge night best, when the freaks come out and it's actually like "Halloween for adults".
Now I know what you'll be doing on October 31 this year. ;)

kongs_speech wrote:
May 5th, 2020, 10:20 pm
I liked When You Read This Letter, but I don't recall much about it. It's never considered one of Melville's greater efforts. Hail Mary, on the other hand, is one of my favorite Godards. I felt it was a total masterpiece, and I also really enjoyed the short that plays before the feature.
Yeah, When You Read This Letter is certainly quite forgettable. It has been over a week now and the only thing that I vividly remember is the film's ridiculous stance on date rape, pretty much implying that all such rape victims were "asking for it".

Hail Mary might be favourite of Godard's post-60s work, but I would certainly peg it several notches below Contempt. I am unsure what you are talking about regarding the "short that plays before the feature". The Australian DVD at least only contains the approximately 75 minute film.

Yours:

Loved: The Tenant; The Talented Mr. Ripley

Liked: Driving Miss Daisy; Almost Famous; The Shawshank Redemption

Decent: HyperNormalisation; Zombie; Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Disliked: God's Own Country

Been too long since I have seen Brokeback but I recall much more chemistry there than in God's Own Country, which is basically a film about two guys getting sexual and romantic out of sheer boredom and to break up the monotony. Not a very positive or supportive LGBTIQ message to send IMO.

prodigalgodson wrote:
May 6th, 2020, 12:11 am
sol
Rancho Notorious 9 - bumpy ride indeed, but in the best way possible (as I remember, it's been a number of years)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 6 - love Hawks, don't like musicals, so this balanced out
Ride Lonesome 9 - was my favorite Boetticher the first time around, loved the way it was shot and sense of mystery
Hail Mary - cool, I need to see more late Godard
Wow, such a high scores for those westerns. Never realised that you were such a fan of the genre. It is a genre that I think I am slowly coming to appreciate more and more over time. Never watched that many during my formative filmgoing years and it has been a real treat catching up with some of the classics with the annual westerns challenges. I should have quite a few western viewings in my movie log next week.

Yeah, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is not especially great as far as musicals goes. Loved the glitzy costumes though and after watching the total train-wreck that is How to Marry to a Millionaire, it was refreshing to follow up with a Marilyn film with indeed a capable director like Hawks at the helm.

And yep, Hail Mary is pretty great, but also nowhere near as shocking or outrageously sacrilegious as it has been made out to be over the years. Most of amusing thing for me was reading all the points complaining about the fact that the lead actress never really looks pregnant when that is very much the point of movie and something that Godard goes out of his way to emphasise.

Yours:

Loved 1900 - a bit rambling and unfocused as one might expect a five-hour film chronicling several decades to be, but I loved tracking the ups and downs of the central friendship as class boundaries come between them. Great Robert De Niro and Gérard Depardieu performances too, though Burt Lancaster stole the film for me in his every scene.

The Pillow Book is middle tier Greenaway for me. He's certainly done much worse. Yes, Zed is certainly better; wonderful Michael Nyman score too. And Scenes was certainly pretty decent at the time but did not affect me anywhere near as much as Fanny and Alexander. I wouldn't place Scenes in a Bergman Top 10 or anything, but it would certainly make a top 20 for me - out of 38 Bergman films seen.
Former IMDb message boards user // iCM | IMDb | Letterboxd | My top 750 films // Long live the new flesh!
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#21

Post by Lonewolf2003 » May 6th, 2020, 11:10 am

@sol 3 Ninja’s : Well that brings back sweet childhood memories of going round kicking and punching with my little brother and friend after watching that movie. :)

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#22

Post by OldAle1 » May 23rd, 2020, 11:18 pm

Catch-up 1

This Film ROCKS
This Film SUCKS

Wicked Woman (Russell Rouse, 1953)

TCM. Always great to watch Eddie Muller on a Sunday morning, with that first (well, these days, second usually) cup of coffee, especially when he's introducing something I haven't seen, and don't really know much about, like this low-rent copy (for the first 2/3 anyway) of The Postman Always Rings Twice. If you count both official adaptations, unofficial rip-offs that hew fairly closely to the oriiginal James M. Cain novel - or the most famous early adaptation from Tay Garnett with Lana Turner and John Garfield, and films like this one that are clearly heavily "inspired" by earlier sources and versions, we must be up to at least a dozen interpretations of this noir classic by now. This ended up being better than I expected, though certainly not among the best. It does have a couple of major points of interest, the first being the gender-switching element - the drifter blowing through town and coming to work at the roadhouse (or just bar, in this film's case) is a woman, played by tall and hard Beverly Michaels; and the last third of the film is altered quite a bit, with a very different resolution that may be less typically "noir" but is perhaps more interesting for that. Michaels - who, based on this role and her two dynamite performances in two of Hugo Haas' early American films as writer-director, should have become a star - is clearly imitating Turner in her all-white attire throughout much of the film, and it's a tribute to the best qualities of film and star that she can stand the competition, but Richard Egan as the bartender/part-owner with his alcoholic wife (Evelyn Scott) is no match for Garfield, Nicholson or some of the other actors to play this role. Percy Helton, the diminutive character actor who can be seen in dozens of noirs and comedies from this period, has an atypical second-lead performance as the guy who holds something over Michaels' character, and he definitely adds a fun element of sleaze. It's a rather dull film visually - all cheap sets, and not that much of interest done with them, or the photography which is fairly flat and plain, but the basic story is good enough and Michaels, Helton and Scott all deliver solid work (and Egan isn't terrible or anything, he just doesn't have the juice of some of his competition), enough to make this worth a view for noir aficionados for sure.

Siu Lam juk kau / Shaolin Soccer (Stephen Chow, 2001)

Been wanting to see this for a while. The only other Chow-directed film I'd seen is his 2004 "breakthrough hit" - i.e, the first film that showed up in commercial release in the USA - Kung Fu aka Kung Fu Hustle, which I saw in the cinema and liked a fair amount. I've seen him in a few films as an actor also but I guess they've been far enough apart that he hasn't made an immense impression on me yet. Seeing this one now I remember some of the issues I had with Kung Fu, namely the comedy - Hong Kong comedy is pretty iffy for me, I do feel I'm getting a better handle on it, but still the more comedically-oriented action films often leave me a little cold, and this was no exception. The action sequences are pretty cool and the effects, some of it CG, look pretty good for an almost 20-year-old film, but the low humor and melodrama around Chow's relationship with the steamed-bun maker (and also kung fu expert, of course) played by Wei Zhao are rather tiresome. Still this story of, well, football players recruited by a losing coach so as to best his rival (who coaches the "Evil Team" ha ha), all of whom are martial arts experts, starts out very entertainingly, and the ending match it kind of fun if too silly for me.

Is-slottet / Ice Palace (Per Blom, 1987)

This seems to be well-loved around here judging from a few comments; hate to be the spoilsport but while I think I appreciate what this story of a couple of prepubescent girls, and the tragedy that befalls them, in a cold winter involving an iced-over waterfall, it just din't work for me overall. It's certainly a graceful and understated work, involving budding sexuality and the sense of outsider-ness that people can feel, in terms of being new to a community, of sex and gender issues, and just of being young --- but it felt rather endless despite it's very short running time, and while it's nicely shot the cinematic beauty wasn't enough to slough off the tedium; also the music just seemed to belong to something else to me. This very much felt like the kind of film I should love, but I just didn't.

Skepp till India Land / A Ship Bound for India (Ingmar Bergman, 1947)

One of just a couple of early Bergmans that I haven't seen, this is a typical enough work about a young man who suffers from a hunchback - which may or may not be psychosomatic - and the problematic relationship with his brutal and uncaring father that defines not only his life but his mother's, and his father's mistress who the son grows to love. It's really quite beautifully shot and certainly feels less ponderous than some of Bergman's later works, but it doesn't feel particularly special, and Birger Malmsten as the son is a little tiresome.

Tulipunainen kyyhkynen / The Scarlet Dove (Matti Kassila, 1961)

An older man and his much younger wife talk about age and their marriage as they laze outside on the dock by their house; she gets a letter, and something about her expression makes the husband take notice...is it a young lover perhaps? And so begins a long and beautifully composed journey into the world of paranoia, obsession, jealousy and the labyrinth of film noir, early-60s-Finnish style. Not that this appears on any major noir lists, but I think most viewers strongly familiar with the style would agree with me that it merits consideration. Soon the husband is pursuing the wife through the streets of Helsinki...there is a tryst...a murder...a hook-up with a hooker...the police, and interrogation...search for the hooker...a house that isn't there...a ship...the murderer there?...and finally
SpoilerShow
the dream is over, and it really was all a dream, with all of the husband's guests playing their parts in the dream and reality. I'm not necessarily against "it was a dream" endings but in this case I really think it almost ruins the film. Too bad, a better ending and this would really be something.
.

Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta / The Song of the Scarlet Flower (Teuvo Tulio, 1938)

My first Tulio film and it looks like he's the Finnish master of melodrama, or something like it. Here we have a young man, son of a prosperous farmer who, on learning he can't marry the servant girl he's fallen for, embarks on a journey to find himself --- and find other women to seduce along the way. This has some terrific scenes, most obviously the lengthy log run that must have been an incredible thing to film in 1938, a thrilling ride until it goes on just a bit too long, but in the end the moralism of the message - as our hero finds out that being a lothario has negative effects on women, who would have thought it? - undercuts the whole thing and it's just too pedantic and blunt to work.

Sellaisena kuin sinä minut halusit / The Way You Wanted Me (Teuvo Tulio, 1944)

This is a more pure melodrama and while it's got it's messages and moments of conservative morality to it, works much better than the earlier film as an often fever-pitched examination of the fate of women in patriarchal society. I wouldn't say it gets to the level of Sirk, and it's even less subtle than he is at his most blunt, but there's a comparison to be made. Maja, a young woman (Marie-Louise Fock, magnetic) goes from being the prettiest, innocent girl on a country isle to a hardened prostitute in the big city, betrayed and lied to by every man around her along the way. What makes this enjoyable are the incredible Dickensian coincidences that keep piling up - one man is hauled off by the cops literally at the moment he's planning a life with Maja, another gets in a lethal fight while in exactly the same situation, a girl is saved by the doctor who had jilted her mother years before and who turns out to be...well, you can guess. This wouldn't work if not for the feeling in the lead actress and in the script -- it's crazy and over the top but clearly full of compassion and righteous anger, and overall it's pretty terrific, if you can take the plot's silliness.

The Gambler from Natchez (Henry Levin, 1954)

Watched out of undying lust for Debra Paget, one of the sexiest starlets of the 50s, another of the unending numbers of talents who never quite made it to the top tier, though she was close. But perhaps "talent" isn't the right word - much as I like watching her, and love many of the films she's in, I'm not sure she ever proved herself as a solid actress, as much more than a sex symbol, which is probably part of why she retired early, at just over 30 - marrying rich also helped I'm sure. At any rate, I always gravitate towards her films when I come across them, but not so much that I've made a real effort. This one just happened to be on Fox Movie Channel at the right time, so what the hell. It's a "southern" as Quentin Tarantino would call it, about card sharks and casinos and riverboats in the days just after the Civil War, and Paget is the daughter of riverboat captain Thomas Gomez, who befriends a young man back from the war (Dale Robertson, who I guess is the guy that was called when Burt Lancaster wasn't available or was too expensive) and soon gets involved in Robertson's attempts to find out who killed his father and avenge himself. Hokey stuff with a decent sword fight late in the film between Robertson and main bad guy Kevin McCarthy. Pretty good color though this copy was rather soft, and Woody Strode makes a brief but significant appearance.

First Contact (Robin Anderson/Bob Connolly, 1982)

Solid documentary about the first contact between groups of New Guinea aborigines and white Australians in the early 1930s - some of which were filmed at the time by three brothers who went into the New Guinea highlands looking for gold. Two of the brothers were still alive when this was made, the the film alternates between their reminiscences and those of surviving members of the aboriginal tribes, some of whom were children at the time. While it's rather amazing when you think about what this experience must have been like - on both sides - and it's pretty special that there is extant film footage of the encounters, the doc itself is rather prosaically made, and while it attempts to give equal time to both colonizers and colonized, as it were, it still comes off at times as somewhat patronizing. Still a valuable look at one of the last such moments in human history.

Soldaten og Jenny / Jenny and the Soldier (Johan Jacobsen, 1947)

An interesting mixture of melodrama, crime, delusion and depression, in which a young soldier, disillusioned with everyone, sits in a bar telling his story of lucklessness to the bartender, when in comes another young man and we begin something of a La ronde-like series of stories about a half-dozen characters whose chance interactions with each other leave a death, an attempted suicide, and at the end some happiness for a couple. This doesn't go as far as some other films of this period (or later, i.e. Slacker) in exploring the randomness of life - eventually we get back to the main couple and the latter part of the film is a bit more conventional than the first half - but it's a nicely done little bit of philosophizing in which the coincidences and connections really seem to matter and have some consistency.

Naisenkuvia / Portraits of Women (Jôrn Donner, 1970)

A sort of meta-porn film if that's a thing - I think a lot of porn is rather meta by it's very nature, at least when there's an attempt at story or plot in the first place, but this is an early example and clearly trying to be something "more" than porn. And it's only on the border of hard- and soft-core, with no penetration shown but lots and lots of closeups. And as much as I tend to lime meta films, films about films or filmmaking, this story of a porn filmmaker and his issues with his friend, his girlfriend (wife? most relationships weren't that clear), other women, and producers just didn't do anything for me at all. It's not sexy enough to work as real porn, and the attempts at arguing for or against more sex in the Finnish cinema, while I think well-intentioned, just aren't well-articulated or very interesting in the end. Not outright awful but pretty dull in the end, and the worst film I watched for this challenge. No offense intended to the person who nominated this! I guess I'm not as into Scandinavian exploitation cinema of the early 70s as I thought I was...

Skytturnar / White Whales (Friðrik Þór Friðriksson, 1987)

The director's first film. I thought I had seen his later Cold Fever but IMDb/ICM sez no; I think that might've been a film I did see when new but just missed when compiling ratings 15 years ago - at any rate I remember that it did get minimal commercial release in the USA, and I remember the VHS box cover. Friðriksson has been a pretty active director though, I suppose the major name in his country through most of his career, so it's good to start afresh now in this challenge. And this wasn't a bad film to start with, and kind of a typical first film you might say, with certainly many resemblances to the dour Finnish cinema (the Kaurismäkis anyway) of the time, and to early Jim Jarmusch, and a soundtrack that includes both Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Essentially we have two losers, whaleman in Reykjavik on a break, who go on an all-night bender hitting up bars, pool halls, trying to bed women without success, with ultimately disastrous consequences. It doesn't really add up to much though I think there are attempts at some kind of statement - surely the
SpoilerShow
deaths of both men of the sea, one staring into a puddle and the other at the bottom of an empty swimming pool, has some kind of ironic dimension
. In the end it was worth seeing for someone whole likes the night wanderings in big cities and the feel of authentic urban grit, but that's about all.

Der Hund von Baskerville (Richard Oswald, 1929)

Silent German production of Conan Doyle's best-known single Sherlock Holmes story, which has been filmed many, many times - I've seen at least 5 films or TV versions myself. Looks like it was especially popular in Germany in the silent era - there were multiple films before this one. This was clearly an expensive production, with a multinational cast and large and attractive sets, and it's all really well constructed. It moves from being relatively close to the novel in the first few reels (parts of reels 2-3 are missing; I'd assume this originally would have been around 80 minutes instead of the 65 we have now) to wildly different in the end, with secret doors and floods of mud and a bow and arrow shot and a character and murder made up for this film. Purists will object to these changes of course, but I think they're fascinating, and give the film something of the feel of serial cliffhangers in it's last reels. Not a great film or version of the story but fun stuff overall.

L'ordre / Order (Jean-Daniel Pollet, 1973)

Short documentary about a French leper colony in the Mediterranean, or rather two leper colonies: one which was sort of self-governed, which was closed, with the residents being moved to another nearby from which they could come and go with at least a little freedom, but where they were more under government control. Mostly interviews with older residents who remembered the move; grim and sad. I can't help but compare this with Forugh's masterpiece The House is Black from a decade earlier, and of course I wonder if Pollet had seen that before making his film. This is certainly somewhat more conventional though it has a detachment to it, exemplified by the reading of several statements off-screen that aren't identified as being from residents of the colony, or others, and by the repeated questioning of (we presume) the director by one resident in particular, who wants to know whether the lepers' stories will be told fairly and humanely - he assumes they won't be, and that he's being lied to again.

Francisca (Manoel de Oliveira, 1981)

Two young men - deeply cynical writer Camilo, and somewhat less cynical (but no less arrogant) José Agusto argue about life and love and art and women for almost 3 hours during the late 1840s and 1850s in various locales in Portugal. Most of it in static shots, and delivering their lines with ironic detachment, and almost Bressonian lack of emotion or "presence". There is also Francisca, or Fanny, the title character, and the "plot" mostly revolves around José Agusto's infatuation with her, plans to marry her, the thwarting of those plans, the sabotage to her character, possibly by Camilo, etc. This is the world of one of Oliveira's static period chamber dramas, and I suspect that if you like his other films of this type like Doomed Love or The Satin Slipper, you'll be open to this one. I tend to find Oliveira's world very hard to dive into at first -- I always spend the first few minutes or half-hour impatient and unable to connect with what's going on -- but typically rewarding by the end, and such was the case here. The clear artificiality of the acting, the slow pacing, the overall theatricality eventually pulls me in, and I'm forced to concentrate on meaning and the ambiguity of many of the characters in a way that I rarely need to do with other films. This ultimately wasn't one of his very best, at least not on one viewing, and the darkness and softness of the image (I should look for a better copy if one exists) didn't help, but as always with Oliveira by the end I was looking forward to the next film. And I'm really looking forward to being able to read the work of Camilo Castelo Branco, one whom the character of Camilo is based, and who wrote the novels that both Oliveira's Doomed Love, and Ruiz' Mysteries of Lisbon are based. Hopefully somebody in lockdown is working on lots of translations right now....

Avalon (Mamoru Oshii, 2001)

onderhond's favorite film, how could I not watch this? We're like, separated at birth you know :lol: But seriously, I've wanted to see this - and more Oshii in general - since first seeing Angel's Egg a decade or more ago, which I loved, and then Ghost in the Shell a couple of years later, which I didn't quite love but certainly enjoyed and admired in many respects. I remember seeing screenshots of this years ago and they gave off a sort of steampunk vibe which was definitely a pull for me (though it turned out largely an inaccurate conceptualization on my part), but with a million films to watch, never got around to it till now. And I'm rather glad I knew nothing about it other than something of the visual look and that it was a Polish co-production. First off, it is a beautiful film; those who have read some of my rantings about the look of much of modern Hollywood know that I don't much like the common (over the last 20 years) practice of color grading that so often either mutes colors down to drab grays, or gives everything a teal/gold cast. See much of the work of Spielberg and Eastwood in recent years, most of Zack Snyder and Michael Bay's films, etc. Well this at first glance seems to be in the same category, but that's really not correct; it's a sepia tone that does show an interesting palette of colors (albeit sparingly) and is absolutely key to the film's design; I think it could have been done in a deep b/w hue with similar bits of color, and might have looked nicer to my eyes, but it's still pretty interesting - and again, it works in part because of the way the visuals change and what happens in the last act of the film, which I won't spoil, though I suppose I could...

because the plot/story/narrative (top game playing woman in dystopian world finds player maybe better than her, leads her into investigating who or what built the game - and where she and the game lie in relation to the "real world"), whatever word you want to use, is fairly useless and uninteresting here, and there isn't much here that we've seen before. Connections with The Matrix I'm sure have been made but I don't know that that's fair - it really feels like a more general tour of the VR and dystopian fiction landscapes of the last century, with references visual and/or metaphorical to sources like 1984, Brazil, Stalker and Philip K. Dick. And I'd also say it's interesting to see this now in the context of Spielberg's Ready Player One which seems more overtly influenced by Avalon than the Oshii film is to any one or two of it's intellectual sources. And speaking of those, very little is made of the title or it's connection to the Arthurian legends - at least, not on one viewing. While this overall struck me as fairly shallow and at the end a mishmash of half-baked ideas - not least being the whole concept of what-is-real, what-is-game which simply doesn't seem to matter either to the audience or in the context of the film at the end - I am prepared to admit that there may be more below the surface, something I wouldn't say about some of the many popular VR-heavy films of the 90s like Virtuosity, The Thirteenth Floor or The Matrix and sequels, for that matter.

I had the feeling this would end up either AWESOME or SHIT, and more likely the latter as my experience both with films in this little subgenre and onderhond favorites suggested this outcome, but as it is it's squarely in the middle of those extremes, and interesting if not mostly successful film that has some remarkable elements and some really pedestrian ideas going on. In any case, glad I saw it, and probably will give it another shot some day, after watching more from the director.

TEEVEE

U.F.O. (1970-71) Episodes 1-3

Groovy, man. This is one of those powerful, very old memories for me - not the show itself, which I only just started watching for the first time, but a conversation in which I became aware of it, probably over 40 years ago. Sitting at my Grandmother's house, either at Thanksgiving or Christmas, with my older cousins Martha and.. probably Sally, but not sure - definitely Martha though - and talking about science fiction. I was pretty new to it so I'm thinking this was 75-77 or so, maybe 77, just after Star Wars came out, and they were fans also, but had seen a bunch of stuff I hadn't - how, I dunno, as this was pre-video. Maybe they had cable, or maybe some TV station in their area was more enterprising, but they pushed this weird British TV show on me, and I never forgot it. But it wasn't available for the longest time, and then when it was it was either expensive or out of print. Until now, and Amazon Prime...

First these shows look GREAT. Just amazing colors and a really solid example of HD transfer - on a part with Star Trek - TOS with which it has much in common. The mod-influenced outfits are cool, the model work cool - this was a Gerry & Sylvia Anderson project - the girls are all babes, the music is cool. The plots, eh, not so sure at this point. Every episode seems to have alien invaders - with the same really tacky cheap spinning thick saucer-ships - coming to earth for some nefarious purposes; sometimes they get stopped, sometimes they don't. One crashes and dies, but now we have a specimen (of course it's human, just with blue skin). Most of these three episodes are taken up with personal human stuff though - the leader of the top-secret organization there to defend the world, SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organization), has an ex-wife and child who form the drama of the third episode; the survivor of an experimental aircraft is recruited into the organization in the second episode, etc. Overall not sure how I feel about this show so far, but I'll watch a couple more at least.

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