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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 23, 2020

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sol
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Which Films Did You See Last Week? Week 23, 2020

#1

Post by sol » June 7th, 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

Seven Samurai (1954). Hungry and without a master, seven samurai agree to defend a small town from bandit attacks in exchange for food in this Japanese classic. There is something intriguing in how the samurai become so involved in the town's struggle and the plight of its citizens that they lose sight of it being just a job. As a character study, the film is less effective with some of the samurai better developed than the others. Toshirô Mifune comes off best: constantly giggling, playing around and enjoying entertaining the village children; he is a constant highlight and very different from the others for a reason. Outside of Mifune, the film is an up and down ride. The first hour (recruiting samurai) moves very slowly, while the action towards the end happens so fast that it seems downright chaotic, and there is also a distracting love subplot in the mix -- but it is easy to get behind the film's look at a town fighting back and those drawn into a struggle that was never theirs to begin with; Kambei's final line about victory really resonates. (first viewing, Blu-ray Disc) ★★★

Strangers When We Meet (1960). Casual flirting turns into something more between an architect and a housewife who still love their spouses in this suburban melodrama starring Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak. Both leads turn in surprisingly down-to-earth performances considering that the film that they are in feels like a long soap opera episode; the movie is also lusciously shot by Charles Lang with rich colours and lots of shadows and darkness. Still, it is difficult to get on the same wavelength as the characters since their romance results from sheer boredom and seemingly little more; Brief Encounter this is not. The film is also compromised by a terrible cutesy performance by the boy cast as Douglas and Barbara Rush's son. Rush herself is really good though, providing a third down-to-earth performance in this otherwise histrionic melodrama. (first viewing, online) ★★

Ride the High Country (1962). Hired to transport a large quantity of gold, an ex-lawman's latest job becomes even more complicated when a young woman tags along with him in this Sam Peckinpah western. Initially the film feels unfocused as it begins to hone in on the courtship between the young woman and the protagonist's young partner, but her role in the plot ultimately drives things more than the gold transportation; the film actually ends up more about the treatment of women without agency in the times of the Old West. While this focus makes this decidedly different from most westerns of its era, and while Mariette Hartley tries her best as the young woman, her character is never particularly three dimensional and she is written in such a way that she seems to bring most of her misery upon herself - which in turns makes it a little hard to care. (first viewing, online) ★★

Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962). Predating Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, this mystery thriller has an uncannily similar premise as a group of astronauts discover that an intelligent being on Uranus is accessing their memories and driving hallucinations. This is not nearly as effective as Solaris with the showy special effects distracting from the premise; the being narrating his evil plans also takes away from the inherent mystery. Generally speaking though, this is surprisingly well done with some true eerie early bits like a fresh apple suddenly turned rotten and the crew's bafflement at the surface of Uranus mirroring Earth. The characters do some pretty stupid things (sticking their hands into force-field barriers) and they occasionally seem more child-like than adult. The theme song does not fit either, but for avid sci-fi buffs, this is worthwhile. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Who's Minding the Store? (1963). Hoping to humiliate him and break up his engagement to her daughter, a department store CEO hires an accident-prone dog walker and gives him horrible menial duties in this Jerry Lewis comedy directed by Frank Tashlin. The basic plot is no great shakes; it is highly episodic as we go from one comedic mishap to another, with quite a few extended gags - especially trying on shoes - lasting too long. The gradually bonding between Lewis and John McGiver (as the CEO's husband) is excellent though and Lewis shows some real ingenuity in completing the hard tasks. The film's funniest sequence though, involving an out-of-control vacuum cleaner, feels like a pale imitation of the hose gag in Lewis and Tashlin's earlier Rock-a-bye Baby, and while there is plenty of zaniness here, a lot of it certainly feels heavily recycled. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★

Who's Minding the Mint? (1967). Carelessly destroying $50 000 in new bills, a US mint worker concocts a wild scheme to break into work and reprint the destroyed money, but recruiting accomplices has its complications in this Jim Hutton comedy. The film is slow to warm up with half the duration spent on getting recruits, all of which predictably have their own problems, which leads to more and more recruits being roped in. The actual heist, when it finally starts, is both suspenseful and hilarious though with some zany moments as they slide and crawl about the floors of the mint at night to the complete oblivion of all the security guards and cleaners on duty. A getaway vehicle with a loudspeaker that cannot be turned off is pretty funny too. The film generally loses its edge after the breaking in and printing, but the second half of this is very decent. (first viewing, online) ★★

The One-Armed Swordsman (1967). Oddly titled, there is actually more than just a single one-armed swordsman in this Hong Kong action film about murder, fighting and revenge. The film boasts some excellent stunts and choreography, especially as two swordsmen drink from teapots while fending off various attackers. There are some neat special effects too, such as a slowing down of frames that creates an illusion of multiple swords. As a narrative though, this is sadly tepid at best. The central mystery is always a lot less engaging than the action, especially as the characters take to talking aloud to themselves in order to convey their thoughts. There is also an overlong part at the end where the bad guy reveals his plans in excessive detail. There is enough action here to carry things through, but wuxia would progress a lot from this in years to come. (first viewing, online) ★★

Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965). Five train passengers allow a sixth traveler to give them grim tarot card readings in this British horror anthology. The film offers a decent wraparound story with a neat (if a tad predictable) ending that ties everything together well; as per horror anthology norm though, the individual segments vary significantly in effectiveness. The fourth tale with an increasingly unhinged Christopher Lee is easily the spookiest and best acted, but the second tale is pretty decent too with a more original idea (a killer intelligent houseplant) than the other three tales, which all tread familiar territory with werewolves, voodoo and vampires respectively. The middle (voodoo) tale also lasts far too long, particularly given how grating the musician character is. If an up-and-down ride, the ending certainly resonates and the film concludes well. (first viewing, DVD) ★★

Cuadecuc, Vampir (1971). Filmed in high contrast black and white with sound effects and music in lieu of actual audio (until the end), this is daringly different as far as observational documentaries go. The subject is a vampire movie being shot with the camera wandering about. With no audible dialogue, the film cleverly blurs the line between what is being shot/acted and what is the actors merely talking and moving about. Most notably, there is a part where the lead actor swipes at the camera before getting in a coffin, and it is only as he smiles that we realise that is not part of the movie within. Curious as all this is, everything becomes a little repetitive even at less than 70 minutes and some of the more romantic music choices fall flat. Still, it is remarkable how absorbing this is because it refuses to outright distinguish what is acting and what is not. (first viewing, online) ★★★

Magnificent Butcher (1979). Impulsive and easily irate, an apprentice butcher gets into trouble in this kung fu action comedy. Sammo Hung as usual is a lot of fun to follow around here with his rubbery facial expressions and there is a particularly amusing part in which he mistakes instructions for cooking pig trotters as martial arts training commands. The narrative here though is incredibly hard to keep track of; subplots crop up and disappear left, right and centre, with the film sort of being about Hung being framed for rape and murder, but then also about a search for a long-lost brother? The choreography is quite spirited throughout, and with calligraphy battles and over-the-top swooshing sound effects throughout, the film is never once boring; Encounters of the Spooky Kind this is not though and there is little of interest in between the fight scenes. (first viewing, online) ★

Handsworth Songs (1987). British race riots and racial tension regarding the UK's influx of immigrants in the 1980s are the subject of this experimental documentary from John Akomfrah. Full of abstract imagery, eerie sounds and large bouts without a single spoken word, this is daringly different as far as documentaries go and almost worth watching for its uniqueness alone. As a primer on the subject though, the film is less effective; we are virtually dropped in the midst of things without much background information, and the initial interviews (with immigrants who talk with thick accents) are hard to understand. With archive footage of Maggie Thatcher, the film eventually finds some structure towards the end, but then it ends abruptly. As an exercise in style, this is easy to appreciate, but as a meditation on racial violence it only works here and there. (first viewing, online) ★★

God of Gamblers (1989). Suffering amnesia after a blow to the head, an expert gambler is exploited by some small-time criminals after they discover his instinctive talents in this odd Hong Kong genre blend. The first half-hour is quite solid with Chow Yun-Fat very entertaining as the suave gambler who makes a spectacle out of his every play; the second half of the film also boasts some excellent action set pieces, such as jumping between building scaffolds. The final few scenes are really good too with chic rapid fire edits. The bulk of the film's middle stretch is pretty worthless though, with lots of lame jokes at the expense of the lead acting like a preteen child due to the head injury. Chow Yun-Fat still plays the part with vigour; it is just not very funny. When focusing on the gambler stuff, this is highly watchable though and the good stunts don't hurt. (first viewing, online) ★★

All for the Winner (1990). Released as a spoof of the already comical God of Gamblers, this is perhaps best appreciated as a pure Stephen Chow comedy. Always an energetic actor, Chow nails his role as a master gambler here whose talents lie in supernatural powers. The film works best in its early scenes though, with Chow talking Pepsi cans out of vending machines and hilariously frightening old ladies in elevators. The comedy gets toned though as the plot progresses and the gambling aspect and a romance take centre focus. There are still some big laughs to be had near the end, especially as Chow begins conversing with women's armpits, but the more narrative-like (rather than comic relief) aspects of the film ultimately feel weak. The supernatural stuff is fun, but Chow's ability to do anything results in his struggles never feeling too challenging. (first viewing, online) ★★

The Crying Game (1992). Guilt-ridden after the death of a hostage he befriended, an IRA assassin romances the hostage's girlfriend without telling her everything in this tense British thriller. The film features one of the most well-known twists in the history of cinema, but one that fascinatingly comes towards the middle of the movie with much of the project concerned about the ramifications of the twist. This actually makes for rather sweet and touching love story of a different type, and the way the IRA hitman's past comes back to haunt him towards the end makes a curious obstacle to the central romance as the protagonist has to overcome who he was and reassess his own identity and preconceptions in more ways than one during the course of the film. Knowing the twist does not hurt the movie either and the performances are excellent across the board. (first viewing, DVD) ★★★★

Hustle & Flow (2005). It is indeed hard out of there for a pimp in this gritty drama about a pimp who wishes to become a rapper. With lots of silent shots that simply linger on him staring in contemplation, Terrence Howard provides a strong performance here that highlights a philosophical side to what otherwise seems to be a crude and insensitive man. One of the most potent scenes has him forcing one of his girls to show an old man a good time in order that he can get a microphone that he cannot otherwise afford. Moments like these (that show how ingrained his worldview is despite wanting to change) are nevertheless rare. None of the characters are especially likeable either, and despite a memorable theme song, the film also only ever occasionally taps into his love of music; more scenes like playing an electronic keyboard with his son may have helped. (first viewing, online) ★★

Heaven Knows What (2014). Too worried about where her next fix will come from, a young heroin addict maintains an abusive relationship with her addict boyfriend in this downbeat feature from the Safdie Brothers. As per Uncut Gems and Good Time, the film is blessed with an amazing music score: a slowly swelling synthesizer tune that often taunts the characters. Nothing else here though is especially great. The vibrant neon tones of Good Time only crop on occasion and the characters are pretty dislikeable, especially the protagonist with her failure to see through her boyfriend. Regarding the characters, it is also curious how many out there have complained about how little characters grow and change since this seems to be the point (i.e. the cycle of addiction) - though of course knowing this does not make the film much easier to digest. (first viewing, online) ★

The Fire (2015). Withdrawing $100 000 from their bank account to pay for their new apartment in cash, a young couple begin to question how much they really love each other when their real estate agent cancels on them, forcing them to hold onto the money for 24 hours in this drama from Argentina. While it never makes sense why they do not simply pay by electronic bank transfer, their predicament is curious at first with the boyfriend talking about his girlfriend's paranoia when it comes to carrying large sums of money around. Alas, the overall film never taps into this insecurity, instead looking at external events (a doctor's visit; trouble at work) and how these force the pair to reconsider the big move they are making. The whole thing is quite well acted, even intense at times, but leaving the money, and the film's title, as simple metaphors does not quite click. (first viewing, online) ★★

REVISIONS

Yojimbo (1961). Watched for the first time in over a decade, this wandering samurai film from Akira Kurosawa stacks up well as an exercise in style and atmosphere. With gushing winds and characters wandering through dust clouds, Kurosawa brings something mystical to the small town setting and the short musical bursts work well. It is as a comedy that the film is most effective though, with Toshiro Mifune slyly smiling while eavesdropping on the feuding families, enjoying playing puppet-master, while amusingly quipping "it'll hurt" before slaying those who egg him on. Tatsuya Nakadai is also excellent as a gun-slinging rival. Repeat viewings do, however, also highlight how thinly drawn every character is outside of Mifune and Nakadai, and with the latter not appearing until halfway in, it is hard not to long for more interplay between them upon revision. (third viewing, DVD) ★★★★

Sanjuro (1962). Returning as the wandering samurai from Yojimbo, Toshiro Mifune once again comes between two feuding clans in this sequel that often feels more like a simple retread of the original. There are some distinct differences that balance in the film's favour; the comedy is even more pronounced with a hilarious "move like a centipede" bit; the bloodshed towards the end is also spectacular. Generally speaking though, this is far less dynamic than Yojimbo. Mifune again plays both sides, but he is always clearly more supportive of one than the other here, with none of the fun string-pulling of the original. Tatsuya Nakadai is less charismatic too without a pistol. This is more worthwhile than it might seem given that so much borrowed from Part One (including the music) but it certainly lacks the freshness and originality of Yojimbo. (second viewing, laserdisc) ★★
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Perception de Ambiguity
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#2

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » June 7th, 2020, 12:00 pm

"We need to accept the fact that reality is not limited to the perception that we have traditionally used."
- Paul Stamets

A Visit to Ogawa Productions / Ogawa puro hômon-ki (Jun’ichirô Ôshige, 1981/2001) 6/10
touchy-feelyShow
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touchy-feely 2Show
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Katalin Varga (Peter Strickland, 2009) 6/10
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forest spiritsShow
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2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle / 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (JLG, 1967) 8/10

Voyage d'une main / Voyage of a Hand (Raúl Ruiz/Raoul Ruiz, 1984) 7/10

Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973) (2nd viewing) 6/10
0wn3d!!!1Show
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shorts

That Which Will Rise from Wind (Amin Shakuri, 2020) 6/10

Chicago (Jürgen Reble, 1996) 7/10

ゲロリスト / Gerorisuto (福居ショウジン/Shozin Fukui, 1986/1990) 7/10

Le monde comme il ne va pas / What is Wrong With the World? (JLG, 1996) (2 viewings) 6/10

Bande-annonce de 'Pierrot le fou' (JLG, 1965) (2nd viewing) 6/10

Mandala (Akio Jissoji) - Theatrical Trailer (Hajime Sawatari, c.1971) (2nd+ viewing) ==

The House in the Middle (no individual would want to put their name on this thing, 1954) 1/10

Canopies (Justin Kelly, 2020)

Shades (Justin Kelly, 2020)
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music videos

MGMT: In the Afternoon (2020)


series

Work in Progress - S01E01 - "180 Almonds" (2019) 6/10

Rick and Morty - S04E10 - "Star Mort: Rickturn of the Jerri" (2020) 8/10


other

The Joe Rogan Experience - #1035 - Paul Stamets (2017) 8/10
"You're telling me nature is not intelligent and yet you are born of nature, using the mind to conceive the concept that challenge the idea that nature is not intelligent when you are part of nature?"

The Joe Rogan Experience - #1385 - Paul Stamets (2019) 8/10

Mandala (Akio Jissoji) - David Desser Introduction


didn't finish

Brave New World (Leslie Libman & Larry Williams, 1998) [20 min]
Immortel (ad vitam) (Enki Bilal, 2004) [40 min] (would-be rewatch)
Mandala (Akio Jissoji) - audio commentary by David Desser


notable online media

top:
Weather Report 6/6/20
Alan Moore [by Keith Rodway]
"Law of communication: Communication is only possible between equals because everyone lies to the cops."
Joe Rogan Talks Spotify, Possible Move to Austin...Sort Of
[YT channel "DAVID LYNCH THEATER"]
Work | Moral Orel | Adult Swim
African Children First Time to Hear Fiddle Music
6/2/20
rest:
[The Joe Rogan Experience Clips (Rhonda Patrick...Carnivore, After...Carnivore Diet, Oprah & The Secret, Obese & Lazy Parents, Self Help Books]


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Onderhond
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#3

Post by Onderhond » June 7th, 2020, 12:06 pm

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A pretty solid week. Very few bad films, lots of solid to good ones, but very few great/stand-out features. Reviews will be a little longer from now on as I changed my review routines in order to consolidate more meaningful content on my own website.


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01. 4.0* - Weathering with You [Tenki no Ko] by Makoto Shinkai (2019)
A little lighter on fantasy compared to Your Name, which isn't that bad really. The animation is stunning, the music (i.e. the J-Pop) an acquired taste and the budding romance pretty much expected. Weathering with You is another great Shinkai film, not his best work but fans won't be disappointed.

02. 3.5* - The Hungry Lion [Ueta Raion] by Takaomi Ogata (2017)
An impressive drama that deals with bullying head-on. It's the story of a young student who is mistaken for a girl in an erotic video filmed by her teacher. Regardless of Hitomi's claims that she's not the girl in the video, the bullying starts and takes up more grotesque forms by the day, completely alienating her from her environment. The most pressing part isn't even the bullying, it's the aftermath of the events that I found the most shocking. People don't even try to acknowledge their part in the events and either want to move on with their lives, or present a different story that absolves them from any responsibility. This is where the true heart of the film lies. The Hungry Lion is well acted, the presentation is quite dry but stark and to the point. The editing is probably the most noteworthy part as cuts are quite harsh and crude, but they add a level of realism to the film. It's not a personal favorite as I tend to prefer more cinematic films, but it is an impressive drama that drives its point home.

03. 3.5* - Tokyo Ghoul: 'S' [Tôkyô Gûru 'S'] by Kazuhiko Hiramaki, Takuya Kawasaki (2019)
A decent sequel, though familiarity with the franchise is definitely going to help here. The film moves away from the broader "ghoul" concept introduced in the first film and focuses on a couple of key characters. What follows is a pretty standard battle between good and evil, though the "gourmet" angle is pretty nifty. This follow-up plays a bit like an alternative vampire story. It has a similar (but modernized) gothic vibe and the balance of horror and fantasy is also quite typical for films in the vampire genre, with more focus on the fantastical elements than on the actual horror (though it is never really absent). The visual finish is quite nice, with fine cinematography and decent CG, but it's the semi-electronic soundtrack that leaves the biggest impression. A pretty cool soundtrack that hopefully influences others. The performances are decent, but nothing too special. All in all a very amusing film that has no problem standing out from the pack.

04. 3.5* - I Just Didn't Do It [Soredemo Boku Wa Yattenai] by Masayuki Suo (2006)
A pretty damning look at the Japanese judicial system (though other countries are no doubt dealing with similar problems). Prosecutors trying to save face, investigators and judges dealing with quotas, lawyers pushing plea bargains forward as the best way out of a precarious situation. A system where pleading innocent is almost equal to self-harm. The presumption of innocence ideal is probably more relevant than ever, especially in this era of media (and social network) trials. And to make things even juicier, this is a film about a falsely accused groper, a topic that is sure to rustle some feathers in our post-MeToo era. It makes for some very uncomfortable scenes. The film has a stellar cast and and Suo's direction is effective, though a little dry. There is hardly any stylistic adornment, visuals are functional and the soundtrack is sparse. It definitely helps to get the message across, but for a film this long I would've preferred something more than that. The finale is very strong though, so overall there's quite a bit to like here.

05. 3.5* - I See You by Adam Randall (2019)
Another promising film from Adam Randall. It's clear the man has talent for genre cinema, for now though his films seems to lack that final bit of finish to turn them into genuine gems. It's a shame because for at least half a film he seemed on the right track, the second part of I See You was somewhat of a letdown though. The main problem here is the structure. The first half is all about building up a mysterious and creepy atmosphere, the second half is little more than revisiting earlier scenes and revealing their true nature. Randall leaves very little to the imagination and it's impossible to uphold the mystery when the plot is so set on killing it. The soundtrack is bold and commanding, the cinematography sharp and atmospheric. The director clearly had a vision and the chops to execute. The cast is solid too, though both Tenney and Hunt could've done more with their characters. Everything is present to make this into a standout genre film, but it's not the first time an overeagerness to explain things away stands in the way of good genre cinema.

06. 3.0* - Monster Hunt [Zhuo Yao Ji] by Raman Hui (2015)
Another Chinese blockbuster that gets dragged down by some horrendous CG. It's been a common theme with Chinese blockbusters this past decade, then again many of these films have had amazing box office success, so I doubt it's going to change any time soon. At least be warned when you decide to watch this film, your average console game has better CG. It's a shame because the rest of the film is quite nice. A typical fantasy epic delivering a solid mix of comedy, action and fantasy in a historic setting. Production values are lush, the action looks cool enough and while the comedy is no doubt an acquired taste, the presence of actors like Eric Tsang and Sandra Kwan helps a lot. The monster designs are terrible though. Appalling lumps of bad CG that stand in heavy contrast with everything else on screen. I did get used to them somewhat throughout the film, but it's really a missed opportunity for a film that is supposed to put these creatures front and center. Fans of Chinese fantasy epics are sure to get some kicks out of this one, but it's far from perfect.

07. 3.0* - Smiley Face by Gregg Araki (2007)
I'm usually not a big fan of stoner comedies, for some reason they tend to be more crass and vulgar than they are funny. But Araki's Smiley Face turns out to be a welcome exception, thanks to Faris' all-in performance and Araki's confident direction, which add plenty of laughs to an otherwise familiar concept. Faris' adventures are pretty basic though. She's incredibly stoned and whatever she does, she fucks up pretty badly. After a series of initial misadventures she needs to go to Venice Beach to clear her debts with her dealer, which is a perfect set-up to meet some goof balls and weird characters along the way. Araki's camera work, choice of music and writing makes the film a little weirder and quirkier than the norm. Some solid performances of the secondary cast add to the fun, but in the end this is really Faris' time to shine. Smiley Face isn't the greatest comedy ever, but it's a fun and entertaining little film.

08. 3.0* - Wet Hot American Summer by David Wain (2001)
A little cult comedy that deserves its reputation. I've seen some bits of the series that followed, but never got around to watching the film. It's not 100% up my alley, but I appreciate any comedy that does its best to be funny from start to finish, without feeling the need to smuggle in some drama and/or heartfelt whatnot. A lot of familiar faces here, though few of them ended up making it as full-blown film stars. It's nice to see people like Poehler, Lo Truglio and Sussman doing their thing in secondary parts though. Others (Rudd, Cooper and Banks) had more luck, so it's also a fun trip down memory lane, especially if you love seeing actors at the beginning of their career. Wet Hot American Summer is the kind of parody that is so aware of its own stupidity that it becomes pretty fun to watch. Not all the jokes land and a film like this should probably be a little shorter, but there are some memorable moments and the cast clearly had a lot of fun filming this. Not the best comedy ever, but good fun.

09. 3.0* - White Bird in a Blizzard by Gregg Araki (2014)
A decent film from Araki, though the mix of drama and mystery isn't quite ideal. The mystery elements make it harder for the drama to be fully effective, whereas the drama isn't quite strong enough to stand on its own. While the film has enough intrigue and the characters are interesting, neither ever seems to reach their full potential. Araki is a fine director though, so the presentation at least is nice. The use of color is strong and the camera work gives the film a certain lightness that sets the mood for the rest of the film. Visually not as notable or in your face as some of Araki's other films, but that's not really an issue considering the type of film he's making. The soundtrack is a little inconspicuous though and the acting feels a bit forced. Woodley's performance is mediocre, Green feels a little off and Meloni is maybe a bit too obvious. It all adds up to a film that entertains, intrigues, but never really fully cashes in on its promise. Solid filler, but nothing more than that.

10. 3.0* - The Two in Tracksuits [Jaji no Futari] by Yoshihiro Nakamura (2008)
A very pleasant but not so much notable little drama/comedy, the premise of the film makes it sound a little goofier than it actually is. A dad and his some go on a short retreat and dress up in their deceased grandmother's tracksuits, there they can come to their senses and oversee the choices they made in their lives. It's a somewhat typical "crazy urban to slow rural" setup that is easy to turn into a leisurely drama, luckily Nakamura's execution is quite dry and comedic, so it doesn't get too serious or overly dramatic. On the other hand, the characters could've used a bit more fleshing out, because they remain quite stereotypical. The actors do a solid job, but none of them really stands out. Nakamura makes good use of the setting to shoot some pretty pictures, though the cinematography itself is pretty basic. And the mix of comedy and drama works, but both genres don't really reinforce each other either. This was more than solid filler, but nothing too memorable.

11. 3.0* - Where Florence Sleeps [Florence wa Nemuru] by Katsuto Kobayashi, Kenji Kobayashi (2015)
The quest for a lost gem. Though it's not much of a quest really, as the mystery of its location is already revealed in the very first scene, so if you are in the mood for some detective work, don't get your hopes up. Instead, this is more of a kidnapping/heist thriller, with some twists and turns along the way in an attempt to keep things interesting. These attempts are largely successful, but I doubt they'll keep many people glued to their chairs. This is not a bad film, but it does struggle to rise above the pack. For that it relies too much on its narrative, which offers little more than what is expected from a film like this. It's never boring, but a little too safe. The cinematography isn't too bad, but doesn't help to elevate the film, the soundtrack is fairly generic and fails to engage. The cast is overall decent, but apart from Sakurai nobody really stands out. It's one of those films that does a decent job all round, but never excels in anything. Just solid genre filler in other words.

12. 3.0* - Naked Bullet [Yawa Hada Mushuku: Otoko Goroshi Onna Goroshi] by Koji Wakamatsu (1969)
The number of films Wakamatsu made during the 60s feels endless. Though his style is quite consistent, the quality of these films is a bit hit-and-miss, depending on their level of experimentation, political focus and no doubt the mood of the day. In '69 alone Wakamatsu made 13 films, so having an off-day probably wasn't even an option for him. Compared to his other films, Naked Bullet is a rather straightforward genre flick. While you get your fair share of vintage Wakamatsu (i.e. rape, crime elements and alternating sequences shot in black and white vs color), the overall tone of the film is a lot lighter, mostly playing like a funky, sometimes even comedic gangster film. It's a somewhat surprising departure from most other Wakamatsu films I've seen so far, but when you're making so many films each year it's really no surprise you eventually end up trying something different. Wakamatsu handles himself pretty well too, the film looks stylish, sports some memorable scenes and offers some good genre fun.

13. 3.0* - The Deeper You Dig by John Adams, Toby Poser (2019)
The Adamses made a film. Usually, it's not a very good sign when a large part of the cast and production crew share a last name. It tends to indicate you're dealing with a well-meant piece of amateurish trash. But kudos to this family, they did a pretty decent job making a solid horror flick. The Deeper You Dig isn't the most original horror film though, then again originality isn't really the strong suit of horror cinema. When a man hits a young girl with his car during a dark, snowy night, he decides to hide the body rather than call in the accident. What follows is a guilt-ridden trip with some occult elements thrown in for good measure. The acting is pretty decent, the film is moody and the gritty and inhospitable setting adds a little extra grit. While the film is maybe 10 minutes too long, it never gets dulls and the intrigue remain intact until the very end. If you're starved for a good horror film, The Deeper You Dig is a pretty solid choice.

14. 3.0* - Break Through! [Pacchigi!] by Kazuyuki Izutsu (2004)
The friction between the Japanese and Koreans living in Japan has been broadly covered in cinema already, Break Through! fits in snugly with the rest of its peers. What sets this film apart is that it aims for a more accessible mix of drama and comedy, rather than turn things into a full-blown drama. Whether that was the right way to go remains doubtful, but the result is a pretty amusing film that does get its point across. The first part is primarily focused on comedy, with an escalating fight between two school gangs. The well-meaning but ill-advised interventions of a teacher only makes things worse, a budding romance between both sides seems the only ray of hope for a good outcome. Things get grittier as the film progresses, but Izutsu struggles to find a nice balance. Most actors seem stuck in comedy mode and the drama suffers because of it. The cinematography and score are decent enough, but nothing too exceptional. The result is a pretty decent film, but doesn't leave too much of an impression.

15. 2.5* - The Baxter by Michael Showalter (2005)
A decent romcom from Showalter. He leaves the pure comedy behind to mix it up with a little romance, luckily his goofy and somewhat corny sense of humor is still there. It's also nice to see him get support from his entourage again, but the focus of this film remains very much on Showalter himself.A "Baxter" is code for the type of guy who is left standing at the altar, while the bride reunites with her perfect groom just before committing to the worst mistake of her life. Showalter is a perfect Baxter and reversing the typical romcom narrative gives this film a bit of an edge, though ultimately the impact was less than I'd hoped. Showalter and Williams make for a nice couple. The secondary cast is a little underused, but there are some familiar faces who each get their 5 minutes in the spotlight. There are some decent laughs, the romance works too, it's just the direction that feels a little stale at times. Not a bad film, but I think it had the potential to be better.

16. 2.5* - Troublesome Night 6 [Yam Yeung Lo 6: Hung Chow Hon] by Herman Yau (1999)
Herman Yau's sixth and final entry in the franchise, though it would go on for many more episodes (there's 19 in total). It's a bit odd because this 6th part does feel like a small but meaningful departure from the ones that came before. Either Yau's new direction wasn't appreciated by the fans, or Yau was simply done with it. Where the first few films felt more like anthologies connected by only a tiny sliver of plot, this sixth instalment plays more like a straightforward narrative, broken down in chapters that aren't as clearly separated. It's also a much more serious film compared to the earlier ones, which suffered from bad acting and a complete failure to be scary. Louis Koo is still around and takes up the lead, though his character is pretty basic, and he doesn't have much to work with. The color palette is moody, the soundtrack quite effective and there are a few memorable horror moments. While a clear upgrade from episodes 3 to 5, part 6 still struggles to impress as a real horror flick. It's decent filler, but nothing more.

17. 2.5* - Loving Vincent by Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman (2017)
A very ambitious project that struggles to deliver. The art style is impressive though. The individual frames are beautifully painted, making for a very unique look. The animation on the other hand is disappointing. The rotoscoping is way too obvious and regularly clashes with the rawer style of painting. The film has other issues too. It's puzzling that an art film set in France is played by British actors, you'd think the target group of this film would be able to handle subtitles and would appreciate a more truthful setting. The choice to turn this into a murder mystery is also rather strange and adds very little. It makes Loving Vincent a somewhat dull and lifeless affair. The plot fails to find its footing, the animation is a little jarring and the pacing is bumpy. The art style kept me interested, which is fine for a 90-minute film, but this could've been so much better.

18. 2.0* - Antz by Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson (1998)
If you've ever wanted to watch an animated Woody Allen film, this is probably as close as you'll get. It's a weird thing to say about a CG animation from Dreamworks, but apparently such is the effect of casting Allen as the lead voice actor. He can weigh on a film using just his voice, aptly illustrated by the opening monologue. When he's not onscreen though, the film quickly devolves into a more typical US CG animation. Rudimentary characters, poor comedy and an adventure that feels lifeless and predictable. It's an awkward back and forth between two very different types of comedy that doesn't quite work, but at least makes Antz a bit more interesting compared to most of its peers. There are also some elements that you wouldn't quite expect, like the rather gruesome battle scene and one of the secondary characters dying. This is hardly earth-shattering cinema, but US animation tends to be so docile and clean that it does feel somewhat refreshing. The film itself is not a big success, but at least there were some interesting bits to chew on.

19. 1.5* - Hacksaw Ridge by Mel Gibson (2016)
You don't go into a Mel Gibson film expecting nuance and subtlety, especially not when it's a war flick, but Hacksaw Ridge is as cheesy, patriotic and iffy as they come. No doubt Gibson is readying himself to take the crown from Eastwood as he just celebrated his 90th and can't go on forever. That said, this wasn't exactly the worst Gibson film either. Mostly because his approach works pretty well during the battlefield scenes, which are brutal and in your face. Limbs and bodies fly all over the place, while our hero medic does his best to save as many people as possible without ever resorting to violence himself. The film is based on a true story, but no doubt there's plenty of Hollywood sauce to make it even juicier. Garfield's performance is quite decent, he manages to grant his larger than life character some credibility, but even that can't save the terrible first hour, nor the moments of nasty grandeur and hero worshiping in the latter half. Cinematography and soundtrack are mostly in bad taste and the film is at least half an hour too long, but at least the gruesome bits were effective.

20. 1.5* - They Reach by Sylas Dall (2018)
They Reach is a film that's a little too successful at trying to be an 80s kids horror. Dall doesn't even attempt to hide his influences and shoots for a full-on 80s atmosphere. Kids on bikes, cassette tapes and walks on train tracks included. If you've all seen it before, you either lived through the 80s or lived through last decade's 80s revival. If these revival-type films are your thing, Dall does a pretty decent job, just don't expect too much from the horror itself. There's no real gore to speak of, the film isn't very tense and apart from some demonic looking arms, the evil presence remains safely off-screen. It's all very tame and expected. The actors aren't that great either, the delivery of the comic relief in particular is cringeworthy. There are just a handful of moments where the film breaks out of its 80s stronghold and the film starts showing some real promise, but that's hardly enough to save the film. Add to that a terrible cop-out ending and you have a pretty big disappointment.

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peeptoad
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#4

Post by peeptoad » June 7th, 2020, 12:59 pm

Hi sol, hope you had a good week... 5 of your views this week are on my watch list (including the Peckinpah and Safdie films), but I have only seen two:

Seven Samurai (1954) 8+/9 (been ages since I have seen this)
The Crying Game (1992) seen but not rated and I can't recall enough to rate it, but I am going to guess 7+


my FTVs last week-

Marketa Lazarová (1967) 9
Rapture (1965) 8
Lady in a Cage (1964) 8
Dog Star Man (1964) 8
Blonde Köder für den Mörder (1969) Death Knocks Twice 7+
Xie zhou (1982) Curse of Evil 7
Cui hua du jiang tou (1975) The Magic Curse 6
La maldición de la Llorona (1963) The Curse of the Crying Woman 6
El Tesoro (2008) 5
Kiss Me Quick! (1964) 4

Not much to say except that Marketa Lazarová was visually and dramatically outstanding, but it took a little out of me to watch it. It's not one I can see myself revisiting anytime soon despite my high rating. Rapture and Lady in a Cage were the other two that stood out this week; the latter reminded me of a more polished version The Sadist at points...

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joachimt
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#5

Post by joachimt » June 7th, 2020, 2:53 pm

The Future (2011, 1 official list, 1064 checks) 8/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Boccaccio '70 (1962, 1 official list, 424 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Bottle Rocket (1996, 3 official lists, 10684 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Brick (2005, 7 official lists, 17258 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Boi Neon AKA Neon Bull (2015, 1 official list, 226 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Ek Din Achanak AKA Suddenly, One Day (1989, 1 official list, 35 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Night at the Museum (2006, 3 official lists, 61662 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Disney+.
Un beau soleil intérieur AKA Let the Sunshine In (2017, 2 official lists, 450 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
The Last Movie AKA Chinchero (1971, 3 official lists, 306 checks) 5/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Dil Chahta Hai (2001, 2 official lists, 2088 checks) 3/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Prime.
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sol
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#6

Post by sol » June 7th, 2020, 4:16 pm

peeptoad wrote:
June 7th, 2020, 12:59 pm
Hi sol, hope you had a good week... 5 of your views this week are on my watch list (including the Peckinpah and Safdie films), but I have only seen two:

Seven Samurai (1954) 8+/9 (been ages since I have seen this)
The Crying Game (1992) seen but not rated and I can't recall enough to rate it, but I am going to guess 7+
The Peckinpah is kind of interesting because it is very different from the more violent films that he became known for; there is none of his trademark (annoying) slow-mo in Ride the High Country either. I suppose it would be interesting to hear a female perspective on the film because I thought its treatment of the main female character was icky, if perhaps appropriate to how women back then were viewed/treated. Let me know if you see it.

Heaven Knows What on the other hand is a film with far less of interest going on. The front cover/poster is deceptive. There is only a tiny interlude drenched in neon towards the middle. Most of the film is shot in grainy close-up, really lacking the visual splendor of Good Time. The music is excellent as per the brothers' other two major films though.

Seven Samurai was a lot different from what I was expecting. I think the Action genre listing on IMDb is even inaccurate. I'm all for films that are able to splice a bit of a dialogue, exposition and character development in between fight scenes, but I am surprised that such a deliberately paced movie is in the IMDb Top 20 and Letterboxd Top 10. It is the sort of film that I would expect those who demand constant action to find boring, so yeah, interesting how this one sort of bucks the trend in terms of what the average filmgoer tends to like. I never expected anything so character/exposition-based (and with so little fighting) going into the film. Nor was I expecting Toshiro Mifune to be quite so funny, though he is pretty amusing at times in Yojimbo too.

The Crying Game was a beautiful film, and I one I think I was able to appreciate even more knowing the "twist" going in. It was really interesting being constantly one step ahead of the main character, seeing him fall so madly and deeply in love and knowing where it would all ultimately lead to...

Yours:

Loved the Georges Delerue music score and Patricia Gozzi's performance in Rapture. Interesting father/daughter relationship in there too. I haven't seen The Sadist yet (hoping to correct that this month) but Lady in a Cage is a pretty hard film to forget. I didn't totally love it; I found de Havilland's performance to be really over-the-top (lots of narrating her thoughts aloud); Jeff Corey too. Very interesting focus of the film though, from memory - I recall lots of shots of passers-by outside and so on who were all simply ignoring, not reacting and not thinking twice about her pleas for help.

I wish I could say that I liked Dog Star Man as much, but no dice. Watching it in a university lecture is a painful memory for me. Way too much seeming randomness for my taste, but I recognise that Brakhage has a large following and fan-base. We actually talked a bit about him and other experimental filmmakers in our latest what-films-we-avoided podcast. Sorry, can't avoid the shameless plug... :P
Former IMDb message boards user // iCM | IMDb | Letterboxd | My top 750 films // Long live the new flesh!
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#7

Post by prodigalgodson » June 7th, 2020, 10:20 pm

Exterior Night (Mark Rappaport, 1993) 7/10

Funny how obsessions with the cultural and ancestral past and with psychological entanglement run rampant in the works of so many artists I most relate to. This doesn't quite scratch the itch for me but it's a remarkably creative experiment in aesthetic and thematic harmony. Unless I missed something, we never do find out who shot Biff, do we?

The Scenic Route (Mark Rappaport, 1978) 9/10

A savage Greek-tragedy-tinged tale of sisterhood and doomed romance that engulfed me in its eerie magic. Rappaport's somewhat solipsistic control of characters (it feels less like he's trying to elucidate the struggles of other human beings and more like he's trying to suss out his own complexes) and the consistent (apparent) proximity of his films to his own interior world might be a turnoff for some viewers, but the result is a unique vision rich in psychological nuance. Exterior Night, playing concurrently the Filmmuseum Munchen's Rappaport streaming retrospective, obviously called to mind Lynch; there are traces of that better-known American original here too, but the operatic emotionality and low-budget formal meddling call to mind Werner Schroeter, and the psychosexual insinuations evoke Persona/The Silence/Cries and Whispers-mode Bergman. The writing's as sharp as anything of the era, intense and expressionistic without feeling corny:

“I wanted mythic landscapes. Somewhere you could live out heroic passions.”

“I think I used to be ambitious once. That desire will return when the time is right. Right now I’m in the desert.”

“If they were both innocent I could be persuaded to believe in the magic of coincidence. But I wasn’t sure I would know how to use it.”

The Day Shall Dawn (AJ Kardar, 1959) 8/10

A vividly-rendered tale of love and strife in an East Pakistani fishing community (shot near Dhaka in modern-day Bangladesh, but in Urdu, by a West Pakistani director). Seas and shores are inherently cinematic but the high-contrast grayscale exchange of light and shadow brings the story gorgeously to life. Its gritty poetry belongs to the same sensual realm as silent film, conveying all its emotional heft and empathetic vitality in the flow of its striking images. It lacked some kind of narrative or stylistic evolution, or final punch, to make it an unqualified favorite -- maybe I've been spoiled by too many subversive neorealist socialist classics like Guney's Hope or Gerima's Harvest: 3000 Years.

Becoming Anita Ekberg (Mark Rappaport, 2014) 5/10

A vividly-rendered tale of love and strife in an East Pakistani fishing community (shot near Dhaka in modern-day Bangladesh, but in Urdu, by a West Pakistani director). Seas and shores are inherently cinematic but the high-contrast grayscale exchange of light and shadow brings the story gorgeously to life. Its gritty poetry belongs to the same sensual realm as silent film, conveying all its emotional heft and empathetic vitality in the flow of its striking images. It lacked some kind of narrative or stylistic evolution, or final punch, to make it an unqualified favorite -- maybe I've been spoiled by too many subversive neorealist socialist classics like Guney's Hope or Gerima's Harvest: 3000 Years.

Max & James & Danielle (Mark Rappaport, 2016) 2/10

Sigh. It's easy to tell when an artist loses their hunger, and this late-period video essay, informed but not informative, exudes that sense. I'll always get something out of video essays on film history, but I was shocked how little there was to glean from this, and how inert the whole exercise feels. The repetitions and non-stop parenthetical tangents suggest a Biden-stage mind at work.

Urban Rashomon (Khalik Allah, 2013) 8/10

First off, ill title. Second, ill flick. Feels like an artsy Ghostface skit come to life. Deep, raw meditation on the communion between the filmmaker/photographer and his homeless K2-smoking subject on the corner of Lex and 125th (MLK now). Look forward to seeing more from Khalik Allah.

The Round-Up (Miklos Jancso, 1966) 7/10

Kafkaesque historical yarn about a militaristic government mind-gaming and murdering its citizens into submission (sound familiar?) at a prison camp in the years following a rebellion. I remember this was highly recommended by a Hungarian coworker named Attila at a now-closed Italian restaurant called Aperto I used to work at; glad to get around to it even if it took a few years. It took me another minute to get used to Jancso's approach to storytelling, he's definitely doing his own spare intense thing. He emphasizes human faces and the movement of bodies in his choreographed long takes, but otherwise seems indifferent to visual flair or narrative complexity. The effect's something like Sterberg without the decadence or Mizoguchi without the humanist poetry, a cold clinical vision of state-sanctioned horror under a blazing sun. I prefer the more cinematically ambitious The Red and the White or the artsy utopian Red Psalm, but it's cool to see such a minimal, fragmentary take on political filmmaking. I can see why it's one of Tarr's favorites.

Our Stars (Mark Rappaport, 2015) 6/10

My favorite of the three short essay films currently streaming in the Rappaport retrospective, but still nothing to write home about. Takes a look at the coupling and recoupling of studio system stars to examine the effects of time on individual lives and cultural paradigms from the 40s to the 50s. Ties into the titular Shakespearean quote nicely.

Manila in the Claws of Light (Lino Brocka, 1975) 9/10

“What really hurts is buying your wages with money they actually owe you. It’s like being fried in your own fat.”

A rural villager ventures to the capitol in search of his lost girlfriend, whose fate is heavily hinted at from early on. The twisted road he takes to find her provides the premise for this gritty street melodrama. The saga of casual awfulness portrays a life of pervasive horror for the impoverished of Marcos' Philippines, right up to the brutal inevitability of the ending. Form totally submits to content, so I don’t have much to say about the style; it’s scrappy and efficacious, foregrounding the locations, characters, and narrative. I will mention that the score, which incorporates synths, vocals, strings, and a mouth harp, is one of the coolest I've heard in a while, and makes Manila feel like a melancholy haunted carnival. Powerful, deep-rooted filmmaking.

Panique (Julien Duvivier, 1946) 7/10

“Seeing you here is becoming aesthetically unbearable…if you don’t leave here immediately, an unexpected tragedy is going to happen.”

Michel fucking Simon continues to be my favorite actor of the classical period. The evolution of his characters over time is a thrill to watch: M. Hire in this noir homage is a far more resilient and badass version of his character from noir precursor La chienne. There's enough going on here for several movies -- a carnival in town, a police procedural, a love triangle, mob mentality -- but they cohere in bitterly meaningful ways. Much of the credit for the script's cleverness can probably be attributed to Simenon, though Duvivier's fluid camera, use of darkness, and attention to character nuance bring a lot to the table. This started as a lazy late night watch before I decided there was too much worth paying close attention to and decided to finish it in the morning. As such it looks like I missed some of its innuendo and allegory -- for instance I didn't realize Hire was Jewish and had been thinking of it more in relation to Hollywood noir than to France's recent history, though it did strike me as a cynically acute portrait of human nature.

From the Journal of Jean Seberg (Mark Rappaport, 1995) 8/10

“If you worried about the metatext, the subtext, the alternate readings you’d never work.”

Not quite as tight, insightful, or extensive as Rappaport's Rock Hudson project, but at its best a brilliant piece of meta-analysis and a heartbreaking ode to an idiosyncratic archetype. Bonjour tristesse and Breathless are two of my favorite films of their era; this makes me want to avoid everything else Seberg's starred in, haha.

Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954) (rewatch) 10/10

The Empty Screen (Mark Rappaport, 2017) 7/10

Very nice late-career gem from Rappaport, a brief personally relevant take on cinematic obsession and the audience's relation to the screen. I remember the potential of the empty screen being my topic of choice in a college application essay back in the day actually. Nice to see a more artful in-depth elucidation.

A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991) (rewatch) 10/10

Michigan Avenue (Bette Gordon and James Benning, 1974) 7/10

Groovy hypnotic short, the sound design especially made it work.

I-94 (Bette Gordon and James Benning, 1974) 7/10

Another captivating short from Gordon, more explicitly conceptual this time.

The United States of America (James Benning and Bette Gordon, 1975) 8/10

The concept's simple and perfect: the camera faces the windshield of a couple's car during a westward road trip, accompanied by diegetic sound. The viewer's thereby treated to a tour of the panoply of roadscapes stretching across 1975 America accompanied by a contemporary radio soundtrack. At 27 minutes, it's lean but satisfying; the shots only linger for poetically fortuitous landscape/radio combinations or to satisfy Benning's longterm obsession with the duration of trains passing. It's nice that anyone can shoot hundreds of hours of footage on a single SD card and edit it down later these days, but there's something so cool about the necessary consideration put into the limited shot and sound selection here. I'm in the target audience but it's pretty watchable regardless, as a fragment of history or just a lovely piece of art.

Cactus River (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2012) 7/10

Joe finds a new way to make the everyday otherworldly in funky time-warping high-contrast black-and-white.

Emma. (Autumn de Wilde, 2020) 4/10

Visually beautiful, other than that it falls pretty flat. I'll take Clueless any day.

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#8

Post by kongs_speech » June 8th, 2020, 3:53 am

This was the busiest week I've had in quite a while. Allow me to run through my watches quickly.

Batman [1989] - 3.5/5

I had never seen any of the original Batman films before, so now that I have HBO Max, I took the opportunity to run through them. Burton's first film is a mixed bag, albeit more on the positive side. Michael Keaton is an awesome Batman, and Jack Nicholson does great work as the Joker. However, there are bits of unintentional campiness that hurt the dark and brooding atmosphere it's going for. The Joker dancing to Prince is such a weird, out of place moment. Kim Basinger's performance is very bland and one-note. I can't tell if that's due to her thinly written Vicki Vale character or if she's just not a very good actress. It could be two things, I suppose, though I do admire her performance in 8 Mile. The casting of Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent is a terrific idea. It's a shame he's barely in the film. Still, the good outweighs the bad.

Batman Returns - 4/5

A major improvement over Burton's first Bat flick, Returns is the Caped Crusader's best film, period. It does a much better job of matching camp and darkness. Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito are sublime. It's a major injustice that Pfeiffer's Catwoman never received a stand-alone film. Imagine if we had gotten that instead of the Halle Berry fiasco! Keaton is once again the best Batman, though his screen time is less than in the previous film. Returns is a visually gorgeous film with fascinating characters.

Batman Forever - 3.5/5

Joel Schumacher's first Batman is way over the top and cartoonish, so it came as a surprise how much of a blast I had watching it. I credit the actors for that. Jim Carrey could do no wrong in the '90s, but it's Tommy Lee Jones, playing way against type as the manic Two-Face, who steals the show. Chris O'Donnell is very good as Robin, and I enjoyed the dynamic between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne. It's a shame that the next movie in the franchise was enough of a disaster to stop the Robin character from appearing in films.

Batman & Robin - 1.5/5

No, it's not one of the worst films ever made. That doesn't mean Batman and Robin isn't garbage, however. It's a neon-colored, incoherent disaster. Were it not for Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who seemed to have a pretty good idea of what the film is, it would be unwatchable. George Clooney is lazy and seemingly disinterested in the material. Alicia Silverstone's Batgirl is awful -- and why the fuck is the character not Commissioner Gordon's daughter? It's overlong, but mostly avoids being boring. If you're looking for a "so bad it's good" fun movie, you could do worse.

The Lonesome - 4/5 (rewatch)

My close friend Douglas Reese has been wanting to rewatch some of his films with me, so last week, we screened this one. It's a "hangout" movie, centering on a young woman's very disappointing birthday party. Reese always manages to get quality work from his non-professional actors. He let me in on the secret that this film was his most difficult shoot ever due to behind the scenes issues, but it doesn't show in the film. I bumped it up from a 3.5 to a 4 on this, my second viewing. That poor birthday cake, though. (I can link this film if anyone wants to see it. It's 41 minutes. He considers it a feature, but by my standards, it's a short.)

Ma - 3.5/5

This was a pleasant surprise. Octavia Spencer is an actress who has been great in everything I have ever seen her in, but I wasn't sold on the trailers for this film. The teenagers are dumb, but there's a lot of fun to be had, and it's wonderful to see a complex role for a black woman in a film that has very little to do with racial issues. Now more than ever, we need good work for actors of color.

The Hourglass Sanatorium - 4.5/5

Every once in a while, I see a surreal movie that makes no fucking sense, yet I love it anyway. That's the case here, in the second best film I saw this week. It's so original that the only film I could possibly use as a comparison point would be A Cure for Wellness, although Sanatorium is much less focused on narrative and contains exponentially fewer eels. Bless this wonderful forum for giving me the opportunity to see such a masterpiece.

The Violin - 4/5

Mexico's World Cup entry marked a cinematic milestone for me. According to Letterboxd, it was my 2500th film. It proved itself worthy of that distinction. It's a very dark and brutal contemporary black and white film with an interesting spin on the war genre. It's captivating and would have been voted first most of the time, but Poland's film was special.

Us - 4/5

A decade ago, who would have thought that one of the guys from Key and Peele would become one of the most important voices in modern horror cinema? I had wanted to see this follow-up to Get Out in theaters, but I finally got around to it last week. I don't believe it's quite as powerful as Get Out, but it is unique and wildly entertaining. The scene that features both "Good Vibrations" and "Fuck Tha Police" is pure perfection. And what an ending! I probably won't wait very long to rewatch this one.

The Ugly Duckling [1939] - 3.5/5

It's hard to go wrong with any of the Silly Symphonies. I had actually never seen this one before. I intend to complete the classic Disney animation shorts someday.

Practical Magic - 3/5

This witch comedy is forgettable fluff, but it's pleasant while it lasts. Kidman and Bullock have believable sister chemistry, and the movie is extremely '90s, right down to having Faith Hill on the soundtrack. This is one of those films that I won't watch again but do not regret seeing.

The Bear’s Wedding - 3.5/5

This is a very obscure Russian silent that was previously unknown to me. It's no Battleship Potemkin, but I would recommend it as a brief, enjoyable silent horror film.

Dirty Work [1933] - 2.5/5

My first experience with Laurel and Hardy failed to impress me, and I think I know why. I discussed it with a friend, who pointed out that the great comedic film stars of the era were typically portraying intelligent characters who must solve tricky situations. By contrast, Laurel and Hardy play buffoons who fail at simple tasks. I don't like The Three Stooges, and I suspect I won't like Laurel and Hardy either. Frankly, I prefer Bob Saget's Dirty Work. At least I got an official check, and the one I'm watching tonight will be another.

The Fountain - 3.5/5

Finally, I've seen every Darren Aronofsky film. This one is my least favorite, but it still has a lot going for it. I wasn't enjoying it at first, though it really picks up around the time
SpoilerShow
Rachel Weisz dies in the present-day story
. The visuals and Clint Mansell's score are award worthy, and though I initially found the film pretentious, I was moved by the time it ended. Perhaps I will appreciate it more on a rewatch someday.

Braveheart - 5/5 (rewatch)

A Best Picture winner if there ever was one, Mel Gibson's Scottish independence drama is one of cinema's great epics. It's a masterpiece both of storytelling and action. 178 minutes, and not a one of them dull or worthy of the cutting room floor.

Le quattro volte - 3.5/5

I was hoping to like this naturalistic documentary more than I did. It sounded similar to The Soul of the Bone, but that film's Brazilian hermit interested me much more than our rural Italian shepherd here. There are many beautiful shots. It's neat to see a type of life that is never depicted in art. I just wish it had resonated with me at all.

I'll go ahead and give you a preview of this week's list. I finally saw L.A. Plays Itself, the experimental gay porn film that has been the subject of much debate 'round these parts. I'll say more in my write-up Sunday, but will say that I look forward to voting for it in next year's Doubling the Canon.
prodigalgodson wrote:
June 4th, 2020, 8:23 pm
Aww, thanks for the bday message! Just saw it now :cheers:
By the way, Prodigal, I watched both of the shorts you linked, and I'm rather impressed. The imagery is lovely, especially in Shades. I've taken a screen cap of the shot I liked the best. I look forward to seeing further work from you. The focus on power lines in Canopies is interesting. Was there a greater purpose, or is it because they look cool? Either way, I appreciated it.

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#9

Post by kongs_speech » June 8th, 2020, 4:31 am

sol wrote:
June 7th, 2020, 12:00 pm
Which Films Did You See Last Week?
Sol, I have somehow not seen anything you saw last week, but I hope this counts as providing feedback. Seven Samurai is one of the most significant films that I have yet to see. I'm sure I'll have knocked it out by the end of the year.
Perception de Ambiguity wrote:
June 7th, 2020, 12:00 pm
2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle / 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (JLG, 1967) 8/10

Canopies (Justin Kelly, 2020)

Shades (Justin Kelly, 2020)

Work | Moral Orel | Adult Swim
2 or 3 Things is not among my favorite Godards. I love his experimental works, but in this one instance, I would have liked something a bit more narrative, as I found what story was there to be very interesting. It's still a 3.5/5 for me.

Justin's shorts are rad. In addition to being an upstanding member of our community, he's clearly a super talented dude with an eye for beautiful images.

Moral Orel is my second favorite series of all time. It's such a profound, intensely personal work of art, and it completely changed my life by introducing me to The Mountain Goats, a band I have been obsessed with for going on 12 years now. I've seen John Darnielle perform approximately 10 times.
Onderhond wrote:
June 7th, 2020, 12:06 pm

07. 3.0* - Smiley Face by Gregg Araki (2007)

08. 3.0* - Wet Hot American Summer by David Wain (2001)

17. 2.5* - Loving Vincent by Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman (2017)

18. 2.0* - Antz by Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson (1998)

19. 1.5* - Hacksaw Ridge by Mel Gibson (2016)
Smiley Face is hilarious, and pretty much the ultimate thematic 180 for Araki following Mysterious Skin. I honestly feel that Anna Faris was worthy of an Oscar nomination. One of my favorite comedic performances.

Wet Hot American Summer is something I could watch pretty much anytime. It's moronic, but just plain funny as hell. "You taste like a burger. I don't like you anymore."

I found Loving Vincent to be totally gorgeous, and it was neat to hear the stories of people who knew him. Unlike you, I felt the murder mystery was a nice touch.

I have loved Antz ever since it came out. I find it to be leagues ahead of A Bug's Life. It is indeed like an animated Woody Allen film, and much more mature than anything that would be marketed to children today. I need to revisit it.

I have yet to see Hacksaw Ridge, but I have nothing but the utmost admiration for Gibson as a filmmaker.
joachimt wrote:
June 7th, 2020, 2:53 pm
The Future (2011, 1 official list, 1064 checks) 8/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Bottle Rocket (1996, 3 official lists, 10684 checks) 7/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on MUBI.
Brick (2005, 7 official lists, 17258 checks) 7/10
Night at the Museum (2006, 3 official lists, 61662 checks) 6/10
Watched because it's a random official check available on Disney+.
The Future is a very unique film that has stayed fairly fresh in my mind ever since I saw it nine years ago. I recently bought the DVD, so I intend to give it another go someday. I appreciate weird, ambitious films more than I used to, so it's possible that I'll love it more.

Bottle Rocket is the best Wes Anderson and one of my absolute favorites, period. It's just a perfect film to me, a goofy, kind-hearted utter delight.

I loved Brick a ton in high school, but now I don't remember a whole lot about it. Something else that I should throw onto the rewatch pile.

Night at the Museum just didn't work for me. It has a wonderful cast, but I found it to be a dumb kids movie. Still, it made screenwriters Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant a shit-ton of money, so I can't be mad at it.
prodigalgodson wrote:
June 7th, 2020, 10:20 pm
The Day Shall Dawn (AJ Kardar, 1959) 8/10

A vividly-rendered tale of love and strife in an East Pakistani fishing community (shot near Dhaka in modern-day Bangladesh, but in Urdu, by a West Pakistani director). Seas and shores are inherently cinematic but the high-contrast grayscale exchange of light and shadow brings the story gorgeously to life. Its gritty poetry belongs to the same sensual realm as silent film, conveying all its emotional heft and empathetic vitality in the flow of its striking images. It lacked some kind of narrative or stylistic evolution, or final punch, to make it an unqualified favorite -- maybe I've been spoiled by too many subversive neorealist socialist classics like Guney's Hope or Gerima's Harvest: 3000 Years.

Urban Rashomon (Khalik Allah, 2013) 8/10

First off, ill title. Second, ill flick. Feels like an artsy Ghostface skit come to life. Deep, raw meditation on the communion between the filmmaker/photographer and his homeless K2-smoking subject on the corner of Lex and 125th (MLK now). Look forward to seeing more from Khalik Allah.

Panique (Julien Duvivier, 1946) 7/10

“Seeing you here is becoming aesthetically unbearable…if you don’t leave here immediately, an unexpected tragedy is going to happen.”

Michel fucking Simon continues to be my favorite actor of the classical period. The evolution of his characters over time is a thrill to watch: M. Hire in this noir homage is a far more resilient and badass version of his character from noir precursor La chienne. There's enough going on here for several movies -- a carnival in town, a police procedural, a love triangle, mob mentality -- but they cohere in bitterly meaningful ways. Much of the credit for the script's cleverness can probably be attributed to Simenon, though Duvivier's fluid camera, use of darkness, and attention to character nuance bring a lot to the table. This started as a lazy late night watch before I decided there was too much worth paying close attention to and decided to finish it in the morning. As such it looks like I missed some of its innuendo and allegory -- for instance I didn't realize Hire was Jewish and had been thinking of it more in relation to Hollywood noir than to France's recent history, though it did strike me as a cynically acute portrait of human nature.
Hey Prodigal, I've only seen The Day Shall Dawn from your viewings this week. I believe I gave it a 2.5/5. The lack of a satisfying narrative was probably what threw me off.

I'm very interested in watching Panique and the films of Khalik Allah before they expire this month. Field Niggas in particular seems up my alley.
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#10

Post by sol » June 8th, 2020, 8:45 am

kongs_speech wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 4:31 am
sol wrote:
June 7th, 2020, 12:00 pm
Which Films Did You See Last Week?
Sol, I have somehow not seen anything you saw last week, but I hope this counts as providing feedback. Seven Samurai is one of the most significant films that I have yet to see. I'm sure I'll have knocked it out by the end of the year.
Thanks ;) and yes, that counts (commenting on films on mine that interest you and that you haven't yet seen). :thumbsup:

Seven Samurai is best approached with super-low expectations. It was a film that I had been avoiding myself for years due to the combination of subject matter that did not interest me and the extraordinary length. As I mentioned to peeps up-thread, it is probably the strangest film in the IMDb Top 20 because the bulk of the list favours films that are heavy on action and very quickly paced. Seven Samurai on the other hand happily moves along at its own pace, taking on a long time to build things up before maybe fifteen minutes of rapid action near the end. I would certainly not recommend it as a first Kurosawa (that might put you off his films for life!). Yojimbo is probably a better introduction because the brisker pacing and more consistent action and comedy make it easier to become immersed in the story. Drunken Angel might be another good first Kurosawa for something non-samurai.

If there is one film of mine this week that you need to see though, it is not Seven Samurai but rather The Crying Game - especially if you don't know the twist for the latter. In fact, ignore that. Just sit down, watch it, try to forget that there is a twist and see how the story absorbs and grabs you. Journey to the Seventh Planet is also really fun if you like Solaris, and Cuadecuc, Vampir is awesome, but might work better if, like me, you have seen a lot of observational documentaries. A lot of its impact comes from seeing what it does differently.

Yours:

I assume you know that there was 1966 Batman film before the Burton series? Anyway, it has been a while since I have seen them, but would agree about Batman Returns having an edge over the original. Visually gorgeous indeed, with those great sets, costumes and makeup. I have never gotten around to Batman Forever or Batman & Robin though. Nice to hear though the fourth film is not quite as bad as everybody has been making out.

Agreed about Us not being as powerful as Get Out and that the scene where the voice assistance machine fails to call the police was indeed excellent. Really good music score and lead performance too. Personally speaking though, I disliked the ending; I guess it might come down to me seeing a lot of horror films in my time, but everything felt really pretty familiar to me by the end, and a little inconsistent in terms of how much they can control.

Laurel & Hardy's output is a little uneven. I would recommend Block-Heads to the see the pair at their best without Ollie constantly making fun of Stan. Also Our Relations is a good laugh too, while Pack Up Your Troubles is simply charming with the duo outperformed by an adorable little girl.
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#11

Post by Onderhond » June 8th, 2020, 9:31 am

@sol:
I've seen Seven Samurai (2.0*) from yours, but didn't like it that much. Way too long, I don't think Mifune can do funny and the action sequences were pretty poor. Not the worst Kurosawa though. Also seen The One-Armed Swordsman (2.0*), not one of Chang's best but the rest of the series is better. Did like Magnificent Butcher (3.5*) more than you though. Don't necessarily disagree with the critique you gave it, but I love Yuen's martial arts choreography, which makes it easy to ignore the bits in between.

@kongs_speech:
From yours I've seen all the Batmans, but only liked ... Batman & Robin (3.5*). That's what Batman is for me, I don't get all the attempts to make it into something darker. Like you I've also seen all of Aronofsky's films, liked The Fountain (4.0*) a little better than you did it seems, but I agree it's not one of his best films. I've also seen Braveheart (0.5*), but we're clearly on the opposite side of the spectrum there, so there's still hope for Hacksaw Ridge!

And I've been in the mood for "moronic" comedies lately, but they are hard to find nowadays. It's dramady after dramady. I hope these kinds of films make a return soon :)

@prodigalgodson:
I've only seen Johnny Guitar (0.5*) and A Brighter Summer Day (1.5*) of yours. Yang is a big disappointment for me, because I can appreciate some of Hou and Tsai's films, haven't seen a good Yang yet.

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#12

Post by sol » June 8th, 2020, 11:48 am

Onderhond wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 9:31 am
@sol:
I've seen Seven Samurai (2.0*) from yours, but didn't like it that much. Way too long, I don't think Mifune can do funny and the action sequences were pretty poor. Not the worst Kurosawa though. Also seen The One-Armed Swordsman (2.0*), not one of Chang's best but the rest of the series is better. Did like Magnificent Butcher (3.5*) more than you though. Don't necessarily disagree with the critique you gave it, but I love Yuen's martial arts choreography, which makes it easy to ignore the bits in between.
Wow, I'm actually surprised that you don't rate Seven Samurai lower if you disliked Toshiro Mifune's comic relief since his performance (and trying-to-prove-himself character) is the single best thing about the movie, at least in my mind. Agreed in any case about the action sequences, I think. I wouldn't call them poor per se but I found them rather chaotic, perhaps inevitably so since so much fighting occurs between so many characters at once, but I much prefer action films in which you can concentrate in the individual moves and bask in the choreography of the fights.

Which, nicely segues to Magnificent Butcher. Agreed thoroughly about the choreography, especially during the calligraphy battle, but yeah, those bits in between are another matter. I actually really liked Sammo Hung's comedy style in Spooky Encounters and even thought he was very decent opposite Jackie Chan in Wheels on Meals, but I didn't like him much at all here unfortunately.

Oh, and good to know that the other One-Armed Swordsman films are better since I actually relegated them down my watch-list after not exactly loving the original. Really loved Crippled Avengers from Cheh Chang, though I don't know if much else has really stood out for me so far. Still tossing up whether or not to make time for Crippled Masters this month since it looks like a poor imitation of that one.

Yours:

I liked Weathering With You too. The J-pop songs also didn't do a lot for me, but what great imagery the film has, especially the transparent skin and rapidly clearing skies. I also really liked White Bird in a Blizzard at the time - an interesting trek through buried memories, if not nearly as impactful as Mysterious Skin. Agreed that having more toned down visuals than the average Araki film helped, and yeah Eva Green looked way too young to be her mother.

Comedy though is always more subjective than drama and neither Smiley Face or Wet Hot American Summer did it for me. The Araki comedy is more a distant memory, but I saw the latter quite recently and found most of it to be pretty childish and lame; the ridiculing of the mentally scarred Vietnam War veteran also bothered me. I guess what I wanted most from a film like this was it to be about the kids (maybe compare and contrast whether they or the adults are more childish) but the focus is always on the adults to the point that kids might as well be invisible.

Also seen Loving Vincent and Hacksaw Ridge from you, and while I wouldn't ever dream of rating them as lowly as you, both were a bit disappointing given how much they had been hyped up. I guess Andrew Garfield was okay in the latter, but I never found his character too interesting and was actually more won over by Hugo Weaving, battling with inner demons and horrific memories of the first world war.
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#13

Post by peeptoad » June 8th, 2020, 12:26 pm

sol wrote:
June 7th, 2020, 4:16 pm
peeptoad wrote:
June 7th, 2020, 12:59 pm
Hi sol, hope you had a good week... 5 of your views this week are on my watch list (including the Peckinpah and Safdie films), but I have only seen two:

Seven Samurai (1954) 8+/9 (been ages since I have seen this)
The Crying Game (1992) seen but not rated and I can't recall enough to rate it, but I am going to guess 7+
The Peckinpah is kind of interesting because it is very different from the more violent films that he became known for; there is none of his trademark (annoying) slow-mo in Ride the High Country either. I suppose it would be interesting to hear a female perspective on the film because I thought its treatment of the main female character was icky, if perhaps appropriate to how women back then were viewed/treated. Let me know if you see it.

Heaven Knows What on the other hand is a film with far less of interest going on. The front cover/poster is deceptive. There is only a tiny interlude drenched in neon towards the middle. Most of the film is shot in grainy close-up, really lacking the visual splendor of Good Time. The music is excellent as per the brothers' other two major films though.

Seven Samurai was a lot different from what I was expecting. I think the Action genre listing on IMDb is even inaccurate. I'm all for films that are able to splice a bit of a dialogue, exposition and character development in between fight scenes, but I am surprised that such a deliberately paced movie is in the IMDb Top 20 and Letterboxd Top 10. It is the sort of film that I would expect those who demand constant action to find boring, so yeah, interesting how this one sort of bucks the trend in terms of what the average filmgoer tends to like. I never expected anything so character/exposition-based (and with so little fighting) going into the film. Nor was I expecting Toshiro Mifune to be quite so funny, though he is pretty amusing at times in Yojimbo too.

The Crying Game was a beautiful film, and I one I think I was able to appreciate even more knowing the "twist" going in. It was really interesting being constantly one step ahead of the main character, seeing him fall so madly and deeply in love and knowing where it would all ultimately lead to...

Yours:

Loved the Georges Delerue music score and Patricia Gozzi's performance in Rapture. Interesting father/daughter relationship in there too. I haven't seen The Sadist yet (hoping to correct that this month) but Lady in a Cage is a pretty hard film to forget. I didn't totally love it; I found de Havilland's performance to be really over-the-top (lots of narrating her thoughts aloud); Jeff Corey too. Very interesting focus of the film though, from memory - I recall lots of shots of passers-by outside and so on who were all simply ignoring, not reacting and not thinking twice about her pleas for help.

I wish I could say that I liked Dog Star Man as much, but no dice. Watching it in a university lecture is a painful memory for me. Way too much seeming randomness for my taste, but I recognise that Brakhage has a large following and fan-base. We actually talked a bit about him and other experimental filmmakers in our latest what-films-we-avoided podcast. Sorry, can't avoid the shameless plug... :P
I'll def let you know when I see Ride the High Country... not sure it'll happen this month though. Your general feedback kind of makes me think it won't be among my favorites of his, but you never know, and he is a director I quite like, so no wasted time there.
Also, based on what you said about Heaven Knows What makes me think I watched at least part of it and came away with the same thoughts you did. I don't have it checked or rated, but it's been in my stream list for a long time now, so that's possible. :shrug: Not that that matters, but prob not going to (re)visit it soon anyway.
I can recall the time I saw Seven Samurai, about 30 years ago, and I was not expecting an action film at all. I did discuss this film with my roommate at the time, which is why I saw it then, so that may have influenced my viewing. I think if I'd been expecting action I would have been disappointed. Still have many Kurosawas to see, having only gotten about 10% of his filmography down; this was by far the best so far imo.

I hope you like The Sadist if you get to see it this month (or whenever you see it)… I really loved it for its grungy, low fi feel, and Arch Hall's performance. Hall aside, some of the tone is present in Lady in a Cage, though 'Cage definitely lacks some of the grunge and other qualities that make the Landis film work so well. I also thought the lack of response by some of the citizens and peeps hanging around was not believable at all, and I agree about de Havilland; her performance at times was rather hammy, maybe putting it at odds with some other aspects of the film.

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#14

Post by Onderhond » June 8th, 2020, 12:35 pm

sol wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 11:48 am
Wow, I'm actually surprised that you don't rate Seven Samurai lower if you disliked Toshiro Mifune's comic relief since his performance (and trying-to-prove-himself character) is the single best thing about the movie, at least in my mind. Agreed in any case about the action sequences, I think. I wouldn't call them poor per se but I found them rather chaotic, perhaps inevitably so since so much fighting occurs between so many characters at once, but I much prefer action films in which you can concentrate in the individual moves and bask in the choreography of the fights.
I actually liked Shimura a lot better, probably because his acting isn't so in-your-face. He has a more quieter aura about him, which I seem to prefer. I must say that I did see the long version (206 minutes), so not sure if they shorter one drags a little less. It probably helped that this wasn't the first Kurosawa film I watched, so it was a bit easier to tune out Mifune when necessary.
sol wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 11:48 am
Which, nicely segues to Magnificent Butcher. Agreed thoroughly about the choreography, especially during the calligraphy battle, but yeah, those bits in between are another matter. I actually really liked Sammo Hung's comedy style in Spooky Encounters and even thought he was very decent opposite Jackie Chan in Wheels on Meals, but I didn't like him much at all here unfortunately.
I'm a big fan of Yuen as an action choreographer, when he does the actual direction of a film he always falters a little. As for Hung, I think he's is an interesting actor, but I like him better as a fighter than as a comedian. He's a pretty decent director too, it's really crazy if you start looking at all the things these guys did back then.
sol wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 11:48 am
Oh, and good to know that the other One-Armed Swordsman films are better since I actually relegated them down my watch-list after not exactly loving the original. Really loved Crippled Avengers from Cheh Chang, though I don't know if much else has really stood out for me so far. Still tossing up whether or not to make time for Crippled Masters this month since it looks like a poor imitation of that one.
I try to watch whatever Cheh Chang film I can get my hands on, but truth be told they kinda blend together really quickly, so whenever someone mentions a title I need to check my ratings/reviews to see what I thought of the film. Looking back, I might've been confused with Yuen Chor's Sentimental Swordsman series though. Not sure if you've seen any of Chor's films, but I tend to prefer them to Chang's, especially his famous Shaw Bros films.
sol wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 11:48 am
Comedy though is always more subjective than drama and neither Smiley Face or Wet Hot American Summer did it for me. The Araki comedy is more a distant memory, but I saw the latter quite recently and found most of it to be pretty childish and lame; the ridiculing of the mentally scarred Vietnam War veteran also bothered me. I guess what I wanted most from a film like this was it to be about the kids (maybe compare and contrast whether they or the adults are more childish) but the focus is always on the adults to the point that kids might as well be invisible.
Myeah, not really big on kids so that might explain it. I get these comedies are very much love/hate material, to be honest I didn't really care for these type of comedies 10 years ago, but I've grown to like them. Everything is so serious nowadays that I can always use a good dose of stupidity.
sol wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 11:48 am
I guess Andrew Garfield was okay in the latter, but I never found his character too interesting and was actually more won over by Hugo Weaving, battling with inner demons and horrific memories of the first world war.
Had to think really, really hard to even remember Weaving's part. I found the entire intro to be superbly kitsch though, which is probably why it's not really going to stick in my mind. Weaving wasn't bad I guess, but his character was a bit predictable and he didn't get that much to work with.

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#15

Post by sol » June 8th, 2020, 2:00 pm

peeptoad wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 12:26 pm
I can recall the time I saw Seven Samurai, about 30 years ago, and I was not expecting an action film at all. I did discuss this film with my roommate at the time, which is why I saw it then, so that may have influenced my viewing. I think if I'd been expecting action I would have been disappointed. Still have many Kurosawas to see, having only gotten about 10% of his filmography down; this was by far the best so far imo.

I hope you like The Sadist if you get to see it this month (or whenever you see it)… I really loved it for its grungy, low fi feel, and Arch Hall's performance. Hall aside, some of the tone is present in Lady in a Cage, though 'Cage definitely lacks some of the grunge and other qualities that make the Landis film work so well. I also thought the lack of response by some of the citizens and peeps hanging around was not believable at all, and I agree about de Havilland; her performance at times was rather hammy, maybe putting it at odds with some other aspects of the film.
You got me curious, so I just checked and I have seen approximately 29% of Kurosawa's filmography myself - and I would actually rate Seven Samurai towards the bottom of what I have seen. We possibly haven't seen the same other Kurosawa films though. In general, I have found him to be an impressive filmmaker - but outside of Yojimbo, his samurai films don't seem hit me quite the same way as his non-samurai films seem to.

I have been working at a slower pace than usual (film-watching-wise that is) but The Sadist is towards the top of my priorities, so it is all a matter of whether I end up focus more on the 1960s or other challenges this month. The film has been on my radar since I heard that it was based on the same guy whose killing spree inspired Terrence Malick to make Badlands, one of my favourite films... though from what I can gather, The Sadist and Badlands are quite different).

Onderhond wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 12:35 pm
Weaving wasn't bad I guess, but his character was a bit predictable and he didn't get that much to work with.
Would agree with that; I really wish he had a bigger part in the narrative.

Other stuff you mentioned:

Huh, I never realised that there was a shorter version of Seven Samurai out there. My Criterion Blu-ray only seems to have the longer version. I suppose I might seek out the shorter version if/when I rewatch the film. It would be interesting to see if an abridged version made a difference given that I was not totally won over by the longer version. Generally, the longer version or director's cut of a movie tends to be better, but there are always cases (Donnie Darko anyone?) where the longer version is vastly inferior.

Yuen Chor - I saw The Magic Blade (which I really liked) and Clan of Amazons (which I liked less) for last year's CH/HK/TW Challenge. I don't know if either of those are considered part of the "Sentimental Swordsman" series. I do agree with you though that a lot of these HK action films tend to blur together. Crippled Avengers sticks out though since the characters there do amazing things fighting back together with all their handicaps.
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#16

Post by Onderhond » June 8th, 2020, 2:08 pm

sol wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 2:00 pm
Huh, I never realised that there was a shorter version of Seven Samurai out there. My Criterion Blu-ray only seems to have the longer version. I suppose I might seek out the shorter version if/when I rewatch the film. It would be interesting to see if an abridged version made a difference given that I was not totally won over by the longer version. Generally, the longer version or director's cut of a movie tends to be better, but there are always cases (Donnie Darko anyone?) where the longer version is vastly inferior.
According to IMDb: Runtime: 207 min | 160 min (international) | 202 min (2002 re-release) | 150 min (original) | 190 min (1991 re-release) | 158 min (cut) (original) | 203 min (re-release) | 207 min (restored) | 202 min (DVD)

Not sure how easy that 160 minute cut can be found that, my interest in these films pretty much stops after I've watched them :)
sol wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 2:00 pm
Yuen Chor - I saw The Magic Blade (which I really liked) and Clan of Amazons (which I liked less) for last year's CH/HK/TW Challenge. I don't know if either of those are considered part of the "Sentimental Swordsman" series. I do agree with you though that a lot of these HK action films tend to blur together. Crippled Avengers sticks out though since the characters there do amazing things fighting back together with all their handicaps.
There's Perils of the Sentimental Swordsman, The Sentimental Swordsman and Return of the Sentimental Swordsman (which I haven't seen yet). Crippled Avengers I quite liked, but can't remember a thing about. Guess it depend on when you watch a film and what jumps out at that particular moment though. The Web of Death is one of the latest Chor films that stayed with me, simply because of the spider stuff.

Stick with the martial arts stuff though, Chor also made some romances which are beyond terrible :D

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#17

Post by Lonewolf2003 » June 8th, 2020, 2:44 pm

I mostly saw Chinese martial arts movies last week.

Liu lang di qiu [The Wandering Earth] (2019, Frant Gwo): 4.5 - The sfx and massive worldbuilding scale of this are impressive, but everything else is plainly terrible. The characters are shallow stereotypes without any arcs or clear motivations. What's worst of all the action scene aren't suspenseful, cause I have no idea what's going on beside characters running away or toward CGI shit, cause Gwo doesn't know how to establish a scene and how to keep his camera still for one shot for even a minute.

Zhong guo chao ren [Super Inframan] (1975, Shan Hua): 7.8 - Highly entertaining pulp, which like all the best pulp embraces it's insane nonsense.
Cause a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words:Show
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Shen da [Spiritual Boxer] (1975, Chia-Liang Liu): 7.8 -Spiritual boxers were fighters who through summoning the spirit of Gods were invincible, the young Hsiao Chien (Yue Wong) isn't a real spiritual boxer but a con-man tricking people into believing he is. This is the second movie directed by Chia-Liang Liu, one of the masters of the martial arts genre who would make name later with movies as 36th Chamber of Shaolin and The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter. Notable about this movie is it being an early example of a fusion between action and comedy. This clearly paved the way for Jackie Chan movies. The comedy doesn't always work alas, Yue Wong doesn't have the great comic timing as Jackie, but at least it wasn't annoying. But as can be expected from Chia-Liang Liu the action choreography is topnotch. And although not being a great comedian, Yue Wong does have the looks, charisma and fighting skills to carry this movie. Recommended for all fans of the genre.

Fei long zhan [The Dragon Missile] (1976, Meng Hua Ho): 6.5 - Sima Jun has to get a medicine for his sick lord, of course some there are other capers wanting that medicine too. Luckily for Sima he's the master of the Dragon Missiles, which basically are razorsharp boomerang with dragonhead at the top that magically finds opponents and chops their heads or limbs off. Made as a cash in after the success of The Flying Guillotine this belongs to the bloodier martial arts movies, although honestly the amount of blood spatter is very mild. The biggest problem this has is the absence of a clear hero to root for. Sima, the protagonist, works for a corrupt lord and contrary to usual he doesn't get a redemption arc, so he isn't the hero of this story. There also are six mercenary sent of Sima to steal the medicine from him, so they are even more evil and make Sima slightly less evil. On top of that there are an old friend of Sima and the daughter of the killed herbalist who are of the righteous kind, but they barely register as characters. Because this movie doesn't waste a lot of time on things like character development. Plus side of this is that it moves at a brisk pace and there is a lot of action in its 80min running time and that action is enjoyable.

Jian hua yan yu Jiang Nan [To Kill with Intrigue] (1977, Wei Lo) : 4.8 - Not very intriguing at all unfortunately, this waste a lot of time on a incomprehensible, melodramatic romance plot. It stars an unrecognizable young Jackie Chan, who Wei Lo doesn't know to utilize correctly in a role which ask for a more broodier performer. Who the movie does use right is Feng Hsu, who steals every fight scene she's in. And there are some decent wuxia fights in this, keeping it from being a complete waste of time.

She hao ba bu [Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin] (1978, Chi-Hwa Chen): 7.0 - Another movie starring Jackie Chan in a still serious role as the protagonist. But this one was a decent martial arts movie with a nice diverse bunch of characters and some good fights.

Long quan [Dragon Fist] (1979,Wei Lo): 6.8 -At the start of this movie Jackie Chan's master gets murdered with Chan immediately swearing he will avenge his master. So far it's all very standard martial arts plot. What sets this one apart from the rest is that in time it took Chan to catch up with the murderer, the murderer has redeemed himself and became a righteous master. This sets Jackie Chan into an angry whirlwind about his revenge quest, which the real criminal villain use to trick him into teaming up with them. Of course during all this there characters trading punches and kicks to enjoy. But it is the almost revisionist take on the classic martial arts revenge plot which makes this an interesting watch.

The Incredible Torture Show [Bloodsucking Freaks] (1976, Joel M. Reed): 3.0 - Horrible boring torture porn from Troma company.

Battle Creek Brawl (1980, Robert Clouse): 6.5 - Jackie Chan in his first American movie. Set in the 1930s, so of course Jackie's dad is being exploited by the mob, on top of that they kidnap Jackie's brother's fiancee, forcing him to compete in a big fight contest, the titular Battle Creek Brawl. The result is a flawed, f.e. a few unfinished side-plots, but enjoyable movie. The best parts are the stunts who Jackie clearly choreographed himself.

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#18

Post by Lonewolf2003 » June 8th, 2020, 3:25 pm

@sol: I guess you got your cinephile membership pass back now from your fellow podcast hosts? :lol: I liked all Kurosawa's more than you. Seven Samuari is my #3, Yojimbo is also in the top 50 and Sanjuro I also loved way more than you. I also have seen Ride the High Country and The One-Armed Swordsman, the first I liked more and the second about the same, but it been some time and I should rewatch them. The Crying Game I liked less and Heaven Knows What more.

@Onderhond Your review about Wet Hot American Summer seems about right, tho I rated it higher you. I did like Hacksaw Ridge way more than you, cause I forgave all the flaws more than you for the brutal and well shot battle scenes.

@Peeptoad: Marketa Lazarová is indeed visual stunning

@Prodigicalgodson: Panique I liked a lot too. Rated it a 8.0, A Brighter Summer Day I liked slightly less than you, a 8.5, I like Yiyi more myself.

@kongspeech: Been some time since I saw those Batman movies, I think I liked the first one more than the second, and disliked Forever . But I should rewatch all of these some day. Now The Hourglass Sanatorium I did see recent and I can totally get behind your rating of it. Us I felt was overhyped and it isn't as clever as Peele wants it to be.

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#19

Post by sol » June 8th, 2020, 3:44 pm

Lonewolf2003 wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 3:25 pm
@sol: I guess you got your cinephile membership pass back now from your fellow podcast hosts? :lol: I liked all Kurosawa's more than you. Seven Samuari is my #3, Yojimbo is also in the top 50 and Sanjuro I also loved way more than you. I also have seen Ride the High Country and The One-Armed Swordsman, the first I liked more and the second about the same, but it been some time and I should rewatch them. The Crying Game I liked less and Heaven Knows What more.
Not really surprised that you are a fan of Kurosawa's samurai films given your username. :ermm: I suppose this is not a good time to mention that I actually tried to watch the first Lonewolf and Cub film ages ago before giving up after 10-20 minutes in. Well, not so much "give up" as decided to come back to later, only that was during the 2017 Japanese Challenge and I haven't returned to the film since. The samurai lifestyle and the period in Japanese history depicted on screen clearly has a lot of appeal to most cinemagoers, but I guess it is not possible to love everything out there and this is just a 'no thanks' subgenre for me. But yes, I got my cinephile membership back, so it was worth it, even better than all of the Official List checks I gained!

Oh, and thanks for listening to the podcast. We will actually be discussing The Crying Game in some depth in the next podcast if you want some expanded thoughts on why both filmbantha and myself think that it is so great.

Peckinpah is a bit up-and-down in my books and Ride the High Country was more of a middle-of-the-road Peckinpah for me.

Heaven Know What is a film that I wanted to like more, but I hated all of the grainy close-ups (almost exact opposite of Good Time's visuals) and I think I hated the characters even more. It was pretty difficult watching her go about her life, constantly pining after her boyfriend when he treats her worse than dirt. But I do get that the point of the film is (partially) that drug addiction can interfere with one's ability to properly assess how others treat you.

Yours:

I recall some spectacular images in The Wandering Earth (Jupiter sucking up the atmosphere of Earth) but yeah, the action sequences did little for me and I have already forgotten much of the plot - less than one year later.

I did like Bloodsucking Freaks a lot more than you though. Some great spectatorship ideas with the viewers dismissing everything as fake when it really isn't and the question of just how real theatre can get. Of course, The Wizard of Gore did the same sort of thing far better half a decade earlier.

And ha, I actually saw Super Infra-man today because of your picture-says-all review on the challenge thread. Well, that and the fact that it was an Official Check that was not already in my watch-list for the month. I love pretty much anything with zany costumes and sets.
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#20

Post by Lonewolf2003 » June 8th, 2020, 4:29 pm

sol wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 3:44 pm
Lonewolf2003 wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 3:25 pm
@sol: I guess you got your cinephile membership pass back now from your fellow podcast hosts? :lol: I liked all Kurosawa's more than you. Seven Samuari is my #3, Yojimbo is also in the top 50 and Sanjuro I also loved way more than you. I also have seen Ride the High Country and The One-Armed Swordsman, the first I liked more and the second about the same, but it been some time and I should rewatch them. The Crying Game I liked less and Heaven Knows What more.
Not really surprised that you are a fan of Kurosawa's samurai films given your username. :ermm: I suppose this is not a good time to mention that I actually tried to watch the first Lonewolf and Cub film ages ago before giving up after 10-20 minutes in. Well, not so much "give up" as decided to come back to later, only that was during the 2017 Japanese Challenge and I haven't returned to the film since. The samurai lifestyle and the period in Japanese history depicted on screen clearly has a lot of appeal to most cinemagoers, but I guess it is not possible to love everything out there and this is just a 'no thanks' subgenre for me. But yes, I got my cinephile membership back, so it was worth it, even better than all of the Official List checks I gained!

Oh, and thanks for listening to the podcast. We will actually be discussing The Crying Game in some depth in the next podcast if you want some expanded thoughts on why both filmbantha and myself think that it is so great.

Peckinpah is a bit up-and-down in my books and Ride the High Country was more of a middle-of-the-road Peckinpah for me.

Heaven Know What is a film that I wanted to like more, but I hated all of the grainy close-ups (almost exact opposite of Good Time's visuals) and I think I hated the characters even more. It was pretty difficult watching her go about her life, constantly pining after her boyfriend when he treats her worse than dirt. But I do get that the point of the film is (partially) that drug addiction can interfere with one's ability to properly assess how others treat you.

Yours:

I recall some spectacular images in The Wandering Earth (Jupiter sucking up the atmosphere of Earth) but yeah, the action sequences did little for me and I have already forgotten much of the plot - less than one year later.

I did like Bloodsucking Freaks a lot more than you though. Some great spectatorship ideas with the viewers dismissing everything as fake when it really isn't and the question of just how real theatre can get. Of course, The Wizard of Gore did the same sort of thing far better half a decade earlier.

And ha, I actually saw Super Infra-man today because of your picture-says-all review on the challenge thread. Well, that and the fact that it was an Official Check that was not already in my watch-list for the month. I love pretty much anything with zany costumes and sets.
I'm happy my picture and review made you watch that insane movie. I will be watching the Magnificent Butcher somewhere this month, so will come back to you on that than. Cause it's on my stack to watch for the challenge this month.

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#21

Post by prodigalgodson » June 8th, 2020, 8:36 pm

kongs_speech wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 4:31 am
Perception de Ambiguity wrote:
June 7th, 2020, 12:00 pm
Canopies (Justin Kelly, 2020)

Shades (Justin Kelly, 2020)
Justin's shorts are rad. In addition to being an upstanding member of our community, he's clearly a super talented dude with an eye for beautiful images.
Thanks guys, I'm very touched! These were kind of getting back into shape with filmmaking. I'm excited to start working on the next one, which is gonna have a bit more of a narrative lean, employ a combination of handheld, tripod, and dolly shots, and feature music. And hopefully won't include glitches. Here's a little spiel I wrote on the structural concept of Shades, it might answer your question about power lines in Canopies kong:
I was basically trying to expand on the progression from natural to artificial and from day to night that I focused on in Canopies, centered around trees and light. In the first case, there's the movement from organic to inorganic backgrounds for the shadows in the daytime scenes, and the movement from natural dark to artificial illumination of the trees at night. Temporally, it's divided into 20 20-second chunks; the first is 20 seconds of day and none of night, the second 19 seconds day 1 night, the third 18 seconds day 2 night, etc., until night subsumes day.
A couple days after I had the idea for Canopies I watched Limite, which features a fade from a tree to a similarly-shaped power pole, and I was annoyed with myself that someone had had the same basic idea almost 100 years earlier and 5 years younger, and as just a short part of a masterful film. :circle: :lol:

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#22

Post by prodigalgodson » June 8th, 2020, 9:16 pm

Everyone else's:

sol
Seven Samurai 9 - some aspects have aged better than others, but still a gargantuan piece of filmmaking
Ride the High Country 8 - one of the first Peckinpahs I saw, I remember especially liking the second half
Cuadecuc, Vampir - hmm, never heard of it but sounds up my alley
The Crying Game 8 - far from a masterpiece cinematically, but riveting, emotionally complex stuff
Yojimbo 6 - wouldn't mind seeing it again, don't remember much other than vaguely enjoying it but finding a lot of the acting unlikeably broad in that distinctive Kurosawa way

pda
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her 7 - want to see this agin
Rickturn of the Jerri - good stuff, look forward to another spin through the second half of this season

hond
Antz - haven't seen it since it came out, didn't like this or Bug's Life as a kid

toad
Marketa Lazarova 9 - very much my kind of thing, would like to give it another spin at some point
Dog Star Man 10 - one of the first experimental films I saw; haven't watched it since but it's cast a huge shadow over my taste in the years since

jt
Brick 5 - eh
Night at the Museum 5 - eh
The Last Movie 10 - way up my alley at the time, wonder if it'd still be a favorite

ks
Batman 5 - don't remember it too well, liked Nicholson
Batman Returns 7 - I'd agree it's a step up from the first
The Lonesome - wouldn't mind a link, 41 minutes sounds doable
The Hourglass Sanatorium - would like to see this, I enjoyed The Saragossa Manuscript
Us 4 - didn't seem substantial on either a narrative or thematic standpoint, there were some cool sensory elements though
Braveheart 7 - not my genre of choice, but very watchable
Le quattro volte 3 - also expected to like this a lot and didn't at all, wish I had a review on hand

wolf
Seen none of yours sadly. I also found Yi yi incredibly evocative and emotionally rich, but the intersection of political and personal tragedy in A Brighter Summer Day, and its insight into maybe a dozen different themes while maintaining a cohesive whole make it one of the towering achievements of 20th century film. I should've written an in-depth review, but I was watching it as a salve for a terrible day so I didn't feel like putting that much work in.


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#24

Post by sol » June 9th, 2020, 9:56 am

Lonewolf2003 wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 4:29 pm
I'm happy my picture and review made you watch that insane movie. I will be watching the Magnificent Butcher somewhere this month, so will come back to you on that than. Cause it's on my stack to watch for the challenge this month.
Oh yeah, I am much more likely to look at what everyone else is watching on the challenge threads if they post screenshots.

Magnificent Butcher isn't a bad film, just very average as far as these wuxia/kung fu comedies go. Choreography is divine; the comedy of it less so.

prodigalgodson wrote:
June 8th, 2020, 9:16 pm
Everyone else's:

sol
Seven Samurai 9 - some aspects have aged better than others, but still a gargantuan piece of filmmaking
Ride the High Country 8 - one of the first Peckinpahs I saw, I remember especially liking the second half
Cuadecuc, Vampir - hmm, never heard of it but sounds up my alley
The Crying Game 8 - far from a masterpiece cinematically, but riveting, emotionally complex stuff
Yojimbo 6 - wouldn't mind seeing it again, don't remember much other than vaguely enjoying it but finding a lot of the acting unlikeably broad in that distinctive Kurosawa way
I think you are onto something with your statement that "some aspects have aged better than others" in Seven Samurai. I think that's particularly true of the battle scenes towards the end. I have read a lot about how revolutionary these scenes were for the time, but thanks to all the mindless action films that we have had in the years since, the battles did not hold the same freshness for me. The scope is impressive, but I really need be able to concentrate on individual characters and individual fights for action scenes to work for me, and of course Seven Samurai is more about the chaos of fighting. And then there is lovesick young samurai and all the romantic plotting, which I guess might have played out better 65 years ago, but which nowadays feels formulaic. How I envy those who were able to see the film closer to when it came out...

Yes, the second half of Ride the High Country is where it becomes specifically about the girl, whereas in the initial stretch of the film she merely comes across as part of a subplot. The title is actually curiously deceptive: it is about characters who set off to ride the high country but who ultimately become pulled off-task by a young woman trying to flee from her controlling father along the way.

As mentioned to kong, Cuadecuc, Vampir might play better if you have a few other observational documentaries under your belt. I have seen loads and this was still pretty much unlike any other documentary that I had seen. It would probably make for an interesting double feature with Franco's finished vampire film, but that wasn't available to me, this one was (it is streaming in the Mubi library) and I had actually been searching for it for some time.

I don't know if The Crying Game would have benefited from being a lot more "cinematic", but I agree that Neil Jordan was more focused on the complex emotions of the narrative than mood or atmosphere. Love the final shot though, slowly rising above them (don't know if you recall it) and some of Jordan's framing and shot composition is excellent, e.g. staying with Dil rather than Fergus during "that scene".

Yojimbo was my first viewing in 12 years. Funnily enough, I remembered more it stylistically (the high camera angles on the townsfolk scurrying about like mice; those music bursts) than as a narrative. Anyway, I might finally get around to rewatching A Fistful of Dollars also this month. That is something that I have been meaning to rewatch for ages, but I always wanted Yojimbo fresh in my mind first.
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#25

Post by sol » June 9th, 2020, 11:52 am

Damn. Forgot to comment on yours after all that. :facepalm:
prodigalgodson wrote:
June 7th, 2020, 10:20 pm
The Scenic Route (Mark Rappaport, 1978) 9/10

A savage Greek-tragedy-tinged tale of sisterhood and doomed romance that engulfed me in its eerie magic. Rappaport's somewhat solipsistic control of characters (it feels less like he's trying to elucidate the struggles of other human beings and more like he's trying to suss out his own complexes) and the consistent (apparent) proximity of his films to his own interior world might be a turnoff for some viewers, but the result is a unique vision rich in psychological nuance. Exterior Night, playing concurrently the Filmmuseum Munchen's Rappaport streaming retrospective, obviously called to mind Lynch; there are traces of that better-known American original here too, but the operatic emotionality and low-budget formal meddling call to mind Werner Schroeter, and the psychosexual insinuations evoke Persona/The Silence/Cries and Whispers-mode Bergman. The writing's as sharp as anything of the era, intense and expressionistic without feeling corny:

From the Journal of Jean Seberg (Mark Rappaport, 1995) 8/10

“If you worried about the metatext, the subtext, the alternate readings you’d never work.”

Not quite as tight, insightful, or extensive as Rappaport's Rock Hudson project, but at its best a brilliant piece of meta-analysis and a heartbreaking ode to an idiosyncratic archetype. Bonjour tristesse and Breathless are two of my favorite films of their era; this makes me want to avoid everything else Seberg's starred in, haha.
How interesting that you got to so much out of The Scenic Route, which came across to me as a cool experiment and little more. I liked some of the small touches a lot (the way the wallpaper constantly morphs and changes) but I recall the plot of the film not really adding up - some serial killer on the loose and one sister watching others die without it really factoring into the plot? It's been a while and it is all a little fuzzy now.

On the other hand, I agree that From the Journal of Jean Seberg was absolutely fascinating, with some curious suppositions of how her career might have gone the way of Jane Fonda or Vanessa Redgrave had she not been dead at 40, as well as what she may have made of movie trends that developed in the years after her death. I have not seen the Rock Hudson film to compare, but this really impressed me at the time.

Also seen Johnny Guitar from you, but it has been so long that I'm not even going to attempt to comment. tehe
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#26

Post by prodigalgodson » June 9th, 2020, 11:38 pm

Perception de Ambiguity wrote:
June 9th, 2020, 3:50 am
This short might be something for you, pgs:
https://cinematheque.tube/videos/watch/ ... 1b095ec515
Ay thank you, I enjoyed that!

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#27

Post by prodigalgodson » June 10th, 2020, 12:02 am

sol wrote:
June 9th, 2020, 9:56 am
I think you are onto something with your statement that "some aspects have aged better than others" in Seven Samurai. I think that's particularly true of the battle scenes towards the end. I have read a lot about how revolutionary these scenes were for the time, but thanks to all the mindless action films that we have had in the years since, the battles did not hold the same freshness for me. The scope is impressive, but I really need be able to concentrate on individual characters and individual fights for action scenes to work for me, and of course Seven Samurai is more about the chaos of fighting. And then there is lovesick young samurai and all the romantic plotting, which I guess might have played out better 65 years ago, but which nowadays feels formulaic. How I envy those who were able to see the film closer to when it came out...

Yes, the second half of Ride the High Country is where it becomes specifically about the girl, whereas in the initial stretch of the film she merely comes across as part of a subplot. The title is actually curiously deceptive: it is about characters who set off to ride the high country but who ultimately become pulled off-task by a young woman trying to flee from her controlling father along the way.

As mentioned to kong, Cuadecuc, Vampir might play better if you have a few other observational documentaries under your belt. I have seen loads and this was still pretty much unlike any other documentary that I had seen. It would probably make for an interesting double feature with Franco's finished vampire film, but that wasn't available to me, this one was (it is streaming in the Mubi library) and I had actually been searching for it for some time.

I don't know if The Crying Game would have benefited from being a lot more "cinematic", but I agree that Neil Jordan was more focused on the complex emotions of the narrative than mood or atmosphere. Love the final shot though, slowly rising above them (don't know if you recall it) and some of Jordan's framing and shot composition is excellent, e.g. staying with Dil rather than Fergus during "that scene".

Yojimbo was my first viewing in 12 years. Funnily enough, I remembered more it stylistically (the high camera angles on the townsfolk scurrying about like mice; those music bursts) than as a narrative. Anyway, I might finally get around to rewatching A Fistful of Dollars also this month. That is something that I have been meaning to rewatch for ages, but I always wanted Yojimbo fresh in my mind first.
Yeah, it's tough with Seven Samurai to even enjoy it in its own mode (as opposed to a lot of movies that get called dated but still feel very fresh to me within whatever particular paradigm the viewer can work to access if it's not intuitive), because its mode has been so thoroughly appropriated, watered down and proliferated by mainstream film culture. It also strikes me as a not fully realized film -- with another couple hours and all its elements proportionally fleshed out I can imagine it being a major favorite of mine.

Nice note about the title of Ride the High Country. At some point the story becomes much more sedentary, right? Like they're on the move a lot at first but the second half or so takes place at a mining camp? I mostly remember some vague imagery and atmosphere, I guess I should see this again.

Could you recommend some observational documentaries?

Oh yeah, I don't mean cinematic in a showy way, I just didn't like the look of the film. Maybe I'm biased, a lot of the late 80s/90s film aesthetic isn't my cup of tea. But yeah, the reveal I remember as masterfully executed, all the moreso since I had wonderingly guessed it.

A Fistful of Dollars really held up for me. It was the first spaghetti western I saw and I rewatched it for the first time in 10 years or so and then went to a screening of it again about a month later. Struck me as one of the best westerns ever every time.

The plot of The Scenic Route definitely doesn't add up, but in fails to cohere in a meaningful, Pynchonesque way. I would really really love to see more films like this, and it seems like not too much to ask the digital age. I love psychologically intense filmmaking (just look at my comfort rewatches this week), and this was right up my alley.

I think I was spoiled seeing the Rock Hudson one first, but the Seberg one has some brilliant insight for sure.

Johnny Guitar I've seen upwards of 10 times now, I'm more astonished every go around. I really felt what Godard said this time about Ray being American cinema in the same way Dostoevsky was the Russian novel, etc.

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#28

Post by sol » June 10th, 2020, 8:56 am

prodigalgodson wrote:
June 10th, 2020, 12:02 am
Yeah, it's tough with Seven Samurai to even enjoy it in its own mode (as opposed to a lot of movies that get called dated but still feel very fresh to me within whatever particular paradigm the viewer can work to access if it's not intuitive), because its mode has been so thoroughly appropriated, watered down and proliferated by mainstream film culture. It also strikes me as a not fully realized film -- with another couple hours and all its elements proportionally fleshed out I can imagine it being a major favorite of mine.

Nice note about the title of Ride the High Country. At some point the story becomes much more sedentary, right? Like they're on the move a lot at first but the second half or so takes place at a mining camp? I mostly remember some vague imagery and atmosphere, I guess I should see this again.

Could you recommend some observational documentaries?

Oh yeah, I don't mean cinematic in a showy way, I just didn't like the look of the film. Maybe I'm biased, a lot of the late 80s/90s film aesthetic isn't my cup of tea. But yeah, the reveal I remember as masterfully executed, all the moreso since I had wonderingly guessed it.

A Fistful of Dollars really held up for me. It was the first spaghetti western I saw and I rewatched it for the first time in 10 years or so and then went to a screening of it again about a month later. Struck me as one of the best westerns ever every time.

The plot of The Scenic Route definitely doesn't add up, but in fails to cohere in a meaningful, Pynchonesque way. I would really really love to see more films like this, and it seems like not too much to ask the digital age. I love psychologically intense filmmaking (just look at my comfort rewatches this week), and this was right up my alley.

I think I was spoiled seeing the Rock Hudson one first, but the Seberg one has some brilliant insight for sure.

Johnny Guitar I've seen upwards of 10 times now, I'm more astonished every go around. I really felt what Godard said this time about Ray being American cinema in the same way Dostoevsky was the Russian novel, etc.
That's a good point about Seven Samurai and it is kind of curious how condensed it feels even at over three hours long. I would have liked more time to dedicated to the individual samurai myself. There was Kambei, Mifune and the young one, but already the other four samurai have blurred together in my mind. It would have been great to have had more scenes dedicated to their own individual trials and tribulations. I never really felt that I knew any other than Mifune as a distinct individual.

Yes - the entire second half of Ride the High Country takes place at one single location. The plot initially seems to come to a stand-still when they stop there, until it becomes evident that their stopover there is pretty much the narrative oomph of the film. I really like titles like this one's that toy with viewer expectations. Wish I liked the overall film a little more though.

Frederick Wiseman is the king of observational documentaries. Definitely try Welfare or High School or Juvenile Court if you haven't already. These are all films that come without voiceover or interviews... that is the whole idea of observational documentaries, to observe and let the viewers draw their own conclusions - though sometimes judicious editing can give an observational documentary a slant one way or another. Louis Malle's A Human Condition is an example of one such documentary clearly constructed to put forth an anti-factory work agenda.

A Fistful of Dollars is probably the first spaghetti western I saw too... 15+ years ago. Been slowly catching up with spaghetti westerns ever since registering here.

Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life in in my all-time top 50, so maybe I should give Johnny Guitar another spin, though I don't know if it will quite strike me the same way as Bigger Than Life, which is such a great film about addiction, megalomania and ruminations on education and the role that teachers really play in kids' lives. Very effectively shot and edited too.
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#29

Post by cinewest » June 11th, 2020, 1:14 am

@prodigalgodson

I think Godard calling Nicholas Ray the Dostoevsky of film is quite a stretch, and that if "Big D" can be compared to any filmmaker, he is probably a Russian. In fact, come to think of it, Andrey Zvyagintsev is a pretty good match

@Sol

I saw Seven Samurai the first time in 1976, as part of a week long awakening to films from other places, and I was blown away from the get go by the epic sweep of the tale, as well as the imagery and for many years it was part of my own top 10. I didn't realize at the time that the Western, Magnificent Seven, was a retelling of the same story, but it didn't take me long to figure it out.
Though Magnificent seven was one of my favorite films as a kid, I thought Seven Samurai was much better in every way except in terms of developing the individual backstory you speak about, which helped the characters resonate more later on. Of course, in Japanese culture, the individual is not that important, and the differences between the two films speaks to some of those cultural differences.
Last edited by cinewest on June 11th, 2020, 4:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#30

Post by prodigalgodson » June 11th, 2020, 2:43 am

cinewest wrote:
June 11th, 2020, 1:14 am
@prodigalgodson

I think Godard calling Nicholas Ray the Dostoevsky of film is quite a stretch, and that if "Big D" can be compared to any filmmaker, he is probably a Russian. In fact, come to think of it, Andrey Zvyagintsev is a pretty good match
Oops, the quote I was thinking of is actually about another favorite: "Bresson is the French cinema as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music." The one about Ray is "There was theatre (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray." Which actually seems more arguable, haha. But anyhow as I read it the comparison's not to Dostoevsky's specific approach so much as his relation to the culturally rooted development of his medium. I've only seen The Return from Zvyagintsev, which I loved, and can see some psychological parallels to Dostoevsky. But I don't think that director's impact on his medium has been as profound as the author's. It's interesting thinking about cinematic analogs for great writers.

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#31

Post by kongs_speech » June 11th, 2020, 3:22 am

prodigalgodson wrote:
June 11th, 2020, 2:43 am
cinewest wrote:
June 11th, 2020, 1:14 am
@prodigalgodson

I think Godard calling Nicholas Ray the Dostoevsky of film is quite a stretch, and that if "Big D" can be compared to any filmmaker, he is probably a Russian. In fact, come to think of it, Andrey Zvyagintsev is a pretty good match
Oops, the quote I was thinking of is actually about another favorite: "Bresson is the French cinema as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music." The one about Ray is "There was theatre (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray." Which actually seems more arguable, haha. But anyhow as I read it the comparison's not to Dostoevsky's specific approach so much as his relation to the culturally rooted development of his medium. I've only seen The Return from Zvyagintsev, which I loved, and can see some psychological parallels to Dostoevsky. But I don't think that director's impact on his medium has been as profound as the author's. It's interesting thinking about cinematic analogs for great writers.
Here's The Lonesome. I was slightly off about the length. It's 47 minutes, so I guess it is a feature. But I hope you enjoy it.

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#32

Post by cinewest » June 11th, 2020, 4:52 am

prodigalgodson wrote:
June 11th, 2020, 2:43 am
cinewest wrote:
June 11th, 2020, 1:14 am
@prodigalgodson

I think Godard calling Nicholas Ray the Dostoevsky of film is quite a stretch, and that if "Big D" can be compared to any filmmaker, he is probably a Russian. In fact, come to think of it, Andrey Zvyagintsev is a pretty good match
Oops, the quote I was thinking of is actually about another favorite: "Bresson is the French cinema as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music." The one about Ray is "There was theatre (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforth there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray." Which actually seems more arguable, haha. But anyhow as I read it the comparison's not to Dostoevsky's specific approach so much as his relation to the culturally rooted development of his medium. I've only seen The Return from Zvyagintsev, which I loved, and can see some psychological parallels to Dostoevsky. But I don't think that director's impact on his medium has been as profound as the author's. It's interesting thinking about cinematic analogs for great writers.
"Big Z" hasn't had nearly the impact on film as "Big D" had on literature, though Dostoevsky was hardly a ravishing success as a writer during much of his life time. That said, Zvyagintsev is definitely one of my very favorite new millennium filmmakers (along with Martel, who we have spoken about before), and if you can handle heavy, you might consider a mini-film fest of his work. They are all very well written, acted, and shot, and the ones you haven't seen are actually more Dostoevskian than The Return.

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#33

Post by sol » June 11th, 2020, 9:59 am

cinewest wrote:
June 11th, 2020, 1:14 am
Though Magnificent seven was one of my favorite films as a kid, I thought Seven Samurai was much better in every way except in terms of developing the individual backstory you speak about, which helped the characters resonate more later on. Of course, in Japanese culture, the individual is not that important, and the differences between the two films speaks to some of those cultural differences.
Interesting that you mention that, cinewest. I have not seen The Magnificent Seven myself, but some of the reviews of Seven Samurai that I came across on Letterboxd indeed mentioned how much character development the western has with more distinct personalities for each character. I am definitely curious about checking out The Magnificent Seven now.

You're probably right about the cultural thing too. I can certainly think of some films with 7+ main characters who are all well developed and fleshed out as distinct individuals - but all those films that come to mind are indeed American. :ph43r:
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#34

Post by prodigalgodson » June 11th, 2020, 9:02 pm

sol wrote:
June 10th, 2020, 8:56 am
Frederick Wiseman is the king of observational documentaries. Definitely try Welfare or High School or Juvenile Court if you haven't already. These are all films that come without voiceover or interviews... that is the whole idea of observational documentaries, to observe and let the viewers draw their own conclusions - though sometimes judicious editing can give an observational documentary a slant one way or another. Louis Malle's A Human Condition is an example of one such documentary clearly constructed to put forth an anti-factory work agenda.

Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life in in my all-time top 50, so maybe I should give Johnny Guitar another spin, though I don't know if it will quite strike me the same way as Bigger Than Life, which is such a great film about addiction, megalomania and ruminations on education and the role that teachers really play in kids' lives. Very effectively shot and edited too.
Oops, forgot to reply -- thanks for the recs sol! Only seen Titicut Follies and an hour or so of At Berkeley from Wiseman, neither of which I remember at all really. I'll try to check out more, I know he was one of serriform's favorite filmmakers.

I appreciate more than love Bigger Than Life, as is the case with several other Ray films.

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#35

Post by prodigalgodson » June 11th, 2020, 9:02 pm

kongs_speech wrote:
June 11th, 2020, 3:22 am
Here's The Lonesome. I was slightly off about the length. It's 47 minutes, so I guess it is a feature. But I hope you enjoy it.
Nice, thanks!

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#36

Post by prodigalgodson » June 11th, 2020, 9:05 pm

sol wrote:
June 11th, 2020, 9:59 am
You're probably right about the cultural thing too. I can certainly think of some films with 7+ main characters who are all well developed and fleshed out as distinct individuals - but all those films that come to mind are indeed American. :ph43r:
I can see this argument made more for something like Mizoguchi's 47 Ronin, but it's odd if the emphasis in Seven Samurai is on the collective for some individuals to get so much development while others are kind of set aside after their introductions.

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#37

Post by cinewest » June 11th, 2020, 9:45 pm

@ Sol
If you see Magnificent Seven, make sure it is the original.

@ prodigalgodson
Yeah, the flip side with Kurosawa is that he was always considered the most Western of Japanese directors

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#38

Post by OldAle1 » June 22nd, 2020, 7:00 pm

This Film ROCKED
This Film SUCKED

Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974) (re-watch)

I'm gonna guess 7th or 8th viewing. What to say about this film that hasn't been said? It's my favorite Mel Brooks film and probably my favorite western comedy, or at least my favorite where the emphasis is clearly on the humor. Because it's a parody and spoof of not just westerns but other film tropes of the period - like blaxploitation - and because it has both a broad brush and plenty of little subtle bits, it gets better for me every time, or at least I get more of the jokes with more film knowledge to bring to it. I don't think I knew "Van" Johnson last time, for instance, and Cleavon Little's "urban" attire and attitude make more sense to me now after a whole lot of Jim Brown and Fred Williamson under my belt. And the title song by Frankie Laine is, for my money, the best western theme song ever - serious or not:

Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992) (re-watch)

Probably about the 10th viewing. I saw this 6 times first run; I think it was the first film I'd seen that many times in the cinema since Star Wars 15 years earlier, and it's still one of the ten films I've seen the most in the cinema and probably one of about 20-25 that I've seen at least 10x total. It made me a Clint Eastwood fan, I guess for life because I haven't abandoned him yet. But this was the first viewing in at least a decade and it was bittersweet; I wanted to re-watch it with my mom, but never got around to it. I suppose I delayed for a long time because I was afraid it wouldn't hold up, that happens sometimes, and my opinion of Eastwood in general has taken something of a downturn in the last 7-8 years, and not just because of his politics. But I needn't have worried; while this still comes in second to The Outlaw Josey Wales among the westerns he directed, and a certain 3-hour Italian film with Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef is probably also ahead of it, this remains a pretty terrific film, a melancholy and pessimistic work to be sure but one leavened by just enough humor and even moments of possibility (maybe the Schofield Kid turns out all right after all?) to keep the overall dour mood from overwhelming. I had in fact forgotten a lot of the humor - I especially like Gene Hackman's Little Bill, one of the funnier psychopaths around, as he's talking to Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) about what REALLY happened with English Bob and that guy in the bar he killed that time. Pretty near perfect casting, lovely understated score by Lennie Niehaus (a longtime Eastwood collaborator who passed away this weekend, just short of his 91st birthday), beautiful and typically dark and naturally-lit Jack Green cinematography. It's only maybe my 4th or 5th favorite Clint film but I can totally see why it has become his masterpiece in the eyes of so many critics, particularly those with an affinity for westerns. Not that it has anything particularly novel to say, not that even it's pretty harsh take on violence and it's relationship to drinking and the follies of youth is anything new, but the old theme of the end of the west and the problem of the gunfighter has only rarely been done as well, as brutally, as sadly.

My Dream is Yours (Michael Curtiz, 1949)

TCM I think it was. Rather odd musical with Doris Day in her second film, and first lead, as a young woman tapped by a talent scout/agent (Jack Carson, with whom Doris had starred in her debut Romance on the High Seas the previous year) to become the Next Big Thing when the current star singer for a radio show (Lee Bowman) starts hitting the bottle too much. Eventually Doris gets involved with Bowman while Carson is also interested in making a play for her; if this sounds more than a bit like A Star Is Born, well, it is, though I think that's more indicative of the hoary and generic nature of showbiz stories than of any actual attempt at a rip-off, and there are plenty of differences in the plotting anyway (such as the fact that Doris has a child from --- I dunno, it's never mentioned). But that's the basics. While I'm not a big Doris fan, and Bowman isn't that exciting, and Carson isn't enough on his own to make the film, this is worth seeing for it's great secondary cast, including Eve Arden, S.Z. Sakall, Adolphe Menjou, Edgar Kennedy and Sheldon Leonard. And there's an animated dream sequence featuring Bugs Bunny and Tweetie in the middle of it too, directed by Friz Freleng.

Nomads (John McTiernan, 1986)

Extremely weird directorial debut from a director who went on to become one of the biggest-name (and if you ask me, the best) American action directors of the last few decades. It essentially starts with a doctor (Lesley-Ann Down) dealing with a patient (Pierce Brosnan) who apparently dies - this is right at the beginning of the film so not really a spoiler - and transfers something of his spirit or memories or something to her, and much of the rest of the film is flashbacks or memories of his experiences. He was a French anthropologist (why was the Irish actor cast in this role? one of many mysteries...) who with his wife (Anna Maria Monticelli) was in Los Angeles studying "modern nomads" - basically gangs - when weird shit started to happen. This feels closest to a zombie film I guess but it's kind of in a world all it's own; there were moments where it reminded me of the DePalma of Body Double, and moments that seemed to come closer to someone like Cronenberg in the veering away from narrative sense. The only film (apart from one he's working on now) that McTiernan is also credited with writing, this leaves a lot of unanswered and lingering questions, in a good way. Not sure I loved it in the end but it just has a distinctive enough feel that I'm sure I'll return to it to try to find out more.

Bend It Like Beckham (Gurinder Chadha, 2002)

In the mash-up between the rom-com (a genre I want to love, but which usually sucks) and the inspiration sports story (something I have little interest in, and almost never love), the winner is...me, surprisingly. Or maybe not so surprising - I've liked the other two films from the director that I've seen, and I guess I was in the right mood for this. It is like most mainstream films in both of these genres pretty damn predictable - headstrong Indian-British girl (Parminder Nagra) wants to play football against her traditional family's wishes, is pushed into it by fellow rebel Kiera Knightley (whose mother is less worried about career, and more about her daughter maybe being a lesbian), they become fast friends, they fight over a boy, and everything comes up roses at the end. And there's a football match and wedding occurring on the same day - Chadha would later pull a similar silly plot device in her Springsteen film Blinded by the Light - and because this is more chick-flick than guy-flick there's not enough football (even for someone like me who doesn't care at all about it) and maybe a little too much music and dancing and crying and melodrama. And yet it worked in the end, mostly due to the two lead actresses who are quite engaging and believable here, especially Nagra.

Oh and if you watch the US DVD there's an extra with the director showing how to cook Aloo gobi, one of my favorites, with her mother and an aunt kibitzing in the background, which is almost as much fun as the movie, well maybe more if you love that dish.

Three Coins in the Fountain (Jean Negulesco, 1954)

TCM. The little romantic comedy sub-genre of the American-Girl-Goes-on-European-Holiday seems to have started with Roman Holiday the year before this film was made; that film was an enormous hit, won three Oscars including one for burgeoning star Audrey Hepburn, and tied in well to the growing desire of middle-class Americans for adventures abroad. It was also b/w and in the standard Academy ratio, so why not hit while the fire is hot and go full Cinemascope and Technicolor and magnify that success? That certainly must have been on the minds of the producers at Fox, who ended up making this the first film shot in the new wide format outside of the USA. Unfortunately to this viewer's taste that bit of historical importance, and some admittedly nice Roman footage, are just about the only things this piece of crap have going for it. It's the story of three secretaries in Rome - middle-aged Frances (Dorothy McGuire) and two younger, the somewhat jaded Anita (Jean Peters, giving the best performance in the film) and Maria (Maggie McNamara) and their lives and loves with, respectively, Clifton Webb, Rossano Brazzi and Louis Jourdan (playing Italian - French, Italian,what's the difference, they all sound the same right?). Apart from the really dull and obvious rom-com genre tropes in abundance here we also have a deep vein of all-too typical sexism - hey, finding the right guy is the best thing these women can possibly do, right? Not having traveled much myself, and currently being even more cooped-up than usual, I have a soft spot for this little fluffy genre, but I have to say that apart from the Hepburn film that really started it all, most of them have been underwhelming - Rome Adventure is another one I saw not too long ago. But this one is probably (well, hopefully) the pits. Even the title Sinatra song can't save it.

GRACE CHANG QUARTET

Man Bo nu lang / Mambo Girl (Wen Yi, 1957)
Qing chun er nu / Spring Song (Wen Yi, 1959)
Kong zhong xiao jie / Air Hostess (Wen Yi, 1959)
Liu yue xin niang / The June Bride (Huang Tang, 1960)

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Like most of the (probably few) people here who have encountered Ms. Chang, my first encounter was with her take on Carmen in 1960's Ye mei gui zhi lian / The Wild, Wild Rose which I saw just about two years ago. That film and her performance floored me, so I made some effort to get hold of a few of her even more obscure (how obscure? two of these are first checks) and less-celebrated films. Chang was, as near as I can tell, one of the three biggest female stars of the pre-Shaw-domination Hong Kong film scene, along with Betty Loh Ti and Dai Lin, and like them she had a fairly short career - 34 films between 1953 and 1964, though unlike her two competitors she didn't end her time in the movies by ending her life, but rather by marrying and moving to London, where she apparently still lives, having just turned 87 last week.

I'm still curious to see more of her work, but I have to say my excitement has abated quite a bit after these four. It's not that she's bad - she's always charismatic, and I love her singing - while none of these is exactly a straightforward "musical" they all are clearly built around her abilities as a singer as much as anything else; no, these are just all fairly lame, and tame and predictable romances that certainly don't offer much that's interesting for this westerner, and I suspect weren't all that new or fascinating to seasoned Hong Kong viewers of the time.

Man Bo nu lang is the story of a girl who finds out, on her birthday, that she's adopted, and leaves the party her family and friends have thrown for her to go find her real mother. The sentimentality here is a little bit cloying, but at the same time it doesn't feel out of place, and given the struggles China went through in the 30s and 40s, and in particular the family displacements, I can see the appeal. Decent dancing and songs - kind of tries to be hip and jazzy (mambo, after all). I liked the actor who played the father, with the tough-guy exterior but the marshmallow inside.

Qing chun er nu is probably the weakest of the four, and the one that has the most overly propagandistic songs - stuff about how we must all strive our best to grow up and be good citizens, etc, etc, perhaps not surprising as it's a school story, with Grace playing the oldest child in a large family and the first to go to college, where she meets a rival in a rich girl (Jeanette Lin Tsui) and romances the big but shy jock (Roy Chiao, excellent; he's in the next two films in the lead male role as well). This suffered from being the weakest copy of the four but I doubt it would be much improved even in HD. Again, I tend to like most of Grace's songs, but that's not enough.

Kong zhong xiao jie is the only one of these four in color, and it's probably the largest-budgeted of the films, with some location shooting in Taipei, Singapore and Bangkok, because it's about, uh, you guessed it, air hostesses. It's kind of fascinating to see a film specifically and entirely about the airline travel industry at this time - I don't know what other films I've seen with this theme from the 50s - but the film isn't all that exciting. Grace is the best of her class and ends up falling for a macho and rather aggressive pilot (Roy Chiao again) and sings a bunch in a better variety of locations than the other films provide. The color is kind of weird - sort of a pale blue / salmon tint to much of it, not sure if that's the color stock or what.

Liu yue xin niang gives us Grace as the daughter of a struggling businessman, all set to marry her childhood sweetheart upon return to HK after a business trip, but getting involved with a couple of other men - one of them Roy Chiao, again - and having to make hard decisions. This seems to be attempting a screwball sort of attitude but really doesn't succeed. Again some nice songs, and also some good outdoor location work including a panoramic view of and from Victoria Peak, but it all ends up exactly where you'd expect it to in the end.


Kuai can che / Wheels on Meals (Sammo Hung, 1984)

Typical, solid martial arts comedy with Jackie Chan and Biao Yuen as a couple of guys who operate a food cart in Barcelona, content enough in that endeavor (Jackie roller skates around plazas taking orders and then serving the food that Biao makes) until they get involved with a young woman pickpocket who is on the run from a gang for reasons involving an inheritance, all while a hapless PI (Sammo Hung) is also trying to locate her. The Barcelona locations are as much the star as anything else here - there's a scene on top of the Sagrada Familia for example - and it's all good fun though like a lot of films from these guys, a bit long for my taste and with the humor not always working for me. I found the ending pretty stretched out in particular even if Jackie's climactic fight with bad guy Benny Urquidez is great.

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