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Licorice Pizza

Another stunning, hilarious, exhilarating film from PT Anderson with Haim and Hoffman with perfectly off-kilter chemistry
My initial impressions, aside from making a lot of hooting and hollering notices and bowing in a Wayne and Garth type of "we're all not worthy" stance at a portrait of PT Anderson, who returns here to the Los Angeles of the 1970s again for a third time with a coming of age story about Alana (Haim) and Gary (Hoffman) and their misadventures and awkward but total connection to each other as friends and more, is that sometimes a film just needs to give me good characters, and this does this and then some.

By this I mean we have people, Alana and Gary in this case, who are immediately deeply felt and lived-in as these young people (though the age range makes that idea of 'young' into its own self-conscious and for Alana even neurotic beast), and the connection that grows between them as friends is that there is sentiment expressed (oh God oh goodness that scene with the two of them on the water-bed as he motions closer to her but then stops as "Let me Roll It" is more emotionally charged than any scene I've seen this year - and there's strong competition) without it being sentimental.

This is hard to do, but what helps is we are "hanging out" with these people but they're wants and desires are being figured out barely as they go along and the world around them is so rich and textured sometimes all they can do is run to keep up with things. They're simply... compelling, fully heartfelt people, but PTA isn't shy about showing their foibles. And around them are more "name" actors like Penn and Cooper and to a lesser extent Safdie and Waits who make immediate and strong impressions and yet also are people you get right away.

Which brings me to another impression.... this is maybe Anderson processing in his way things in the world over the past few years re: #metoo? Of course one can say "but hey the 1970s, you know," but nearly every man who Alana meets - who may be more of the protagonist than Gary, I don't know, it's close maybe co-protagonists - is either a leering/lecherous creep or full of their own anxieties and issues. I've seen one or two things on social media criticizing Anderson about this possible/kinda sorta romance between this teen boy and 25 year old Alana (if she is that or rounding up), but I wonder if they're seeing the same film I did because the film is really more about not even the romance side of it (though romance is laced throughout this) as it is that feeling when you're a teen and you're doing as much as you can to be an adult, but when you become an adult there is that temptation or even desire, usually if around the right group, to want to be young again. If you got to make it in the world, maybe it's better to do it with someone who isn't a (bleep) as a character describes men near the end.

As for the title? I think that's Alana and Gary: they don't go together, and yet they totally do. I loved this film and I look forward to seeing it a couple more times and diving in deeper on this. If by chance you're near a major city playing this before Christmas, run - or steer your Empty-tank vehicle - to the theater to get absorbed in it all. And did I mention it's PTA's funniest since Boogie Nights?


Heartfelt but earns it's heart - a big nostalgic wonder
What was it Mike Nichols once said, a film is like a person and either you trust it or you dont? I think that could be said for Belfast but I thought of it more about a kind of personality that a filmmaker brings to a work as well as the cast and everyone else involved, and on that note Belfast to me is a total sweetheart of a movie, where it has many moments where it's quite cute and charming, but it's always based around the fact that this family is doing their best and more or less succeeding in caring for one another and (as Dornan's dad points out towards the end to the little boy when he asks about if a Catholic can be with a Protestant) what the basic power of kindness can do.

It's a film that manages the feat of having sentiment and even some sentimentality, but earning it throughout because (outside of maybe the bookends where the "Troubles" and all that horrible violence in the streets comes knocking) it doesn't cheapen what the stakes are or what these characters are going through. The basic question of "staying or leaving" is not one we haven't seen before in other films, and I'm sure we'll see again, yet Branaugh as writer/director gives the people here this honesty that is a family that is there together and there is this struggle (mostly for dad) to keep it together.

This is beautifully rendered as well with this point of view coming from the little boy (standing in for Branaugh at that time I can assume but as with like Roma who knows) as he peers in on these arguments and conversations that have a repetition that isn't repetitive, if that makes sense. If you've been in a family that has money problems, this is just the way it is, and Dornan and especially Balfe have this chemistry that works perfectly.

Another thing in its favor: you think the little boy Buddy (played by Jude Hill) will be cute and his interactions with others, especially the grandparents (good lord do Dench and Hinds, the latter I hope gets an Oscar, steal every scene they're in) could get tiresome, but Branaugh manages to keep him engaging and this mix that's hard to describe where he's universal and specific, like you don't even have to be a little boy just like at some time if you were young and trying to figure out a world that has so much stuff in it and there's the escape of movies and the wonder of astronauts alongside the horror of men in the streets throwing molotov cocktails... OK that part isn't everyone's experience, but there's little things Branaugh gets so right as a writer; my favorite is when his older cousin ropes him in as part of a "gang" initiation to steal something from the local sweet shop. How that resolves itself is ::chefs kiss::

This whole thing reminds me of like what if you took one of those stories of childhood via Frank McCourt (or Malachy, one of those) and imbued it with a lot more warmth and a generosity of spirit, and it's in general a difficult movie to dislike or be too hard on without sounding like a grouch without any feelings. At the same time, I am critical of how the film opens and comes to a climax inasmuch as the "Troubles" set pieces are shot and presented in this tremendous manner that, of course, are impossible to ignore as far as the history at the time in Ireland and that city as a whole

But it can't help but feel like... this is where it's a MOVIE in large letters, shot in an intense style like this is where it all becomes so overwhelming, which makes sense given the POV of this boy, and at the same time it loses that intimacy you have throughout the rest of the film, where it's power is in showing life's little moments having even more of a lasting impact. Also, with the one supporting character trying to force the Dad to pick a side as the one person I didn't quite believe (not the actor so much as the character, kind of one note you know). As a small technical aside, as much as I like Branaugh's eye for compositions (both usual and unusual, his framing is off in interesting ways), the digital quality of it all is distracting for me, and I wish this was shot on film for that crisper look.

All that doesn't take away from the pathos that is all here, with humor that works because it's based around like how much we may have enjoyed being around people like this in our families. Is it idealized? I don't know, but it doesn't come across as that, if anything it shows that the human soul and spirit can be resilient and this is a lesson for kids all over but also ones for the adults, too. How is one any *good* in a family? Hard to say, except it comes down to being there and not giving up. That's the kind of tone Belfast has, and it is filled with little grace notes - one that I'm sure to remember is when Dench's grandma tells the grandpa before he has to go to the hospital that she will go with him by bus and take him in and stay with him till its all done and then take him home. She doesn't state it in any way that sounds false, and none of (admittedly very good) Van Morrison music to score this beat. It's just two people who have a love that is self evident by actions.

So, in short: a sweet-heart of a movie, not to mention last but certainly not least that this is a fun time of expressing how remembering history through some pop-culture filtering can be entertaining and insightful (High Noon song, anyone?)


Devastating and sorrowful but full of poetry and grace
Ratcatcher is an unabashedly dreary film, but it's also painfully honest about the conditions that these children and their parents lived in at this time and place in Glasgow of the 1970s. The main spine is around a young man's sometimes guilt and pain over being with another boy who drowned in a canal (he almost could have drowned as well), but there isn't much to investigate with that as Lynne Ramsey as an artist wants to simply depict behavior.

And, of course, it's never so simple: we as an audience are made to witness the kinds of unruly young (male) bastards who don't have much to do and no intellectual pursuits, so the young people around James go about and make the local young woman be presented to them as a sexual object and bully and just do what adolescents do which is be terrible to one another... because what else is there to do?

I make it sound reductive but Ramsey finds these young faces and bodies and they feel plucked out of this place and time. Was it so miserable and sad then in Glasgow? Search me. But this could be seen in any number of places in the world where society doesn't do much for its people until, as it happens towards the end here, that it's time to come and take out the garbage en masse.

That doesn't mean dead rats won't pile up or the occasional boy won't drown again, or that mothers and wives don't have to take abuse from their father/husbands when they're without much in their own ways of aspirations. Why do much to do any better? There's a football game on TV and more beer and cigarettes to imbibe (and cigarettes not the word the dad played brilliantly and without a shred of ego by Flanagan).

I make this sound like a totally miserable thing to watch, but it isn't really. She doesn't shy away from how James is stuck in these decrepit apartments and hallways, metaphorically under in the water, and it may even be tipping up to the obvious when he goes off by bus to that one house and runs through those epically long and large wheat fields (does this place exist really? A small mystery that only comes back at the very end and itself is still ambiguous, which that part is actually a good metaphor, I think it's just the visual of the boy running in the field that was almost too clear for me).

Ramsey elevates it through this often lively and absorbing behavior from these kids, and those moments she sprinkles in where fantasy is not simply a fun indulgence but necessary; how she shows Snowball after going off on that one balloon is the main example, and it is exhilarating in how she and the crew render this.


Sandwich cringing times. Stewart is brilliant and Pablo Larrain captures a suffocating atmosphere
It would appear Pablo Larrain has done it again, following up on Jackie, another story of a woman depicted in an environment and film stock of despair with a film that is related to that while standing on its own as a story that lays bare a public figure to the gaping heart that's buried underneath years of speculation - where the image of someone like Diana has to be stripped away, and where the clothes themselves become like a prison of everyday life.

This was at times (a phrase I don't throw around lightly) downright Kubrickian in the equal sense of cinematographic grandeur and surreality/absurdity (here more the former than the latter), where there is so much space to take in and close-up faces of restraint and yet everything is heightened and even horrific. This is a film that isn't without nuance, but Lsrrain knows full well as Kubrick did to get at a deeper truth you got to make some bold decisions in directing a performance or making a shot so distinctly from our protagonist's pov that itself is a comment on the psychological spaces.

And this is by an easy mark Stewart's most successful, soulful, heartbreaking performance where the little tics she sometimes (arguably many times) has serves this character 1000%. Adding to this everyone around Diana - save for Hawkins' Maggie - is trying to maintain the status quo, and Spall is a particular stand out as well.

And you cringe because so much of this is about behavior, that for all of her mental and psychosomatic fragility this Diana is far more recognizable as a human being than any of these glowering royals - keeping the place cold as can be of course - and there is humor that has almost no choice at points but to come out from the cringe, but also just cringe at the sense of a human being caught in all of the hard rock places. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say there isn't a more torturous and uncomfortable dinner scene in modern cinema as from the POV of one character as here (those pearls falling down oy).

Another point of comparison in what I hope is a complimentary sense and it may be because of watching it so recently, but Dune came to mind; how a filmmaker can with this brooding yet delicate and consuming precision give you a total sense of how it FEELS to be a figure with all the pressure on them and st a moment where change MUST happen or all is lost.

Of course there are some differences as to how and where the hero and heroine of these respective movies go to break into what they gave to become - but I'm struck by in particular with Larrain he emphasizes the ghost figure, with Anne Boylen coming in like a figure out of Gothic tradition, that what she tells her sons at one point about Tense - past, present, future - is what it's all about. Spencer is a staggering portrait of order and disorder, of a figure in a place where everything has to be presented and be Just So, and all one can think is... someone really could use a friggin' hug!

A Perfect World

"Just a breed apart"
At first I thought this might be Clint doing his riff on Spielberg's Sugarland Express (if anything seeing this not so long after Cry Macho shows strikingly more parallels - instead of taking a kid back home and going on tangents, it's reversed, sort of). But he has not a... disinterest in suspense and thrills so much, he can have a rollicking good car crash or two here that can be quite funny, as he wants to emphasize the would-be surrogate father role of Butch with this boy who doesn't have a dad (and the Costner Butch character didn't have a dad either) and how this kid goes along with him because he has this cool air about him. He also protects him from the total goon character who breaks out of jail, in one of the more intense scenes between him and the kid.

But, of course, it's all a big thrill for the kid - via the Jehova's witness part of his upbringing there is no Halloween, or cotton candy or Rollercoasters or even birthdays - and it's part of a sort of Grand Illusion of a father who can give a child a lot of small creature comforts for a son he'll never have one can assume pretty safely. He never comes out and says it and doesn't have to, it's just the dynamic between the two; also crucial are a couple of scenes where Butch and the boy see how other families mistreat their kids (one is the white family who just act mean and then the black family who are more abusive, which leads to a showstopper).

If the kid was played by a marginally more interesting young actor, in TJ Lowther - he's not bad at all, far as child actors go he's decent and has one really great moment in that one family scene, though maybe the One-Take Clint part shows with him compared to everyone else - it would probably be among the director's major films.

At the same time there is an entertaining and more conventionally thrilling supporting story with Eastwood as the beleaguered but hard-nosed sheriff who eventually levels with the newcomer Dern is playing that sometimes in Texas things come down to what you can tell the judge to do the right thing with a particular rough customer/criminal. It has the professional drive of Hawks cinema at its finest where personality drives it but he never forgets how to keep the story going, or when to cross paths with the main characters they're all chasing (oh and an almost at first unrecognizable Bradley Whitford as a damn nasty FBI man is a standout).

Ultimately, it's really cool that Eastwood trusted that Costner, in one of his major performances where he conveys warmth and menace, sometimes in the same scene, could carry and was more than capable to be the dominating multi-pronged sort of failed bad-ass figure of Masculinity, so that he could hang back for a role he didn't yet to play much. Moreover, he went and realized Hancock's complivated script that doesn't sugar-coat but understands where this criminal was coming from, when he could have easily gone off and made Dirty Harry 6.

So, this is really really excellent, if short of masterpiece territory. But who knows when I revisit it, I'm sure likely on a lazy Sunday afternoon with an optional brew.


What's above the subtext? Very witty, often funny but melancholy with satisfying performances
Here's a sample of some dialog from Barcelona:

"Oh, shootings, sure, but thay doesn't mean that America's more violent than other people. We're just better shots."

Leave it to Whit Stillman to have the kind of dialog that could read very different in another context, but in world of these two intelligent but at other times not exactly wise cousins (one a salesman the other a Navy man), it's funny and you even like these guys even when they say something that shows Americans are... ever always so reliably American.

There's always something amusing in seeing men who are so very certain about a worldview, especially if the other knows they're full of it, and Fred especially is one of those people in modern movies. There's also Ted, who makes sure to correct Marta (or try to rationalize) how there is no AFL-CIA, but the way he explains it has this wit about it that is open and clear, like we know how silly it even is to have these nominal distinctions and that institutions should get mocked in such light but direct ways, and Nichols is superb at playing firm but easy to get rattled if hearing a disagreeable thing (America does gasp terrible things no way) and Sorvino can more than hold her own, she's given her own deep insights to play.

Come to think of it, Barcelona is a rich slice of a satire pizza where you can taste the layers but they all mesh well together: white male American superiority is easy to criticize, but what makes the text richer is when sides are being argued for with mixed metaphors (oh those red ants), or how these men are trying to reckon with themselves as relationships get more complicated (oh Ramon), and that this humanizes them. Moreover, it's about how we rationalize the place we're at in our lives, how we may or may not be cut out for something. And it also comes down to manners and customs, what is and what is just not done, whether it's dancing to Glenn Miller by oneself or driving a bottle of Old Crow or talking about a system of government.

In short, this is more amusing than very funny - though I definitely laughed a number of times, and they were big ones ("American Imperialism, what's up with that?") - but it's well done amusement, and eventually there's real drama and stakes that shakes things up in a tragic sense; these are believable characters who know how to talk about how they view the world, but they can't control how the basic things in life go for them.

Watch out for Maneuveur X!

House of Frankenstein

A strange and beautiful world - a half decent plot in great atmosphere and game cast
House of Frankenstein is a movie I find myself having admiration for and even affection simply for how it manages to go so quickly through the events that you almost (key word almost) don't notice that the thing is being held together by scotch tape. This is as many have noted really two stories of Dracula and then the return of Larry Talbot and that pesky Frankenmonster in Valaria (I think we are back there or the village of Frankenstein I dont know) connected together by Dr. Neimann (a with it and Delivering as Karloff a Performance Karloff can) and his Hunchback assistant Daniel (Nash), and I like both of them more or less on their own a bit.

Yes, as goofy as he appears and not all that scary I even like John Carradine for the short time he gets to impress as Dracula (how can you not laugh when he raises his cape so wide like the Master in Manos and then turns into an animated stock bat), and I especially like Gwynne as Rita, a beautiful wide-eyed romantic foil for Dracula and who can cut a strong figure when leaning over a precisely placed lamp in a room. The problem is just as we are getting into this story it stops - or rather ol Dracs gets burnt by the sun on a way to the coffin - and we have to move on to discovering Talbot and Monster in their last Temp Resting Place (frozen in ice this time, which makes for a fantastic set that Karloff and Danel get a few minutes to wander around).

I like Chaney in this as much if not more than in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, despite some of his clunky dialog, as he is mostly playing off of Verdugo and has sweet and believable chemistry with her. Other problem (the thing that makes me say "less" before) is that the Monster, here played by Glen Strange, with some direction to him by Karloff himself, is barely in the movie and by the time he arrives it's over. And yet I still enjoy the atmosphere of this movie, I like those scenes with Nash trying to impress upon a woman before she sees his disgusting hump (what hump? Ho-ho), and how quick Dr. Neimann is able to seize upon the late Dr Frankenstein's plans to make his next Mad creation.

So, I can't really argue for it on story grounds, but it's just good fast Monster Movie fun with a strong cast and a good ending.

The Velvet Underground

They're in a rock n roll band
(Jonathan Richman on Velvet Underground): "For me, it was like being in the presence of Michelangelo!"

Now, let's not get too crazy here - Michelangelo never created anything as rad as "I'm Waiting for the Man" :p

This is the kind of documentary you can sink into, that moves from one part to the next seamlessly. And it made me realize that how they created those first songs and that first album is even more miraculous than I had thought before. It's like a really clear and inspirational look - and inspiration that comes from depicting life in an honesty and sadness that came from personal spots - also at how this group managed to synthesize art into many forms... because it wasn't "with it" (oh how they go after the hippies here, or at least Woronov who is a great interview). Real art actually pushes past what came before while embracing so many other kinds of art (from the most avant garde to the Everly Brothers in pop), and Haynes's doc does a superb job of revealing that.

Haynes did a q&a after the screening I went to (oh I'm so glad I got to see the title on a big screen if nothing else, but those Warhol Screen Tests really are more interesting in a theatrical setting, though it helps that there's split screen to juxtapose and so on that's so great, I digress but the editing is some of the most invigorating in a doc in years) - he called this kind of a Dreamscape of the 60s and New York, and it's a dream that vacillates in the joy and thrill of creating something new and the edge and uncanny and dark that comes with that. And the fact that the footage of the Underground largely rests in the Factory world makes it a story of that, too... up to a point.

But at the heart of it and what drives it to being so absorbing is Lou Reed. There's a mystery and sadness to him that the film can only scratch the surface to see, not because it doesn't mean to try but because it would be too disrespectful to try to make hypothetical things. He's just... Lou.

And lastly... I still don't get Warhol, either. Frankly, maybe I've just never been cool or hip enough for it. Vinyl (1965) is not bad, though. And I'm glad there was mention of (the Factory) being not all peaches and cream, especially for the women.

Son of Frankenstein

"Why should we fear anything?"
After the very brisk pacing of the 31 and Bride Frankenstein movies, this clocking in at 100 minutes feels a bit long, and there are at least a couple of courtroom/inquest type scenes that could have been trimmed if not cut altogether. It's also impossible to watch this and not flash to the skeleton of Young Frankenstein - and Atwill/Kenneth Mars - and how close it is in resemblance (to the point where early on I was cracking up just as much if not more than how Mars did the character with that big fake arm).

But Lugosi is totally fabulous as Igor, a man who is completely giddy at seeing how easily Baron Wolf gets into The Work (oh what a name, nothing bad can come from that I mean he's a doctor after all) and then when it comes time for things things get serious he becomes possessive; Rathbone despite reportedly going BIG for the role because he wasn't a fan of horror films really nails this reluctance turned brief (if compared to Clive muted) excitement and then denial and negotiating with his own self sense of "oh this is nothing wrong" in that last third, and by the way anyone for darts; and yeah absolutely Karloff should be more in this, but what he gets to do in the second half is fun, I love the scene with him looking at his fur fashion item in the mirror (and how Igor gropes him in it oh wow), and bringing him back to being silent is an odd move but not an unwelcome one. And the sets are garish and creative in the decay and post-last film events rot.

So, this is good, and a fun sequel, though it can't help but be a letdown after what Whale did with it. All the same it should be seen for Lugosi, he gets what Clive got in part 1 and Thesiger in part 2: an iconic, larger than life performance - and remarkably, his Igor was created day to day as the script wasn't finished(!)

The Living Daylights

"We have an old saying, Georgi: you're full of it" solid entertainment, could be more but glad it's not less
Dalton is more than a solid Bond; it may be that I currently, since I didn't grow up on his take on the character, can't help but associate him as a hard-boiled Secret Agent Man, physical and commanding and not just with an edge but almost a potentially much darker side suggestable to him (and yes surely some of that is because of Hot Fuzz and that meme of him, but nonetheless). I like that he is a 007 who you can believe could blow someone's head off - or leave someone to die - with ease, but he also finds little grace notes of tenderness and a grin that tells us if he isn't as in on the joke as a Connery he's at least understanding that this character can have some depth as a semi-serious person, not to mention a certain bemusement when seeing a double-cross.

The plot is good and fairly intriguing if a little reliant on twists to keep us engaged; I'd be curious if I saw this again years from now how much I'd remember and also how much the turns in the plot would be so compelling, since the one real villain here, Koskov - not Joe Don Baker or John Rhys Davies, who can chew scenery like bosses even if they're not as believable as Krabbe (who you remember as the guy who pushed PROVASIC in The Fugitive, oh if only I saw this before that I'd know what to expect, but I digress) - is formidable but not quite fun enough to elevate things into being a full blown Entertainment.

As comparison think back to Sevalas in Majesty and how he was big but still threatening, not just like a Tom Clancy villain. And sadly D'Abo try as she might can't really hold her own with Dalton, maybe not fair but still, fine eye candy but kind of generic on any dramatic front and left out to dry by director Glen. It may be hard in general not to stack this up to other movies in the series, though as a stand-alone spy adventure, with the one cringe coming with the sight of Afghanistan and everything loaded with that baked potato, it doesn't get too bogged down and moves at a decent clip. It's not one of the best but far from the worst. I also love the A-Ha song as a fan of 80s cheese.


But will they understand?
Bob Balaban is a director in his debut completely invested in idiosyncratic, visually audacious and psychologically rich choices that maybe one or two others could have made, and that's a maybe (perhaps Tim Burton if he was on a good day, or maybe even Verhoeven if he decided to do a "domestic" story), and it makes for a sincerely unsettling black comedy of behavior. This is the kind of movie that today would be drained completely of life and be one of those tepid paranormal-ish movies where a kid is bringing disturbing blood-red drawings to school with a detached and depressive attitude, and the parents (or at least one of them) would be normal.

I'm not even sure if this is a comedy in a usual sense? It's so uncanny that the comedy comes out of not set up and payoff but just odd stuff like how Sandy Dennis roots around for a cigarette, and how deadpan Randy Quaid is is at first kind of amusing, but quickly it is exactly right for this total sociopath of a medical professional who, as the Justin Timberlake song Filthy goes, is cooking up a mean serving of all that meat. Meanwhile, Angelo Badalamenti is scoring this like I should be taking a cha-cha class to the point where I can picture his buddy David Lynch going "enough!"

It's questionable if Parents tonally all connects if it means to go for the darkest humor in the world, but as a stone-cold familial horror story the pace keeps things ticking without (forgive the expression in this context) an ounce of fat, and you understand right away why the son is like this because, well, look who raised him!

The nightmare sequences are chilling because of how Balaban keeps the frame going and uses the logic of illogical terror in a nightmare with the cutting. Maybe it was all in the script, but I'm not so sure. One could almost argue it's 'showing off' on a first go, but the suspense is tight as a cork: you know Michael will find out, but how the parents will react is when the cork gets pulled out. And the kid playing Michael does very well at looking like his small butthole is clenched to the point of an aneurysm.

The girlfriend character is needlessly odd, and I'm not sure it had to be so full of 50s homage (at times I forgot that was part of the milieu and other times it was very obvious), with the music cue in one kill scene kind of... inappropriate(!) But this is the perfect title to throw on when you're looking for one quick thing on Prime late at night, a true oddity that is my jam. I'm not eating meat for a while now, and definitely not making much in the way of burgers from chop meat. Maybe Julia Ducournau is a fan?


A good if just shy of great intimate Epic on the horror of war
This is a phenomenally handsomely shot and designed picture, where director Peter Weir, cinematographer Russel Boyd and his team (including none less than John Seale) manage to make so many scenes pop like these shiny memories encapsulated into an epic that is really about how human beings failed in a massive way through no fault of the young grunts who were eager to do right for their country. It's anti-war by design as well, which makes the forty five minutes of the film where characters are becoming closer by just screwing about with the locals in an Egyptian city equally involving and frustrating.

Of course there shouldn't be much more to these young guys, that's the point, and there is personality to go around... except that this, far more than even the first Mad Max, is Gibson's star making turn and he is so confident and yet relaxed and amused and bemused and full of all that piss and vinegar hiding total fear, that it kind of overshadows others including his co-lead Mark Lee, a perfectly sevicable actor who has the poor luck of having Gibson by his side. And it's not that Lee should pop more than his costar, but he is very good at one thing on screen which is seeming very high spirited and naive. That can work in spurts but only for so long, and indeed his character is gone for a long stretch until the two blokes run into each other in a training exercise scene.

What stands out to me when it's all over are those passages where not a lot or little is said and the visual grammar carries the day, like when the two young men are going through that desert and can't even have a fight because it's too hot out, or that one scene where the uncle is reading Kipling to the kids. There is bountiful ambition to behold, and in that last section a whole lot of "oh no, this stupid Face it All and You Will GO" s*** that also made a similar film about the horror of not simply being shot but being ordered to be shot in the face of total despair and ruin in WW1, Paths of Glory, so unforgettable Weir finds the tragic meat that we haven't been seeing till now.

I think... it's tough because I don't want to be like a few other critics I've read who say that the film isn't angry enough - not everything has to be Platoon or Full Metal Jacket - on the other hand, the PG rating and the intentions to make it fairly, well, tastefully depicted to a point means that the horror these people experience is kept at a slight distance. In order to critique something you have to show it, and there is only so much to show here as far as devastation (though the faces, those closeups, are tremendous in that sense of tight-lipped insanity and despair). Gallipoli is a good movie that I only wish went further.


Tasty! Gross! Mesmerizing! Ugly! Beautiful! So many things at once but what a director and star!
How about that? In France, joining Skull and Bones means something quite different (and perhaps more literal, oui).

Raw is a viscerally exciting, savage and in your face to a level that is upsetting and shocking, and I love just looking at the thing and how it unfolds with a smorgasbord of surreal sights that are fully places in how much one's and others flesh can be the most unnerving sight (un but very) imaginable. Guaranteed Milliner it should be said right up front is key to it feeling so on edge and physically charged. There are also some... wild logical leaps one has to take with at least some if not the primary characters - ie how the whole "Jump and Crash a Car to Eat Brains" thing works, and why that one guy is so fine with getting laid after Justine did *that* to the other guy - and there isn't much in the shall one say development for these two past Justine becoming completely consumed by the need to... consume, and occasionally trash around in mania. Maybe the casual murder and insatiable need to sink teeth and taste *anything* is enough.

But, aside from the pace being tight and finding increasingly disturbing ways of freaking out an audience, even (especially) the ones who think they've seen it all (that one dolly in where the guy gets his eyeball licked, merde!), this is all the same thrillingly alive debut as far as how Ducournau's camera gets so intensely close and intimate with these faces and pieces of meat, which those being human beings most of all but sometimes a cow's ass and a horse or two as well, and frankly it's exciting to see a filmmaker so in tune with depicting youth so out of control... and what going OUT of that means. It's a vampire movie that understands intertwining sexual need and the need for filling a stomach.

Or as my wife (an only child) said before this finished: "This is what I always pictured siblings would be like.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

A different Chevy Chase movie and that's a good thing
Most likely the two highest compliments I could pay to Memoirs of an Invisible Man are that, for one, it isn't what one thinks of as the typical Chevy Chase movie and, secondly, it's striking as a Richard Matheson-lite kind of scenario explored (this isn't a slight, quite the opposite). The film Memoirs reminded me more than anything else, when it was at its strongest, was The Incredible Shrinking Man, a story that explores the terrifying existential waking nightmare of the condition that this is - becoming very small or becoming invisible and all the very real and practical problems of functioning and in society - and not taking it at least at heart as a joke.

This doesn't mean that Memoirs, like Shrinking Man, doesn't find beats and moments or full set pieces that can have a humorous bent (a cat pawing after a tiny man is scary but it's also kind of funny for example), and seeing, for example, Chevy Chase walking down a street as a woman gets her purse stolen and quickly takes it back from the thief and hands it to the woman again in seconds finds that comic book absurdity. But this isn't strictly a comedy, which makes me happy that I'm seeing it about 30 years after it came out instead of earlier. How I didn't see it as a kid, whether right after it came out (my dad rented most anything with Chevy because hey it's Chevy) or once I got into John Carpenter, I have no idea, but the distance and getting older may have helped to see this more as its own thing. This doesn't mean it isn't weak in places or that the main romance isn't the strongest, yet as a piece of throwback-in-attitude but not strict style science fiction drama it's captivating and involving.

Really this is more interesting as a Chevy Chase movie than one for the director; Carpenter was a studio hired gun (Ivan Reitman reportedly had a falling out with the star and dropped out) and his mark is in keeping the pace never too slack and the compositions favor the action bring dynamic (if a little less than other films by him than... yeah). So, it's Chase who the studio favored, but I like that he takes the character and the story seriously and does that rarity for him which is playing it straight. His narration is part of the Matheson comparison, hard to say if that's from the book or Goldman or rewrites the point is it's there as more pulpy comic-book sci-fi that I can get behind, and that mostly plays too to emphasize his struggle.

He did that sometimes in his career, and maybe was straighter depending on who he was in a scene with (ie Nothing but Trouble), but there's no mugging and nothing in his voice that tells us this is a comedy, and that makes the bits when it is amusing work more. His Nick isn't a buffoon or clueless, if anything he has no choice but to become equal parts mortified and adapt and become adept at his condition and it gives him an arc since he starts as kind of a vanilla typical white guy (as we're told he doesn't have much in friends too). Adding to this is a straightforward and kind of average but not badly done turn by Daryl Hannah, and a turn from Sam Neill who is menacing without having to over-do it or go to that. To put it this way, he can threaten someone's manly bits in a moment of rage and barely raise his voice or profile, and that's damn extraordinary acting to me.

It does start to soften in the second half once the romance picks up a bit more, as for as believable as the characters may be on their own the two don't quite gel as much as they should - or I should say why would she just immediately fall for him, uh, so much going on aside from the invisibility and desire to trade stocks and run away, is that it - and there is Brownface that I was less offended by and more just confused for why it needed to be there at all. It may help ultimately to go into this with not low but limited expectations, and I have to think like myself a number of you will come to this either after going through many of Chevy's main titles and hits or Carpenter's catalog.

I wondered if I might be indifferent to it, and was happily surprised by the quality of the special effects for the time, which show that JC had more of a budget to play with that usual and his crew did great work with him, and that the drama worked, the bits of comedy worked and the exploitation of the sci-fi genre part of it worked most of all. It's a well-oiled basic B movie elevated with A list talent.

Last but not least is a wild piece of trivia to me: it may be notable for some of you that this is one of the only times Carpenter didn't also compose the music for the film, but what you didn't know (thanks imdb) is that Shirley Walker, suggested by Chevy by the way so for once good on him, was in composing and orchestrating the score the first woman to have that title on a major Hollywood movie. By 1992. Holy (invisible voice says expletive) people!

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Sharp, funny and terribly involving with stellar acting
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a riveting, uncomfortable tragic-comedy about Tammy Faye Messner nay Bakker and that bucket of chum-I mean charm her husband Jim and what it's like to be suffocating and perpetually sickened in a flaccid marriage hooked on Diet *Coke. It can't help but venture into beats where it finds the comedy in this living nightmare of Propsperity Gospel in part because the director Michael Showalter comes from that background (from Wet Hot American Summer to The Big Sick), but also because there are times if you don't have a laugh at the absurdity and near surreality that Tammy has found herself in and can't escape, because you know Patriarchy (and of course the scene where she pulls up the chair to the All-Men table is with as loud a chair as can be and only "Jerry" responses instead of Reverend, and dog bless her for that) you could right well explode. It should be awkward to be in these spaces some/most of the time. I'd feel awkward if you weren't feeling that way.

There are at times the movie can't not escape some moments or scenes where surely one thing happened in the real story and then a thing concurrently didn't (ie Tammy Faye talking to the Steven the AIDS guest on TV as Falwell happens to be visiting that day and tales umbrage with what he's seeing), and once the fall-out happens and Jim goes to prison the movie feels like it's going too long most in those last twenty or so minutes when up until then the pace has been terrifically jumping but connecting from one time to the next.

It's also hard not to wish a few details were kept in that strangely got left out either due to its already long runtime or who knows what - and I don't even mean Jessica Hahn, that's fine as it's ultimately Tammy Faye's story and that matters mostly inasmuch as what it does to drill the final nail in the coffin like a thunderbolt, I mean that Tammy Faye actually *married another PTL head honcho (the one we see briefly flirting with her in the golf cart) who ALSO went to jail for crimes while at the company. Sweet Jebuz!

But ultimately this is a film for an actor to sink his/her/their entire solar plexus into, and Chastain (also producer) never makes Tammy Faye's faith a butt of a joke. That's remarkable because the film could have made it a mockery and her belief and prayer is played and written completely sincerely, and yet at the same time she understands that this was a simultaneously someone who could fill a room with her presence while being the most chipper and wholesome thing this side of Mr. Rogers (she even had the puppets!) Every note she's give to play she performs it like she's trying to find a deeper level to tap into, and importantly she understands too when moments behind the scenes and on TV take on this heightened pitch-black comic state all on behavior.

As for Andrew Garfield, it's his best performance yet. He makes Jim Bakker into, well, what if Ned Flanders happened to get injected with a bit of the spirit of Jordan Belfort? A seemingly wholesome guy who actually is a total fraud in his beliefs as well as his practices, and every grimace and tightening of the face muscles is communicated loud and clear, not to mention how he pitches his voice which is a significant part of Chastain's work too. He makes Jim Bakker so pathetic and yet he never feels like he will slip totally into self parody, like as awful as he is he is still a human being and those faults are what makes him who he is. These are BIG personalities and Garfield, who I've found in so many roles to have this knack for creepy, makes him someone you can't stop looking at.

This turned out as good as I was expecting as far as the story (want more check out the You're Wrong About which I might add Chastain did in preparation, too), and my only other hope is it doesn't get buried too far come awards time.


On Becoming a Part of Something
This is said at least a few times if not more by the lead character Detective Bob Gold of Homicide, and this I might call it a striving seems to be his problem in the film. Since we're taking Jews here, it seems as though he either forgot or never heard or should've taken more to heart one of the great axioms by a Jew, Groucho Marx, when he said "I wouldn't want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member."

To me that's what Mamet is after here, as even though he doesn't neglect a narrative or the conflict for the detective between the two cases before him, the Big One for what seems to be more like the kind of case one saw in Police procedurals all the time but on a more realistically mounted scale or the seemingly minor shooting of an old Jewish grocery store owner who happened to be running guns for a time and had more or less a super closed-off but powerful sect of Jews with guns (and, rightly so, fighting anti-semites and Nazis where they might me), this is a character study ultimately about this man and the problem of being a "part" of something.

Mamet doesn't wrestle with or confront how so many many many cops are racist as are so many corresponding limbs of law enforcement and justice - and despite what is said, the majority of people, whatever race or ethnicity, look at Jews as *white* even if/when a name like Gold comes up - but at the same time Mamet also doesn't shy away from showing cops to be super hard-headed assholes and, actually, anti-semitism is not something that would be uncommon in a world where Black men can have some measure of equal footing, if not in some cases more power, and the vast majority of whites are Irish (and here I go stereotyping, but what're you gonna do). The Cop as a Club part is pretty clear and the conflicts in the drama are minor and major, ie will Bob be pushed into going into the evidence locker to get that list for Ricky Jay and those guys, and will he be there to back up his fast-talking but decent hearted buddy (William H Macy in a solid role), yet what impresses me more is that Mamet didn't shy from Jews being their own kind of exclusionary group - to, specifically, another Jew.

This is more personal for me as it's something I've seen and dealt with in my life as someone raised Reform - and guess what, not only can I count on one hand in the last decade I've worn a Yarmulke but bacon and lobster are reasons to keep on living - and as my name and look isn't outwardly Jewish it rarely comes up if ever.... except when I was younger and it did, and while I won't go into a long story I've experienced anti-semitism (and the "K" word) more than once.

So, how the world of Orthodox or even Conservative Jews, the metaphorical (or is it literal) umbilical cord tied to Israel, how symbols are viewed (that one guy in the library is a terrifically written and subtly played scene) and not seeming to be Jewish enough because one can't make out Hebrew words on a page, that all rings true and authentic and Mamet walks this very fine line as a storyteller using Jews as people who are very powerful and yet greatly oppressed at once, that the fight against Anti-Semites and Nazis who use rats as propaganda on fliers must be stopped... but does one lose one's individuality in the process?

Does the power come from defense? Maybe. But it doesn't make them any less of a club or exclusionary or look at Bob as not *quite* one of them when he wants to try to get closer to their world - another great scene in this vein comes when he's on the phone with his cop friend blabbing in the Jewish house he's doing police work in about how awful the place and people are... and Rebecca Pigeon is right there in a cringe reveal that I'm still feeling as I write this review. I think what this all boils down to is that this a sharp and incisive character study with some beats that, at least at this time in Mamet's life and political outlook, let the audience figure out where they may or may not stand.

I's a morality play with almost as many F-words as Glengarry Glen Ross, at least in the first half, it asks more questions questions it could hope to answer, it ends with a helluva anti-climax (or even a series of them), and he has Roger Deakins to make this dark existential reckoning have depth and shadow and to never feel ripped out of a specific place and time.

Last but not least, Ving Rhames shows up (near the end) and almost manages to steal the movie away. What an actor!

On Broadway

A fine overview of the industry that could have been more
This is a documentary that may not know it but it's a relatively decent and sometimes (inherently for me) interesting overview cum history cum haigography of Broadway over more or less the last 50 years where it went into a downturn because of (waving hands around) New York in the 1960s and 70s, and for about altogether and cumulatively ten minutes it's also a look at how a not-high-profile play that's about to go into production with a Transgender woman lead, Alexandra Billings, and these two sides are at cross purposes.

The bulk of the documentary is fine, but leaves out a lot of details (how do they show quick clips of Hendrix and the Who and Otis Redding to represent how rock concerts became more popular for I guess a time than Broadway and yet not cut to HAIR for a minute or two) that even a practical novice like myself would want to see shown (well, I read Wasson's Bio of Fosse but that has a whole lot that this could get into since it is concerned with business as well as culture), and once it gets into the headlong Commercialization/British invasion of the 1980s it has this general take in the interviews of "yeah I mean these musicals were shallow, but... money, right?"

I have to wonder if the doc filmmakers should've seen more of an opportunity with the BTS of the production of The Nap, and it's not that they couldn't have been aware of how process and everything that goes with it in every step is compelling; they feature as one of the first major landmark moments for theatee and Broadway in the early 70s the Sondheim show of Company and Pennebaker's own film about recording the cast album, so it's there baked into how audiences in other mediums got exposed to the innovations at hand.

Maybe there wasn't enough of the footage or the production of The Nap didn't want *everything* open to the filmmakers, or (as another Letterboxd reviewer pointed out, the show didn't really stay around for long and was itself a London export), but if that was the case they didn't have to use this show as some thin skeleton to hang the rest of the story on to, even if apparently it was (somewhat) a critical success and Billings is a terrific interview when she's on camera (the director and writer are... okay, but what about the other actors).

Despite this issue of the story of this show being frustratingly small scale in the midst of a story of Broadway that feels so very cliff-notes (maybe even like a truncated school report?) I still enjoyed the footage that's here to give context about the Schuberts and Jacobs and the literal real estate maneuvers and the destruction of the theaters in the early 80s, I'm endlessly fascinated about how Cats became.... friggin' Cats, and I like the section on August Wilson. There's material here where you can sense the subjects are mixed and complicated about how so intensely commodified Broadway has become starting with Disney and movie stars coming in and riding off the coattails of the Lloyd Wbeer and British wave and how homegrown stories suffer a loss amid the unfathomable NYC rental prices.

If you need the most basic primer on the most contemporary history of the world this is a decent place to start, but it seems like there's more opportunity for Ken Burns or someone along those lines for a more comprehensive series on Broadway (sort of like his Jazz yknow).

One last thing... what was up with Jonathan Pryce humping that car in that clip from Miss Saigon? Is that what the rest of that show was like?

Twice Upon a Time

A true oddity and it is lovely
Twice Upon a Time is such a confounding and exceptional conceptual piece that the term 'off-kilter' starts to lose its meaning when one wonders where the kilter ends or begins. It's a film made in a process that the first title tells us is called "Luminage" or maybe it's "Lumage" and it's in some part in that cut-out style of figures on paper popularized by Terry Gilliam and much later to an extent by South Park, but the approach is with a fantasy surrealscape where little purple figures come at night on to human beings to give them their dreams until until their creator is imprisoned and needs to be rescued (I guess).

The word of this film is crammed with stuff and objects and designs that are somewhere between Yellow Submarine and that one obscure Czech film your roommate showed you in college that you can't remember the title but damn didn't it go well with Indica. It includes a villain called Synonymous Bosch (truly a memorable name if there ever was one, and look for a tattoo on his chest of Nixon/Agnew '68), a duo of heroes including Ralph, the "all-purpose" animal (albeit we don't see fully what he's made of till the climax he still is delightful and sounds an awful lot like Garfield), and an eccentric damsel with a (even for this movie) a funny-shaped head and a would-be tough guy hero who has more muscles than brains.

It's hard to describe why exactly this all worked for me because many parts don't, such as song choices distinctly from the 1980s (produced by Michael McDonald and even if he doesn't sing on them you know it's him) that date the film by way of the tone being so painfully Soft Rock, and there are more than a couple of times where characters talk so closely together that dialog doesn't overlap so much as collide together and it makes for a story that involves a quest/mission to save a couple of characters and stop that madman Bosch from disturbing whatever this fantasy netherregion that is to put it mildly disjointed. On the other hand, when there's so much boundless and energetic creativity, why carp? This is the kind of production that features our hapless hero characters are in a nightmare sequence- directed by Henry Selick no damn less - getting chased by evil/possessed office supplies (and it is *great*).

I know some are a little bewildered that George Lucas is producer in this, but this is exactly something Lucas (director of all those shorts and THX 1138) wanted to see come to be and he helped make it happen. I understand why it's obscure because it doesn't play by any set of rules, the designs of almost everyting is eccentric and it really doesn't pick up steam until it barrels into its final twenty minutes, though what magnificently deranged and ecstatically funny minutes they are. But if you have a hankering for animation that takes risks, dares to make vivid the nonsensical, or filmmaking in general, it's fun to discover it for the first time and get absorbed into a one of a kind experience. It's a pleasant drug trip of a movie; if it hadn't come in the 90s it would've been right at home on MTV's Liquid Television or Oditties.

Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed

The Joy of a good documentary
Some of the details around the most recent lawsuit become a bit too murky and the lack of more people who were affiliated with or worked with or just knew the Kowalskis not coming forward ultimately makes the documentary lopsided. But the core of this story is an emotional one and how Ross came to his start going around and teaching painting and the prominence and popularity of the show and in particular the son Steve Ross and his own tragic path is affecting and captivating.

I think Ross himself (Bob, I mean) is a soothing kind of Total Human Presence so to speak - a cool moment that I didn't think of as one of his collaborators brings up is how he knew his voice would be soothing as a contrast to another artist he saw on TV, but moreover that it would be good for women who were his primary demo (though they had a uh liking for him more than he expected) - and I'm sure it's no accident he like Mr Rogers was on PBS for much of his public life (and an interesting irony the movie doesn't seem to grapple with is how he was on public broadcast but the people around him had no compunction selling out as soon and fast as they could).

If it may leave out points that a film with more access to subjects could get to, even to let people hang themselves out to dry (ie like the Woodstock 99 doc a month ago), it leaves one with a picture of a largely uncomplicated and sensitive man who fell in with some... Capitalists, and everything that goes with them. Whether they are good or bad ones is left up to the audience to decide.

The Cat Above and the Mouse Below

Chuck Jones above and below good comic taste
In full disclosure, I was never a big Tom and Jerry kid since I found I got the same or better gags from Sylester and Tweety - and by this time we had Itchy and Scratchy and those bits and episodes took the general concept into the satirical stratosphere - but even when Chuck Jones and Maltese are recycling gags from the Rabbit of Seville and the other Ooera short where Bugs conducted that bastard Leopold to his demise it's a lot if sharply timed comic hijinks and loaded with personality. Maybe that last part is a thing for me, that Jones understood how to get more impact-filled performances from his performers while Hannah/Barbera at least some of the time were less exacting. The attitude also counts and Jones understood how to implement it by this point. Or I have my preferences and that's enough. But I like the above and below idea and it's played through with style and a quickness and it doesn't overstay its welcome.

Domicile conjugal

"I'd have liked to have been your wife, too"
What does it mean to be married, like properly so? As someone who has been in a pretty terrific one for a lot of years, one of the key things is that you should try to, as corny as it may sound to some of you, be friends - nay, to be a best friend - and to actually be in a partnership where the affection has to keep moving to somewhere, even (especially even) if it doesn't feel like it is at times. In Bed and Board, Antoine Doinel has to reckon with what a marriage is and how, whether it's based from where he has been in a home life that was unstable and rather mean and cold on its better times, he can't keep the love and friendship consistent, and certainly not to the level Christine expects or deserves.

I think Bed and Board is most fascinating and involving because it is another part of the complicated saga of Doinel's life. You need that context for it to work so well, and on its own I wonder if it may have been more off putting or simply confusing when very late in the film, once Doinel has been found out by Christine that he's been cheating with a (can't believe I'm typing these words) less interesting Yoko Ono kind if character and has been in this affair for some time and it seems like his marriage may be on the rocks, he calls up Christine multiple times while at dinner with his would-be side squeeze to complain about how miserable he is and... it's almost like he needs permission for it to all be over, that he's OK and that it'll all work out.

Ill leave it to you to watch it to find that out. But suffice it to say this is on its own terms at times sort of equal parts mundane and entertaining in a completely off-beat and off-kilter way, such as the various interlopers and neighbors in the apartment complex where Antoine and Christine (a very engaging and excellent and can hold her own with Leaud level performer in Claude Jade) live together, and as well equal parts amusing and heartbreaking.

I mean, this is a movie where at one point Antoine breaks through a wall with an axe or sledgehammer like a more jokey Jack Torrance, and at another when Christine confronts Antoine with his infidelity (she finds it out because the Japanese lady has been leaving messages in roses which in a string of events I won't get into end up in the apartment and she sees them) by uh dressing up in Japanese garb and make up and wtf I laughed but I'm not sure why. Oh, and Jacques Tati makes a cameo as M Hulot getting on a train because Truffaut is I guess making a Hulot movie only Doinel is like far from that(?)

I love a good marriage drama or story on infidelity, and this absolutely has that if nothing else because this couple with Leaud and Jade are wonderful together, as they convey how each really in their own way is trying to make this marriage work, whether it's in those little moments in bed when it's time to turn off the lights (a particular tender moment involving her glasses is something that feels lived in like if Truffaut or his writers didn't take it from a real moment then the actors did), or when they do have their blow-out fights (that poor mattress).

Again, it's fascinating that this is the follow-up so soon after Stolen Kisses as it has sometimes the same light tone but other times manages to probe into the existential maybe-trauma exploration of 400 Blows, and eventually in the film it becomes clearer that the little things with Doinel, how he acts or reacts or closes up or looks at another person, is all about what HE is looking for or needs, while Christine has to just take it.

In other words, this is a good movie, at times really good, but it is contigent on if you've seen the other parts of what these people have gone through. As a tale of marriage it is both sweet and unfortunate, like biting into a bar of rich milk chocolate that has a sour patch kids middle, and one where Truffaut (because after all this is his and to an extent Leaud's alter ego) is self criticizing himself and men like them. And the filmmaker's idiosyncrasies make it linger and pop more than what you'd get with anyone else, though I can't help but feel the parts are greater than the whole here. Oh well, on to the last part!

Baisers volés

Antoine Doinel - hopeless romantic, decent detective and a sympathetic comic foil for Truffaut
The best way to approach Stolen Kisses is to come to terms very quickly with the fact that the seemingly Stuck in the Wasteland of Life that was Antoine Doinel at the end of 400 Blows didn't last that way. I think that one of the things that makes Stolen Kisses work is that in its own lighter yet not much less efficient way communicates how becoming a man is about much more than finding a line of satisfying work or even being with the right woman (though that is important), rather it's what it means to be comfortable in one's own skin.

The pivotal scene that I'm sure will wake up even the most tired people watching the film is when Doinel, channeling the frenzied mindset of an actor that all young people have to get into from time to time, talks to the mirror and repeats the names of his would-be love interests as well as his own. He finally stops and rubs his face and can't go on. It's a funny scene, as many are in the film, but it's also revelatory about a certain state of being which is uncertainty, trying to figure out who they are as well as oneself.

Of course much of the film isn't as intense as that, and as another decidedly episodic saga about Doinel falling in with a detective agency (a profession that involves watching and following ala Hitchcock characters like Scottie in Vertigo, and I'm sure this is a light spoof on so many noirs Truffaut consumed) I'm sure it was something Truffaut could see himself doing or at least saw the comic personal potential (and lo and behold there are comic moments involved with this, from say a truck blocking a view for Antoine as he follows someone and he's on a phone call, to a man discovering something about the woman he loved and exploding emotionally in the office on the chief detective). But it's also impressive how there is some consistency with Antoine from Blows and also the short from 62 with Collette; at one point he gets close with Christine and she isn't unreceptive, but he pushes it too far and (we can reasonably see) is too aggressive in kissing her. Shouldn't he know better by now? Or should he? He's still got learning to do how to be with a woman, it appears, and not just a prostitute.

I'm amazed that so much of Stolen Kisses works because it is frankly a loose affair - another reviewer described it closer to when a friend fills you in on details of life in a letter, like this happened and then this and somehow this happened next, though sometimes, like the man who wants his shoe store investigated because he simply thinks someone doesn't like him and he just knows he isn't an unpleasant fella, yikes - and where it ends up may even be a quasi happy ending that it didn't fully earn.

Yet there's still the same sense as in the last Doinel stories that he isn't trying to screw things up, in his job or with the women he gets involved with (including Delphine Seyrig as the wife of the shoe salesman who overhears how much Antoine has a thing for her and, in Elaine Benes speak, is *into it*), it's that he is stumbling and figuring things out as he goes. To put it another way, he's like Charlie Brown but if he figured out Lucy and the football for the next time around (or might run away as soon as she saw her coming again).

And all the while Leaud is so appealing even when Antoine does one or two or unkind things. He's got natural and affable comic timing, yet there's still this sensitivity or even vulnerability that he brings to flesh out what Truffaut is giving him in the script (which given the inprovisatory nature of these films may not be a lot), so like when he is hiding under the covers and Seyrig comes by to finally confront him about this unlikely romance he's kind of charming even in this slightly embarrassing refrain. It's like he finds these little Sparks of poetic behavior so that even when he is in a potentially ridiculous or silly scene or when he rushes out after saying "Sir" to Seyrig, it doesn't feel unrealistic or like out of some latter day romantic comedy. It's a sweet performance in a sweet movie about people who, like Antoine, are trying to figure things out, just not all in the same ways.

As for the very ending... hmm, I need to sit on that for a minute or two.

Antoine et Colette

The French New Friend Zone
Or, Antoine finds out the hard way that it's really really important to read some of the signs that are there with a young woman who isn't reciprocating a kiss or even the holding of hands. He isn't actually quite so sympathetic as he is in the 400 Blows, but maybe the mid teenage years are just the absolute worst for someone who in partucular didn't have any guidance or role models when it came to a proper relationship - though we don't get it in a flashback here, remember how the only affection Antoine saw in his youth was happening to see his mother with another man making out on the streets - and his old buddy Rene isn't much help in the ways of romance or earning a woman's affections.

If there's anything that may make us go "ah no don't do that merde" in a kind of awkward way that shows his ignorance less than maliciousness, it's when he rents the space right across the street from her. What may still endear us to Antoine is that he realizes that he's all kinds of screwed up in reading the signs (ie the scene at the movie theater), and then that gut punch at the final dinner. Not to mention that all through this Leaud is still a compelling and sorrowful little force here, channeling a fine line between innocent and too much with his records and his fascination with Collette.

It's a short so we can only get so much, but it's like a bittersweet slice off of a piece of fruit to chew on before we get to the next Doinel (mis)adventure - the sweetness, lastly to note, coming from all that classical music that was so big with the youth then (oh, Antoine just wait till she meets the Beatles, but I digress). 7.5/10.


Not original, but it certainly is a lot of talent and energy for a film that doesn't know it's silly
This is one of those times my star rating shouldn't necessarily reflect the entire quality of the film in question. I enjoyed more than a few parts of Reminiscence, less because of actual satisfaction with the material or performances and more because it is not very good but is completely enjoyable despite all that.

This is such a sincere, clichéd, ambitious and silly piece of total pulp taken from not only Film Noir but from I may venture to assume Noir comics (like Sin City if it got tossed into the hands of a grad student working on a dissertation on recognizable but still science fiction hellscapes) and put into a pot roast where Hugh Jackman looks intense and sad and angry for two hours, Thandie Newton perfects concerned and/or consternation while occasionally (kind of inexplicably to me) turning total bad-ass assassin, and Rebecca Ferguson as one of the most attractive yet totally cold Femme Fatales this side of the ghost of Gene Tierny.

The dialog is so striving for the poetical it becomes hilarious and the concepts thrown in regarding the world around this memory-videography system where it's dystopia but there's also been a war and there's the Haves and Have Nots and zzzz but not much is done with it except there needs to be cool and seemingly deep ideas about society in turmoil as the backdrop. And when it's time for an action scene or fight to break out, the filmmaler Lisa Joy is much less compelled by realism than the thrill of seeing two guys tumble into a music room and you betcha the piano will get some use despite it making so little sense (again, looks cool how it floats down into the performance area).

Same thing as, and I credit my wife with pointing this out post screening, how Jackman's Nick mentions in one of his lugubrious narrations that Miami at night is when everything comes alive because it's too hot out in the day... but he still goes out in the day time sometimes, plus New Orleans which is also the deep south and turned over by climate change disaster, and he dons a full suit and tie and trenchcoat because God forbid he look like something outside of what Mitchum or Bogart perfected so long ago.

I could go on listing the sheer nonsense on tap in Reminiscence, but that wouldn't make for a particularly compelling review. No, if you think a much dumber yet still wildly watchable film that clearly is the off kilter (yet sadly sometimes still boring) love child of Dark City and Inception (and naturally this is by Nolan's sister in law, not to put her down for that, good for her to get an original screenplay made, especially one that swings so hard as this one), then go for it. Reminiscence is too long, too full of its own science fiction grandeur to take very seriously, and all the actors - I neglected to mention Cliff Curtis in a memorable snarly villain role with a great-terrible burn mark on his head- are bringing it 11000% and I am always grateful when people aren't phoning it in. And... can someone explain what the ending is all about? I mean I get it, but... why?

Nine Days

Being and Nothingness Redux
I may have ultimately found this somewhat more intellectually stimulating than emotionally, regarding the many philosophical and moral paths and implications that go into what one does in a life and how one regards violence and being violence or passive and of course what creativity brings about. The filmmaker Edson Oda - first feature as a writer-director and by itself that makes this a pretty major achievement to me - pulls off that tricky thing pretty well of exploring the ideas of simply living a "good" life or being a person wrought with inner pain and anguish (and what hiding that does to those who care about them) without falling into pedantry - in brief, it tackles empathy by putting it through the characters' perspectives. He provides a captivating backdrop, spare but interesting, without over explaining the mechanics of how these subjects are right at this place

There is an obvious point that is a flaw which is just how exceptional and perceptive Zazie Beets is (like once she's there game over you know). Buy Winston Duke is great at channeling a lot of preprinted thoughts and feelings, sometimes so explosively it could go the other way and not work but he always holds it together, and it is a surprisingly moving moment when he just talks about when his character was alive and performing a monologue he had to memorize last minute... to that end Walt Whitman (or at least his seminal work) makes an appearance!

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