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    21 years


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!


A dish best served meditatively
Revenge is certainly a dedicated film, mostly in its first half or so (up till about part 5, yep this is in patts), where the dedication is to having extremely beautiful pictures to go with one of the more oblique dramas that has ever been made - or at least screened at Cannes and later got into Criteeion via Scorsese. Everything is not so much at a remove as it is meditative to the point of inertia. It's like the filmmakers set out to craft a work where the pulpy joys and exploitation-type of thrills associated with a revenge story are thrown off its axis for the sake of... poetry I suppose.

Maybe at least for the first half it was not a great idea to watch after a long day of work and a poor night of prior sleep; for all the sumptuous lighting and evocation of a spare, tragic but also By-Nature-it-Surrounds-and-binds-us visuals, it's easy to forget what a juicy premise is at the center: a foolish and seemingly diabolical man (who we won't get to know really through the course of the story- also by design) kills a young girl and the family swears revenge - or rather the father takes a mute and/or deaf woman to birth a son who will have one purpose which is to avenge his half sister. What kind of life is that for a person predetermined to be one way? Is it like a cult mentality or even like those communities where a man is told this is what one must be for all time in relation to the world?

The problem is Sungu, the boy who becomes a man set to only find this man Yan and avenge her for his father (there may or may not be the art house version of the scene from the Raimi Spiderman where Norman tells Harry to do just that) is not really allowed to be an active presence until halfway into the picture. Either the scenes with the father, his family, Yan and the community around them needed more fleshing out or something more emotionally speaking, or just condense the set up and get to it being about Sungu's journey.

I suppose I'm so critical because once it gets to part 5 and beyond, where we see Sunju on his journey (at one point he is tempted by a lonely Romanian woman and the end of this scene is truly disturbing in an effective way) and, after being visited by ghosts of dad and half-sis, comes to the area where he may finally find Yan... and what he comes to is bitterly ironic, how the director and writer come upon this fate and how revenge in its way unfolds is fascinating and weirdly gripping. And I was absorbed by and liked the last ten minutes where the poetic and philosophic merge together into this mournful but theatrical musing, about how the totality of life and death come together under that sun and by the ocean.

In other words, Revenge is uneven and frustrating, though maybe that's more of an MP than a YP. I can't entirely recommend it, and the Tarkovsky comparisons I've seen on here and elsewhere don't add up for me (he also takes his deliberative ass time but there's more psychically and spiritually I get from there than this gives for at least a while), but the moments it has are vivid and even horrific and jarring.


The Lack of Limits of Poetic Control
Limite is the kind of abstract film, where the author behind it, Peixoto (as director, scenarist, producer, editor, cameraperson and I'm sure protectionist for that splendid "Carlito" Charlie Chaplin scene taken from The Adventurer), is out to create a distinct and practically unrelenting mood that cinema can indeed express, that I don't think I would have had the attention span or patience for ten or fifteen years ago. Have I built up more cinematic fiber to the point where an excursion into the realm of that idiom critics love to throw around but gets used sometimes too much, a Tone Poem on celluloid, where I can find not only sections of this fascinating but intriguing as to where something might go next? It's hard to say exactly, except that by a certain point in my life I find myself connecting morr with more intricate visual flows of images and cuts and am curious as to how long a director like this can take a single image much less a sequence or Kuhleshov set up... if only it weren't quite this long.

I completely get the two sides of an audience coin for this, that someone might turn it on (via the recently restored, to the best of the World Cinema cum Brazil cinema foundations abilities, on blu ray on Criterion) and find it punishing in its lack of any traditional narrative momentum. And to an extent I get those who think the word "Masterpiece" in the description isn't even high praise enough, like the one moment where the camera following behind the one woman walking depressedly along, as she does through much of her flashbacks, and then pivots to get close on a bug resting on a small flower off to the side is worthy of a chapter in a dissertation on the whole thing, or that imposing image of the man in that hat and suit walking along like he owns all. I'm somewhere in the middle, but I want to be more positive than not.

A film like Limite was made at a time, not least of which by a director at 22 who was formed by a medium before sync sound came in to the picture quite literally, when how to express an idea or series of new and experimental ideas visually was being discovered seemingly each week, each day, all over the world. While there is this flashback uh we can call it a structure I suppose to what's happening here, albeit with very few intertitles between characters talking (I may be able to count them on one hand), this strikes me as closer to a Visual Symphony of sorts or a cavalcade of images ala Dziga Vertov, only instead of it being a place like Berlin or Russia it's a small village in Brazil where nature and the objects inside the buildings takes precedence over the direct feelings of people... OK is that accurate? Maybe there's just so much beauty and misery in the world these three, the two women and the men, one feels like they can't take it, right?

In other words, there was and there still is a place for a work like Limite which means to explore through a rhythm that is, frankly, slower paced and (another dreaded word) meditative series of not events but wanderings and this sense of loneliness and perpetual desolation, which seems to also reflect the mood in this little boat out in the sea that we don't exactly know how they got on to or why they can't just leave (as an aside I saw someone compare this to Un chien Andalou for Latin America and nope don't see it sorry but that element of dedicated surrealism to the situstion of these three can call Bunuel in his later period).

There are even some moments where we get at least suggestions of lives lived in a certain way or class or tradition that the film itself may be breaking apart, seen most clearly in a scene at the cemetery where a dramatic confrontation occurs around a parentage. Other times, I get the feeling the director means to keep human interactions to a distinct remove or distance, whether it's shots of feet or shoes as characters speak together or when two meet on a street we see it in two shots cut together that are from afar and in this bizarre looking-up way that obscures their faces.

Maybe part of that is meant to connect to the fuzziness of memory, of how a mind picks and chooses things... or is it hallucination as may be want to happen when stranded on a boat without any amenities? This is a film that has very expressive and creative camera work and some dazzling and dizzying editing - when that one man is calling out in repeated motion (mayhap like stanzas repeated in a poem or song or musical piece) and the camera rushed along like someone is rushing along, it's thrilling - and other times it's simply about solitude and disarray. Again, something very much worthy to express in a film. But I can't say I wasn't also tried by the film, at times left wanting more, that two hours makes this a lot to endure. Even Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh would be like "Enough" with the many, many shots of Soggy gray clouds.

To put it in a harsher sense, Limite is a film I'm glad exists, yet I'd be lying if I said it wasn't more engaging for me to write about than experience; later films that are the children of this sort of deliberatice poetic expression, of people more as ideas of psychology and emotions than people we can live through but have more symbolically to chew on, like Tarkovsky and Resnais films, are more my speed.

(PS: One last thing; it may be incidental, but there are points in this film where clearly the restoration team did the best they could but parts seem to be coming apart and are almost blowing away throug the wear and tear of the elements, and yet that isn't a distraction for me - on the contrary I find that to be overwhelming in this larger sense as someone who watches a lot of films, how fragile the entire medium can be (or once was). If this is an artifact of a specific time and place, how easily it can fall apart makes it still very special, quality of the substance of what was shot besides. So, God bless you, Saulo Pereira de Mello for your efforts to save this film.)

The Burning

A Crop(sy) above the rest
Well, first of all, one of the glaring things that Fear Street 1978 was missing were several personalities straight from New Yawk casting - Larry Joshua in particular is a total riot as a guy who was just about to get cast in Saturday Night Fever but hey whaddabout it they're a bunch of jerk faces etc - and it points to something that makes The Burning genuinely stand out from the overcrowded pack of Slashers which is that this has actors who are playing it big and the characters (the guys mostly) are a-holes and pushovers and idiots. Even the presumed lead Todd played by Brian Matthews is fairly incompetent when you get down to it (and frankly the worst of the lot? I don't want to spoil anything, though).

The Burning doesn't hide its sleaze and violence and sex (and all too quick sex, haha woops dummy) and rampantly stupid characters under a bushel - and yes, there is a scene where the characters make a raft instead of like walking back to camp, you know, for easier access to the mangy killer who is there on a raft - and it's all the better for it. It's blatantly a quick cash-in on the period, and I'm sure the filmmakers (including also a young Brad Grey which is also a trip) started frantically writing the script before Friday the 13th finished its opening weekend.

But where that movie (an important if just slightly overrated one) had characters that were with a couple of exceptions stock and forgettable, you at least enjoy or find morbid fascination with the young people in The Burning, as awful as some/most of them are, because they are bringing it as performers, like they know this is schlock but they're going to try anyway, damn it!

And that goes for Savini and the makeup fx crew for the kills all the more; it helps that the killer's weapon allows for particularly bloody and flesh-slicing set pieces, but thesr are brutal and In Your Face and visceral in ways even the best of the Friday the 13th sequels didn't quite get to. Add some creative camerawork and editing (the latter by underrated genre craftsman Jack Sholder) and you got a second half of a movie at least that doesn't stop once it gets going.

So come for a full-head-of-hair Jason Alexander (and small parts for Holly Hunter and Fisher Stevens), stay for an unapologetically mean spirited, often sadistically and darkly funny horror movie that makes clear that revenge is a dish best served with blood and body parts and Turn to Red scene transitions. The Burning is what you want to come to a Camp-set In the Dozens body-count horror movie, where no one is safe and so many are miserable and it doesn't kid the audience with how far it will go even as its feet are still planted in Schlock-ville. One thing you can't say about The Burning is that it is unremarkable or easy to forget, and that goes for Cropsey most of all.


An astonishing and assured debut with a stunner of a Cage turn
An astonishing and assured debut; Pig may get you into the theater with the veneer of a darker/darker hued John Wick (by way of, hmm, how's about Leave No Trace, that works for me), but it's much more than that suggests. This is a rather devastating and deeply emotional film about loss, of self and others and the toll that takes, and how it shows ultimately much more courage to reach into someone else's soul, especially if it's a person who wronged you, than to go about the usual revenge narrative. I won't say how this happens, but it's a film that earns its tragic countenance and the look of the film itself (as I told my wife on the way home, the color choice almost looks like a truffle).

On that level the filmmaker is also rigorous into exploring forgiveness and how painful opening those wounds can be. I don't want to give too much of the experience away, it's a true character piece in a vein we so rarely get with this actor - I'll go ahead and say it, this is on the level with a Leaving Las Vegas or Joe - but what turned this from very good to one of the year's best was the scene where Rob talks to the chef at the restaurant. What a character. And Cage only brings big displays of this person's grief and anger a handful of times; he's now at that stage where he can come into a room and say little and command attention. And the supporting work from Wolff and Arkin et al is also excellent and matches him.

In sum: That'll do, Nicolas. That'll do.

Bara no sôretsu

Breaking apart the form but keeping emotional resonance as incendiary and necessary
I know this term doesn't necessarily get thrown around much by critics when describing most films - though conversely it may be used too often when trying to pin a label on counterculture or subversive: films from the late 190s or into the 70s - but Funeral Parade of Roses is a fairly accurate example I think of a film that is kaleidoscopic. You can't say it's one thing or even three things because it will shape-shift or twist over into something else entirely.

The director Matsumoto clearly knows what the rules are for directing a "normal" scene, whatever that is, and by that I mean how to cut between shots and show two characters talking to each other, or to create some suspense between two sets of people (ie right before that girl gang fight, before it leads into the fast motion), and that's good because he's not just ready but committed to breaking the rules of film grammar and storytelling. Story? Who needs that when you can follow things by feelings and moods, or how deconstructing everything has its own construction (and the interviews are so crucial because it gives us a base of how real Trans women are in Japan, or at least those interviewed and how they, in fact, are the most "normal" ones here).

And even trying to ascribe Oedipus Rex, which I've read is what this leaps off from, is not something I would think immediately.... no, that's not entirely true. Where the film ends up, a particular revelation that brings to a climax what we saw midway through, in a jarring flashback involving crimes of unhinged passion that is shot and acted and presented without any pretense and yet has an air of how memory creating a heightened style of violence - being so real it becomes unreal and then loops around to real again - is staggering and shocking, not necessarily for the violence itself but for the effect of it, how there's so much of it that what has to come next is when other people see it, how spectatorship takes on another dimension... and isn't isn't what cinema does itself?

I'm not Trans and can't claim I can be wholly in the sense of knowing where characters like Eddy or Leda or the others are at or have been here, but that almost isn't an issue because of the raw power that Matsumoto brings as a director and that the performers like Peter bring in every frame (especially those where nothing is said but the face and physical movements tell more). I have also/however been in an environment with fellow film freaks as much Marijuana is consumed and weird unclassifiable shenanigans ensue (hey, college you know), and in a sense Funeral Parade of Roses is like witnessing creation while under the influence; when one is high, there can be a sensation if one is tapping into the creative spirit that you can (and *should*) do or try anything.

So why shouldn't Matsumoto cut to inserts of butts with one holding a rose? Why not the fast speed that feels like an homage to silent comedy (and lo and behold Kubrick followed suit)? Why not have flesh and body parts that have comet together through sex and lovemaking like abstract images, not connected to beings but still very alive (Hiroshima Mon Amour comes to mind, a little, but this is still a unique way to do it)? All those faces and reactions and how a person moves through a frame? Go for it!

Funeral Parade of Roses is last but not least a compelling example of how what seem to be condtradictions in execution are part of the intended style, of confrontational the audience to say that you can't take for granted what cinema can do. So sex and eroticism is silly... until it isn't. Violence can be quite silly and comical.. until it very much isn't. How someone chooses to be as a human being, identity as a gender, looks so theatrical with the long eye-lashes and coiffed hair and slathering of make up... but it's very much who these "Queens" are and that being a woman is not some parlor trick or game, or just a lustful object for men. Humans are complicated and so should cinema, and that's what I got from seeing this for a first time.

Pink Flamingos

So meaty!
Somehow, I think my biggest single laugh here was "I think the couch rejected you!"

You know there's that Mel Brooks quote where the old woman on the elevator that one time told him his movies are vulgar and his response was "my movies rise below vulgarity." Pink Flamingos rises so below vulgarity that it comes back around the other side through an open asshole covered in vomit and poo with a side of eggs and incest. So... it sure is... what it is!

I find it's difficult to give any kind of intellectual take on this because it successfully resists it every step of the way (though I'm sure if I get high enough I can wax poetic about how it's a more honest depiction of filth and destructive political personification than like Joker or some claptrap). It's a freakshow shot with the same clinical documentary realism of a Blair Witch Project, and it's this dichotomy that makes it so provocative.

Waters knows what's real and what isn't, yet this isn't quite fantasy (maybe an alternate reality) - it reminds me most of all like when I've read long-form fiction written by Fetish authors online, where it's more about sticking to what turns someone on than a "good" story, that the key is the level of commitment to the turn-on. And how could you not be turned on by Edith Massey in that crib, non? While Divine is of course the reason he had the uncanny iconic uh Anti Hero status (is that true, whatever), I'm a big fan of Mink Stole's and David Lachary's This Goes to 11 performances. They don't need to be "great" actors, they just need to be right for these roles, and lord they are.

All the same, I still think I prefer Multiple Maniacs as far as a precisely sordid saga of murderous heathens because of the set pieces in that were more distinctive and the pacing was less relentless. This is a gauntlet of sleaze, dick (both regular dick and dick attached to meat), that poor chicken, and opulent degradation, if that contradiction makes sense. On the one hand, as far as production quality, I hear Crow from the MST3K on Manos the Hands of Fate in my head - "Oh no, Joel, not another Snuff film!" - on the other hand, I found myself laughing. A lot.

Like Rocky Horror, I'm fairly certain I would get more out of it with an audience tapped into the parade of filth. At home, it's easy to find it all numbing after a while... until you get those arresting shots of the trailer in flames and the entire climax where Divine goes HAM. I have a feeling rewatching this with the audio commentary will be a blast.

Last but not least... I want that Baby Doll poster.


I mean, you had me at Florida
Zola is pure, uncut black market Florida. Like Sprinbreakers or Florida Project, it IS the state incarnate - or at least what's so endlessly scrollable about it). It's also a riotous funny dark comedy about how uncanny and gross the sex work world is (visa vi Backpage and so on), but also how black women always seem to have to come to the emotional and physical rescue of white women. And ironically as much as I love Paige and Keough's performances here (the latter sounding like she listened/watched a lot of Nikki Minaj's Anaconda song and or video, a fully sincere compliment), Braun - Greg from Succession, a true treasure at playing dumb and awkward, and Colman Domino's X (and his going between two accents just ::chefs kiss::) are stunning in their perfection of identifying an authenticity of these people. That's the key here: as wild as this gets, we always believe the people... at least as far as Zola's oh maybe 85-90% reliable narrator takes us.

I do wonder if this will have the same punch once the surprise wears off on a repeat viewing, but for now I can bask in the glow of this magnificently directed and truly modern comic exploitation yarn. The secret MVPs here though are the background detail players, like the two kids repeating the same basketball moves on the balcony at the motel or the couple performing whatever the hell music that is in the hotel lobby when Zola comes storming in.

The Amusement Park

How to Feel the Problem cinematically speaking
First of all, you know you're a forever Dawn of the Dead fanatic if you can spot the canned-public-domain music cues in this film (hint, it's the rich man/poor man food serving scene, shot like a silent film "comedy" of course).

This is above all how the pain and agony in life itself and all of the irreparable harm that it causes, from the police and classism to bonds and simple human connections to infirmary and violence both mental and physical, can catch up to what is supposed to be good gay old times. If the undead were a metaphor for chaos and unbridled instinct and what it means to be human, the Amusement Park is about reality itself becoming unglued when whatever made sense is dissolving away. And God help you if you don't have insurance for that bumper car accident!

What does it get old? Well, it means realizing how much people, so called polite society working in the Social Contracts, don't care so much about other people if it doesn't mean what it did before - if use and transactional purpose are null. We're savage cretins, folks, is what Romero uses the form of an Educational program to get at, and let's use the camera to get under your proverbial skin! It's satire that is Dead serious, no pun intended for this filmmaker, and it surely would've cracked Kafka's top ten list had it come out at the time (or if you know he was alive but why carp). This is how a nightmare works, or at least like one of those funky dreams that goes on for far too long and is too vivid to not revisit.

Like the Other Side of the Wind (by one of Romero's idols Orson Welles), the rediscovery serves as a solid reminder that innovators will use whatever is accessible to not necessarily (or not just) seek out to find new ways to tell stories but to use the tools of Cinema to try to create impressions via style. Romero like Welles was also an editor, and how he cuts this together is what makes it; the 16mm is grainy and washed out even in 4k restoration, but that's also the dark allure of it. Too clean and it wouldn't have the effect of being kicked the s*** out of this way and that.

Oh, and what a phenomenal performance by Maazel!

Superman III

That is a bad script-fit!
First question on Superman 3: How does Gus Gorman do ANYTHING he is doing in this? Where does he come from? Why is Gus Gorman? Like... he just stumbled on to this computer gig and manages to have the capabilities of the guy in Die Hard who hacks into the Nakatomi tower times 100. It is just so so wild how this plot stumbles along like a drunkard - or more precisely someone on coke riding an elevator up and down to hell - and Superman gets stuck in the middle with some good scenes with Lana Lang (Annette O'Toole innocent) and then be becomes Bad Superman from handling some Kryptonite that is not the usual Kryptonite and does a series of things like fixing the tower of Piza from leaning and like spraying an oil tanker all over the ocean and... WHAT IS THIS?!

Superman III is less a movie than a collection of scenes stuck together from a not convoluted but just bizarre plot by Robert Vaughan to control the world's oil and Lex Luthor would look at this mishegas and be like "Calm down, sir!" There's no narrative momentum because it's moreso Gus Gorman's story and we don't really know on a basic level what he *wants* except that he's kind of being blackmailed because of his thievery early on and he wants to use his unexplained computer genius to do a whole lot more than we think he can do and... huh?

It hit me late in the film by the time we get to that super computer in the mountain: this is a series of comic books from a run stuck together, yet it's a run where different writers and artists came and went without a clear plan and at the same time you can see certain ideas that got laughs and pats on the back in the room. While the movie is still lurching forward after that spectacular comic-action junkyard fight, it has these little nuggets like the one character who becomes a robot and how that creates some memorable mania even as the bulk of the action in this scene is poor.

All the while, I like how the Evil Superman is still a dork - sorry/not sorry, I also enjoy the "Bad" Peter Parker stuff in Spiderman 3 (a better movie than this, fight me) so this worked for me - and Christopher Reeve is still so astonishing as a fully endearing being as Sups and Kent, and moreover makes the bad Superman different than how he has been, and he's giving the character 10,000% every scene (yes, that horror drunk bar gif included), and I admire the uncanny comic swagger Lester has with the garbage dump scene. I don't think this has, what the word I'm looking for ah yes, stakes that the movie could ever earn (like, why does Superman going bad matter for *this* movie), but divorced from any context it's a memorable sequence in and of itself.

In other words, what 80s All Over said years ago holds true. WHAT ARE WE LOOKING AT? WHAT ARE WE WATCHING? Oh, and Pryor looks so adrift here, like Anything for a Paycheck mode (an interesting thought given Gorman himself). A totally fascinating mess of a movie that I'm sure I'd have stronger feelings on had I see it at 7 instead of 37 but here we all are.

PS: A simple fix for this story - Gus Gorman isn't some unfortunate dude without a job at the start who joins this company with this hackneyed plot (gee where did that get reused again, #stapler), but he has been working for years for Vaughan and has gone disgruntled. In other words, Batman Forever with Nygma is a better version of this basic antagonist plot - and if Lester had more balls he would've just cast Pryor as a villain instead of someone stuck in the middle.

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