rzajac

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Yume (1990)

Come for the dreams Always liked folks daring to just put their dreams out there via the arts. Love it when cartoonists do it (Woodring, Holt), and filmmakers like Bunuel and Fellini.

And this flick is a fine exemplar of this esthetic. These are the dreams that you rejoice in; the ones that make you stop in your tracks because the level of needed engagement precludes getting on with other things.

And, in keeping with this esthetic, it's surely expected to be something of a garage sale. Some things are going to be immediately recognized as true "finds", and other might not quite blip yr radar--but the point is that you can be sure some of those scenarios that didn't resonate will nonetheless resonate with others. That's the beauty.

Need to add, I suppose, that the production values are fantastic. I was even a little surprised to see some of that production going above/beyond. He didn't need to exert himself that much, but did anyway. Sort of Kubrickian in that way.

If you are a person with a rich nighttime dream life, I think you'll find a kindred spirit at work in this flick. But even if not, if you are a person who understands that the mysteries of those scenarios thrown over the wall from the subconscious are worth delictating, you'll dig this.

Check it out.

Hereditary (2018)

Not for me: Superb technically, lacking narratively Subject sez all, but here's some elaboration.

Beautifully produced: Fantastic and captivating in every sense. But it runs off the rails about 1/2-way through. The simple way to describe it might be "producers' cold-feet syndrome," where the money people didn't trust that the flick's maintaining tone, plus the planned narrative end-game, would put butts in the seats and recoup expenses. So they just ran roughshod over the director and turned the thing into a weird spook house cavalcade. There was some tying together of the first and last halves of the flick, using the grandmom as a ligature, but I didn't buy it.

Of course, there's a chance the film got made as planned, and the planning for the narrative direction was just screwed up from the get-go.

The film's technical mastery starts out so great, I'd almost be tempted to advise that you rent it just to watch the first half. But in the end, ... that's a dumb idea. Forget I suggested it.

I was looking forward to Byrne cutting another notch representing his contribution to another noble artistic effort! So sad!

Sigh: Avoid it.

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Beautiful It's a great story, incredibly well told.

The Coens continue to hone their own craft, and work with able others to create truly fantastic spectacle. Watching this comes close to tipping me over to the view that they do drama better than they do comedy... but I'll demur: They're non-overlapping magisteria.

I've observed other very good, very descriptive comments in these IMDb User Comments, so I'll leave it here and send you there. The stuff folks point out--the faithful reproduction of intimate artistic moments; a portrayal that makes the invisible visible; all production details lovingly attended to--is wonderfully true.

My only qualifier to all the above comes down to whether you find this kind of slice-of-life, everyman heroism compelling.

But I'll add this: If you tend to characterize all that as hoity-toity art-house frippery, I'll send you to this flick, anyway: I daresay it just might bring you around.

Check it out.

Rick and Morty: Pickle Rick (2017) Episode 3, Season 3

One of the best, in my book It's perfect. There's not much more to say. The scenario work, dialog, direction, acting, pacing, EVERYTHING.

The writing is super, super intelligent. Well... I will note a kind of "goof" in the underlying science at one point. (DON'T consider the following a "spoiler":) It shows Rick stimulating "parts" of a cockroach's "brain" to tap it's motor functions. Pretty sure that early stimulus/motor-response scenario is not in keeping with our current understanding of the nervous function of the arthropods. For some time now, robotics researchers have recognized the effectiveness of "distributed intelligence" and point to insects as examples of this.

BUT!!! I don't care! The story is fantastic, and I loved the writing for Dr. Wong, and the challenging thematic treatment of therapy. I'd like to think that if there's a downstream effect, it'll be in the direction of getting *more* Rick and Morty weenies to consider seeing a professional... not *less*.

Please, R&M producers: Hew more in *this* direction in future development!

Active Measures (2018)

Important (but some tech issues) Good flick. Don't let go of yr higher, skeptical self while watching, and I still don't doubt you'll come away a little more informed and smarter.

My only remonstrance is that, from time to time, the editors gave in to the impulse to favor "the firehose" effect over the reality of a typical viewer's ability to parse an image (typically) over a brief moment of time. It's a simple matter of the psychology of perception. They'd flash something on the screen--typically textual--then remove it before you could parse even the barest crux of the information. And that was just... sloppy. I like that, at heart, they treat the viewer like a discerning person who understands that meaningful participation in a democratic republic means you must be informed. But... you STILL have to allow us to be mere humans with limited abilities to perceive stuff whizzing by at a mile a minute. It's amateurish; like done by kids who figure that, since *they* understand the information (getting to ponder it at their leisure in the editing room), we'll absorb it no matter how fast they cut it into and out of our ken.

But, to back off a bit... yes, this tech flaw in the edit occasionally niggled... but on the whole a very, very worthwhile viewing.

Check it out.

The Fly (1986)

Has a great myth which overcomes rather dated limits Just re-watched it. It was enjoyable and thought provoking, though a few things niggled.

I can't help but think that the depiction of the computer interface would be much better done today. Cronenberg vests the production with brains and passion, and this made me overlook the hokiness of that representation.

And as much as I can certainly see his straining for professionalism, Getz's work here is distracting. Was it a lapse in Cronenberg's direction?

But it's safe to say these distractions can be set aside in order to mainline the payload myth, which has to do with... the nature of nature, at its most elemental. I suppose more folks might pick up on a "tech hubris" message... and that's OK, too.

If you haven't seen it, it's pretty much de riguour for buffs, so get it under your belt, already!

Life (2017)

Genuinely horrific; lovely stylizing Man, this flick is getting slagged off at!

It really isn't worth all that negative energy. There's just too much to recommend it.

What do people hate about it? Seems folks've decided it's a premise rehash of the "Alien" series. I say... eh... sure, it's a kind of hurdle that the film would need to clear to hold our attentions. But I feel the film clears that particular hurdle nicely. It makes stylistic decisions that mark it as a clean, new approach to the whole sub-genre of "contact" films. At any rate, sizing it up against "Alien(s)" to me seems like a tepid basis for a negative evaluation.

What I appreciate is how enormously crafty the whole enterprise (of making this flick) is. The writing, pacing, editing, direction, everything comes together to make something... artful. And I *always* like to see artfulness in a movie. Not enough of that.

There may some divergence from this view on the basis that the film plods, or otherwise fritters itself away with a deficit of needed "action"; I say; the balance of action and interstitial quiet dramatics as the crew attempts to resolve its ever-morphing "issue" is perfect. One of the things I really loved about the flick was the writing; the dialog. I was surprised to find that the writing drew me in with its simplicity and plaintiveness. You really believe these are folks on a space mission--highly educated and trained, with distinguishing qualities of character--but ultimately just folks... you, me, anyone. Great, great writing, and seen too, too seldom in movies these days. Refreshing!

So all that's really left is an overview of the story management, and technique in general.

I'm thankful that the story had an decent ending. Ending a story well is like an end-game in chess; the hardest part of the game. I thought the flick ended a damn sight better than all too many others.

In terms of general technique, I found the sets, visuals. and effects in general to be fine and conducive to the suspension of my disbelief; I could "relax" and take in the harrowing narrative.

Will you like the movie? Depends. I think I pretty much outlined the issues, above. If attention to the kinds of details I mention above don't rate much in your enjoyment of movies, odds are you shouldn't waste your time with this one: You'll probably wind up resenting the wasted time, and chiming in with other naysayers in these User Comments. Have a look at some of them to see what I mean.

The Rapture (1991)

Lovely production, but kinda... stuck First of all, it's a great production. So much loving attention to detail in the writing and professionalism in the execution.

Which means we can get down to the message. It's a strange mess, and my impulse is to see it in the same terms that I now see the gulf between U.S. evangelical "believers" and "new" atheists. And, to me, that's water way, way, long under the bridge.

I can't see that the territory this flick explores is universal or timeless. A lot of this kind of religion--where belief and faith are rather conflated--is a sad waste of energy. The way true religion should be approached by folks looks *nothing* like *anything* in this flick. And it doesn't matter whether you see the flick as strangely accommodating evangelical "faith", or as an outright repudiation of this sort of experience as ultimately hollow. There is so, so much more to what faith can mean in a person's life than anything that this flick may be trying to aim at.

So, to me, the flick seems sorta "stuck", in a general way, in that old place where belief and faith get lumped together... man, that's old news!

Side note, tacked on: Loved Will Patton's character. It reminds me of the feeling I got watching the redemptive, angelic civic functionaries in Greg Marcks's "11:14". Now *that* is a lovely image in a narrative product: The image of a person whose heart is pure and whose need to serve/give is plainly evident. Can't get enough of that!

A Ghost Story (2017)

At last! A ghost story that makes you believe in ghosts. I'm not going to pretend to have a clear idea of what the flick's about. But there are certain base level impressions which, on their own, suffice to motivate me to come here to rate and pronounce on the flick's value.

At its simplest level, it's a flick that attempts to take you into "ghost time".

And that's really all you might need to know as you begin to watch the film.

What it might mean beyond that I'll leave to you and my future self (as I ponder--and I *will* continue to ponder "A Ghost Story"!).

Enemy (2013)

Didn't want to like it, but... Ultimately, it worked for me.

Now, I know that sounds like "damning with faint praise." But I loved it because it was artfully made and dances on the event horizon of "takeaway opacity", that you are severely challenged to understand its ultimate meaning. I love that. I love that it was willing to do that, to exert itself to create a presentation to convey that puzzle.

Of course, I have ideas of what it's about, but the whole thing rests comfortably on my back burner... where it rightfully belongs.

If that bothers you--sounds like it's not yr cup o' tea--then pass it up. But I aver it truly was a masterful exercise in an odd sort of storytelling.

It worked for me.

The Square (2017)

Giving it a '10' because I fancy myself a frou-frou elitist type Loved it. Literally on the edge of my seat at times.

It's a challenging flick, yet at the same time inviting. And that's the way it should be. A good flick challenges, and if it siphons you in to process and try to understand that challenge, huzzah!

The challenge being, of course, that under its base scenario of the high-flying modern art word is something almost crushingly quotidian; a man who's like most men: He's not the sharpest (moral) tool in the shed.

In fact, he's so hapless that he's a hapless performance artist himself. And that's where the sparks fly in this flick, IMHO. Like "The Square", he's non-stop commentary on contemporary reality.

Happy! (2017)

It Works! An amazing show: It's preposterous enough to transcend its gross expressionistic excesses.

And, really, that's pretty much all that needs to be said. This is the grail of narrative products: Create a great myth, and damn the torpedoes.

That said, a few nods to detail are in order. It's violent, violent, violent! The writing is smart and clever. The character work is an over-the-top labor of love. Yes: It's a detective/thriller set at Christmastime with a reprobate with a heart-o'-gold, a la Shane Black.

Enjoy!

Chronicle (2012)

Gotta say: In the end, really just a SFX snack. I was looking forward to being able to say that this flick blew my mind.

And then I sort of ponder whether the quotidian nature of the characters and story were supposed to be the things that did the trick, and I'm just too dim to catch that.

Being careful not to spoil, I can mention something revealed in the first 10 minutes: It winds up being a sort of non-parable parable about kids getting super telekinetic powers.

I have to say that I expected many layers in this story, and what bit of layering may have been present really gets eclipsed by the flick being (as I say in my heading line) a kind of SFX snack plus largely unfiltered teen angst. If you can imagine the outcome from a storyline so hedged in, you probably have a good idea what to expect from this movie.

So I can't heartily recommend it. I know there's a subculture that fawns on CGI-dense movies... but I don't run with that sort... don't really know their expectations... so I'm not sure if I can recommend the flick to them.

If you expect narrative richess from a flick, skip it. If you expect colorful character from a flick, then maybe. If you get a rush from particularly well-executed CGI, then... I dunno what to tell you.

The Salvation (2014)

Art Film quality "wild west" portrait of evil The best first thing you can say about this flick is that it's good old, down-home, operatic storytelling and character development.

After that, it's icing on the cake. The production values are fantastic, and the direction and acting is spot-on.

If you find western revenge dramas to be your thing, definitely check this one out.

The Cell (2000)

Art Direction: 1001%!!! Mythos: Rube-Goldbergian.... What can I say? You kind of expect the premise of a story to be reasonably tidy. If I set forth to state the premise of The Cell, it'd take about 3 minutes to do so, which is 2.5 minutes too long. The mythos is bizarrely reticulated, both quantitatively AND qualitatively, as in; some of the elements of the belabored premise individually strain credulity past the breaking point.

But.... what a visual marvel! En route to driving home the over-wrought concept I daresay you will get your money's worth just in terms of the strenuously-yet-delicately wrought dream sequences.

I should add a touch of the snob, here. Bunuel taught me that dreams in movies should dance on the fault line between the inscrutable and being amenable to pithy interpretation. Are these dream sequences so amenable? Yes and no.

If it weren't for the extreme nature of the mythic aspect--that is, if they'd been able to drape the amazing visuals over a neater, more streamlined premise--It would've rated at least one more star for sure.

So I guess that sums it up. If amazing art direction to flesh out an over-wrought premise is OK with you, the flick is definitely worth watching.

The Doctor and the Devils (1985)

Hate to say it for something as (very) well-intentioned as this production I came across a slim volume at a cut-rate book sale in university back in 1973; it was Dylan Thomas's made-for-TV screenplay for "The Doctor and the Devils".

It was a great read. I was impressed by how Thomas cleverly broke the action into small mini-scenes; you could call it short-attention-span theater, but I've gotta admit reading it was cinematographic: I felt like I was watching TV.

So here's a Mel Brooks production, roughly based off the Thomas script.

In truth, the story's changed quite a bit, but the spirit is the same. There's a tone to the movie which I think the director took from the script, which is simultaneously sage and florid... if you can imagine such a thing!

So... if I have a misgiving about the movie, it's that the tone worked in the book, but somehow seems cheap and hammy in the movie.

That's my sole complaint. Too bad that complaint colors my experience of the movie from start to finish!

But... what's to recommend? The actors took direction VERY well. I was amazed at Twiggy: She is a true dramatic force in this flick, and (come to think of it) she somewhat tempers the tone issue I mention above. Hmm.

In general, the production values are fine.

I suppose if you want to take in the story, this flick will do. It delivers the tendentious payload--the dance of dawning scientific achievement, shabby preening moralism, and honest moral issues--quite nicely.

I wish I could give this at least a 9. But it doesn't feel right. It's that "tone thing", y'know?

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Well-nigh Perfect L.A. Confidential is straight-up storytelling, well done.

It's hard to know where to step in to comment on the flick; there are so many possible ports of entry. Perhaps the best place to start has to do with its vast portrait of corrupt officialdom. So, if you're the kind of person who gets drawn in to crime stories with broad swathes of moral grey, hesitate not: Watch it now.

The flick is rewarding simply from its richness. It has so many layers and treatments and telling scenes and exchanges. So if I start expounding on a symbol or metaphor, it's a fart in a flaw.

But I want to try, anyway.

Here's a little something that I can recommend by way of a recurring symbol that might help anchor you as you start taking in the firehose of imagery:

The flick really centers around Ed Exley's character, played by Pierce. He's the guy who's dancing on the fault line between two aspects of law enforcement practicum; a stoic, fact-basis and a romantic, belief-basis. And the writing fixes on a very clever image that you can see as a key to this dance: Exley's eyeglasses. They dance on and off his face, and you can dependably see this as a symbol of his understanding of law enforcement practice; which starts out vacillating, but eventually settles on a clear vision of true law enforcement in a decent republic. This vision ascends, takes hold, and ushers him into the vortex of the film's crisis confrontation.

This is the heart of a story in which the images informing your understanding of that heart is as deep as it is broad. That's how great this flick is.

Check it out.

Miss Sloane (2016)

Artistic Issues Workable script, fully capable acting, good sets/costuming... but it looks like either 1) ham-handed direction, or 2) the director's interest in nuance tuned to the wordiness of the script getting derailed by the producers pulling rank.

Could have been worse, but this is something towards which I feel especially sensitive.

It highlights a really important fact about big budget production: Too often producers think they have the ingredients for something produce-able and distribute-able, but don't realize the demands that certain kinds of narrative place on the product. In fact, it looks like they don't even realize that the script, itself, should carry weight in that process. They defer to the knowledge they feel they have about the movie-going public; that too many of them are like babies with disposable income, who don't understand English but are innately attuned to facial expression and body language: And films are busy-box light shows of emoting.

As a result, the film all-too-often squawks and gesticulates. The producers refused to let the script breathe.

Too bad!

Add to this that the script, itself, seems a little strained and the flick doesn't have much of a chance to work on its proper merits; a timely subject matter (guns), coupled with a well-intentioned "insider" look at political gamesmanship.

I'm suddenly reminded of a time long ago, in university, during Watergate, when I went to meet with a student club to practice for an upcoming performance. Oddly, someone found us a practice space in a building that had adjacent conference rooms, and one of these rooms was hosting a convocation of monied suits considering bankrolling a rock band. I was invited in to listen to the tune and drop my own two-bits on the marketability of the song "product". The weird thing was that the band used a two-bit cassette recorder, and the tape was so bizarrely saturated that I couldn't even make out the melody... let alone the accompaniment! And certainly not the words. But think about the mindset of these dozen-or-so business dudes listening to this thing, driven to consider putting money behind it because... it was about Watergate.

Well, art *matters*. Miss Sloane may be about guns--and very passionate it is about that. But it misses (a bit) as an artistic product.

Miller's Crossing (1990)

Yes: One for the Ages Beautiful, stupendous movie.

Warning: It seems that most folks find it obtuse, such that it needs a number of viewings to digest. If you find it so, relax: You're in good company.

Here's my take on MC: The Coens are nice Jewish boys, who went to Hebrew school and probably have fair knowledge of the Torah. To me, this explains much of their work. It doesn't always make perfect sense, but the point is to immerse you in a dense story. In time you come to feel about MC the same thing you feel about the Pentateuch/Histories/etc.: It's the idea that story expresses the Mind of G*d.

And, if G*d is Love, then will this story tell you something about love?

I daresay it will; and a heck of lot of other things, as well... including, of course, crime, the criminal mind, and in-group cohesion finding expression in armed conflict as part of the divine will.

If you haven't yet seen it, hie thee down to view it, forthwith.

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

Your cup o' tea? Carpenter really does cut an interesting figure wrt to the tone he explores in his work. I've enjoyed some of his work, like "The Thing" and "They Live". They're cozy blends of high-concept, decent writing, clever pacing, and fine production.

"Mouth" is another thing. To my tastes, it sorta regresses to what I guess they call "gothic horror"; general creepiness, incessantly stinging, monsters, slime... just the interminable presentation of the vile and impending-ly violent.

Well... that's not my cup of tea. I never found that kind of stuff compelling. Carpenter obviously exerts himself mightily to make it so--and that's impressive. So I don't fault the flick by as many stars as I might have.

If you go for this stuff, it may be a cut above the usual "horror" fare out there.

Whatever the case may be, I hope the foregoing clues you in on the kind of flick "Mouth" is.

Young Sheldon (2017)

Innaresting tone mgmt It's an odd sort of thing: There's a mix of comic expressionism and actually pretty straight-up dramatic acting. The interest is how the direction parcels these things out from person to person and scene to scene.

It's occasionally really smart and sometimes even trenchant. The rest of the time it's a lively little comedy snack. Which is cool with me. I'll probably continue to watch it.

Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)

Stunning. Complete. ))<>(( ! Me and You and Everyone We Know "functions" in a jillion ways: It's good narrative, visually exciting, bristles with powerful symbols, and invites you to explore the n-squared+ connections between those symbols.

I recently mentioned to a ESL student the brilliant wordplay in "Through the Looking-Glass", where (if memory serves) the Duchess "treats" Alice to a tidy little aphorism, "Take care of the Sense, and the Sounds will take care of Themselves." This is a stupendously ingenious mutation of "Take care of the Pence, and the Pounds will take care of Themselves".

Hard to believe, but I think Miranda July has created a swarming hive of chaotic Sounds that result in the Sense taking care of *itself*. If I'm right about that, then it's an Easter miracle, if I'm any judge at all.

And I haven't even mentioned the production values. Suffice that they don't get in the way of the above. The right people exerted themselves to make sure the product gets mainlined right into the ol' vein.

Check it out! ))<>((, y'all!

Passengers (2016)

Operatic Flicks like this are what I call "operatic": It's a simple scenario fleshed out with a thinly reticulated plotline. Though I'm not an opera *fan*, I understand the attraction for some and have gotten varied mileage from the medium. The job of opera is to convince you that the core one-note-johnny plot concept is driven by truly powerful emotional, humanistic forces.

And I feel that _Passengers_ comes pretty close to succeeding. It's got the finery of opera; astounding set, costume, and props work; great pacing via artful storyboarding and editing; fine acting; some truly great scripting. Newman's score is subdued, yet well-integrated with the action.

From time-to-time a ball gets sorta dropped: No spoilers, but some of the depiction of tech work, particularly in the crisis toward the end, seems clumsily done.

And, true to opera, we're left with a closing image that invites us to metabolize that simple plot as one vested with deep humanity and even redemption. Will it work for you? Who's to say?

Loved Sheen's work, here. So nice to see him stretch a bit to play an AI automaton. A delight to watch!

Anyway, with the caveats given above, I think it's safe to recommend the flick.

An interesting side-note: The flick nicely dovetails themes of cosmic ennui, an abiding interest in truth as key to sustainable relationship, redemption, and interpersonal fulfillment. Gotta say: With so many flicks these days dropping hints--seemingly being picked up by many--that the eldritch Significant Other relationship as key to happiness concept is overrated, interesting to see a high-tech future sci-fi flick pushing against that androgynous, sexless tide.

I mean... Is that a *perfect* "date flick*, or WOT?(!)

11:14 (2003)

Epitomizes the Tarantino Doctrine Tarantino put it best: Write a good script, and you can afford to damn the torpedoes. 11:14 does exactly that.

There's too much to say about it. Production is warm, cozy, perfectly fine. All actors took direction very, very well.

But it all rests on the script; a treasure chest of delights, from organization and character, to superbly modulated language register, to a surprising denouement, which (mild spoiler; which you may welcome, as it could aid yr delectation) extremely cleverly sets forth an almost clinically even-steven character mix and then catapults one character into the fore by story's end.

Left all warm and fuzzy when I regard the notable star power that (a la Pulp Fiction) likely forewent their usual rates to help breathe life into such a worthy script.

Definitely check it out. American film needs more like this.

The Brink (2015)

Impression from Pilot (positive) Loved the Pilot! Judging from some critical press indicating that a shaky start gave way to a decent first season run, I'm very hopeful as I commence to binge watch the first (and only, apparently) season.

Beautifully produced. Well-directed, with allowances for Jack Black's vestigial boffo shtick in evidence. Lovely, lovely writing. This is what attracts me, personally: I have to pay attention because losing focus will deprive me of the experience of scripts that range from sharp riposte on up to dramatic interpersonal tension, then further on up to geopolitical mythos.

Like I said, I'm preparing to binge watch and I'm hopeful that subsequent installments fare at least as well in this department as has the Pilot.

Enjoyed a feature of the edit that seem to homage Strangelove: The scenario work covers one verite, realtime event, and a handful of settings with scene changes jockeying adroitly from setting to setting. Appreciated that in Strangelove, happy to see it reprised here.

And, heck, so many nice little touches, e.g., great to see Robbins's expert work again.

Check it out!

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