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The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yeah, it's creepy. Just keep watching.
Builds slow but it gets there. Nice to see my home state of Ohio proving it is truly the most horrifying place on the planet (Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, Heathers, Silence of the Lambs, and now this.)

The one thing that I don't think works is the bizarre autistic speech pattern that everyone has in the beginning of the movie. It works in the end, considering what happens, but based on the director's earlier films I was convinced this was taking place in a computer simulation based on the way everyone spoke to each other for the first forty minutes.


Great concept with a mediocre ending
I think it's fair to point out that this film goes off the rails at the end. I'm not sure why the director thought it needed a big climactic ending. It's a pet peeve of mine when a writer can't think of any other way to close a character arc or plotline then to literally kill off characters who no longer serve a purpose. The finale here feels forced and out of place considering how methodical and slow-burning the first hundred and twenty minutes were. When your themes are so simple and messages so obvious, plot and characters are all you've really got to hang your hat on. And in Parasite it falls flat.

And for those snobs who accuse everyone who finds any fault with this movie as some cinematically-illiterate fool who only watches Hollywood blockbusters, I think The Servant (1963) handled this same basic plot with more nuance and emotional impact.

La maschera del demonio

Formulaic and poorly dubbed
Vampires, witches, curses, Satan, castles, crucifixes, princesses in distress, rubber bats, angry villagers with torches... the filmmakers really threw the kitchen sink at this one. Too bad it doesn't work. This just isn't scary, and I doubt any adult back in 1961 was terrified of old tropes being dusted off either.

And the dubbing, sweet lord, the dubbing!

Divorzio all'italiana

It's hard to think of any way to improve this film. I'm generally cynical when it comes to classic movies, but Divorce Italian Style still seems fresh despite the subject material.

Die Ehe der Maria Braun

Rainer Fassbinder at his peak
Allegory for postwar Germany...examination of modernist female sexuality...Marxist critique of human labor under capitalism...yada, yada. I won't bore you with that prattle. Which isn't to say those idea weren't baked into the movie or that you're wrong to see the movie as deeply philosophical. But it certainly isn't necessary to enjoying the movie.

The Marriage of Maria Braun is a great film without needing to be dissected as some dull academic thesis paper. Maria depicted quite spectacularly by Hanna Schygulla, she plays a character who I can't really decide is tragic or the real "villain." This is one of those weird films where every character is so endearing and well written that it's painful to see things go so off the rails for them.

Ending was a little obvious, and I could argue it was too dumb for the rest of the movie, but overall an amazing production.

Il grande silenzio

You can skip this
The Great Silence isn't a bad movie, it's just plodding and kind of dumb, like it was rushed into production as fast as humanly possible. It's riddled with glaring mistakes (like the rope attached to the whip, the treacherous mountain path obviously cleared by several snow plows, or the rider plowing through a remote snow pack in an ambush not noting the dozens of tracks already clearly visible in the snow). Also, I don't know how slitting someone's throat renders them mute, since your voice box are two tiny flaps of skin inside your throat, or why the mute character just didn't write down the names and descriptions of his parent's murderers.

Despite the violence it's rather lifeless. Instead of an interesting ending, they just give us...well, a different kind of boring ending. Then as now, critics are suckers for movies that "subvert our expectations." I dunno, The Ox-Bow Incident did this twenty five years earlier, so a pacifist, jaded western wasn't ground-breaking, I hate to have to say.

Though I'm sure fans will scream at me that it was a translation issue, the dialogue in this thing is atrocious. It's so on the nose it feels like a first draft that the writer never had time to come back to. The way the characters talk about how awesome the protagonist is behind his back is the worst kind of character building, and reminds me of the John Wayne movie where everyone compliments him when he's not on screen. A mute, blank piece of wood for a lead character is undeniably a terrible idea. I've seen porn actors emote more than Jean-Louis Trintignant. Supposedly it was a creative solution to remedy the fact Trintignant could not speak english, but that makes no sense as even the American actor Vonetta McGee is dubbed, and not very well I might add.

Oh, yeah, and it's got snow. That's kind of interesting, I guess.


Interesting if aimless
I'd like to think Ari Aster was poking fun of the notion that it is wrong to judge other cultures as backward or cruel, and thus he chose the whitest people he could find to avoid accusations of cultural chauvinism, but I might be reading too much into a simple horror film. Also, it's a tad redundant since Wicker Man already did this, and far more subtly.

It's a decent exploration of how cults recruit vulnerable, sensitive people with love-bombing, drugs, sex, promises of belonging and purpose. Though the lead actress is saddled with trying to breathe life into one of the most annoying, frumpy buzzkills I've ever seen. Her scenes are more cringeworthy than the gory ones. Which may have been intentional.

Ex Machina

I can't help but feel like the whole "do cyborgs deserve personhood" debate is kind of passe. It was already covered in Blade Runner and before that in the 1960s in the film The Creation of the Humanoids--so this is extremely well-trod ground. Even the mad-scientist-making-sexy-lady-robots trope is straight out of the silent era.

It's entertaining and it has a lot of beautiful naked women, so I'm not complaining. Though I wish it had a little more going on plotwise than "Can we trust robots?" and I wish they gave something for that Asian lady to do. The acting, cinematography and pacing is amazing.

If you don't mind logical inconsistencies, that's cool, but this film's contrivances drive me crazy. I'm not buying that all that electronic crap doesn't require immense amount of maintenance and IT dudes. Just to fabricate the synthetic parts and engineer all that stuff that would require teams of experts, supplies, and tons of electricity that wouldn't be feasible in the middle of Alaska on a generator. (SPOILERS) Also, I don't understand how a genius doesn't comprehend the basic design flaw of doors that don't operate in the case of a power failure. Garage doors have release cords, car trunks have release handles (outside and inside). Even old CD disc drives have an emergency slot to stick a paperclip through.

L'avocat de la terreur

Don't Stare into the Abyss, Kids
A reminder that those that start out with the best intentions can become just as demented as the forces they are battling against. If not much worse. I suspect the reason the director made a straight documentary instead of a biographic film is that fact no one would believe such a character could possibly exist in real life.

Jacques Verges is the link that connects the most heinous figures of the twentieth century, but if you were just to go by his account you might almost be convinced he was a swell guy. The mental gymnastics this man performs to avoid admitting a single regret in his life is breathtaking (killing civilians kind of a gray area with Verges).

I suppose if you can convince yourself becoming Pol Pot's counsel and trusted confidante is worth abandoning your family for seven years, you are capable of justifying literally anything.

Kyônetsu no kisetsu

A Japanese Juvenile Delinquency Tale
The social situation in Rebel Without a Cause looks pretty healthy in comparison to Akira's life in this film. Make no mistake, the director probably didn't want you to find this guy empathetic or romantic regardless of his ingenuity, optimism, or opinions on abstract expressionism. He isn't so much a character with an arc as a force of nature motivating others, a plot device.

Oddly enough, The Warped Ones is really a conservative film even if it doesn't realize it, warning of the breakdown of the family unit, the failure of the reform system, the rise of gang violence, and the perils of Western culture eroding traditional Japanese values. Everyone and everything that comes into contact with the sneering, jazz-deranged lunatic tainted or perverted. Akira merely the flea carrying the plague virus. Gotta give the film credit for not copping out at the end.

Black Panther

It's okay as long as you don't think too much about it
Black Panther is smarter than the average superhero movie, though that's not saying much. Just when you think this might be an intriguing movie there is a deus ex machina moment, plot convenience, or a really over-long CGI fight scene to remind you that this is simply another Marvel movie sliding off the conveyor belt. The ending speech that re-explains the plot is especially annoying.

There's a lot of inconsistencies. The suit can absorb a grenade with no noticeable impact yet he is blasted back by an RPG ten seconds later. Also for some reason the suit can redirect damage some moments but not others. Chalk that up to "plot armor" I guess.

In or out of the suit he is impervious, which leads to the major problem with Black Panther: the main character. He has no arc and has no flaws, unless you count being too humble and trusting. It's an incredibly boring character. I was actually rooting for the bad guy if only to make the film interesting. This is one of those weird films where the bad guys all have more personality and complex motivations than the good guys.

The royal family for first half of this movie is smug and unbearable, and for the second half are hypocrites defending a system they suddenly realize is horribly flawed, but only when it disadvantages them. But that is never explored. Their main motivation is revenge and to usurp the throne for the sake of ruling...exactly the motivation of the bad guy, except he actually has a nuanced backstory, charisma, and a philosophy he wants to put into practice.

Report to the Commissioner

A cynical but realistic take on on law enforcement that still seems poignant
Based on the low IMDb score I didn't have high expectations, but this film is a pretty good example of the gritty, urban crime films prevalent in the seventies that no one (except maybe HBO) makes anymore. The whole idea of a police force more obsessed with PR than the truth rings as true today as it did forty five years ago.

All the roles are magnificently casted and acted. Kind of a shame that Michael Moriarty was doomed to a career of TV police procedurals, because this guy was incredible.


I have no clue what to rate this
In the case you've seen a lot of Fassbinder's films, this is worth a shot. You will definitely not be bored, so there's that. The film can be abrasive and there really aren't any likable characters. If you don't like that kind of stuff then avoid this. I can't blame you. I hated the first hour, then I reluctantly started respecting it, realizing that it was a satire and black comedy not a straight drama, pi**ing on the myth of the artistic genius and the wide berth we grant them (or did before the Me Too movement).

This protagonist actually reminded me a lot Pablo Picasso, a notorious wife-beater and all around jerk. Of course no would pay to see their sacred cows brought down a peg, so we have stand-ins like this guy. But the critique still works.

It's a biographical film, but not of the typical hacky kind that every director seems to make. Fassbinder had undoubtedly seen a lot of sycophants and brainless hangers-on in his life, self-aware enough to sense how full of **** people were when they were in the presence of a celebrity, knowing that he really could only trust a few people, compelled to "develop" and chronically produce or become irrelevant. Fassbinder would know. He died after making forty films in a decade, his heart exploding from too much coke.

Non si sevizia un paperino

Run-of-the-mill Italian horror
If you are a huge fan of the genre this will probably be necessary viewing. For everyone else feel free to skip this. I appreciated the cynical tone that mocked every aspect of Italian society, but there's not much else there to keep you interested.

I correctly identified the perpetrator and their precise motive at the twenty-minute mark of the film, so for me there was zero tension. And if you've seen a few Giallos you likely would have seen it coming too since it adheres to the tried-and-true formula perfected in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

Leaving Las Vegas

Nic Cage at his best
Disregarding the grainy film quality and the cheesy, dated soundtrack that lend the production a cheap feel like it was made for HBO or Showtime, Leaving Las Vegas is probably one of the better romances ever made. Even if it is a very unconventional romance. That said, definitely do not go in thinking it is anything but an intense drama.

Unnecessary narration kind of undercuts the film, but it otherwise is excellent, deserving the accolades it received.


Standard monster flick
Basically the Korean Godzilla, but whereas the older Japanese monster movie was subtle with its politics, this one bashes you over the head with it just in case you didn't pick up on the jokes. "Agent Yellow"...get it!?! Like Agent Orange but yellow because they're Asian!!

As far as the film goes, it's kind of corny, with a cheesy climactic boss battle. Interestingly this might be patient zero of the action-heroine-with-a-bow trope. This film was truly influential in ways no one saw coming, it seems.

Also the big, mutated catfish monster looked really stupid especially when it started flipping around like Olga Korbut, more weird than scary. If Jaws, Alien, or Halloween is any example, it would have been far wiser to not show the monster than have extended bad CGI shots in broad daylight.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

A predictable, self-absorbed bore
If you haven't been on the internet in the last quarter century, there are copious amounts of articles written how Gilliam's accursed Don Quixote is the "greatest film never made." This is indisputably the most hyped film in cinema history. Thirty years of blind adoration and this is what we get: yet another movie about making movies. Because, god knows, that cliche wasn't already run into ground by Stardust Memories, Alex in Wonderland, Day for Night, Contempt, or Mulholland Drive. We get it already. Being an artistic genius is difficult. Gilliam could have done anything, and he settled with the laziest gimmick in the director's handbook.

I never read the book, so other than the windmill stuff, I found the plot muddled and not very compelling. A bunch of stuff randomly happens, and the protagonist bumps into all the crucial characters at the exact right time by the most ridiculous of coincidences. Pretty simple inconveniences or misunderstandings are turned into catastrophes. Also, a woman who is insinuated to be an abused wife trapped in a horrible relationship is turned into a villain in the last ten minutes. I guess we were supposed to hate her for not filing for divorce or for being a gold digger. Some weird character arcs in this film.

The acting is good but I loathe most of these of characters. And, once again, Gilliam celebrates a man who clearly has mental illness as some kind of wacky inspirational hero. Bravo. Tonally the film is all over the place, with prolonged slapstick set against repeated shots of decomposing animals, people murdering policemen, then ending in a corny climax of a sunset and soaring stock music that could have come from a kids movie. This film is a trainwreck.

Die Brücke

Predictable but well written
You only were going to get one type of war film out of 1950s Germany, so the movie unravels as you'd expect. While it definitely is a retelling of All Quiet on the Western Front--detailing another failed adventure in Germany's past--this one is just as good. The film takes some effort to portray even the die-hard Nazis as decent parents and the older soldiers as sensible humans instead of lunatics which would have been a lot easier, at least in regards to foreign distribution.

Bonus points for realism. I get the feeling there were at least a couple dudes (vets or civilians) on set with some experience in the war who knew what happens when you shoot a bazooka indoors or that the stomach is the most painful spot to be shot in. So it's nice to see violence depicted accurately for once, unlike in Rambo 2. But to compare this to a movie penned by James Cameron is insulting to begin with.

No Way Out

The last quarter drags on a little too long, and the characters and their decisions often seem unrealistically erratic, but it all comes together in the end. I was surprised this movie was able to pay off so well. The finale comes out of nowhere, but it provides the plot and main character some depth.

Music is corny though. Some of it sounds like it was made for a bad '80s TV show. That's my lone complaint.


Bad, just bad
I don't know where to start. There's the comically recycled set (yup, that's the same staircase reused at least three times, filmed at exactly the same angle each time because they were too lazy to try and hide the fact), the flat dialogue, the ineptly applied day-for-night filter, the uneven acting, the scene where Dracula disappears from a room--only so he can reenter five seconds later for a dramatic entrance, and an inexplicable opening scene where the actors' breath is visible indoors, though, strangely, it is never seen in any outdoor scenes. Not sure if that last one was supposed to be a stylistic choice or not or if the studio they rented happened to lack heating that day of filming.

Worst, the film isn't scary, the cardinal sin of horror films.

The Fixer

Faithful adaptation
A great cast manages to save the film from unremarkable direction. Dalton Trumbo's script fits the long, winding tale of degradation into the confines of film quite well. Though the paranoia of the book is underplayed to the point you would miss that plot element entirely if you didn't read the book. The message of the book, that self-doubt and self-loathing cripples a person mostly cast aside in favor of a straight-forward prison tale and screed against bigotry. Luckily Trumbo preserved the line where Bok denies any sanctity in the act of mere suffering. So at least they didn't completely miss the point.

Also, the scene with the clergyman seems oddly out of character for a guy who is supposed to be confused and constantly on the verge of a mental breakdown.

Les rendez-vous d'Anna

If this was made today it would be a YouTube vlog
Was a time when topics like bisexuality, biological clocks, loneliness, female identity, or diversity in filmmaking were cutting-edge stuff. Clearly that was a long time ago, and when you ignore those worn-out taboos and take a really hard look at this movie it's just a really boring travelogue. Call it Lenny Bruce syndrome. I guess you had to be there to get it.

The film hinges on a single character, and I didn't find her remotely interesting. We don't know much about her other than she is lonely. We don't know about her politics, her art, her opinions on anything, her flaws, her appeal...there's nothing to the character. She's a bland ice queen that attracts a multitude of people without trying, a super competent character who doesn't face any struggle, a supposedly internationally famous artist who doesn't seem very good at communicating with other people or has anything insightful to say. Why should I care about this person?

Unfortunately this film suffers from the lingering influence of Antonioni and others from sixties art-house cinema where the camera lingers ten minutes on literally nothing, because evidently five minutes of nothing was insufficient to build the mood of ennui. The same exact mood that the other 150 minutes creates in the same way.

Le locataire

Creepy but not remotely scary
Typically described as ambiguous, the film actually spells out the ending. And it plays out as predictably as you think. I'm sure this was terrifying forty years ago, but doesn't stand out as particularly noteworthy today as a horror film.

It probably helps to watch an un-dubbed version if you can. The one dubbed with all American voice actors (and not good ones I might add) is jarring. Weirder still, the director, Roman Polanski, casts American actors in key roles who supposedly represent xenophobic French snobs. Way to commit to that theme, Polanski. Which makes you wonder why he made this in any language but French. Suffice to say, his choices in the late seventies were not great, hence his exile to Europe...

Get Out

Good movie, but zero rewatchability
Spoilers ahead...

Okay, so the plot is cliched (any film geek who's seen the old Rock Hudson movie Seconds or The Thing With Two Heads will roll their eyes at Jordan Peele winning an Oscar for Best "Original" Script, but for a first-time filmmaker, I gotta say this was impressive. Certainly Peele knows how to get the best out of his actors.

However the movie is littered with annoying contrivances, from conveniently-placed candles in an operating room (wtf?), a crash that kills the bad guy but leaves the protagonist completely unhurt, to a photographer randomly activating his camera's flash at the right moment (incidentally I think Peele got that from a Simpson's episode), to the fact that in a city of seven million people all the black people apparently know each other by sight. The criminal plot in this film is quite frankly moronic, neurosurgeons and trained psychologists are too stupid to realize they are repeatedly leading a bread trail straight back to themselves.

This all aggravated by the fact that the movie requires two separate people to explain the plot because it thinks we are too dense to get it. The last twenty minutes of this movie are pretty lame, as everything resolves neatly in a paint-by-numbers horror climax. As smart a horror movie as it is initially it ends up playing out a gimmick. Like The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects, this film only works if you don't know the twist.


The sort of movie that makes Godard look like a phony
The subject is something that even modern filmmakers and writers (looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey) fail to comprehend and usually reduce to simple-minded moralizing. The more alarming fact, one this film tackles headlong, is sexual masochists are almost always the ones in control of the interaction, the dominatrix's power an illusion. A power dynamic ripe for exploration. Even when the dominatrix head butts the dude she isn't really in control of the situation, in fact quite the opposite.

Coincidentally, it's sad and a little absurd that people are downvoting this for the horse scene for honestly depicting a slaughterhouse. But, as with the S&M thing, people prefer to only see a vision of reality that comforts them. Best not to dwell upon how that Big Mac gets from the farm to your face, I suppose.

The happy ending is a truly subversive twist in an industry where the word "subversive" is recklessly used to point of meaninglessness. This material could have easily been reduced to mere exploitative junk like a later-period Pasolini movie, a mind-numbing satire like Bunuel, or the kind of trite, grandstanding lectures you get from Godard. But this film's director, the greatly underrated Barbet Schroeder, has a more deft touch.

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