Nov 1 – Dec 28
I’ve stolen this idea from Film Comment. The only thing that’s different is that I’m not a known filmmaker giving you a list of the last ten movies I’ve seen.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1979) -Watching it this time around I zeroed in on Nimoy’s character. This psychoanalyst who seems to have his finger on the popular pulse of the people. A perfect tool for the pod people. Someone with these great rational tools to soothe away every concern. Therapy as an opiate for the masses. A book by the man as the tool to send us into oblivion. There’s a lot of snark in all this. Donald Sutherland as this impossible health inspector. Is it a caper or a rat turd?
The Lighthouse (2019)- Robert Pattinson needs to get laid. Instead he takes a job at a lighthouse on a lonely little island somewhere in the middle of the ocean where Willem Dafoe sounds like a pirate in a black and white movie shot in 16:9. It’s all terrible liquids and horrible sounds. One sound re-occurring over and over again, a loud, ancient mariner’s horn that somehow gets in sync with Dafoe’s farts. A looney humor crowds every scene. It’s Eraserhead by Way of William Golding’s Pincher Martin. But instead of a dark industrial wasteland it’s a man’s sexual lust gone to rot on cold rock in the ocean. There’s masturbation to a carved mermaid trinket, which leads to an amazingly electric montage of sexual desire and repression. Sex with a mermaid and death to former partners all mixed in with a Lovecraftian creature that may or may not be … doing something with Dafoe in the Lighthouse. It’s goop(or semen) drips down on Pattinson. Who isn’t allowed at the top to see the light. It makes you think of the white man’s zany lunacy to conquer everything and end up alone on an island with nobody to fuck. Seems apt for our times.
Mean Streets (1973)- Kietel’s voice is Scorsese’s voice from the very beginning. The opening line, “If you don’t make up for your sins in church, you do it in the streets…” is a running mantra. Kietel’s in that bar saturated with red light, some hell on earth, a place for monsters. Where people get riddled with bullets and keep on coming for you. Scorsese put his life and soul into this and in moviegoing terms that always hold up. It feels like an explosion of filmmaking readiness. And the one thing that stuck out to me was that this movie is a prism of montage. All the jump cuts and not so long after the Nouvelle Vague. Scorsese is known for this encyclopedic knowledge. Here you see an indebtedness to the French and Italian film and The Searchers makes an actual appearance. It’s a movie geeks movie. He even puts himself in it and shoots the car up to end the movie. Pretty geeky.
Seconds (1966) – This is a preposterous movie. $30,000 dollars is all this company asks to turn you from a plain looking sixties-something bank exec to a Rock Hudson painter living in Malibu. And what do they get out of it? I don’t really know. The opportunity to play God? Frankenhiemer isn’t afraid to goose your gander either. He plays it full-tilt, shoving camera’s in people’s faces and generally making this film seem like a claustrophobic elevator ride. And it works!
The Irishman (2019) – The Forrest Gump of gangster movies. The pace of this 3 1/2 hour movie throws you off at first. It’s not the energy of Goodfellas and Casino. It’s the pace of Kundun and Silence. It’s a languid piece that could go on forever because everyone in it is driving at such a slow pace, taking it all in and giving such nuanced and simply gestured responses. It’s hard not to be enthralled by Scorsese and his ensemble. They’re transcending the genre by just sitting in it and letting the stew simmer. It’s like Melville with Le Cercle Rouge. A master playing with a genre he knows so well.
Knives Out (2019) – When Benoit Blanc makes Marta his Watson you know the joke is going to be on everyone but Marta. And rightfully so. Everything and everyone is skewered here. Except LaKeith Stansfield. Who’s more of an audience member, furling his brow whenever someone says something questionable or obtuse. You could see this as a take down of the white aristocracy, exposing it for what it is, a rotten husk going the way of the Dodo. But Johnson slips something in at the end that should have more lasting power. This thing you have is only newly bought. And people will always be fighting over it, whether it’s your offspring or someone elses.
The Joker (2019) – It’s inscrutable and inexplicable. What exactly is this movie? Is it about mental health under the guise of super-villain movie? Possibly. But it’s pointing its finger in a vague direction. A rich man running for mayor. He calls the lower class clowns. Perfect. But cheap. The Joker wants to see chaos because he can’t control anything. No one thinks he’s funny. Pretty deep stuff. It maybe that’s all it takes for a crazy person.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2018) – Everything is tied up in manhood. Or, what we’re taught manhood to be. What it encompasses. A house, a job, a woman. It’s what’s expected of a man. He should be stoic and calm under pressure. He shouldn’t be too sensitive. Male friendship should be a certain thing too. But the world is different now. Or maybe it’s been that way and it’s just looked at and filtered differently. This movie is one of those filters. It’s an emotional mess(in a good way) that’s grappling with the almost futile system some of us live in. A modern America that’s a quicksand of doubt, frustration and too much black and white instead of gray. There’s a real Spike Lee vibe from the very beginning. And it holds up with the influence with a unique social awareness like Spike’s best movies. It’s a movie with a big moving heart that ends just as ambiguous as this weird land.
The Duke of Burgundy (2015) – This is gothic and moving in an early Boorman meets Lynchian kind of way. But there’s not a man in sight. It exists in a vague world of the 60’s, somewhere in Europe?? You look up the location on IMDB and it says they filmed it in Hungary. It could be Mississippi it’s so green and lush with butterflies. And it has that Southern gloominess. But it’s speaking to you from a place of entrapment. Where we all go when we’ve reached a certain place in a relationship and we don’t know how to fix it. Or give the other person what they truly want.
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) – In watching this after probably not seeing it in 20 years I realized that I’m writing a novel where the main character is pretty much Charlie Baltimore. But a dude instead of a woman. The thing is, I don’t have the balls that Shane Black has. And I don’t remember this film having any kind of affect on my movie-going brain. I don’t remember the ease of coolness that permeates from Sam Jackson’s aura. The repartee between he and Geena Davis is so relaxed and lived in. Only Shane Black can do this. I’m jealous.