Mar 24 – Apr 2 2020
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.
Pawn Sacrifice (2015) – Tobey Maguire has never been better. Tapping into some of that Brothers intensity. It’s a beautifully cold and calculated movie, with this schizophrenic, chess-genius-brat at the center of Cold War pride run amok. But Bobby Fischer wasn’t having any of it. The politics oozes out of every pour but he was in his own bag. A bag of imagined or unimagined voices and sounds and slights. It was him against the world, not just the Russians.
Hardcore (1979) – There’s scene early on when Peter Boyle’s slimier-than-a-hot-lugy private-eye shows George C Scott a porno film that features his daughter. He sits in this ratty, little screening room and the light of the screen whitens his face. Schrader keeps cutting back to him and we see him contort and melt before our eyes. It’s anathema to what the silver screen has produced in us throughout the ages. Not a knock against porn, but Schrader is subverting your expectations of what the experience can be for that character, and in a sense send you down this rabbit hole of religious and familial despair in Los Angeles.
Hellboy (2019) – Mike Mignola’s Wild Hunt finally gives you the goods in the “Who is Hellboy, really?” question. And Neil Marshall aims to please by adapting this Mignola story and bringing his metalocalypse-style of filmmaking to the Hellboy world. Obviously, it’s a different tone than Del Toro, whose filmmaking has a more classic feel to it and his creatures are more tactile and live in. Marshall relies heavily on CGI and his filmmaking motor. But it works and David Harbour is just as fun as Perlman but with a little more vulnerability.
Mid90’s (2019) – The decision to shoot at that ratio and use natural light works on you at a couple different levels. It gives you that camcorder feeling of all those skate videos that came out in the late 80’s and in through the nineties. And Jonah Hill gives you this lived in feeling of that era in Southern California. The other thing it does is give you this real hemmed in feeling. The world is small to these kids. Where they live and where they skate is all they know. And what they know is hard and silent and rough and violent. The aspect ratio helps you live in that trimmed in feeling with the characters. Helping with the feeling that these kids are on the fringe. And that’s what is so great about this film. It’s willingness to be small to be big.
Between Two Ferns (2019) – This is just sort of a road show to let everyone know how cool everyone is in Hollywood. Look, they can take jokes. They’re funny jokes, don’t get me wrong, but there’s not much here other than lambasting the very system you’re profiting from and are a part of. I guess that’s the point as Galiafanakas walks away from it all at the end. Is that secretly what all people in the entertainment world want, to walk away, live a normal life? I think that’s what they want the audience to believe. That it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. But the money’s too good, right?
Mandy (2018) – George Miller lives at the heart of this movie. Mad Max in the Crystal Mountains. It’s an easy correlation. Those people on the four-wheelers. Yeah, those guys. Those guys/gals in their BDSM gear tearing around the woods listening for their next Horn of Acid-Inducing-Apocalyptic-Visions. Yeah, those guys. Those guys are easy to draw a line to Miller. The tone and time as well. But there’s something lived-in-Cosmatos that breaths through everything else. The 80’s, with Reagen on the radio and the dooming thoughts of his fingers on the nuclear buttons. There were terrible things stalking around in those woods. Thing’s worse than Satan. There was left-over LSD and wayward cults from the 70’s just floating around like invasive fog. People worse than those four-wheeler fucks. Religious zealots all twisted up inside and they make those acid-freaks look like boy-scouts. And at the heart them is a man whose worst fear is woman laughing at him.
The Nightingale (2019) – Bloody white men. A welcome refrain from the black character Billy. They’re sitting by the fire, he and Clare, an Irish convict, comparing their hates for the English. Both of them have plenty of it and all of it is righteous. So, much righteous hate to fill up a humdinger of a revenge flick. And it starts out that way. A stalking, angry thing with satisfaction and blood just around the corner. But something happens to the main character Clare. She’s a real person. A real woman that’s seen and had terrible things done to her. She reacts to it how most traumatized would react. She’s haunted by it and has wild mood swings and second-thoughts on revenge. Her emotions run the gamut. Naturally. This is rare in a revenge-minded movie. Often. it’s the single dogged emotion of payback. That’s why the genre is so satisfying. But here the trauma is shared and there are moments of reflection and ownership when Clare’s relationship with Billy grows into a strained-buddy-movie. Two people, a black man and an Irish woman, looking for justice, not revenge.
Love Is Colder Than Death (1969) – Everything is colder in this movie than death. The way people speak to each other, the way people treat each other, it’s all cold German cruelty. Or the mimicking of cold American gangsterism. Either way, women get the worst of it in both. But Fassbender is just scratching the surface of what he wants to do here.
Kissing Them Softly (2012) – George Higgins writes about crime as trickle-down economics. An underworld that mirrors the real world. There’s not much difference between the two but what the law allows. People operate they’re money making schemes along the same parabolas. Corporations run by committee. The same back and forth on what’s the best deal. What’s the most cost-effective route? Dominik uses the 2008 recession/election as not so much as a backdrop but as an injection into the narrative framework. It plays on every radio and TV you hear. It’s this thing looming there. Big Business. And do guys like Jackie Coogan care? Guys that shadow in the underworld. Do they care about economic doom? Well, somewhat. There’s the trickle-down thing right. Everything’s connected. But he’s not buying that we’re all in it together. Because, like he says at the end, America’s a business and here you’re on your own.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019) – Kevin Smith knows his career in Hollywood is an anomaly. He tries hard, visually, but it’s just not there for him. He worked with Robert Yeoman on Dogma and maybe that’s Smith’s best movie. But then he worked with Vilmos Zigmond on Jersey Girl which is mind-boggling to say the least. Here he’s just as flat as ever and rubbing your face in it. A few laughs aside. It pays to be good at self-marketing.