Apr 28 – May 5
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.
Ms. Purple (2019) – The palm tree as a metaphor. Things are light as a feather in this movie but played for depth. It doesn’t work at all, really. The mom leaves them when they’re little tikes because, what, the dad doesn’t make enough money? And the dad is sick now, bedridden, but what’s wrong with him? Lovesick? Maybe. The two guys that wrote this probably grew up in or near Koreatown but the only thing we get is the somewhat pale, underbelly of the karaoke scene.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) – The American West is a wacky place. Or so it is for Cimino in the early 70’s. It starts in a church and ends in a school. Both look similar as stark white, symbols of steadiness and progression of manifest destiny into the west. But turned inside out here. Old bank robber buddies will shoot up a church and hide the stolen money behind the blackboard in a frontier school house. The sanctity of these places is all gone the way of bygone relics, moved across town for tourists to visit while they imagine what it was like to be Kit Carson. It’s all downhill from here. Just ask Dub Taylor. That old, ornery, station attendant. He’s got his finger on the pulse of hot-rodding, gas-guzzling America. We can’t slow down for fear of falling down. What is left to do when the land is conquered? What is left, is the lunacy under it all. What is left, is the money and guns made of war. There’s nothing left for them to do but to turn on each other.
Red Beard (1965) – Sickness is all tied up in one’s story and where they come from, where they’ve been. What got them to this point in their lives? In this movie Kurosawa seeks to entangle the doctors to the stories of sick patients. They’re not just doctors but therapists. You can’t treat the sickness without knowing where the mind is situated. And these stories are of the sad and the poor. Of devastation and destruction. Of earthquakes and poison and rape. Mifune as Red Beard teaches a Socratic method of patience and kindness and a subtle manipulation of the local politics. He’s got no remorse for an over-eating, rich businessman, but prescribes him a diet anyway. When a local madam is abusing a young girl, he does some brutal, bone-protruding damage to her sicced-on thugs, then immediately feels terrible about it and begins to treat them. And the abused young girl becomes the epidemy of his ideas of medical treatment. With enough kindness and patience, everyone is worth it. It’s hard work as Yasumoto finds out. But, possibly, maybe the only way to go.
Minority Report (2002) – I don’t know if you read Quentin Tarantino’s movie reviews over on his New Beverly sight, but you should, they’re really good. But he’s got this thing about obscureness. Or obscure to you and me, just simple movie going knowingness to him. He pulls these directors out of his ass and acts as if it’s on you that you don’t know this guy’s work. Well, it is. You should know all this shit, and it pains you that you don’t. Anyway, he’s got this boner for an old director named William Whitney. A guy who directed a bunch of TV and film you’ve never heard of, but what he was known for was his action set-pieces. Known famously (Tarantino likes to drop names, like you don’t already know he’s famous himself and works IN the business, you might’ve heard of him, he’s pretty big) by Burt Reynolds as a director who if things were faltering with a line reading, would just say fuck it, punch the guy. He’d add a fist fight instead of working out the dialogue. This feels like Spielberg a bit. But more in the line of keeping a muscle loose. An action muscle he likes to keep in shape. There’s a scene early on where he flexes it. But it looks a lot like something you’ve seen in his work before. Something he’s been rehashing since Raiders. There’s a conundrum in the source material he explores in fits and burst in this movie but you can tell he just wants to grab the dumb bell and splice in the old fist fight. It’s truly a director at odds with himself.
Mystic River (2003) – Here’s another movie that seems at odds to itself. Old crimes intersect with new. But everyone seems like they’re in their own movie. Robbins in some haunted vampire movie, Penn in some gangster-gone-straight-being-pulled-back-in and Bacon and Fishburne are in a buddy cop movie. Which is fine, if all of it didn’t bounce of each other with such deadness. Eastwood is at his best when directing down the line, one note, somber pieces. You’d think that would be the case with this, the subject matter and all, but the Bacon and Fishburne scenes are so good that they put every other scene to shame. They stick out and make the fragile moments all the emptier.
Shazam! (2019) – Magic is a form of family therapy. The film embraces magic full on and never lets it go. There’s nothing more magical in this move than the foster family that Billy Batson gets sent to early on. Maybe they exist somewhere in the world like this, but it’s got to be few and far between. But it’s an enchanting set-up for lost kid like Batson. But I don’t know if always rings true. Especially in the performances. At times, Levy and Angel seem at odd as Batson. So much so that it becomes a distraction.
Borg vs McEnroe (2017) – It’s a curious thing to find out that there was a little McEnroe inside Borg. A little brat who hates to lose. There’s an angry defiance in people who are as competitive as this. And pressures are piled upon pressures until they boil over. This is an incredible look into such a solitary pursuit that is tennis. An incredible look into the suffocation of fame and the utter immobility of it at times.
Daniel Isn’t Real (2019) – But he really is real. Right? From that beautiful swirling mass in space at the beginning, we’re to take that cosmic forces are at play. (Boy, has there ever been a better time for Cosmic Horror?) The answer is no, there hasn’t been a better time. It’s seems to have cascaded down from the first season of True Detective and it’s regurgitating of Thacker and Ligotti and landed firmly in the sub-genres of revenge and psychological horror. Which is where Daniel fits in. Into some hybrid of Craven-Cronenberg body horror where the notion of mental illness is literally something that stretches your mouth open so it can crawl inside and infect you. Consistently creepy piece of work.
Honey Boy (2019) – There are strings attached to all of us. Pulling us back in time. Forever pulling us back amongst the memories. The memories that often times suffocate and illuminate us equally. Stretching just around the corner, or seemingly going back forever, through space and time. The ones that are more immediate usually lead to our parents. Fathers for the most part always want sons. It’s an ancient longing to keep the genes and memories alive. A string that goes back a long way. But that more immediate thread that links father to son is fraught with psychological pitfalls and past damages. There’s a weight here in this movie of a man failed. Otis is a young artist with the weight of his father’s failed artistry slung around his neck and the way forward is not just a deep dive into his own consciousness but of one that he shares with his father. It’s never an easy reconciliation with abusive parents who hoist their own failings upon you. But maybe, just maybe you can cut the cord and get that chicken off your back.
Swiss Army Man (2016) – Towards the end it doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny. But at the same time, it’s funny as hell. It’s one long fart joke. The ability to sustain such a joke is staggering and inventive. A tale about a man so sequestered within himself, so cripplingly closed off that he has to lose himself in the woods behind an unrequited love’s house and co-opt a washed-up dead body as a best friend just so he can learn to fart in front of people. Because farts are funny. And if you can let yourself go just enough, maybe you’ll make someone laugh and your life will change.