May 12 – 19
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.
Pickpocket (1959) – Everyone’s a zombie here. An intended affect. People are just floating around looking for a place to fit in. Constantly moving and shuffling around, fingering and grasping for some sort of purchase in this swirling world. It’s not a crime movie, it tells you that at the beginning. It’s some metaphysical poem to the lucidity of life. We’re all ghosts looking for eternity.
Get the Gringo (2012) – Mel Gibson’s back with his gravel-voice-voiceover via Payback. This is tiring two-seconds in. How does a criminal with this much invention and capability end up in a car chase as terrible as this at the beginning? And then in a Mexican Prison that just seems as the filmmakers had it mind to just dirty-up Disneyland a bit. Get the Gringo is a perfect name for this, though. Get you a white man. He’ll fuck it up for sure.
Fireworks (1997) – Kitano does a number on you throughout this film. He’s constantly testing your linear fortitude. His editing is ribald and choppy, moving like memories at the end of someone’s days. And it is for some. Kitano’s wife has leukemia but to talk about it would bring bad luck. A cruel joke. The bad luck is already here. Which makes you wonder whether life is made up of tossed coins or a succession of choices leading all the way down the line to where you’re at. Violence it swift and brutal here and Kitano composes Bresson-like pauses at the end of shots and meanders here and there and sits in this sweet, melancholy he’s created. It’s story that features cops and yakuza but it’s really about the fragility of life. It’s sort of a coda that brings his late-eighties and nineties to a close. He’s stopping to smell the flowers and paint them as well. It’s a moving overlap of art and life. They are one in the same. All of it’s just human expression. The violence, the empathy, the laughter, the sadness, the sound and color, all just memory bouncing off the walls of the mind.
Hotel Artemis (2019) – Jodie Foster and David Bautista needs a sequel. This movie is not quite half-baked. There’s something lived in here but it’s not quite fully formed. We’re just brushing around the edges. Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s set in the future-pre-dystopian Los Angeles. A city that lends itself too well to this go-to fantasy. Or nightmare. This feels like something that got butchered in editing. There’s a whole thing with Bautista at the end that’s a huge black hole in the film. Possibly a bad cutting room floor incident. But the thought of Foster and Bautista might bring you back to this in the future.
Digging for Fire (2015) – Joe Swanberg’s got loads of something in him. What that something is, I don’t know. He shoots loose and friendly. All of his mumblecore friends seem at ease in their roles. That’s just enough to get the job done. But that’s all it is, really. A job that they’re doing just enough on because they’ve already gotten over on us. You can see it in the actor’s vibes. They’re just on the verge of looking at the camera and winking. Speaking of brushing around the edges. There’s a moment in this film that makes it worth watching. A visual poetry he manages to reach towards the end that marks an obsession as nothing deeper than a three-foot hole in the ground. It’s a perfect metaphor for Swanberg’s work.
Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014) – “On your left” has become sort of a mantra for me since seeing this movie the first time. It may be some sort of political sensibility mixed with a general sense of the geography you find yourself in in life. On the left in political terms means you’re a bleeding-heart liberal. But I don’t know if you would ever classify Cap as a bleeding heart. I’d say he’s liberal in the sense that he going to do what’s right. Wherever that lands him. And as the time trudges along in this land of Trump, you’d be hard pressed to argue that being on the left nowadays is the right place. Well, maybe not all the way left, but somewhere on that side, directly opposite of Redford’s character. It’s interesting to think about Redford’s unseen presidential tenure in the Watchmen television show, and tie it directly to the character he plays in this film. Someone trying to implement a system that eventually exists in that Watchmen time line. Cap fighting for an end to that is what makes this one of the best Marvel movies.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – This may be the best argument against artificial intelligence. And they present it with such and amazing villain in Ultron. Often times equally creepy and beguiling, James Spader seems the perfect voice for a genocidal A.I. bent on bettering the planet that he’s just been born into. Although, they do their best to tie this one into the train thundering along towards Thanos, this film seems to stand on its own. In its own unique comic-book world with a villain that rivals the aforementioned Titan.
The Bad Sleep Well (1960) – Kurosawa fits everything in this movie that he can. A gargantuan back-handed business deal is the backbone of the film, and at sixty-years-old it seems as fresh a subject as can be. We get a really calm and calculated Mifune here, at the start. Kurosawa makes you work for it. But you know you’re in good hands. His compositions and angles leave you wondering if you’ll ever see a more expert rendering of fatalistic noir. It’s got this sardonic wit that borders on hysteria. There’s an unseen men’s club called Noir. There’s even a ghost story that doesn’t even seem forced. There are tough guys with guns that come at night and revenge plot that you see coming but still seems emotionally fraught with pitfalls. There’s a deep, dark lunacy here, that ends in the rubble and wasteland of World War II factories. An end so fitting that it makes you wanna tear you own head off and shoot it into space.
The Furies (1950) – Stanwyck and Huston, with their faces so close together, egging each other on. Who will break first? Stanwyck plays Huston’s daughter, and it seems off at first. Maybe it’s an age thing, but it’s not that, Huston’s old enough to be her father. No, it’s something else. There’s something about Stanwyck, a switch she can flip, a smirk that withers a man’s spine. But Huston’s a fast-talking, formidable, daddy here and the whole movie is the two of them bouncing off each other like King Lear on the range. And that’s all fun to watch but the subplot that comes full bore in the second half here is what’s remarkable. They way its deals with land and the white man’s maniacal claim over it. Huston’s T.C. Jeffords is a land baron we’ve seen before, but Walter plays him with such bluster it borders on caricature. But the Mexican family he pushed off their land sees through that and gets theirs in the end.
Phantom Boy (2015) – Would you rather have the power of flight or invisibility? Well, this kid has both. It’s got a children’s book feel to it and it plays that out all the way down the line. A Dick-Tracy-like fairy-tale of a sick kid who dreams of being a Police Detective one day. And he gets to play out the fantasy in his delirium dreams of sickness. But with sticking to the children’s book format they miss out on some real out-of-body examinations.