June 24 – July 16
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.
Friends with Money (2006) – Frances McDormand’s character at one point, lies in bed, depressed. Her and her husband are one of the friends with money. They have a nice house and own their own businesses. They’re successful and have a pretty good marriage. But McDormand, who’s just turned forty-three, is being consoled by her husband. At forty-three her life is just starting, he tells her. McDormand responds with a sad lament. “I feel like I’m just waiting around to die.” It’s a gut-wrenching psalm that is at the heart of depression. It’s interesting to see this form of pessimism on the screen. It’s a philosophy that doesn’t get examined as much as positivity and optimism do. That if we take all this away, all the distractions that we pile up and construct, that simple reality is still there, haunting us. But in the end, we have to guess, money helps while away the time and the agony. Money makes it more comfortable. We see that in Aniston’s character at the end. She meets a guy with money. He might not be the most attractive man and he may have his problems, like everyone, but there is the cushion of money. Being alone and poor is not recommended in this world.
Drive a Crooked Road (1954) – The short, ugly, meathead, mechanic as fodder for the good-looking, beach-going, urbane bank robbers, makes for the most mean-spirited noir. Which is at the end of its run here. This is a good view of Hollywood and Los Angeles’ class structure. It’s all based on surface needs. And car culture has never been more of a symbol of man’s obsession with material and where it leads us, than in this movie. Status symbols at war with each other. One needs the other but the lower depths stay, the lower depths. Rooney works at a cavernous underground garage. The criminals that rope him in to their bank robbery, use a beautiful woman and an elevated house on the beach in Malibu. It’s the lure of love that gets Rooney though. Even that is unattainable to the poor.
Fast Color (2018) – Octavia Butler. She was all I could think about when watching this. And that’s a really good thing to have on your mind. She seems to be imbued into every idea in this movie. A long lineage of black women in America dealing with powers they don’t quite understand. And it’s a power the white male wants to control. But they don’t understand it either, because if they did it, they might not want it. Because it’s the power to change the world. It’s a power to fix old wrongs. Deconstruct them and see the truth in the world’s beauty and bring it back together in an understanding that lasts. The family dynamic is what makes this film tearfully, tick. And it’s in that deconstruction and understanding of where you’re from and what you’re made of that makes it all the more satisfying.
Crawl (2019) – This thing hits everything just right. You don’t even care when “Apex-predator all day!” is muttered in the middle of a hurricane. It all just seems to fit in this perfect horror-movie-logic. And Aja manages to say something pretty sly about dad’s and the beleaguered white male here. Because Barry Pepper as the father is given no remorse. He loses an arm and a leg and in the middle of that somewhere admits he’d been a real piece of shit in the past and maybe this is just what he deserves in life.
Three Identical Strangers (2018) – When this doc is done with all its modern-documentary-unwrapping-like-an-onion-to-reveal-it-shocks-like-a-slow-crawl-toward-unbelievability, you’re relieved that the Nature vs Nurture debate is somewhere in the middle. You’re relieved that maybe we do have some say on where we’re going in our own lives. We’re relieved that this reality that we perceive might not be a simulation, where we’re all just pushing the right button to be fed. Well, that’s only a maybe. The other side of that maybe is a pretty dark experiment where the results can’t be seen until 2066. So yeah, maybe you have free will, but you won’t really know until Yale tells you in forty-six years.
The Vast of Night (2020) – It’s all fancy camera work that screams look at me. While the acting says don’t look at me. Look anywhere else, but not at me. It’s as if Spielberg and Linklater took a walk late at night and ended up in some back alley, giving each other hand jobs. Which is an impressive visual, and I’m not saying this movie is anything but. If you’re dreaming of long, laborious takes with crows-feet-inducing acting, this is your jam.
The Losers (1970) – It’s hard to take your eyes off of William Smith’s arms. He’s some rough action-figure come to life. He’s got that laconic smirk that shoos dialogue away with the wisdom of knowing words only fail us in the end. On the surface this seems a perposterous premise. A biker gang on a suicide mission in Vietnam?! But once the engine on this thing gets started you find yourself in one the grittiest looks at Vietnam ever put on film. And considering it’s filmed right smack-dab in the middle of the war, the touch that Starrett has here is rather amazing. It’s bug-nuts but it’s brilliant in its chaos.
Aeon Flux (2004) – This just seems like a bad exercise. And we get that right from the beginning when they try to reproduce the Fly in the Eyelash. It’s just doesn’t work. The film can’t reproduce the creepy elasticity of the animated show.
Guns Akimbo (2019) – Samara Weaving is fast becoming the Queen of the modern Action-B-Movie. Maybe it’s her hooded eyes or her appreciation for playing it stone-cold all the way down the line. She’s one tough gal with a piercing wit to go along with it. She seems to revel in the spaces that allow her to scoff and turn a man’s will to dust. With this film, Mayhem and Ready or Not she’s struck gold as a latter-day Barbara Stanwyck, all blood-soaked and battered by the male world, but still ticking out insults.
Desperados (2020) – It’s very rare in a romantic comedy for the woman to be the jerk. It’s usually the man who’s the child that struggles so much against the tide of adulthood rites. But here Nasim Pedrad plays an unbearable narcissist. So, unbearable you start to wonder why they even took a shot at the intended genre it’s in. Maybe if the tone was different this could’ve been an uplifting movie in the end. A story of a woman trying to become a better person. Here the vapid, horrible woman is played for laughs and goes over like nails on a chalkboard.