July 16 – Aug 3
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.
The Old Guard (2020) – They’re not very good assassins for having so many years and so much practice at it. They seem lazy and too quick to lean on their own immortality. But maybe that’s the point. And this movie is nothing more than characters dealing with love and death. Something that towards the end seems to coalesce into a strange emotional investment. There are relationships built between the characters and you seem to care for them in the end. I guess that’s all your asking for in this day in age.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) – I wonder if we’ll all just forever stuck in high-school. Or we want to be. That’s why we look back and yearn so fondly for movies like this one. The nostalgia is just an excuse to sink back into a place when it was okay to be a shithead. At some point in your life there’s a notion of growing up and everything that entails. What does that entail, exactly? You learn mostly (hopefully), that you may want to be good and good to others. And that takes work. A lot of it. Selflessness becomes a concept that couldn’t even be conceived in your high school years. I think we find comfort in some strange way in the freedom of narcissism. And in looking back at the high school years one can see where the admiration of oneself is first learned and honed. It’s just too bad those formative years are wasted on such an empty practice.
Predator (1987) – Arnold is a modern-day Tarzan. Beating his chest and yelling at creation’s incongruities. The white-colonial-military is given a heavy hammer here. The illegal alien is an actual alien, hunting white men by the spine load. But the body-builder white male wins in the end with his ingenuity and guile, all but ensuring that manifest destiny will reach the stars.
Ashes and Diamonds (1958) – There are no children in this film, but there are children at play. Children with sunglasses and guns and secret things to do in the night. There are people playing dress-up and binge drinking like terrible high-school kids. There are young people falling in and out of love and wondering if the world will ever give them a chance to find themselves. But what is it about this time and place they find themselves in that calls for this must intrigue? Maybe this is just the malaise of the modern industrial world. When a species finds a place for the tool, there is no going back. It’s just ashes and diamonds.
Palm Springs (2020) – Would an infinite loop make a person better? Just by sheer osmosis of inculcated time? Just by trail an error? Just by the failing boredom of fucking up all the time? Just by not caring you come to the you who plays nice with the universe. Do you even need a time loop for this? Or, such is life. Yesterday, today and tomorrow are all the same. The only way you get through the Groundhog Days is to find someone else to get through the excruciating crush of time with. It only makes sense to drag someone along with you through this boiling pot of pain.
20th Century Women (2016) – You never really know anyone. We can try and try and try, but more often than not, we only see what we project. And in turn, if we manage to turn the flickering thing off, we see only what the other projects. It only happens in fleeting moments when two people can turn the lights off and see each other. Maybe you tell each other things that are true. Maybe you understand something about each other finally. But it’s only for a split second and then we go back to our routines and fitted spaces within gender and generational gaps. How much of our lives is trying to fill in those gaps with the wrong assumptions and rare insights that fall short? We do our best. Or we don’t. Either way we wander around mostly alone, most of the time, trying to fill those ambiguous and ethereal spaces between us. And maybe it’s not a bad place to sit in and meditate, even if alone.
The Underneath (1995) – Peter Gallagher as Burt Lancaster. Soderberg as Siodmak. One may transcend the other but it’s just an exercise. Something Soderbergh has made a habit out of in his career. But where Gallagher trips and stumbles his way through an apathetic performance, Soderbergh is just learning to flex some filmmaking acumen that will serve him through the rest of his career. Diving into extreme blues and greens and using filters as motif. Treating Neo-Noir as the style-magnet it is. It’s assured and steady and maybe boring, but it’s a learning curve for a filmmaker worth noting.
True Grit (2010) – This exists somewhere on the other side of the Unforgiven and Dead Man. Where all the outlaw legends have gone to pasture. Mattie Ross as an old lady with one arm, spits venom at Frank James at the end. LeBeef derides Rooster for running with Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson. Cogburn’s a dusty old fart. Neither good or bad. But maybe more good than bad. He’s not out to prove anything like those dudes in the Wild Bunch and he’s certainly not a Searcher. What he is, is something of a Western outsider. It’s not the Grit Mattie mentions so much that really draws her to him. It’s his status as an outlier that pulls her to Cogburn. They are both outsiders. Almost everyone of significance in this movie is. It’s a shaggy dog, black sheep of a western set in that piney-world of Long Rider country. Where the myth does not so much make the man but amend him. Sew him up along his rough edges and place him in his coffin and think of this world as once modern. But it’s the woman with one arm standing over it in the end.
The Bigamist (1953) – Could be one of the most honest and heartfelt looks at loneliness in Los Angeles. Ida Lupino’s Phyllis is every single woman in that city, working some lackluster food service job, not looking for love in the wrong places but finding it anyway. Sometimes you don’t have a choice when you’re trapped on a bus with a docile, dough-faced and domiciled Edmund O’Brien. She does her best though. Her best being cagey and wary of any and all kinds of hucksters (Which Ida might’ve been the best at. No one gave better side-eye) who mask their inappropriateness with the excuses of loneliness. But that’s what this movie is about, really. Loneliness in large cities. And how they encroach and overlap onto each other
Motherless Brooklyn (2019) – Do you think of Ed Norton as a good actor? Probably. More importantly you think of him as a tyrannical collaborator. Notorious for getting simple acting gigs and turning them into co-writing gigs. I point this out only to clue you and myself into this process that Norton is constantly putting on the screen. It’s this sort of dogged-determinism to get the most logical thing on film. It’s about the process with Norton and you can see him working it out as the thing progresses. And it works magnificently here. A whodunit needs this process more than any other type of story. Norton’s in every scene, directing the flow of everything. It’s the perfect vehicle for him. Even though he is the white man coming to save the black girl in the end.