Oct 25 – Nov 12
Exiled (2006) – There’s a door spinning in the air. Put there by the wonky gunplay of three individuals. It’s Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed at its wonkiest. Brotherhood and redemption are front and center. The duty and honor part gets fudged and messed with in a crisscrossing criminality of Coenesque proportions. Of course, criminals would end up using the same underground doctor to treat their bullet wounds. It’s balletic not only in its character’s movements and camera work but also in its story machinations. Its world is saturated gangsterism. There’s nothing left to do but smirk and be cool. It’s the Wild Bunch in Macao. And we smile with them, knowing that doors only spin when you walk through them and that’s the only way forward. And the only way is forward, but it’s good to remember where you come from.
Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) – If Sarah and John destroyed Skynet, how did they send another Arnold back? There’s a scene in Arnold’s home that tries to put exposition to this but it’s so brief and futile you can see the writer’s just putting their hands up at the multiple-causalities of time travel. But this is the premise of this whole movie, and yet they treat it as if none of us in the audience really care either. Maybe we don’t. Maybe we just want to see Linda Hamilton back being a bad-ass. It seems the whole movie is channeling her. Feminism on the move. And Mackenzie does her best at channeling Hamilton. And Natilie Reyes does her dogged best even if she doesn’t really understand what her role is. She’s given a flash-forward scene into her importance in all this, but it lacks so much luster you can feel her ready to roll her eyes. And we’re right there with her.
Death Note (2017) – Willem Defoe plays a Death God that looks so freaky and unnerving and yet so much like a mutated porcupine that we’re immediately put in a land of satire. And there the movie stays, on that edge of horror and laughter, with Defoe doing his Green Goblin at its zenith. Wingard rides this Raimi-like onslaught all the way to the end with such bravado and surety that one begins to wonder what’s in store for this man’s career. Ah yes, King Kong vs Godzilla. Checks out. But before we move on to bigger and brighter things I would just like sit in this neon-soaked giddiness and dream of a Lakeith Standfield sequel as L.
The Stranger (1946) – Overhead shots galore! And they’re wonderous things. Welles always goes for broke. And his overt take on Nazism has aged well. It’s 1946 and he’s already hunting them down. Edward G is the most congenial of Nazi Hunters. Just ask Aldo Raine. He worms his way into this family in the most hospitable way. It’s a comment on how gullible Americans can be. And how diabolical the Nazi regime was. Welles’ character talks about Carthaginian Peace lasting two thousand years and one wonders how time is measured in those wastelandish years. Why is Welles’ character so obsessed with time? Is he running out of it in the most obvious of ways, or does he know something we don’t, in his mastering of clocks? No, he’s fighting a war that can’t be won. Father Time wins every time.
Batman and Bill (2017) – Bob Kane and Stan Lee are the same person. It’s telling that this film chooses to use some footage from an Interview Stan does with Bob. They are both charlatans living off other artist’s work. Other artists, better artists. People with art in their bones whereas the charlatan has scant inspiration to pull from. But that’s why they’re usually just loud mouths who learn to talk over everyone and become the bully they were born to be. And people like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Bill Finger fall by the wayside. In some cases, like Kirby, your talent is a planet sized motor and you keep creating until there’s no denying your legacy. But with Ditko and Finger, their talent was festooned inside sensitive souls with not much bark about them. And the world, as we know, eats people like that up. Some, like Ditko, end up in obscurity screaming Ryndish tomes to nobody that will listen. And some, like Finger, end up all alone, buried in a Potter’s Field. So, this film was a quest for recognition and turns into a restoration of a family and when you see Finger’s name at the end, next to Kane’s, you can’t help but cry.
Lawless (2012) – Tom Hardy has never been more rigid. He plays this West Virginia-backwoods-gangster as if they man were in traction. And the film seems to take its ambient cue from his performance. But the film doesn’t fully invest in this. Hardy’s character is a man of few words but when he chooses to speak it’s often philosophical and ethereal, and the film doesn’t take that tone. It’s often at its best when it embraces its violent lunacy (especially whenever Guy Pearce in on the screen). It’s a kaleidoscope of different tones. Shia’s character courts a young church girl and there’s a bucolic lilt to those scenes that often come crashing down into something darker and more perverse. Is Nick Cave commenting on the American Dream here? It’s all unclear. And it all almost works. You almost understand why Gary Oldman is even in this movie.
Away (2019) – They forgot run in the title. Or motorcycle. One that never runs out of gas. Because it’s all a dream. A survivor’s dream. There’s something about guilt, it’ll follow you around everywhere. A giant made of black tar it is indeed. Dogging you every step of the way, sucking up all the life around it. The message here is murky. But there’s not always something being said. Just something being shown. Which is exquisite with mystery and portent. And maybe that’s the true nature of pictures in motion. Visual symbols to ruminate on and remember.
Time (2020) – It’s staggering to think about the patience in this family. The unbridled belief in each other. The backwards system in Louisiana that gives a man 20-90 years for bank robbery. Seems a helluva span to yo-yo somebody along like they might’ve murdered someone. Yet, we’re not given the details of the bank robbery that starts this story. It’s a curious omission. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it fucks with the aesthetic of a woman telling her own story. Maybe it’s not an aesthetic but a way of being. Maybe we all know the story and it’s as old as this country and its set-up of white supremacy. Maybe it’s as clear as black and white.
Looper (2012) – There’s a headache at the core of this film. It’s in the new and forgotten memories of Old Joe. It’s a clever metaphor for time travel in films. It’s just a headache to figure it out, so view it as a MacGuffin and move on. It’s a super-inside Twelve Monkeys joke. A colossal ode to La Jetee. Because everything’s a circle, right. Humans view time as linear. And none of us are lucky enough to be Billy Pilgrim. None of us are lucky or damned enough to be taken off to a galactic zoo. No, we’re stuck here, with our neurosis that begin in childhood, which sticks us in an error loop forever looking for wrongs to be righted. It all starts with anger, living inside fear, living inside a brokenness. Time travel is nothing but an outsized, metaphysical, micro-management. We just want to be in control. Enter TEKE, the ultimate form of dominance. The way to fix what is broken. But what are you doing but moving things around? The trauma is still there. The anger is still there to be dealt with. What will act as a balm? A mother’s love? A sacrificial act? Maybe both when they start and end at the beginning.
Big Bad Wolves (2013) – There’s only one suspect. Everyone knows it too. Everyone. There’s even a slight head-fake, that on further reflection, seems even slier. Poison candy and cakes lead to the most gruesome child mutilation. Yet, this film has an awkward humor hanging over it. A humor pointed at authority and familial dynamics. It’s a strange tone to stretch into with a killer going around taking little girl’s heads off. You hate to say it works but there’s a Bong Joon vibe here. It’s a tough balancing act and the filmmakers don’t quite get the oomph in the denouement that there shooting for, but there’s something to be said for the pointed look at Jewish and Arab relations they make. Who are the barbarians, really?