Last 10

Dec 1 – 18 

The Social Dilemma (2020) – There’s a fictional domestic story intertwined in this documentary about how our lives are basically simulations. A family struggling with the addictiveness of social media on our phones. It’s not a reenactment. Not now, anyway. Maybe in the future it will be viewed that way. Or maybe, I’m wrong, maybe it truly is a reenactment of what’s already happened. We’re certainly aware that these cities on the internet are bleeding our souls to just zeroes and ones. But maybe what we weren’t quite aware of was how these algorithms are just sentient worms, not feeding on our lives, but predicting them and then controlling them. Dystopia is brought up a lot here. Along with artificial intelligence. One day it will turn on us, like Skynet, and the world will be razed. But it seems that it’s already happened, just so much quieter than we imagined. So, yes, it is a reenactment at the core of this doc.  

Violent Cop (1989) – Everyone has gone crazy. A man says this after he commits the last murder of a spree that has gone back and forth between a Yakuza and a cop. The Yakuza has killed five people, including cops and some of his own gang. The cop has beat up a kid in his own home and run over a suspect with a car. He’s even tried to shoot said Yakuza in a police locker room. Yeah, it’s safe to say, everyone has gone crazy. The thin blue line has been obliterated. An old man gets beaten to death by a pack of young kids at night. That’s the world we’re given. And it ends with a peaceful agreement between two pencil-pushers and a woman typing, warily away on something that could be an ancient computer. It’s time for the beasts of the jungle to give way to the nerds and calmer times.  

Mank (2020) – It’s a story told in a fugue state. Alcohol infused with pathos and sadness, yet Fincher’s most playful film, his most personal(?). You say that because his dad was the screenwriter. But where The Two Jakes failed as a sequel, Mank succeeds as a prequel. Whether it’s true or not, is beside the point. Was Kane a work of fiction? Surely, you can say that. It’s a thinly veiled thing and Mank is just working off of that premise. It even, in hindsight, sets the groundwork for the same structure. Mank is the outline to Citizen Kane. Where Kane was pure, exuberant, transcendent filmmaking, its prequel is the dynamic nuts and bolts of its inception. A wonderful ode to the writer. A magnificent dream of the whole of things. As a writer is always trying to grasp the entirety. To make a full circle of things. To encompass what can’t be understood in the moment. Not to make a line from A to B but to twirl the thing around like a magician’s wand. Oldman as Mank says that to Houseman when he’s finished. It’s up to Welles to add the flourishes. And he did.  

Ugetsu (1953) – The line between the dead and the living is like the fog on a lake. At times it’s thick as stew and blunts the vision, other times it’s thin as soup and only but blurs the outlines. This is where the undone live. Those manic ghosts who are still reaching for the things that aren’t finished. They are still on the plane of understanding what the living world has done to them. Still trying to reconcile the things men wrought. War, violence, poverty and famine lead to greed, avarice and emptiness. This is a society trying to conciliate with its past. Trying to create some sort of harmony with all the ghosts of the past. 

Don Verdean (2015) – There should be more Sam Rockwell and Jemaine Clement buddy movies. There should be more adventures of Don Verdean and Boaz. Christian and Jew, fabricating lost relics for a little Lazarus church in Utah. Give the people what they want. It doesn’t matter if it’s the real artifact, just give us the feeling we want. Just let Reverend Tony Lazarus sell us on its authenticity, we won’t buy it, but it’s the effort and thought that counts, right. We just want to know other people have our backs. And will go the extra mile to show us what we want to see.  

The Headhunter (2018) – Sometimes less is more. It’s a cliché and a sub-genre in movies. You don’t have the money for all the monsters you want to show, so, you’re forced to show less. Which creates and inherently suspenseful artform. It’s self-conscious in a way, but it helps create an atmosphere. Which is what this movie is, sheer, muscular atmosphere.  

The Parallax View (1974) – Beautiful visual metaphors throughout. It’s Gordon Willis at his zenith. We’re given paranoid views throughout. Beginning with what we think is a static shot of a totem pole, put then the camera moves to our left to reveal Seattle’s space needle. People are framed oddly; on the extreme left or right in long-take-master shots. It’s unnerving and challenging but always impeccably done. The final scene renders the idea of a nation’s fractured existence being viewed at different angles. From the stage (the government) the chairs are red, white and blue. From the crowd (we the people) it’ blue, white and red. It’s a simple visual metaphor, but it’s devasting in its simplicity. What a cunning way to show the crippling dyslexia of America.  

Bombshell (2018) – Kate McKinnan’s character as a lesbian democrat working for Fox News is the story I want to see. Maybe that’s a harsh thing to say; ignoring the women this story is about. Because it wades into the gloss and pomp created by Fox News and never really seems that repulsed by it. They roll with the absurdity of it until it’s time to get serious. Which works, but you can’t help but think the better movie is inside that McKinnan character.  

Gozu (2003) – It’s hard not to see the Lynchian curve to this. The absurdity of life and death and sex. The absurdity of what gets off. It was just two years before this that Lynch made a movie about repressed, homosexual longings. Miike doesn’t try to be romantic about any of this, setting it in the male-dominated world of the Yakuza. It’s almost as if he got bored of making these types of movies and decided to lampoon them. Or maybe, looking back on his work before this, he was bored all along. Bored with men trying to out due each other in the lengths of their violence and cocks. And here’s where the Lynchian curve comes back around. Minami has a dream to towards the end. His brother comes back to him with a Cow’s Head as a head. The innkeepers (brother and sister) are off to his left, the brother sucking milk form his sister’s breast. The Gozu approaches Minami and licks his face with a plump, red tongue. Minami passes out and then wakes up from the dream. Mother’s Milk and the Brother turned into a woman. What does it all mean? Who knows in the world of Lynchian psychology? 

Woman on the Run (1950) – There’s a great sequence mid-way through this film, a montage of said woman on the run and a gangster masquerading as a journalist visiting the places, she thinks her husband on the run might be. It’s part travelogue, part scavenger hunt, part marital therapy, all rolled up into a noir. A tight fitting one at that. There’s nothing out of order here. A man trying to hide from gangsters and the police and maybe even his wife, all with a heart condition. Not to mention his wife is on the verge of divorcing him. This is one doozy of a black-eye noir.  

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