Last 10

May 20 – 26
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 Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) – There’s a real Haneke vibe going on here. But where Haneke lets his actors breathe, Lanthimos smothers them with a pillow over the head. Taking robotic syncopations to a nerve-racking, Mamet-level craziness. And in a sense, it works for the paralyzation of this family. This family caught in the quiet chaos of this really weird kid whose father is dead because of a drunk heart surgeon. This might be the Joker movie you’ve been looking for. This kid might be the Joker if Stephen King wrote him with a sneaky form of nervous-system-ending-telepathy (But the kid’s name is Martin, which makes you think of Romero’s wanna-be vampire). But it could be just the second film in two years (see Destroyer) that Nicole Kidman gives a creepy guy a handjob.

Tenebre (1982) – The men in this are often well-dressed and wear the color blue. A blue that matches the Rome skies. A coolness the men sort of revel in. They revel in their fashion as an extension of their sexuality and dominance over women. The world is one-big titty hanging out for them to suck on. And literature has long been a place where some of these men have been hiding. Maybe not so much hiding but cultivating a cult of personality through their therapy on the page. But here the night is blue as well. A neon-lit gorging of Gordon-Lewis red spraying a white wall can’t imply a catharsis in this blue world. The writer is after all the king of HIS domain.

Dragon Inn (1967) – There’s a master at work here. King Hu has invented his own language. Or modified one we know so well and quickened it like a punk rock song. But only in parts. There’s long stretches of Lean-like beauty. It’s all so enthralling and never-faltering. A truly enduring, epic masterpiece. It’s a movie of time and relativity. Long passages seemingly take seconds and two-minutes of action can seem like hours. It’s a manipulation of one’s own movie-going prowess. And when we finally make it to the end, confront the bad guy, it’s not what we think it will be. This mad eunuch causing all the trouble is not just some sadist acting out a large-scale repression project. Or maybe he is some sadist, but when he’s mocked by the “good guys” for the very trauma that drives him, it gives him a sort of pathos before his beheading. A grand ending for grand film.

Knives and Skin (2019) – Along with Lovecraft, David Lynch may be the most influential artists in this new century. His awkwardness has become a film language in itself, and young filmmakers drown themselves in homage to his creepy silences. And Reeder revels in the Lynchian landscape. Blue Velvet is all over this neon-lit-high-school-noir. There’s a bit of Tim Hunter’s River’s Edge here as well. And she’s upping the “what the fuck” factor when a clown goes down on a fake-pregnant lady. Or when two girls fall in love and share knick-knacks they hide in their vaginas. She walks a thin line of Lynchian for the sake of Lynchian. But it coalesces in the end. The mania of adolescence bending toward feminism rings true in the end.

Boiling Point (1990) – Kitano pulls a doozy over on us. Bookended by a face in the dark. A young man in a port-a-potty, taking a shit, and then on to play baseball. It’s a strange loop of shit rolling downhill. That young man seems slightly touched in the head. A simple guy who just wants to pinch-hit for his team. But there’s always Yakuza around every dark corner in a Kitano film. They lurk there like violence. In fact, the Yakuza and violence are one in the same. Kitano is careful about how depicts it. At first, we’re not privy to the action, just the aftermath. Bloody noses and cracked faces. A sort of William Wellman approach. But as we move along and the gangsterism encroaches, we see the violence and its insidiousness. And Kitano’s character here is one of his most horrible creations. Beating and battering not just his right-hand man but his girlfriend as well. Forcing them to have sex while he watches and then demanding his friend to cut off a finger for some Yakuza-debt-sacrifice. Our young man is on the bench for all this just to get a gun. Shit rolls downhill. And when he’s finally called up to pinch-hit, he hits it out of a park he’ll never leave. It’s just an endless loop in hell. You wonder where Uncle Boonmee got the idea.

Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) – This is a tale of two people, supposedly. Barbara Gordon and the Joker. But the Joker gets short-shrifted with some flimsy flashbacks that don’t do the Alan Moore story any justice. Barbara though. Wow. She and Bats make love on a rooftop and Bats ghosts her. Strange set-up to say the least. It doesn’t quite play into the Joker thread. Neither does the Big-Brother-is-watching video system that Barbara’s helped her dad set-up all over Gotham. Which is funded by LexCorp. They never go back to this. It’s an uneven mess and Mark Hamill does his best, but he can’t save it.

Dolemite Is My Name (2019) – The screenwriters of this movie have been here before. They like this kind of story. This is Ed Wood in Blaxploitation. But where Burton dined on the details of the period, this one has a glossed over, greatest hits vibe. The idea that Ed Wood and Rudy Ray Moore exist in the same place, an enthusiasm for one’s own bad art and an unstoppable will to get it out there, is a good one. But this movie is foppish and too fairy-tale-warm and has none of the grittiness of the era.

I Called Him Morgan (2016) – This is a haunting film driven by a voice from the dead. A voice that’s as straight as an arrow and diving through a snow storm to some anguished truth. Jazz and heroin. Seems a cliché doesn’t it. Yet it’s just another truth. Or fiction. A melancholy note brought up from the depths of some soul. Only his soul. Lee Morgan’s could tell this story. He just needed a little help along the way. He got the help. But it wasn’t enough. Sometimes we don’t know what to do with love. It’s too much and it consumes us.

Kong: Skull Island (2017) – There’s a real Tropic Thunder vibe going on here. I don’t care how menacing Sam Jackson tries to look; he’s still trying to stare down a four-story-sized gorilla. Here’s another movie with multiple actors doing their own things in their own worlds and they never seem to meet. This movie’s supposed to be funny, right. John C Reilly certainly thinks so. And he delivers. Hiddleston is what? It’s a Bond try out, right? And Goodman is lost in this almost like his voice that seems to be wheezing out whenever he’s not sitting. Richard Jenkins even shows up and kicks rocks as soon as he’s able. It’s just a mess. Like most of these tent-pole monster movies, it’s just kitchen-sink filmmaking.

While We’re Young (2014) – Ambition seen through the lens of objectivity. But what is objectivity? It seems to change with each generation. What are one’s own moral guidelines and how do they hamper us? We set up these rules to live by and by the time we reach mid-life we would like to think we have a pretty good bead on things. But the world is for the young. They do the changing and we mid-lifers have to decide whether we’ll open the windows and let in the breeze. Because, it’s tough to see yourself as not young. It’s tough to see the rules change. It’s tough to see yourself as other’s do. It’s tough to see people for who they really are. Especially in the fog or modern technology and social media. Sometimes the only thing you have is the solace of loving the one you’re with.

Last 10

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.

Last 10

May 6 – 11

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.

Raising Cain (1992) – This is DePalma doing an autopsy on his own work. On his own psycho-thrillers. Stuffing everything he can into ninety-minutes. Every little kink and nod to his past work. But it’s mostly three of his films is harkening back to. And maybe a small nod to a fourth. Sisters, Blow Out and Dressed to Kill. And Body Double if you count the connection of Greg Henry here. It’s always interesting to see what a director thinks are his best or most interesting work. It’s also interesting to see DePalma overtly reference Bergman as the mad scientist of the Psycho-Drama. Not Hitchcock. Whom, DePalma has paid homage to diligently in the past (remaking Vertigo with Obsession). But he seems to run out of steam with his multi-leveled Eisenstein-steps routine at the end. Even DePalma seems tired of the schtick for now.

The American Soldier (1970) – It’s amazing to see Noir come full circle here. It started with German Expressionism and ends with a spectacular slow-motion finale that leaves you with the notion that existed all along in Noir. That under all those shadows and lights and tough guy acts of murder and misogyny, is that it’s all just homoerotic foreplay.

Fits and Starts (2016) – Putting yourself out there is difficult. It can be an almost crippling thought at times. To expose yourself and your art can seem counter-productive. Art can be like keeping a diary at times, and to open that up to others can be a lot like a teenage girl yelling at her mother for going through her drawers. It’s an incredible psychological leap to make. One that involves the acceptance of being torn down when what you may only be committed to is opening up. It’s a conundrum you have to come to in your own time and in your own way. And if you get there or you don’t, you’ll always have the place where the art comes from. It will always be a place where no one but you can touch.

Depraved (2019) – I kept thinking about Roger Avary’s Mr. Stitch when watching this. These two movies have some similarities other than being modern takes on the Frankenstein mythos. Mr. Stitch was hard to find back in the mid-90’s. Avary’s follow-up to Killing Zoe went straight to video. But it shares the same set-up as Fessenden’s Frankenstein. Specifically, the modern war metaphor. Troops coming home in pieces. A doctor, for whatever personal reasons, wants to create a superior modern man. Avary had Rutger Hauer go to waist in his film. Fessender does his best, and somewhat succeeds, with no-names. But the resemblance of the two-movies is uncanny. I wouldn’t put it past Fessender to do a remake of an obscure Roger Avary film, though.

Mayhem (2017) – This a completely cathartic quarantine movie. Early on they tell you it’s a law firm, but you get this sublime feeling that it could be any corporation in anywhere USA. They present this slickness that we all collectively imagine or can relate to if you’ve worked in that setting. It’s seamless integration into the filmmaking is a joy to watch. I guess that’s what you can say about Joe Lynch. He’s a slick technician. And it’s well-suited here. Steve Yuen is so good here. He’s all of us mired and entangled in whatever life we’ve chosen and are locked and loaded and ready to fucking go nuclear. And he’s got great chemistry with Weaver. She’s a revelation. While watching this it occurred to me this could be an instant action/comedy classic. Only time will tell.

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) – It’s a bit eerie that Lewis and Romero are both from Pittsburgh. What’s in the water in that town?
There are groups of people who live in the South still brandishing Confederate flags (hell, all over the country, really. Trump has exposed that), in fact, having saved their Dixie Cups (whatever those are) and have indeed risen again (in a sense). I grew up in Louisiana and this sentiment was rare but often times glowering like a thick fog around Confederate monuments. In fact, when I was kid, one of the trips we’d make almost yearly was to Vicksburg. About an hour east of where I grew up, just across the Mighty Mississippi. You take this tour in your car and tune into a radio station and stop at each marker, the station describing the action. It takes you all day, the battlefield being so vast, the strategies so deep and encumbering. And at some point, you make it to this mausoleum high on a hill that overlooks this too green valley, the beauty of the spot snatches your breath away and you wonder how anything so horrific could happen in this place. But like James Lee Burke wrote, you stand in a place like this long enough an electric mist moves in and you find yourself standing there with the Confederate dead. That old ball and chain.

I like to think that Lewis has stood in that spot in Vicksburg or a place like it (hell, maybe Gettysburg) and let his loony sense of humor run free.

The Hellbenders (1967) – Somebody should write a book (RDJ as Paul Avery in Zodiac whispers “Yeah, somebody should write a fucking book”). Coffins and Corbucci as the title. In this film and in Django the coffin figures as a harbinger. Of death? Too easy. Yes, death is involved, but it’s more of a comment on the means at which the deadly scythe finally gets to us. In Django, it’s a hiding place for a horrible modernity on the horizon. In Hellbenders, it’s a mixed bag of avarice, racism and misogyny coming home to roost. A Confederate patriarchy gets what’s coming to it on a cracked, sheet of mud.
It’s fun to see Corbucci beat Leone to the punch in his casting of Joseph Cotton. Another aging leading man with shockingly blue-gray eyes, turned villain.

They Shall Not Grow Old (2018) – Once you get over the Ted Turner-colorization your left with just Peter Jackson in his garage playing with his Weta-sized photo shop. It was a terrible and horrific war, yes. What’s it to you to put color to old film-stock? It means that much to people to bring color to death. I don’t get it.

The Squid and the Whale (2005) – It’s the younger son that hits us in the gut. The beer-drinking, whiskey-swilling, Mini-McEnroe, who takes his mother’s side in this dissolution of a marriage and family. Maybe it’s his age, young boys love their mothers, but he sees his mom as a human being with normal wants and needs. He’s willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. The older son and the father-as-a-victim just view her as a slutty homewrecker. Linney plays the mom with a soulful flightiness. Daniels dad is maybe the best representation of oblivious, white-male, elitism put on film. The mother might have taken the first steps to end the marriage but it was the father that set the thing to rot a long time ago with his bloated, buffoonish, bullying, bipedal propping up of himself. And when Eisenberg finally remembers who is mother is, he seeks out that one memory, that one reminder, that one illumination, that all life is essentially a tightrope of hunger and pain. That every creature is asking the same questions. How do I eat and not get eaten in the process?

Haywire (2011) – Bill Paxton plays Carano’s father, as some Tom Clancy like figure. Was he a soldier once? We don’t know. We just know he writes thousand-page, military novels and lives in a large house in New Mexico. Where a strange moment occurs in the midst of an ambush gone wrong. Soderbergh choses to put the camera on Paxton, as the father, watching his daughter kill. It’s an arresting moment of the white-male gaze. The realization of what has been held back for so long, is suddenly bursting through, in all these fight scenes that Carano is immaculate in. She someone’s daughter, yes. Someone’s lover, yes. Someone’s grim-reaper, most definitely.

Last 10

Apr 28 – May 5

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.

Ms. Purple (2019) – The palm tree as a metaphor. Things are light as a feather in this movie but played for depth. It doesn’t work at all, really. The mom leaves them when they’re little tikes because, what, the dad doesn’t make enough money? And the dad is sick now, bedridden, but what’s wrong with him? Lovesick? Maybe. The two guys that wrote this probably grew up in or near Koreatown but the only thing we get is the somewhat pale, underbelly of the karaoke scene.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) – The American West is a wacky place. Or so it is for Cimino in the early 70’s. It starts in a church and ends in a school. Both look similar as stark white, symbols of steadiness and progression of manifest destiny into the west. But turned inside out here. Old bank robber buddies will shoot up a church and hide the stolen money behind the blackboard in a frontier school house. The sanctity of these places is all gone the way of bygone relics, moved across town for tourists to visit while they imagine what it was like to be Kit Carson. It’s all downhill from here. Just ask Dub Taylor. That old, ornery, station attendant. He’s got his finger on the pulse of hot-rodding, gas-guzzling America. We can’t slow down for fear of falling down. What is left to do when the land is conquered? What is left, is the lunacy under it all. What is left, is the money and guns made of war. There’s nothing left for them to do but to turn on each other.

Red Beard (1965) – Sickness is all tied up in one’s story and where they come from, where they’ve been. What got them to this point in their lives? In this movie Kurosawa seeks to entangle the doctors to the stories of sick patients. They’re not just doctors but therapists. You can’t treat the sickness without knowing where the mind is situated. And these stories are of the sad and the poor. Of devastation and destruction. Of earthquakes and poison and rape. Mifune as Red Beard teaches a Socratic method of patience and kindness and a subtle manipulation of the local politics. He’s got no remorse for an over-eating, rich businessman, but prescribes him a diet anyway. When a local madam is abusing a young girl, he does some brutal, bone-protruding damage to her sicced-on thugs, then immediately feels terrible about it and begins to treat them. And the abused young girl becomes the epidemy of his ideas of medical treatment. With enough kindness and patience, everyone is worth it. It’s hard work as Yasumoto finds out. But, possibly, maybe the only way to go.

Minority Report (2002) – I don’t know if you read Quentin Tarantino’s movie reviews over on his New Beverly sight, but you should, they’re really good. But he’s got this thing about obscureness. Or obscure to you and me, just simple movie going knowingness to him. He pulls these directors out of his ass and acts as if it’s on you that you don’t know this guy’s work. Well, it is. You should know all this shit, and it pains you that you don’t. Anyway, he’s got this boner for an old director named William Whitney. A guy who directed a bunch of TV and film you’ve never heard of, but what he was known for was his action set-pieces. Known famously (Tarantino likes to drop names, like you don’t already know he’s famous himself and works IN the business, you might’ve heard of him, he’s pretty big) by Burt Reynolds as a director who if things were faltering with a line reading, would just say fuck it, punch the guy. He’d add a fist fight instead of working out the dialogue. This feels like Spielberg a bit. But more in the line of keeping a muscle loose. An action muscle he likes to keep in shape. There’s a scene early on where he flexes it. But it looks a lot like something you’ve seen in his work before. Something he’s been rehashing since Raiders. There’s a conundrum in the source material he explores in fits and burst in this movie but you can tell he just wants to grab the dumb bell and splice in the old fist fight. It’s truly a director at odds with himself.

Mystic River (2003) – Here’s another movie that seems at odds to itself. Old crimes intersect with new. But everyone seems like they’re in their own movie. Robbins in some haunted vampire movie, Penn in some gangster-gone-straight-being-pulled-back-in and Bacon and Fishburne are in a buddy cop movie. Which is fine, if all of it didn’t bounce of each other with such deadness. Eastwood is at his best when directing down the line, one note, somber pieces. You’d think that would be the case with this, the subject matter and all, but the Bacon and Fishburne scenes are so good that they put every other scene to shame. They stick out and make the fragile moments all the emptier.

Shazam! (2019) – Magic is a form of family therapy. The film embraces magic full on and never lets it go. There’s nothing more magical in this move than the foster family that Billy Batson gets sent to early on. Maybe they exist somewhere in the world like this, but it’s got to be few and far between. But it’s an enchanting set-up for lost kid like Batson. But I don’t know if always rings true. Especially in the performances. At times, Levy and Angel seem at odd as Batson. So much so that it becomes a distraction.

Borg vs McEnroe (2017) – It’s a curious thing to find out that there was a little McEnroe inside Borg. A little brat who hates to lose. There’s an angry defiance in people who are as competitive as this. And pressures are piled upon pressures until they boil over. This is an incredible look into such a solitary pursuit that is tennis. An incredible look into the suffocation of fame and the utter immobility of it at times.

Daniel Isn’t Real (2019) – But he really is real. Right? From that beautiful swirling mass in space at the beginning, we’re to take that cosmic forces are at play. (Boy, has there ever been a better time for Cosmic Horror?) The answer is no, there hasn’t been a better time. It’s seems to have cascaded down from the first season of True Detective and it’s regurgitating of Thacker and Ligotti and landed firmly in the sub-genres of revenge and psychological horror. Which is where Daniel fits in. Into some hybrid of Craven-Cronenberg body horror where the notion of mental illness is literally something that stretches your mouth open so it can crawl inside and infect you. Consistently creepy piece of work.

Honey Boy (2019) – There are strings attached to all of us. Pulling us back in time. Forever pulling us back amongst the memories. The memories that often times suffocate and illuminate us equally. Stretching just around the corner, or seemingly going back forever, through space and time. The ones that are more immediate usually lead to our parents. Fathers for the most part always want sons. It’s an ancient longing to keep the genes and memories alive. A string that goes back a long way. But that more immediate thread that links father to son is fraught with psychological pitfalls and past damages. There’s a weight here in this movie of a man failed. Otis is a young artist with the weight of his father’s failed artistry slung around his neck and the way forward is not just a deep dive into his own consciousness but of one that he shares with his father. It’s never an easy reconciliation with abusive parents who hoist their own failings upon you. But maybe, just maybe you can cut the cord and get that chicken off your back.

Swiss Army Man (2016) – Towards the end it doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny. But at the same time, it’s funny as hell. It’s one long fart joke. The ability to sustain such a joke is staggering and inventive. A tale about a man so sequestered within himself, so cripplingly closed off that he has to lose himself in the woods behind an unrequited love’s house and co-opt a washed-up dead body as a best friend just so he can learn to fart in front of people. Because farts are funny. And if you can let yourself go just enough, maybe you’ll make someone laugh and your life will change.

Last 10

Apr 20 – 27
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.
Dark Phoenix (2019) – Why are the aliens in this movie so sinister? What’s their deal, man? Since the onslaught of the comic-book movie, never has there been a weaker set of character’s walking around, dead-eyed and monotone than these. These movies are proving more and more that the artists behind the CGI are why we’re watching these funhouse horrors. It’s definitely not for the actors.

Human Desire (1954) – Gloria Graham’s character lives near a railroad depot and her husband works for the railroad. He’s big bruising, boozing Broderick Crawford. He’s no good. None of the men are in this movie, really. Not even Grinning Glenn Ford. Even though at the end, the film tries to make his decision not to murder Crawford, a noble one. He’s just as weak as the rest of them. Even his buddy Edgar Buchanan is just a misogynist of the times, coating everything with a jolly laugh. Lang frames Graham’s character as a femme-fatale, but he subverts that trope by giving her some room to move. Her explanations make sense, even to a wily Ford. She’s been groped at and prodded and beaten on since she was sixteen. She’s been fighting and clawing her whole life. You don’t really blame her for doing what’s she’s done. And when she meets her end on that train, you blame every man that ever lived.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) – It’s starts off with an almost menacing tone. A Mario Bava-like-feel on these hazardous cliffs. The two women standing there on the edge of the bluff, framed by Sciamma in this overlapping profile, their heads turning to look at each other at a frantic pace, bordering on possession. In a sense, it is a possession. This movie and it’s ideas. That feeling of the overlapping of love and art. Art as the only means to an expression of something taboo. And in that sharing of the forbidden, there are intersecting lines of devastating beauty and bottomless inaccuracies. Where, in the apportionment of one’s own art there lies a connection. A connection that works its way into a bond. It’s there in the end, with the sharing of Orpheus and Eurydice, Vivaldi and the sacredness of the female body. They all overlap in the end, like folded hands in a painting. It’s a bittersweet tome of love and art.

Personal Problems (1979) – An ode to analog. Almost strange to look at the year this was made and think that. But it’s truly sitting down in the medium and going for it. Going for it with an all-black cast and crew. Bill Gunn and Ishmael Reed choose a scene early on to let you know that this is an insular, black story. And Reed’s actually in the scene. A group of black folks are sitting around a living room, or some room with couches in it, drinking and talking, when the only white dude at the party starts accusing Reed of being an Uncle Tom. Well, he doesn’t use those words exactly, but he’s shown to have made a bad decision coming to this party, the lone white dude, telling black folks how it is. How it is to these black people in New York city, is equal parts tedious and brilliant and lonesome.

Shadow (2018) – No matter what, Zhang Yimou is a visual poet. There are set-pieces in this movie that just murder you with their beauty. So meticulous in movement, yet so free in its imagination. All set to music. In fact, these characters are infected with this forlorn, sting music. It dictates their every step. It helps them figure out new strategies and new survival methods. But it doesn’t help them where it counts the most. Where we know music helps the most. As emotional triumphs. This movie is sad and wet and gray. Double crosses galore. And almost unfollowable at times. You don’t even care who wins in the end. But, there is Zhang Yimou.

Revenge (2017) – The male gaze is magnified. We see it early when Fargeat utilizes the binoculars as a motif. A rotund, Baby Ruth-eating hunter puts the sights on her face and mouth from across the patio table, which leads to more grotesqueness through-out with extreme close-ups. It’s a magnification of the leering man that leads to the most terrible of inevitabilities. But the woman here is Rambo (it’s hard not to make this connection), a Phoenix rising on a hallucinogenic mushroom in a cave, to turn THE GAZE outward, to extricate the phallic, and indeed bring blood like a sacrifice. A sacrifice harkening back to the days of matrilineal mythology.

The Big Heat (1953) – A brutal and cynical movie. The tossing of hot coffee takes on a new art form under Lang’s direction. The point of this film is to disfigure everyone, inside and out. Nobody is untouched by corruption. Again, women get the brunt and the burn of this. Cigarette burns, car explosions and the above hot coffee to the face. Underneath all this hot-male-rage is the casual flippancy toward the female body. And Gloria Graham is the Mother Theresa of the flame.

Lo and Behold: Reveries from the Connected World (2016) – It’s strange to see Hyman Roth show up at the very beginning, a professor at UCLA, one of the progenitors of the Internet. But it’s Werner Herzog. He’s asking whether we’ve asked ourselves certain questions. Like, are we better off with all this information at our fingertips? Herzog at times is treating it like a disease, the information age. And maybe it is. A disease within a disease. If you’re familiar at all with the philosophy of pessimism, then you know that there is the idea that man is nothing more than an aberration. Something akin to a virus. Building and building and building. To what end though? To go to Mars? And set up the internet on Mars? Do whales dream of space-travel?

Akira (1988) – Can you imagine the psychic trauma that two atom bombs dropped on your country elicits? Or induces, really. It induces an epic look inward, to turn that trauma inside out. To imagine a future where nothing has really changed. There’s yet another world war and we’re still dropping fission on each other. And it’s still all about the youth. Adults playing in their militarized world have co-opted some youth with progeria in their quest for power. Upwards of thirty of them, maybe. But we only see three and an elusive Akira. And then a fourth appears, but he’s older and progeria-less. But maybe more powerful than them all. This is where the question is asked of the adults. What exactly are you looking for? What kind of power is enough power? What sort of Pandora’s Box have we opened? Otomo goes all the way back to the beginning. Of everything. ALL THE WAY BACK to the beginning of the universe and the power of amoeba memories. It’s breathtaking and imaginative and fun. And after all these years it still seems to push it to the brink. To look inside and see the wonder of all this ugliness around us.

Hot Rod (2007) – This is a movie that jumps head-long into the man-boy sub-genre of comedy, without any pretenses. Whereas with a film like Punch Drunk Love which “sort of” seeks to elevate said sub-genre, Hot Rod is there to revel in it. It also seeks to point directly at why all these manbabies exist and act as they do. Something to do with not only their Daddies, but their Mama’s as well. It’s no wonder (amazingly so) that Ian McShaine and Sissy Spacek play Rod’s parents. This being the most important part about these manbaby movies. What about the parents?

Last 10

Apr 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.

The Nice Guys (2016) – “Put a mustache on a Volkswagon and she’d say, wow that Omar Sharif sure can run fast.”

It’s Lou Costello as a mustachioed Gosling in the Porn and Smog days of L.A. Crowe’s Abbott is gone to pudge, and gravel has set in his throat. He’s the mean one, the tough one. I guess it’s always been that way between the two. Costello always finds the trouble. Falling down hills and what not. Always bumbling and falling toward danger, which in turn, somehow lands in success. Costello/Gosling is a man child looking for guidance from a real man, Crowe, who won’t give it. Or he just doesn’t want to give it because who is he to give any guidance, he’s half-crazed with brooding violence. No, it’s left up to Gosling’s daughter to pave the way morally. A familiar trope in Shane Black’s work. It works, again. Youth is what saves us in the end.

Night Moves (2013) – There’s a striking resemblance to Jim Harrison’s book A Good Day to Die. Two men and a woman, eco-terrorists, hatch a plan to blow up a dam and execute it. Harrison’s story was written in the waning days of free love and right smack in the middle of Watergate. Reichardt’s film is somewhere in Oregon 2013. But the politics are the same in both pieces. And the results are pretty much the same. One act that you think will blossom into a new world order, is really only an act of violence that leads to death and ruination. And Reichardt lives in that gloom. She films every scene with the expectation of doom. Harrison’s book ends with the main character getting drunk and lamenting his fate and whether he meant a damn on this earth at all. Here, we’re left with Eisenberg as a zombie joining the workforce yet again, trapped in and endless loop upon someone’s screen.

The Zero Theorem (2013) – Gilliam is a master of messes. His whole career has been one of making miracles out of beautiful confusions. And that’s all here. As soon as Waltz steps outside we’re plunged into a place that could be a kissing cousin to Brazil. The post-industrial mélange of smokestacks and crowded streets and loud colors and non-stop, interactive advertisements. It’s a world of sensory overload designed to crush the worker bee, keep them in place. And the Zero Theorem? Some equation that’s supposed to crack the enigma of life. Or it’s a loop back to nothingness, to before the Big Bang. It just doesn’t seem to coalesce amongst the utter creepiness of Gilliam’s old-man gaze.

The Crimson Kimono (1959) – It’s only fourteen years later and Fuller has the stones to make a movie in LA’s Little Tokyo with a Japanese-American lead. In a town where Japanese folks were bullied and harassed and sent off to internment camps. He tucks this social commentary into a police procedural. But it doesn’t stay tucked-in. The murder they’re trying to solve doesn’t even seem to matter. It’s more about male friendship in a PTS world. Male friendship trying to find a place in the modern world of 1959. Male friendships that exits wholly in the orbit of white-male obliviousness. But even heavier than that is the attention Fuller pays to a Japanese man and a white woman in embrace, in these extremely tight close-ups, that must’ve been an amazing experience on the big screen in 1959.

High Life (2019) – Early on Pattinson’s voiceover likens his memories to trying to out run a virus. He lives in a world where prisoners are sent off into space. A one-way trip to a black hole. But the prisoners don’t seem to know it’s a one-way trip. They’re too busy playing their part in Juliette Binoche’s witchcraft of fluid blendery. At one point she actually refers to herself as a witch. She’s some felonious doctor? Scientist? Conducting some sort of ritual to bring about the first space-baby. Later raping Pattinson in his sleep to get his seed and carry it in her cupped hand toward success in her experiment. (2019 was a very fluid year for Robert, see The Lighthouse). And the thing about memory being a virus you can’t outrun operates here as a massive through-line. Every dark part of us will travel. In fact, maybe that’s what black holes are. The universe’s toilet for all the bad fluids.

Loving Vincent (2017) – To have fit a murder mystery into this great and massive moving Van Gogh painting is mind boggling. But it’s not really a murder mystery. It’s more of a retracing of his last steps. And Van Gogh as a character is sort of on the fringes here. A letter to his dead brother has nowhere to go. But still it goes. Meandering through Northern France trying to land in someone’s hands that has answers to a man’s life and his sickness. It’s just a letter, but often times films are at their best when inculcating a motif. Words are wind, only the pictures remain.

The Town (2010) – There’s something missing here and I don’t know if it’s latent Affleck derision or it just seems to fall flat as a piece. There are some trying too hard and some not enough and some hit it just right. Affleck made his bones playing douchy meatheads. Here he’s trying to turn that into steely-eyed bank robber and I don’t think he’s trying hard enough. Whereas Renner is maybe trying too hard to be a wild card and Hamm is hitting all the right notes. It’s all uneven and Heat-in-Boston-lite.

Guava Island (2019) – Not sure this qualifies as a movie. It’s a 55-minute music video. But it’s wonderous all the same. An island fairy-tale run amok. Donald Glover is bursting with creative energy here. He almost seems possessed at times. Widening his eyes so much throughout this, as if he wants nothing more than to convince you that whatever lives him will surely get out and infect you. And it does.

Hail, Caesar! (2016) – The Tale of The Christ is rest of the title to the big sword and sandal epic Capitol Pictures is making. Instead of The Tale of Christ. As if putting emphasis on Christ is the joke itself here. Brolin plays a studio head/fixer named Mannix. Early on Mannix has a meeting with the top religious leaders to get their approval of his depiction of Christ (who’s only depiction we see is the back of his head, and maybe his feet on the cross). In a funny tangent, none of them can come to agreement on who Christ really is. And the gag is run all the way through to the end, when a production assistant on the set of Hail, Caesar asks the actor playing Jesus on the cross whether he’s a principle or an extra. Extras embodying the body-politic here, can’t be trusted. Jesus embodies both the body-politic and God. Caesar and the Roman Empire as Capitalism. It’s a stunning look into how Capitalism and Religion feed off each other. Because Mannix, the whole movie, is running from one to the other. From the confession booth to Caesar, from religion to capitalism. The 1950’s movie studio system wins in the end. But we all know what’s coming for it in the next decade. Nothing lasts forever.

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (2019) – There’s a stark image of Davis at the very beginning of this documentary. He’s staring out of a window on a plane. His broken-glass voice (it so hard to tell if it’s his actual voice or Carl Lumbly’s) states that if you want to be an artist you have to be willing to change. Nobody represents that more than Miles Davis. It was a surprise to learn how he approached every album he made. It was a total collaboration every time. His whole career was standing back and letting other people’s talent lead him/them in whatever directions the music took them.

Last 10

Apr 3 – 11
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.

RBG (2018) – This woman is something out of the world of Varda. If Varda were Frank Oz and wanted to fashion a mythical elf entering the land of American law. Where she’s a hero because of her patience and intelligence and bravery. Her ability to shift and change to her surroundings for the good of those less fortunate. She was building this tapestry to live by. Something that should’ve been there in the first place. She’s an amazing creation. And we thank you, Universe.

Andrei Rublev (1966) – My first job was at this video store in Dallas, TX. I was fifteen and wanted to be a filmmaker. The store was part of a chain of Blockbuster knock-offs. They had a decent foreign film section. Andrei Rublev was one of those double VHS cassettes. A rubber band holding the two plastic shells together. All the three-hour movies were packaged such. They were daunting, all those three-hour movies, The Godfather Parts One and Two, Reds, Spartacus, Ben-Hur and Gone with the Wind. But you’d seen them somewhere along the way. On TV or maybe a parent had sat you down and said “Watch this!” Andrei Rublev was different. It was Russian and leaning there on that top shelf of the foreign film section, not really caring if you rented it, secure in its place in film history. It was intimidating. Re-shelving Jamon y Jamon, Au Revoir Les Enfants, Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down and Man Bites Dog every week, yet Tarkovsky’s first masterpiece sat there untouched. I was fifteen, sixteen years old and knew I wouldn’t understand it. I would look at the cover box and wonder. And so, it went. I moved on to work about a thousand more jobs and the chain of video stores closed down. The whole movie watching industry and changed a handful of times and still I had not watched Andrei Rublev. Until now, twenty-seven years later. All three hours of it and I still don’t know what I watched. But I do know it was great.

Hell or High Water (2016) – Lord of the plains, that’s me. That’s the trick this movie plays on you, so deftly. It’s such a satisfying piece of work. A modern-day Jesse and Frank James tale. Robbing from the rich to give to the poor. But the poor being themselves and the land that they’re trying to keep is an imaginary prop for us as humans to worry about for thousands of years. The Comanches used to roam the plains. Did they think the land was theirs? Most definitely. Just like the white man felt when they wiped them out. Where ever your foot lands, humans think to roam. That’s the true sickness of human beings. Not being poor. No, the true disease is the idea of ownership.

Cop Car (2015) – The movie really starts to sing when Bacon arrives. The two kids marching through the prairie finding the cop car at the beginning is pastoral and picturesque and all I could think about was Eastwood’s A Perfect World. Something about children discovering the world of criminal adults against wide blue skies, dotted with puffy cumulus clouds, seems wholly American. But at some point, the day turns to night and the children learn that there’s no one out there to help them. Adults can’t be counted on. No one’s out there.

Dragged Across Concrete (2019) – Every scene is a tightly bored hole into the brain. Nothing drags but just seems to corkscrew its way to rot. We’re talking about systems here. Dysfunctional and corrupt systems that pit foes against each other. Racism and a bigotry toward change runs through these systems like its life blood. Violence as a vernacular, bops through these characters like their clipped dialogue. A bank robbery serves a magnet for the thin blue line. Drawing two black friends who’ve shared a criminal past together, and two crooked, white cops. The line gets skewed with black guys in white-face and white guys in black face. We all just want that pot of gold. The white cops seem to have the privilege and the advantage. They almost seem worn down by it too. Gibson and Vaughn are good and weary here, pushed into a corner by modernity. But the true gold here is Kittles and Jai White. Characters in way over their heads, they bring a humanism and grace to these OG’s. And Kittles in the end is the man hunting the lions.

Downsizing (2017) – There’s a Kubrickian montage about thirty minutes into this that veers towards a Full Metal Jacket/Clockwork Orange amalgam, but then it comes back around to pure Gilliamville when Matt Damon’s five-inch body is scooped up by a spatula from an oversized gurney. And things seem listless after the downsizing. The metaphor stalls out until Hong Chau’s (she’s absolutely amazing here) character shows up and everyone seems to find themselves wrapped up in her world. A world that still needs tending, regardless of the impending doom of rising waters.

Targets (1968) – Has there been a better movie about Charles Whitman? Is there even a movie about Charles Whitman? What a subversive piece of work from Bogdanovich. And it’s his first film! He’s got to make a movie with Boris Karloff wherein the footage from another Karloff movie, The Terror, has to be used. It’s a Corman Conundrum. But Bogdanovich manages to couch in two threads running along parallel lines that eventually converge. A truly melancholy dissertation on growing old in Hollywood and the industry’s total obliviousness to anything other than what’s filling their wallets. And then there’s the subtle psychological arc that he builds with the O’Kelly character. The scenes of him roaming around his house, building towards this terror are truly unnerving. And that ending with Karloff on the screen and the Karloff in real live stomping towards him at a drive-in movie is so cathartically pulp.

From Russia With Love (1964) – Bond has sex with four women inside the first hour of this movie. And a threesome to boot. This character is a syphilitic mess (Alan Moore deserves credit here). No wonder Spectre wants him dead. And they bait him with a pretty woman. It’s blatant and it works. Then they send in the heavy hitter. A young and monstrous Robert Shaw. Early on, Shaw stands bare-chested, at attention and gets sucker-punched in the stomach by a nasty, little Russian lady wearing brass knuckles and nary a flinch. That’s the test. That’s it. He passed. Shaw goes on to follow Bond around, even saving his life, so they can have this epic fight on a train. Really one of the best fights ever to be put on film. America wins. Sorry Russia.

In the Mouth of Madness (1994) – L. Ron Hubbard wrote a book called Excalibur. He claimed a man read it once and flung himself out a fourth-story window. He had to go bury it in the desert afterwards. The thought that the written word could induce such mania is nothing new. Carpenter uses the Lovecraft mythos (has anyone been more omnipresent in horror movies than Lovecraft? Anyone with longer tentacles?) as his engine to push this slick, horror movie down our ready throats. Is it the hubris of writers that Carpenter’s taking a fun poke at? The idea that writers are the creators of known realities. Could be true. What we know of history is all written word. But then again there were oral histories as well. And those tales have all but vanished over the years. The tales of the Old Gods faded during the transition. But in this movie, they’re back with a mouthpiece to spread their cosmic horror of pessimistic decay. Who would’ve thought somebody like Stephen King would rule the world some day?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (2018) – Great Expectations features pretty large here as a foundation for a pop-art bildungsroman. A fancy word for a coming-of-age story. But that’s sort of a reduction to the word. Because the word exudes epic. An epic coming-of-age story, where a sensitive soul goes out into the world with… great expectations. And this movie builds on that foundation, and builds and builds and builds, until Miles Morales’ story becomes something more than an epic tale of finding yourself. It becomes more of a fable. A legend wrapped up in quantum physics and multiple causalities. The new, modern bildungsroman.

Last 10

Mar 24 – Apr 2  2020
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.

 

Pawn Sacrifice (2015) – Tobey Maguire has never been better. Tapping into some of that Brothers intensity. It’s a beautifully cold and calculated movie, with this schizophrenic, chess-genius-brat at the center of Cold War pride run amok. But Bobby Fischer wasn’t having any of it. The politics oozes out of every pour but he was in his own bag. A bag of imagined or unimagined voices and sounds and slights. It was him against the world, not just the Russians.

Hardcore (1979) – There’s scene early on when Peter Boyle’s slimier-than-a-hot-lugy private-eye shows George C Scott a porno film that features his daughter. He sits in this ratty, little screening room and the light of the screen whitens his face. Schrader keeps cutting back to him and we see him contort and melt before our eyes. It’s anathema to what the silver screen has produced in us throughout the ages. Not a knock against porn, but Schrader is subverting your expectations of what the experience can be for that character, and in a sense send you down this rabbit hole of religious and familial despair in Los Angeles.

Hellboy (2019) – Mike Mignola’s Wild Hunt finally gives you the goods in the “Who is Hellboy, really?” question. And Neil Marshall aims to please by adapting this Mignola story and bringing his metalocalypse-style of filmmaking to the Hellboy world. Obviously, it’s a different tone than Del Toro, whose filmmaking has a more classic feel to it and his creatures are more tactile and live in. Marshall relies heavily on CGI and his filmmaking motor. But it works and David Harbour is just as fun as Perlman but with a little more vulnerability.

Mid90’s (2019) – The decision to shoot at that ratio and use natural light works on you at a couple different levels. It gives you that camcorder feeling of all those skate videos that came out in the late 80’s and in through the nineties. And Jonah Hill gives you this lived in feeling of that era in Southern California. The other thing it does is give you this real hemmed in feeling. The world is small to these kids. Where they live and where they skate is all they know. And what they know is hard and silent and rough and violent. The aspect ratio helps you live in that trimmed in feeling with the characters. Helping with the feeling that these kids are on the fringe. And that’s what is so great about this film. It’s willingness to be small to be big.

Between Two Ferns (2019) – This is just sort of a road show to let everyone know how cool everyone is in Hollywood. Look, they can take jokes. They’re funny jokes, don’t get me wrong, but there’s not much here other than lambasting the very system you’re profiting from and are a part of. I guess that’s the point as Galiafanakas walks away from it all at the end. Is that secretly what all people in the entertainment world want, to walk away, live a normal life? I think that’s what they want the audience to believe. That it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. But the money’s too good, right?

Mandy (2018) – George Miller lives at the heart of this movie. Mad Max in the Crystal Mountains. It’s an easy correlation. Those people on the four-wheelers. Yeah, those guys. Those guys/gals in their BDSM gear tearing around the woods listening for their next Horn of Acid-Inducing-Apocalyptic-Visions. Yeah, those guys. Those guys are easy to draw a line to Miller. The tone and time as well. But there’s something lived-in-Cosmatos that breaths through everything else. The 80’s, with Reagen on the radio and the dooming thoughts of his fingers on the nuclear buttons. There were terrible things stalking around in those woods. Thing’s worse than Satan. There was left-over LSD and wayward cults from the 70’s just floating around like invasive fog. People worse than those four-wheeler fucks. Religious zealots all twisted up inside and they make those acid-freaks look like boy-scouts. And at the heart them is a man whose worst fear is woman laughing at him.

The Nightingale (2019) – Bloody white men. A welcome refrain from the black character Billy. They’re sitting by the fire, he and Clare, an Irish convict, comparing their hates for the English. Both of them have plenty of it and all of it is righteous. So, much righteous hate to fill up a humdinger of a revenge flick. And it starts out that way. A stalking, angry thing with satisfaction and blood just around the corner. But something happens to the main character Clare. She’s a real person. A real woman that’s seen and had terrible things done to her. She reacts to it how most traumatized would react. She’s haunted by it and has wild mood swings and second-thoughts on revenge. Her emotions run the gamut. Naturally. This is rare in a revenge-minded movie. Often. it’s the single dogged emotion of payback. That’s why the genre is so satisfying. But here the trauma is shared and there are moments of reflection and ownership when Clare’s relationship with Billy grows into a strained-buddy-movie. Two people, a black man and an Irish woman, looking for justice, not revenge.

Love Is Colder Than Death (1969) – Everything is colder in this movie than death. The way people speak to each other, the way people treat each other, it’s all cold German cruelty. Or the mimicking of cold American gangsterism. Either way, women get the worst of it in both. But Fassbender is just scratching the surface of what he wants to do here.

Kissing Them Softly (2012) – George Higgins writes about crime as trickle-down economics. An underworld that mirrors the real world. There’s not much difference between the two but what the law allows. People operate they’re money making schemes along the same parabolas. Corporations run by committee. The same back and forth on what’s the best deal. What’s the most cost-effective route? Dominik uses the 2008 recession/election as not so much as a backdrop but as an injection into the narrative framework. It plays on every radio and TV you hear. It’s this thing looming there. Big Business. And do guys like Jackie Coogan care? Guys that shadow in the underworld. Do they care about economic doom? Well, somewhat. There’s the trickle-down thing right. Everything’s connected. But he’s not buying that we’re all in it together. Because, like he says at the end, America’s a business and here you’re on your own.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019) – Kevin Smith knows his career in Hollywood is an anomaly. He tries hard, visually, but it’s just not there for him. He worked with Robert Yeoman on Dogma and maybe that’s Smith’s best movie. But then he worked with Vilmos Zigmond on Jersey Girl which is mind-boggling to say the least. Here he’s just as flat as ever and rubbing your face in it. A few laughs aside. It pays to be good at self-marketing.

Last 10

Mar 3 – 23 2020

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,

Judex (1963) – Such a strange film with everything you’d ever want in a weird kind of quiet maelstrom. Jim Jarmusch must’ve watched this a hundred times. It’s got this dour playfulness to it. A seemingly evil, rich man who came by his money nefariously, obviously. A woman who works as the help plans a daring heist. A noble ball held where all the attendees wear bird masks. An underground layer and magic mirrors. In the end it’s about the failure of capitalism. Strange, huh.

The Invisible Man (2020) – Elizabeth Moss is constantly climbing in this movie. Over walls and up ladders to plant an envelope on top of a book case or into a dark attic to discover her boyfriend really isn’t dead but invisible. She’s crawling out of this mental abyss, trying to discover a reality where people believe the things she says she’s going through. Cause nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. In fact, we use the phrase, behind closed doors, as way to ignore things like domestic terrorism. We chose not to see these things. What goes on between a man and a woman in a relationship is their business. It’s a great metaphor to be sewn into this Sci-Fi/Terror/Horror mash-up.

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek (2018) – Most of this seems like an inscrutable mess. A pitch-black noir where no one and nothing makes sense. Which is right where you wanna be when watching noir. Prairie Noir, or Rural Michigan Noir. Or yet a new sub-species; Militia Noir. It’s a richly put together film. Every shot is assured and every cut is Coen-esque. Everything means something here. It’s a meticulous time piece attached to the core of the militant white male. Cops and militiamen, where’s the line that separates them? Who’s who in that dark warehouse?

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) – Interesting position they put Vera Farmiga in. Is she with the bad guy Charles Dance? Is he even a bad guy? Maybe he’s an environmentalist, looking to right the Earth ship by unleashing Myth on the globe. Not a bad idea, really, but with a lot of these tentpoles the ideas load up in the sink and when you’re too far down the road to course correct and the only thing left to do is throw it all in, including the sink. Hence, the journey through Atlantis towards the end and King Gidorah being otherworldly. And I’m tempted to say it all somehow works, but I won’t. It might all work, even Bradley Whitford’s snarky one-liners.

Homicide (1990) – It’s Mamet’s best film. Bobby Gold his best character. What are you when you’re all alone in the world? You’re that lone wolf cop and what you would call your family is a bunch of other cops. Guys who just wanna get the bad guy. But who’s the bad guy here? Black guys selling drugs? Downtown Jews with deep pockets? Neither. It’s a mystical cop movie about Jewish resistance. Or about what it is to buy into something too late. To see what you want to see and then find out it was just your usage that was needed. It’s a movie about life and being alone in the world. Because what are you without your tribe? What are you without your mother’s belief in you? Maybe the answers to some of those questions have to with the systems we’ve built. The systems we’ve built that twist us up and make us work against each other. The great American tragedy.

The Rover (2014) – You just know there’s something in the car. He’s not doing all this, going through all this, just for the senseless barbarism of it all. But for most of the movie, that’s exactly what it is about. Testing the boundaries of intellect? Pattinson plays his character on the very edge of a person “touched in the head”. It’s an amazing performance. Whereas Pierce plays his character like some mangy, rabid dog whose biscuits have been stolen. Is it devolution after the “Collapse” (that’s all we’re given for the dystopian set-up)? Yes. I suppose that’s the point of every dystopian story. Testing the boundaries of civilized human beings.

The Beach Bum (2019) – There are times where you are completely stunned(stoned) by the filmmaking. And then there are times where you’re left completely befuddled by some of the choices made. It’s amazing to see Korinne find a pocket in the cinema of weird he’s branded, that’s equal parts pop-accessible and oddly quirky. He’s made two films in the wilds of Florida and I hope he makes a trilogy out of it.

In the Mood for Love (2000) – It doesn’t seem like anybody’s in the mood for anything put posing in this movie, much less for love. This was a thought that kept hitting me while watching this. And what beautiful posing. But then it hit me. They’re both trying to be loyal to something that’s totally ripping them apart. And they seem to be flies trapped in a jar for most of the movie. Living in a strange flat that seems to defy any kind of layout I’ve ever seen. It’s often confusing to try and figure out who lives where and what is shared space. And the characters only seem to be going through the motions.

Shutter Island (2010) – This is dealing with postwar fallout and the advent of the hydrogen bomb, and the mass psychological hysteria that follows. Our culture was changed after the Second World War. We dropped two bombs on Japan as a message. A message that said we had the capability to obliterate the human race. That act of violence on such a large scale defies logic. Whatever logic exists after such an extinction level incident. And that’s what lies underneath this movie. The threat of violence. Ted Levine shows up toward the end as the warden and he’s equal shades Kurtz and Judge Holden, proselytizing the one true gift from God. Violence.

It Comes at Night (2017) – This movie hits like a ton of bricks right now. Currently writing this in a city under quarantine. The utter madness of being in a situation where you have no idea what is going on. What is true and what is false? Who do you trust? It’s a massive tome to paranoia and a movie that could serve as a guide to social distancing.

Last 10

Last 10
Feb 3 – Feb 28

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.

Ford vs Ferrari (2019) – Tracy Letts and Josh Lucas play Ford Demi-Gods. They eat souls and shit out salami and cheese and wonder bread sandwiches. You can see they’re mutual emptiness in the shake of Letts jowls as he turns his head toward Damon’s Shelby and says nothing. He doesn’t need to, he’s said it all with his emptiness. You can see it in the too blue eyes of Lucas, which seems to have no room for the sclera, as he tell Bale’s Miles to ask his son not to touch the new Mustang. They engulf everything they come in contact with, even war. But there is this little race with these big motors they can’t quite digest. Mangold is a master here. From the very first shot you’re gripped like a vise and never let go with his angles and compositions. It’s a movie to behold and go back to again and again.

Marriage Story (2019) – There’s that scene towards the end. It’s the one everyone talks about who’s seen the movie. Where they burn each other to the ground with searing, gut-emptying brutality. You can’t help but cry with them. To feel that body-shuddering finality of love. That scene encapsulates all we know of love. To know someone enough to love them so much will one day lead to this melting, muck of mutilation. You can only do this to someone you know so well. You can only do this to someone you’ve projected everything in your bowels onto. It’s really you you’re trying to tear down. And hopefully you can recognize this and a small tendril of growth will root forth and you’ll get to a place where you’ll still want smile at this person and make sure they’re shoe is tied.

Color Out of Space (2019) – Cosmic Horror in Pink! This movie does more for contaminated water and it’s destructive affects on human DNA than any Erin Brockavitch or A Civil Action or Dark Waters could ever dream of in technoscope. While it’s way more colorful I’m sure it never reaches the emotional depths those previously mentioned. But it tries. It’s tries with another loopy performance from Nic Cage which in turn curls itself around everyone else in the film and seems to scare them into frightful performances the end it crashing sounds and light.

King of New York (1990) – Schooly D asks Are you black as me? Frank White would think he’s inclusive enough to say so. Hip/Hop is so intertwined in this movie, it’s the first of its kind. The first Hip/Hop gangster movie and Fishburne is its gobsmacking heart. And Walken is its NASferatu. He’s a vampire, lit in blue, melancholy light, dancing around with a nine-millimeter shooting ancient Italian gangsters, bringing in the new school and flattening rogue cops. It’s a truly Gothic delight.

Toni Morrison : The Pieces I Am (2019) – She says something towards the end, an interview with Charlie Rose, I think, asking him to examine himself without the benefit of propping himself up with race. Where would he be then? Where would all white people be without the subjugation of others? It’s the only question that needs to be asked.

The Gentleman (2019) – McConaughy is a lion of an Oklahoma weed gangster in London. The insights into his business and its logistics and what it’s future holds is the most fascinating thing here. And everyone is giving their all and Ritchie’s just really good at this. And it’s definitely a time for some filmmakers to make movies where they examine their own work.

The Laundromat (2019) – Meryl Streep’s walk. I don’t know if I’ve never noticed her walk before or it’s just been so long since she’s been in a movie where she’s walked. Has she been sitting down in movies for years now? Or is it just Soderberg’s camera hanging back and letting us watch Streep move and act. Giving her a shotgun and walking into an office and blasting the place up. It’s just spellbinding and a pleasure to see her move in a loose, saddened way. Someone who’s tired of it all. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her this way. She’s such a brilliant actor.

The Longshot (2019) – I am worthy of love. The unyielding, bearded guy who dresses like he’s in seventh grade is given this mantra by his friend, who’s black and a Republican. He’s given the mantra because Oh yeah, Charlize Theron is Secretary of State looking at a run on the presidency. It’s all very ridiculous,but somehow, that simple mantra grounds the damn thing and you go flying along with it. It helps that Theron is so good in a roll you don’t see at all for women these days. A woman who rediscovers what she stands for on a political stage. A powerful, funny, thoughtful woman as President is just too much for us now, though.

The Breaking Point (1950) – One of the most haunting endings. A little black boy left alone on a dock, waiting for his father. His father being the first mate on this little boat this white guy owns for like three seconds before creditors and criminals crawl out of the swamp trying to sink him in some Florida Everglades. The first mate is just a stupid casualty at the end of a gangster’s fun. The movie’s not about him per se, but in the end we’re left wondering what his life is really worth.

Domino (2019) – It happens early on when Jamie Lannister is in bed with a girl and his phone rings and he gets out of bed to answer it. It’s a shot that looks like the camera is set up in a loft, looking slightly down. DePalma zooms in ever so slowly. And you know immediately it’s a DePalma film. The shot ends, close on Jaime’s gun, which he leaves in his apartment and dutifully becomes the first domino. You’re welcome, says DePalma.