Last 10

Jan 2 – 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.

Uncut Gems (2019) – The Safdie Brothers are anxiety pilers. They have this gift of imagining everything that could possibly go wrong in a given moment and then piling them all in one room and then milking these moment until the utter is bone dry. They have a gift for this type of filmmaking. And it’s rare to walk out of a movie with your guts still in a twist. But underneath all that high anxiety is a clever burrowing in on what unchecked capitalism does to some folks. An African stone starts all this. The wonders of the universe lie with in it. But the mechanics and logistics to bring it forth and the outcome that follows isn’t worth it. Only death follows. And who suffers the most? Africans, Jews, Armenians and a sly little nod toward Native Americans with the casino at the end. It’s just not a rock to some.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – There really is no telling what the fuck is going on here, yet I found myself midway through not really giving a shit. When Poe and Finn are running around some ship on some mission bantering back and forth, I thought to myself, this is what I want, more Oscar Isaac and John Boyega. It’s a pity sometimes to be so fascinated by something like The Force when the real pleasure comes from the frantic pacing and straight-faced chummery of a well done space opera.

Django Unchained (2013) – It’s QT’s most satisfying film. He sticks with Django throughout, jumping around very little. Some occasional flashbacks but for the most part just a fantastic grudge of dental work. Being inspired by German Folklore into heroism Django and the good doctor service a loud and bloody and brutal root canal to not just Calvan Candie but to whole institution of slavery.

The Tenant (1976) – Wherein we see Polanski turn into a woman. Or be possessed by one. I wondered while watching this again, probably like everyone familiar with the man’s story, that maybe this was some sort of sordid attempt by Polanski to deal with Sharon Tate’s death and the aftermath of fleeing America as a pedophile. How does he really go into himself and take a gander at things? By making everyone in the movie a bully and American to boot. Shades of Elia Kazan and On the Waterfront indeed.

Alien (1979) – This movie is in a constant state of penetration. So much so, that there’s an explosion of milky, whiteness toward the end, from a woman-hating android. Ripley is what? The modern woman? The modern space-woman. And what does she find in space? Maybe the root of all penetrating evil. Man’s unending tinkering with shit.

Aliens (1986) – For a minute there you think this movie might be about trauma and somehow dealing with it. But it quickly takes you inside this Heinlein-like hoorah of militaristic lampoonishness. Bill Paxton leading the way with such a deft performance of a dopey, gung-ho mercenary turned inside-out by this ultimate killing machine. It’s an evisceration of violent manly norms. Then again this could be about healing from trauma by just piling more trauma. Does Ripley ever get a break?

Alien 3 (1992) – Ripley gets laid! I mean, how long’s it been? A hundred years? She’s been floating around in space for at least that long and the closest she ever got was a little flirting with Hicks. But here she crashes on a prison planet, Newt and Hicks not making it by the way, and inside two days she’s banging Tywin Lannister. And I do not blame her one fucking bit, cause the rest of the movie is not so much garbage but refuse of doubt from the two previous films.

Booksmart (2019) – All these kids are so smart and funny it makes you wanna just keep growing old and die. Let them have this world, they’ll make it better for sure. Olivia Wilde comes to the table with such an assured handle it’s just amazing. A great kinetic piece of pop, coming-of-age comedy.

Inception (2010) – Projections run amok. All in service to change a memory. We’re left with a totem that never topples. Just spinning away in Leo’s head. It’s an idea that never falters, just like the driving efficiency of this movie. An epic Escher painting compounded to an nth degree of superfluous dream logic. A propelling force this movie. The ego’s momentum writ large. In the end it’s just all about what past you can live with.

Upgrade (2018) – The terrors of technology. It’s pretty simple isn’t it. There’s always a price to pay for the ability to walk again. To have a voice inside your head egging you on. This is disability porn at its finest.

Last 10

Last 10

Nov 1 – Dec 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.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1979) -Watching it this time around I zeroed in on Nimoy’s character. This psychoanalyst who seems to have his finger on the popular pulse of the people. A perfect tool for the pod people. Someone with these great rational tools to soothe away every concern. Therapy as an opiate for the masses. A book by the man as the tool to send us into oblivion. There’s a lot of snark in all this. Donald Sutherland as this impossible health inspector. Is it a caper or a rat turd?

The Lighthouse (2019)- Robert Pattinson needs to get laid. Instead he takes a job at a lighthouse on a lonely little island somewhere in the middle of the ocean where Willem Dafoe sounds like a pirate in a black and white movie shot in 16:9. It’s all terrible liquids and horrible sounds. One sound re-occurring over and over again, a loud, ancient mariner’s horn that somehow gets in sync with Dafoe’s farts. A looney humor crowds every scene. It’s Eraserhead by Way of William Golding’s Pincher Martin. But instead of a dark industrial wasteland it’s a man’s sexual lust gone to rot on cold rock in the ocean. There’s masturbation to a carved mermaid trinket, which leads to an amazingly electric montage of sexual desire and repression. Sex with a mermaid and death to former partners all mixed in with a Lovecraftian creature that may or may not be … doing something with Dafoe in the Lighthouse. It’s goop(or semen) drips down on Pattinson. Who isn’t allowed at the top to see the light. It makes you think of the white man’s zany lunacy to conquer everything and end up alone on an island with nobody to fuck. Seems apt for our times.

Mean Streets (1973)- Kietel’s voice is Scorsese’s voice from the very beginning. The opening line, “If you don’t make up for your sins in church, you do it in the streets…” is a running mantra. Kietel’s in that bar saturated with red light, some hell on earth, a place for monsters. Where people get riddled with bullets and keep on coming for you. Scorsese put his life and soul into this and in moviegoing terms that always hold up. It feels like an explosion of filmmaking readiness. And the one thing that stuck out to me was that this movie is a prism of montage. All the jump cuts and not so long after the Nouvelle Vague. Scorsese is known for this encyclopedic knowledge. Here you see an indebtedness to the French and Italian film and The Searchers makes an actual appearance. It’s a movie geeks movie. He even puts himself in it and shoots the car up to end the movie. Pretty geeky.

Seconds (1966) – This is a preposterous movie. $30,000 dollars is all this company asks to turn you from a plain looking sixties-something bank exec to a Rock Hudson painter living in Malibu. And what do they get out of it? I don’t really know. The opportunity to play God? Frankenhiemer isn’t afraid to goose your gander either. He plays it full-tilt, shoving camera’s in people’s faces and generally making this film seem like a claustrophobic elevator ride. And it works!

The Irishman (2019) – The Forrest Gump of gangster movies. The pace of this 3 1/2 hour movie throws you off at first. It’s not the energy of Goodfellas and Casino. It’s the pace of Kundun and Silence. It’s a languid piece that could go on forever because everyone in it is driving at such a slow pace, taking it all in and giving such nuanced and simply gestured responses. It’s hard not to be enthralled by Scorsese and his ensemble. They’re transcending the genre by just sitting in it and letting the stew simmer. It’s like Melville with Le Cercle Rouge. A master playing with a genre he knows so well.

Knives Out (2019) – When Benoit Blanc makes Marta his Watson you know the joke is going to be on everyone but Marta. And rightfully so. Everything and everyone is skewered here. Except LaKeith Stansfield. Who’s more of an audience member, furling his brow whenever someone says something questionable or obtuse. You could see this as a take down of the white aristocracy, exposing it for what it is, a rotten husk going the way of the Dodo. But Johnson slips something in at the end that should have more lasting power. This thing you have is only newly bought. And people will always be fighting over it, whether it’s your offspring or someone elses.

The Joker (2019) – It’s inscrutable and inexplicable. What exactly is this movie? Is it about mental health under the guise of super-villain movie? Possibly. But it’s pointing its finger in a vague direction. A rich man running for mayor. He calls the lower class clowns. Perfect. But cheap. The Joker wants to see chaos because he can’t control anything. No one thinks he’s funny. Pretty deep stuff. It maybe that’s all it takes for a crazy person.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2018) – Everything is tied up in manhood. Or, what we’re taught manhood to be. What it encompasses. A house, a job, a woman. It’s what’s expected of a man. He should be stoic and calm under pressure. He shouldn’t be too sensitive. Male friendship should be a certain thing too. But the world is different now. Or maybe it’s been that way and it’s just looked at and filtered differently. This movie is one of those filters. It’s an emotional mess(in a good way) that’s grappling with the almost futile system some of us live in. A modern America that’s a quicksand of doubt, frustration and too much black and white instead of gray. There’s a real Spike Lee vibe from the very beginning. And it holds up with the influence with a unique social awareness like Spike’s best movies. It’s a movie with a big moving heart that ends just as ambiguous as this weird land.

The Duke of Burgundy (2015) – This is gothic and moving in an early Boorman meets Lynchian kind of way. But there’s not a man in sight. It exists in a vague world of the 60’s, somewhere in Europe?? You look up the location on IMDB and it says they filmed it in Hungary. It could be Mississippi it’s so green and lush with butterflies. And it has that Southern gloominess. But it’s speaking to you from a place of entrapment. Where we all go when we’ve reached a certain place in a relationship and we don’t know how to fix it. Or give the other person what they truly want.

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) – In watching this after probably not seeing it in 20 years I realized that I’m writing a novel where the main character is pretty much Charlie Baltimore. But a dude instead of a woman. The thing is, I don’t have the balls that Shane Black has. And I don’t remember this film having any kind of affect on my movie-going brain. I don’t remember the ease of coolness that permeates from Sam Jackson’s aura. The repartee between he and Geena Davis is so relaxed and lived in. Only Shane Black can do this. I’m jealous.

Last 10

Last 10

Sept 20 – Oct 31

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.

Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindlewald – David Yates is the Terence Fisher of Potterville. And Potterville seems a universe built on closeted emotions and an unwillingness to name them. If only Jude Law as Dumbledore could name his lover in Johnny Depp’s Grindlewald, then maybe all this black magic wouldn’t have a place in this world. Is that what it is? Is evil just repression. I’m not quite sure the movie is asking that though. Maybe it will in the third one.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch – This was very tiring. To be given the responsibility to make your own decisions in a movie is something I never thought I wanted. And I didn’t want it and don’t want it. Please give me the decisions you’ve made and just let me critique them. That’s all. Don’t make me do the work.

Ad Astra – “We’re all we have.” It’s something you learn by only going on a trip to Neptune. It’s a mesmerizing slide through our solar system. It starts off with an insane fall to earth and continues with with this almost sinister relentlessness for most of the movie. You always get this feeling with James Gray that he’s got something to prove. And he’s constantly proving it. Whatever it is. Whatever genre he’s chosen to make a movie in, he’s constantly proving his expert subversion of it. This film is set up as an adventure through space, albeit an ominous and serious one, but time is all relative in this story. The rigors of space travel aren’t that rigorous here. No one goes to sleep in this movie. The idea of cryogenic sleep is non-existent. Because the male ego has no time for sleep. It must act and build upon those acts until he has a tower of regret constructed in orbit off Neptune. There’s no time for self-reflection or putting a mirror to inner turmoil. You must do or do not.

Memories of Murder – People are forever falling down in this movie. Bong Ho has a strange and goofy sense of humor. Cops are falling down embankments at crime scenes at first. Then down stairs that lead into an interrogation room. It’s as if the only way forward is down with nervous bumbling. And stumbling and bumbling we go. Into futility and bureaucratic numbskullery. This movie has a lot in common with Zodiac. Not just the real-life ties but just the sheer ineptitude of fragile male egos. Who’s gonna get there first? None of us and a killer goes free.

Rosemary’s Baby – There’s a shot early on in an elevator looking over Farrow and Cassavete’s shoulders, Elisha Cook in the background but in focus. It doesn’t seem like much but it’s a humdinger to me. The elevator moves upward and you’re made very aware it’s just a set piece, yet it draws you in like some ancient and intimate theater piece. And there’s that elevator operator, a black man, smiling at all these white on their way up or down, you can’t tell which way they’re going really, but you know where.

El Camino – This was nothing like visiting the old folks home of Deadwood. It’s more like visiting a trauma victim. Someone you were cringing for and wishing for some other ending. An ending that brings some sort of contentment to all involved. Jesse Pinkman is a prisoner through all of this. Through the TV show and much of this movie. Prisoner of addiction, wrongheadedness and most of all Walter White and whatever his machinations wrought. And we finally get to see Jesse navigate it on his own and do it his way.

Third Murder – “These days victims think they can get away with anything.” Koreeda, instead of being interested in the mystery, seems to be more concerned with the realities we weave for ourselves that outsiders would call lies. Maybe there is no truth outside our own bubble.

Parasite – Here’s Bong Ho again with some deep sardonicism. Class warfare this time where the lower depths brim with creativity and ambition and the rich are trusting with despair. There’s levels within levels within levels here and Bong directs this with such visual poetry. He’s got all the right moves here . And there’s not a level here that you can play on and leave feeling good about oneself. Underneath all this “underneath” is a language most of us refused to learn early on and now we’re playing catch up and there’s no guarantee we’ll figure it out in the end.

In the Shadow of the Moon – I thought about two movies when watching this. Both 90’s movies. There’s the opening shot that reminds you of the Fight Club ending, and the totally bonkers, time-travel-thing-that-never-really-gets-hashed-out premise makes you think of 12 Monkeys. The idea of time as a circle, doesn’t click emotionally though, like it does in Monkeys. It’s got style and Bokeem Woodbine with a chew stick in his mouth(somebody’s a fan of the old Roots bassist. The movie is set in Philly)at some point but that’s all it is, style.

Suspiria – Rainy Berlin. I’ve never been. Only in Fassbender’s movies have I seen it. But this movie has the hindsight of past events. And it uses it to infuse a political landscape into this remake. Germany in Autumn. The guilt of the past is grotesque and blood soaked and what are we to do with it. Learn from it? Maybe the past is not a teacher. Maybe it’s ever-reaching and aware that it’s all anyone has. Terrible memories are only right now.

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The Night Comes For Us – Indonesia is where it’s at for modern martial-arts movies. There’s a John Woo vibe going here but without the operatic grace. This is more crunching bone and sliced tendons than surfing balustrades and cool gun play. So much so, that the gore starts to make you wonder what it is about violent movies that you love so much. Is it just an aesthetic of primal urges? Is it a form of therapeutic catharsis? Or is it just fun to watch because we’re crazed creatures? I don’t know. Maybe it just flickers on the screen faster.

Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood – The above brooding kind of leads into this one. It doesn’t seem like it until the very end, but this movie is about violence as wish fulfillment. And about how viewing it has a different meaning for everyone. This is Tarantino’s most DePalma film yet. It’s a mushy mash of nostalgia. Where’s the Pino Dinaggio score? Instead we have the interconnectiveness of the radio. Tarantino is forever trying to save the world with film and its Jungian rabbit hole of church and resurrection. TV’s are always on everywhere as well, their soundtracks are the movies soundtracks. The big thing missing. Phones. One gets brutally murdered by Cliff Booth and a Manson lady’s head. As if to say the phone has dusted us down the wrong fork in the road. Disconnected us when it was supposed to connect us like film. And hey, TV might just be rotting the brain. Ask those Manson killers where they learned to kill. You can actually see Tarantino grinning like a loon behind every frame. His most DePalma film yet. Just look at the very end. A sick, sardonic joke that gives the protagonist exactly what he wishes for. Maybe a role in the next Roman Polanski movie. Now, that’s just sick

Widows – I saw this after we all found out Liam Neeson was a a weird, violent, Irish racist. (He’d be a perfect Dudley Smith.) And here he kind of plays him in a Chicago thief offshoot. It’s Set It Off with a careful and concise filmmaker behind the camera. And Viola Davis is about as stone-faced and hard-boiled as you can get in a straight ahead crime drama.

Colossal – Not sure I quite buy this towards the end. Midway through we find out that Hathaway isn’t quite the monster she’s making herself out to be. Because there’s a more terrible monster in Sudaikus. Is that what we take away from this? There’s always someone more fucked up than you? Or is this movie really about Korean Cinema in some way? Some weird ventriloquist dance going on between American and Korean cinema? Nah, it’s probably just about reconciliation.

Aquaman – I was blown away by the Lovecraftian vibe of this movie as much as anyone else. I mean, this is Aquaman not Hellboy. It takes some belief in artistry(or desperation) to let a filmmaker like James Wan do whatever he wants and get bug-fucking-nuts with super hero movie like this. It’s all over the place and nonsensical but they never waver and that’s how it works.

The Other Side of the Wind – Somehow Welles sneaks a Jodorowsky film into his movie within a movie. And John Huston somehow holds it together while we’re subjected to the Pre-Oliver Stone mash up of film cans. It’s a lonely tale about lonely men who never seem to find love. Cause men can’t be gay. They can only make movies about the hard, sadness of men and only hint about the live they could have for one another.

Serenity – You literally SEE it coming at the very beginning of the movie. It takes this hard, goofy turn and you’re supposed to be flummoxed and angry at the nonsensical but somehow it makes sense to me. It’s an existential turn in the guise of a thumbing of the nose.

Mission Impossible: Fallout – This is up there with DePalma’s first MI film. (I know, there’s a real DePalma vibe going on in this list.) McQuarrie seems to be keeping a list of ways to out due himself. It’s not quite a film he’s making here, but something more in the line of set-piece cinema. North By Northwest filmmaking.

Alita – Battle Angel – I didn’t see much of Robert Rodriguez in this movie. It seemed all Cameron to me. It’s beautiful and compelling and a bit corny in the beginning but this movie had me thinking about female warriors and how men creators conceive them in a twisted form of women’s liberation. It’s hard to distinguish between fetish and heroism.

Glass – There’s a whole lot of flatness here. Things are just too heavy. Even the supers move with the drudgery of their decisions to make this movie. This is not a movie about heroes. It’s about the criminally insane and in M. Night’s understanding of what it would take for someone “with powers” to exist in “our” real world. Apparently, these people with “powers” could convinced that they don’t have powers by a fake psychiatrist.

Last 10

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.

Last 10

Always Be My Maybe – There are moments of laughter here but I wonder if the guy doesn’t get off too lightly here. Is that always how it is with romantic comedies? The guy changes just enough and the woman seems to always be giving. I don’t know if it’s a trope of the genre or just this movie. Hey, but the hip-hop band was fun.

Vice – Bale makes Cheney almost charming. What a monumental feat of acting! McKay plays everything down to its most ridiculous bone. But it comes off as some unseemly political adventure. Cheney as some Le Carre character. But really though, Bale.

Wild Bunch – I’d seen this movie a hand full of times when I was younger and somehow I always missed the political nature of it all. This is a western, yes, but it’s so deftly aware of it’s modernness. This notion of the grand old west giving its last breath to the First World War is breathtaking and staggering.

The Lost City Of Z – A beautiful movie. What greens! An odyssey for sure. An old way of pace and lived in feelings of Herzog and Coppola. But you wonder how Fawcett is portrayed here. He doesn’t seem interested in finding hidden things in this movie. He seems more about the smirk and recognition of it all. There’s more Jones in him than Burton. And I wonder if that’s Gray’s subversion of the genre here.

Justice League – DC is thoroughly pinned in at this point in making this movie. They’ll never reach the heights of Marvel. The invention, the insanely laid plains, are something they’ve decided they can’t touch. The days of Nolan are gone. Thinking outside of the box isn’t an option. All they have is brand at this point.

Deadwood – You’ve heard this all before. Like putting on an old pair of socks, holes and all. It’s comfort at its best. Hearst finally gets his and it’s not as satisfying as you’d think. The old dialogue is there and you can’t believe Milch’s acumen at it. It’s good to see those characters again, even if some of them die. It’s just… good.

Midsommar – I cant think of a horror movie that takes place entirely in the daytime. Well, this one does and it’s all about ritual. However twisted and grotesque it may seem you get the feeling that this is a comment about the loss of such in American culture. And the loss is such a heavy burden. This is movie about dealing with depression and suicide. Looking at them through the crazy gaze of hallucinogenics and ancient ritual.

Point Blank – Every shot in this movie is economical and is so carefully constructed and at ease in this tough world of action the camera finds itself in. Such slick peace of meat this movie.

Under The Silverlake – The first hour of this I thought, this is just some geeky inside the business circle jerk. I mean, there’s multiple masturbation references in the first fifteen minutes. And if you’ve lived in LA long enough you’re well aware of the invisible walls around the community of Silverlake. You’re well aware who lives there. Mostly people in the business. But as this jaunty, scraggly thing of a movie snakes around itself again and again it started to speak to me in the weirdest way. There’s something about living in LA and feeling like you’re a nobody and maybe in connecting the dots between the strange synchronicities the city offers from some underworldish tone it vibrates out into its dream geology, that just maybe you could hit the jackpot and decipher the code to this massive complex city. But then that’s just a thing to let go of.

Old Man and the Gun – Everything feels so lived in and comfortable. Like you’ve never seen Redford and Spacek so relaxed and smiling so much. It’s feel good and melancholy at the same time. Seems a lot of filmmakers are lamenting a time well passed in filmmaking. There’s a lot of love letters being sent by some talented people to a bygone era. It’s nice and all, but it’d be great to just move on. This doesn’t have the enormity and awe that Ghost Story did. And that’s probably the point.