Monday, September 25, 2017

Nocturama (2016)


No matter what, violence is inherently cinematic. Filmmakers can make it horrific and traumatizing or they can make it ludicrous and comical, but the sheer kineticism of such acts cannot help but catch our eye. It goes right to that, “lizard brain” we hear so much about and connects with us on a primal level. It’s the same sort of psychology that you hear about advertisers employing to make us want their their products. Do you think that ISIS and the Alt-Right have teleconferences to discuss branding? Somebody has to give the social media guy a set of guidelines to follow, right?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Southside with You (2016)


I can't remember what podcast it was on, but a while back I heard someone doing a bit about how only the most well-known black people get biopics (Malcolm X, 42, etc) while any old white person can get one (Joy, Flash of Genius, etc). That bit kept cycling through my mind while I watched Southside With You. This is that premise stretched out to a ludicrous degree. Do you think this film would have been made/admitted to festivals if it hadn't been about the then-current POTUS and FLOTUS on their first date? Richard Linklater has made three films like this about random, fictional, white people. But this one had to be about the early years of the First Family in order to get Sundance attention. That's some bullshit.

Monday, September 18, 2017

mother! (2017)


It's insane that this film is being released by a major studio, on a ton of screens, and is being marketed as a horror film. I don't see this film making a dime over the weekend. People expecting a horror film will be disappointed and religious people will be enraged. But I couldn't help but giggle at the sheer anarchy of it all. It's scorched earth filmmaking that refuses to slow down once it gets going. Like the Poet, this film (and by extension Darren Aronofsky) craves your reaction and doesn't seem to care if that reaction is positive or negative. This film goes so for broke that it even prominently features a kitchen sink. It literally has everything AND the kitchen sink. I'm still grappling with what this says about me, but I simply cannot help but admire this beautiful, mess of a film.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Ladies Man (1961)


While Jerry Lewis certainly wears his influences on his sleeve (Tashlin and Tati) there's no denying that he also had an instinctual eye for images. Though the "plot" consists of little more than a series of vaguely connected vignettes, the imagery and jokes are enough to hold your attention. Jerry Lewis is what Adam Sandler could become if he actually gave a damn. The size of that set and the precision of he choreography is enough to give Rear Window a run for its money, and it's all in service of getting the laugh. Jerry  was not content to just clown around. He took his silliness seriously and it shows. We really did lose a legend.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)


As much as I've enjoyed Steven Spielberg's recent output (especially Catch Me If You Can, Munich and Tintin) I feel like his most formally experimental films (and therefore most interesting to me) are ET and Close Encounters. Both films are about communication and in keeping with that theme, are more reliant on music and visual storytelling than dialogue to get their point across. It's not about narrative, it's about mood and feeling. Characters make decisions they cannot verbalize but we understand. The music and images do the speaking for them. The score and cinematography help to form a psychic connection between us and the characters. It's as though a message from the heavens has been planted inside of us. It's absolute cinematic alchemy.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: Out 1 (1971)

Film: Out 1 (225/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

Okay guys, I don't even know what to say about this one. I sat through 743 minutes of a film (in installments, of course, I have a job and a life, haha) and I felt nothing at the end of it. The story involves two different theater troupes, a young thief and a young man who becomes involved in unraveling a potential secret society. Their paths cross now and again, but really, this barely had a plot. There were looooong rehearsal scenes that were tedious to get through, Jean-Pierre Léaud was weird and creepy, and by the time the film introduced anything that resembled a plotline, I found that I didn't care. Frédérique (Juliet Berto) and Lucie (Françoise Fabian) were probably the most interesting characters for me...great faces and compelling presences, but everyone else was just eye-rollingly pretentious. I probably went into this with the wrong mindset, just trying to cross it off my list, but I think I would've gotten way more out of this if it was two or three hours instead of twelve. But don't listen to my cranky rantings...from the different reviews I've read, it seems this film means a lot to a lot of people, and the mystery is worth unraveling. So watch it for yourself! As of right now the entire thing is streaming on Netflix. Just be ready for long stretches of actors dancing, rolling around on the floor, yelling and screaming, rubbing their feet on each other's faces (no really), and general artiness!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Twin Peaks (2017)


Over on the Twin Peaks Facebook group that I frequent, I've jokingly asked how soon after the conclusion will we all disband and go our separate ways. While I'm sure many will leave and posts will become less frequent, I doubt any of us will stop thinking about The Return any time soon. There is so much to dissect and so much that is still open to interpretation. This series contains multitudes. It's a Joycean work so immense and thick with allusion that it is certain to launch a thousand academic ships. It's about film, it's about television, it's about America, it's about trauma, it's about men and women, it's about nostalgia, it's about aging, it's about death, it's about time. And of course there is that ending(?)

Making my way through this season has truly been a once in a lifetime experience. In this age of DVR and streaming services it feels like nobody is on the same page with anything. Everyone is doing things at their own pace resulting in few truly communal experiences. And while I know that most of the world isn't watching, over these past months I have felt extremely in sync with so many people. And now that it is over we can watch it as one giant flowing whole that will certainly yield new insights. David Lynch and Mark Frost have bent television to their will and I am truly thankful for that. In fact they've bent it back so far that it isn't even television. We are like that first audience in Paris witnessing the The Lumière Brothers' first films unspooling before us. We are sharing a dream in the dark - awoken by a scream.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Quote: Kitty Foyle

"Judas Priest, if ever a man deserved to be hung it's the fellow who started that Cinderella stuff. Writing claptrap stories about Cinderellas and princes, poisoning the minds of innocent children, putting crazy ideas into girls heads, making them dissatisfied with honest shoe clerks and bookkeepers. Why, they're the ruination of more girls than forty actors."
Kitty Foyle (1940)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Shin Godzilla (2016)


A film does not have to be grim and gritty to be grounded and realistic. This reboot is miles away from the insanity of something like Invasion of Astro-Monster while also not falling into the 'blink and you missed it' approach of Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. Like the original 1954 Gojira, this is a film about Japan right now with images that recall Fukushima and the earthquake that preceded it. This is a film about how we handle a disaster. It's about a group of people trying to do the right thing in a completely uncharted situation. There is no bad guy. Everyone is just doing their best. Not even the giant lizard destroying Tokyo is really bad. He's just doing his giant lizard thing. In a world that's so full of darkness, it's nice to see something hopeful.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sight & Sound Challenge: The Turin Horse (2011)

Film: The Turin Horse (224/250) 
First Time/Rewatch: First Time

"In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Alberto. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse’s neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, 'Mutter, ich bin dumm!' and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse."

I felt compelled to include the opening narration to set the stage for this film. But it's not about Nietzsche, or the horse. Not really. In fact, by the end of the film, I was convinced that these characters were all dead. The film follows the owners of the horse, a man and his daughter, as they go about their monotonous daily routines. They dress, they tend to the horse, they eat, they go to the well, they try to leave, and then...don't. I'm always intrigued by filmmakers who try to capture something magical in monotony. This film pushes it to the limit. Very long shots, very little dialogue. The added narration made me feel like I was reading about them in a book, almost more action in the added words than in anything I saw onscreen. Their world looks dark and cold, and it feels like it was made very long ago. Like these weren't actors, that I was watching these poor people carry on doing things they've been doing forever and will continue doing forever. Even as I feel I'm there watching them, they look completely alone in the world, hauntingly so. The wind howls, they are stuck in their home, and it feels like there are no other people on the planet. The music was agonizingly repetitive, and conversations went in circles. I truly believed I was watching two souls trapped in some kind of limbo or purgatory. Sisyphus pushing that rock up the hill. It is stark and slow and unnerving, and ultimately unforgettable.