Letterboxd Film Diary, January 2019
Published in Blog Archive, Letterboxd. Tags: Film.
1/1/2019 Airplane!, 1980 (Rating: 2.5/5)
1/1/2019 A Tale of Two Sisters, 2003 (Rating: 1.5/5)
1/1/2019 28 Days Later, 2002 (Rating: 2.5/5)
1/1/2019 28 Weeks Later, 2007 (Rating: 2/5)
My gut reaction when hearing the same theme from the original in 28 Weeks Later was slight cynicism, as it’s used to rehash the emotion it inspired the first time around… but that’s not quite fair. The helicopter/zombie scene is memorable, the story is a good extension from the first movie, and the ending replaces the desperate hope of the first with a bleaker resolution. I want to like this less due to certain casting decisions, but it’s a solid sequel.
1/1/2019 Life of Brian, 1979 (Rating: 3.5/5)
1/2/2019 Henry Rollins: Up for It, 2001
1/2/2019 V/H/S, 2012 (Rating: 1/5)
1/3/2019 Equilibrium, 2002 (Rating: 0.5/5)
1/3/2019 Children of Men, 2006 (Rating: 3.5/5)
1/4/2019 Bone Tomahawk, 2015 (Rating: 2.5/5)
“This is why frontier life is so difficult,” she says. “Not because of the Indians or the elements, but because of the idiots.” Well ma’am, I reckon to endeavor one exception to that charming observation of yours, and dare I say it rhymes with “cannibalistic troglodytes.”
1/4/2019 Primer, 2004 (Rating: 3.5/5)
“And if you look… you will not find me,” could just as easily be a tease of the movie’s explanation, as much as it’s the closing line narrated in a manner of a veiled threat.
1/5/2019 Raw, 2016 (Rating: 3.5/5)
“An animal that has tasted human flesh isn’t safe.” The sound of scratching. The clogged drain hair vomit. The Brazilian. The finger. The music. Getting caught with the finger in her mouth; the lone tear. The look after first tasting Adrien. The bite fight. It’s all wonderful.
1/5/2019 I, Tonya, 2017 (Rating: 3.5/5)
When Tonya looks to the camera and accuses the mocking public of piling on to the violence she’s experienced her whole life, that hit me. My god, that hit me. I was in my early teens when Tonya’s fame peaked, but remember the circus that followed her fall (the “celebrity” boxing, etc.). For as long as there’s been an idea of someone named “Tonya Harding” in my head, that person has been a fame-hungry joke. Fame hungry, or desperate to use what incredibly few tools luck blessed her with to change her piss poor situation? Margot Robbie deserves so much credit here. Wonderful performances wrapped around a tragic story and sickening levels of abuse.
1/6/2019 Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, 1970 (Rating: 3.5/5)
Valerie is a stunning visual romp through the fantastical psyche of a thirteen year old… child… who’s naked… on screen… and positioned as a redeeming object to be lusted after by those (friends and family alike…) attempting to steal her essence as a means of prolonging their own lives. There’s a balance to be had here, and the work itself is an absurdist delight, but in watching it, my friend and I kept looking at each other asking where the lines are surrounding exploitation (and even child pornography) related to Jaroslava Schallerová’s Valerie.
A supplemental Criterion interview finds “Czech film expert” Peter Hames explaining Valerie’s beauty, noting how the camera pans in and holds on her eyes, her hair, her face… explicitly adding that, of course none of this is sexual though. Really? Elsewhere, reviews don’t tend to touch on that angle, opting instead to wax on the movie’s place in film history. Maybe that’s part of the point of the work, maybe just a point of realism to the fairy tale. Either way, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a thought provoking film unto itself.
1/6/2019 Hot Rod, 2007 (Rating: 2.5/5)
1/7/2019 MacGruber, 2010 (Rating: 2/5)
There’s something equally endearing and irritating about how well MacGruber executes as a self-aware spoof. It takes MacGyver cliches and beats that dead horse back to life, only to then choke it to death with its own severed member… Essentially this grew from an SNL skit to a Pepsi commercial to a full-length feature, and the entire project is a crass tribute to the absurd circumstances that allowed for it to be green-lit in the first place. Val Kilmer, WWE pro-wrestlers, so many great one-liners, and Will Forte banging his ghost wife in a cemetery: This is MacGruber.
1/7/2019 Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, 2006 (Rating: 2/5)
With a little distance between this and my last viewing, the standout lines still hit (“I’m gonna come at you like a spider monkey,” “Don’t you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby!”) and Amy Adams is still the best, but it’s a little scary how Talladega Nights has transitioned from being a parody to embodying a country’s squad goals. “You taste of America.”
1/8/2019 Hype!, 1996
This was such an important documentary to me growing up… I was thirteen when it was released, which means I probably saw it first sometime in the year or two that followed. I loved the idea of grunge almost as much as I loved some of its music. Many moments strike me considerably different now than when I was a teenager trying to morph my tastes and interests to the perception of what I thought might help make me cool. The guys in TAD and the Melvins speak to the silliness of it all; not just “the scene,” but the music itself. I completely missed that as a kid. It was so important to me for so long… even now, there’s a child in my mind who’s dying for some kind of cultural credit for knowing about bands like Green River. The commercial that echoes, “The music of Seattle is as progressive as its people”; Eddie Vedder talking about how “commerce” changes everything; the poster guy slicing up the limited run concert bills not to signify his indifference to their newly found pop culture value, but his estimation of their monetary value… it’s all just such a weird moment in time.
I helped a friend open a record store several years ago and set up distribution with Sub Pop. When the packages would arrive, they’d come shipped from Mudhoney’s Mark Arm. “Hey, you sing about dogs, you sing about being sick, you got a schtick – it’ll take you to the top,” he says mockingly at some point in Hype!. The memories make me smile now… of the music, the movie, the years that passed since. I don’t know about “the top,” but we both landed right where we need to be.
1/8/2019 Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 1975 (Rating: 3/5)
Great absurdist storytelling, but the thing that gets me most this time around (probably my first viewing in a decade… maybe?) is how much of the humor invokes a cerebral response rather than laughter. Saying “Oh, that was funny” is a million miles away from actually laughing at something… And how annoying that is is apparently dependent on how shitty a day I’ve had.
1/9/2019 Ichi the Killer, 2001 (Rating: 1.5/5)
Either a metaphor for the impotent rage of a generation of wayward young men, or just a vehicle for Takashi Miike to play with the gruesome visuals of tongue cutting, body piercing, hot oil on flesh, skin stretching, nipple slicing, and fist swallowing. Maybe both!
1/9/2019 PCU, 1994 (Rating: 1/5)
1/11/2019 Solaris, 1972 (Rating: 4/5)
Roger Ebert’s decades-encompassing review hammered home a lot related to Solaris, helping me feel comfortable with some of my feelings (boredom) and exposing me to holes in my understanding of the movie (most everything else).
The movie itself is a grinder until damn near the end, but that’s hardly unintentional. To borrow phrases used elsewhere on Letterboxd, this is a ‘glacial paced’ ‘mediation’ with regard to so many core questions surrounding what it is to live, live with ourselves, and live with others. There’s one line that stuck with me when watching, spoken by Kris to the constructed Khari, explaining that perhaps the original Khari had come to the realization that he didn’t love her (before taking her life) but he does love her now… ten years later.
I was just having lunch with a friend and through discussion about the movie, a torrent of reactions escaped me… that’s what happens, I lose interest, I stop caring, I become indifferent, and then time serves to Photoshop my memories. These recreated memories then linger to promote feelings that I still love someone, when I very well never loved them in the first place. I didn’t care for their well-being in the moment when I knew them, and I didn’t consistently show love because I didn’t consistently feel it… but what exists now is that warped ghost of emotion, lingering with an emotional burden connecting me to a place and time that never truly existed. The loves I miss most are with people who never actually existed.
So, sure, I was bored by the pacing, but what does it say of a movie so acutely focused on using creeping momentum as a tool of excavation, making room for the mammoth questions that arise out of the sparseness of the plot? What would have made it better? Dynamic dialog? Explosions? What does it say that I wanted nothing more than to turn it off at times, but now I’m of the mind to return to it and experience everything again with new eyes? Several hours removed from its ending, and boredom isn’t what lingers.
1/11/2019 A Fish Called Wanda, 1988 (Rating: 1.5/5)
Kevin Kline plays a jealous, pompous horse’s ass remarkably well. Jamie Lee Curtis is on god-level in ’88. Michael Palin shows up in blackface for a scene, and is otherwise the butt of a bad running joke about his character’s stutter. Stephen Fry is on screen for approximately twenty seconds. “Apes don’t read philosophy,” argues Kline’s Otto, before JLC’s Wanda responds “Yes, they do, they just don’t understand it.” Beyond that, it’s kinda just John Cleese writing himself as winner (who lies to, cheats on, and steals from his wife), though one completely devoid of charm.
1/11/2019 Moon, 2009 (Rating: 3/5)
Sam Rockwell owns this movie, and it’s an incredible storytelling feat (let alone one serving as a first full-length outing by director Duncan Jones), but something just wasn’t there this time. Maybe it was hearing Kevin Spacey’s robotic feedback throughout, maybe it was simply having seen it before and vaguely remembering the beats and the twist, maybe it was just having had my internal hard drive rebooted by Solaris earlier in the day… whatever it was, Moon landed flat this time.
1/12/2019 Tommy Boy, 1995 (Rating: 2/5)
When Chris Farley’s Tommy and Julie Warner’s Michelle first set out in Tommy’s dinghy, a pack of kids starts harassing Tommy. “Hey! Your sail is limp… like your dick!” That pack of kids includes Dov Tiefenbach. I’m a few years younger than Dov, but right around that age he was on this YTV show in Canada called Squawk Box. I loved Squawk Box. I don’t love Dan Ackroyd, gags like “fat guy in a little coat” have lost their magic with age (though their ubiquitous use throughout my high school years says something of their appeal), and the movie just ain’t what it used to be when I was young enough to find cow tipping funny. That said, half a star as a bonus for reminding me of Squawk Box.
1/12/2019 In the Army Now, 1994 (Rating: 1/5)
If you strip my teenage nostalgia from In the Army Now, it’s absolute trash. A few years ago I saw Pauly Shore at the Las Vegas airport. I was excited. Nostalgia does crazy things to people. All of this is to say I think I like the movie, because I used to like the movie, but also I’m pretty sure I don’t, too.
1/13/2019 Stalker, 1979 (Rating: 4.5/5)
These reviews fall in line with diary entries, and this is very much a diary entry, written to my future self. Hopefully I can look back on this and learn something from it.
A quote from the Writer,
“Here I told you recently… It’s all lies. I don’t give a nuts to all this inspiration. Moreover, how should I know, how should I call that… what I want? And how should I know that I do not want that what I want? Or, let’s say, that I actually do not want that what I do not want? It’s all these empirical things: if you name them, their meaning disappears, melts, vaporizes… like a jellyfish in the sun. Have you ever seen that? My consciousness desires the victory of vegetarianism in the whole world, but my unconsciousness dreams about a piece of juicy meat. And what do I want?”
A few days ago I finished watching Solaris for the first time and was struck by all the questions and thoughts that followed. Perhaps wrongly, I leapt into Stalker with expectations of what might come next. Sitting here it feels like intellectual greed, reaching for more despite not having finished what was already on my plate. That’s where I’m at…
Considering the concepts of love, understanding, self-awareness, and the embrace of futility that drapes itself around Solaris, it’s incredibly fitting that I balanced my viewing of Stalker with bouts of frantic swiping on a dating app. You (whoever… maybe Me?) might consider me an idiot, or a generally basic as fuck intellectually overreaching art bro because of it, but that’s real. Stalker took me nearly twelve hours to finish because of starts and stops, seeking some emotional charge from the app while making additional pitstops elsewhere to tend to homework for another semester of schooling which kicked off earlier this week. “My consciousness desires the victory of vegetarianism in the whole world, but my unconsciousness dreams about a piece of juicy meat.”
I’ve come to really enjoy Lise’s writing, and in her review she begs the point that “This film will be about which ever philosophical nugget held your attention the most.” Well, for me there’s a Dorothy element to Stalker (many finer thinkers recognized that long before I did), and with the transition from Oz or The Zone, there’s the visual transition into a different, more vibrant “reality.” The realization that comes at the end, as the color bleeds back into elements of a pre-Oz life, is that everything you wanted was already within your reach. There are so many questions, and I love reading and watching criticisms and feedback (I watched this on a loaned DVD version from the library, which includes a great interview with Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room author Geoff Dyer where he speaks of the friction he felt upon his first viewing related to how he wanted it to proceed versus its own determined pacing… which also made me feel good about my own inability to remain committed to task with the movie) because they help me ask more of myself.
What more would I want visually out of film than the stunning sepia shots which made me feel legitimate awe? What more could I want from a story than one which “determinately resists definitive interpretation” (pretty sure I copped that phrase from Dyer’s interview in case the citation police come knocking). Could I ask for dialog to speak to me with any sharper aim than Stalker‘s does, challenging areas in my own life which have aged with the rigid strength of a soon-to-be-dead tree? Certainly, the argument is that very little actually happens here, but the entire time I believe that anything could happen… and then, when the unbelievable does happen, it doesn’t even matter. My mind is swirling with airy what-ifs, transporting me away from a moment that I have, myself, desired enough to conjure into reality: sitting on my couch, in my home, swiping away on my phone in between spurts of watching elite Russian cinema. What is my greatest desire? My greatest wish? What is that thing that The Zone would recognize within me, whilst I sit here simultaneously distracting myself from and with the life I have chosen for myself?
1/13/2019 Semi-Pro, 2008 (Rating: 1.5/5)
1/13/2019 UHF, 1989 (Rating: 1.5/5)
The Emo Philips table saw scene. “Today we’re going to learn to make plutonium out of common household items.” “Joel Miller, you just found the marble in the oatmeal. You’re a lucky lucky boy, do you know why? You get to drink from the… firehose!” Druids on Parade. “Today we’re teaching poodles how to fly.” “Friends, there comes a time in every man’s life when he has to look the potato of injustice right in the eye.”
Right now I’d like to show you one of my favorite cartoons. It’s a sad, depressing story about a pathetic coyote who spends every waking moment of his life in the futile pursuit of a sadistic roadrunner who mocks him and laughs at him as he’s repeatedly crushed and maimed! Hope you enjoy it!
I literally used a screen shot from the firehose scene in a marketing pitch I made several years ago. (How well do you think that was received? Also, it turns out I’m no good at marketing.) I like how the jokes could well have been at the expense of others, but they weren’t. There wasn’t anything derogatory about Noodles MacIntosh, but instead the joke was just the illogical ridiculousness of having a little person as your lead camera operator. The homeless guy’s social status wasn’t used to mock him, but rather to springboard an absurd joke about a guy appearing to have no money swapping out dollar bills for people’s spare change. A blind man attempting to solve a Rubik’s Cube? Just silly. The whole thing is… though that also results in a refreshing change of pace when guys who say things like “broads don’t belong in broadcasting” ultimately get their comeuppance in the end (in a slapstick comedy in 1989, no less). God, I love this movie.
1/13/2019 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, 1974 (Rating: 2/5)
Even with the 40th Anniversary 4k transfer, it turns out I’m more a fan of the mystique than the actual movie. I know I’ve seen this before, I’m just not sure when. What lingers from that first viewing are the key points: Leatherface, the “teenagers,” the house, the family. But the reality of all of it lives on greatest as a legacy, informing a genre that would flow out of its open wounds, rather than a work that terrifies by modern standards. Above all, Marilyn Burns’ terror is what lingers as the credits role. Her bloodshot eyes, the look of frightened hysteria. The wailing. The wailing. My god, the wailing.
1/13/2019 Lost in Translation, 2003 (Rating: 3.5/5)
1/14/2019 Eyes Wide Shut, 1999 (Rating: 3.5/5)
“The important thing is: We’re awake now.” Perhaps only the royal we. One night out of a whole lifetime can never be the truth, she says, lending sincere grace to him before he tries to twist a fever dream into concrete evidence that she’s equally as culpable as himself. All throughout he sees himself as the counterbalance, pretending to be the voice of reason, forgetting that he’s also high while admonishing her for how the weed’s clearly impacting her temperament. Later he wants her to believe he feels something he doesn’t understand by using meaningless words like “forever.” The masks are only ominous. The boredom of not realizing that’s your life is what’s truly terrifying.
1/15/2019 The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, 2004 (Rating: 3.5/5)
What if, at the end, the final “documentary” wasn’t received well. Or what if they never finished it, the Belafonte was sold for scrap, and the magazine’s cover story quickly forgotten? There’s something redemptive to Steve and the crew being faced with their nemesis, only for Steve to verbally recognize and acknowledge his impotence. But for however powerful that moment is, I wonder what was really learned if in succumbing to the burdens of his own humanity, Steve regained everything he thought he had lost? Fame, Eleanor, things. What if, instead, he lost everything, save for the ghosts of Ned and Esteban? Then we might see who Steve Zissou really is.
1/15/2019 Hamlet 2, 2008 (Rating: 2/5)
There’s no hope of being objective here as I could never set aside a lifelong crush for Elisabeth Shue that has burned strong since seeing Adventures in Babysitting in my youth. That said, (speaking in as objective of terms as possible) I would watch Hamlet 3, 4 & 5 if they continued her (character’s) story. Belligerent, argumentative Amy Poehler might be my favorite Amy Poehler. The mockery of theatrical irreverence, combined with closing the movie by casually slighting Arizona and “The Look of Love”… Hamlet 2 just does it for me.
1/15/2019 Say It Isn’t So, 2001 (Rating: 1.5/5)
One of my favorite Farrelly brothers movies (even though they only produced it… and maybe my favorite among their more crass and irreverent releases). The first time I saw this I remember laughing hysterically when Orlando Jones starts scarfing down handfuls of the weed he was trafficking when cops spring up on his plane. It doesn’t ring with similar charm now, but I’ll forever love this movie because of that memory.
1/15/2019 Step Brothers, 2008 (Rating: 2.5/5)
1/15/2019 Game Night, 2018 (Rating: 2/5)
“Man, glass tables are acting weird tonight.” “Right in my bullet hole.” “I have kids at home.” “Not with that ass, you don’t.” More cute than funny, though it did trigger a few funny-to-me reactions that I wasn’t expecting: I never want to see Dexter again, and now I kinda want to see Taken 3.
1/15/2019 The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928 (Rating: 4/5)
My ignorance regarding the craft of film is a hinderance made especially disconcerting when I try to understand something like The Passion of Joan of Arc on my own. How about my ignorance of history, of religion? All I can go off of is what touches me until I learn more, but in this space the movie is a cold reminder of evil. I loved that when Joan was being told in court how the church would formally abandon her if he didn’t go along, she told the jury off by essentially saying “I could care less, I’ll be alone with God then.” “How can you still believe you were sent by God?” comes the challenge late in the story. “His ways are not our ways.” His ways are not our ways…
1/15/2019 Heaven Knows What, 2014 (Rating: 3/5)
This is desolation. Heaven Knows What is a looking glass into a well-reasoned blind spots, areas that are better left alone because what’s to be saved among a scorched earth of souls? Arielle Holmes did something no one should have the ability to do, yet something that is flippantly demanded of addicts: Clean yourself up, change your life, contribute. But how, when you don’t care about anything? How do you change when you feel like abuse is the one thing keeping you alive? Where is God when heaven is inside a needle? This movie is a miracle. A terrifying, heartbreaking miracle.
1/16/2019 Strangers on a Train, 1951 (Rating: 3.5/5)
Robert Walker plays Bruno masterfully, and the terror of who he is swells as the movie progresses. I love that as much—or maybe even more—than the out of control merry-go-round. What a sight.
1/16/2019 Jeepers Creepers, 2001 (Rating: 1.5/5)
I don’t know that I’d go as far as saying it’s one of “the great” monster movies, but Jeepers Creepers is a great monster movie. Gina Philips and Justin Long have playful energy working in their favor as they push the story along, and everything along the way is just fun. Knowing what the monster is is a bit of a bell that cannot be un-rung—there’s zero shock and suspense nearly two decades and multiple viewings removed from its original release—but the horror beats and pacing of it all hold up nicely. That final scene, too… that one’s still a winner.
1/17/2019 The Truman Show, 1998 (Rating: 3.5/5)
While it’s a great movie, I think I’m more interested in the ideas and questions it raises than in seeing The Truman Show again. It’s interesting how in 1998 this previewed what was to come with reality television, which escalated with social media’s ability to let everyone feel like a self-aware Truman… crafting scenarios for documentation and consumption under the guise that the landscaped moment is really just everyday life. I always look this good after a workout. My lattes belong in museums. The ‘grams, the tweets, the status updates that go nowhere, created for an imagined (though no less potentially global audience) audience. And all the while the actors existed in that world, too, knowingly playing into the deception of another human being… because it’s… what? Harmless entertainment? Yeah, it’s all harmless he says, writing this on a social media site, himself.
1/17/2019 Jeepers Creepers 2, 2003 (Rating: 1/5)
The only thing saving this from a half-star rating is Ray Wise with a homemade harpoon gun. Besides that, the monster has been turned into an unintentionally comedic scarecrow with throwing stars and bird feet. More than anything though, it was offensive that they tried using moronic racial tension as a cheap plot device with the hope of creating something resembling conflict between the characters when the whole thing was already twenty minutes longer than it needed to be. That was about as meaningful as trying to unnecessarily shoehorn Justin Long into the movie, just for the sake of doing so. It was all weak sauce. But goddamn… Ray Wise with a harpoon gun. Gotta love that.
1/18/2019 Wild, 2014 (Rating: 3/5)
There’s this emotional residue that lingers when watching Wild. The movie delivers a sadness, but a sadness that’s derived from shedding or cleansing. Maybe just letting go of expectation. I’m envious of the visual experience of connection with nature—like that’s the thing that will make me whole. After attempting to plug the inner void with everything else, a voice inside me challenges that nature will be the cure. What follows are shoulds: I should be hiking more, I should run trails, I should try camping again, should… It’s not nature, which is only a snowball that the voice turns into an avalanche. In Wild there’s momentary catharsis, vague resolution—as true on screen as it is in life.
1/19/2019 The Devils, 1971 (Rating: 3.5/5)
There is so much going on in this movie, to a degree where it’s overwhelming. “Oh, The Devils is overwhelming, you say? Please go on with your insightful analysis…” What I mean is, the criticism of religiosity, the appeal to man’s bases, the acting, the set design, the costumes, the ’70s far-out-ness of it all. I came for the shock appeal of watching nuns get wild, but am unexpectedly blown away by what a legitimately challenging experience this was.
1/20/2019 Threads, 1984 (Rating: 2.5/5)
A good reminder to practice safe sex… Because you never quite know when you’re going to get pregnant just prior to a nuclear war and end up carrying a child to term amid its fallout, hoping against hope that radiation and malnutrition don’t leave it scarred with wild mental abnormalities or physical deformation, only to then die a miserable death while tending to failed crops amid the utter hellscape of the fallout, leaving that child an orphan in as grim an existence as mankind has ever seen.
1/20/2019 The Beyond, 1981 (Rating: 1.5/5)
A significant upgrade from the likes of Burial Ground (and also lacking the weird incest angle which pretty much just goes unchecked through that entire thing), The Beyond (aka Seven Doors of Death) does a lot right on the level of campy supernatural horror and over the top gore. Still not really my thing, as far as the genre goes, but I can see why it’s highly revered in certain circles.
1/20/2019 The Evil Dead, 1981 (Rating: 2.5/5)
“So the evil spirit embodies trees, and those trees rape people, and that’s how the spirit is able to possess humans?” “Nah, it’s only gonna do that once, because it’s just kinda neat visually, with the roots and branches and everything, and it’s only gonna rape a woman because then: titties.” That scene hasn’t aged particularly well, but elsewhere I loved the ridiculous practical effects, the camera work, and the sheer volume of lunacy more than I remembered I did.
1/20/2019 Night of the Zombies, 1980 (Rating: 1/5)
There’s a scene where Margie Newton’s character Lia Rousseau goes “undercover” as a tribeswoman (by dawning some face and body paint) and waltzes right up to a group of natives deep in the jungle. Forget that she’s obviously a blonde haired white woman trying to immerse herself in an entirely black tribe, forget that it’s just an excuse to film her topless, but as they surround her one member of a masked group walks up to her and removes his headpiece. Before he motions that he might present her with it she reaches out to accept it. The motion isn’t overstated, but it’s there. There’s another scene where a pair of the armed commandos are entering a hut, and they take cover behind a wall that has a huge hole in it. I mean, there was more hole than wall there. The camera knows that, we can see it, but we’re supposed to believe this is an elite crew of soldiers? Later in the movie there’s a female zombie—among a small group trying to break into a house—and she can’t hold back a smile. She has a great smile. I like her smile. But should a zombie be smiling in that scene? The story is fine, the trashy gore is great, and visually I like the camera work and the look of the thing, but it’s those stupid little moments that kept taking me out of it.
1/21/2019 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, 2006 (Rating: 2/5)
1/21/2019 Role Models, 2008 (Rating: 1.5/5)
1/21/2019 Black Sheep, 1996 (Rating: 2/5)
I’d forgotten how good Chris Farley was when he was at his most unhinged on screen. Gary Busey was exactly what this movie needed (I say that with zero irony), and there’s enough ’90s goodness here to keep my nostalgia gremlins satisfied. (Mudhoney live in concert? Yes, please!) I can’t recall saying it out loud in recent memory, but I still think of that “Rectum? Damn near killed’em!” line from time to time, and “Smokin’, snortin’, shootin’, suckin’, tokin’, poppin’, droppin'” is my favorite moment from the movie. When Farley was on, he was On.
1/21/2019 Halloween III: Season of the Witch, 1982 (Rating: 1.5/5)
I appreciated the little wink to the original Halloween, but enjoyed this much more as a stand-alone movie rather than an extension of the Myers-verse. The Silver Shamrock jingle and the kids masks were silly fun, which is a fairly accurate description of the entire thing.
1/21/2019 The Brothers Solomon, 2007 (Rating: 0.5/5)
1/22/2019 Army of Darkness, 1992 (Rating: 1.5/5)
I just watched The Evil Dead a few days ago, and having the origin of the story so fresh in mind leaves Army of Darkness feeling a little awkward. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, but having not seen it in at least ten years (maybe fifteen; twenty?) it’s really interesting to see it through new eyes and compare it to my memories. As a teenager, when I had the VHS, it was sort of an indicator of identity: You were a certain type of person if you were a fan of this movie. Even now, going through the comments here, that exists… the fanaticism. I don’t know that I ever had it, but I wanted it. And now, a movie like The Evil Dead just connects so much more for me than the silly slapstick of Army of Darkness. The quotable one-liners are fine, and they’re totally still quotable one-liners (actually, this is probably peak-Bruce… though in fairness to him, I haven’t seen most of his work), but between them and the action movie emphasis (pushing aside the gory horror origins) the movie felt considerably lacking this time around.
1/22/2019 Idiocracy, 2006 (Rating: 2/5)
I cannot be the only person who thinks of Channel 101’s “Kicked in the Nuts” when watching this. (I loved that web series when I was in college.) Sadly, I’m hoping society continues trending in this direction just to hear Costco greeters tell me they love me.
1/23/2019 American Psycho, 2000 (Rating: 3/5)
American Psycho was one of the first movies that probably started me down the path of fandom of film that could be considered mindfucky, or whatever more appropriate phase fits there. I was in my late teens when it was released, so I was old enough to appreciate parts of it, but too young to get most of what was going on. The violence was insane at the time, the questions of who Patrick Bateman was and was anyone actually killed both lingered, but I have to admit that the toxic douchebaggery didn’t strike me with the blunt force it did this time around. Watching the special features (something I vaguely remember watching sometime in the ’00s), there’s a lot attention paid to director Mary Harron’s thumbprint on the process… though, again, at that time I didn’t understand why it was important that a man wasn’t helming this particular ship, and what influence that had in its creation, reception, and legacy. I’d written this movie off, to some degree, but now want to go back over everything through this refreshed eyes.
1/23/2019 Devil, 2010 (Rating: 1/5)
The first time around I enjoyed this… maybe it was the almost non-existent level of expectation, but it’s still a cool story even if its payoff never comes. That said, the suspense was never really there with this one, and its messages are as clumsy and subtle as hacking someone open with a crude shard of broken mirror.
1/23/2019 Containment, 2015 (Rating: 0.5/5)
At 77 minutes and with a tagline of “No water. No power. No explanation. No escape.” this is a minimalist take on an outbreak story, through and through… Detrimentally so, actually, as there’s also no strong acting, no interesting aspects of the story, and no real reason to care about any of the characters.
1/24/2019 They Live, 1988 (Rating: 2.5/5)
Slavoj Žižek’s explanation (taken from The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology) of the legendary fight from They Live is certainly one way of seeing things… I just think it’s wonderfully ridiculous, and absurd that it ever made it to a final cut of a movie in the first place. Set that aside and this is still every bit the movie that Carpenter’s Escape from New York is.
1/24/2019 Clerks, 1994 (Rating: 1.5/5)
I can’t imagine this movie being of interest to anyone born after its release date, but why is it that I’ve returned to it as many times as I have? It’s not great by any stretch. To paraphrase Orson Welles, everything looks better in black and white (prove he didn’t say that!), and that holds so much water here… What would this movie be if it were in color? Would it be heralded as this ’90s triumph, propelled by the story of a man risking a crippling load of credit card debt on the outcome of a debut indie film? Or would it just be a silly vehicle for silly scenarios that tied together a day in the life of a bunch of douche canoes? Regardless of how “good” it actually is/isn’t, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t visited by the nostalgia gremlins while watching this one. There’s just something about it…
1/25/2019 My Bloody Valentine, 1981 (Rating: 2/5)
1/26/2019 Vertigo, 1958 (Rating: 3.5/5)
Reading Aaron‘s review of Vertigo helps mind the gap between my (relative lack of) appreciation for the movie and its deserved legendary status. Maybe I’m just not a Hitchcock guy though. Maybe that’s okay.
1/26/2019 Evil Dead, 2013 (Rating: 1/5)
Doesn’t remotely hold a candle to the original, though it was fashioned as its own unique story, if only loosely inspired by The Evil Dead. There just isn’t much here that I can appreciate: The acting is charmless and the dialog is almost embarrassing at times. “I just don’t want to become the devil’s bitch.”
1/26/2019 The Holy Mountain, 1973 (Rating: 3.5/5)
Speaking to its visuals, The Holy Mountain is richly entertaining from a place of spectacle. Vivid colors and surreal environments on the front end balanced by (more) natural ingredients on the back end. The chorus of plaster Christs, the religious firearms, the resolve to mock its own value in the closing scenes… it really is something. The movie could have been better serviced by Jodorowsky flexing some philosophical subtlety in place of beating the audience over the head with his (or at least The Holy Mountain‘s) ideologies, but that’s where I relax on the critical lens and fall back to appreciating this for what it is: A wildly ambitious psychedelic clusterfuck.
1/26/2019 Let the Right One In, 2008 (Rating: 3.5/5)
There are horror elements, but they’re not framed to scare. The pool scene near the end, for example: Horrific, for sure, though produced to intensify the relationship between Eli and Oskar. (The cat attack scene might be the closest to horror that this thing gets.) There’s a realistic framing to Let the Right One In that is done so well, focusing on the bullies and the loner and the friendship that begins the process of challenging Oskar to stand up for himself in a way he never would have on his own. That’s what friendship can be.
1/27/2019 Mulholland Drive, 2001 (Rating: 4/5)
My relationship with Mulholland Drive can best be summed up by this statement: I’ve owned two copies of it, but up until today have only seen it once. Yet despite having only seen it once before, I’ve spent several hours watching and reading reviews and criticisms of the movie; another indicator of what it’s come to represent to me. My first viewing was when I was in college. It was as aspirational as was today’s, with the key difference being about a decade and a half of aging on my part. This is the apex of what I feel like I’m supposed to get out of a David Lynch project. Reading Salon‘s explainer gives me a taste for why I like the movie now, but also why I wanted to like the movie then. It’s complex, sure, but it’s not crafted to direct you to the exit. There are themes, there are messages, but to a strong degree the film never stops to make sure that the audience picks up on what it needs to in order to arrive at a destination. But more important at this moment, after nearly two decades of feeling like I’m not understanding or appreciating David Lynch as I would if only I were a member of the intellectual elite, I really did have a good time with this. I can’t quite explain why (yet, ever?), but I am very fond of what I just viewed.
1/27/2019 Son in Law, 1993 (Rating: 1/5)
An Encino Man reference (with Brendan Fraser, and everything), Hamilton “The Babe” Porter in a “Seduce Me Please” t-shirt, Kelly Kapowski, ’90s hippie-chic Carla Gugino, and Pauly Shore playing a resident advisor in his mid-twenties. What a strange movie.
1/30/2019 BASEketball, 1998 (Rating: 1/5)
The first time I saw this movie I was in high school, in a friend’s basement, high as a kite, and I laughed my brains out. You know that laugh, the kind of laugh where you can’t stop, and it’s contagious. It starts up, and you can’t breathe. Then your friends start laughing because you’re laughing. I’m pretty sure that all started on the “Roadkill Caught on Tape” scene. At least I have my memories.
1/30/2019 Get Him to the Greek, 2010 (Rating: 1.5/5)
1/30/2019 Nekromantik, 1987 (Rating: 1/5)
This is an important movie right now, because it helped me put words to something that I’ve felt for a long while, but hadn’t fully fleshed out. Someone who reacts to Nektromantik by calling it something like “gross” probably isn’t going to be convinced of its value by way of a discussion about the merits of transgressive art. I’ve existed in the middle of that spectrum between fan and hater for a long time: Not appreciating the movies like this to a point where I’d say I “enjoy” them, but not dismissive based solely on their aesthetics (hell, I’m here watching and logging it, aren’t I?). Then again, John Waters never speaks to me, so there’s a boundary I can’t seem to get past. Where this is important is that while I appreciate the gory and disturbing, and am still finding myself drawn toward exploring movies that push me outside my comfort zone, it turns out: I’m just not a “sleaze” guy.
1/30/2019 F for Fake, 1973 (Rating: 3.5/5)
Watched with the 2005 audio commentary featuring cowriter and star Oja Kodar and director of photography Gary Graver. Admittedly I was a little distracted, but they brought up several topics that help add new eyes to the movie itself: Who is being fake when we constantly deceive ourselves; the movie deals in art forgery, but what is art forgery if not art itself (isn’t the fake also some kind of truth if it is a product of imagination?).
1/31/2019 We Live in Public, 2009
I don’t know how to “rate” this movie because of how much the subject matter clicks with me. I quit facebook once or twice before We Live in Public was even released, because I struggled so hard with different aspects of it then. How many social media accounts, blogs, and web projects have come and gone since then? Dozens, maybe more. In the year after the movie came out I remember showing it to a friend I was living with and the messages reverberated so deeply. I watched it two or three times in as many months, and felt like it hit me so hard, but here I am, close to nine years after that last viewing, still blown away by Josh Harris’ turn-of-the-Millennium foresight which predicted that “as time goes by we’re going to increasingly have our lives exposed in very personal and intimate ways, and we’ll want that to happen.” I can barely manage living in private some days.