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Letterboxd Film Diary, November 2018

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Letterboxd Film Reviews

11/1/2018 Hot Shots!, 1991 (Rating: 1/5)


11/1/2018 Stripes, 1981 (Rating: 2/5)


11/1/2018 Hot Fuzz, 2007 (Rating: 3/5)

Even without considering all the easter eggs that serious Hot Fuzz fans seem to obsess over, this is such a smart, enjoyable, and sharply witty movie. Having just trudged through Hot Shots, it’s also a refreshing reminder of how good parodies can be. Maybe Edgar Wright’s best movie?


11/1/2018 Cannibal! The Musical, 1993 (Rating: 2.5/5)


11/5/2018 Grandma’s Boy, 2006 (Rating: 1.5/5)


11/9/2018 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, 1988 (Rating: 2/5)

I swear, when I was in my teens watching the scene for the first time where OJ Simpson is busting in on the boat of bad guys, only to begin a domino effect of unbelievable calamity, I lost myself in a bout of hysterical laughter. There are so many great, dry deliveries here. The movie is fun, but part of that is reflecting about how much The Naked Gun influenced my sense of humor growing up. Leslie Nielsen is comedic gold and even though most of his films after this were regurgitated dumpster crud, I still miss him.


11/10/2018 Napoleon Dynamite, 2004 (Rating: 2.5/5)


11/11/2018 The Big Lebowski, 1998 (Rating: 3/5)


11/11/2018 Contact, 1997 (Rating: 3/5)

Cosmic exploration, politics, business, and faith. There’s a great deal which I really loved about Contact including the slow build, the psychedelic interstellar journey, and the spiritually combative themes, but I will always hate James Woods.


11/11/2018 No Country for Old Men, 2007 (Rating: 4/5)


11/12/2018 Happy Gilmore, 1996 (Rating: 2/5)

So many (still) quotable lines. The Bob Barker fight. Chubbs. “You eat pieces of shit for breakfast?!” Ben Stiller. The “Endless Love” lip sync. And the source of my decades old crush on the mom from Modern Family. I was ready to leave Happy Gilmore in the past, but it’s just too good to completely move on from.


11/13/2018 Wayne’s World, 1992 (Rating: 1.5/5)

There’s a scene where Wayne and Cassandra are in bed and the phone rings. She answers it and he proceeds to act silly. It’s cute. But she’s holding back laughter like it’s the funniest thing she’s ever seen. While I watched this movie at least a dozen times in my teens, that’s how it feels now. It’s cute, acting as though it’s hilarious.


11/14/2018 Big Fish, 2003 (Rating: 3/5)

At some point in my early twenties I watched this with my dad, and the feelings that followed had a lot to do with guilt for calling B.S. on his repetitive tall tales (and coming to resent him because of them) for so long. Sure, they weren’t Big Fish-styled exaggerations, but even normal stories feel blown out of proportion when you hear them a few too many times.

Tim Burton and company built a lot of heart into this movie, even if you don’t have a personal story linking the themes to your own life. If you do though, Big Fish could well make you experience feelings. Several of them. All at the same time. The takeaway for me this time wasn’t the limp postscript about the father’s life, but the underlying story of how much time and energy the son wasted by his own hand. All he had to do was let go.

Also…

“Didn’t kill anything did I?”
“A few rabbits, but I think one of them was already dead.”
“That would explain the indigestion.”

I’m pretty sure this entire movie is a Frank Reynolds fever dream.


11/16/2018 Orgazmo, 1997 (Rating: 1/5)

I like Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They’re good actors when playing to their own characters: Here, Trey’s a sheepish wayward Mormon caught up in Hollywood’s underbelly and Matt’s a dimly lit porn photographer who can’t quite decide how gay he is. I want to like Orgazmo more than I do, based on their ability to be good at delivering their own jokes and playing parts they created. It just doesn’t make for much of a movie though.


11/16/2018 Irreversible, 2002 (Rating: 3.5/5)

Despite bearing similar glances of stylistic flair as Enter the Void, there’s a cohesiveness achieved by Irréversible that is far more satisfying. There is a tide going in and out here, rushing in with brutality at the beginning, before shifting to a lull. Then, again, it returns with godlike presence, devouring the entire shoreline with the red tunnel scene before fading out to the movie’s end. The gentle final scene transitioning into strobe light outro rinses the palette clean. Clean, but changed.


11/17/2018 Smokey and the Bandit, 1977 (Rating: 1.5/5)


11/17/2018 Strange Brew, 1983 (Rating: 1/5)

Part of my Canadianness hates that so many reviews here reference “how Canadian this film is” when I haven’t the slightest clue how this is any better example of Canada than something like Wayne’s World is of America. Or maybe both of those movies are spot on representations of their country of origin. Either way, once you cast aside the toques and stubbies, Strange Brew is fairly forgettable comedically. Actually the part that made me laugh most was the throwaway scene where the McKenzie brothers’ defense attorney inexplicably uses martial arts to beat up (and probably kill… I mean, he threw one guy off a tall ledge) a pack of journalists in a pre-Trumpian stand against the media, only to never be spoken of again.


11/17/2018 The Big Hit, 1998 (Rating: 1.5/5)

Loved this as a teenager, and watching it now I couldn’t figure out why… until China Chow’s first appearance. Then, the way she shuts Lou Diamond Phillips down in the blackmail scene… she’s a gem. Every actor in this thing hams it up, and much of The Big Hit is self-aware spoof, but there’s just something about the way Mark Wahlberg is portrayed that leaves some of his scenes feeling too self-serious for this kind of movie. Not deciding—or maybe committing to—what it is, holds it back from being great. Then again, in the final fight scene at the video store, the only legible signage is for Troma movies like The Toxic Avenger 3 and Tromeo and Juliet, so maybe I’m not giving The Big Hit quite enough credit where I should.


11/17/2018 The Jackal, 1997 (Rating: 0.5/5)

Sidney Poitier confronts mobsters in a techno club and arrests them in their native Russian tongue… that’s the first scene of The Jackal. Richard Gere’s Irish accent is god level bad. Dialog includes phrases like, “Go along and we’ll get along.” And there’s a little over two hours of this schlock. I’m not sure why I remember enjoying this as a teenager other than it introduced me to Jack Black.


11/18/2018 The Blues Brothers, 1980 (Rating: 2/5)

There’s a legacy gap here, where a previous generation has embedded value in The Blues Brothers that I’m not sure is really there. I don’t ever remember loving the movie, but have probably seen it a half dozen times now. That’s a question for me, personally—why keep watching? Why keep drilling for something that’s not there? It has its moments, but it’s not very funny (which wouldn’t be a problem if this weren’t registered as one of cinema’s great comedies). The music is good, but it’s also kind of weird that a pair of white comedians are projected as the heroes of black music history. I want to understand why this is so good, but I’m not sure I ever will.


11/18/2018 This Is Spinal Tap, 1984 (Rating: 3.5/5)


11/18/2018 Wayne’s World 2, 1993 (Rating: 2/5)

It’s not really any “better” a movie than Wayne’s World, but I appreciate how the sequel leans all the way in on its self-aware schtick. The scene where Wayne demands the production staff swap out gas station attendants for a better actor (Charlton Heston), for example, just clicks.


11/19/2018 Caddyshack, 1980 (Rating: 2/5)

Highlights are still the quotable moments from Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, but the older I get the less the rest of the movie appeals to me. Maybe that’s a testament to those three though, that even while the movie’s not really “about” them—it’s about Danny—theirs are the scenes that have stood up with time.


11/19/2018 Hot Shots! Part Deux, 1993 (Rating: 1.5/5)


11/19/2018 The Devil’s Rejects, 2005 (Rating: 1.5/5)


11/19/2018 Animal House, 1978 (Rating: 2/5)

Probably the best college party movie ever, which can be appropriately summed up by the scene where John Belushi—sitting in a drunken stupor—decides to pour a jar of mustard on his chest just to see what happens. That’s the college experience in a nutshell.


11/19/2018 Wrong Turn, 2003 (Rating: 1/5)

Wrong Turn is about as good as an early-2000s mainstream backwoods monster-man flick is going to get, but I haven’t the slightest clue how it was deemed memorable enough to merit five sequels.


11/19/2018 Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, 2007 (Rating: 1.5/5)

So much more fun than the original, there are a surprising number of unique visuals in this one: The splitting of the actress in the introduction and the running with steady cam/axe to the head still stand out to me.


11/19/2018 Sin City, 2005 (Rating: 1.5/5)

For being so visually attractive, it was surprising how I couldn’t remember a thing from the first viewing of Sin City. Maybe that has something to do with the superficial characters and forgettable acting (but what a cast). Hey, at least it’s pretty!


11/19/2018 21 Grams, 2003 (Rating: 2/5)


11/20/2018 Battle Royale, 2000 (Rating: 2/5)

Time has softened the impact of Battle Royale. The violence and themes don’t seem nearly as outlandish as they once did. Still rough, still brutal, but maybe it’s just the way movies have progressed. Maybe culture.


11/21/2018 Young Frankenstein, 1974 (Rating: 3/5)


11/21/2018 Brazil, 1985 (Rating: 3.5/5)

When I was in my teens, I saw part of Brazil somehow and it implanted in me this weird fascination. It’s a movie I’ve never been able to dedicate myself to, yet it lingers in my mind as this masterpiece I have to get everything out of… someday. It’s challenging—trying to watch Gilliam’s two-and-a-half hour cut is a marathon, and it’s just too dense to digest in a single sitting. Even now, having finished it again, I feel I’m only scratching the surface. I feel like Sisyphus… and back down the hill Brazil rolls.


11/21/2018 The Dark Knight, 2008 (Rating: 3/5)


11/22/2018 The Tree of Life, 2011 (Rating: 4.5/5)


11/22/2018 Black Swan, 2010 (Rating: 3.5/5)


11/23/2018 The Seventh Seal, 1957 (Rating: 4/5)


11/23/2018 Fando and Lis, 1968 (Rating: 3/5)


11/24/2018 Drive, 2011 (Rating: 2.5/5)

The contrast between the almost tired pace of some of the scenes and the hotel/elevator scenes of violence is impactful, but there’s a level of unintentional silliness to the awkward interactions between Gosling and Mulligan’s characters that I hadn’t picked up on before. They could barely support the interest of a conversation—I have no idea how they’d hold a relationship together.


11/24/2018 Irreversible, 2002 (Rating: 2.5/5)

Despite the gentle and sensitive operating system that Alex seems to believe Marcus operates under, his loutish misogyny at the party, and racist, homophobic, and ultimately misguided rampage at the Rectum are so overwhelmingly sour on this viewing.


11/24/2018 The Darjeeling Limited, 2007 (Rating: 2.5/5)

The frailty of the spiritual conquest, the balance of connection between the brothers… it’s interesting, but I still linger on their hubris. They’re all takers. They’re all unaware. If it’s possible to enjoy the film without admiring anything about its subjects, this is that moment for me.


11/25/2018 Me, Myself & Irene, 2000 (Rating: 2/5)


11/25/2018 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, 1989 (Rating: 2/5)


11/25/2018 Home Alone, 1990 (Rating: 2/5)


11/25/2018 The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001 (Rating: 3/5)

One of my sister’s favorite movies, when I still knew who she was.


11/27/2018 Nashville, 1975 (Rating: 2/5)


11/28/2018 Out of the Furnace, 2013 (Rating: 2.5/5)

Woody Harrelson makes a pretty convincing backwoods meth-head murderer underground businessman.


11/28/2018 Prisoners, 2013 (Rating: 3/5)

The intensity with which Jake Gyllenhaal is able to blink in this movie is an acting triumph unto itself.


11/29/2018 The Other Guys, 2010 (Rating: 2/5)


11/29/2018 We’re the Millers, 2013 (Rating: 1.5/5)


11/30/2018 Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, 1992 (Rating: 1.5/5)


11/30/2018 Funny People, 2009 (Rating: 2/5)


11/30/2018 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998 (Rating: 3/5)

Through my twenties, if asked the question of what my favorite movie was, I’d say Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Pulp Fiction. It’s been several years since I’ve seen either, but that framing still exists in my mind, much of it with little evidence backing it up: Those were my favorite movies because they’ve been my favorite movies, not because I can still pinpoint what it is precisely that I enjoy about them.

There’s a lot of good here, but the emptiness on display in matt lynch‘s review is sticking with me. I felt something similar with watching another of Gilliam’s movies, Brazil, recently – where subversiveness is weaponized against working stiffs, much as it is here. But in the end, Fear and Loathing promotes a darkness that cuts through the outer shell of its cultural commentary. The way Dr. Gonzo sours in the second half of the movie… the creepiness of his presence with Lucy, and the way he terrorizes the waitress in the diner – it’s vile. At some point Raoul Duke turns a corner from drugged out confusion and into pathetic and complacent. The way he leaves that waitress to fear for herself, without even recusing himself of the insanity of it all only speaks to the scope of his concern. It’s on him. Just him. Drugs or no drugs, it’s always just been about him.


11/30/2018 Kill Bill: Vol. 1, 2003 (Rating: 4/5)