Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Letterboxd Film Diary, July 2020

Published in Blog, Letterboxd. Tags: .

Letterboxd Film Reviews

Film diary and review entries made on the movie social media website Letterboxd. For more reviews, follow Razzle Dazzle Cedar Rapids on Letterboxd.

7/1/2020 Fubar, 2002 (Rating: 2/5)

7/2/2020 The House That Jack Built, 2018 (Rating: 2/5)

There’s more to The House That Jack Built than I’m able to give it credit for. For right now, at least at this particular place in my life, I couldn’t see anything redeemable. The last LVT film I watched was Dancer in the Dark. That, I’d argue, is more difficult to view than Jack, particularly when considering the abuses which have since come to light that LVT, himself, committed during its creation. Maybe LVT isn’t a misogynist, but his films hold women in particular light—one of hatred and contempt. Jack carries five acts aimed at brutalizing women as a means of character development, which lends itself to the broader trend of its creator’s films.

As for Dillon’s performance, I struggled similarly in viewing it within a vacuum of the film. Jack’s psychopathic spiral leads him into hell, but it’s not the grotesqueness of his actions that leave the performance empty, but a broader context of the role itself. We’ve seen a strange trend, culturally, with countless mini-series’ and podcasts focused on murder cases and the minds behind real life horrors. But I’ve struggled getting into true crime as the magnification (and sometimes glorification) of the perpetrators carries a significantly bitter taste. To see into the mind of a killer, to better understand what leads someone to taking action upon these specific decisions and impulses… right now just leaves me feeling “so what?” So what to all of that. To wrap it up—all the pain, all the brutality—into Dante’s Inferno did little to actually say anything of meaningful consequence. (This, I’d say, is important because with LVT there is always a pretense to his work, so to fail to deliver is a creative error and not a meaningless result.) In my takeaway, the entirety of the film can be summed up by the scene where Jack slices off a woman’s breast and slaps the severed skin under a wiper blade of a police officer’s patrol car—the same officer who previously took claims of Jack’s murders as a joke from that same woman, and shooed the pair away under the pretense that they were just drunk and arguing. But then Jack returns, to remind the officer that he is exactly who he said he was. Abusers hide in plain sight.

7/5/2020 Bamboozled, 2000 (Rating: 3.5/5)

7/10/2020 Jim Jefferies: Intolerant, 2020

7/11/2020 The Houses October Built, 2014 (Rating: 1.5/5)

7/11/2020 The Houses October Built 2, 2017 (Rating: 1/5)

7/12/2020 The Cranes Are Flying, 1957 (Rating: 3.5/5)

7/12/2020 The Cabin in the Woods, 2011 (Rating: 2.5/5)

7/17/2020 Dial M for Murder, 1954 (Rating: 3.5/5)

One of the things that struck me about Dial M for Murder is how much well-considered logic seemed to drive the characters’ actions; Tony’s, Mark’s, and Chief Inspector Hubbard’s in particular. (However convenient the “logic” may or may not have been…) It set me back a bit as Hubbard began to take hold of the case and furthermore when the trap slammed shut on Tony right at the end. It was as if they were all playing by the rules and one man’s wits had simply been outclassed… As if there were no victor that day other than justice itself. How distorted my view of the world has become that this seems downright quaint, considering how every player maintained allegiance a set of mutually agreed upon rules, as if the law and being found guilty of crimes bear any consequence anymore. All the same, even while not being a big Hitchcock fan this one really grabbed ahold of me.

7/17/2020 Hell House LLC, 2015 (Rating: 1.5/5)

7/18/2020 Phenomena, 1985 (Rating: 1.5/5)

It was cool seeing Jennifer Connelly in this early role, watching Donald Pleasance on-screen always tickles me (because I get him confused with James Tolkan, who was in so many roles from when I was a kid), and the interplay with grubs and bugs was… Creative? But the runtime felt endless and I wasn’t invested enough by the time the finale came around that I felt any particular way about how it ended. Having seen several now, Opera may forever be my favorite Argento film.

7/18/2020 Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey, 2000

7/19/2020 Hannibal Buress: Miami Nights, 2020

7/20/2020 Peeping Tom, 1960 (Rating: 2.5/5)

The use of childhood trauma as such an integral part of character development in Peeping Tom some sixty years ago seems incredibly progressive for its time. Even now, the reveal seems bold. Little about Karlheinz Böhm’s Mark Lewis seemed endearing or alluring enough to attract the attention from his would-be victims throughout the film, but in terms of nailing the cold, detached killer role he did well. There were engaging scenes along the way—the hairlip photoshoot still stands out to me—but overall I felt a lack of narrative cohesion as the film’s conclusion took hold.

7/20/2020 Antrum, 2018 (Rating: 1/5)

7/21/2020 Sweet Smell of Success, 1957 (Rating: 3.5/5)

7/21/2020 Coherence, 2013 (Rating: 3/5)

This is maybe the third or fourth viewing of Coherence and one of the things that struck me this time around was how much the film invites us into the (slowly escalating) confusion of its characters. The lobster barely recognizes the rising heat as it’s being boiled. All the while I couldn’t help but wonder what continued to bring this group of people together? There are rigid personality clashes and as the film progresses, corrosive secrets once held by subgroups are slowly revealed to all. Then again, that’s pretty common in life, isn’t it? The passing comet tinkers with reality’s safety net just enough to tip the social equilibrium that was barely there in the first place. Now reflecting on the last few months, part of me feels like that comet is somewhere nearby in our universe, too.

7/22/2020 I Am Not Your Negro, 2016

7/23/2020 The Babysitter, 2017 (Rating: 2/5)

Crouching over against the wrecked vehicle, the young protagonist embraces the evil babysitter with his eyes, he himself having just survived spiraling his car into her-taking out the front half of his parents house in the process. Speaking to the lengths he’d go to for her, he wimpers, “I drove a stolen car through you” before they say their final goodbyes. A self aware horror comedy with blockbuster production quality and a script bulging with gory absurdity. I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would.

7/23/2020 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, 1988 (Rating 2.5/5)

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the opening scene as a kid, where Nordberg attempts to bust a drug deal, and how incredibly hard I laughed as each step of the folly escalated matters further and further into a farcical dream state. Leslie Nielsen’s deadpan delivery is so incredible here and throughout the series, and the writing and physical gags are on par with any of the great satires of its time.

7/23/2020 Hot Rod, 2007 (Rating: 2.5/5)

7/24/2020 The House I Live In, 2012

The story behind what it means to be a “criminal” in this country is complicated. The story of how criminality has been defined, and how that disproportionately relates to groups of people who are not white, is also complicated. What isn’t complicated is the presentation of this documentary, and the ease with which revelations are made about the role racism plays in propping up the monstrosity America calls a justice system. “They ask us the wrong questions, then feed us the wrong answers”… That’s a line that hit me, and still sits in my chest. How much of our society can be attributed to those very words? A purposeful manipulation of values so as to contort a nation into believing they’re doing what’s right or just, when they’re in fact adhering to neither righteousness nor justice. The problem isn’t just that those in power use the institutions they’ve created to shield their deceptions and victimize citizens for profit, but that we’re programmed to buy the narrative of criminality they’re selling.

7/24/2020 Tales from the Crypt, 1972 (Rating: 2/5)

7/25/2020 The Cremator, 1969 (Rating: 4/5)

The sophisticated psychopathy on display in Rudolf Hrusínský’s lead character (Kopfrkingl) bears a deceptive contrast to the lavish extremes exhibited throughout much of the film. To lower himself to the indulgences of high society would be shameful, yet shame is nowhere to be found when indulging in his own reframing of righteousness. The veil of formality is one that conceals the character’s own deplorability. His mission to save and set free all around him reveals his position that even the most luxurious living is still a prison for the soul. To set that soul free, with or without consent, is what must then be done. The context surrounding the period of the story and the incredible visual canvas through which that story is conveyed create a swaying dance between the banality of evil and normalization of insane ideals.

7/26/2020 Don’t Hang Up, 2016 (Rating: 1/5)

7/26/2020 Palm Springs, 2020 (Rating: 3/5)

7/26/2020 Spun, 2002 (Rating: 2/5)

7/28/2020 Wishmaster, 1997 (Rating: 1.5/5)

7/29/2020 Bubba the Redneck Werewolf, 2014 (Rating: 1/5)