Wigs and Other Enchantments:
A Movies Roundup
It's a grey and rainy day in Providence RI, here's another movie round-up culled from my html diary, taking care of July 2022 to present. I was doing these roundups yearly, then quarterly, this one is what, almost-three-quartersly? I have now decided to just do these "whenever". A rainy day read for the movie fan or small moments enjoyer.
- Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
I watched this while doing a mindless task on my computer, thinking there'd be trippy visuals at least, and there were. Sam Raimi directed, so there was a little Bruce Campbell cameo and some nice zombie stuff. And I liked how Dr Strange is kind of a dick that no one really likes. I didn't have a bad time watching this movie but I would not recommend it to anyone. My feeling on all these superhero movies is that if you're having fun I'm not going to argue with you but if these are your favorite movies I'm going to take everything you say with a pinch of salt.
- Top Gun (1986)
I guess it's weird that I never saw this until now but there was never anything about this movie that called to me. No one ever said "you have to see this". It was good but like, yeah, not a lifechanging event. It was interesting seeing 1986's idea of attractive people-- I kept thinking about how everyone's teeth were a little messed up. And then it was weird how opaque the "enemy" was in this- like most of the movie they're at school so they're in practice sessions, but in the beginning and at the end there's like actual bad guys and we don't even get to know what country they're from. They're like bad guys in a video game. Huge soundtrack on this, I think that's a big part of the appeal of this movie. Then there's this, from the wikipedia page, section "Influence":
"Film producer John Davis said that Top Gun was a recruiting video for the Navy, that people saw the movie and said, "Wow! I want to be a pilot." The Navy had recruitment booths in some theaters to attract enthusiastic patrons. After the film's release, the US Navy stated that the number of young men who joined wanting to be Naval Aviators went up by 500 percent."Kudos to Matthew Modine and Bryan Adams, both of whom were offered roles in this movie and refused to participate because it glorifies war.
"The U.S. Department of Defense Office of Inspector General blamed sexist behavior depicted in Top Gun for making sexual assault more likely in the real-life military, contributing to the Tailhook scandal in 1991."
- Jurassic World Dominion (2022)
there are too many people in this movie! Some of the people were from the previous two movies, some were from the ones before that, and then there were some new guys where I truly couldn't tell if we were supposed to know who they were. It starts off with like a lonnnnnnng infodump of a reporter talking to a screen and immediately I thought "I'm not remembering this shit". It also has the modern movie problem where everyone quips constantly, which destroys the power of the quip. It's like every moment has been juiced and as a result there's no ebb and flow, no rhythm to the movie. You can't make a movie where every character is Jughead Jones! Also it's shot poorly. The first movie shows you the dinosaurs in this beautiful way that makes you appreciate their scale. This one just shows you a dinosaur on screen and then it cuts to a small subgroup of the large cast making their best "epic moment" faces. It's incredible that the first one was so good and all the other ones suck. It's like they had no idea what made the first one good, or more likely, they thought that the thing that made it special (digital dinos) was what made it good.
- The Mummy (2017)
This was supposed to be the launch vehicle for the "Dark Universe", the Universal Studios version of the MCU- a shared cinematic universe using their monster properties. Everyone was going to get a reboot-- Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, the Creature... but then this came out first and it got bad reviews and so that's that I guess. I didn't even think this was that bad?? The only thing I balked at was that it was about Tom Cruise getting possessed by Set, the Egyptian god of the dead, and at one point Russell Crowe's Jeckyll/Hyde character compares Set with Satan. 1., Set/Satan is an extreme reach. 2., all the shared universe mega-crossover events in the comics eventually battle Satan, but if you're just making the first in hopefully a series you absolutely can't bring it up as even a possibility. That's moving way way too fast-- you need to reserve some narrative space for your stupid-ass storyline to escalate into. Also no one in these movies ever really wrestles with the theological implications involved. Like OK, if you found out that the Egyptian god of the dead was demonstrably real, that should effect your worldview and your day-to-day activities tremendously, I mean after you deal with the immediate "this guy is right here and I'm fighting him" issues. Anyway, too bad about "Dark Universe", I was looking forward to Abbott & Costello Meet The Wolfman 2099.
- Tora-san's Promise (1981)
Tora-san promises his terminally ill peddler buddy that he'll marry his wife when he dies. It is extremely regular for Tora-san's romances to not work out but this is a rare one where Tora-san really makes the right move in breaking it off. This lady already went through the shit living with an itinerant salesperson, she should be with someone more sedentary next. In order to set us up for this realization, the first act shows Tora-san drunker than usual and more of a bully than usual. These movies just tick along like clockwork, I love it.
- San Andreas (2015)
nice little disaster movie with Dwayne The Rock Johnson and a rare good guy role for Paul Giametti. There's very limited human stupidity here, which is shocking- there's like one vile guy and he gets smushed by a container boat. Other than that it's pretty much people either being smart and actively good for those around them or just responding to a traumatic event in a way that can't be judged on a smart/stupid axis. CW: drowning.
- Animalympics (1980)
Initially made as two hour-long parts, to accompany NBC's broadcast of the 1980 Olympics (summer & winter games), this cartoon of sensual anthropomorphic animal athletes was adapted to a feature-length standalone when Jimmy Carter decided to boycott the Moscow Summer Olympics and NBC fell in line. I saw this as a kid because someone in my family taped it off TV in the one week we had HBO. I used to watch this when it was too hot to do anything but sit in the basement and watch tapes, and now that it's too hot again I went and found it, in its entirety, on YouTube. Is this huge with the furry community? Seems like it should be but I never hear anyone talking about it. But then how many furries do i even know, like 2? I already sent them the link, I'm waiting to hear back. Anyway this rocks. Needlessly psychedelic, with long musical numbers by the guy from 10cc. It's sensual, I already said that part, and the animation is certainly luscious. There is romance but the feeling I got as a kid wasn't so much "now I want to have sex with a lioness" as "a lizard and a chicken can get married and have successful ice skating careers". The most inspirational part for me (and I'm saying this many years after I first saw this) was that the true athletes don't care about the medals, they're looking way beyond, into the infinite pathless path. One thing I noticed this time is that one of the announcers (a Norweigan horse) is making a movie with Ingmar Birdman, and they show a little clip. I loved it.
- Con Air (1997)
made nachos and watched this loud movie. Malkovich is great, he does this malevolent diction that's extremely effective for a boss-type villain. Ving Rhames plays a member of the Black Guerillas with similarities to BG co-founder George Jackson. I found that unfortunate. Nic Cage was the first guy I was aware of to make the jump from "a guy who's mostly in good movies" to "a guy who's mostly in loud movies", it's too bad he couldn't bring John Cusack along-- he's in this and I thought he was pretty good. I guess his general character is too strong. Also nice to see Colm Meany, who for the first time in his career (I think) plays an actual meanie. For their "diagetic classic rock cargo plane song" they went with the anti-segregation ode "Sweet Home Alabama", which was a bummer and not really on theme. The only purpose it served was to allow Buscemi to make a quip about how it's ironic to rock out to that on a plane, because the band died in a plane crash. Wish they went with La Bamba instead. Or Chantilly Lace.
- Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017)
honestly, this is a great movie. I hope when they make Jumanji 3 they can somehow avoid explaining what the fuck is going on, like what is Jumanji, who made it, etc.. We would like to see this cast in this movie again and we don't need any more information cluttering up the formula! Unrelated but I'd also like to see more hippopotamuses in movies. There's like, Fantasia, and then this, and nothing in between? Anyway the mighty hippo is featured herein and given the respect it deserves. J'approve.
- My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
perfect movie, what do you want.
- A League Of Their Own (1992)
great starpower in this one: Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell. There's also a lot of great "other guys" with bit roles: Major Briggs from Twin Peaks, Bill Pullman, Jon Lovitz (he's perfect), director Penny Marshall's IRL brother Garry Marshall, and two of her old castmates from Laverne & Shirley- Eddie Mekka and David "Squiggy" Landers. This movie is so good and it seemed like they were having so much fun-- while I was watching it I kept thinking "why didn't they make another movie with the same crew??". Like they wrap up filming and Geena says "you know, someone just sent me this script... seems like there's a good Madonna role in here... and a Lori.... AND a Tom... got a nice little Lovitz in here.......". Big smiles on set and everyone jumping up and down in excitement chanting "we're doing it again! we're doing it again!". I gues that's really not how movies work, but imagine literally any movie made after 1992 with this exact cast... think about it... dynamite.
- Runaway Bride (1999)
they tried to do Pretty Woman again (Julia, Richard Gere, Hector Elizondo, Larry Miller, director Garry Marshall) but this one didn't work as well. I really hated Richard Gere at the beginning and found his actions not only reprehensible but criminal. By the end of course the magic worked on me and I could picture them looking back and laughing, but really I'd've liked to have seen some remorse on Richard Gere's part. Julia has a positive change but Richard Gere not so much. This was set in Maryland and I was happy to see them have a nice crab dinner, with the hammers and everything. No one seems to have the right accent except one person at the end, and it was actually kind of jarring, like wait why doesn't everyone talk like this? Was that one guy not an actor but like a contest winner from that town or something?
- Mystic Pizza (1988)
perfect movie starring Julia Roberts and Lili Taylor, this is essential townie cinema! We got pizza to eat during the picture (and beer to drink) and it was great, I think if we didn't then all the onscreen pizza would've driven me mad. The only weird thing about this movie is how much light beer there was. I wouldn't really have noticed but early in the movie when the preps show up at the townie bar, the lady preps order white wine and one of the guy preps asks for "anything light" and it's a villainous feeling. The main prep gets a regular beer and that's how he signifies that he's a viable romantic lead. But then throughout the rest of the movie, everyone's drinking Miller Lite no problemo and there's Miller Lite signs everywhere??? I'm guessing they hooked a promo deal with Miller during production but didn't want to change that one line? Nothing against light beer- if that's what you want then go for it and God bless.
- What We Do In The Shadows [tv show] (2019 - present)
Davey told me that if I liked the movie I'd love the TV show and he was right, although at the point of writing this I've just started the 3rd season, and I'm thinking that maybe the parts I liked are on the wane. I think it's really tough to maintain a narrative where it's just people in a house and you experience their character through low-stakes quotidian behavior-- it must be so tempting to go epic. It's like with Poirot, Seinfeld, Simpsons-- everyone knows that the good stuff is when they have a weird bet on something, or they have to get the dry cleaning, but as the show goes on and the continuity builds up they just can't resist adding some kind of earth-shattering developement, crazy guest stars, etc.. It's the same with this. Is it possible to make a TV show that's low continuity again?
- Tora-San Confesses (1991)
Every Tora-San movie is good.
- Tora-San's Cherished Mother (1969)
Every Tora-San movie is good.
- Tora-San's Grand Scheme (1970)
Every Tora-San movie is good.
- When We Were Kings (1996)
I rewatch this periodically, it's inspiring! No spoilers but the strategy at play here is incredible. It's insane how George Foreman was essentially killed in the ring, giving him a shot at rebirth (as an affable pitchman). Points off for the filmmaker's creative use of Miriam Makeba as "the woman with trembling hands", and for Norman Mailer saying "negritude". Other than that, great. I can see hating either of these guys for a variety of reasons, but Norman Mailer and George Plympton are so great and so cute in this, I wish they made more movies together. Also this made me wish that David Foster Wallace lived to be in like, a documentary about Woodstock 2, and it's him and William Gibson palling around calling P-Nut from 311 "a tumult of excrable pubescence" or whatever. Anyway great movie, strong recommendation. He's the Champ!!!!
- They Live (1988)
pretty perfect little movie. This time around two things struck me-- first, Rowdy Roddy Piper is great but all his action movie quips are so dumb, and not even appropriate to the situation, and I've always viewed this part as just "that's how it is". But this time I got to wondering if the lines are dumb and disjunctive on purpose, like if that's a layer of meaning. I think the answer is no, I think they're just dumb, which is fine. Secondly, I got to thinking about the aliens, like what the hell are they even doing that's bad? This part is extremely vague-- the only thing you know that they're doing is using subliminal messages to lure humanity into a sort of fogged out existence. But I think this absense it's a strength actually, I mean you don't need to know what "they" are doing in the movie, because it's obviously an allegory for Reaganites and we know what they're doing. Hinkley had a vision.
- Elvis (2022)
I only made it a half hour in-- I looked at the clock and couldn't rationalize sticking it our for the full 2 hours 40. This entire movie looks like the first stylish 30 seconds of a movie, but it's not intoxicating, it feels boring and hellish. Every song is a mash up??? Enough with the mash ups!!! The songs that aren't mash-ups are like people rapping over beats made of tiny bits of Elvis songs. At one point Elvis is walking down Beale St and the soundtrack is a guy rapping a quote from the Bobby Brown song for Addams Family Values, I felt like all meaning had collapsed. Dreamlike but dull, not like dreaming but like someone telling you their dream at great length. Tom Hanks is insane in this, with a bizarre accent (which may be perfectly accurate) and facial prosthetics. Got me thinking "now Cloud Atlas, that was a good movie". That's when I knew it was time to quit.
- Blood and Black Lace (1964)
gorgeous giallo thriller from Mario Bava, set in a fashion house. Great sets, great clothes, and wonderful use of colored lighting, like a Basil Gogos cover of Famous Monsters. Probably going to watch this again just to take screencaps of the interiors.
- Career Opportunities (1991)
I remember the commercial for this movie from when I was a kid, and it gave me this incredible feeling, and sparked a fantasy for being alone in a mall in the middle of the night, just going nuts. It's like a friendly version of an apocalyptic "last person alive" scenario, just rollerskating around putting on clothes and taking them off, eating a single bite of ten candy bars with no consequence and no tomorrow. But I never saw it because it seemed "too horny" (?). Well I finally capitulated and it was just the commercial that was horny, the movie is about as horny as any other John Hughes movie, that amount of horny and no hornier. The main guy is kind of a Ferris Bueller type but he's a working class loafer, not a kid with a $20,000 synthesizer. Most surprising is that when he meets his dream girl he remains true to himself-- he doesn't fawn over her or lie to her or try to look big, he remains exactly the same, and even tells her off when she absentmindedly insults him. This was inspiring! Like he didn't even learn that it's better to be yourself, he just has no other mode of operation. I guess no one really likes this movie, and John Hughes tried to disown it, but I liked it. Cool soundtrack in the John Hughes model but with nothing as iconic as Yello "Oh Yeah" or Tone Loc "Wild Thing (instrumental)".
- A Town Called Panic (2009)
extremely fun animated movie from Belgium with an incredible economy-- all the characters are common unposeable plastic toys: a cowboy, an indian, and a horse. Different effects are achieved by switching out different sculpts. Doesn't seem like you could do 90 minutes on this but you can and it's very enjoyable! This isn't like Toy Story where it's about toys, it's just a tale told entirely in toys. Is there a better word for this than "economy" because that seems a little disfavorable. They do too much with too little, which generates an incredible power.
- Death Spa (1989)
I was tasked with picking a movie for a small group that was high and wanted a horror movie but "not too scary", so I selected this 80s supernatural leotard horror and we all had a great time. There's a lot of fake Memphis furniture in this, and I mean that's kind of the look of the 80s so whatever, but they went so far as to make a knock-off "conversation pit", which is one of their less-iconic pieces. That makes me think that whoever did the set design was a true fan. It's also interesting to watch a movie that's like, about yuppies, but not for yuppies, and not anti-yuppie. I mean there are no allegories against consumerism or anything, and pretty much everyone on screen just wants to get fit, look great, and have sex, and it's not really a problem. There are some horribly melting faces in this, maybe there could've been more? that's my main critique. Buuuuut if you like movies with lots of leotards and you haven't seen this one, buckle up.
- The Water Boy (1998)
my Adam Sandler movie watching club "Death Watchers" hasn't met up since the pandemic, so we got together for Jaan's birthday and watched "one of the good ones". Maybe it's because all the other ones we watched were so dismal, but I actually enjoyed this. Not to the point that I'd recommend it to others, but I had some actual laughs. Kathy Bates really commits to it, she's a pro, and Fairuza Balk is great. Sadly, this doesn't pass the Schnieder Test. That is to say, Rob Schnieder is in it. Nonetheless I can confidently state "We Had A Nice Time", which according to Death Watchers rules, adds +7 to the movie's score.
- Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time (2021)the trailer teases out this idea that Vonnegut actually had premonitions of the future, like his character Billy Pilgrim, that he saw the firebombing of Dresden years before it happened. But then that never comes up in the doc, what gives? I guess someone else cut the trailer, that probably happens all the time. This doc 40 years in the making, and as the minutes tick on it gets more than a little sentimental. I guess that's to be expected with a long-haul proj like this-- relationships blossom and grow, the film becomes a part of the filmmakers life, and the two become inextricable. I feel weird saying that this is not good, because I really love Vonnegut, and there's a lot of nice footage of him. But overall I gotta say "kind of weird, some cool parts".
- The Jeff Koons Show (2004)I liked Jeff Koons before but I always thought of him as an evil dude. After watching this I changed my mind, I think he's a cute little guy, who may be evil. I thought he was a sinister operator, laughing behind the scenes at this so-called "art world", but like many artists, he's just going after things that interest him to the best of his ability, and laughing right in the middle of the scene, simply having a great time. He doesn't love money, he loves color and having fun and the idea "equilibrium", which expresses itself in breathing machines and novelty balloons. I watched this on YouTube via Kino Lorber, I don't know why but they dumped a bunch of stuff online last month.
- Blank City (2010)OK / fun documentary about No Wave cinema, it's a bunch of the main people telling stories and really that's what I want from this experience. Favorite part is when John Lurie says he still hates Jean-Michel Basquiat for making it cool to have money and not cool to not have money, whereas before it was the opposite. Is it possible that Basquiat was the knife edge on this movement? Lurie also says that he staged a break-in at his own apartment for the insurance money and used that to finance a film, which is inspirational.
- The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970)My friend told me he wrote his dissertation on this and I said "oh, I loved that! I loved the artist that didn't have a door and raised cats for food". He got real quiet and said he didn't know what to make of that so he didn't mention it. It didn't fit in with his analysis. I'm not capping on my friend here, I bring it up only to say that that's something I like in a movie-- a headscratcher.
- Kill, Baby, Kill (1966)also called "Operazione paura" in Italy ('Operation Fear') and "Die Toten Augen des Dr. Dracula" in Germany ('The Dead Eyes of Dr. Dracula'), this was called "Don't Walk In The Park" when I downloaded it. None of these titles make any sense for the picture. Anyway it's great, a superb Mario Bava movie set in a Carpathian village, with a spooky child that kills anyone that talks about her. Some really nice psychedelic parts, great atmosphere, a perfect spooky cozy Halloween watch. There's a cool beautiful witch with long black hair and a tough town burgomeister who's bald as an egg, and the movie introduces them separately and then reveals that they're in love. That's a really nice angle. I wonder if they fell in love on the job, or if they were in love and then one of them got the gig as a town witch and said "you know, they're looking for a burgomeister, I think you'd be great for the job...".
- Morgiana (1972)Halloween rewatch of this great dreamlike Czech horror with exceptional wigs. I didn't realize the first time I watched this that the two main characters are both played by the same person! She's phenomenal. Great atmosphere, incredible costumes and makeup, and the main character is evil in a very human way-- not so much evil as jealous and proud and twisted. There are some literally psychedelic passages, as in, shot from the point of view of someone hallucinating, but the whole thing is lush and fanciful and ornate to the point of psychedelia. Another great Halloween watch even though there's nothing supernatural-- it just seems supernatural. Did people really dress like this??? This movie will make you want to get a wig and wear it around the house.
- This Is Gwar (2021)nice documentary about this longstanding band. I was never super into Gwar but I respect them. It was nice to see their career trajectory-- they had massive jump-offs via Beavis and Butthead and appearances on daytime talk shows. Also interesting to see the organizational structure, which was like, they had competing tyrants but everyone's ideas are valid, and a lot of work got done because it's fun just to be a part of it, and the payoff is immediate- a wild show.
- Highlander (1986)watched this with Sakiko without telling her the setup, and for the first part she was like "he's a time traveler?". I said yeah kind of. I mean everyone's a time traveler. Great soundtrack by Queen-- did any other band ever do the full soundtrack to a movie?? Queen did two, this and Flash Gordon, and I think no one else ever really tried it. Which just goes to show you-- Queen rocks. The recurring phrase of this movie is "there can be only one" and then it ends with no room to continue the story, because there's only one guy left. Nonetheless, there were like 3 more movies and 2 TV serieses to follow, which is insane. This one's still good though.
- Dune (2021)OK I never read the book and I don't really remember much of the other movie, so at no point in watching this was I reminded of things I already like. As such, I didn't have a great time watching this. I kept thinking "I wish this was made by someone with a great imagination, or someone who's a great visual storyteller". They kept talking about the heat but no one was sweating? Also they kept teasing out things from the next movie, it was inelegant. I felt like I was being sold a bill of goods. At a few points I thought "I bet they explain this part in the book", and eventually I decided that the main thing that's wrong with the movie is that I was watching it. To paraphrase Scorsese, fandom doesn't make good movies, it makes theme parks.
- Weird: The Al Yankovich Story (2022)I guess this is "my Dune" in that it requires a pretty deep awareness of Weird Al and his career in order to make sense of it all. But I do have that awareness, so I found it to be absolutely incredible, a fever dream, unrelenting in it's madness. For the first half hour I kept waiting for the main character to wake up from his dream, and when that didn't happen I felt absolutely electric. It's inspiring-- you really can make a totally insane movie.
- Planes Trains and Automobiles (1987)There's not a lot of Thanksgiving movies, it's like this and Addams Family Values (1993) and probably a small number of direct-to-video horror movies. This movie takes the part of Thanksgiving that's about putting up with someone obnoxious but well-intentioned and puts it before the actual dinner, instead of during or immediately after, and offsets the role of the boor to someone outside the family unit. Very smart!
- Wayne's World (1992)pretty wild that Penelope Spheeris did this AND Decline of Western Civilization Part 2 (1988), very different but important works on the subject of hair metal. Full disclosure: until just now (the time between writing the last sentance and this one) I thought Penelope Spheeris and Penny Marshall were the same person. I think because there's a Laverne and Shirley sequence in this movie??? That's embarrassing... Anyway this entire movie is like a dream to me. It's not perfect and it doesn't "speak to my soul" or anything but it's fun and surprising and lively. I noticed while watching that this is the third version of this movie I've seen-- in the theatrical release Wayne competantly plays the opening bar of "Stairway to Heaven", prompting a guitar employee to angrily point to a sign that reads "NO STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN". In between the theatrical and the video version someone from Led Zeppelin's estate called and demanded money, so for the video release he just plays random notes and subsequently the joke makes no sense. In this version (unnamed streaming platform), he IS playing stairway, but the number of notes is reduced, and he plays them poorly. I guess that's just enough to elude the copyright trolls.
- Band Wagon (1953)rewatch while doing a task, it's still great. I love the excitement of putting on a show, and this movies gives you twice the excitement, in that they put on 2 shows. One of the shows is considered bad in the world of the movie and the other is good in-world, but watching it this time I realized that I think both are actually bad, only the story behind the scenes is good. That said, I don't think you could make a play-in-a-play where the nested play is good, or if you could, I don't think that would be an advantage.
- Invaders From Mars (1953)classic saucer movie, filmed in moody SuperCinecolor. If this is "about" anything, maybe it's about when you're a kid and something happens and your parents go from being warm and understanding to cold and mean, and the change is unacknowledged and world-shattering. Kudos to the film for introducing a doctor that you can talk to, and a scientist who is ready to believe you. Also they make it clear that there is a faction of bad guys who have infiltrated the police force, that's real.
I watched the British cut of this, where everything really happens, not the American version, where in the end they pull back and it's all a dream. In some ways "it's all a dream" is the weakest twist imaginable, but in this case maybe it's compassionate, to put this twisted but overly-plain explanation of a common childhood trauma behind two levels of unreality- a dream within a movie. I wonder how many British children of alcoholics watched this and then tried to pull the crystal transmitter from an abusive parent's neck?
- Avatar: the Way Of Water (2022)it's really incredible that this movie is bad-- it's the sequel to the biggest moneymaker in Hollywood history, famous director, big stars (I think), great special effects... they spared no expense. Still, there was nothing in here. I really think they would've benefitted from some sort of difficulty or restriction. The whole movie felt like a cutscreen for a video game, where they artlessly establish the plot and nothing really matters. At parts it was noxiously crisp, like when you watch a movie at someone's house and they have a new TV with motion smoothing factory installed. Maybe it looks "more real" but like, who's here for reality? I'm in reality all the fuckin time. Then the 3d was tiresome-- I think the filmmaking rules for 3d cinema, regarding what your brain can manage and what seems unsettling, how to guide the eye around the frame in a 3d environment, these things have yet to be written. I just read that Kate Winslet set a record for holding her breath underwater for one scene in here, but honestly I didn't know she was in this, and with so much of this movie happening inside a computer, it seems reckless to do real stunts like this. Imagine risking brain damage for a movie that no one even knows you're in. As with the first one, it's about fighting colonialism, and the bad guys are clearly the US military, who are there strictly for capitalist reasons. That is an INSANE plot for a mega-blockbuster and it's got me thinking that maybe art can't actually change the world. No one who was obsessed with the first movie went on to save the rainforest, and I'm thinking no one's going to watch this and change their relationship to the ocean. Almost certainly this movie is bad for the ocean, in that all economic activity in this day and age is bad for the ocean. It's 3.5 hours long and I left the theatre depressed, not because it was bad, but because I didn't feel any emotion about it at all, not even boredom. I hope no one ever makes a movie like this ever again.
- Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)it was really crazy to watch this just after watching Cameron's newest stinker, Avatar 2. T2 is good, exciting, there are ideas, and they are well communicated. If only this movie was a flop when it came out, then the director might've made another half dozen tight action packed creature features. Instead it was a huge box office hit and what followed was a light sprinkle of obnoxious, flashy garbaggio that put lots of work in the wrong places.
- the Yin and Yang of Gerry Lopez (2022)great documentary about "Mr Pipeline" Gerry Lopez, which weaves together recent interviews with old footage in a way that's so perfect it makes the old footage seem like a re-enactment. Talking about yin and yang and surfing seems so corny nowadays but Gerry was the originator- probably the most famous surfer in the world at one point, who studied yoga to advance his boardwork, and brought his calm and balanced approach to the deadliest waves in the world. Stacy Peralta made this, continuing his theme of making fun documentaries about cool people he knows. That's a great style. Free on YouTube.
- Glass Onion (2022)it feels so embarassing to watch a movie where people talk about Twitter-- does this always happen with technology or are we in an especially embarassing time? As with Knives Out, almost every character here is the most annoying person you've ever met, and that's something that really binds them together as a group. The main bad guy is obviously Elon Musk, and I loved how they made such a big deal of pointing out that people think he's a genius but actually he's just a rich idiot. Then there's like a flaky racist starlet, a manosphere influencer, a gutless politician. I know that the point of the movie is that all these people are terrible, but who wants to watch a bunch of terrible people for 90 minutes? I already know I don't like these people IRL, I'm not getting anything out of this. This was named one of the best films of 2022 by the National Board of Review, an organization founded by toadies and morons whose only goal is to censor objectionable material from motion pictures. Does that mean that they appreciate how toothless the satire was? Rated A+ by the Mild Salsa Corporation of New York City NY.
- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)A really enjoyable sailing adventure movie that's also about friendship. It's a crime that this didn't spin out into a franchise, they were clearly angling for that with the title, and I'd love to watch 10 more of these movies over successive Saturdays. The original Master and Commander was a series of 20 novels so there's no shortage of material. I guess the mood had swung away from historical epics since Gladiator (2000) and fantasy movies were more in vogue.
Crowe and his in-movie buddy play violin and cello together and I was surprised how good it looked, so I looked it up-- according to wikipedia,
"Richard Tognetti, who scored the film's music, taught Crowe how to play the violin, as Aubrey plays the violin with Maturin on his cello in the movie. Crowe purchased the violin personally as the budget did not allow for the expense. The violin was made in 1890 by the Italian violin maker Leandro Bisiach, and sold at auction in 2018 for US$104,000. Bettany learned how to play the cello for the role of Maturin, so the pair could be filmed playing with proper posture and technique instead of miming. The recording was dubbed in the final version of the film."So they definitely overdubbed a good version but their hands were really hitting the notes! Which means if you threw Russell Crowe a violin he could eke out something akin to Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3. Do all actors have this, a weird little skill they acquired for a role? Do they show them off at parties?
- the Protègè (2021)fun assassin movie with Samuel L Jackson, Micheal Keaton, and starring Maggie Q, who was great. In her non-assassin life she runs a rare book store, which is such a good cover-- it's totally believeable that it's remains open despite very few actual customers, and it presents a great excuse for travel. And like fine art it's probably a great way to store value in the millions of dollars. None of these things were mentioned in the movie, in which the bookstore plays only a very very small role. My only objection in this is that the main character's name is Anna, and come on, we just had a lady assassin protagonist with that particular mononym, in Luc Besson's Anna (2019). There's a lot of names and there's nothing particular to this one in this movie, they could've picked anything.
- Krull (1983)nothing makes sense in this laser fantasy medieval alien invasion team quest movie and it's no problem. If I were an adult watching this in 1983 I'd probably be disappointed but as an adult watching this 40 years later I had a blast. The baddies have a really cool look and the baddie's lair looks like the inside of an ear (very cool). And the main baddie, you never see him except through a foggy disortion lens, it rules. Early on in the movie this one guy says "gooseberry" a couple times and I was hoping it'd be a running gag but it wasn't. Probably for the best. With early roles for Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane.
- Royal Wedding (1951)not the best Fred Astaire movie but I liked it, and he does the oft-referenced "dancing on the ceiling" routine, which still looks superb. An absolutely perfect trick.
- Valerie and her Week of Wonders (1970)I liked it but I wasn't completely on the same wavelength. If you're obsessed with this movie you're not wrong but it was a liiiiiiittle too dreamlike for me. All the dudes in this are reprehensible-- much respect to anyone growing up and trying to learn what being alive is all about among a coterie of mostly horrible dudes with base motives.
- The Menu (2022)only watched about 20 minutes of this because it's another one of those movies that's all bad people and then bad stuff happens to them. No thanks.
- Inception (2010)love to see the walking on the ceiling gag from "Royal Wedding", and they did it the exact same way, beautiful. And it's inspiring how breezily they establish the central idea of the movie, that you can just go into someone's dream. They don't explain it or give you a backstory or anything, just "this is something that happens in the world of this movie".
- Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994)I loved how many F bombs there were in this! I guess they made an American cut where they replaced "fuck" with "bugger" because one of their initial test audiences was in Mormon-run Salt Lake City and half the audience walked out in the first 5 minutes. There's no way to check but make sure you get the British cut-- it'll be obvious pretty immediately. The only weak part is at one point he's in a church and I guess they thought that was too much for even the Brits, they sub in "BUGGER!" and it's just not convincing. No one says any other swear in the entire movie, just "fuck" (and in one case "fuck a doodle-doo") but then at the pivotal moment the main guy says "bugger"? They should've stuck to their guns. Really fun movie though, recommended.
- Notting Hill (1999)I accidentally said to Sakiko that it seems like she wants to watch this like 6 times a year, and to her that translated to "2 months is an appropriate gap time". It was interesting to watch this after Four Weddings And, it almost feels like they set out with the same exact same formula. Hugh Grant is out of his league; small village vibe in the middle of big city England; heterogenous friend group of loveable losers includes a loud shameless guy, a dumb guy, a somewhat cold lady with a previous romantic entanglement with the protagonist, a wild younger sister with shocking red hair, someone who is disabled (merged with cold woman in this case). The big difference is that Four Weddings is like a comedy with strong romance elements and Notting Hill is definitely a romance with some jokes. And instead of the tumult of F-bombs in Four Weddings, Hugh Grant says "whoopsadaisies".
- To Catch A Thief (1955)I'm in love with the way this girl says "Souf Amewica" and that was the basis of this rewatch. Cary Grant stars and he's so suntanned he looks like a handbag, it's incredible. Is he charming in this? I can't tell. Grace Kelly treats him as charming but he seems kind of persnickety and belligerent. I guess that's what she's into. Either that or the concept of the cat burgular is secretly intoxicating to anyone that owns a ruby (note for later). There's a few shots here at night where they shoot during the day with a blue or green filter over the lens-- I want to go on record as saying this is completely fine, even preferable to they way they do it nowadays. Also there's a kind of a car chase with no music and it's great. I love music but it's OK to just do sound sometimes! I know what to do with my emotions. Shot on site in the South of France to great effect, in VistaVision, which looks incredible.
- Tora-San, His Tender Love (1970)After watching a bunch of the later ones we went back to this, the third in the series. Shin Morikawa was the first of three actors to play the uncle/dad character, and he only did 8 movies but he's the best, like an overfilled kettle sputtering and boiling over. The second uncle (11 movies) is OK and the third uncle (14 movies) is a dud- zero passion. Small role in this one for Kurosawa regular Bokuzen Hidari, you'll recognize this guy for sure, he's like the Dick Miller of Japan. Also a young Kiki Kirin! So is this "a good one"? Buddy they're all good ones.
- The Italian Job (1969)this movie has one or two fun ideas and in 1969 that was enough. Audiences left the theatres like "wow, how about those two parts!". Or they were only in the theatres to make out to a Quincy Jones soundtrack. In 2023, it's a mess. Absolutely bizarre starpower, with Caine, Benny Hill (??), and Noël Coward (????). This is on many "100 greatest British films" lists, which is truly a damning commentary on the history of British films.
- the Dunwich Horror (1970)pretty decent Lovecraft movie, with Dean Stockwell as a sort of fey lothario with a very occasional fire behind his eyes. Sandra Lee (Gidget) is the female lead, sadly this role doesn't give her much to groove on, she's zonked pretty much the entire time. Small role for Talia "Yo Adrian" Shire (née Coppola). I thought this movie did a pretty good job not showing the creature, and there's some great psychedelic effects when someone is trying to behold the unknowable. If you've ever wanted to be hypnotized by Dean Stockwell this is the movie for you, he stares right into the camera and bewitches you directly on more than one occasion. At the end he takes off his shirt and he's covered in really poorly done tattoos in a rough grid pattern and even though it's stupid and looks like shit, it's much more realistic AND way cooler than if they were actually well-done. Or maybe his character really did draw them on with magic marker, that would also make sense for this guy. I have a friend where for years I though he re-drew this one crummy little tattoo every day and I thought it was so cool, that kind of dedication. I don't think this movie is "good" but I watched in bed when my tummy hurt and that was nice.
- Bell, Book, and Candle (1958)Kim Novak is a smoking hot witch who lets herself get so bored she falls in actual love with Jimmy Stewart. Kind of a cautionary tale for any subcultural character who falls in love with a regular fucking person. With Jack Lemmon, Elsa "Bride of Frankenstein" Lanchester, and Ernie Kovacs. Dynamite cast and everyone is superb, I loved it. The witches in this movie aren't even corny, it's incredible, and the bar they hang out in is perfect, it's just some weird bar.
- Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain (2022)A nice little band documentary with no drama. All friendships remain intact by the end. I wish they talked more about the discovery of their sound-- specifically 1., the division of the audio spectrum between B-Real's crispy high end leads and Sen Dog's sonorous woofs, and 2., Muggs' oompah beats. They talk about each for only a second, and it's just like "oh yeah, then we figured this out and everything got a million times better". Instead it's mostly like, regular narrative, tour stuff. Which makes sense because this movie was made by their long-time tour manager, who they were buddies with growing up. Your buddies love you and they're proud of you but they're not going to bring in a musicologist to talk about your innovations and impact, they're going to be like "remember when you did all those mushrooms and yelled at a hat for an hour?". Thurston Moore is NOT in this at all, which, good or bad, that's pretty incredible. I wonder what happened, was he recovering from a surgery or something? They did get Ice T though, he's like the Thurston Moore of hip hop, in that he's in nearly every documentary he could possibly be in. No disrespect to either of these guys-- adding your starpower to a documentary is in many ways a loving act. In conclusion I liked this, I liked hanging out with these guys, and now I'm searching youtube for "Black Sunday analysis".
- Santo vs. Doctor Death (1973)You never see tough guys that look like this in movies anymore-- strong and fit but not like a bodybuilder type. Would love to see the return to film of this practical and sustainable bodytype. As Eric Spicely said, "abs don't win fights". Regarding the movie, wow, I loved it. I've been aware of Santo as a wrestler / film star / folk hero for years but I never sat down and watched one of these movies. You know what? They're great. Great formula where Santo is a wrestler AND a spy, and you see him fight both in the ring and out. I thought the actual wrestling scenes would be kind of dull but it's a real joy to see him swirl all over these jobbers. And then outside the ring he's still got the silver mask on (always), looking smooth as Hell in a nice suit, stalking madmen through an old Spanish castillo. And I know I watched the dub but his voice is so kind-- it's very easy to picture Santo helping you through literally any difficulty, from "car needs a jump" to "panic attack" and all the way up to "pursued by werewolf". I would recommend watching this if only to install in your mind an easy-to-imagine strong helpful presence. There's one part where Santo and his partner are almost in a car crash and Santo just shrugs it off, then his freaked-out partner makes the smallest little molecule of a joke about it, and Santo busts his ass laughing. I don't know, just a sweet little moment. Great sets, art heist, exciting action though hardly fast-paced. It's great. The movie ends on everyone waving goodbye, that's such a nice little moment. Yes I waved back at the screen. Hasta luego el Santo, see you next time!
links / misc
- I don't know if any of the weirder entries here are available on any streaming service, I usually just illegally download everything, and I do so completely without remorse. If you're interested in watching Tora-San, they're all on jp-films.com, with subtitles. You don't have to go in order and there's no place to start that's better than any other. Please let me know if you're into it.
- I recently joined the movie lists website Letterbox'd, if you're on there you can follow me, it's exactly like this but you can read them sooner. Feels kind of silly to be posting redundant stuff on here and over there, but who cares. [letterboxd]
- Noel "Old Man" Friebert just printed a facsimile edition of Low Tide #6 by CF, if you're interested in comics of the American underground I strongly recommend this! This definitely fried my wig when it came out 20 years ago. Limited print run, act now: [bigcartel]
- CF has been publishing a monthly onesheet called CAUSEWAY, you can subscribe for just $5 a month, it's great. He really is the best. Certified Fresh! [patreon]
- in re: The Mummy-- Universal accidentally posted a version of the trailer that didn't have all the music or sound effects added, it's great. [youtube]
- I put a new bell mallet in the castle's temple area, or rather, I put one there, whereas before there was none. Something I really like about having the mallet there is that it points out how the ringing of the bell doesn't happen at the onclick event, if happens when the click is released. Or to put it another way, the action of ringing the bell begins before the bell is rung, with the intent. The temple area is where I solicit donations, but you do not have to donate to enjoy the benefits of bell-ringing. Peace and blessings. [link]
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- Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time (2021)